Opinion

A centrist Barack Obama finally emerges, but too little too late

Photo of Jeffrey Scott Shapiro
Jeffrey Scott Shapiro
Investigative Journalist

When I first saw Barack Obama speak, at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, I was impressed with his bipartisan approach. But I haven’t seen that version of the president since then — that is, until Tuesday night.

On Tuesday night, the president presented himself as an even-keeled, intelligent, centrist political leader who values all Americans and can see all sides of an issue. He praised America’s free-enterprise system and explained that although he supports reasonable measures on gun control, he believes in the Second Amendment.

He was not the leftist community organizer that he has acted like for the past several years.

When I saw Obama speak at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, I was serving as a member of Senator John Kerry’s legal team. It was a politically sensitive time for me because although I was a liberal who respected Senator Kerry, I also supported the liberation of Iraq.

I was incredibly disappointed in the Democratic Party’s decision to oppose the war, and there was an air of arrogance and anti-American sentiment echoing throughout the convention hall. There was, however, a silver lining in the words of a then-Illinois state senator named Barack Obama, who was running for U.S. Senate:

“The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into red states and blue states; red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the red states. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us are defending the United States of America.”

Those words left me with hope that the Democratic Party had not completely adopted the virulent anti-Bush perspective and lies illustrated in “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Despite Obama’s bipartisan words, the visceral hatred for President Bush continued, and that November I voted Republican for the first time in my life.

Barack Obama did emerge as the leader of the Democratic Party, but to my dismay he turned out to be nothing like the centrist, bipartisan leader that I saw at the 2004 convention. Instead, he was a radical leftist who capitalized on the unfair criticism of President George W. Bush. It often seemed like Obama’s entire 2008 presidential campaign was centered on viciously attacking Bush despite the fact that he was running against Senator John McCain. He exploited the anti-war sentiment in the Democratic Party, and rather than uniting America, he divided and polarized it more than any other candidate in my lifetime. He created legitimate fears on the right and in the center that he wanted to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.”

It wasn’t long before conservative columnists and investigative journalists began painting him as a closet socialist, someone with an unsavory agenda of pushing the United States toward a central planning system. Eventually, reports surfaced that Obama had promoted “wealth redistribution” on multiple occasions.

His relationships with former Weather Underground activist Bill Ayers, his hiring of admitted socialists like Van Jones and Carol Browner as White House cabinet members, and his open loyalty to Reverend Jeremiah Wright were deeply concerning.