August 29, 2008

The Obama Transformation

Before 85,00 adoring fans, the man of “€œHope”€ and “€œChange”€ finally got down to specifics and told us who he really is and what he really plans to do as president.

Well, sort of…

Energy Independence in 10 years (a timeline politicians typically reserve for impossible tasks) was joined by a pretty conventional grab bag of federal goodies: public school teachers shall get higher salaries (of course), we shall all have “€œaffordable, accessible health care”€ (which doesn”€™t exactly sound like “€œuniversal healthcare”€), and government shall, somehow, close the mythic “€œgender gap“€ in income by, I guess, mandating that women get paid more. That Obama promises to do it all while lowering taxes for 95% of American sounds like he”€™ll be continuing with the “€œdeficits don”€™t matter”€ tradition of the past eight years.  

Beyond Obama’s “€œnew” politics, another major revelation took place at the National Convention, but one that will be discussed sub rosa in the blogosphere”€”Obama was transformed from Antiwar Leftist to Liberal Hawk. 

In many ways, this began with Joe Biden’s workmanlike speech on Wednesday evening. Yes, on one level, Biden was brought on as a kind of northeast Catholic “€œregular guy”€ who will supposedly attract all those “€œhardworking Americans”€ who voted for Hillary. But the Delaware senator was also selected for his “€œforeign-policy expertise”€ that he supposedly accrued while sitting on appropriations committees, being helicoptered around the world to oversee foreign elections, and voting for a lot military action. Biden, interestingly, opposed the first Gulf War, but there’s little doubt that what he brings to the ticket is a foreign-policy philosophy of the Brookings Institute, Democratic Leadership Counsel, New Republic bent.

Biden says we don”€™t need a “€œgood soldier”€ (McCain) but a “€œwise leader”€ in the White House. But when he expounded upon the many examples of Obama’s good judgment, he didn”€™t mention that Obama opposed the authorization of use of force in Iraq (which, of course Biden supported.) 

Instead, Biden talked about the conflagration in the Caucuses, and scolded Bush and McCain for not doing enough:

“€œIn recent days, we’ve once again seen the consequences of the neglect with Russia’s challenge to the free and democratic country of Georgia. Barack Obama and I will end this neglect. We will hold Russia accountable for its actions, and we’ll help the people of Georgia rebuild.”€

 

Being that McCain’s top people are still advocating for Georgia’s entrance into NATO and promising that they”€™ll get the IMF and other “€œinternational authorities”€ involved with rebuilding Georgia”€”and the senator himself bizarrely claimed “€œWe”€™re all Georgians!”€”€”I can’t imagine what more Biden could want McCain to do on this matter.

Echoing his Veep, Obama promised that’s he’s the best prepared to “€œcurb Russian aggression.”€ 

When speaking of Afghanistan, Biden calls Obama “€œwise”€ in the sense that he”€™ll increase troop levels:  

Now, let me ask you: whose judgment should we trust? Should we trust John McCain’s judgment when he said only three years ago, “€˜Afghanistan”€”we don’t read about it anymore because it’s succeeded”€™? Or should we trust Barack Obama, who more than a year ago called for sending two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan?

The fact is, al-Qaida and the Taliban”€”the people who actually attacked us on 9/11″€”have regrouped in those mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan and are plotting new attacks. And the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff echoed Barack’s call for more troops.

It’s a “€œsurge strategy”€ in Afghanistan. As I”€™ve discussed before, both parties have benefited from, and sought to perpetuate, a series of bumper-sticker antitheses”€””€œpro-war vs. antiwar,”€ “€œconfront evil”€ vs. “€œtough diplomacy,”€ “€œunilateralism vs. multilateralism”€ etc. But this rhetoric masks the fact that since Obama and McCain have won their parties”€™ nominations, they been moving ever closer together in terms of their actual foreign-policy programs.

If Obama’s elected, it will probably take years for his most ardent admirers, those who wept at Mile-High or rooted him on from home, to realize that the Man of Change will offer much more continuity in foreign affairs than his “€œnew politics for a new time”€ promises. In turn, the realist/conservative justification for supporting Obama is swiftly vanishing…    

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