Charles Krauthammer

The flip is almost complete. All that's left to say is that the 16-month time frame remains his goal but he will, of course, take into account the situation on the ground and the recommendation of his generals in determining the ultimate pace of the withdrawal.

Done. And with that, the Obama of the primaries, the Obama with last year's most liberal voting record in the Senate, will have disappeared into the collective memory hole.

Obama's strategy is obvious. The country is in a deep malaise and eager for change. He and his party already have the advantage on economic and domestic issues. Obama, therefore, aims to clear the deck by moving rapidly to the center in those areas where he and his party are weakest, namely national security and the broader cultural issues. With these -- and most importantly his war-losing Iraq policy -- out of the way, the election will be decided on charisma and persona. In this corner: the young sleek cool hip elegant challenger. In the other corner: the old guy. No contest.

After all, that's how he beat Hillary. She originally ran as a centrist, expecting her nomination to be a mere coronation. At the first sign of serious opposition, however, she panicked and veered left. It was a fatal error. It eliminated all significant ideological and policy differences with Obama -- her desperate attempts to magnify their minuscule disagreement on health care universality became almost comical -- making the contest entirely one of personality. No contest.

As Obama assiduously obliterates all differences with McCain on national security and social issues, he remains rightly confident that Bush fatigue, the lousy economy and his own charisma -- he is easily the most dazzling political personality since John Kennedy -- will carry him to the White House.

Of course, once he gets there he will have to figure out what he really believes. The conventional liberal/populist stuff he campaigned on during the primaries? Or the reversals he is so artfully offering up now?

I have no idea. Do you? Does he?


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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