Reality Bites Obama

Apparently, this morning’s NBC interview with Matt Lauer (which Jennifer wrote about earlier) was rich in clues to the mindset of Barack Obama. Perhaps most interesting is that Obama set the stage for a veritable bazaar of fresh flip-flops. Here’s Mike Allen, at the Politico:

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said in an interview aired Tuesday that the cost of the mortgage bailout plan may rein in his ambitious plans for health care, energy, education and infrastructure.

Real-world contingencies have a way of impeding Obama’s utopian ambitions. But it would be a sign of the candidate’s seriousness if he could factor reality into his plans beforehand. And it would also clarify for voters just what they’re voting for. Whether it’s talking to America’s enemies, “ending” a war because it’s ugly, or showing restraint in off-shore drilling, Obama’s vows tend to get derailed on the way to fruition. And you can say that the current financial meltdown was an unforeseeable emergency (or a “game-changer,” as Obama likes to say). But what are leaders for, if not to put the country on the best possible footing should we be struck by an unforeseeable emergency? There will always, after all, be unforeseeable emergencies.

Barack Obama wants to quell the oceans, cool the planet, and feed the hungry. Who doesn’t? But it turns out the dispensing of miracles is “going to depend on what our tax revenues look like.” No matter what he told Matt Lauer, a revenue shortage doesn’t simply mean you slow the implementation of initiatives. Obama, should he become president, will have to engage in a vast restructuring of the programs he promised to deliver. If you’re going to stagger out certain energy, education, infrastructure, and health care policies, those policies need to be designed with a staggered timetable in mind. You can’t decide to build half a school or a quarter of a wind farm and then wait on revenue. This leaves Obama’s grand plans precisely nowhere. But he can probably cover over that frightening fact for the next month and a half with a little help from his friends in the press.