By now, everyone's heard of Sen. John McCain's "Straight Talk Express," on which Mr. Maverick routinely shoots the breeze with members of the press. What many Americans may not know is that Sen. Barack Obama has his own campaign bus, "The Expediency Express," which is regularly deployed to flatten anyone who interferes with Obama's quest for power. The Expediency Express knows no loyalty, so passengers board at their own risk. From low-level staffers , to longtime confidants, to senior advisors, to blood relatives, Obama has displayed an unflinching willingness to toss pretty much anyone under his bus as soon as they're seen as a major liability to his campaign.
Let's review the casualties thus far. The most prominent victim, of course, was Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whom Obama long regarded as a father figure and spiritual mentor. Wright married the Obamas and baptized their daughters. The words of one of his sermons inspired the title of Barack's second autobiography, The Audacity of Hope. Even after Wright's penchant for America-hating statements and conspiracy theorizing came to light, Obama stood by his minister of twenty years, insisting that the "snippets" pounced upon by the media misrepresented Wright's worldview. Then came the infamous National Press Club performance, when Wright regurgitated all of his nuttiness within the span of an hour, then proceeded to suggest that his former congregant had only distanced himself because he was saying what he needed to say in order to get elected. Although this may have been Wright's clearest insight in years, Obama perceived it as a show of "disrespect" to him and an "insult" to his campaign. Before he could blink, Wright had tire tracks down his back. The message was clear--say whatever you'd like about America, her people, and her leaders, but if you cross Captain Change, you're toast.
The Wright episode also produced an unlikely target: Obama's own grandmother. Back when Obama was still quasi-defending Wright, he delivered his now-laughable Philadelphia speech in which he drew a moral equivalence between Wright's poisonous rantings and his grandmother's private confession of latent racial bigotry. "I can no more disown [Wright] than I can my white grandmother…a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe," he said. Granny, a "typical white person" in Obama's estimation, served as a convenient sacrificial lamb. Her privately-expressed racism simply had to become public knowledge to help Obama temporarily extricate himself from a sticky situation, so under the bus she went.
The Expediency Express has also pancaked a number of Obama staffers and advisors. Obama's time-tested strategy for explaining away gaffes has been to scapegoat low-level staff members. As ABC's Jake Tapper notes, the buck frequently stops elsewhere, as Obama thoughtlessly hurls aides into oncoming traffic. Top-shelf advisors aren't immune, either. Just ask Samantha Power, who fell on her sword after badly mangling a series of interviews with the European press. Robert Malley also "voluntarily" resigned when reports of his meetings with Hamas became public. Poor Mr. Malley didn't stand a chance given Obama'a recent issue regarding those unconditional meetings with despots and dictators. The "distraction" of Malley's cozy relationship with a terrorist group proved too rich a target for Obama's critics, so under the bus he went.
Since we're constantly told that Obama is a fresh face, unsullied by political machinations, one could be forgiven for thinking these ruthless tactics are a new phenomenon--borne out of the unpleasant necessities of a presidential campaign. Such an assumption would be, to quote one ex-president, a fairy tale. Obama's short career in public service began with a political hit-and-run. In 1995, a well regarded Illinois State Senator named Alice Palmer selected a young Barack Obama keep her seat warm in Springfield as she pursued a run for US Congress. When her bid failed, she returned to stand for re-election at the state level, but Obama refused to relinquish the seat. His political machine proceeded to file lawsuits and used other legal maneuvers to force the venerable Palmer—as well as all other challengers—off the ballot. Thus, one of Obama's very first political allies and a respected African-American leader in Chicago became the first casualty of the Expediency Express. The double-crossed Palmer, incidentally, is now a Clinton supporter.
Another troublesome ally who ought to look both ways before crossing the street is Greg Craig, a senior policy advisor to Obama. Craig is a defense attorney whose client list includes a member of the Panamanian parliament who's under indictment for the murder of a US serviceman. He also represented John Hinckley, who shot Ronald Reagan in 1981. The Mainstream Obamedia informs us that their preferred candidate just kicked off a "Trust me, I'm a patriot—check out my new lapel pin!" tour, so ties to this sort of unsavory character may contribute to the candidate's self-diagnosed patriotism problem. Take the subway, Greg.
The same applies to Obama delegate James Yee. Yee is a former Muslim chaplain at the Guantanamo Bay detention center who in 2007 appeared on Syrian television to accuse the US military of mistreating detainees. He cited lurid examples of Koran desecration and other such acts, undoubtedly stoking anti-American sentiment among those who saw the program. The trouble is, Yee didn't actually witness any of the alleged outrages himself. His assertions were based on the accounts of—wait for it: The terrorists! That's right, Yee took detainees at their word, then rushed over to a hostile Middle Eastern country to repeat the unsubstantiated allegations on television. Now this (hopefully unwitting) propagandist will represent Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention in August. If Yee wants to avoid getting steamrolled, he ought to hope this story gets buried over the holiday weekend.
All high level political candidates encounter a minefield of past associations, potential scandals, and skeletons in the closet when they run for office. They all have to denounce supporters and fire staffers from time to time. During this cycle alone, McCain has thrown a few top aides and Pastor Hagee to the wolves. Hillary Clinton dumped Geraldine Ferraro from her campaign for raising politically incorrect questions about Obama. Such is the nature of contemporary "gotcha" politics.
What makes Obama's situation unique is the sheer number of targets, as well as his relationship to them. It's galling to see a candidate publicly repudiate a steady stream of top advisers, many of whom must have been vetted at some point. It's jarring to witness a politician toss apolitical family members under the bus just to save his own skin. It's off-putting to see a man defend his spiritual mentor for weeks, only to make a poll-driven decision to cut him loose shortly thereafter. Barack Obama promises a new kind of politics. If that phrase refers to his disloyal, self-serving, and calculating tactics, his "friends" should stay as far away from the open road as possible. Obama's Expediency Express is racing toward 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and anyone who gets in the way, no matter how close a friend or ally they think they are, will get thrown under the bus. Full speed ahead.