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Progressives put bug in Barack Obama's (left) ear

August 1, 2008 |  9:59 am

As if hecklers weren't enough, Barack Obama gets a little cuff on the ear this week in the form of an open letter at the Nation. Signed by a long roster of political progressives -- including Barbara Ehrenreich, Robert Greenwald, William Greider, Tom Hayden, Walter Mosley, Katha Pollitt and David Sirota -- the letter urges Obama to, essentially, stick with those who got him to the dance.

"Since your historic victory in the primary, there have been troubling signs that you are moving away from the core commitments shared by many who have supported your Progressives_sign_open_letter_in_th campaign, toward a more cautious and centrist stance -- including, most notably, your vote for the FISA legislation granting telecom companies immunity from prosecution for illegal wiretapping, which angered and dismayed so many of your supporters.

"We recognize that compromise is necessary in any democracy. We understand that the pressures brought to bear on those seeking the highest office are intense. But retreating from the stands that have been the signature of your campaign will weaken the movement whose vigorous backing you need in order to win and then deliver the change you have promised."

We've previously noted the unease on the left about the progression of Obama's campaign. The question, of course, is whether the political left has anywhere else to turn. This is as close to true political power -- the kind that controls national agendas -- as the progressive have been in years, so it's hard to imagine too many of them drifting off to Ralph Nader come November.

But if Obama does win in November, they warn that they won't exactly give him a pass.

"In other areas -- such as the use of residual forces and mercenary troops in Iraq, the escalation of the US military presence in Afghanistan, the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the death penalty -- your stated positions have consistently varied from the positions held by many of us, the 'friends on the left' you addressed in recent remarks. If you win in November, we will work to support your stands when we agree with you and to challenge them when we don't."

The letter invites others to sign on.

-- Scott Martelle

Photo: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times