Kathleen Parker

Obama, perhaps, excluded. When asked to explain his position as a state legislator, Obama said he would have voted for the law had it included a neutrality clause -- similar to one added to the federal law -- affirming that the bill would not impact Roe v. Wade.

But the Illinois legislation in final form did include such a neutrality clause, prompting charges that Obama deliberately lied. Or did he merely misremember, as often happens in politics?

What did Obama mean and when did he mean it?

Alas, the more he tries to explain his position, the more muddled the picture becomes and the more confused voters are. The most revealing answer may have come when pastor Rick Warren asked the Illinois senator when a baby gets human rights.

"Well, uh, you know, I think that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or, uh, a scientific perspective, uh, answering that question with specificity, uh, you know, is, is, uh, above my pay grade."

Well, uh, not really.

Yes, Warren's question was complicated, especially if you're a politician afraid of saying the wrong thing. But the answer is really pretty simple. It's whatever one thinks. It is not above anyone's pay grade to be honest.

Instead, Obama punted.

Americans are accustomed to differing views on abortion and will tolerate a flip-flop now and then. But a politician who finesses or fudges out of an instinct to please will be viewed as either spineless or insecure or both -- none of which inspires confidence.

The result of such exquisite ambivalence isn't a higher level of discourse, but a lower level of trust, as recent surveys reflect. A new Reuters/Zogby poll shows McCain running five points ahead of Obama nationwide. Other polls show McCain pulling even.

Obama's born-alive problem ultimately could prove fatal to the man who thought too hard and lost his sense.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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