Sebastian Mallaby takes a stand against all of the Obama-Wright crap up with which the American people have had to put in recent days. His basic position is that the accusations against Obama are logically incoherent–he's an effete snob who goes to a firebrand's church, for instance. While we're all for pointing out logical incoherence, such accusations are only incoherent if they're believed by the same person at the same time. I'd venture to guess that some believe Obama is some kind of Harvard snob, perhaps because some other Harvard types in the media won't shut up about it, while others believe Obama is some kind super left-wing radical. Nonetheless, for those who repeat all of the conventional wisdom about Obama, Mallaby's piece may be instructive.
We're put off–unfortunately–by his closing analysis. He writes:
The real character issue, in this campaign as in others, comes down to one thing: Does a candidate have the guts to espouse positions that are not politically expedient? Here there are serious questions about Obama, who pledges to pull out of Iraq no matter what, and who promises both to increase spending and not to raise taxes on anybody making less than $200,000 to $250,000 a year, ensuring the perpetuation of crippling federal deficits. For that matter, there are serious questions about Hillary Clinton, who proposes an irresponsible gas-tax holiday, and about John McCain, who couples gas pandering with a flip-flop on the Bush tax cuts, which he once (correctly) viewed as unaffordable. But these genuine character issues have been shunted aside by the spectacle of Obama's falling-out with his preacher.
After complaining–almost correctly–that we're awash in irrelevant character issues, Mallaby makes policy questions character issues. Perhaps these candidates really believe the things they're saying about the gas tax, Bush tax cuts, and so on. If that's the case, then it's not a character issue at all–at least in the sense Mallaby is alleging. It's a policy question.
But even if it's a character issue, it's not a very important one. Politicians take stands they don't entirely endorse all of the time. It's their job. The important thing is that they not take stands that they don't believe in and which are folly.