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Web Letter

“I first endorsed Obama because of the nature of the movement supporting him, not his particular stands on issues.” Good Lord. If this is why progressives are backing politicians now, I weep for the movement. Me, I'll continue to cast my votes based on the candidates' stands on the issues. Silly of me, I know, but what can I say? I buy into the quaint notion that the people representing me in Congress and in the Oval Office should act in my interests. You'll just have to forgive my skepticism that the pressure of young voters and progressives will put Obama on a progressive path. This hasn't happened before with the Democratic Party in general, and it's not happening now with Obama.

P. McCarthy

Boston, MA

Jul 7 2008 - 4:18pm

Web Letter

Let's get this straight. McCain, an ideologue, takes a neocon position about Iraq and refuses to consider conditions on the ground. The Bush/Cheney/McCain Axis lied to all of us about Hussein because they had an agenda. Obama, a politician with charisma, takes a pragmatic position about Iraq and refuses to use ideology as a lens. Instead, he says, reasonably and rightly, that conditions on the ground will have something to do with how he proceeds to get our military out of Iraq, but that he will get them out. That position makes sense. Ideologues have been in control of this country for the past eight years. I'm tired of ideologues, especially right-wing ones, but left-wing ones would be just as unctuous. The Tom Haydens of the world have made good livings pretending that ideology is the answer, if only we put different ideologues in the White House. Nothing could be further from the truth. When I flip the Tom Hayden coin, I see George Wallace on the other side. When I flip the Obama coin, I see Philip Roth--a principled and nuanced but self-interested citizen. Obama is a politican the way Roth is a novelist. I'll take that any day over the alternatives.

Alan Davis

Moorhead, MN

Jul 6 2008 - 11:16pm

Web Letter

From Tom Hayden's statement that he "first endorsed Obama because of the nature of the movement supporting him, not his particular stands on issues," it is ridiculous for him to expect to be taken seriously now in his criticism of Obama because of his "nuanced" stance on Iraq. That was his position before Hayden endorsed him, and Hayden is now apparently using Obama's elevated status to provide a wider audience to his message.

I find your position to be more self-aggrandizement than serious politics. Unfortunately, this has been true of more of "the left" than I like, or would have thought possible. My fear is that, in your apparent desire to appear to remain true to your "cause," you are only too happy to assist in the knee-capping of the candidate who is most likely to even come close to acheiving what it is that you say you want.

Quite frankly, if this is Hayden's idea of "support," then Obama would be better off if Hayden pledged his allegiance to Nader.

Don Gaze

Atlanta, GA

Jul 6 2008 - 4:23pm

Web Letter

How interesting it is that suddenly Tom Hayden (and many others at The Nation) have discovered that Barack Obama is, gasp, a politician. What did they think a guy running for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party was before now?

The excuse Hayden gives is both laughable and absurd. He writes, “I first endorsed Obama because of the nature of the movement supporting him, not his particular stands on issues.” Give me a break. Hayden can’t really be serious. However, if he is, I then must ask how is it possible he (and others at The Nation) mistook a presidential campaign for a movement? (See the Oread Daily article of March 25, 2008, titled “A Presidential Campaign Is Not a Movement.”

For months on end, at the Oread Daily, I’ve been documenting Obama positions and statements that made clear that he was just another Democrat, really noting more.

I wasn’t alone all these many months in trying to explain to those lost in Obamamania that he was not who they seemed to think he was. You didn’t have to dig deeply to figure all this out.

Anyway, now Hayden would once again like to have it both ways. That is what happens when for too long one has tried to be part of the “respectable opposition” on one hand, while pretending on the other to be a “movement heavy.” He, at least, has that excuse. For some other so-called “progressives” who have been out there tooting Obama’s horn, I’m not sure what their excuse is.

And in the end, I regret to say, I’ll no doubt go out and cast a vote for Obama. He is no doubt a better choice than McCain. I’ll cast that vote knowing in the big world not all that much will change with an Obama presidency, but mindful of the fact that even a little change is worth something (I hope). Anyway casting a vote doesn’t require much effort and won’t take too much time away from working on the real tasks at hand.

John Brown

Kansas City, MO

Jul 6 2008 - 4:11pm

Web Letter

The United States is not responsible for Iraq's future. Iraqis are responsible for their future. This is called self- determination. Iraq has its own history and traditions. They will solve their problems in the context of their own history and traditions. Looking at the mess the US is in domestically and internationally, and it is obvious we cannot help Iraq or any other country. No Western country can guide the Middle East, because they are clueless, and Middle Eastern countries, quite rightly, will not tolerate direction.

I have been in the military, and I know how fast we can leave Iraq. It should not take any longer than the end of the conventional phase of the Iraq war. The President of the United States makes the policy and is Commander In Chief! The military services do not make policies! They execute the legal orders of the President. Give the order, and they will be out of there! It is a political decision based on the national interest of the United States! There are no military solutions in Iraq.

I have always been against imperialism in all its forms, and have been particularly annoyed by our various interventions in Latin America. However, when this country is attacked, I will support a war against the attacker. Pearl Harbor was and 9/11 is a reason to go to war. I do not regard Afghanistan as an imperial war. I don't like war, but sometimes you are not given a choice.

Pervis J. Casey

Riverside, CA

Jul 6 2008 - 1:20pm

Web Letter

The title says it all: "Barack at Risk." Not "The Nation at Risk" or "Troops at Risk" or "Iraqis at Risk." Poor Barack.

Daniel Todd Vuic

San Francisco, CA

Jul 6 2008 - 12:22pm

Web Letter

FISA, NAFTA, gun control, the death penalty, Iraq, faith-based initiatives, abortion, approach to diplomacy, healthcare, the economy... With each passing day, candidate Obama serves up a more "nuanced" position on these issues. These daily revelations have forced The Nation, Tom Hayden, and the vast majority of opinion writers in the blogosphere to "nuance' their initial endorsements of the Junion Senator from the state of Illinois. Clearly, as Mr. Hayden points out in his piece, his endorsement of Obama was never entirely about the issues (or Obama's position--or lack thereof --on any given issue), but rather about his charisma as a candidate and his ability to attract young, new voters to the Democratic Party.

During the primaries, Senator Obama and his staff clearly demonstrated a superior ability to exploit the current technology to sell his candidacy and raise a lot of money. Obama and his surrogates blanketed the YouTube site with flashy, hip videos and his campaign mantra, and at the same time painted his primary opponents as out-of-touch squares. His entire candidacy, as Mr. Hayden correctly points out, hinged on his opposition to the war in Iraq. He was able, by virtue of that single position, to beat back the "fairy tale" line of argument advanced by the Clinton campaign. However, we are now beginning to witness the fairy tale come true... and not just on Iraq either.

High on lofty rhetoric while low on concrete specifics, Obama's supporters began to project their own progressive inclinations into the "substance gaps" that strung together his lofty ideals of a post-racial America and self-serving, "New Kind of Politics" brand. This is exactly the kind of campaigning and self-delusion that brought us twenty years of Reagan/Bush.

Some of us never bought it. Moreover, some of us still refuse to buy the self-defeating, pragmatic argument that we, as progressives, have no alternative but to support Obama because he is the only candidate, despite all the evidence to the contrary, who responsive to our concerns. He isn't.

By all means, continue to keep up the pressure on your candidate. Believe in him, if you must. Frankly, I don't think I'm wired to trust a politician, having been raised to question authority. Prepare to be in Iraq for a long, long time.

Daniel Todd Vuic

San Francisco, CA

Jul 6 2008 - 12:02pm

Web Letter

But the "grassroots"peace movement is just as susceptible to corruption as any other power bloc in America.

Take MoveOn's "General Betrayus" ad that backfired so predictably. The ad had two effects, both plainly predictable: (1) it helped Bush shore up Republican support for "the surge" and (2) it was a fundraising bonanza for MoveOn as their army of online lemmings responded in knee-jerk fashion. Between 2004 and 2006, it was consensus on the formerly great antiwar blog Daily Kos (now just a cesspool of Obama groupthink) that criticism of American fighting forces was counterproductive, a lesson learned from the mistakes of Nam-era peace activists. With months of advance hyping of the Petraeus report, Bush's strategy to take his own face off the war and replace it with an Army General was utterly obvious. Yet MoveOn played along with Bush's game, violating the consensus antiwar wisdom: focus on the unpopular Bush, neocon crackpots and weasly politicians, while heaping nothing but praise on American troops.

In my opinion, this was a craven calculation to boost their own fundraising at the expense of their antiwar agenda. Their calculation was spot-on. Bush got his surge and MoveOn's fundraising went up.

It's no surprise that the "antiwar" movement ignored the warning signs from Samantha Power. They also ignored John Edward's warmongering at the Israeli Security Conference at Herzliya (where Edwards claimed that, as President, he could convince the American people to support a pre-emptive war against Iran, notwithstanding Iraq). The movement's agenda was not to stop the war but to prove their own power by stopping Hillary Clinton.

On the Fourth of July, I heard hipster icon Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth defend Obama's flip-flopping rampage as admirable "flexibility." Moore's not that stupid. He just has stock in the Obama "brand."

How did that go again? "All people are equal. But some are more equal than others."

Canaan Parker

New York, NY

Jul 6 2008 - 2:34am

Web Letter

Hayden writes: "I first endorsed Obama because of the nature of the movement supporting him, not his particular stands on issues." Personally, I consider that a decent explanation of the demise of what can loosely be described as the "left." It is, in the end a nonsense statement. If you don't support a candidate for his/her actual positions, then your position is that any demagogue who manages to enamor a substantial portion of some political segment, of the population you identify with, is worthy of support. There is no real substance to such a position, other than opportunism. Which pretty much seems to describe Obama.

Alan Pezaro

Sandia Park, NM

Jul 5 2008 - 11:52am