A mere 48 hours following his swearing-in, President Obama had already redefined his stance on our most politically-defining policy matter. On January 22, I predicted a coming vindication of Bush-era security procedure:
For all the vitriol that has been coming from the left, and specifically out of President Obama’s mouth during the campaign, there’s a difference in tone coming out of the Obama camp over the last several weeks. There has been an abandonment of the hot rhetoric of the leftist in favor of a liberal forced to face the reality of the world around him (i.e., adopting existing White House policy). The change in tone is recognition that the rhetoric that the American public was offered during the election was simply not based on reality.
As President Obama and his people are briefed on what has been happening in the world these last eight years, the insider’s view has given them a completely new perspective on what to do about the situation, resulting in completely different actions as compared to the ones they were telling everyone they would take once they were given the power.
Five months later? Bush’s vindication is apparent and remarkable — see President Obama’s quiet reestablishment of the military tribunals he loudly rejected as a candidate — but perhaps the most notable phenomenon of Bush’s rise from the ashes is the political damage Democrats have suffered by sticking to the pre-election platform. The base is claiming betrayal, the dinosaur media — if they bother to recognize the change at all — is giving a confused and muffled response, and the politicians who cannot let go of their Bush-bashing ways are caught in hypocrisy and losing their constituencies.
Obama’s change of policy now leaves his political supporters in a terribly awkward position. Pelosi ensnared herself in a lie on the very subject that was so central to her party and her ascendancy. All these years, she could claim the “moral high ground” on Iraq and on waterboarding only by hiding her exposure to the interrogation briefing. But by continuing on her hard line, her lie came out — appalling voters from the center and right and alienating her leftist base. Obama can claim to have changed his mind about the validity of his pre-election rhetoric when exposed to reality, but Pelosi demonstrably lied about what she knew, and approved of, back in 2002. By not following Obama’s lead — by not getting softer on campaign promises, as Obama has — she made her skeletons a target for any willing investigator.
And it isn’t just Pelosi left exposed by Obama’s about-face. The Democrats, as a party, made lots of noise about Bush’s conduct during the Iraq war — it was, for several years, a winning strategy. Now it seems, at least in terms of the incumbent Democrats, that some may have hitched themselves to the anti-war fervor at considerable risk to their reputations. There likely are more skeletons, more lies to uncover.
Pelosi’s credibility has suffered by not softening on Bush following the election. And so too will the credibility of any Democrat who continues to press for punishment of the Bush era. These are issues that cannot help but come out in any kind of investigation, particularly if questions are asked and answered under oath, which will most certainly happen should Pelosi continue to follow the reflexively aggressive path she’s currently on. Along with reports that most Americans actually approve of what Pelosi calls torture, we see the Democrats in a very unattractive position going into the midterm cycle of 2010.
Obama is being forced by reality to admit that the policies adopted by his white whale, George W. Bush, were in fact wise and a vindication of his presidency. The president’s strongest political supporters will likely see consequences should they not follow Obama’s lead and soften their formerly expedient attacks.