No one ever said Barack Obama wasn't smart, or that he didn't plan far down the political road. From what I've read and heard recently, he's already figured out that his grandiose promises of "change" pose a problem for him: no one, no matter how skilled, how 'messianic', can change something like the way Washington, or indeed the country, works overnight. Even more simply, many people massively overestimate the effect a single individual, even the president, or his or her administration, can have on the course of the country (little things like the global economy, rogue nations, acts of God, etc., can throw a little wrench into even the best-laid plans of a president).
So, what's the problem that Obama faces? Well, when you campaign on a promise of "change," and you don't deliver, people will lose faith and you will come under massive criticism for failing to meet your own goal. So, Obama, ever the clever politician, is already seeking to diminish expectations for the effectiveness of his presidency, should he win. He has already realized that he cannot meet the promises he has made, even as vague and empty as they are, given that he has positioned himself as the guy who will turn Washington around on a dime the first week he's in office.
This attempt to manage expectations has not happened overnight. Only a few weeks ago, Obama promised grand change to an enthusiastic crowd, but then admitted it'll be a long slog:
"I'll be honest with you," he said. "We've dug ourselves into a hole, and it's going to take some time to get out." He also said that change for some issues could be "two or three years away."
Now, we're hearing it may even take him two terms.
Wow, ya gotta hand it to this guy. He hasn't even gotten the Dem nomination, but he's already campaigning for his second presidential term.
Clearly, he's buying some insurance. Don't blame me, he says, if my first term is a failure by the very standards I've set--the problem in Washington is simply too big for anyone to handle in only four years, and the GOP has made such a mess of things, what could anyone have done?
The message is subtle, but it's clear. Obama doesn't believe the package he's trying to sell to the masses, because it's unrealistic. Obama is sowing the seeds now to be able to say in the future, I never promised you a rose garden.
Oh, but you did. And now, you're already backing away.