Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Barack Obama: From Messiah to Pariah?

There is something comical but ultimately rather sad about the widespread dropping of jaws over Barack Obama's support of the expansion of government surveillance powers and other recent actions that reveal him to be someone whom he has been all along -- a hard assed and thoroughly pragmatic politician who does not walk on water but has been astute at harnessing this image to power his own ambitious path to the Democratic presidential nomination and White House.

Part of the disappointment has to do with Obama supporters having much more to lose as the scales fall from their eyes.

When John McCain does one of his routine flip flops, it is par for the course. But the howls of outrage in the blogosphere and sense of betrayal on the part of some Obamaniacs as he suddenly seems to be running against form still is surprising considering how cynical many of these bloggers have been about the presidential campaign in general.

Not that there are no flies on me.

I have bought into Obama's hope-and-change message while expressing concern early and often as to whether he has enough experience and can surround himself with enough people who do have the experience to lead us away from the Age of Bush to the promised land of electoral and government reform. So I am disappointed that he endorsed the FISA bill after having said earlier that he would filibuster the measure, which is an atrocious piece of legislation because it legalizes illegal behavior.

I am disappointed that Obama put himself in the position of having to apologize to two Muslim women after they were barred from a campaign photo op, as well as his tap dancing in general on all things Muslim. I am disappointed that he has pandered to the ethanol crowd, which is making a further hash of energy and agriculture policy. And I am disappointed . . . well, you get the point.

Indeed, there have been several times recently when Obama has seemed more an insider than fresh upstart. I am disappointed yes, but not surprised.

Eight presidential campaigns and a snoutful of realism forces me to acknowledge that you can't be a politician without being a member of the political class, and that even the most principled politician carries in their hip pocket an adjustable wrench known as pragmatism.

It is in this context that Obama is doing exactly what anyone in his position should do: Run to his base in the primaries and run to the center in the general election. And hope that what he says over the next five months helps bring to bear what could be a signal accomplishment of the opening months of his presidency -- consensus building in an era of divide-and-conquer politics.

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