Commentary Magazine


If Only He Were Pandering

Arianna Huffington is in a tizzy over Barack Obama’s recent centrist shift. She writes, “If you were within shouting distance of me, odds are we talked about it.” The NASA craft taking pictures on Mars is in shouting distance of Arianna Huffington. So let’s talk about it.

According to Huffington, “Tacking to the center is a losing strategy.” But she doesn’t realize that Obama needed to tack somewhere because so far his potpourri of rookie bleats, ego rants, and nanny-state threats, have left him sounding like a know-it-all freshman unloading his new mental wares onto his family over Christmas break.

Only he couldn’t rely on this family for unconditional love. When you say you want to talk to madman leaders, European heads of state don’t laugh it off as youth. When you say we can’t listen to phone calls from alleged terrorists in foreign countries, the intelligence community doesn’t pat you on the head and smile. When you shrug off the Second Amendment, average Americans don’t find it cute. When you call for winning troops to leave their work half-done, military brass don’t marvel at your idealist pacifism. So, Obama is finding out that he can’t bend the world to his freshman seminar sensibilities. He already earned himself months of heartache over the Ahmadinejad pledge. How many more gaffes could he afford to turn into policy and then into denial?

“Watering down that brand is the political equivalent of New Coke. Call it Obama Zero,” Huffington writes. But was there a brand or just a logo? He said “change” and threw out a spate of vague promises about the world loving America. When it came to specific policies and their implementation, he stayed non-committal on almost every campaign issue for the entirety of the primary. What worked on the Democratic electorate got him into hot water with the folks out there making decisions.

In truth, the spectacle of Obama’s shifting positions should concern everyone, not just progressive mouthpieces like Arianna Huffington. It’s obvious, and alarming, that the Democratic nominee for the president of the United States isn’t pandering. He’s learning.