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 6:47 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
updated 1:37 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT