Commentary Magazine


Not So New

Barack Obama’s main theme is that he is a new kind of politician, and that the old ones are corrupt and divisive. Well, today was not a good day for “new” politics.

First, under badgering from John McCain and the RNC, Obama released his list of 2006 and 2007 earmarks. It is long, really long. (I passed $180M before the “Energy & Water” category.) McCain earlier in the day put out a statement including this:

“I am proud to have fought against the practice of earmarking and wasteful pork-barrel spending. It has often been a lonely fight, but one I know is worth winning. I am encouraged by some of my Democratic colleagues’ new-found enthusiasm for suspending this practice for a year. I hope their recent commitments do not wane once they step off the campaign trail. I believe we must end this process, which has diverted billions in taxpayer dollars to needless projects, once and for all. If voters give me the pen, I will veto every single pork-barrel bill Congress sends me. . .I’m encouraged that Senators Clinton and Obama have joined me in supporting the DeMint amendment banning earmarks for one year. I renew my call for them to fully disclose all of their earmark requests while serving in the Senate and join me in increasing needed transparency and accountability in Washington.”

No word yet on when we will get the list of Obama’s 2005 earmarks or when Clinton’s will arrive (they are probably in the same stack as the tax returns and the visitor logs from the White House archives). Score one for the cheapskate McCain (who has zero earmarks in his much longer Senate career) over the “not so new after all” politics of spending taxpayer money on pork barrel projects.

But what of Obama’s other claim, that he will end the old, mean style of politics and usher in a new era of unity, both racial and political? As Abe and John have pointed out, the media have now caught on to his pastor, Reverend Wright. Like Michelle Obama, he sounds like he pretty much hates America.

Obama says his church is not “particularly controversial” (well, not like Geraldine Ferraro, I suppose) and Wright is just “like an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with.” I think it is worth asking why Obama chose this man to officiate at his wedding and his kids’ baptisms. Does Obama agree what Wright says or does he just snooze through sermons from his favorite “old uncle”? Perhaps it is time to reject and denounce.

At the very least, what we have on both these issues is a significant gap between campaign rhetoric and reality. It’s looking more and more like Obama does not live up to his billing as the savior of American politics. No one is more relieved to see stuff like this on the front pages than Hillary Clinton. (Well, maybe Geraldine Ferraro.)