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An Open Letter to Barack Obama on the Eve of the Last Presidential Debate

By       Message Jayne Lyn Stahl       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   2 comments

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Dear Senator Obama:

You already know me to be a supporter of yours--not for weeks, or months, but for years. Today, arguably, on the eve of your most important presidential debate, please keep the following things in mind before your face-off with Senator McCain.

First and foremost, what distinguishes your campaign from that of your opponent's is that you see the world in three dimensions, and understand the importance of nuance. The world, to you, is not black or white, but gray. For a decade or more, indeed stretching back to the 1950's, this capacity would be viewed as a curse more than a gift.

Those of us for whom the economy has been the hot button issue throughout this Republican regime admire the facility with which you've not only grasped, but elevated the economic issue, but as Arianna Huffington, and others are suggesting, the next presidency will be decided not only economic issues alone, but on matters of national security, and it is this issue, principally, that requires your attention now.

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If, as you say, a President must be able to do more than one thing at a time, we need you to focus on the bogus claims of McCain/Palin to be the patriots, and the ones who are better positioned to keep this country safe.

It simply isn't enough to prop Joe Biden up as the antidote to the reckless, and insubstantial claims of foreign policy inexperience, or ineptitude, brought against Obama by the McCain camp. The false logic that simply because one has spent decades as the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee one has the expertise to handle Al Qaeda is, in the end, not altogether different from John McCain's assertion that his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam makes him better able to be commander-in-chief. It is ugent for Joe Biden to come up with a concrete vision for how he sees foreign policy will progress under President Obama.

The American people want to hear what you think about NSA unwarranted surveillance on ordinary citizens, and service members, as well as whether you think it is right to grant immunity from prosecution on war crimes charges to members of any administration that sanctions torture.

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We also want to hear you say that, while you're a Christian and not a Muslim, the Constitution guarantees that there will be no religious test for seeking office in the United States.

It's not enough to say that, while the surge may be working, we don't belong in Iraq in the first place any more than it's enough to argue that you had good judgment because you were among the few originally opposed to the war. While this is true, it is more important tomorrow night, than ever before, that you clarify your worldview, with respect to future military engagements, and how it is different from that of your opponent.

In these last few weeks before Election Day, it's more important now than ever to expose the fraud that is the faux national security stance of John McCain, as well as ongoing Republican efforts to privatize the military, and to question whether contractors, or shadow soldiers, do a disservice to those in uniform.

We must ask members of the military, law enforcement, and public servants the same question we ask other Americans: are you better off today than you were eight years ago? Have the Republicans in the White House, and Congress, treated you fairly? Does John McCain promise a difference? Clearly, not, as it was Senator McCain who voted down expanding an enhanced GI Bill sponsored by Senator Jim Webb.

With all due respect, Senator Obama, Joe Biden is not your safety net. You need to repeat General Petraeus' words that talk is more effective than preemptive attacks over and over again. You need to come to the table with more testimony from Bush generals, and military officials, that exposes the Republican claim of prowess in national security to be what it is: two-faced, and bogus.

You need to get law enforcement in on the act, too. The last eight years haven't been any better for members of our nation's police force than for our service members. One has only to look at the gang warfare in our nation's inner cities, and the inability of major cities to even recruit police officers. The only reason why anyone in uniform would vote Republican is because the Democrats aren't making a strong enough argument exposing the fact that, under Republicans, police budgets, nationwide, have been slashed, and their lives endangered.

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Most of all, it is encumbent upon you, Senator Obama, to show that the policies of Bush/McCain will not make us any safer on Main Street, Wall Street, Baghdad, Karachi, or the South Bronx. In fact, military expansionism, and corporate gluttony, have increasingly led us to the brink of disaster.

These are extraordinary requests, but you are an extraordinary man. We'd like to believe you will not disappoint us.


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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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