Barack Obama set out to radically transform America, but, as he nears the end of his term, a funny thing has happened: America has radically transformed him instead.
The latest evidence of this is the Obama campaign’s most recent trial balloon: don’t believe that stuff about Obama being a big spender; really, he is a fiscal conservative. More than that, a virtual tightwad! Now, Obama never had any intention of being a green-eyeshade president. He has done everything he can to spend the largest possible amount of money and incur the largest possible amount of debt. His budgets are so irresponsible that no one–literally–will vote for them. Yet, as he seeks re-election, his campaign bows to reality. His handlers can’t baldly state the truth, which is that Obama has presided over the highest levels of spending and the highest deficits (by a factor of three) in American history. To have any hope of re-election, they have to distort Obama’s record beyond recognition.
Likewise in foreign policy. President Obama took office determined to run a whole new kind of foreign policy, reaching out to Muslim countries, downsizing American power, apologizing for America’s supposed past wrongdoing. But that didn’t last long; at least, not as a publicly proclaimed strategy. As he runs for re-election, Obama’s foreign policy claims can be summed up easily: his administration killed Osama bin Laden and, with drone attacks, lots of other terrorists, too. Oh, and that stuff about closing Guantanamo Bay and trying terrorists in federal court in New York City? Never mind.
Or consider energy policy. Obama took office with a professed determination to raise the costs of electricity and gasoline by destroying the coal industry, limiting access to domestic fossil fuels, and so on. No doubt Obama still believes in those policy goals (i.e., the impoverishment of the American people). But impoverishment isn’t a good re-election platform, so Obama’s theme now is “drill baby, drill.” He absurdly tries to take credit for increasing oil and natural gas production on private lands–production which is taking place only because Obama lacked the power to stop it.
What must Obama’s left-wing supporters make of his re-election campaign? No doubt they still trust him for the same reason they always have: they think he is lying. They expect that if he gets a second term, he will have more “flexibility,” as Obama himself put it, and will be able to lurch to the left on these issues and others, as his supporters have always expected him to. That assumption likely is correct. Still, it is heartening to see how facing the voters forces Obama to bow to reality, at least rhetorically.