If I were a supporter of Barack Obama I would be nervous. Why? Is it his inexperience, his radical connections, or his stale liberal positions? Nope. I would be nervous because he seems fundamentally incapable of sticking with his principles on a host of issues large and small.
I know his supporters are enthralled with Mr. Hope and Change, but shouldn’t it worry them that he is so quick to backtrack and hedge his answers – or even switch positions entirely – during the course of a relatively short campaign? What will happen should he feel the real pressure of actual leadership (something he has yet to do in any real capacity)?
The most recent example is public financing. When Obama was the underdog fighting against the Clinton machine he promised to work with the GOP nominee and agree to public financing for the general election campaign:
“If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.”
This past April, however, he began backtracking and seeking a way out of his promise. Clearly, having raised more money than anyone he was suddenly unwilling to keep his word. He offered this laughable excuse:
"We have created a parallel public financing system where the American people decide if they want to support a campaign they can get on the Internet and finance it, and they will have as much access and influence over the course and direction of our campaign that has traditionally been reserved for the wealthy and the powerful.”
Who needs public financing when you can simply redefine your own campaign as a “parallel public financing system”?
And now Obama has made it official: he will be the first candidate since Richard Nixon to not participate in public financing for the general election. In going back on his word Obama, in classic fashion, declares that this is how to declare “independence from a broken system” and “truly change how Washington works." Only in Obama’s world can breaking a promise mean Hope and Change. For a man who puts such stock in the power of words, he abandons his own with remarkable regularity.
In fact, a clear pattern has developed on issues where his rhetoric meets political risk. Obama moves from denial to obfuscation to capitulation. He follows this pattern on his associations and issues.
Remember how he could no more disown Rev. Wright than he could his own grandmother? How the whole issue was a distraction taken out of context? When the pressure continued to mount and questions continued to be asked he soon felt compelled to repudiate Wright’s statements and quit the church he was a member of for 20 years, where he had been married and his children were baptized.
What about the man charged with heading up his VP selection process, Jim Johnson? When the questionable activities of Johnson were first brought up it was “a game” that was being played. But when Johnson’ s sweetheart compensation packages and mismanagement on various corporate boards was set in clear contrast to Obama’s self-righteous rhetoric on the mortgage crisis, Johnson was soon relegated to the ever crowded space under the proverbial bus.
Obama follows the same pattern on issues. When John McCain suggested that Obama should visit Iraq in order to get an up-to-date briefing on the progress their before making promises about withdrawal Obama’s foreign policy advisor labeled the idea “garbage.” And yet Obama recently announced that he was planning to visit Iraq and Afghanistan during the campaign.
Obama’s famous promise to personally meet with unrepentant dictators required a great deal of attempted nuance and clarification – and historical misrepresentation – before he basically admitted that he would not meet directly with America’s enemies without preconditions.
The list goes on and on: from wearing a flag pin to the status of Jerusalem; from lifting the federal supervision on the Teamsters to the threat from Iran; from his family’s role in World War Two liberation to his protectionist rhetoric on NAFTA. Time and time again, Obama says one thing and then does another; makes one promise or statement only to change it based on political expediency.
Obama supporters laud him as a different politician; as someone who can change the way Washington works and bring real solutions to our problems. But how can you trust a candidate who so easily capitulates in the face of criticism and regularly breaks his promises? Is this really change you can believe in?
I can’t believe it, but maybe Hillary was right. Maybe Obama’s campaign is “just words.”