Roundtable on Obama's Positions
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SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This whole notion that I am shifting to the center, or that I'm flip-flopping, or this, that, and the other-"Oh, he's tacking to the center again." No.
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HUME: No, indeed, says Barack Obama, he is doing no such thing.
But when that bill passed today that authorizes further surveillance by the u.s. government using wiretaps and so on of suspected terrorists, he had sworn that he would support a filibuster against any such bill because it contained some immunity for telephone companies for their past cooperation with the government, and such things.
But he, instead, voted for the bill.
Some thoughts on all of this now from Fred Barnes, Executive Editor of "The Weekly Standard," Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent for National Public Radio, and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.
Mara, let's start with you. I guess the catalog is there. We have the so called FISA Bill dealing with surveillance. What else?
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, his campaign will refute a couple of these--
LIASSON: Dispute. The death penalty--he once filled out a questionnaire saying he is against it. He is for it for child rape. He was to the right of the Supreme Court on that.
He said the D.C. gun ban was constitutional, but when it was declared unconstitutional, he didn't seem to mind.
HUME: He agreed with it.
LIASSON: He agreed with it, although he has always said there is an individual right to bear arms.
There is FISA, there is public financing. He changed his opinion on that.
On Iraq, he still wants to get out, that's his mission. But he seems like he is making a what I consider to be a pretty sensible adjustment that if the commanders on the ground tell him that his original timetable of 16 months, one to two brigades a month, which he still says he is going to stick to, is not the best timetable, maybe he will refine his policies.
The interesting thing to me is a lot of these moves have been helping him. The latest Rasmussen poll showed that more people think he is a moderate than they used to.
HUME: It's working.
LIASSON: In other words, his image as a liberal is changing.
On the other hand, he's spending a lot of time disputing the notion that he has flip-flopped, because being a flip-flopper is a very bad thing to be if you're a politician.
He did, however-what I thought was even more interesting today is when he said now, I'm not tacking to the center. I am a progressive. He did say that, and "progressive" is the word that has he replaced "liberal."
So he did come right out and say that. He didn't say "I'm a centrist." He said I'm a progressive. And I think that's what he is.
FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": It was one of the most cynical things I've heard is by Barack Obama, who is cynically trying to flirt centrism accusing the people who note what he is doing as being cynical. They're just cynical about politics.
I don't know how he accuses what he is doing, but he accuses his critics with that.
He has no problem with his liberal base at all. Bloggers--who cares about a bunch of bloggers. They don't matter.
Look, we've been through this before with Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, where you run as a centrist, and then the liberal interest groups, organized labor, various liberal groups, feminists, the trial lawyers, the pro-abortion groups, and so on, then they lean on you.
Look what happened to Clinton when he got elected. Running as a centrist, as a moderate, immediately comes in, and he has not go for welfare reform, but go for an economic stimulus package that palpably was not needed--but labor liked it--and to go for this healthcare program that, of course, blew up in the Clintons' face after Hillary had done it.
What will Obama be faced with if he's elected? He'll be face with a House in strong Democratic control, and a Senate that may be filibuster proof. Now, those people are going to insist that he pursue a liberal agenda, and not some centrist agenda.
And that's exactly what he's going to do. It happened to Clinton and Clinton took a big beating in 1994. But then he didn't have to worry so much about those Democrats because they weren't in control of Congress anymore. But now he does and will have to.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What impresses me is his audacity. Everybody moves to the center after securing the nomination. There's nothing new under the sun there.
He did it in a particularly spectacular way with the flips that you talked about. There are a couple of others on NAFTA and flag pins, and he does it all within about three weeks. It's sort of unprecedented.
But he goes way beyond that. On each of these he pretends that he has never changed. He says, yes, I said the gun bill was constitutional and I supported it. And now he supports the Supreme Court decision that rules it unconstitutional, and pretends it is the same decision.
But then he goes beyond that, reaching an almost acrobatic level of cynicism here, in which he says, as you indicated, Fred, anybody who believes otherwise, anybody who believes he is not actually a flipper and he hasn't actually changed, is himself cynical, or, as he puts it, "steeped in the old politics," and so cynical that they can't even believe that a politician like him would act on principle.
What non-political no-self-interested reason explains his change on campaign finance other than the fact that he has a lot of money and he would lose it otherwise if he had stuck to his principles?
What non-self-interested reason explains his flip on guns, on FISA, on the flag pins, on everything? But he thinks he--what impresses me is his intellectual arrogance. He thinks everyone is either a fool who would believe all this, or a knave who is somehow distorting his words.
I think he will get away with it.
BARNES: But there is another group. There are liberals who don't care what he says. They know he has to move to the center or at least pretend like it to get elected. But then when he is elected, then they're going to demand their agenda.
There was a very good interview by our colleague, Mort Kondracke, with Teddy Kennedy a couple of months ago. And what does he expect to come out of this election? A big Democratic year just like 1965. 2009 will be just like 1965, where they clean out the liberal cupboard of everything that's there because they'll have a Democratic President and a large Democratic majorities in congress.
HUME: Up next, with the panel, Iran test fires nine missiles and gets everyone's attention. What does that mean? That subject is next.
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ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The fact is they have just tested a missile that has a pretty extended range. So my view in the first instance is we have been saying, as he we talked about missile defense in Europe, that there is a real threat. And it seems to me that the test this morning underscores that.
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HUME: Secretary Gates was, of course, talking about Iran and the missile test that they did today, which had a number of effects, not the least of them being that it sent oil prices back up after a couple of days of decline.
So how worried should we be about Iran, how worried should we be that Iran will try to close the Straits of Hormuz, how worried? Charles, your thoughts?
KRAUTHAMMER: I think Iran is demonstrating that the cost of an attack on its facilities, the ones that are now producing, getting ready to ultimately produce a nuclear weapon, would be unbelievably costly. He's trying to take the Israeli-American military option off the table.
The missiles they showed today can do three things--hit Israel, hit American bases and ships, and, clearly, shut down the Straits of Hormuz, which would cause an economic crisis of the kind that we have never seen, because it would probably double the price of oil overnight. And it is saying to the world.
And also hidden also in there is the threat, which everyone understands would actually happen, that if Israel attacked, or even just America attacked, it would release Hezbollah, which has tens of thousands of rockets which would rain down on Israel.
So it would be a sea of fire. It would be a huge crisis. And I think it convinces a lot of people.
If you hear our Secretary of Defense speaking, he is trying to calm those things, you get a sense that he is dead set against an American attack, and also dead set on preventing an Israeli attack because of the price.
And the firing of these missiles is a demonstration of what that price would be and could be, and Iran's capacity of actually acting on its deterrent threats.
LIASSON: If that's the case, the next president has a big, big problem on his hands with a nuclear Iran.
And McCain and Obama are actually getting closer and closer on this, except for on one pretty important issue, that when they issued their statements today, Obama said that this Iran is a serious problem. Israel has the right to protect itself from serious threats, Iran is a serious threat.
But the one area where he differs from McCain is he believes that direct diplomacy can change things. And, other than that, they're getting closer and closer together.
BARNES: Obama, said direct diplomacy, so we can avoid provocation, the u.s., the president avoid provocation. What does he think the Iranian just did?
He also said we need to get more intelligence. They showed the tests on television, and announced it, and said everything about it. We don't need any more intelligence. We have it all.
This was incredibly provocative. And we just have to think back to what works and what doesn't work. It's clear, with Nancy Pelosi saying this is a clear signal of the Iranian leaders that such actions hinder diplomatic efforts to bring stability to the Middle East. No kidding.
And Obama also said it's not in the Iranians interest to have nuclear weapons. But they don't agree. They think it is in their interest to be a huge regional power who can deter almost anything they want.
And, obviously, diplomatic talks aren't going to happen. Just look what happened in Colombia. All those demonstrations and candles in the window and everything, and protests00it didn't work at all. What worked was military action, very clever military action.
What has worked in Iraq? Not regional diplomacy or soft power, but a surge of troops with a new strategy. That's what turned Iraq heading into a stable, democratic country.
So more diplomacy with the Iranians, who want to be a nuclear power, isn't going to do anything whether we are provocative or not.
KRAUTHAMMER: Obama's response this morning was to reflexively attack Bush, and to say on his administration he would marshal the allies on sanctions, as if the administration had not been doing that for six years.
The administration's response was equally feckless. I think it was the Secretary of State or some official who said with these exercises, Iran is further isolating itself. Well, that's hardly deterring Iranian actions.
HUME: Well, it is striking that the hallmark of the administration's policy towards Iran has been that it's utterly non-military. Is that the case?
KRAUTHAMMER: And that's why it's been ineffective. Nobody believes the threat.
HUME: They say it's on the table, but everybody believes it's not.
LIASSON: Especially because of the consequences that you just outlined.
But, look, the way that we talk about it makes it appear that we are unserious about even considering it in a serious way.
HUME: So what about all these people that think Cheney and Bush are going to attack Iran before leaving office?
BARNES: I think they're wrong. And I don't know that the Israelis will, either.
The Israelis have done one thing, and that is the maneuvers that they had, which, I guess, could show that they would be able to go to Iran without flying over Iraq. And they could do it by sea and not have to get over-flight rights from anybody.