Monday, June 9

:: There He Goes Again

Obama's habit of backtracking on bold statements won't cut it in the general.
This is not a post about U.S. foreign policy and Israel. Its a post about the campaign. No ifs ands or buts.
From the New York Times:

The morning after claiming the Democratic nomination, Senator Obama spoke to skeptical members of a pro-Israel lobby and made a pledge that some of them found pleasantly surprising: “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”

That statement generated a storm of controversy in the Middle East, with one Kuwaiti daily calling it “a slap in the face” to Arabs. And over the last 24 hours, as Mr. Obama and his campaign have sought to explain his initial remarks, and suggested that an undivided Jerusalem would be hard to achieve, they have been accused of backtracking, which has generated a new round of criticism, this one here at home among Jewish groups.


Sensing an opportunity, the Republican National Committee and allied groups on Friday accused Mr. Obama of “flip-flopping,” echoing earlier criticism of what they say is his inconsistent position on having talks with the leaders of rogue states like Iran. And Mr. McCain, campaigning in southern Florida, which has a large Jewish population, quickly echoed those attacks.

“I can’t react to every comment that Senator Obama makes, because it probably will change,” he said after an air boat ride through the Everglades, “as it did on sitting down and talking unconditionally with Ahmadinejad and dictators.”

Its a classic "there he goes again" moment. McCain sounds confident, jocular - like he and the reporters are sharing an in-joke. If Hillary Clinton had said this - after an air boat ride through the Everglades, no less - a chorus of media pundits and liberal bloggers would have condemned her in that "just who does she think she is" tone they use so often. Watch for McCain to use this tone to force Obama into a unlucky paradigm - McCain the responsible father who has seen it all, Obama the irresponsible son who can't decide who he is.

How did Obama handle the blowback from the Middle East? More from the same article:
In an interview with CNN on Thursday, Mr. Obama was asked about criticisms from the Arab world, and whether his remarks meant that Palestinians had no claim to Jerusalem.

“Well,” he replied, “obviously it’s going to be up to the parties to negotiate a range of these issues,” including the status of Jerusalem.

While restating his support for an undivided city, he also said, “My belief is that, as a practical matter, it would be very difficult to execute.”

An article on Friday in The Jerusalem Post sought to clarify Mr. Obama’s stance further. In it, an unnamed foreign policy adviser to Mr. Obama was quoted as saying that the candidate’s position is that “Jerusalem remains Israel’s capital and it’s not going to be divided by barbed wire and checkpoints as it was in 1948-1967.”

That formulation does not rule out the city simultaneously serving as the capital of a Palestinian state or Palestinians’ being granted control of some Arab neighborhoods there.

With criticism mounting on Friday from Republicans and some Jewish groups, supporters of Mr. Obama rushed to his defense...

[Rep. Robert] Wexler called Mr. Obama’s position the “most pro-Israel of all” because he has promised to respect whatever agreement Israel and Palestinians reach through negotiations rather than impose an American solution.

How do you like that? His shifted from a bold statement to "I'll go along with whatever they say" in roughly one week. He validated McCain's flippant little observation. It won't take long for reporters to realign their bias.

I told you so.


RS said...

Better someone who changes from what could be a dumb path to something a little smarter. I think we have seen enough of "my original position is correct - even if inconvenient facts say otherwise."
Heck, even McCain now promises to win the Iraq War by 2013 rather than sticking it out there a 100 years. And McCain will have to answer his own flip-flops - on tax-cuts for one.

Anyway, I don't see a big change between Obama's statement to AIPAC and his later clarification - after all, he does say Jerusalem should remain undivided as a practical matter, even within the two-state solution.

Don't know if you read this:

Ciccina said...

In principle I agree with you, RS. It is better to be somewhat flexible. However, Democrats have been pilloried as flip-floppers since - well, at least since Bush pere with his "read my lips, no new taxes." Clinton (Bill) was harrassed by the press every time he adjusted his position to accomodate back-and-forth negotiation with Congress. And Hillary was lambasted for having "no principles" - that she would say anything anyone would want to hear to get elected.

So why does Obama think he's immune from this treatment? Does he think he has Reagan's Teflon veneer?

Obama didn't modulate his position to accomodate changing circumstances on the ground. He made a clear, bold statement in one venue, and then turned it on its head a week later to try to appease his critics. Nothing on the ground changed within that week. He was just dodging and weaving.

As for TPM, I stopped reading them months ago. One thing I learned this season is that our commentators are no more trustworthy than the conservatives. They will misquote, misrepresent, twist facts, cherry pick experts and so on just as ruthlessly as the right. (That's why I love sites like, where you get unvarnished information and the tools to help you understand it).

RS said...

Do read the TPM article - it's not one of the typical diaries.
And I still stand by my characterization - Obama hasn't changed his position... :-)

[See, he is the second coming of Reagan... but on (what we call) the Good Side ;-) ]

Anonymous said...

Ciccina, you are a joke. You are like the jew who is so confused, that they will vote for a Nazi.