Yuval Levin observes that Obama’s response to charges that he has reversed himself several times in recent weeks is disingenuous, which it is, since the candidate very carefully evades discussing the actual charges. You can see how some of the charges bounce off of him, since he was generally a free trader before he became the fire-breathing enemy of NAFTA in Ohio, but that then drives home the point that his statements about NAFTA in Ohio weren’t just “overheated” but also basically dishonest. He had said that he believed in an individual right to bear arms before Heller was decided, but when asked about the D.C. gun ban in the past he sad he believed it was constitutional. Suddenly, post-”cling,” when the Court decided otherwise he discovered a new interpretation that put him on the side of the Court’s majority. Well, he does love consensus, doesn’t he? Obviously, the flip on the FISA bill, which he vowed to filibuster in its current form and now will support, is substantively the worst and the most obvious of them all, and it is the one the candidate’s boosters have been most shameless in defending. It is fairly insulting to say that those who think he has changed positions on these particular items haven’t been paying close enough attention, since obviously the first people who even noticed some of these reversals were those who pay attention to the campaign every day. On cue, Sullivan refers to these as “apparent” reversals, as if there were some doubt that there had been a change.
Viewed in a certain way, you can argue that everything Obama has done is consistent with his general views and his habit of avoiding confrontation, but this is not very flattering for Obama and it is even less flattering for his conservative admirers. As a supporter of the PATRIOT Act, Obama has never exactly been a champion on civil liberties, so when he said that he would filibuster the FISA bill it was may have been nothing more than pandering and a refusal to court confrontation during the primaries. Once he became the nominee, he wanted to avoid confrontation with the telecoms and the executive, which was easy enough since he has been a fair-weather civil libertarian all along, because to be anything else would be to court resistance and opposition from entrenched power in the government and the media. On the whole, a pattern emerges where Obama will never challenge a constituency or an interest group at the time when it can damage or derail his advancement, but once he has used them he will be quite willing to throw supporters overboard to appease the demands of the political establishment. I guess this is what some people consider to be smart politics, but it makes you realise how apt Samuelson’s old line about Obama representing the “sanctification of the status quo” really was. Even more appropriate was Samuelson’s judgement:
By Obama’s own moral standards, Obama fails.
P.S. Obama has voted for cloture, which paves the way for bringing the legislation to the floor for a vote. As far as I’m concerned, that negates any significance of voting with Dodd and Feingold on their amendment regarding telecom immunity.
Update: Obama also voted for final passage. Greenwald has a new post on the legislation.