Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

For Obama's Next Trick, He Shall "Waffle"

And no, we do not mean this sort of waffle, but rather the sort that Captain Ed points out today. From the Weekly standard's Danielle Pletka:

TODAY, SENATOR BARACK OBAMA will speak before the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), where he will execute a maneuver likely to become familiar to the American people in the months ahead: the pander pivot. That is, a sharp turn to the right to satisfy a vital Democratic constituency whose support he now needs.

The story begins nine months ago, when the Senate took up debate on the so-called Kyl-Lieberman amendment--a bipartisan measure that urged the U.S. government to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

These designations are more than just rhetorical; labeling the IRGC as a terrorist organization brings to bear a range of powerful sanctions that crack down on its ability to work in the global financial system.

The proximate cause of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment was a growing dossier of evidence from General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, documenting the IRGC's role in financing, training, arming, and directing extremists in Iraq responsible for the murder of hundreds of American and Iraqi soldiers and civilians.

Of course, that's not the full extent of the IRGC's malign influence. The group is an acknowledged supporter of terror (a fact even Senator Obama concedes), training, financing and arming Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and most recently, the Taliban. At home in Iran, the IRGC now dominates the regime, with 9 out of 21 seats in the Ahmadinejad cabinet held by former IRGC and IRGC-affiliated officials. The IRGC is also a vital player in Iran's licit and illicit economies, and dominates important sectors like construction.

Needless to say, the Kyl-Lieberman amendment won broad support in the Senate, passing 76-22. Senator Hillary Clinton voted for it, as did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senator Chuck Schumer, and Senator Dick Durbin.

Senator Obama, however, was one of a handful of senators who opposed the amendment--which had aroused the ire of the left-wing blogosphere. In the frenzied minds of DailyKos and Moveon.org, Kyl-Lieberman--or "Lieberman-Kyl," as they preferred to call it--was nothing less than a stealth declaration of war on Iran.

The offending clause (a non-binding Sense of the Senate) suggests that the U.S. military presence in Iraq "will have critical long-term consequences for the future of the Persian Gulf." It emphatically does not suggest either that we "use our military presence in Iraq to counter the threat from Iran," as Senator Obama's website falsely claims, or that "we should maintain our forces in Iraq with an eye toward blunting Iranian influence," as Senator Obama frets.

That reading of the amendment is incomprehensible to most, including Durbin, the senior senator from Illinois and one of Obama's chief supporters. "It's rare that Barack and I disagree on an issue of this magnitude," Durbin told Bloomberg Television at the time. "I have the same concerns that Barack Obama does about this administration and what they might do with the power that they have. But I don't think this resolution gives them a green light to do anything."

Nonetheless, Senator Obama (who perceived the issue as a key wedge against the warmongering Senator Clinton) seized on the amendment--and proceeded to spend the next nine months boasting to every anti-war audience he could find about his brave opposition to it.

In subsequent debates, speeches, and interviews, Senator Obama kept up the attack. On his website, he offers only three points about his Iran policy; opposition to Kyl-Lieberman is one of them.

This week, in a speech before AIPAC, Senator John McCain condemned Senator Obama for his opposition to Kyl-Lieberman. "Over three quarters of the Senate supported this obvious step, but not Senator Obama," McCain said on Monday. "He opposed this resolution because its support for countering Iranian influence in Iraq was, he said, a 'wrong message not only to the world, but also to the region.'"

In response, Obama's campaign suddenly discovered that their man--despite having spent the last nine months campaigning on his opposition to Kyl-Lieberman--"has consistently urged that Iran's Revolutionary Guard be labeled what it is: a terrorist organization."

Well, not that consistently. Senator Obama has been scrupulously careful not to call explicitly for designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization. Now, however, with the Democratic nomination almost in hand, Obama feels comfortable telling a pro-Israel audience what it wants to hear.

In much the same way, Obama has recently sought to finesse his desire to chat directly with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In July of last year at a Democratic debate, Senator Obama was famously asked whether he would "personally meet with leaders of Iran North Korea, Syria and other hostile nations 'without preconditions'." "I would," replied the senator, adding that "it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them."

Ten months later, Senator Obama insists that "I didn't say I would meet unconditionally." True, he said "without preconditions." Kind of like Senator Obama didn't "oppose" designating the IRGC, he simply "opposed" Kyl-Lieberman, the only measure dealing with IRGC designation to reach the president's desk before or since.

Perhaps it is unfair to suggest that Senator Obama opposed IRGC designation before he supported it. In the context, however, of the candidate's flip-flopping on personal negotiations with terrorist state leaders, however, the audience at AIPAC might ask why Senator Obama has pivoted from opposition to "Lieberman-Kyl" to support for the IRGC designation his audience demands. Is this really change they can believe in?

We will recall that he recently spoke at a synagogue in Boca Raton to quell any fears that Jewish voters might have. This is a serious weakness he has, and it is one in which he acknowledges. He is definitely in the general election mode. Pandering is the key, and he is going to ratchet up the rhetoric in the coming weeks as he attempts to shore up his support.

We can also count on him to try to heal the wounds of the bitter Democrat primary fight with Senator Clinton. He will need the women on his side when it comes to Election Day. That will not be easy given the revelation this morning from Marc Ambinder that the GOP is getting phone calls from Senator Clinton's supporters who are volunteering to help Senator McCain.

But will his "waffling" work with Jewish voters? Not likely, we think, and that is due to the albatross hanging around his neck: the gaffe of stating he would meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Israel sees Iran as a threat, and rightly so. It is not often when a foreign leader continuously repeats that his nation will wipe another one from the map.

We doubt his overtures to AIPAC will help him. His record on this issue is plain as day. It is telling when he is to the Left of Senator Durbin. (That is not easy as it is, but he accomplished that.) We can expect to see more "nuanced" policy shifts from Senator Obama as this contest goes on. His supporters can gnash their teeth at the mistakes we point out, but it will not help them in their arguments in favor of their "savior." He is an inexperienced, radical lightweight who will have a difficult time convincing the average voter that he is a force for real change, especially given the fact that he appears to be more of the same-old song-and-dance that we see daily in Washington, DC.



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