By Jack Atherton
Senator Barack Obama made history Thursday as the first African American chosen by a major party to run for President. But the nominee's acceptance speech often distorted history, including his own.
For instance, Obama said that Iraq's government and President Bush now agree with his call for a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops. But Obama failed to add that he had wanted all those troops withdrawn by last March, when the surge - which John McCain pushed and Obama opposed - was just getting underway. It's the surge that's now made possible what Obama calls a "responsible" end to the Iraq war. His prior urging of what amounted to surrender would have left Iraq at the mercy of al-Qaeda and Iran.
Senator Obama also told the crowd at Invesco Field that by opposing the Iraq war from the outset, he demonstrated superior judgment to John McCain's. But in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, both Hillary Clinton and Obama's own running mate, Joe Biden argued even more forcefully than McCain for ousting Saddam Hussein, given his history of invading neighboring Iran and Kuwait, unleashing weapons of mass destruction against his own Kurdish minority and supporting terrorists by paying the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 forthrightly stated why Iraq - a nation already under probation for waging the first Gulf war -- was being given just 30 days from November 8, 2002 to prove it had disarmed. Four months later, Saddam was still refusing weapons inspectors unfettered access to presidential palaces and another sites. Barack Obama wanted to give Saddam more time, but many fellow Democrats found that too great a risk.
What about issues here at home? Senator Obama in his acceptance speech said we could preserve the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. Sounds reasonable. But until just a couple of months ago, Obama - a former constitutional law professor - defended Washington D.C.'s total ban on privately owned guns. The U.S. Supreme Court has since held that ban unconstitutional.
Senator Obama in Denver also pledged to wean America off foreign oil within ten years by promoting, among other things, clean coal and more nuclear plants. But he has consistently opposed both those energy sources and still believes there is no environmentally safe way to dispose of nuclear waste. Obama recently said he might also allow some more off-shore oil drilling. But the Democrats' Congressional leaders - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid - won't even put that up for a vote.
Which brings us to Senator Obama's vow to change the old politics and reach across the aisle. John McCain frequently angers fellow Republicans by doing exactly that. But what sort of bipartisanship can we hope to see if a President Obama joins Pelosi and Reid? Thursday night Senator Obama promised national health care, higher pay for teachers, government subsidized college tuition, federally mandated sick leave and a host of other social programs. They might well be enacted by a Democrat-controlled House, Senate and White House. But what of Obama's further promise to pay for all that spending by cutting back on government waste and raising taxes only on corporations and the "wealthy" (in his view, couples earning $250,000 or more).
Consider President Clinton's experience. He started out with a Democrat-controlled Congress, just as polls show a President Obama would. Clinton promised a middle class tax break; Obama on Thursday promised tax cuts for 95% of all voters. Clinton and his Congress instead raised taxes across the board - even for recipients of Social Security. Voters were so incensed by that and other failures-including Hillary Clinton's plan for nationalized health care -- that just two years later they elected a Republican-controlled House for the first time in forty years. That divided government produced balanced budgets, welfare reform and a number of other measures for which Bill Clinton now takes credit. But President Obama would not preside over a divided government - at least not at first.
Barack Obama has made history and now promises change. But remember that famous paraphrase of Santayana: "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."