Philip Weiss discusses “Obamaguity” (shouldn’t that be Obambiguity?):
It’s time to identify a central characteristic of this great politician: his ambiguity. Obama is neither black nor white, he is neither progressive nor conservative, indeed even his sexuality can seem ambiguous. His femininity is part of his enormous charm. Look how lithe he is next to masculine McCain. Ambiguity has served Obama very well indeed. For instance, he alienated no one at Harvard Law School–the stories are always about him engaging a group of people in a spirited discussion of issues, and giving nothing away, never taking a stand [bold mine-DL].
This reminds me of an old Daily Show clip mocking Cheney’s claim to be part of the legislative branch: “He is neither man nor beast, yet has elements of the twain!….He is the Highlander!” That line about Obama never taking a stand is worth noting. In this context, it’s clear that it means that he never took firm positions in these discussions, but looking at Obama’s entire career it becomes clear that he is not in the habit of taking stands that jeopardize his continued advancement. What I have never quite understood is why Obama’s supporters find this quality attractive, since it guarantees that he is almost certainly going to yield to established policies and interests concening most things that they take seriously. It suggests that any promise he makes to his constituents that involves challenging entrenched power is more or less worthless. The conclusion that Weiss and a number of Obama supporters never seem to reach is that this ambiguity is a means to disarm opponents who might create difficulties for him if he took a clear position one way or the other, and that his opponents ultimately include them on the issues that matter most to them.
Obamaguity–I need to coin this–is a big issue for us on the left. We want Obama to be a leader not a pol; we want him to be the Reagan of the left. And, in my little camp, we want him to be the savior of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. He gives us very mixed signals. He used to be Rashid Khalidi’s friend. I’m sure he knows the Palestinian narrative, and not just from eating Mona Khalidi’s hummus. Now Obama’s thrown Khalidi under the bus.
Well, of course he has. If he threw Wright under the bus, there was and is no one he won’t be willing to abandon if it becomes politically necessary. What Weiss mistakes for “mixed signals” are not signals at all. Obama’s friendship with Khalidi had and has no significance when it comes to policy. Obama’s signals on Israel and Palestine have been unambiguously “pro-Israel” in the most conventional sense. Let’s grant that he knows the Palestinian narrative–that has not changed his policy views at all. The belief that he will later turn against this position is an expectation that is just waiting to be dashed. Far more likely, it is his progressive and antiwar supporters whom he is likely to turn on after Tuesday, because he will not need them nearly as much once he is President and they will be told time after time that they have nowhere to go if they don’t like what Obama is doing.