Politics
President Barack Obama gestures during a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, March 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) President Barack Obama gestures during a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, March 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)  

News outlets say Obama has evolved, not flip-flopped, on major issues through the years

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Gregg Re
Associate Editor

President Barack Obama has evolved — again. And again. And again.

In the week after the president voiced his sudden personal support for gay marriage, a move which two-thirds of Americans have concluded was primarily motivated by politics, liberal bloggers and media personalities have characterized the decision as an “evolution,” rather than a flip-flop.

That terminology attracted its fair share of scorn from right-wing publications, which argued that the media was giving the president a pass during an election year. But according to the media, the president has been evolving for some time now on a variety of issues.

The New York Times doubled down on the ‘evolving’ lingo Sunday by characterizing the president’s shift in Afghan war policy during his term as a personal evolution.

Over the past three years, the president has “narrowed the goals in Afghanistan, and narrowed them again, [and again]“, according to Sunday’s in-depth report by The New York Times. “In interviews over the past 18 months, Mr. Obama’s top national security aides described the evolution of the president’s views on Afghanistan as a result of three rude discoveries.”

The piece, whimsically titled “Charting Obama’s Journey to a Shift on Afghanistan,” subsequently attributes most of the president’s ‘evolution’ to retired Gen. David H. Petraeus, now the director of the CIA.

“Just think how big a reversal of approach this was in just two years,” one administration official told the paper. “We started with what everyone thought was a pragmatic vision but, at its core, was a plan for changing the way Afghanistan is wired. We ended up thinking about how to do as little wiring as possible.”

Besides his “evolution” on Afghan policy and gay marriage, which the media said the president was ‘evolving’ on long before his recent announcement, the media suggested that the president had also evolved on last summer’s debt crisis.

In March, the Washington Post published a lengthy piece on the president’s handling of last year’s debt crisis. The Obama administration was already taking substantial criticism for changing its mind numerous times on whether it wanted a vote on the debt ceiling to be linked to spending cuts, as well as whether it would support a short-term deal designed to raise the nation’s borrowing limit.

After one meeting between House Speaker John Boehner and the president last July on a debt deal, Boehner’s staffers left the meeting  ”energized by the prospect of a deal,” according to the Post.

Three days later, the deal was dead. Though the president’s advisers tried to blame the failed talks on Boehner, everyone in the room knew Obama was responsible, sources told the Post.

“Obama, nervous about how to defend the emerging agreement to his own Democratic base, upped the ante in a way that made it more difficult for Boehner — already facing long odds — to sell it to his party. Eventually, the president tried to put the original framework back in play, but by then it was too late,” the story read.

Within weeks, the president gave up entirely on his plan to court Republicans and abandoned the notion of meeting with congressional leaders every day until a debt deal could be reached.

[Obama] reviewed his strategy, concluding that it was time for a dramatic shift in approach,” the paper wrote. “At the White House, economic advisers who had devoted so much time to meeting with House Republicans now turned their attention to drafting the American Jobs Act, a package that would extend a temporary payroll tax holiday, provide fresh money for roads and bridges — and set up a new confrontation with Republicans.”

The Post’s headline for the piece: “Obama’s evolution: Behind the failed ‘grand bargain’ on the debt.”

In fact, according to the media, the president began evolving on major issues before he was even president.

A 2008 New York Times article, headlined “Obama’s thoughts evolve on U.S. troops in Iraq,” reconciled the then-senator’s claims that he would “end the war in Iraq” with his revised plan to “keep tens of thousands of troops in Iraq for at least several years.”

“An apparent evolution of Obama’s thinking can be heard in contrast to comments he made in July, when he called a news conference to lay out his Iraq policy in unambiguous terms,” the Times wrote.

As news broke in October 2009 that the president was slated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for being a leading — and evolving — champion of peace, Obama took heated criticism for deciding to accept the award. He had just decided to order 30,000 troops into a war zone, angering critics on both ends of the political spectrum.

The Los Angeles Times downplayed the criticism in 2009 as a necessary symptom of the president’s “evolving approach to global diplomacy.”

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