Obama: A sudden move to the center

Is Obama "lurching" with "reckless abandon" toward the center or is he "slowly and subtly" winning an election?

Forgive me, said Charles Krauthammer in The Wash­ington Post. In a column I wrote last week, I tried to list Barack Obama’s recent “brazen reversals of position” since securing the Democratic nomination for president. What I failed to realize at the time was that he “was just getting started.” In the space of a single week, this former darling of the extreme Left has also now: applauded the overturn of Washington D.C.’s handgun ban; denounced late-term abortion; promised to expand President Bush’s “faith-based” initiative in funding religious social organizations; backpedaled on his pledge to end the war in Iraq; and come out in support of the same domestic-wiretapping bill he had previously promised to filibuster. So is Obama the conventional liberal populist he appeared to be during the primaries, or the pragmatic centrist of the past few weeks? “I have no idea. Do you? Does he?”

Obama’s “dash to the center” is remarkable not just for its speed, said Rich Lowry in the New York Post, but for how it “falsifies the very essence of his candidacy.” With little to offer in the way of fresh policy ideas, Obama so far has based his entire campaign on a promise to practice “a new, more forthright and uncalculating politics.” It therefore seems odd, to put it mildly, that he’s suddenly indulging in such blatant calculation. “Tacking gently toward the center” is what most presidential candidates do come the general election, said Bob Herbert in The New York Times. But Obama isn’t so much tacking gently, as “lurching with the kind of reckless abandon that’s guaranteed to cause disillusion, if not whiplash,” among the idealistic 20-somethings and grass-roots activists who put him where he is today.

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