Since the Logo Candidates’ Forum last August, when I first watched Barack Obama for an extended period of time in this campaign, I was impressed by his presence, but concerned by the vagueness of his responses.Â He preferred platitudes to substantive replies.
As the campaign kicked into gear in the following months, I kind of warmed to the Illinois Senator.Â He seemed an uplifting contrast to the more wonkish Hillary Clinton.Â His victory speech in Iowa was inspiring.Â At the time, I believed he was truly committed to bipartisan reform, that he had the capacity to bring people together. He seemed a principled leader.
But, when he emerged as the Democratic frontrunner after his victory in the Wisconsin primary, his appeal began to fade.Â He continued to avoid substantive issues and became testy when pressed with tough questions about his relationship to Tony Rezko.
And then came Reverend Wright.Â His initial speech impressed many on the left, but concerned me.Â He didn’t address a fundamental question:Â how come this man who claimed to be a uniter never up to his own spiritual adviser’s hateful rhetoric?
He claimed he could “no more disown” that bigotted man than he could disown the black community.Â Six weeks later, he did just that.
A new Obama emerged, the opportunist.
This would not be the last time he flip-flopped for political advantage.Â As soon as he secured enough delegates to win the Democratic nomination, he pivoted so much on policy that columnist Gerard Baker opined “the only change coming from the Illinois senator has been in what he seems to stand for.”
He shifted his position on FISA, NAFTA, handguns, the status of Jerusalem and on and on.Â And on and on and on.Â But, the biggest shift has been on campaign finance.
Throughout the campaign, as recently as April 27, he pledged to preserve the public financing of presidential campaigns even promising to “‘aggressively pursue’ an agreement with McCain that would set ‘real spending limits.’“Â Yet, he dropped that pledge as soon as he realized the financial advantage he would enjoy if he refused public financing.
He may style himself some new kind of politician, but, as I wrote in June, he’s just “a typical politician who will say or do anything to get elected.”
Even CNN’s Campbell Brown has taken notice:
He broke his promise and he explained it by arguing that the system is broken and that Republicans know how to work the system to their advantage. He argued he would need all that cash to fight the ruthless attacks of 527s, those independent groups like the Swift Boat Veterans. It’s funny though, those attacks never really materialized. The Washington Post pointed out recently that the bad economy has meant a cash shortage among the 527s and that this election year they have been far less influential. The courageous among Obama’s own supporters concede this decision was really made for one reason, simply because it was to Obama’s financial advantage.
It seems that for Obama, it’s not about the principle, but the political advantage. Sounds a lot like another Democratic pol, but at least that one had executive experience before his White House run.