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Left lacks leverage to stop Obama's rightward tack

His backtracking on a government-surveillance bill has outraged the liberal blogosphere.

Reaching out: Senator Obama is trying to nudge right without betraying core values. He greeted bishops at a meeting of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Louis last Saturday.

jae c. hong/AP

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Appeal to the party's base, secure the nomination, then tack back to the center for the general election. It's a time-honored tradition in American presidential politics. And in the past few weeks, Barack Obama, far more than John McCain, has made such maneuvers a nearly daily feature of his campaign.

Time to unilaterally renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the agreement that many working Americans believe threatens or has already cost them their jobs? Not so fast, Senator Obama now says. No death penalty for child rapists? The Supreme Court got that one wrong, he says. And on the court's historic assertion of an individual's right to bear arms, Obama signaled approval.

Perhaps his most risky move has been to backtrack on a promise to oppose a government-surveillance bill, the so-called FISA legislation (named after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978), which provides retroactive immunity for phone companies that have helped the Bush administration in its warrantless wiretapping program.

On Thursday, the longtime Iraq war opponent showed new flexibility on his plan to withdraw troops within 16 months, saying that he could refine his policies after he visits the country later this summer.


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