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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why I believe Barack Obama should be president

Brian O'Dwyer

As we move through this last month of presidential campaigning, the time has come for us all to assess the candidates and make a decision, based on what we believe is right for America in general, and Irish America in particular.

The campaign, while at times seeming interminable, has nevertheless given us ample opportunity to assess the candidates, their advisors, and their positions. It is certainly no secret that I have been staunch supporter of Senator Hillary Clinton and I continue to believe that she would make a magnificent president. Nor is it a secret that during the course of the campaign I have been critical of Senator Obama's campaign.

Nevertheless, the time has come to make our choice between the two candidates that will be on the ballot on November 4th. I am going to vote for Barack Obama.

I have been a lifelong supporter of two causes that Irish Americans hold dear: freedom for northeast Ireland, and an end to the historical discrimination embodied in our immigration laws against the Irish.

In both instances I have more confidence in Senator Obama than in Senator McCain.

While Obama's record on Irish issues is relatively thin, it stands in clear contrast with McCain's record of opposition to the historical Irish American initiatives that have brought peace to Northern Ireland.

Irish American political involvement clearly led to the granting of a visa to Gerry Adams. It was not only the capstone of Irish American influence in American political life, it was the single most precipitating event that started Northern Ireland on the way to peace, and Ireland on the road to prosperity.

All of us can be proud of our role in bringing that about and will be forever grateful to President Clinton for his courage in the face of strong opposition in granting the Adams visa. As Senator, John McCain was both openly critical and dismissive of President Clinton's actions. If history be our guide, we can expect no better from President McCain than we received from Senator McCain.

On the question of immigration, I have previously expressed my admiration for Senator McCain's courage in advocating for comprehensive immigration reform.

Unfortunately, as the presidential campaign has progressed, McCain has distanced himself from his previous views and has instead embraced the anti-immigrant rhetoric we have long fought against.

The Republican Party platform, which is largely shaped by the candidate and upon which Senator McCain is running, is an unmitigated disaster for those of us who believe in a compassionate immigration policy. I maintain my respect and admiration for Jeff Cleary and Grant Lally, both passionate advocates for Irish immigration, but their influence has clearly waned in the face of the right wing of the Republican Party. We can expect little or nothing from a McCain presidency on the question of immigration reform.

In clear contrast, two of Irish America's most passionate advocates, Congressmen Richard Neal, and Joseph Crowley, have come to the forefront of the Obama campaign.

Both have spent their entire political careers as skillful champions of those issues important to Irish Americans.

Like many other immigration advocates I believe that the end of the suffering of the undocumented Irish and the end to the historical discrimination inherent in our immigration laws can only be achieved within the context of comprehensive immigration reform. I believe that the best chance of achieving our goals is within an Obama administration.

This story appeared in the Irish Echo newspaper on October 22-28, 2008

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