Is Barack Obama a Manchurian candidate after all? No, I don't mean closeted Muslim, or Muslim apostate, or whatever the Internets are calling him this week. I mean closeted Republican...or liberal apostate. The minute that Obama became the Dems' presumptive nominee, he traded his cloak of liberal-oriented change for the same thing that he saw John McCain wearing around town, a stylish pair of flip-flops.
Last week we talked about his convoluted back-tracking on campaign finance, but Friday's flip-flop on the U.S. Constitution -- and the right of the government and corporations to spy on you -- is a less inside baseball, and a lot more serious. To make a long story short, when Obama was wooing liberal Democratic primary voters, he promised to filibuster any bill that gave retroactive immunity to lawbreaking telecom companies. But now he won't -- he only says that he'll "work" to remove it from the final bill...kind of in the way that the Washington Nationals are going to "work" real hard between now and September to win the National League East.
Good luck with that, Barack. The scariest thing is that I don't think that Obama is done drifting to the right. I wouldn't be surprised if recycled inside-the-Beltway center-right hack Sam Nunn gets the nod for veep. Why not. now that that pesky Democratic primary thing is out of the way. Is this why they call him "presumptive"?
While the campaign-finance and domestic-spying flip-flops seem a lot different -- both are rooted in the same principle, and it's a dubious one. Obama seems to be winking at his supporters and saying: You know I'm the best guy and I'll do the right thing once I get to the Oval Office -- so let me say or do whatever I think I need to for now, in order to make sure I actually get there.
But while none of this changes the all-important fact that his opponent McCain would be a disastrous third Bush term for America, Obama's underlying message is still a morally dubious one. The best way to show America that you'll be a stand-up president is to be a stand-up candidate for the job. Saying one thing and doing something else on a core issue like the future of the Constitution is a bad signal.
I will say this: Obama's actions since claiming the nomination show how ridiculous the wildest Manchurian candidate-spinning Obama haters truly are -- pushing the idea that he's somehow unpatriotic or un-American. In fact, Obama is a politician with a (mostly) good message and a great story who really, really wants to be the president of the United States -- and will do or say whatever it takes to get himself there.
Is there anything more all-American than that?
UPDATE: Just saw that Dick Polman made pretty much the same point on this, while reminding us that at least Obama didn't fry some mentally retarded kid like Bill Clinton did to make the same political point in 1992.