If Barack Obama does win the Democratic nomination, he’s going to be subjected to intensified charges from the G.O.P. that he’s a closet Islamist, Black nationalist, anti-Semite and, most menacing of all, a flaming liberal. There’s no evidence to support any of those charges, but that doesn’t mean they won’t stick. In an article today that ran under the headline “In Obama’s New Message, Some Foes See Old Liberalism” the Washington Post previewed, and in some instances gave credence, to Republican charges about the Illinois senator’s dangerous lefty views. It’s well worth a read, as it offers a clear preview of what’s probably coming down the road this fall.
“Sen. Barack Obama offers himself as a post-partisan uniter who will solve the country’s problems by reaching across the aisle and beyond the framework of liberal and conservative labels he rejects as useless and outdated,” the story opens. “But as Obama heads into the final presidential primaries, Sen. John McCain and other Republicans have already started to brand him a standard-order left-winger, ‘a down-the-line liberal, as McCain strategist Charles R. Black Jr. put it, in a long line of Democratic White House hopefuls.” (As the piece notes, Hillary Clinton’s campaign is fueling such charges in a last ditch effort to deny Obama the nomination.)
All the charges were raising important questions, said the Post, like “[E]ven if he truly is a new kind of candidate, can he avoid being pigeonholed with an old label under sustained assault?” If the Post’s treatment is any indication, the answer is probably no.
“In most major areas, Obama has taken positions that would seem to conform to the Republican stereotype of a liberal,” the Post says. It also says that Obama “has opened the door to Republican caricature with his call to negotiate with hostile governments.” Actally, the Post opens the door to caricature by reducing to four words the question of whether the United States should be talking to countries like Iran and Syria. Obama’s suggestion that he would do so is hardly a radical idea and supported by many in the foreign-policy establishment.
Much of the piece doesn’t seriously analyze Obama’s policies, but in classic “he said, she said” style, offers Obama and his supporters denying that he’s too liberal while a number of Republicans claiming that he is. Peter H. Wehner, a Bush Administration veteran, is quoted as saying Obama “is vulnerable because he can point to no major area where he has broken with liberal orthodoxy, as Bill Clinton did with welfare reform in his 1992 campaign.” Andrew G. Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute adds, “He doesn’t have the appearance of a tax-and-spend liberal . . . but if the essence of being a tax-and-spend liberal is a lot of taxes and spending, that’s what he comes down to.”
For the McCain campaign, the Post piece is essentially a dream come true.