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Criticizing Obama: Mission Impossible

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Barack Obama has been talking a lot about the "last eight years" recently. It feels as though he could be referring to the length of the current presidential campaign, but he's actually asking voters to evaluate President Bush's job performance. Fair enough. President Bush is extremely unpopular as he leaves office, and the Democrats were destined to try to run against him—even though he's not on the ballot. While many people aren't pleased with Bush's record, replacing him is a solemn decision and requires the election of a man or woman who is prepared and qualified to serve. Voters ought to expand their judgment of the last eight years by factoring Barack Obama into the equation. What, precisely, has the Democratic nominee for president done in the past eight years? Attempting to meaningfully answer this question proves rather difficult.

Despite its improbable twists and turns, one thing hasn't changed over the course of this endless election: When put on the spot, Obama's supporters are unable to name a significant concrete accomplishment he's managed in his entire professional career. In February, Sean Hannity asked a Democratic focus group to list Obama's accomplishments. Their stirring responses ranged from "he gave a great speech" to "pass." Prior to the Texas and Ohio primaries, Chris Matthews interrogated Kirk Watson, an Obama surrogate, on the same point. "I'm not going to be able to [answer] that," he responded. "One of the things Senator Obama does is he inspires," he added, convincingly. Just last week, Obama backer Jeffrey Sachs was confronted with a similar query from Joe Scarborough. Sachs replied that Obama had "[brought] the country together on a new direction." In case that wasn't sufficiently persuasive, he offered a follow-up. "He's defined a way to achieve energy and new approaches for this country."

There's a reason for these stammering evasions: Barack Obama—love him or hate him—simply does not own any significant legislative accomplishments. Indeed, his greatest career achievements have been the successful attainment of higher office. Obama's last eight years consisted of serving as an unremarkable part-time State Senator, voting "present" on dozens of tough issues, running unsuccessfully for Congress, giving a popular speech at the 2004 DNC, and winning a US Senate seat after consecutive rival campaigns collapsed under the weight of prodigious scandal.

As a United States Senator, Obama did not challenge his own party's leadership in any significant way, authored zero consequential bills, and showed up late for a striking number of committee meetings. Then, after 143 days of federal legislative service, Obama decided it was time to run the country. Not to worry, though. We're told this dearth of accomplishments isn't a big deal. After all, experience doesn't really matter. Not this time.

So let's blissfully ignore his record and focus on what the promises he's made. Over the course of his presidential campaign, he's offered more than a few. One of his earliest promises was to accept public financing if his GOP opponent did the same. John McCain said yes, but Obama shamelessly backtracked for political expediency. Another signature pledge he's made is to cut taxes for all Americans making less than $250,000 per year. Since then, this "richness" threshold has curiously slid by five figures on two different occasions. For those keeping score at home, it's currently at $150,000 per year, and dropping. That's a lot more "patriots" than initially thought. He also agreed to meet John McCain for a series of town hall forums across the nation after clinching the nomination. The tentative agreement was abandoned as soon as Team Obama realized it would not be especially beneficial to their candidate.

Nevertheless, Barack surely wouldn't back away from his principled opposition to granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies as part of a FISA reform bill, drop his refusal to characterize Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, reverse himself on an undivided Jerusalem, dump his position on the DC gun ban, or change his mind on unconditional meetings with rogue dictators within the first year of his administration, would he? Oh, he did all of those things? Never mind. Cynical cries of "flip-flop!"—no matter how justified—just won't work. Not this time.

Maybe an extensive chock-full-o-compromise voting record is the key to discovering Obama's greatness. Wrong again. The non-partisan National Journal ranked him the Senate's most liberal member last year. He voted against the confirmation of Supreme Court justices Roberts and Alito for nakedly ideological reasons. In Springfield, his voting record was troubling. He voted to expand sex education to kindergartners and to defeat a bill that required medical attention for babies who managed to survive abortions. Both of these claims have been angrily decried as falsehoods by the Obama campaign and their media echo chamber, but they are matters of public record. Obama, though, refuses to be tethered to an ideological label. Sliming him as a hardened liberal partisan—regardless of the ample supporting evidence—is just a nasty Republican trick that just won't work. Not this time.

Since it's apparently far too rude to judge Obama on his lack of accomplishments, broken commitments, or leftism, perhaps the company he's kept over the years will give us a measure of the man. Au Contraire. Any discussion of his associations is at the very least a distraction, but probably fear-mongering racism. These are indisputable facts: Obama attended the sermons of an anti-American race-baiter for 20 years. He enjoyed a close working and personal relationship with an unrepentant terrorist. He entered into a lucrative land deal with an ethically-challenged political fixer who's now a convicted felon. And he befriended, funded, and toasted a former PLO mouthpiece who has defended suicide attacks against Israeli governmental and military targets. Any mention of these facts, however, sends the Obama campaign's outrage meter through the roof—which is usually an open invitation for increased media scrutiny. Obama's media allies, though, have exhibited extraordinary deference to their preferred candidate on these issues, with some media outlets going so far as to withhold potentially damaging information from the public. No, Obama's radical associations aren't relevant, and the neo-swiftboaters who raise them are a bunch of liars. Fight the smears. Guilt by association—no matter how vile and extensive those associations may be—just won't work. Not this time.

John McCain is an American hero who's served his country with honor for the majority of his impressive, meaningful life. He's fought for his country. He's been tortured and broken by Communists for defending our liberties. He's devoted decades to public service, bipartisanship, and pursuing what he believes is best for the United States—for better or worse. His deep and intimate knowledge of the world uniquely equips him to navigate the great international game of geopolitical chess more effectively than almost anyone on earth. This man was born to serve as president. Even so, depending on Tuesday's outcome, his unparalleled qualifications, demonstrable integrity, personal heroism, and abiding love of country may not be enough to vault him into the office he so richly deserves. Not this time.

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