My take on his post-primary adjustments:
There’s a point to the successive shifts: Obama is slowly undermining every conceivable reason to vote for Republican candidate John McCain. If you want to withdraw from Iraq as prudently as possible Obama is still your man. You now know though that he won’t risk chaos in a precipitous withdrawal regardless of the strategic and tactical situation. He will not, in other words, be susceptible to snatching defeat from the jaws of progress. Unlike McCain he is also unafraid of real diplomacy with Iran and Syria; and unlike McCain he does not threaten a hundred years of occupation in Iraq and the suspicion that he’d like the US to stay there for ever.
What can McCain say now in response? All he can say, I think, is that Obama is cynical. However, it is a little difficult to have spent the entire year portraying Obama as a radical, soft-on-terror leftist and now pivot to accuse him of being like the Clintons.
Obama, after all, is not running for Bush’s third term, but he is running after Bush’s two terms.
In the brutally real world, he cannot undo the Iraq invasion. He cannot ignore the pressing need for good intelligence gained through wire-tapping after 9/11. He cannot ignore Tehran’s malevolence, while being more open to diplomacy than McCain is.
What the smarter foreign policy conservatives have long sensed in Obama is not a knee-jerk leftie, but a cool, cunning liberal strategist who could be a potent weapon for the West in the war on terror. Obama will inherit Bush’s war apparatus and it is not in his nature to dismiss all of it as useless until he has a grip on what’s working in a dynamic world. He is not going to surrender to Iran either, but he has a much better chance of wielding soft power as well as hard power in trying to avoid another conflict in the Middle East than McCain. He also has a chance to bring the American public with him an attribute that Bush hasn’t had in his diplomatic arsenal for years.
(Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty.)