Obama’s committee of the hole

During the run-up to the primaries, Senator Obama did not appear in the Senate to vote on the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment calling on the government to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist entity and thus suffer the imposition of sanctions. On the day of the vote on the amendment, however, Obama issued a statement announcing that he would have voted against it. In the statement, the closest he came to addressing the merits of the amendment was his assertion that “he does not think that now is the time for saber-rattling towards Iran.” The amendment passed the Senate 76-22 on September 26, 2007, with many Democrats including Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Richard Durbin, and Chuck Schumer voting in its favor.

Obama subsequently advanced three explanations for his opposition to the amendment. The McCain campaign usefully compiled them here. Obama mercilessly attacked Hillary Clinton for her vote in favor of the amendment. At a Democratic candidates’ debate in December before the Iowa caucus, for example, Obama returned to the theme of his September 26 statement. The New York Daily News reported:

Monday’s revelation that the Iranian nuke threat was hugely overblown gave Clinton’s rivals new zeal to criticize her vote to brand Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.

Obama likened it to her 2002 vote authorizing the Iraq war. “This saber-rattling was a repetition of Iraq,” he said.

We can infer from his statements that Obama is opposed to “saber-rattling,” and that designating the IRGC a terrorist organization is rattling the dread saber. Appearing before AIPAC the day after he secured the Democratic nomination, however, the time for Obama to rattle the saber arrived. Or at least the time had come to support the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization, eight months after the Senate vote on the subject. At his speech to the AIPAC policy conference in Washington on Wednesday, Obama called for “boycotting firms associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, whose Quds force has rightly been labeled a terrorist organization.”

Campaigning in Israel yesterday, Obama held a press conference in Sderot. There he claimed membership on the Senate Banking Committee that passed the Dodd-Shelby Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2008. The Senate Banking Committe passed the bill out of committee last week by a vote of 19-2. Obama stated:

Now, in terms of knowing my commitments, you don’t have to just look at my words, you can look at my deeds. Just this past week, we passed out of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, which is my committee, a bill to call for divestment from Iran, as a way of ratcheting up the pressure to ensure that they don’t obtain a nuclear weapon.

As John notes below, however, Obama is not a member of the Senate Banking Committee. Obama claimed membership on the committee so that he could count the committee’s action as one of “my deeds.”

The bill passed out of the Senate Banking Committee appears to derive in part from other Senate bills (S.3227 and S.970) with which Obama had essentially nothing to do. Last week Obama issued a press release applauding the Senate Banking Committee’s passage of the sanctions act, “which includes provisions Obama offered last year in the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2007 (S. 1430).” Whatever sanctions on Iran Obama supported in 2007, however, apparently did not constitute saber rattling of the kind that Obama imputed to Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the Democratic primaries.

Barack Obama has proved himself an extraordinarily cynical politician. He doesn’t believe in much, but he certainly believes in his own power to make voters believe whatever he says, even when what he says today contradicts what he said yesterday, and even when it constitutes a bald fiction, such as his claim that the Senate Banking Committee is “[his] committee.”

Some day it may begin to dawn on attentive observers that Obama represents a type that flourishes on many college campuses. The technical term that applies to Obama is b.s. artist. Obama is an overaged example of the phenomenon, but his skills in the art have brought him great success and he’s not giving it up now.

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