Barack Obama and the Race to the Political Center

Barack Obama is racing to the political center, ready to defy stereo-types (e.g. a weak liberal) and spar with John McCain. In this regard, Obama has made several decisions by Obama in the last month or two.

Among those decisions are Obama’s solemn undertaking to protect Israel, in a speech to the leading pro-Israeli lobby (AIPAC); Obama’s nuanced welcome of U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions affirming the right to bear arms by individuals, and the right of appeal to Guantanamo detainees, and gentle disagreement with the Supreme Court’s decision rejecting death-penalty for child-rape; Obama’s acceptance of the compromise in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which contains a provision granting telecoms companies immunity from lawsuits for co-operating in a surveillance program that conducted wiretaps without warrants;Obama’s efforts to lower the rhetoric on free trade and NAFTA, and increased recognition of the importance of trade and markets; and Obama’s support and even a call for expansion of faith-based initiatives and programs, and recognition of faith-based community groups.

And now Obama, while sticking to his argument that Iraq war was unjustified and should not have been authorized, affirms that he will listen closely to the advice of the military leaders. While Obama says that the his plan to withdraw the troops in 16 months — one brigade a month — is firm, he also suggests that he will “refine” and recalibrate the actual details. Per media reports, Obama said,”What I said this morning what I will repeat, because its consistent with what I have said over the last two years, is that in putting this plan together I will always listen to the advice of commanders on the ground but that ultimately I am the person thats making the strategic decisions.”

Finally, Obama has set a somewhat rigorous condition (surprisingly, so) for later-term abortions. In an interview this week with Relevant, a Christian magazine, Obama said prohibitions on late-term abortions must contain “a strict, well defined exception for the health of the mother.” Obama then added: “Now, I don’t think that ‘mental distress’ qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term.”

All these decisions — and nuanced statements — move Obama to the political middle, and make it a challenge to categorize and stereo-type him. However, when does that journey to the middle starts to appear a bit opportunistic? Time will tell though so far, I think, that Obama has maintained a sense of authenticity in his journey to the middle. In general, Obama appears to be thoughtful and making sensible changes based on empirics.