Thursday, July 3, 2008


Ed Morrissey argues that Obama has abandoned the one position that is responsible for his having attained the Democratic nomination - his promise to pull out of Iraq within 16 months of taking office. Morrissey makes a good, if subtle, case that Obama has executed a deft switcheroo, but his argument isn't likely to resonate with many voters except those who are actually paying attention.

Then comes word via Drudge that Obama has renounced one of the most important precepts in the pro-choice catechism, the right to an abortion on the basis of a risk to the mental health of the mother. No one has hewn to all the pro-choice tenets more reliably than has Senator Obama over the short course of his career, but that was then and this is now:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says "mental distress" should not qualify as a health exception for late term-abortions, a key distinction not embraced by many supporters of abortion rights.

In an interview this week with "Relevant," a Christian magazine, Obama said prohibitions on late-term abortions must contain "a strict, well defined exception for the health of the mother."

Obama then added: "Now, I don't think that 'mental distress' qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term."

Can this man be trusted to stand by any position he took before he was a candidate for the presidency? Can he be counted upon to mean anything he says or are we back to the days of the Clintons after all? Perhaps we were premature to think that Clintonian confabulation and obfuscation were behind us once Hillary was out of the race.

Perhaps others have made the suggestion, but, if not, Viewpoint suggests that henceforth a political flip-flop, prevarication, or taking two mutually exclusive positions at the same time be called after the man who seems to do it all so effortlessly. We shall call it an Obamism.


What's Clark Doing?

By now everyone has probably heard of Wesley Clark's dismissal of John McCain's war record as a qualification for the presidency. In case you missed it, however, here's what the retired general and military advisor to Barack Obama said on Sunday's Face the Nation:

"[McCain] has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility," Clark said.

When asked by host Bob Schieffer how he came to describe McCain as "untested and untried," Clark said it was "because in the matters of national security policy-making, it's a matter of understanding risk. It's a matter of gauging your opponents and it's a matter of being held accountable. John McCain's never done any of that in his official positions," adding, "He hasn't made the calls."

When Schieffer noted that Obama has not had wartime experiences, Clark said: "Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president."

Of course, Clark knows McCain's appeal is not that he was a fighter pilot but that he courageously withstood Vietnamese torture and refused to accept their offer of release unless all the other prisoners had been released as well. Clark knows that Obama has nothing comparable in his biography, so he utters a shameless inanity about how being shot down isn't a qualification for the presidency.

Others have pointed out that even though Obama has called the remarks "inartful" (a term that has found frequent employment of late in his campaign) he doesn't actually repudiate them. It's also been pointed out that people representing any campaign are thoroughly briefed by high-ranking staff before appearing on the Sunday shows so it would be surprising if Clark's remarks came as a surprise to the Obama camp. The campaign at least appears to be trying to discredit McCain on the one point on which he has a huge advantage over Obama, but they can't afford to have Obama do it himself.

All this has been much discussed in the last couple of days, but I think there's something else here that I haven't heard mentioned. Clark knows that his comments make no sense if he's comparing McCain to Obama who has no experience of any kind that qualifies him for the presidency. Even if he's right that being a pilot does not qualify one for the oval office (although he thought John Kerry's service as a swift boat pilot qualified him), this was not really about McCain and Obama. This was about Wesley Clark and his qualifications to be president. Clark was trying, in not so subtle accents, to plant in the minds of the CBS audience that, compared to his own military accomplishments, McCain's are minimal. Clark, I suspect, was trying to shine the spotlight on his own experience as head of NATO which he believes makes him eminently suited to serve, if not as president, then as Obama's running mate.

It was clumsy and distasteful, and it blew up in his face, but that's the only explanation that makes sense to me of what he said on Sunday.

Consider his comments last March when he was still backing Hillary:

"Everybody admires John McCain's service as a fighter pilot, his courage as a prisoner of war. There's no issue there. He's a great man and an honorable man. But having served as a fighter pilot - and I know my experience as a company commander in Vietnam - that doesn't prepare you to be commander in chief in terms of dealing with the national strategic issues that are involved. It may give you a feeling for what the troops are going through in the process, but it doesn't give you the experience first hand of the national strategic issues."

But being a commander in Vietnam and of NATO forces in Europe does, or at least that's the between-the-lines message Clark wants to drive home.

Sadly, the more Clark tries to promote himself the more he makes himself look self-serving and small.


Taking a Bite Out of Crime

A customer at a Miami area Subway Sandwich Shop shot and killed an armed thug and shot his accomplice in the chest as they tried to push him into a restroom while robbing the store. The wounded thug's grandmother (no mention of any parents) said that the man was wrong to have shot her grandson and that he had no business taking the law into his own hands.

Well, I don't want to be hard on a grandmother, but really. Does she think that the young men (ages 22 and 21) were pushing the customer into a restroom at gunpoint because he looked to them like he needed to relieve himself? Does she think the man should have requested timeout while he called the police?

The fact is that it's tragic that a boy lost his life and that his friend may die also, but if you're going to rob a store at gunpoint you have to be willing to assume a certain amount of risk.

The man's name is John Lovell, he's a 71 year-old retired U.S. Marine, and we need more like him.


Co-opting the Religious Right

One of the many efforts for which President Bush received a lot of criticism from his opponents was his faith-based initiative which was set up to provide the same funding to religious groups involved in social work as was available to secular organizations. Bush's effort drew a lot of flak from the left and a lot of indifference from the right, including people in the White House, according to several of the Christians who were originally involved in the implementation of the program.

Now Jason sends me an article that is going to place both conservative supporters of federal funding for faith-based organizations and liberal opponents in a quandary. It turns out that Barack Obama wants to expand the program and elevate it to a position of prominence that it never achieved under the current administration:

Reaching out to evangelical voters, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is announcing plans that would expand President Bush's program steering federal social service dollars to religious groups and - in a move sure to cause controversy - support their ability to hire and fire based on faith.

Obama was unveiling his approach to getting religious charities more involved in government anti-poverty programs during a tour and remarks Tuesday at Eastside Community Ministry in Zanesville, Ohio. The arm of Central Presbyterian Church operates a food bank, provides clothes, has a youth ministry and provides other services in its impoverished community.

"The challenges we face today, from putting people back to work to improving our schools, from saving our planet to combating HIV/AIDS to ending genocide, are simply too big for government to solve alone," Obama was to say, according to a prepared text of his remarks obtained by The Associated Press. "We need all hands on deck."

How sincere an Obama administration, loaded down with lefty secularists, would be in implementing his vision is open to question, but think of all the problems Obama's plan causes for many of his supporters who will be very reluctant to criticize him for it even as they grind their teeth in dismay. Think, too, of how this throws sand in the shorts of Evangelicals who oppose Obama for a host of reasons but who now sounds as much like one of them as they do:

"In time, I came to see faith as being both a personal commitment to Christ and a commitment to my community; that while I could sit in church and pray all I want, I wouldn't be fulfilling God's will unless I went out and did the Lord's work," Obama says in a speech to be given this week.

As for me, even if this is not just a political ploy to make Obama more attractive to the religious right(and given his penchant for saying whatever his audience wants to hear, who knows?), I'm a little skeptical that he'll be able to bring those Democrats who vigorously opposed Bush's plan on board. I think David Kuo, a conservative Christian who was deputy director of Bush's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives until 2003 and later became a critic of Bush's commitment to the cause, has it right:

"It would be a very, very, very interesting thing," said Kuo, who is not an Obama adviser or supporter but was contacted by the campaign to review the new plan. Kuo called Obama's approach smart, impressive and well thought-out but took a wait-and-see attitude about whether it would deliver.

"When it comes to promises to help the poor, promises are easy," said Kuo, who wrote a 2006 book describing his frustration at what he called Bush's lackluster enthusiasm for the program. "The question is commitment."

How committed will be the Democrats, who tenaciously fought Bush on faith-based funding, to making it succeed under Obama? Even so, it's a brilliant political move for the Senator to endorse such program, and also one that, if he's not just blowing smoke in their faces, Christians should welcome.