Donald Lambro

Well, you get the picture. It is one of a woefully inexperienced politician who can't seem to make up his mind about what to do in a war that he said we were losing and that we are now winning. So he shifts day-to-day from one strategy to another, sending disturbing signals that he is in over his head and doesn't know what to do next.

McCain, who has led military forces, knows that in a time of war you cannot keep switching signals in the middle of the game. "We welcome this latest shift in Sen. Obama's position, but it is obvious that it was only a lack of experience and judgment that kept him from arriving at this position sooner," said Bound, the Arizona senator's spokesman, as Obama was flying home.

Thus, in the aftermath of his tutorial trip, doubts are growing about his judgment, and the news media is turning on him far more aggressively, questioning and ridiculing some of his stock answers on the war on terrorism. "Mr. Obama's account of his strategic vision remains eccentric," the liberal Washington Post editorialized last week.

He has repeatedly played down Iraq and said that Afghanistan is "the central front" where we had to focus our forces. "But there are no known al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan ... While the United States has an interest in preventing the resurgence of the Afghan Taliban, the country's strategic importance pales beside that of Iraq, which lies at the geopolitical center of the Middle East and contains some of the world's largest oil reserves," the Post said.

The national news media gave boffo reviews to Obama's performance overseas, but America's voters seemed to be paying far more attention to what he said than the way he said it, or the size of the crowds who turned out to see and hear him.

Wary of Obama's chameleonlike positions and his willingness to say whatever pleases his audience, voters may be thinking he has changed his positions one too many times. Was this what he meant by change you can believe in?

Meanwhile, back home, the cash-rich Obama campaign was running nonstop TV ads in the key battleground states, hoping to move his polling numbers upward. But McCain strategists told me that their polls showed that his numbers hadn't budged in his target states. Indeed, Obama's poll numbers had slipped in four of them, according to a Quinnipiac survey of likely voters.

A USA Today/Gallup Poll said Monday that McCain had inched ahead of Obama by 4 points, 49 percent to 45 percent among likely voters. Instead of strengthening his foreign-policy credentials with his Middle East road show, Obama has deepened doubts in the minds of voters about his maturity and judgment.

The emerging choice in this election seems to be perseverance, resolve and steadiness on the one hand, and bait-and-switch on the other.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.