Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON -- Soon after Americans for Democratic Action endorsed Barack Obama last month, its leaders were e-mailing deep concerns over his flip-flops on the ADA's bedrock liberal beliefs.

With his party's presidential nomination secure and Democrats rallying behind him, the ultra-liberal freshman senator was making a mad dash to the political center in preparation for the general election. Positions on gun control, trade protectionism, terrorist surveillance, the death penalty and even his Iraq withdrawal plan were being abandoned, softened or blurred to make his candidacy less threatening to more moderate voters.

That has sent off alarm bells in the Democrats' liberal base in the past week or two, among both its foot soldiers in the blogosphere and its oldest leftist bulwarks of party orthodoxy.

Over at the venerable ADA, keeper of the liberal flame, e-mails were flying back-and-forth among its board of directors and other members who were troubled by Obama's sudden change of mind on issues near and dear to their heart.

"There's some concern that has been expressed in e-mails between the board and staff and some of our issue analysts," an ADA official told me. "There's a dialogue going on among people who are not sure what his remarks mean."

And no wonder. The freshman senator's apparent makeover for the general election abandons some of his party's most fervently held positions in favor of gun control, opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement and opposition to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which would give retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies that help the government intercept calls and e-mails from terrorists.

The concern bubbling up from the base ranges from feelings of betrayal to pragmatic, if grudging, acknowledgement that he can't win the presidency unless he reaches out to the center where elections are won or lost.

"In the last week, Barack Obama has handed progressives a string of stinging rebukes," decried Democratic blogger Jason Rosenbaum on the far-left Huffington Post Web site.

"Am I bummed ... that Obama and most of our Democratic leaders caved in on FISA? Absolutely, and there's nothing wrong with saying so," said blogger Mike Lux at the Open Left Web site. And he's not alone. Others in the left's netroot armies are "writing about not lifting a finger to help Obama now that he's screwed us on FISA," said Lux, who nonetheless continues to support the Illinois senator.

Many of Obama's rightward shifts represent breathtaking changes from what he has long stood for, raising troubling questions about his character and becoming a major GOP attack line in the campaign.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.