The problem with Obama’s new hedging on taxing those who make below $250,000, or his administration’s taking credit for victory in the Iraq war that they so once fervently tried to abort, or the flip-flop on renditions and tribunals, or the embarrassments over closing Guantanamo and trying KSM in New York or Mirandizing the Christmas Day bomber,or trashing/praising Wall Street grandees, is not that presidents cannot change their minds as circumstances warrant, or even that all politicians are at times hypocritical. No, the rub is that Obama is not merely flipping and triangulating on issues in a desperate attempt to shadow the polls, but he is doing so on matters that he once swore were absolutely central to his entire candidacy and his signature hope-and-change agenda, critical to the future of the U.S., and proof of his opponents’ either ignorance or disingenuousness.It is always a mistake to pretend that you are the knight in shining white armour who will rid politics of all its incubi, especially if you happen to be a Chicago politician who had risen through the machine with the help of some very dubious associates. Sooner or later the truth will rise up and bite you, after which it becomes very difficult to claim that behaving like a politician is no big deal.
At a lower level the same thing happened to Tony Blair and his government (though the Conservatives seem unable to take advantage of the situation). Back in 1997 I recall saying repeatedly that I did not think it was such a very good idea for Labour to campaign on the whiter than white platform. White tends to go grey very quickly in politics and it then looks much worse because of the promises of being so much cleaner than the other guy. In particular, in was not a great idea to use that as a campaigning slogan by a party where corruption went quite high up. Well, it all came to pass.