Who Is Greener: Hillary or Barack?
Tom Hayden & Matt Gonzales
Assess the Democratic Candidates: Part 1
March 13, 2008
An Endorsement of the Movement Barack Obama Leads
By Tom Hayden/ Huffington Post
(January 27, 2008) -- With the California primary ten days away, it's time to decide. And for me, it's not been easy.
|Tom Hayden ©University of Michigan|
My paramount concern is to prevent a Republican victory in November. Even though it seems to be a Democratic year, no one can say which Democratic can defeat, say, John McCain, the full-throated advocate of "winning" the Iraq war. At stake are many issues beyond Iraq, not least the appointment of the next generation of federal judges.
I will vote without hesitation for the Democratic nominee, if only to stop to the neo-conservative usurpation of power, which began in Florida in 2000.
One must choose a candidate based on the issues for which they stand, the spirit they invoke, and the people they are able to mobilize.
As for issues, the differences between Obama and Clinton on Iraq are difficult to pin down. Obama was against the Iraq war five years ago, and favors a more rapid pullout of combat troops than Clinton. But both would replace combat troops with an American counterinsurgency force of tens of thousands, potentially turning Iraq into Central America in the 1970s. Obama seems more supportive of diplomacy than Clinton, but he supports military intervention in Pakistan's tribal areas. Edwards favors a more rapid pullout from Iraq, but is unlikely to prevail.
On Iraq, the anti-war movement has helped turn a public majority against the war, a historic achievement. But the movement alone lacks much capacity to forge anything beyond the slogan of "bring the troops home." Our most achievable goal is a strong voter mandate for peace in November, the election of more Congressional Democrats, and spreading public awareness of the dangers of counterinsurgency. The election of a Democratic president is a necessary condition for ending the war, but sadly not a sufficient one.
So the choice remains.
I do not like the Hillary haters in our midst. As president, her court appointees alone would represent a relief from the present rigging of the courts and marginal improvements for working people. On Iraq, I believe she could be pushed to withdraw. She is a centrist, and it will be up to social movements to alter the center.
Nor do I like the role being played by President Bill Clinton, who is telling lies about Iraq and Obama that are unbecoming a former president.
Neither do I agree with Gloria Steinem's divisive claim that the gender barrier is greater than the racial one. Who wants to measure slavery against the Inquisition? In the case at hand, who among us would argue that the barriers against Hillary Clinton are greater than those facing Barack Obama? What is compelling is that most black women support Obama.
I respect John Edwards' campaign and the role he has played in driving the Democratic Party towards a progressive agenda. At this point, however, I cannot foresee a primary he will win.
That leaves Barack Obama. I have been devastated by too many tragedies and betrayals over the past 40 years to ever again deposit so much hope in any single individual, no matter how charismatic or brilliant. But today I see across the generational divide the spirit, excitement, energy and creativity of a new generation bidding to displace the old ways. Obama's moment is their moment, and I pray that they succeed without the sufferings and betrayals my generation went through.
There really is no comparison between the Obama generation and those who would come to power with Hillary Clinton, and I suspect she knows it. The people she would take into her administration may have been reformers and idealists in their youth, but they seem to seek now a return to their establishment positions of power. They are the sorts of people young Hillary Clinton herself would have scorned at Wellesley. If history is any guide, the new "best and brightest" of the Obama generation will unleash a new cycle of activism, reform and fresh thinking before they follow pragmatism to its dead end.
Many ordinary Americans will take a transformative step down the long road to the Rainbow Covenant if Obama wins. For at least a brief moment, people around the world -- from the shantytowns to the sweatshops, even to the restless rich of the Sixties generation -- will look up from the treadmills of their shrunken lives to the possibilities of what life still might be. Environmental justice and global economic hope would dawn as possibilities.
Is Barack the one we have been waiting for? Or is it the other way around? Are we the people we have been waiting for? Barack Obama is giving voice and space to an awakening beyond his wildest expectations, a social force that may lead him far beyond his modest policy agend. Such movements in the past led the Kennedys and Franklin Roosevelt to achievements they never contemplated. [As Gandhi once said of India's liberation movement, "There go my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader."]
We are in a precious moment where caution must yield to courage. It is better to fail at the quest for greatness than to accept our planet's future as only a reliving of the past.
So I endorse the movement that Barack Obama has inspired and will support his candidacy in the inevitable storms ahead.
The Obama Craze: Count Me Out
by Matt Gonzalez
Note: This essay was written several days before the author announced that he would be running for Vice President alongside consumer activist Ralph Nader.
(February 27, 2008) -- Part of me shares the enthusiasm for Barack Obama. After all, how could someone calling themself a progressive not sense the importance of what it means to have an African-American so close to the presidency? But as his campaign has unfolded, and I heard that we are not red states or blue states for the 6th or 7th time, I realized I knew virtually nothing about him.
Like most, I know he gave a stirring speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. I know he defeated Alan Keyes in the Illinois Senate race; although it wasn't much of a contest (Keyes was living in Maryland when he announced). Recently, I started looking into Obama's voting record, and I'm afraid to say I'm not just uninspired: I'm downright fearful. Here's why:
This is a candidate who says he's going to usher in change; that he is a different kind of politician who has the skills to get things done. He reminds us again and again that he had the foresight to oppose the war in Iraq. And he seems to have a genuine interest in lifting up the poor.
But his record suggests that he is incapable of ushering in any kind of change I'd like to see. It is one of accommodation and concession to the very political powers that we need to reign in and oppose if we are to make truly lasting advances.
THE WAR IN IRAQ
Let's start with his signature position against the Iraq war. Obama has sent mixed messages at best.
First, he opposed the war in Iraq while in the Illinois state legislature. Once he was running for US Senate though, when public opinion and support for the war was at its highest, he was quoted in the July 27, 2004 Chicago Tribune as saying, "There's not that much difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage. The difference, in my mind, is who's in a position to execute." The Tribune went on to say that Obama, "now believes US forces must remain to stabilize the war-ravaged nation -- a policy not dissimilar to the current approach of the Bush administration."
Obama's campaign says he was referring to the ongoing occupation and how best to stabilize the region. But why wouldn't he have taken the opportunity to urge withdrawal if he truly opposed the war? Was he trying to signal to conservative voters that he would subjugate his anti-war position if elected to the US Senate and perhaps support a lengthy occupation? Well as it turns out, he's done just that.
Since taking office in January 2005 he has voted to approve every war appropriation the Republicans have put forward, totaling over $300 billion. He also voted to confirm Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State despite her complicity in the Bush Administration's various false justifications for going to war in Iraq. Why would he vote to make one of the architects of "Operation Iraqi Liberation" the head of US foreign policy? Curiously, he lacked the courage of 13 of his colleagues who voted against her confirmation.
And though he often cites his background as a civil rights lawyer, Obama voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act in July 2005, easily the worse attack on civil liberties in the last half-century. It allows for wholesale eavesdropping on American citizens under the guise of anti-terrorism efforts.
And in March 2006, Obama went out of his way to travel to Connecticut to campaign for Senator Joseph Lieberman who faced a tough challenge by anti-war candidate Ned Lamont. At a Democratic Party dinner attended by Lamont, Obama called Lieberman "his mentor" and urged those in attendance to vote and give financial contributions to him. This is the same Lieberman who Alexander Cockburn called "Bush's closest Democratic ally on the Iraq War." Why would Obama have done that if he was truly against the war?
Recently, with anti-war sentiment on the rise, Obama declared he will get our combat troops out of Iraq in 2009. But Obama isn't actually saying he wants to get all of our troops out of Iraq. At a September 2007 debate before the New Hampshire primary, moderated by Tim Russert, Obama refused to commit to getting our troops out of Iraq by January 2013 and, on the campaign trail, he has repeatedly stated his desire to add 100,000 combat troops to the military.
At the same event, Obama committed to keeping enough soldiers in Iraq to "carry out our counter-terrorism activities there" which includes "striking at al Qaeda in Iraq." What he didn't say is this continued warfare will require an estimated 60,000 troops to remain in Iraq according to a May 2006 report prepared by the Center for American Progress. Moreover, it appears he intends to "redeploy" the troops he takes out of the unpopular war in Iraq and send them to Afghanistan. So it appears that under Obama's plan the US will remain heavily engaged in war.
This is hardly a position to get excited about.
CLASS ACTION REFORM:
In 2005, Obama joined Republicans in passing a law dubiously called the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) that would shut down state courts as a venue to hear many class action lawsuits. Long a desired objective of large corporations and President George Bush, Obama in effect voted to deny redress in many of the courts where these kinds of cases have the best chance of surviving corporate legal challenges. Instead, it forces them into the backlogged Republican-judge dominated federal courts.
By contrast, Senators Clinton, Edwards and Kerry joined 23 others to vote against CAFA, noting the "reform" was a thinly-veiled "special interest extravaganza" that favored banking, creditors and other corporate interests. David Sirota, the former spokesman for Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee, commented on CAFA in the June 26, 2006 issue of The Nation, "Opposed by most major civil rights and consumer watchdog groups, this Big Business-backed legislation was sold to the public as a way to stop "frivolous" lawsuits. But everyone in Washington knew the bill's real objective was to protect corporate abusers."
Nation contributor Dan Zegart noted further: "On its face, the class-action bill is mere procedural tinkering, transferring from state to federal court actions involving more than $5 million where any plaintiff is from a different state from the defendant company. But federal courts are much more hostile to class actions than their state counterparts; such cases tend to be rooted in the finer points of state law, in which federal judges are reluctant to dabble.
And even if federal judges do take on these suits, with only 678 of them on the bench (compared with 9,200 state judges), already overburdened dockets will grow. Thus, the bill will make class actions -- most of which involve discrimination, consumer fraud and wage-and-hour violations -- all but impossible. One example: After forty lawsuits were filed against Wal-Mart for allegedly forcing employees to work "off the clock," four state courts certified these suits as class actions. Not a single federal court did so, although the practice probably involves hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide."
Why would a civil rights lawyer knowingly make it harder for working-class people to have their day in court, in effect shutting off avenues of redress? ...
Continued in Part 2.
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