Seeing this cartoon in a friend’s e-mail reminded me of the Gerson column I mentioned in my previous post. I seemed a sign I should finally, put pen to paper fingers to keyboard and write a piece that had been kicking around in my head since I had first read that column last month.
Just as that Kool-Aid changes flavors to reflect the latest polling data, so does Obama change to reflect his surroundings. As Gerson noted, his cabinet picks showed the “audacity of moderation.” Maybe he realized that he won his election because of certain circumstances during the campaign (i.e., the financial meltdown) rather than the ideology of his party. Or maybe he realizes that his more moderate general election campaign rhetoric resonated with the American people.
If he shifted his ideology to reflect those around him, it would be entirely consistent with his past record.
He associated with radicals like William Ayers because that’s what intellectuals did who lived near the the University of Chicago. He joined Jeremiah Wright’s church because that’s what up-and-coming African-American politicians did on the South Side of Chicago. He voted the party line in the Senate because that’s what ambitious Democrats do in their first years in Washington.
He may have associated with Ayers and praised Wright, but unless you adopt Andrew Sullivan’s logic, you won’t find any evidence that supported their most extreme ideas.
Like a chameleon, he just seemed to blend in. While he did often articulate support for their general worldview, he lacked the political courage to challenge those hateful ideas. He liked didn’t support Ayers’s agenda of terror or Wright’s animosity toward United States in general and white Americans in particular, but he didn’t want to risk exposing himself as any different from the most outspoken (and bigottted) people around him.
Now that Obama is about to become my president, the leader of the nation I love, I want to believe he will set a course different from one suggested by his liberal voting record and left-wing associations. Since I reject the notion that he harbored the hateful views of Wright and Ayers, I’m left seeing him as a political chameleon.
To be sure, Gerson believes Obama’s early appointments show “the instincts and ambitions of a large political figure.” Perhaps, he’s right. But, this political figure at least knows which way the wind blows. And like a chameleon, his political positions don’t reflect some deep inner convictions (save that of survival), but instead the world around.
A reassuring thought were he to spend his life on the campaign trail, in constant contact with the American people, but not when he is about to set up shop in our nation’s capital.