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Obama, a True Ideologue

As Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institute explained, Obama, in addition to impugning the motives of war supporters, doesn't spend much time on the facts:

Mr. Obama's second Iraq problem is his insistence that, whatever happens there during 2008, he would withdraw all our main combat forces in the first 16 months of his presidency. ... Strategically, it makes little sense to rush for the exits in Iraq when violence has declined by two-thirds over the last year -- a remarkable accomplishment that Mr. Obama belittled in Manchester, NH, during the Democratic debate on Saturday when he claimed that such a development only brought Iraq back to 2006 levels of lethality (which is probably not true).

Mr. Obama's other comment Saturday, that Sunni tribes only organized against al-Qaeda after Democrats won the 2006 Congressional elections, was also incorrect. The Sunni awakening began earlier, for reasons having little to do with American politics.

Forget the facts. Any political or military gains in Iraq, according to Obama, are only "tactical."

Obama does not even go to Iraq for two years (he went once for two days in 2006), nor does he receive individual briefings from General Petraeus. He has already determined that whatever the success of the U.S. and Iraqi forces in Sadr City and Basra, whatever the performance of the Iraqi army, and whatever the level of violence, we have already been defeated and must leave immediately.

In rejecting John McCain's invitation for a joint visit to Iraq, Obama's spokesman declared that "we don't need any more ‘Mission Accomplished' banners or walks through Baghdad markets to know that Iraq's leaders have not made the political progress that was the stated purpose of the surge." No word on why the passage of key political benchmarks doesn't qualify as "political progress." In short, facts don't matter.

Likewise, Obama has lambasted the Bush administration for its "cowboy diplomacy" and failure to consult with its allies. But, of course, the second Bush term has been a monument to multilateralism.

Has the failure of European diplomacy (to which the U.S. deferred) to curb Iran's nuclear program impacted Obama's thinking? Has the nuclear test by North Korea and its assistance with a Syrian nuclear facility dimmed his views of the efficacy of these approaches? He does not even acknowledge that these developments have occurred. His belief in the bountiful fruits of multilateral diplomacy is undiminished. (Even many mainstream media outlets recognize that we should learn from Iran's track record in snubbing international agreements that "negotiations won't work" absent some real leverage.)

And then there is a small, but eerie parallel. Bush was skewered for revealing that he did not read the newspapers, sure fire evidence, the critics said, of his unwillingness to get facts unfiltered by his staff. But then we learn from Obama's aide: "One cardinal rule of the road is, we don't watch CNN, the news, or MSNBC. We don't watch any talking heads or any politics."

So why does all of this ideological inflexibility and aversion to facts not bother the same pundits who pleaded with Bush to pay attention to the real world? It is not hard to figure out why. When the outcome is to its liking (e.g., pursuing withdrawal from Iraq) the mainstream media is second to no one in ignoring inconvenient evidence. It is not surprising then that Iraq has largely disappeared from the front pages of most major newspapers.

The great irony of the Democratic nomination process has been that in an election year in which the public is supposedly fed up with extreme partisanship and ideological extremism, the Democrats selected the most liberal member of the Senate, who averts his eyes when confronted with data that does not match up with his ideological convictions. This does not seem to bother his media fan club, nor concern those who are convinced that he represents an entirely new approach to politics. Perhaps it should.

The real test of an "ideologue" is not how strongly or how eloquently he expresses deeply held views, but whether he can account for new data and adjust policy designs to reflect the real world. If voters think the current administration has been unwilling or delinquent in doing those things, they may be sorely disappointed in an Obama administration.