The problem with Obama’s new hedging on taxing those who make below $250,000, or his administration’s taking credit for victory in the Iraq War that they so once fervently tried to abort, or the flip-flop on renditions and tribunals, or the embarrassments over closing Guantanamo and trying KSM in New York or Mirandizing the Christmas Day bomber, or trashing/praising Wall Street grandees, is not that presidents cannot change their minds as circumstances warrant, or even that all politicians are at times hypocritical. No, the rub is that Obama is not merely flipping and triangulating on issues in a desperate attempt to shadow the polls, but he is doing so on matters that he once swore were absolutely central to his entire candidacy and his signature hope-and-change agenda, critical to the future of the U.S., and proof of his opponents’ either ignorance or disingenuousness.
Serially he once screamed about taxing only the wealthy and airing health care on C-SPAN. He advocated taking out all combat troops from Iraq by March 2008 and asserted the surge was failing — at a critical time when our soldiers were in a life-and-death struggle to make it work. Obama built an entire narrative about Bush the Constitution Shredder who presided over Guantanamo and renditions. There was no place in his promised new politics for lobbyists and Chicago tactics. After a single year of governance, there is now scarcely a single issue that Obama & Co. have not backtracked on, flip-flopped, redefined, or quietly dropped — mostly matters that were once demagogued to score political points. At some point — I think it was around mid-January — the public collectively shrugged and concluded of Obama, “I don’t trust anything that this guy says.” And when that happens in American politics, it is almost impossible to restore any modicum of credibility. All we are left with now is three more years of the president’s “Bush did it” mantra and a buffoonish Robert Gibbs, like some strutting carnival barker, showing off ink on his palm to a bored press corps.