Come January, when Barack Obama takes the oath of office as our 44th president and the Democrats formally take possession of two-thirds of our government, many people will wonder just what the Obama administration will do. What will be its priorities? What legislation will become most important?
Those who are even slightly familiar with Obama’s record ought to have a firm grasp of what is to come: whatever Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi think is most important to them will be pushed first.
Obama, in his entire political career, has lived by one overarching philosophy: “go along to get along.” He has never once bucked the leadership of his party, never publicly disagreed with those who hold the reins of the Democratic party, never once put principle ahead of partisanship.
And it certainly has not been for lack of opportunity. Obama came up through the ranks of the Chicago Democratic machine, an institution so ripe with corruption and cronyism and back-room deals and whatnot that only Louisiana, with its storied (and broadly ecumenical) legends of rogues and villains and scoundrels, could hope to rival it.
There are some who say that Obama, now that he is the titular head of his party, its highest elected official, will take the lead role and determine the course of events. He has served his time “in the trenches,” as it were, played the “go along to get along” game, and now that he has won the presidency, he is finally in place to command the same loyalty that he displayed.
Those who say that weren’t paying attention during the final Obama-McCain debate.
In that debate, John McCain asked Obama to cite one time he had stood up to the leaders of his party on a single major issue. Obama’s response?
Well, there’s a lot of stuff that was put out there, so let me try to address it. First of all, in terms of standing up to the leaders of my party, the first major bill that I voted on in the Senate was in support of tort reform, which wasn’t very popular with trial lawyers, a major constituency in the Democratic Party. I support… I support charter schools and pay for performance for teachers. Doesn’t make me popular with the teachers union. I support clean coal technology. Doesn’t make me popular with environmentalists. So I’ve got a history of reaching across the aisle.
A classic political move: when asked a question you can’t answer or don’t want to answer, instead reply to a question not asked. In this case, Obama can’t cite an example of his crosssing his party’s leadership — he has been a faithful and loyal drone and lackey his entire career. So, instead, he cites times he has taken positions that might have alienated an element of the Democrats’ core constituencies.
McCain challenged Obama to cite a time he had stood against those above him in the hierarchy of his party. Obama responded about his disagreements with those below him. This does not merely deflect the question about his fealty to the system, it reinforces it.
Come January, Senator Obama will most likely outline his agenda in broad strokes, filled with lofty ideals and abstract promises and soaring rhetoric. And then he will step back and let the House and Senate conduct their traditional wrangling, content to let the leadership decide which bills will be pushed, which will be left to their own devices, and which might try to be slipped past the national radar. Obama will content himself with attempting to undo many of the actions taken by the Bush administration both within the Executive branch and on the world stage, basking in the warm glow the world has given him.
At least until the first disastrously bad bill crosses his desk, or we face the inevitable international crisis that Joe Biden predicted. At which point, we will see if it takes President Obama as long as it took President Bush to find the veto stamp.
The smart money says longer.