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Hands Off Obama

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Lately, Barack Obama has become everybody's favorite punching bag.

What's left of the Left are going after him for abandoning gun control in support of dubious Second Amendment rights, as well as his revised stance on FISA, newly-nuanced views on troop withdrawal in Iraq, and his desire to extend, and expand, George W. Bush's faith-based initiative programs, to name but a few. Then, of course, there's Obama's recent contention that a woman's mental state should not exempt her from the Supreme Court ban on late-term abortion.

These are all full-throated assertions, and no one is suggesting, for a moment, that these recent seismic shifts to the center aren't letting the air out of the Obama balloon. But, they are also showing that Houdini isn't running for president, and even Houdini would be hard-pressed to run a campaign without interference from party elders.

The Democrats, and so-called progressives, are doing such a good job of attacking Obama that McCain is struggling to come up with a campaign strategy. If the barbs against the Illinois senator keep up at a steady rate, McCain won't even need a strategy---all he'll need to do is keep his mouth shut.

Clearly, the single most precarious issue, for Obama, is the war. While the economy may be the ultimate concern for working Americans, nobody takes John McCain's economic plan as anything but a continuation of that of his predecessor's, but those who oppose the ongoing occupation of Iraq will account for a greater presence at their polls than voters who support Nader or Barr.

For some, it is too bad the world comes in three dimensions. How much easier it would be if one could merely say "let's roll up our tent and go home." Yes, there are serious questions about whether a President Obama will allow for the continued occupation of Iraq long after the military leaves. But, Obama's mistake might not be that he said he intends to revisit the idea of troop withdrawal in the first 16 months he's in office, or that his decisions, as a commander-in-chief, will depend on the situation in Iraq at the time.

Curiously, like President Kennedy before him, Obama's biggest mistake might be that he recognizes, and acknowledges, that his decisions are nuanced, not obdurate, and subject to change. Doubtless, JFK kicked up a lot of dust, behind the scenes, from those whose interests were better served by maintaining, and expanding, troop presence in Vietnam, and Obama is kicking up a lot of dust by saying he is thoughtful, willing to move into the gray zone and out of the binary field of black and white, right and wrong, progressive and conservative. This scares the wits out of people.

Nothing bothers this country of the Puritans, by the Puritans, and for the Puritans more than a thinking president. Look at all the crap thrown at Jimmy Carter for not blowing up Iran when he had the chance.

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But, hey, simply yelling out "stop the war, I want to get off" won't do it either nor will voting for Ralph Nader (read: John McCain). The solution is to work with the problem, not abandon it, and hold Obama to task for his pledge to have better judgment.

More importantly, we need leadership that will move us from a wartime to a peacetime economy, and one whose vision is to de-escalate, not look for more parts of the globe to preempt or provoke.

Those who argue that Senator Obama doesn't have a "plan" to get us out of Iraq are naive if they think that a Kucinich, Nader, or any other "plan" would not meet with fatal resistance from the military industrial complex. Didn't we just come out of eight years of pathological lying? Do we want to elect another president who will lie to us?

The infrastructure for war, and wartime profiteering, are deeply embedded in our country's ethos. Patriotism is inseparable from militarism. If you have any questions about that, just listen to what conservative talk show pundits, like Bill Bennett, say about guys like Wes Clark---that he's a four-star general makes him perfect presidential material. Okay, so why did we ask Pakistan's Musharraf to take off his uniform if generals are so ideally-suited for governance?

We need leadership that will address the need to continue affirmative action programs at a time when we have more youngsters of color in our nation's prisons than in our nation's universities.

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In the end, those who contend that Obama represents a movement are right, and he must account to that movement, and it is up to the talking heads, pundits, progressives, and Congress to hold him accountable once he takes the oath of office.

In the meantime, efforts to sabotage him by pointing out his flip-flops will only result in a president, McCain, who has the opportunity to appoint another neanderthal to the Supreme Court, and provoke greater global hostility in the name of homeland security.

While McCain may be limping, he's not wounded, just a bit dazed. Who'd have thought that he'd be up against this kind of opponent---clearly not the designated heir-apparent. But, make no mistake, while he may need to refresh his settings, or regain his balance, McCain is far from down for the punch, and this recent effort to expose, and attack Obama can only help McCain in November.

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Widely published, poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter; member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA. Jayne Lyn Stahl is a Huffington Post blogger.

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Obama is the most progressive candidate we've ... by Houston Radical on Sunday, Jul 6, 2008 at 8:34:19 PM
Johnson gave us Medicare - medical care for people... by Michael Collins on Monday, Jul 7, 2008 at 1:41:31 PM
...back into reality. I want Obama to be president... by JC Garrett on Sunday, Jul 6, 2008 at 9:29:40 PM
Obama has said that he and Chris Dodd are fine tun... by Jayne Lyn Stahl on Sunday, Jul 6, 2008 at 10:08:34 PM
NOT THIS THE LESSER OF EVIL AGAIN, GOD HELP US ALL... by RICH SHA on Monday, Jul 7, 2008 at 2:09:26 AM
Why should people take a hands off position on&nbs... by robert braunstein on Sunday, Jul 6, 2008 at 10:24:11 PM
"In the meantime, efforts to sabotage him by ... by Aurora on Monday, Jul 7, 2008 at 12:04:14 AM
Excellent article! Give Obama a break, unless you... by Julie Johnson on Monday, Jul 7, 2008 at 12:17:01 AM
Hell No. You may be OK with the long, long la... by Michael Cavlan on Monday, Jul 7, 2008 at 12:47:43 AM
We are lucky some people like Obama have survived ... by Jason Paz on Monday, Jul 7, 2008 at 3:20:22 AM my support of Obama; until Clinton's wit... by francine on Monday, Jul 7, 2008 at 4:47:33 AM
When I tried to say something similar a few days a... by Riverman on Monday, Jul 7, 2008 at 8:04:21 AM
And I think it's not purely coincidental that ... by francine on Monday, Jul 7, 2008 at 8:51:38 AM
All the progressives I know will be voting for Oba... by ClearEye on Monday, Jul 7, 2008 at 10:09:22 AM
because no real case can be made for Obama on his ... by Richard Mynick on Monday, Jul 7, 2008 at 11:52:10 AM
Obama isn't moving to the center, he is procla... by Michael Collins on Monday, Jul 7, 2008 at 1:24:43 PM
No Obama is not even slightly good for America or ... by Gallaher on Monday, Jul 7, 2008 at 8:15:48 PM
Unless you make more than $250,000 to $350,000, Ob... by Julie Johnson on Monday, Jul 7, 2008 at 10:17:53 PM
Does anyone really believe that either of these tw... by Deborah Wells on Tuesday, Jul 8, 2008 at 12:48:32 AM
to business as usual in Washington DC to lobbyi... by Jack Harrington on Tuesday, Jul 8, 2008 at 10:25:37 AM
HA! HA! HA!   Vote for My Favorite Marti... by Jayne Lyn Stahl on Tuesday, Jul 8, 2008 at 12:00:34 PM
You are a terrific fiction writer.To write non-fic... by Jack Harrington on Thursday, Jul 17, 2008 at 7:31:53 PM
Bush was not elected. If no one voted for Nader he... by robert braunstein on Friday, Jul 11, 2008 at 12:09:18 AM