President Obama is looking about ten years older than candidate Obama did – and about ten light years further to the right. In last night’s speech from the Oval Office, when he talked about Iraq, it was as if Obama was accidentally reading one of George Bush’s old speeches:

We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq, and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home. We have persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people –a belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization. Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility. Now, it is time to turn the page.

Then, after acknowledging his disagreement with Bush throughout the war, he turned around and praised the former president:

This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.

Without a single hint of irony, Obama drew common cause with the man and the war policy he eviscerated as recently as 2008. The speech consistently reflected neocon talking points such as the need for nation-building and the spread of democracy, and the belief that the Iraqi people will be better off because of the U.S. invasion.  . . .

The speech left no doubt that Obama has forsaken his base on the left (or is taking us for granted), and is instead working to please the moderate Democrats and independents who are in danger of being lost back to the Republicans. How else do you explain his continued drift to the center-right?

To be fair, Obama has made good on his promise to remove all combat troops from Iraq in his first 18 months – but that shows his political savvy rather than any true anti–war beliefs. This dramatic shift in tone shows that Obama’s positions are based on political calculation and not personal conviction

He was staunchly anti-war in the 2008 primaries because that was his only chance to gain momentum. But then he shifted to appear “tough on terror” to win in the general election. Now, with a brutal midterm election and his own reelection in 2012 looming, he is retreating even further from his original progressive stance and is sounding downright conservative, even as he keeps his promise of withdrawal.

It’s politically deft, but perhaps a little too politically deft. Progressives aren’t falling for the bait and switch this time. While we have been removing combat troops from Iraq, we have sent more to Afghanistan and have been bombing in Pakistan (not to mention the escalating tensions with Iran). One way or the other, we’re going to be fighting in the Middle East for a long time. As in so many other areas with Obama, it’s a different verse, but still the same song.

Perhaps, then, 2010 is finally the year for progressives to part ways with the Democrats. How many times will we have to get poked in the eye, the way we were poked last night, before we finally pull the trigger?

And I didn’t even mention how insulting it is for Obama to praise the man who should be getting investigated for war crimes. It reminds me of the final scene from Animal Farm.