This column in the Wall Street Journal addresses the ongoing pundit parlor game: who is Barack Obama? The questions are numerous:
While he has already written two autobiographies, there are significant gaps in Mr. Obama’s political resume. The nature of his relationship with onetime friend and political contributor Tony Rezko, a convicted felon, or with radicals Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright, not to mention Acorn, remains ambiguous or contradictory.
They were all early supporters or mentors, yet during this campaign Mr. Obama has eventually disavowed each one. This is perhaps testimony to a ruthless pragmatism, or maybe opportunism, but what do those relationships say about what he really believes? He is fortunate the media have been so incurious about them — as opposed, say, to Sarah Palin’s Wasilla church or Joe Wurzelbacher’s plumbing business.
But even if voters (and certainly the MSM) are uninterested in his past, his future plans should certainly be of concern. And yet his intentions remain unclear, in large part because his high-minded rhetoric disguises a thin record, one devoid of intellectual creativity or political daring:
As a political candidate, he has presented himself as a consensus-oriented bridge-builder. But for all his talk about reaching across the aisle, we can think of no major issue where he has disagreed with his party’s dominant interest groups or broken with liberal orthodoxy. Not one. The main example he cites — “ethics reform” — is the kind of trivial Beltway compromise that changes nothing about the way Washington works.
Unlike Newark Democratic Mayor Cory Booker, Mr. Obama opposes school vouchers and would water down the accountability provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. Unlike Bill Clinton, Mr. Obama is ambivalent at best about free trade. His promise to abrogate the North American Free Trade Agreement, if Canada and Mexico refuse to bargain, is a more breathtaking case of U.S. “unilateralism” than anything Mr. Bush has done. Nafta is a 15-year old pact enacted by a Democratic Congress and President. The Kyoto Protocol had never even been submitted to the Senate when Mr. Bush refused to support it.
Indeed, those who are so enamored of his brilliance should query why he demonstrated so little ingenuity and courage as a legislator. For a man so lauded for a rich intellect, he seems to have done precious little to devise and pursue policy solutions that depart from rewarmed 1970′s liberalism. He has been, to put it bluntly, utterly predictable and unimaginative in his pre-presidential campaign career.
The mystery, then, may be why so many are impressed by so little. But if he is elected, he’ll have to reveal what he really thinks and what he wants to do. Based on his track record, I suspect this will be a lot more Barbara Boxer than Pat Moynihan.