- The Washington Times - Friday, July 11, 2008

COMMENTARY:

We have now seen enough of Barack Obama’s campaign to get an idea of his remarkably agile strategic plan. Mr. Obama bills himself as the candidate of “change and hope” — and change is a key component in his plan, if by change we mean radical political flexibility characterized by dramatic shifts in fundamental policy, or quickly substituting today’s iron-clad principles for last week’s rusting certainties, or adroitly morphing his eternal verity of Old Testament May into a revised piety befitting New Age July.

Mr. Obama’s change isn’t simply the expedient replacement of once-upon-a-time principle, exemplified by his rejection of public election financing. When the winds shift, Mr. Obama’s strategic plan changes people. Since the end of March, his “campaign of change” has used his grandmother and booted the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Convicted Chicago grifter and Obama buddy Tony Rezko? He is so changed he has vanished.

It’s a fair bet that Mr. Obama holds firm with one personality, however: bomb-wielding terrorist, connected elite and hard-left political radical Bill Ayers. Call it a suspicion, based on years of watching wealthy white radicals in California and Texas move from dashikis to Under Armour, but I don’t think a moneyed up Maoist like Ayers is a candidate for Mr. Obama’s “people change.”

Spoiled rich kids with glitzy left-wing credentials get the breaks. Dad’s cash or the divorce settlement pays for the house and help. It’s why they sport job titles like “artist and activist.” Ayers will operate behind Mr. Obama’s oratorical screen for the duration.

Mr. Obama’s biggest looming change involves war, specifically Iraq. Oh, I know Mr. Obama has set the stage for “change” on that issue. Foreign policy adviser Samantha Power got “changed” for calling Hillary Clinton “a monster,” but what she told BBC interview ace Steve Sackur in March about Mr. Obama’s Iraq policy was far more interesting.

When Mr. Sackur asked: “So what the American public thinks is a commitment to get combat forces out in 16 months isn’t a commitment, isn’t it?” Power, from a cocoon spun of Ivy League presumption that everyone in the press is in the tank for Mr. Obama, answered: “You can’t make a commitment in March 2008 about what circumstances will be like in January of 2009. He will, of course, not rely on some plan that he’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. senator.”

Hey, I believe her. Mr. Obama is a creature of political prestidigitation, and last week in Fargo, N.D., he began his “war flip-flop” by suggesting he might “refine” his Iraq policy. Mr. Obama, like his pal Ayers, thinks most people are just too dumb to notice his shiftiness or, like MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, are too knee-tingling awed by his rhetorical pomp to care.

Real-world trials and triumph trump Mr. Obama’s Oz of words, however. Though antique media have reduced coverage of Iraq - fewer bombs means fewer sensational thrills — the people of Iraq and their coalition allies are well on their way to a democratic win over terror. Arguably the win was obtained as of November 2007, though its seeds were sown in August 2004 and the stage set when Saddam toppled in April 2003. The dates are fodder for another column — the point is that Mr. Obama faces a reality that questions the theology of defeat Democratic Sen. Harry Reid enunciated in 2007.

I see a situation I call “strategic overwatch” emerging in Iraq in 2009, becoming full-fledged by 2011. “Strategic overwatch” is a limited U.S. and coalition victory — but a major victory for Iraqis. Iraqis already consider the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s regime to be a victory. Iraq’s Operation Charge of the Knights (March-April 2008) foreshadowed strategic overwatch: coalition air, intelligence and logistics assets support Iraqi planned, led and manned security operations. Iraqi gross domestic product increases, neighborhoods revive, Baghdad’s business community revs. The “Update” video at austinbay.thearenausa.com has a full description of strategic overwatch.

A President Obama isn’t foolish enough to abandon Iraqis who have earned their democracy, or to hang the accusation of self-defeat on his legacy. Mr. Obama will “change” on Iraq, then claim his leadership — not the “Bush’s maladministration” — assured victory.

The real rubes in this election won’t be the rural Pennsylvanians Mr. Obama slandered, the folks who cling to their guns and religion. It will be the gray-haired profs with ponytails, clinging to their cannabis and liturgy of defeat.

Austin Bay is a nationally syndicated columnist.