Going after Sarah Palin, who had favored the so-called “bridge to nowhere” before she turned against it, Barack Obama said you just can’t stand for things contrary to positions you once took, forgetting, I guess, that such is the heart of his campaign.
After all, he was negative on freetrade pacts and then said he was a free-trade kind of guy; was hesitant about nuclear power, but now wants more; was for public financing of campaigns, then figured that wasn’t for him; was against an aggressive surveillance law, then voted for it; was devoted to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, then renounced him; was opposed to offshore drilling, then decided some might be OK; and insisted the surge would never work, then called it a success.
Fine. Live and learn. But at some point, we voters might become confused about whether the real Obama is the one who took position “A” or the one who took position “B,” and nowhere is the issue of more concern than his current stance in favor of building up the military. Go back a year ago, and it sounded like dismantlement was his game.
“I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending,” he said in a message aimed at an Iowa group wanting to slash Pentagon funding. “I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of future combat systems. I will negotiate with Russia to take our ICBMs off hair-trigger alert and to achieve deep cuts in our nuclear arsenal.”
Any doubts that he uttered those word can be disproved by 3 million witnesses. That’s the number of people who have watched his little speech on “YouTube.” His own campaign put the video there, maybe not expecting that, down the road, Obama would be talking about going against the grain of his own party by actually enlarging the military while a spokesman warned against expectations of near-term spending reductions in an Obama administration.
Everyone wants to cut waste, of course, including John McCain, who has insisted on tough competitive bidding on weapons at some political risk and fought against programs he thought pointless. That doesn’t make him a war-monger, as some suggest, for nothing invites war like weakness.
I recently happened across the fact that, even if you include all the spending for Iraq and Afghanistan, defense costs consume just 20 percent of our budget, far lower than during the Cold War and significantly less than the 60 percent that goes to entitlement programs. Whether Obama gets all of this and his latest position is the one he most believes is something the country is going to have to try to figure out.
Decades ago, I was a reporter in Albany, N.Y., working for a newspaper at the foot of a hill that could be ascended only with huffing, puffing, knee endangerment and sweat unless you employed a trick.