Barack Obama’s “No, We Can’t” About-Face on School Vouchers

I almost missed this one… From the editors of the New York Sun comes notice that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama may be more cynical and duplicitous than widely given credit for:

No sooner had we issued Elizabeth Green‘s dispatch under the headline “Obama Open to Private School Vouchers” than his campaign was scrambling to undo the potential damage with the Democratic primary electorate. On February 20, his campaign issued a statement headlined, “Response to Misleading Reports Concerning Senator Obama‘s Position on Vouchers” that said, “Senator Obama has always been a critic of vouchers.” The statement went on, “Throughout his career, he has voted against voucher proposals and voiced concern for siphoning off resources from our public schools.” It noted that Mr. Obama’s education agenda “does not include vouchers, in any shape or form.”

Clarifying statement aside, there is no taking away what Mr. Obama actually said in the interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentininal that was the subject of Ms. Green’s dispatch. “If there was any argument for vouchers, it was ‘Alright, let’s see if this experiment works,’ and if it does, then whatever my preconceptions, my attitude is you do what works for the kids,” the senator said. “I will not allow my predispositions to stand in the way of making sure that our kids can learn. We’re losing several generations of kids and something has to be done.”

Hat tip to the Fordham Institute’s weekly Education Gadfly, which aptly opines:

Obama’s words were apparently taken “out of context”; the senator has always opposed vouchers and still does, his campaign says. Words taken out of context? Baloney. One of two things is going on here: Either Obama, in his bid to win Wisconsin, decided to lie to the Journal Sentinel and pretend to support proven-effective voucher programs, or he is actually open-minded but being censored by his campaign. Either way, it’s a giant disappointment.


Clearly, though, the New York Sun used the already stated positions of Obama’s likely Republican general election opponent to land the strongest rhetorical punch:

The candidate who looks strongest on the education issue at the moment is Senator McCain. It hasn’t escaped the Arizona Republican, apparently, that the daughters of both Senator Clinton and Obama attended elite private schools of the kind that can be accessed by pupils from ordinary families only where there are scholarships or experimental voucher programs. “I believe parents should be empowered with school choice to send their children to the school that can best educate them just as many members of Congress do with their own children,” Mr. McCain says on his campaign Web site.

“I find it beyond hypocritical,” Mr. McCain continues, “that many of those who would refuse to allow public school parents to choose their child’s school would never agree to force their own children into a school that did not work or was unsafe.” Mr. McCain’s campaign has not yet issued a statement explaining that the candidate didn’t really mean what he said or claiming that his words were taken out of context. It’s the difference between a candidate who is a straight-talker and one who, on this issue at least, for all the hype about change, is just a talker.

This is the “new” brand of politics the junior Illinois senator is supposed to have brought to the national election? Puh-lease.

QUESTION: “Excuse me, Senator Obama. What do you think about the possibility of providing school vouchers to poor, inner-city kids trapped in failing schools?”

OBAMA: “Yes, we can…” [Takes a sidelong glance at Reg Weaver] “…I take that back. – uh, er, No, we can’t.”

Looks like the same old-same old national Democrat politics to me.

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