Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

The ultimate undecided voter is in the White House

By Alex Castellanos, CNN Contributor
October 3, 2012 -- Updated 2118 GMT (0518 HKT)
 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
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
August 16, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
August 17, 2014 -- Updated 1523 GMT (2323 HKT)
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1941 GMT (0341 HKT)
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 2146 GMT (0546 HKT)
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2226 GMT (0626 HKT)
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2357 GMT (0757 HKT)
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1505 GMT (2305 HKT)
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2024 GMT (0424 HKT)
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 1922 GMT (0322 HKT)
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1056 GMT (1856 HKT)
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2035 GMT (0435 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2308 GMT (0708 HKT)
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Mary Allen says because of new research and her own therapy, she no longer carries around the fear of her mother, which had turned into a generalized fear of everything
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1959 GMT (0359 HKT)
Gilbert Gottfried says the comedian was most at home on the comedy club stage, where he was generous to his fellow stand-up performers
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 2054 GMT (0454 HKT)
Iris Baez, whose son was killed by an illegal police chokehold, says there must be zero tolerance for police who fatally shoot or otherwise kill unarmed people such as Michael Brown
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1246 GMT (2046 HKT)
Maria Cardona says as he seeks a path to the presidency, the Kentucky Senator is running from his past stated positions. But voters are not stupid--and they know how to use the internet
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 0219 GMT (1019 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the shock at the actor and comedian's death comes from its utter implausibility. For many of us over the last 40 years or so, Robin Williams was an irresistible force of nature that nothing could stop.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Soledad O'Brien says the story of two veterans told in a documentary airing on CNN shows the challenges resulting from post-traumatic stress
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1525 GMT (2325 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT