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Wag the Blog: Obama Moves to the Middle

"What makes Obama's 'textbook' dash to the center so extraordinary is not just its speed, but how it falsifies the very essence of his candidacy. It's as if Bill Clinton won the Democratic nomination in 1992 and announced suddenly that actually he was not a 'new kind of Democrat'; or if George W. Bush, after winning his party's nomination in 2000, forswore 'compassionate conservatism'; or if John McCain, after winning the GOP nomination this year, declared in favor of a hard deadline for withdrawal from Iraq."

-- National Review editor Rich Lowry

"Barack Obama has taken a small but important step toward adjusting his outdated position on Iraq to the military and strategic realities of the war he may inherit. Sadly, he seems to be finding that the strident and rigid posture he struck during the primary campaign -- during which he promised to withdraw all combat forces in 16 months -- is inhibiting what looks like a worthy, necessary attempt to create the room for maneuver he will need to capably manage the war if he becomes president."

-- Washington Post editorial

The two pieces above -- both published today -- take a very different tack on what Obama's recent shift toward the ideological middle means.

For Lowry, Obama's reversal of his past pledge on public financing in the general election, his decision to support a FISA bill that includes immunity for telecommunications companies, his seeming hedge on the future American presence in Iraq and his attempt to have it both ways in the aftermath of the Supreme Court striking down the District of Columbia's gun ban.

"Has there ever in recent political memory been so much calculation and bad faith by a politician who has made so much of eschewing both?" asks Lowry, adding later of Obama: "When it comes to triangulating, he's Hillary Clinton without the baggage."

While more narrowly focused on Obama's positioning on the war in Iraq, the Post editorial suggests that the Illinois senator got it right last week when he suggested he would continue to refine his position on the removal of American troops -- a position on which he later backtracked somewhat in the face of an unanticipated controversy over the remarks.

"Mr. Obama can't afford not to update his Iraq policy," reads the editorial. "Once he has the conversations he's promising with U.S. commanders, he will have plenty of information that 'contradicts the notion' of his rigid plan."

For today's Wag the Blog question, we want to hear from you on whether Obama's move to the middle is simply a political gambit aimed at appealing to the crucial independent and moderate voters or whether it is the sign of a nuanced candidate seeking to avoid taking rigid positions on difficult and changeable issues? And, regardless of whether you believe it is political positioning or smart policy, will it work?

As always, the most thoughtful/insightful comments will be excerpted in a post of their own later this week.

Go to it!

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 8, 2008; 9:43 AM ET
Categories:  Wag The Blog  
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