About That Obama Endorsement…

New York City

I was not surprised by your endorsement of Barack Obama [“Obama’s Promise,” Feb. 25]. But I was astonished that you made no mention of an editorial you ran almost exactly twelve months earlier vowing “not [to] support any candidate who does not call for a speedy withdrawal of our troops” from Iraq [“Into 2008,” Feb. 26, 2007]. “Speedy withdrawal” is not Obama’s position, by a long shot. Not only has he promised to maintain a military presence in order to protect the new US Embassy in Baghdad, the largest embassy in the world; he also says he’ll keep troops in or around Iraq in case “Al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq.” Considering that Al Qaeda already has a base in Iraq, this is a loophole big enough to admit a B-52. Promises of any kind of withdrawal, speedy or sluggish, are thus meaningless.

Obama also says he’ll send two additional brigades to Afghanistan, increase the number of US combat troops overall by 100,000 and strike at “terrorist” targets inside Pakistan with or without the Pakistani government’s say-so. Not even the Bush Administration goes that far.

The next time you run a tough-talking editorial like the one in February 2007, perhaps you ought to attach a disclaimer saying, “Not to be taken seriously.”


The Editors Reply

In November 2005 we stated in our cover editorial: “The Nation will not support any candidate for national office who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq a major issue of his or her campaign.” We urged all voters to join us in adopting this position. In February 2007, we harked back to that editorial when we wrote, “This magazine has already staked out its position on one of the day’s great challenges: ending the military occupation of Iraq. We will not support any candidate who does not call for a speedy withdrawal of our troops.”

In accord with our November 2005 statement, Barack Obama has made a speedy end to the war in Iraq a centerpiece of his campaign. His opposition to that war from its start has been the core of both his distinction from Hillary Clinton and his legitimate claim for having the judgment needed to be President.

This does not mean that The Nation endorses every one of his Iraq-related policies. Obama’s plan to end the war–like that of the largest bloc of antiwar Democrats in Congress–falls short in some important respects. The size of the embassy he plans to maintain, his ambiguous stance on private contractors and his plans for a sizable “follow-on force” are all reasons for concern (see Jeremy Scahill’s “Obama’s Mercenary Position,” March 17). In the remainder of this presidential campaign, and no matter who wins the nomination, the very definition of withdrawal will be repeatedly contested–and we will continue to publish articles and editorials that strive to sharpen and clarify the terms of that debate. Moreover, we will continue to oppose the commitment of both Clinton and Obama to increasing the size of the military and to spending more on our military than the rest of the world combined. We believe that progressives must mobilize to challenge these policies.

We endorsed Obama as the better choice in this election, in part because we believe that the new energy he is calling into electoral politics will push the limits of his own politics. We applaud him for his commitment to grassroots organizing and mobilization, for unleashing this new energy. It will be our task–and the task of activists and others across the country–to keep pushing beyond the limits that he or any candidate for President would define.


Cancellations Left and Right

Montclair, N.J.

What gives me the most royal pain in my old left-wing bottom are people who cancel subscriptions at the drop of an idea or a position they disagree with–in this case The Nation‘s support for Obama’s candidacy [“Letters,” March 24]. It just proves that some lefties can be as rigid and idiotic as righties.


New York City

I have never written a letter to the editor. This is a first. You mention the shock of some readers at your Obama endorsement. Well, frankly I am shocked that readers of a progressive publication like The Nation would be so shortsighted. Maybe they should cancel their subscriptions; clearly they want to hear only their own echo and not the informed opinion of The Nation.


Waldwick, N.J.

The anti-Obama and pro-Hillary letters in the March 24 issue were unbelievable. Bravo to The Nation for endorsing Barack Obama. He will bring a fresh voice, fresh mind and fresh ideas to America. I am a 70-year-old woman, and I am having a problem that so many women will vote for Hillary because she is a woman.


Hugo Chávez: Après Moi?

Charlotte, N.C.

Daniel Wilkinson’s “Chávez’s Fix” [March 10] did a commendable job of exposing the complexities of Venezuelan politics, something largely absent in the US press, where we are fed ad nauseam that Vene­zuelan democracy is being circumscribed by a tin-pot dictator. The US media, operating in a Manichaean world of good versus evil, report Chávez’s unapologetic diatribes with zero context, call him a strong-arm leader of a “regime” and hype his relationship with Castro. The Chávez government deserves its share of criticism. But while we can hope Venezuela’s experiment succeeds and does not succumb to authoritarianism and Chávez worship, our main goal must be to stop our own government’s designs on Venezuela and the region.


McKeesport, Pa.

Daniel Wilkinson compares Chávez’s response to the April 11, 2002, coup attempt to George W. Bush’s actions after 9/11. Bush devastated two ancient societies, while Chávez, when all the powers in Venezuelan society combined with the world’s most powerful imperialist to overthrow his duly elected government, responded with measures to undercut those powers and strengthen his revolution. It is somewhat perverse to see either as mainly an attempt “to expand executive power.” The threat to the United States after 9/11 hardly changed. (Except, of course, for the possibility that it would put the Administration on the catastrophically stupid course it actually chose.) In Venezuela, the stakes are “With Chávez every­thing; without Chávez, bullets,” which Wilkinson professes not to understand. It means that, once begun, revolutions that fail usually end in a hail of counter­revolutionary bullets, cf. Chile, 1973.


Woodstock, N.Y.

Apparently Bush and Chávez hate each other because, although both govern in a somewhat dictatorial way, the mal­adept Bush does it in a clumsy way with the intention of establishing a hierarchy of the wealthy and reducing the middle and working classes to peonage, whereas Chávez is brilliantly able to rein in the wealthy while enabling the poor and the working class.