Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

The ultimate undecided voter is in the White House

By Alex Castellanos, CNN Contributor
updated 5:18 PM EDT, Wed October 3, 2012
 President Barack Obama addresses a fund-raiser event last week at the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington.
President Barack Obama addresses a fund-raiser event last week at the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Alex Castellanos: President Obama has switched positions on a wide variety of issues
  • He says the president has changed policies on economy, foreign affairs
  • Castellanos: Obama is conflicted on many issues, and vacillations hurt the United States
  • As debates begin, voters can ask what the president stands for, Castellanos says

Editor's note: Alex Castellanos, a CNN contributor, is a Republican consultant and the co-founder of Purple Strategies. Follow him on Twitter: @alexcast.

(CNN) -- Who is the president who debates his re-election Wednesday evening? The uncertainty of what he stands for is mounting.

He was the man who supported "pay-as-you-go budgeting." Yet more U.S. debt was created during his administration than in any previous one.

He boasts George W. Bush issued more regulations than his administration. He also accuses Bush of deregulation.

Join CNN.com for the presidential debates
Watch Wednesday's presidential debate and CNN's exclusive expert analysis starting at 7 p.m. ET on CNN TV, CNN.com and CNN's mobile apps. Become an analyst for your friends with our new online clip-and-share feature that lets you share your favorite debate moments on Facebook and Twitter.

He says he supports American energy independence. He withdraws oil and gas leases on public lands, cancels lease sales and establishes new obstacles to energy production.

He spurns earmarks. He signs a bill with thousands of them.

He supported Egypt's Hosni Mubarak before he undermined Mubarak.

He ordered federal officials to "usher in a new era of open government." Nineteen of 20 of his Cabinet-level agencies disobeyed the law requiring the disclosure of public information.

He said, "Lobbyists will not find a job in my White House" and pledged he wouldn't raise money from them. They have. He did.

Opinion: 10 questions for Obama to answer

Alex Castellanos
Alex Castellanos

He ridiculed the Bush tax cuts and the "tired and cynical philosophy" behind them. He extended the Bush tax cuts.

He said Moammar Gadhafi must go while the chairman of his Joint Chiefs of Staff explained that wasn't the president's objective.

He leads from behind, reports one of his advisers, describing the president's handling of the Libya uprising. That's what most people call "following." He follows, crediting himself with leadership.

Big questions for both candidates
Debate questions for Obama
Managing debate expectations

He attacked Hillary Clinton's plan to mandate health insurance coverage and John McCain's tax on Cadillac health plans. He turned around and proposed both ideas.

He has said, "Democrats are not for a bigger government," while advancing it.

He hides under the wing of a former president who declared that "the era of big government is over," though he, himself, revived that era.

He proclaims the urgency of his jobs bill. He waited for nearly 1,000 days to introduce it.

He was elected promising no red or blue America, no liberal or conservative America, "just one America." He has built his re-election on division.

He said, "We can argue fiercely about the proper size and role of government without questioning each other's love for this country."

He says Republicans in Congress do not "put country ahead of party."

He decries Republican elitism. He plays more golf, it seems, than Jack Nicklaus.

He pledged to end rendition of terror suspects. He now supports it.

He's said government shouldn't be in the business of running car companies. He took over General Motors and fired its CEO.

He proposed the Affordable Care Act. It has made health care less affordable and costs trillions.

He attacks Republicans for cutting Medicare. He cut half a trillion dollars from Medicare.

In chorus, he urges deficit reduction and offers large deficits for 10 straight years.

He said, "The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." He authorized military action against Libya without consulting Congress.

He stands back while Arab Spring demonstrators die in the streets, cries for American help on their lips. He gives the Arab Spring lip service.

He pledges he'll close Guantanamo. He keeps it open, failing to convince other countries to accept its detainees.

He leads an administration that left our American ambassador to Libya vulnerable on the anniversary of 9/11. Upon the diplomat's tragic loss, he blames a movie.

He begged Russia's Dmitry Medvedev for a little more space on missile defense "until after the election." He explains that meant he was "committed" to missile defense, the opposite of what he said.

He sees his own accomplishments equal to those of any president, "with the possible exceptions of Johnson, FDR and Lincoln." He boasts of his own humility, also comparing himself to Lincoln.

He writes lyrically in his autobiography that he is the red soil of his father's Kenyan grave and the windblown dirt of Kansas. He is a man of the Harvard elite and of the Chicago streets.

And as the wind blows, our president sways, a conflicted man pirouetting with increasing velocity. He changes where our nation stands as easily as we change a channel. With even greater ease, he changes who he is.

Now he tells us his rudderless direction is the best that could be done.

He expects the support of a nation he still leaves adrift.

Uncertain of what's to come, fearing decline, we turn on ourselves with increasing ferocity. We divide and then devour ourselves by class, party and ideology. Decision-makers on Wall Street and in the business world, though flush with cash, remain paralyzed, unsure of where he is taking us. Beyond our shores, we have lost the world's respect: They see us led by an elastic man whom friends cannot trust and enemies need not fear.

A year ago, Mitt Romney's reversible outer-gear was expected to doom his campaign for president. His opponent's indeterminacy has drained that topic of its energy. It is Barack Obama who is unformed and shapeless, seeming to weigh everything but believe in nothing. It is the incumbent who is, at once, no one and everyone, nothing and everything.

Wednesday, two men debate for the Oval Office. The election is undecided.

So, all too often, is the mercurial president who is asking for another term.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Alex Castellanos.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:57 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
updated 1:21 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT