Is Obama really an agent of change?

Stephen Flynn

Whenever I ask somebody here at Lawrence who they are supporting in the primaries, the answer is almost always Barack Obama:”I like the way he talks.”
“He will bring change to Washington.”
“He’s a uniter.”

I think most of Obama’s supporters know little about his record as Senator and are swayed primarily by his rhetorical skills. Is he really the candidate of “Change”?

If you define change as having a “D” next to your name instead of an “R” then Obama will bring change to the White House, but Obama’s election is unlikely to be a meaningful departure from the last 20 years of Bush and Clinton.

One thing you hear very often from the Obama campaign is that he will “bring the country together” and “break out of the old arguments.” During George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign, however, the former governor touted his record of bipartisan cooperation with the Democrats in the Texas Legislature. “I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect,” he said at his Republican nomination speech, and yet partisan divide in our nation’s capital remains as divisive as it was during the election of 1800.

The truth is that Obama’s record in the Senate is that of a rank and file Democrat because he always votes down the party line. He gets either highly favorable or highly unfavorable ratings from ideological lobbies.

For example, he was rated zero percent by the National Right to Life Committee, rated 100 percent by Citizens for Tax Justice (they want to repeal the Bush tax cuts), eight percent by the U.S. Border Control and 100 percent by the NAACP for his affirmative action stance.

Can we honestly believe that with such a polarizing record he could compromise with the Republicans?

When Obama talks about change, does he mean ending the highly destructive war on drugs? Obama hasn’t said anything about reclassifying marijuana from Schedule I, a category that defines the popular college drug as more dangerous and less medically useful than crystal meth.

When asked at a campaign stop about medical marijuana, he said nothing of allowing states to legalize it, just that he wouldn’t prosecute. On the campaign trail back in November he said he didn’t like the idea of people growing marijuana in their own homes, a position held by every other major candidate.

During a September 26 Democratic debate, Tim Russert asked each of the candidates if they would try to lower the 21 drinking age, a policy which for more than 20 years has elicited international ridicule. Along with John Edwards and Hillary Clinton, Obama said “no” without further explanation.

Of course he was pandering to the concerned-parents voter bloc, an uninspiring application of the word “Change.”

Lastly, Obama pays lip service to the anti-war crowd by saying he wants to end the war, but his record in the Senate shows otherwise. In 2005 and 2006, Obama voted to fund the war, along with every Republican. He never delivered a speech to the Senate floor about the war until it was politically expedient to do so in 2006. Obama reportedly said in 2004, “There’s not that much difference between my position and George Bush’s position at this stage.” And his position hasn’t even changed since then.

He says he wants to bring the troops home, but his plan calls for leaving many of them behind to protect the recently built U.S. embassy — which is larger than the Vatican, by the way — and to engage in “counter-terrorism” operations. He doesn’t even use the word “withdrawal” he says “redeploy.” When Obama is president will the troops come home, or will they go to Kuwait like Obama has stated in many interviews?

You may be reading this and agreeing with the Senator, but please admit that this is only a slight change in policy from the current administration. Bush has already said he will begin withdrawing the troops. If Obama was serious about ending the war he would have voted against its funding. If he was serious about ending the war, he could at least have promised to have all the troops home by the end of his first term, which Edwards and Clinton have similarly not done. If Obama takes the oath of office, only time will judge the sincerity of his words.