Almost everyone is talking about Barack Obama's flip-flops, as the Senate's most liberal member steadily moves to the political center and disowns firebrands like Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Father Michael Pfleger.
But less noticed is that Obama is not just deflating John McCain's efforts to hold him to his long liberal record, but also embracing much of the present agenda of an unpopular President Bush on a wide variety of fronts.
Take social issues. Obama is now a gun-rights advocate. Like Bush, he applauded the Supreme Court's overturning of a Washington, D.C., ordinance banning the possession of handguns.
The senator, also like Bush, supports the death penalty. He recently objected to the court's rejection of a state law that allowed for the execution of child rapists.
And although Obama is still pro-choice, he now, like the president, thinks "mental distress" should not justify late-term abortion.
In addition, the new Obama would like to continue -- and even expand -- Bush's controversial faith-based initiative program of involving churches in government anti-poverty programs.
In fact, Obama is sounding a lot these days like those red-state, small-town conservatives he once caricatured in his infamous comment about Pennsylvanians who "cling" to such hot-button, but extraneous, social causes.
Consider also the campaign trail. Like a Republican in good standing -- but unlike the maverick John McCain -- Obama has, by his sudden forgoing of public funds, rejected the idea of campaign-finance reform.
In fact, he's the largest raiser of private cash in American political history, and seems to have dropped opposition to accepting pernicious "special interest money." Like a Republican, he raises the most among the nation's wealthiest on Wall Street.
During the primaries, Obama seemed to advocate the dismantling of the North American Free Trade Agreement. But now candidate Obama has little desire to overturn the present Bush trade policies.
On foreign policy and the war against terror, Obama once leaned left in his primary battles against Hillary Clinton. But his latest mutations move him once again closer to George Bush.
For all his prior talk of the loss of civil liberties, a President Obama, like a President Bush, would give telecommunication companies exemption from lawsuits over tapping private phone calls at government request.
Obama wants to continue Bush's successful multilateral efforts to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan, and now praises the Bush-inspired six-party talks with North Korea that led to the apparent dismantling of Pyongyang's nuclear program. Like Bush, he advocated expanding the military after the Clinton-era troop cuts. Obama once advocated lifting the embargo against Cuba -- but no longer. Like Bush, he thinks that it is wise to leave it be.
There is suddenly not much difference when it comes to the Middle East, either. Palestinian supporters were dismayed to hear Obama promise that Jerusalem must be Israel's eternal and undivided capital.
Obama once criticized Bush for his unwillingness to meet directly with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and exaggerating the danger from Iran, which supposedly didn't "pose any serious threat." Lately though, he agrees with the president that Iran now in fact is a "grave threat."
Obama's most serious about-face is on Iraq. He once promised a rigid and rapid timetable for withdrawing our troops. But given the radical success of Gen. David Petraeus' surge and change in tactics, Obama is now calling for withdrawals to be based on the conditions on the ground in Iraq. How different is this plan from the present administration's policy of incrementally sending home brigades as Petraeus hands off security responsibilities to Iraqis in additional provinces?
It makes political sense that Obama is moving to the center since he knows that a Northern liberal like himself has not won a presidential election since 1960. So don't expect Obama's metamorphosis to stop now. Before this campaign is over, he may well flip some more; would anybody be surprised if he starts supporting some of Bush's proposal for expanded domestic oil drilling or backtracks on raising trillions in new payroll taxes?
In fact, replace George Bush's Texas twang, cowboy strut and evangelical Bible thumping with Barack Obama's mellifluous "hope and change" rhetoric, easy grace and leftwing Christianity and we may discover a flashy new cover to an old book.
A final question: If, even as Obama trashes Bush, he seems to agree with him on so many fronts, why don't conservatives and Republicans adopt Obama as a welcome convert?
Some may, but most I’ve talked with don't think Obama is sincere and feel he will flip back to being left wing if elected. Or they think that Obama is changing so fast and so radically that it’s hard to believe he really knows who he is -- or would be as president.
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