Charles Krauthammer, one of my favorite political writers because of his consistent clarity and wit, has written a pair of articles observing that Obama is now reinventing himself for the general election:
1. On public financing of campaigns: he once pledged to go this route if his opponent did also, now he’s the first candidate since Watergate to opt out. Why? He claims its because of all the $20 donations he’s received over the Internet — even as his campaign staff plans a dozen or so high-flyer events, where special guests pay $30,000 or more for face time.
2. On the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), he once pledged to force a renegotiation, take “the hammer” to Canada and Mexico and threaten to walk away. With the primaries over, Obama has completely backpedaled, noting that “sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified.” Krauthammer observes:
Today the hammer is holstered. Obama calls his previous NAFTA rhetoric “overheated” and essentially endorses what one of his senior economic advisers privately told the Canadians: The anti-trade stuff was nothing more than populist posturing.
3. Obama pledged in Oct 2007 to oppose any bill which granted retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that allowed post-Sept. 11 eavesdropping. He’s now rescinded that position (conveniently, after the House of Representatives passed such legislation by a 293-192 margin).
4. The DC handgun ban:
Last week, when the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns, Obama immediately declared that he agreed with the decision. This is after his campaign explicitly told the Chicago Tribune last November that he believes the D.C. gun ban is constitutional.
5. On Iraq: Withdrawal of troops within 16 months? Now Obama is saying that “when I go to Iraq . . . I’ll have more information and will continue to refine my policies.”
Obama’s strategy is obvious. The country is in a deep malaise and eager for change. He and his party already have the advantage on economic and domestic issues. Obama, therefore, aims to clear the deck by moving rapidly to the center in those areas where he and his party are weakest, namely national security and the broader cultural issues. With these — and, most important, his war-losing Iraq policy — out of the way, the election will be decided on charisma and persona. In this corner: the young sleek cool hip elegant challenger. In the other corner: the old guy. No contest.
Read the whole thing: Part 1 and Part 2. Even a left-leaning editorialist from the NYT has called Obama on his recent spate of flip-flops.
P.S. On the “broader cultural issues” one could mention two obvious ones: his recently stated desire to restrict late-term abortion and to allow faith-based institutions to receive federal money for providing social services. I take both as empty gestures to compete for votes among religious conservatives.