Sunday, 29 June 2008

Crying wolf over Obama's 'betrayals'

Another piece, in The Observer this time, draws attention to Obama's apparent political re-positioning. A similar argument is made in the LA Times. The liberal left often seems at its most comfortable when screaming betrayal at one of their own and so it will be with Barack Obama.

As I argued a couple of days ago, these accusations do not have much depth to them. What the argument amounts to is that his language on issues like Iran, Nafta, and Iraq has become 'more moderate' and his attitude towards recent Supreme Court judgements is not conventionally liberal. Michael Crowley's piece in the The Observer makes reference to a recent Rolling Stone interview of the presumed presidential nominee where he reveals his eclectic taste in music. Strange then that in the same interview Barack Obama is asked how to judge him at the end of his first term and he said:
Obama: "If I haven't gotten combat troops out of Iraq, passed universal health care and a new energy policy that speaks to our dependence on foreign oil and deals seriously with global warming, then we've missed the boat."
Seems pretty explicit on Iraq. Some will make much of the 'combat' qualifier on troops but this is consistent with where he's been positioned previously.

Michael Crowley sees Obama's alleged political re-positioning (as opposed to a rhetorical re-positioning) as a direct pitch to independent voters amongst whom McCain is in the lead. Firstly, it is worth saying that a lot of these 'independent' are actually Republican. There is currently a shift from Republican identification to independent identification as a result of the disastrous performance of the Bush administration.

More importantly, it would be crazy not to have the construction of a winning coalition in mind in all this but, given 22 debates with Senator Clinton, goodness knows how many hours of speeches, press and TV interviews, any substantive shifting of his positions will be walloped by the McCaincampaign and the media. He's anchored and that's it.

He is doing the right things and he is running a highly professional but principled political campaign. Let's just be careful about throwing around accusations of betrayal that don't have much behind them. If he did fundamentally shift by, for example, capriciously reversing his commitment to engage in dialogue with America's adversaries, then criticism would be justified. In the meantime, let's not cry wolf. All that does is prick up the ears of the Republican wolf in the forest.

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