Today two of The Nation‘s most valued contributors, Naomi Klein and Jeremy Scahill, published pieces in The Guardian and the Huffington Post critical of this magazine’s endorsement of Barack Obama. This is our reply.
Naomi Klein and Jeremy Scahill are valued contributors to The Nation. Their writing and reporting are essential to the magazine’s journalistic work and impact. However, their Huffington Post column, “Players, Not Cheerleaders” reflects a serious misunderstanding of The Nation‘s role in this election when it comes to ending this disastrous war.
Klein and Scahill suggest that The Nation, along with “some of the most prominent anti-war voices” has decided that we should “simply pick a candidate who is not John McCain and help them win: we’ll sort out the details after the Republicans are evicted from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.”
Nowhere have we stated or even implied that this is our philosophy. It is true that The Nation has endorsed Barack Obama. But as we have explained, that does not mean that The Nation endorses every one of his Iraq-related policies. Obama’s plan to end the war falls short in some important respects. We have been critical of the size of the embassy he plans to maintain, his ambiguous stance on private contractors and his plans for a sizable “follow-on force” (concerns raised in Scahill’s March 17, 2008 Nation piece, “Obama’s Mercenary Position“.
In the remainder of this presidential campaign, and no matter who wins the Democratic nomination, the very definition of withdrawal will be repeatedly contested. We will continue to publish articles and editorials like Scahill’s 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, as Klein and Scahill do, that progressives must use the continuing primary race to challenge these policies.
However, contrary to Klein and Scahill’s assumption, there is no reason to think withholding our endorsement would have given us greater leverage over both of the Democratic candidates, on the war or any other issue. To the contrary, progressives who are backing Barack Obama have chosen to do so in order to exert pressure on him to represent their values.
The Nation 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 welcome his commitment to grassroots organizing and mobilization for unleashing this new energy. But we also recognize that this is no time to cheerlead. It will be our task–and the task of activists, of writers like Klein and Scahill and of others to across the country–to keep pushing beyond the limits that Barack Obama or any candidate for president would define.