Commentary Magazine


How Can We Tell?

Rich Lowry observes Barack Obama’s political slipperiness:

But no one can know whether Obama is the leftist his associations suggest, or the irenic uniter of his iconic 2004 convention speech; whether he’s the down-the-line liberal who kowtowed to the base of his own party in the Democratic primaries, or the pragmatist who readjusted to the center as soon as enthralled liberals handed him the nomination. The consistent line running through his career is opportunism, a willingness to accommodate whoever — Bill Ayers or the swing voter in Ohio — can help him up the next rung in his ladder of ambition at any juncture. When McCain asks, “Who is the real Barack Obama?” it is taken as a desperate smear. But it’s a question even Democrats don’t know how to answer.

The surest clue to a politician’s intentions is his record, not his campaign rhetoric. Obama’s is fairly clear. Up through 2002 he sat on the Woods Fund and gave out money to a hodgepodge of left-leaning groups including ACORN and the Arab American Action Network. As a state senator he opposed the Born Alive Infants Protection Act and favored strict gun control. As a U.S. Senator he was rated the most liberal (with some pretty liberal competition) — voting to cut off funding for troops and against both Justices Roberts and Alito and supporting the Democratic party line on everything from taxes to offshore drilling. He has been exquisitely sensitive to Big Labor’s agenda (e.g. opposing the Colombia Free Trade agreement, helping to sink immigration reform, and favoring the Orwellian-sounding Employee Free Choice Act).

In short, this is a very, very liberal fellow. Maybe with a Democratic Congress he’ll practice superhuman restraint. Maybe the economic crisis leaves him little chance to enact taxes and a raft of new programs. Maybe a savvy Secretary of State will sit him down and explain that he’s just not going to woo rogue state dictators. (Who will that be — Madeline Albright? Tony Lake? The mind reels.) But perhaps he’ll do what he has done his entire political career: pursue an immoderate and ultra-liberal agenda. It seems obvious that’s what he’d prefer to do.