This isn't a diary I'd choose to write. I'd rather it wasn't necessary at all but after four plus decades of Left activism, I've learned that one of the worst things you can do is remain silent when you see others marching down a dead end.

I don't expect to win any popularity contests for what I have to say. I certainly didn't the last time I wrote on this topic. I'd hoped I wouldn't have to do so again. Given the number of diaries that have appeared on the subject of President Obama and the acrimony they've produced, I don't see how I can, in good conscience, avoid it.

Best to make a few things clear at the beginning. I don't object to intelligent criticism of the President. I don't object to protest against his actions where warranted.

What I object to and suspect a large number of folks object to, is pointless, divisive, vitriolic squabbling over the President's character, fueled by demagoguery.

Pointless because, despite repeated inquiries, no one has been able supply a reasoned, cogent argument as to why attacks on the President's character should be a central focus of left critiques. Certainly such a focus isn't necessary to opposing the proponents of austerity. At least I've seen no one present a compelling argument that it is. Granted I haven't followed every twist and turn of this endless wrangle, so if one has in fact been presented, just point it out.

Now it's certainly true that President Obama has signaled a willingness to put cuts to SSI and other social programs on the table in pursuit of a "grand bargain" with the GOP. That's unacceptable. Particularly since SSI doesn't contribute an iota to the deficit. Obviously he deserves an avalanche of opposition on this. I doubt that many kossacks would disagree. Where the disagreement seems to lie is whether this is simply maneuvering by the President or part of an unspoken agenda to impose austerity on US society.

In other words, we are having a near civil war not over whether the President's capitulation to the narrative of austerity is good or bad policy but whether it is mistaken or intentional.

This, INMO, is a foolish argument to have. Foolish because it makes no practical difference as far as the tasks before us are concerned. At best it is a diversion. At worst it is self defeating in that it divides the opposition to austerity along so called pro and anti Obama lines.

Does anyone really believe that if there were a different occupant in the oval office that it would change anything regarding the aggregate  forces driving for austerity? Not likely. Not even if the occupant were the second coming of FDR.

The only thing that will defeat the drive for austerity is the same thing that drove FDR in a progressive direction: a mass mobilization against the forces of plutocracy.

It follows from this that we have neither the time or resources to squander on extraneous side shows. Neither do we have the luxury of indulging in cliquish factionalism that serves no apparent purpose other than to divide those opposed to austerity into warring camps.

In particular, we need to turn our backs on the sort of demagoguery that has been practiced on both sides of this absurdity. I've no doubt that there are those on both sides, hopefully small in number, for whom an effective fight against austerity is secondary to settling political, ideological and personal scores. Such is always the case in politics. It is vital that those of us, regardless of political coloration, who consider defeating austerity the over arching goal, not allow ourselves to be manipulated by such elements.

The first step in resisting such manipulation is to establish what the our basis for unity should be. In this instance, we must decide whether it should be a general opposition to austerity or one's assessment of President Obama's character. For me there is no question that it should be the former rather than the latter.

The second step is for each of us to take responsibility for calling out demagoguery when we see it being practiced. This is a necessity across the board but it is particularly incumbent upon us when we see smear, innuendo, character assassination and fabrication being practiced by those who ostensibly share our own perspective.

For myself, I've identified as a left radical since my teens. My particular responsibility isn't to make moderates into better moderates or liberals into better liberals but to aid, to the best of my ability, in making radicals into better radicals.

In keeping with that responsibility, I formally pose the question that I raised at the beginning of this diary: Why should the question of the President's character be the central focus of debate?

If there is a reasoned argument to be made, I'm ready to hear it. There's caveat though, for those who behave as though the President is the crux of the problem. If you can't come up with such an argument, you need to have a serious rethink of your position.

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