As I understand it, absolutely as a stand-in for yes actually means "yes in the strongest possible terms"—not the sort of equivocal, mealy-mouthed affirmation we might expect from politicians who are intent on avoiding being pinned down to commitments of any kind. Of course, emphatically affirming something can produce a smokescreen of another kind—one in which hearers imagine that they have received a binding confirmation from a speaker who in fact doesn't feel bound by it at all—but I don't associate that type of dishonesty with politicians in particular.
In any case, I ran a few Google Books searches and found a number of instances of absolutely used in (written) conversation in what I take to be the sense of "yes indeed" or "very much so"—all from books published more than a century ago.
From Richard Sheridan, The Rivals (1775):
Acres. ... I shall straightway cashier the hunting-frock, and render my leather breeches incapable—My hair has been in training some time.
Captain Absolute. Indeed!
Acres. Aye—and thoff the side curls are a little restive, my hind part takes it very kindly.
Captain Absolute. Oh, you'll polish, I doubt not.
Acres. Absolutely I propose so—then if I can find out this ensign Beverley, odds triggers and flints I'll make him know the difference o't.
From Henry Brownrigg, "The Linen-Drapers Assistant," in Rural Repository (October 7, 1843):
Let it be granted, that the linen-drapers succeed in their demand for leisure—in their cry for time to unroll their minds, to see of what stuff and pattern they are composed ; let us allow that they have obtained their end : well, does any reasonable tradesman suppose that the evil is finished? Certainly not. What, then, is the next calamity? Why—yes—absolutely—
"We see, as from a tow'r, the end of all!"
we behold the fluttering of ribands—the waving of handkerchiefs: we see the milliner's girls in wild rebellion ! They, too, cry for leisure!
The result of all this is as plain as the nose on Mammon's face—the result is the utter subversion of the present principles of society.
From an 1846 translation of Dumas's The Count of Monte-Cristo, volume 2:
"What next? what more do you want?"
"I wish to know, if in demanding my signature, you leave me entirely free in my person?"
"Then, well, as I said before, sir, I am ready to marry M. Cavalcanti."
From Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853):
My dear George," returns his brother, "is it so indispensable that you should undergo that process?"
"Quite! Absolutely! I couldn't be guilty of the meanness of coming back without it. I should never be safe not to be off again. I have not sneaked home to rob your children, if not yourself, brother, of your rights. ..."
From John Cooke, Ellie: Or, The Human Comedy (1855):
"You don't mean to say—"
"That I'm in love with Miss Aurelia? Yes I do—and I warn you to play your part well."
"Hum!" said Heartsease, languidly.
"I shall press the siege."
"Then I withdraw. It's a bore to contest a woman—everything is a bore, for that matter."
From William Ainsworth, The Lord Mayor of London, serialized in Bentley's Miscellany, volume 52 (1862):
"Excuse me, sir, I can't play the hypocrite. I haven't a father to cajole."
"Zooks! rascal, do you suspect me of hypocrisy? Mind what I say. Henceforth, no airs—no nonsense—no foppery!"
And is this expected?"
I'm afraid, sir, the place won't suit me."
From an examination of Leopold Cust by Mr. Brooks (July 5, 1877) in Reports from Committees of the House of Commons, Great Britain (1877):
- Have the Commissioners the slightest power in ordering the arrest of a drunken man?—Absolutely. You will see we had a great number of cases formerly, when every case was brought forward in their name. They must be the complainants if they wish to receive the amount of fine for the benefit of the town.
From John Saunders, "Jasper Deane: Wood-Carver of St. Paul's," in Good Words for 1877 (1877):
"Come, come, speak out, you know my position and"—
"I am so profoundly ignorant of everything related to it that, while I can but think and dream and hope, I fear to commit myself in every word I say."
That is true?"
“You really mean to declare that you do not, directly or indirectly, know that the whole of the wood-carvings of the choir of the new St. Paul's are entrusted to me?—that I am about to begin at once, so that by the time the place is ready to receive them they too shall be ready for the place? You know nothing of that?"
From R.T. Gunton, "How My Wife Went to Margate," in London Society (Holiday number, 1883):
'But what can we do?' said Lucy ; 'advise us, dear papa ; I know Tom will only be too glad to be guided by you.'
'Absolutely,' I said, wincing. I had been guided by Mr. Briggs once before in a little matter of mining shares, and remembered it.
From L.T. Meade, How It All Came Round, serialized in Frank Leslie's Sunday Magazine (August 1884):
"You know all?"
"I know everything."
"Then you—you will save my father?"
"Absolutely. You need fear nothing from me or mine ; in this we are but quits. Did not you save Harold ?"
"Ah," said Charlotte Harman ; she took no notice of her friend and guest, she sat down on the nearest chair and covered her face.
From Madcap Nellie: A Novel in Real Life (1888):
"Where is Nellie Bailey?"
The old detective looked at Mr. Lane keenly.
"You are not in the employ of her husband?"
"No, sir, I am not."
“And you will keep the secret?”
"Then I don't mind telling you. But first I would like to know why you ask."
These examples from imagined (and in one case real) dialogues suggest that use of "absolutely" in the sense of "emphatically yes" was well established by the 1880s. I don't see any reason to suppose that the practice had to be reinvented in recent years, since it was already a part of English speech more than a century ago.