I was in some conversations several weeks ago where this possibility was discussed. I was told that one should never listen to Obama’s words, that there is no reason to believe his pledges, and that Obama would find a lawyer-like reason for getting out of any statement that was inconvenient. (These claims were made by an Obama supporter.) As someone who initially had sympathy of Obama based on hope of an honest national debate, I was skeptical.
But it turns out I was wrong. Obama’s words may well be worthless after all. From the Washington Post staff editorial:
The Politics of Spare Change – washingtonpost.com
BARACK OBAMA isn’t abandoning his pledge to take public financing for the general election campaign because it’s in his political interest. Certainly not. He isn’t about to become the first candidate since Watergate to run an election fueled entirely with private money because he will be able to raise far more that way than the mere $85 million he’d get if he stuck to his promise — and with which his Republican opponent, John McCain, will have to make do. No, Mr. Obama, or so he would have you believe, is forgoing the money because he is so committed to public financing. Really, it hurts him more than it hurts Fred Wertheimer.
Pardon the sarcasm. But given Mr. Obama’s earlier pledge to “aggressively pursue” an agreement with the Republican nominee to accept public financing, his effort to cloak his broken promise in the smug mantle of selfless dedication to the public good is a little hard to take. “It’s not an easy decision, and especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections,” Mr. Obama said in a video message to supporters.
Mr. Obama had an opportunity here to demonstrate that he really is a different kind of politician, willing to put principles and the promises he has made above political calculation. He made a different choice, and anyone can understand why: He’s going to raise a ton of money. Mr. McCain played games with taking federal matching funds for the primaries until it turned out he didn’t need them, and he had a four-month head start in the general election while Mr. Obama was still battling for the nomination. Outside groups are going to come after him. He has thousands of small donors along with his big bundlers. And so on.
Fine. Politicians do what politicians need to do. But they ought to spare us the self-congratulatory back-patting while they’re doing it.
Now we know that Obama’s words, if they are said honestly at all, can be parsed so that they mean whatever Obama wants at any time. Can we now discount the value of his words to zero? If so, what other actions can be assume are worthless? (His appointments? His associates? His profession of Christianity? What else?)