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Where Would Obama Take the Nation?

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Her principal argument was that she believed Obama could help this generation of Americans pull together to address worsening problems and “leave America a better, stronger place than the one it found,” like her grandfather’s generation did.

But Susan Eisenhower also recalled her grandfather’s great insight, the warning in his farewell address about the danger looming from the “military-industrial complex” and the potential that democracy might become the “insolvent phantom of tomorrow.” [Washington Post, Feb. 2, 2008]

When combined with the endorsements of President John F. Kennedy’s daughter Caroline and his surviving brother Edward Kennedy, this Eisenhower support suggests that heirs to leaders from that earlier era see something in Obama that gives them hope that he can get the United States back on track with an earlier vision of America.

In Obama’s rhetoric, there are echoes of both Eisenhower’s cautionary advice and Kennedy’s famous speech at American University on June 10, 1963, when the President spoke about “the most important topic on earth: world peace.”

Kennedy continued: “What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave.

“I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children – not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women – not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.”

While recognizing the daunting challenges then presented by the Soviet Union, Kennedy went on to say:  “So, let us not be blind to our differences. But let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. …

“For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.”

Ending a War Mindset

Of the five remaining major candidates for President, only Obama seems to offer that kind of direction for resolving disputes through negotiations, not ultimatums.

In the Jan. 31 debate in Los Angeles, he not only criticized Hillary Clinton’s vote authorizing George W. Bush to invade Iraq but he disputed the critique now prevalent in opinion circles of Washington, that the war was a good idea, just poorly executed.

“I don’t want to just end the war (in Iraq), but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place,” Obama said.

The Illinois senator apparently was referring to his readiness to hold discussions with U.S. enemies without preconditions, a position that Clinton has called naïve and a sign of his inexperience.

Meanwhile, on the Republican side, the leading contenders – John McCain, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee – are competing over how enthusiastically to embrace Bush’s Iraq War and how lavishly to finance the Pentagon and its many military contractors.

The Republicans are advocating locking in military spending at four percent of the gross domestic product or higher, essentially guaranteeing that Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” will remain a well-financed fixture in American politics.

The four-percent-or-higher sum is roughly the amount that President Bush is recommending for the next fiscal year, which when expressed in dollars and adjusted for inflation is the highest military spending since World War II. [NYT, Feb. 4, 2008]

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at

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