Posted on Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Recently, I spoke with a Clinton supporter who takes politics seriously.
Was she still angry, I asked, or would she heed Hillary’s endorsement of
her rival? No question, she allowed. Come November, she’d cast her
presidential ballot for Sen. Barack Obama. “Yeah, but you’d vote for a
timber rattler,” I teased, “with a ‘D’ after its name.” “ Two words, ”
she said. “‘Supreme Court.’” So there’s definitely that. A couple more
appointees like John Roberts and Samuel Alito, and apart from the latter
half of the Second Amendment, where it says even children and barnyard
animals lacking opposable thumbs have a right to keep and bear 44 Magnum
handguns, and we’ll have to rename the Bill of Rights the Liberal Elite
List of Unrealistic Suggestions. Meanwhile, the Chosen One, as certain
non-idolatrous Democrats call Obama, has been changing positions so fast
it’d take a Doppler Effect equation to locate him. (Astronomers measure
distances by calibrating the “red shift” as light waves move closer or
“In recent weeks,” the Los Angeles Times summarized, “he toughened his
stance on Iran and backed an expansion of the government’s wiretapping
powers. On Wednesday, he said states should be allowed to execute child
rapists. When the Supreme Court the next day struck down the District of
Columbia’s ban on handguns, he did not complain.”
Obama once vowed to filibuster the FISA surveillance bill he now
supports. In Illinois, he once supported a ban on handguns. (Obama
blames a staff error. Yeah, right.) Maybe his most predictable sidestep
was opting out of public campaign financing to exploit his fund-raising
advantage over Sen. John McCain.
During the Democratic primaries, Obama’s position was that Clinton’s
crawfishing on public financing proved her membership in the corrupt
Washington establishment. Evidently, however, the money-changers can
keep on scheduling cocktail parties and fact-finding missions to the
Bahamas. The Chosen One won’t be chasing them from the temple after all.
Welcome to the big leagues, Obamaphiles. At least Bill Clinton used to
bite his lower lip and raspily explain why the cause he was about to
abandon was a tough sell. Obama just kind of glides. Sometimes it’s hard
to tell if an African American’s blushing. But what are you academic
lefties going to do about it? Vote for Ralph Nader again?
Not everybody thinks Obama’s calculated shape-shifting is so clever.
Writing at salon. com, Glenn Greenwald opines that Obama’s gotten
sandbagged by the Beltway celebrity media, which always depicts GOP
positions as centrist: “[A] very strong media narrative is arising that
Obama is abandoning his core beliefs for political gain.... The advice
that [Democrats] should ‘move to the center’ and copy Republicans is
guaranteed to make them look weak—because it is weak. It’s the
definition of weakness.”
So who is this guy? Here’s how Obama defined himself at a recent
campaign rally: “Hillary Clinton and I agree on 99 percent on the
issues. We had to work to find something to disagree on.... It is going
to be very difficult for Republicans to run on their stewardship of the
economy or their outstanding foreign policy. We know what kind of
campaign they’re going to run. They’re going to try to make you afraid.
They’re going to try to make you afraid of me. ‘He’s young and
inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?’”
This drew an instant rebuttal on NPR, of all places. Scott Simon of
“Weekend Edition” indignantly demanded to know: “What has John McCain
ever done or said to merit the charge that he’s going to make Senator
Obama’s race an issue?... Millions of Americans hope the country can go
through this year’s historic presidential campaign without anyone
playing the race card, but they’ll have to watch both sides of the
Notice anything? Obama hadn’t actually mentioned McCain’s name. But the
Arizona senator is a Beltway media favorite, and even the Chosen One
won’t be allowed to treat him like Clinton. The time for this objection
was around the South Carolina primary, when Obama surrogates played a
whole deck of race cards against both Clintons. Hillary Clinton is
taking a position similar to Boston Red Sox centerfielder Coco Crisp in
explaining why he held no grudge against a Tampa pitcher who’d
deliberately hit him with a pitch, triggering a brawl: “Even though we
went at it, he hit me in the leg, he didn’t try to hit me in the head.
He didn’t try to kill me. I ran out there and then he tried to hit me in
the head. That’s the way to go.” It’s classic baseball logic. The
situation dictated that Crisp be thrown at. But a big league fast-ball
can crush your eye socket, while most pitchers can’t punch worth a damn.
Because Obama never personally endorsed the racism smear, Clinton can
pretend it never happened. The November election, however, will be
played by different rules.
—–––––•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and
recipient of the National Magazine Award.