There was also some interesting wordplay during this kerfuffle: During that April 29 press conference, Senator Obama said of Wright that "He was never my quote-unquote spiritual advisor," though after the videos of Reverend Wright's sermons first surfaced, the Obama campaign announced back in March that Wright had left the campaign's "spiritual advisory" committee. Pundits can parse the words "spiritual advisory" and "spiritual advisor" for a week, but either way, it doesn't sound like plain talk to me; it sounds like politics as usual.
Please note that I'm not accusing Senator Obama of flip-flopping here. I think that it is good and right that people, even Presidential candidates, change their minds based on new information. Flip-flopping is when candidates change their minds with no new information at hand in order to appeal to particular groups of voters. Reverend Wright's April 28 speech provided the trigger for Senator Obama to change his mind on Wright without flip-flopping; it's just unfortunate that the trigger turned out to be politics as usual.
Flip-flopping is a time-honored political tradition, and Senator Obama is as guilty of it as anybody. Again, I'm not talking about changing your view based on new information. We can all understand a shift in priorities after an event like 9/11, or when gas prices rapidly rise to record levels. When conditions on the ground change, a good strategy takes that into account. Flip-flopping is different. It isn't related to conditions on the ground, but to political expediency, or to the audience.
In 2004, when running for the U.S. Senate in Illinois, candidate Obama declared that it was "time for us to end the embargo with Cuba," adding, "It's time for us to acknowledge that that particular policy has failed." As recently as August 2007, Senator Obama suggested the embargo should be curtailed. Now, in 2008, addressing the Cuban-American National Foundation, candidate Obama declared, "I will maintain the embargo. It provides us with the leverage to present the regime with a clear choice: if you take significant steps toward democracy, beginning with the freeing of all political prisoners, we will take steps to begin normalizing relations."
Whether it is better to end or maintain the embargo isn't the issue that concerns me, it's why Obama's view changed. The key seems to be simply his audience. Addressing voters in Illinois is different from addressing the Cuban-American National Foundation in Miami. Does that sound like change we can believe in, or politics as usual?
Senator Obama has attacked Senator McCain for supporting, as he puts it, "tax breaks to corporations." Yet when speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Senator Obama said that he was considering corporate tax cuts. The difference appears, again, to be the audience: his attacks on Senator McCain are broadcast far and wide, while most readers of The Wall Street Journal will look favorably on corporate tax cuts. Is this change we can believe in, or politics as usual?