The Equivocator: What Performance by Barack Obama on ABC Says About His Presidency

Obama needs to learn that you can't make everyone happy all the time . . . if you want to get things done.

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By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Have you noticed how President-elect Obama has mastered the art of equivocation even before entering the White House? It was most in evidence this weekend when Obama was asked by ABC's George Stephanopoulos—repeating a question E-mailed by a viewer—whether he was going to appoint a special prosecutor to look into possible illegal acts undertaken by the Bush administration. The answer was designed to please everyone, but in the act, it could only serve to alienate those on the left and on the right simultaneously: 

"We're still evaluating how we're going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth. And obviously we're going to be looking at past practices, and I don't believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backward. And part of my job is to make sure that, for example, at the CIA, you've got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don't want them to suddenly feel like they've got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering." 

This is the type of equivocation that's going to get him into a world of trouble once his initial wave of public goodwill evaporates. And the more he does of this "on the one hand, yes; on the other, no," the more his liberal base of supporters is going to recognize him for what he is: ambivalence personified.

His apologists, right now, will say, "Oh, he has to say that or he'll alienate conservatives too quickly." Six months or a year from now, especially if his New Deal-type economic stimulus projects don't lift the economy, or alternatively lift it so high they create hyperinflation, watch for the left to turn on him. In truth, the left has no reason to feign surprise. Obama Oquivocated many, many times on the campaign trail before winning the Democratic nomination and after.

Even most conservatives, at this point, are so frustrated with the excesses of the Bush administration that they wouldn't mind seeing some of its high-level perpetrators prosecuted. The only ones who'd oppose that now are the ones who secured jobs or government contracts or other perks. Do the names "Cheney" or "O'Beirne" ring a bell?