Obama will be as liberal as he can get away with
Obama is pragmatic to the extent he knows there are limits to how much liberalism is acceptable politically. Thus when he tells people in Pennsylvania that he is not going to take away their guns, he does it on the basis that it is not politically possible to do so and not through any belief in the principals of the 2nd Amendment. You find some evidence of that in his vote in the Illinois legislature against a bill that would allow people to use guns in self defense.
When John McCain and many other Republicans ask, "Who is the real Barack Obama?" there is an implication that maybe he is somehow sinister or extremist.
I don't believe that. But I do think that there are two very different Obamas. Both are extraordinarily intelligent, serene under pressure, and driven by an admirable social conscience -- albeit as willing to deploy deception as the next politician. But while the first Obama would be a well-meaning failure, the second could become a great president.
An ultraliberal in moderate garb? The first Obama has sometimes seemed eager to engineer what he called "redistribution of wealth" in a 2001 radio interview, along with the more conventional protectionism, job preferences, and other liberal Democratic dogmas featured in his campaign. I worry that he might go beyond judiciously regulating our free enterprise system's all-too-apparent excesses and stifle it under the dead hand of government bureaucracy and lawsuits.
This redistributionist Obama has stayed in the background since he set his sights on the presidency years ago, except when he told Joe the Plumber that his tax plan would help "spread the wealth." This Obama seems largely invisible to many supporters. But he may retain some attachment to the radical-leftist sensibility in which -- as his impressive 1995 autobiography, Dreams From My Father, explains with reflective detachment -- he was marinated as a youth and young man.
I dwell on these much-debated associations not because I think that Obama sympathizes with what he has called Ayers's "detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8" or identifies with Wright's wild ravings. But I do think that Obama has understated (at best) his involvement with Wright and Ayers. And I wonder about the worldview of a man who was so comfortable with such far-left extremists and whose wife, Michelle, asserted earlier this year that America is "just downright mean" and "guided by fear" and that most Americans' lives have "gotten progressively worse since I was a little girl."
Obama's voting record as an Illinois and then U.S. senator is not extremist or radical. But it is not a bit bipartisan, either. He has hardly ever broken with his party, and he famously had the most liberal record of any senator in 2007 (although not in 2006 or 2005), according to National Journal's vote ratings.
This Obama has endorsed a long list of liberal restrictions on free enterprise that could end up hurting the people they are supposed to help, along with the rest of us: statist remedies for our broken educational system; encouraging unionization by substituting peer pressure and an undemocratic card-check process for secret ballots; raising the wages of women or lowering those of men who have dissimilar jobs that are declared by bureaucrats to be of comparable worth; renegotiating NAFTA; and more.
I wonder how far Obama wants to go down the road suggested by his lament in that 2001 radio interview that the civil-rights movement had failed to engineer "redistribution of wealth" and "economic justice." Would he be content with the moderately redistributive, Clintonesque increase in taxes on high-earning Americans that he proposes now? Or would he end up pushing for confiscatory taxes that could stifle entrepreneurship and job creation?
A pragmatic reformer? The pragmatic, consensus-building, inspirational Obama who has been on display during the general election campaign is a prodigious listener and learner. He can see all sides of every question. He seems suffused with good judgment. His social conscience has been tempered by recognition that well-intentioned liberal prescriptions can have perverse unintended consequences. His tax and health care proposals are much less radical than Republican critics suggest.
One of his most troubling positions is on the judiciary. He is too results oriented. He wants decisions based on empathy rather than the rule of law. This leads to the penumbra decisions like Roe v. Wade. This is basically made up law to reach a results the court wanted rather than sound legal thinking. It has roiled the courts and the political bodies ever since. The fact is that abortion should not be considered a fundamental constitutional right, but a matter for the legislature.
Fundamental rights are explicit in the constitution such as freedom of speech, religion and the right to bear arms. It is these rights that Obama gives lip service too, but his heart is not in it on some occasions. He will probably try to reinstate the "fairness" doctrine in order to restrict speech of those who disagree with him. He has been very successful at suppressing speech of those who would say things that will hurt his campaign. While getting Bill Ayers to shut up is probably a service to mankind, it is clear that he is only doing it for purposes of this election.