by RAY FLEMING
EXACTLY one month ago in this space I suggested that when Barack Obama's promised to bring about change in Washington he might have been thinking more of the changes he himself would need to make in his policies than of the reforms he would make in Washington's ways.

I gave as examples the shifts he had made in his previously stated Middle East policies within hours of ensuring that he had defeated Hillary Clinton in the Democrats' primaries. Last week the New York Times ran a leading article entitled “A new and not improved candidate for change” which listed a number of policy issues on which the Senator has shifted his ground. Prominent among these is the so-called “refinement” of his Iraq policies which initially called for a phased withdrawal of US troops within 16 months of taking office. The refinement will apparently take place after he has visited Iraq and talked with the commanders on the ground - and, presumably, the Iraq government.

Senator McCain is counting on his opponent having to recognise that US forces will need to remain for a long time yet if the fragile gains so far achieved are not to be thrown away. The New York TImes also lists a broken promise over public funding limits for the election proper, an abandonment of a commitment to oppose a wiretapping bill, support for the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn gun-control laws and for the provision of public money to religious-based organisations for social spending - a policy that would violate the constitutional separation of state and church. Obama has accused McCain of “flip-flopping” but he seems just as guilty of doing so.

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