By Luke Boggs
For the Journal-Constitution
Published on: 07/10/08
Barack Obama just may be the most regretful figure in American politics, no small feat for a freshman senator.
On Wednesday, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said he regretted allowing his young daughters to participate in a family TV interview with "Access Hollywood."
It was an abrupt shift from decision to regret, even for Obama. The family sat down for the interview on July 4, and the first segment ran on July 8. By the next morning, Obama was saying he regretted including his daughters, even before the other two parts of the interview could air.
I'm not sure why. The interview was nothing but happy public relations, revealing that the Obamas enjoy riding bikes together and that the senator isn't a big dessert fan. (Pies are an exception.)
I suppose there may be a handful of humorless activists out there somewhere carping that Obama was "exploiting" his kids for political gain, but that would be an absurd complaint.
The guy is running for president of the United States, for heaven's sake. Family members have been a constant in American politics for a long time. And Obama having his daughters at his side in a puffy little holiday interview should have been no big deal to anyone.
So what jumped out at me was how quickly Obama regretted his decision. And that, in turn, made me wonder how often the senator has regretted other choices. Answer: pretty often. (Googling "Obama" and "regrets" yields more than a million hits.)
In November 2006, Obama said he regretted buying property adjacent to his Chicago home from Tony Rezko, a longtime supporter and big-time fund-raiser who has since been convicted of mail and wire fraud, aiding and abetting bribery and money laundering.
In February 2007, as his presidential campaign was beginning, Obama said he regretted saying that the lives of American soldiers who died fighting in Iraq had been "wasted."
In April 2008, Obama said he regretted his choice of words when he told some well-heeled donors in San Francisco that "bitter" folks in Middle America who have lost economic hope "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them."
To be sure, these are choices worth regretting. Anyone can understand why Obama would regret his land deal with a convicted felon. And even liberal Democrats like Obama have been careful not to say American lives have been "wasted" in Iraq, even as they imply the same thing when they dismiss the war effort as corrupt, inept, unnecessary and worse.
Obama's most costly regret, however, may well prove to be his condescending shot at those decent, hardworking Americans he said were desperately clinging to God and guns and bigotry. It was a regret-worthy statement that said volumes about Obama's easy contempt for those in what elites call "flyover country."
Perhaps the American people are looking for a regretful guy this time around. After eight years of George W. Bush, whose dogged lack of regrets continues to exasperate his critics, perhaps this sort of intense self-scrutiny and navel-gazing will translate into electoral victory.
But I'm not so sure. After all, a lot of Americans understand that you don't get a bunch of easy do-overs in the Oval Office. You have to make tough calls, even when they may be politically costly.
I can't help wondering what Obama might regret in four years as president. What might he regret doing —- or not doing —- on the world stage? What might he regret saying —- or not saying —- to Putin or Kim Jong-il or Ahmadinejad?
Only time will tell. Depending on what happens in November, we may begin to find out next January. When we do, some voters may well have regrets of their own