Friday, February 1, 2008

Candidate Barack Obama frequently promises to soar above partisan politics. But the theatrics of such declarations keep bumping into the reality of Mr. Obama’s left-liberal record in Washington and the left-liberal record in Illinois state politics which preceded it. The latest reminder: As recently as 2004, Mr. Obama supported decriminalizing marijuana, opening relations with Communist Cuba and providing health care for illegal aliens.

In a little-noticed 2004 video featured today in The Washington Times, Mr. Obama sounds quite comfortable voicing his leftist leanings. “I think we need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws,” Mr. Obama told a Northwestern University audience as he campaigned for the Senate in 2004. “But I’m not somebody who believes in legalization of marijuana.” Fast forward to the fall of 2007, and Mr. Obama can be found hedging these views — meekly raising his hand at a Democratic presidential debate to oppose decriminalization. Wrongly, it turns out. Mr. Obama still supports it, according to a spokesman.

It is not just marijuana, relations with Cuba or health care for illegals. Mr. Obama is also one of the most pro-choice presidential contenders in history. His 100 percent rating from the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council as a state senator was just the beginning. Mr. Obama is known in pro-life circles for arguing cold-bloodedly on the Illinois Senate floor that babies who survive botched late-term abortions should not be considered “persons” because this would be tantamount to admitting “that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a — a child, a 9-month old — child that was delivered to term.” This should horrify the two-fifths of Americans who consider themselves pro-life. It surely won’t “unify.”

Let’s be realistic. Mr. Obama scores a 95 percent in the liberal activist group Americans for Democratic Action’s ratings. He scores in the single digits when judged by conservative groups.

To be sure, Mr. Obama’s personal story inspires, even unifies. But it would take much more to govern in unity. As a conventional left-liberal, Mr. Obama would be perhaps marginally likelier than John Kerry or Ted Kennedy to unify America. Indeed, much as the notion of Mr. Obama as the grand unifying force of the 2008 presidential election owes to the man’s personal attributes, it is remarkable how often one hears “unifier” given how weak this case is on the policy merits. Indeed, the mirror opposite is true.

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