Belmont Club


The Wheel’s Still in SpinBack in early June, I guessed that Barack Obama would pivot on Iraq after it became obvious that it was coming together. “Obama won’t be far behind in ‘pivoting’ on Iraq. … After all, if Obama can ‘pivot’ on Jeremiah Wright, why not Iraq? Not only will victory in Iraq be underhandedly acknowledged by people like Obama, they will claim credit for it. The probably line of argument will be ‘Bush changed his strategy in response to our pressure’.” Now it looks like the prediction is coming true. The Politico reports:

Barack Obama told reporters in Fargo, N.D., that he is “going to do a thorough assessment” of his Iraq policy. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on Thursday backed off his firm promise to withdraw combat forces from Iraq immediately and instead said he could “refine” his plan after his trip to Baghdad later this month.

Earlier, a top Obama adviser had said that the senator is not “wedded” to a specific timeline. Obama told reporters in Fargo, N.D., that he is “going to do a thorough assessment.” “When I go to Iraq and I have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground, I’m sure I’ll have more information and will continue to refine my policies,” he said, according to CBS News. “I have been consistent, throughout this process, that I believe the war in Iraq was a mistake.”

Obama later said at a second news conference he still intends to stick to the timeline.

Before anyone either on the Left or Right gets too excited, or even attempts to guess where the Wheel of Fortune has stopped, think back to high school geometry. Some things can be spun until they come right back to where they started. “Generally speaking, an object with rotational symmetry is an object that looks the same after a certain amount of rotation. An object may have more than one rotational symmetry; for instance, if reflections or turning it over are not counted, the triskelion appearing on the Isle of Man’s flag (see opposite) has three rotational symmetries (or “a threefold rotational symmetry”).”

A pivot carried far enough is a 360 degree turn. So the more interesting question isn’t what constitutes Barack Obama’s position on Iraq as much as what drives it. It isn’t a constant but a dependent variable produced by an unknown function. Obama could tell us what it is, i.e. how he came to change his mind, if he has changed his mind. But would you give his explanation any more credence then his declarations on Iraq?

In the end Obama can either be left to explain himself, in which case it’s turtles all the way down or he must be understood by data that isn’t generated by himself. But since he doesn’t have much of track record, his objective signature is scant. Obama isn’t running on his record in Chicago or the Senate. He is running on the future, which incidentally hasn’t happened yet. Yet how, if his positions on issues as varied as campaign financing, gun control, the war on terror and even abortion are so mutable can anyone know where the pivots will stop? The answer of course is a judgement of personality. Jeremiah Wright wasn’t angry at being repudiated, asserting that Obama was only saying some things for public consumption. Obama denied it, but in Wright’s mind Obama has no real ability to rotate. Only an apparent one. Is Wright correct? The pastor has made his call, but he could be wrong. Ultimately the only invariant reason for supporting Barack Obama is because he is Barack Obama. Or at least the Barack Obama you think he is. That’s not necessarily an invalid reason for supporting him, but it’s a leap of faith and anyone who takes it should be aware of it.

Tip Jar.