- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2006

After one year in the Senate, Illinois Democrat Barack Obama isn’t living up to the hype, and that may be a smart move.

Much like Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, Mr. Obama has been establishing his bipartisan credibility with a delicate touch. He has supported a limit to class-action lawsuits, challenged Democrats to get tough on immigration reform and worked with Republican senators such as Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Richard G. Lugar of Indiana and Florida’s Mel Martinez.

However, a closer look at Mr. Obama’s record shows a consistently liberal voting history that runs counter to his moderate image. Back in the Illinois Senate, Mr. Obama opposed a ban on partial-birth abortion, favored tax increases and vocally opposed the Iraq war.

In the past year, Mr. Obama voted against renewal of the USA Patriot Act, penned a MoveOn.org fundraising letter, opposed John R. Bolton’s nomination as U.N. ambassador and declined to join the bipartisan Gang of 14 who made a deal to limit judicial filibusters. The liberal American Prospect reported, “He has voted for the liberal position the vast majority of the time.”

Still, the closest Mr. Obama has come to generating negative publicity was a recent dust-up with Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, over ethics reform. Mr. McCain accused Mr. Obama, the Democrats’ point man on the issue, of breaking his promise to seek a bipartisan solution to recent lobbying scandals.

Mr. Obama now faces a problem similar to that of Mrs. Clinton: appealing to everyone while pleasing no one.

“He needs to be a little more of a leader in the center if he really wants to have an impact beyond being an Illinois senator,” said Sen. Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.

Online activist Markos Moulitsas said Mr. Obama “has not been the kind of strong leader people expected. To me, the jury is still out.”

Since his landslide victory in Illinois, Mr. Obama has become a media darling. He received the cover treatment from Newsweek magazine, and Time compared him to Abraham Lincoln. Mr. Obama quickly entered the elite category of elected officials who must deny at least once per interview their intention to run for president in 2008.

As if all that were not impressive enough, he won a spoken-word Grammy on Wednesday night for the audiobook version of his memoir, “Dreams From My Father.” He beat out four outspoken liberals: Garrison Keillor, Al Franken, Sean Penn and George Carlin.

Lining his office wall are portraits of Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Thurgood Marshall.

A former Obama campaign staffer, who asked to remain anonymous because of his continued involvement in the party’s politics said, “He doesn’t walk around saying he’s the next Lincoln or JFK, but he’s also not in Washington to be just another senator.”

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