There have been a lot of attacks against Barack Obama on the media of late. A lot of those attacks have come from the right, but a lot of them have even come from the left. The problem is that he’s being attacked for moving “away” from positions he never held in the first place.
Lets list them:
1. Death Penalty: The Supreme Court recently laid down a blanket ban on the use of capital punishment for rape cases that don’t end in the death of the victim. Obama came out against that sort of blanket ruling.
This isn’t a change of position. It can’t be, if only because he never before stated a position for this specific situation the court ruled on (as far as I know).
2. Gun Control: The Supreme Court even more recently ruled that the second amendment gives an individual the right to purchase and own a handgun. Obama came out in favor of this ruling
This isn’t a change of position. He even stated this exact thing during his primary fight with Hillary. The SCOTUS ruling essentially just restated the position Obama has preached from the very beginning.
3. Iraq: Obama stated that, after speaking with commanders on the ground in Iraq, he would “continue to refine his policies”. He is currently being attacked for changing his position away from the “rigid withdrawal date” he supposedly has.
This isn’t a change of position. He has always said that conditions on the ground would be determinative of exactly how he would go about the withdrawal. The overarching timeline has remained relatively consistent, but he has never stated that his plan wouldn’t be influenced by the facts on the ground. He was talking about tactics here, not the mission overall.
There’s really only one issue that he’s genuinely changed position on: FISA.
He’s come out in favor of the recent FISA legislation, which provides retroactive immunity to the telecommunication companies. He has stated that he doesn’t like the immunity part of the bill (and will work to remove it), but he’s willing to vote for the bill, because of the judicial overview provisions for spying in the United States.
I won’t even pretend to like the bill. I don’t. I won’t pretend Obama hasn’t changed positions on it. He has (though not as much as some claim). There’s only one thing about the bill that I’m cool with: If I’m not mistaken, this bill does not allow for domestic spying via data mining, simply because it requires a warrant for every instance of domestic spying (international communications are a different story). That’s the only reason I’m willing to let this issue slide, and I suspect that’s why Obama is given qualified marginal support of the bill (that doesn’t exactly qualify as a polar shift, but it is movement).
People on both sides of the political spectrum are accusing Obama of “moving” to the center because of all these issues. The problem is that there’s only been one move (and a relatively small one at that). Has McCain been attacked for moving to the middle during the general, because of his newfound enthusiasm for car batteries? No, because that’s just one issue and it’s not a huge move anyway.
The reason people are accusing Obama of moving to the middle is because he’s not proving to be the leftwing liberal people thought he was. Too often, people imposed their own opinions upon him, rather than listened to what he actually had to say. He became the liberal straw man for the republicans to rail against, and the liberals to deify.
After the recent Supreme Court rulings, McCain attacked Obama for wanting to put judges on the court that would take away our gun rights, and continue to vote the wrong way on capital punishment. Wait…What? That’s right. McCain accused Obama of wanting judges that actually disagree with his clearly stated positions. Why does that criticism work? Because Obama is a “liberal”, of course, and clearly doesn’t mean a word he’s saying on these issues.
This is the problem with the media, and even a lot of the American people. They don’t pay attention to what people actually say. They just listen to their own echo chamber, and base their opinions about all those outside that echo chamber on political stereotypes. Obama is not a Liberal Straw Man, and when the media treats him that way, they end up looking stupid.
The next time you hear someone say Obama has trended toward the middle since the primary, ask yourself what you feel that opinion is based on. Because, in my opinion, moving positions on one issue doesn’t make a trend.
Example of the echo chamber:
One of my best friends is a very liberal student of fine arts (she currently teaches collage English classes). She is simply one of the smartest people I know, and plans to start working on her doctorate in English some time soon. However, during the 2004 election, she and another friend got completely drunk, because they agreed to take a drink for every state that turned red that night. Being liberal arts majors, almost everyone they knew hated Bush, and assumed that no one would really elect him again. They thought Kerry would win by a landslide.
Meanwhile, anyone who paid attention to things outside the liberal echo chamber knew that there was going to be a lot of red on that political map, even if Kerry managed to win. 20 shots of anything are likely to cause serious problems, to say nothing about 31 (the actual number of states Bush won that night).
That sort of thing is happening all the time. It happened in the 2006 elections too. Those inside the liberal echo chamber thought the democrats would end the war in Iraq by pulling funding for it. However, the Democratic leadership—specifically Nancy Peloci—stated flat out that that option was off the table. Somehow, this information didn’t manage to penetrate the liberal echo chamber, and now they’re being accused of backing down…on a position they never held in the first place.
People like their stereotypes and straw men, because they’re simple. They also tend not to be representative of normal human beings.
Obama has always been a lot more moderate than either the liberal or conservative echo chambers have painted him (advocating personal responsibility among minorities, supporting gun rights, opposing mandates on healthcare, etc…). But any time he proves himself to be anything other than a Liberal Straw Man, he’s somehow “changing positions”. Frankly, I think people need to pay more attention.