John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Flip-Flops, Political Opportunism and Barack Obama

Posted on June 27, 2008

           The McCain campaign is trying to paint Barack Obama as a flip-flopper, ala John Kerry.  I don’t think it will work in the same way it worked with Kerry, however. 


            Kerry’s flip-flopping, most spectacularly shown as he windsurfed off of Martha’s Vineyard, was seen as a sign of weakness.  Kerry was portrayed as being as weak on the war on terror, an out-of-touch effete Yankee snob, and kind of a nerd.  He was the kid who always got picked on in the class-room, because he was a brown-noser.


            Obama is different.  The flip-flopping charge won’t work with him.  While he may be seen as weaker on the war, that doesn’t have the same resonance as it did four years ago.  Each day we move beyond September 11th, the less resonance it has with the voting public. And the war in Iraq, despite our successes, remains unpopular and has contributed to the collective bad mood that country currently finds itself in.


            Obama also cannot be portrayed as the effete East Coast Yankee, because well, he is from the South Side of Chicago.  He’s not the dork that Kerry came off as.  He is the cool kid in the glass, he moves with a grace and an arrogance that comes not from great wealth, but from somewhere else.


            But Obama is clearly not a straight-talking man of the people.  Indeed, his latest moves show him to be a political opportunist of the highest degree.  He joined his church, according to fellow Illinoisan Bobby Rush, so he could be seen as more black.  And when that church ceased to be useful to him, he not only quit it, he trashed the pastor that “brought him to Christ.”


            He worked his way up in Illinois, by befriending guys like Tony Rezko, who helped to bankroll his campaigns.  When Rezko got into hot water, he too was sacrificed.


            The same dynamic, of course, occurred with his pledge on public financing for the Presidential campaign.   When it was convenient, and when believed he had no chance to bring in the money he is bringing in today, he was all for public financing.  Today, hasta la vista, baby, to public financing.


            He is also trying to have it both ways on the DC gun ban.  Like all liberals, he strongly supported the gun ban early on.  But today, he is singing a different tune, about how he has always supported the individual’s right to bear arms.


            Obama’s complete lack of principle doesn’t show a tendency to flip-flop.  It shows instead a strong sense of political ruthlessness that betrays something a little more sinister.  He is someone who believes that the ends justifies the means, and that the only thing that truly matters is the final result, which is his ascension to the White House.


            It is easy to paint this kind of ruthlessness as typical of a politician.  But actually, his stunning lack of principle takes it to a different level, attained only by Presidential figures like Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.  For Clinton and Nixon, it was really all about them, damn the Constitution. 


            Obama has not yet demonstrated the political courage to take on a specific special interest, or a Democratic sacred cow.  He has shown no ability to bring Republicans and Democrats together for a cause greater than party.  He has yet to cross the line to achieve anything of note in the Senate.  In the Illinois legislature, Obama was known most as the guy who voted present early and often, in order to maintain his political viability.


            Unlike John McCain, who has many politically risky gambles with his career, including immigration, campaign finance reform, and most notably, the surge, Obama takes no chances.  He is not a flip-flopper by any means.  He is a ruthless political opportunist who will do anything to achieve his ambitions. 


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