A Worrisome Sign for Obama?

Carol Platt Liebau
|
Posted: Jul 03, 2008 3:33 PM
Check out this very unscientific, but perhaps revealing, poll from AOL.

Question is: "Is Obama politically ruthless?"  72% say "yes," 22% say "no" and 6% aren't sure.

The fact that this sort of question is even being asked seems to me to signal a grave danger for Barack Obama.  Part of what sparked the groundswell of support and excitement that catapaulted him past Hillary Clinton was the fact that he cast himself as the practicioner of a "new kind of politics."

Of course, it's hard to quibble with a strategy that's carried someone just four years out of the Illinois state senate (and just 17 years out of law school) to the nomination of a major political party. 

But promising a "new kind of politics" does carry a danger when it means that a candidate faces a choice:  Either he can do what he thinks it takes to get elected (i.e. flip-flopping left and right to jettison politically disadvantageous promises and positions) at the risk of tarnishing his brand and undermining the entire rationale for his candidacy -- or he can accept the almost insurmountable political handicaps that come with remaining true to the kumbayah style of politics that he extolled in his meteoric rise.

The problem at this point for Barack is that there's nothing he's done since clinching the nomination sends anything like a message that he's different from any other ambitious Democratic politician of the past.  And some of what he's done -- from playing the race card to allowing surrogates like Wesley Clark trash John McCain's military service to rejecting public financing -- actually smacks of a surprisingly hardened cynical opportunism.  It strikes me that if a large segment of the voters catch on to that, the entire rationale for his candidacy is in big trouble.

Once the veneer of the "new kind of politician" has been disproved by Barack's deeds, what's left?  A young man with a thin political resume and a lot of rhetoric that's been pretty effectively discredited by his own actions.