Let Obama be Obama?

Ken Blackwell Former Ohio Secretary of State
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Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen is better than a stopped clock: He’s right more than twice a day. But even as a thoughtful liberal, he bears the burden of knowing many things that are not so.

Ten years ago, he wrote a painfully honest column on partial-birth abortion. He described this horrific killing procedure and said it made him shudder. He wrote powerfully that he shuddered at the people who do not shudder.

That was then. In the last election go-round, Cohen did not shrink—or shudder—at supporting Sen. Barack Obama for president. Not only did Barack Obama support partial-birth abortion, as an Illinois state senator he was even unwilling to protect the child who survives an abortion. Richard Cohen didn’t shudder; he shrugged. Cohen is no single issue man.

Cohen was introduced to Sen. John Edwards by Sen. John McCain several years ago. It tells us volumes that McCain was chumming in the Senate Dining Room with the very liberal Cohen. Cohen writes that Edwards made a strong first impression.

Cohen did. And he was in time to be appalled by the tawdry tabloid person that is called John Edwards. This man could have been president, Cohen reacts today, and shudders.

What did we really know about John Edwards, Cohen asks now. Well, Edwards is finished. But Barack Obama is not finished. And Cohen asks the same question:

What do we really know about him? “Let Obama be Obama,” some of Cohen’s liberal friends are saying. They know that he was always supposed to be their Reagan. Now, Cohen asks, what does that mean?

Very much to Barack Obama’s credit, no one dreams that he is anything but a dutiful and devoted husband and father. This is something very important to know. It will give him great strength to face the storms in which he now finds himself. The Post also reports that Barack Obama confides seriously in his wife, Michelle.

Our first lady has made it a point to meet frequently and in-depth with military families. She is said to have far better access to these families than the president has to ordinary Americans. She is therefore a good sounding board for him. I doubt very seriously that military families are urging her to tell the president to pursue the ultra-liberal policies he has pressed on us all this past year.

Richard Cohen held forth during the Ronald Reagan era. “When we were asked to ‘let Reagan be Reagan,’ we could be certain it was a call for a hard-right turn. Ronald Reagan had devoted many years to the conservative cause.” We all knew him.

Obama, by contrast, appeared on the scene like a Midwest twister. He was just six years ago in the Illinois state Legislature and afterwards a sometime U.S. Senator.

No wonder Cohen wonders. Americans are wondering more these days about Barack Obama.

I have to dispute Cohen on one point about Reagan. Whenever the call went up to “let Reagan be Reagan,” it did not necessarily mean a hard right turn. Integral to the Reagan political identity was his firm pro-life stance.

The close identification of this oldest of our presidents with the youngest of Americans gave this strong man a kinder and gentler aspect. The man who could say to dictators and terrorists: “You can run, but you can’t hide,” could weep unashamedly upon being told that, because of his administration’s appeals, a Baby Doe on Long Island did not die.

Her parents had been advised not to let their Downs-syndrome newborn have a simple operation to clear her blocked esophagus. Because Ronald Reagan spoke, hearts were touched and lives were saved. At least on this, let Obama be Reagan. Then, none of us will have to shudder.

Ken Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council. He serves on the board of directors of the Club for Growth, National Taxpayers Union and National Rifle Association.

Ken Blackwell