Steve Chapman

The doomsayers also assume that someone shrewd, unthreatening and adaptable enough to become the first black president would, at the age of 51, metamorphose into Huey Newton. It's about as plausible as Santorum undergoing a sex change or Newt Gingrich taking a vow of silence.

How can conservatives forget that Obama is a consummate politician who has never taken the path of high risk? The radical steps they expect would antagonize the vast majority of the electorate and banish his party from power for decades. No president would deliberately do that.

Thiessen apparently imagines that Obama will mothball the Pacific Fleet and melt down our nuclear missiles for scrap. Never mind that under him, defense spending has been higher, adjusted for inflation, than at any time under George W. Bush. It's also higher than the budgets of the next 17 countries combined. Obama's planned trims would be like taking a couple of feet off the Empire State Building.

If he wanted to scrap our missile defense plans in Europe, let me ask again: Why wait? Conservatives feared he would do it in his first term, but they were mistaken. In 2010, Obama threatened to walk away from a major arms control deal rather than meet Medvedev's demands on missile defense, and the Russians gave in.

His detractors forget that even if he were a crazed leftist, Obama has limited powers. He can't shred the Second Amendment, because the Supreme Court -- dominated by conservatives now and for the foreseeable future -- won't let him.

He can't gut the Pentagon budget, because Congress has the last word on spending. He can't sign Munich-like arms treaties with Russia, because the Senate wouldn't ratify. He can't bring about the demise of freedom in America, because ... oh, let's not be ridiculous.

Oh, and one more hitch: He hasn't shown the faintest desire to do any of these things.

Every day, these alarmists wake up, go outside and look up in surprise to discover that, despite Obama's presence in the White House, the sky has not fallen. If he is re-elected, they will get 1,461 more surprises.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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