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A Defense of David Cobb

I usually find that I agree with and appreciate the stands you have taken, but I must disagree with your take on David Cobb and the Green Convention, and I think you have been mislead by your sources in your recent article. In as much as this is the second time that Counterpunch has published slander by Bob Buzzanco about me and my wife Deb Shafto, I thought I had better respond. Let me begin with your quotes from Buzzanco, who has portrayed himself as the victim of a Zionist attack because of his staunch defense of Palestinian rights both in your recent article and in his earlier article in Counterpunch, “Was This Network Worth Saving? Pacifica Caves in to a Smear Campaign“. There are several problems with his interpretation of events at KPFT. The people he accuses of putting on a smear campaign are not Zionists. The only person who was a Zionist, the woman who claimed he had made a remark to her that could be interpreted as anti-Jewish, knew nothing of Buzzanco or his political positions prior to making the claim. She had no interest in publicizing or pursuing the incident further.

You quote Buzzanco as saying that my wife and I “were using KPFT as a campaign vehicle, to the detriment of other Left parties. They were front and center in the campaign calling me and others anti-Semitic.” I am not sure what left parties he’s talking about, as there were none in Houston running candidates at that time. Nor what he means by using KPFT as a campaign vehicle. I had a weekly radio show in which I interviewed, in the entire time between filing for candidacy and the election, Rahul Mahajan, Green Party candidate for governor in 2002, once, had my co-host interview myself, running for congress, together with Rahul, once, and mentioned my wife’s candidacy for the county executive position once in another interview about local matters. Perhaps Buzzanco feels the station shouldn’t have been giving any time to Green candidates in the elections in Texas. I don’t.

As far as calling Buzzanco anti-Semitic, or participating in a campaign that called him anti-Semitic, that is a complete fabrication. Buzzanco and I had been friends and political allies prior to the incident he describes as a Zionist attack, and which I consider part of an internal KPFT power struggle. What he deems calling him and others (what others?) anti-Semitic was, apparently, my refusal to take sides on the issue of whether he did or didn’t say what he was alleged to say in the incident he wrote about in Counterpunch. I wasn’t there, and the statements by the people who were there is so contradictory that nothing can be concluded. Buzzanco apparently feels that my entertaining the possibility that he might have said in anger something he wouldn’t want to defend, a possibility that exists for all of us, is unforgivable. That David Cobb didn’t take seriously the trash that Buzzanco gave him as an indictment of me and my wife is to his credit. I suggest if you want to find out Cobb’s position on Palestine/Israel you ask him, rather than using a second-hand account of his actions in this matter as evidence. For the record, I spoke as a Green candidate for congress at a large demonstration called by local Palestinian organizations in front of the Israeli consulate against the Israeli mistreatment of the Palestinians, did several shows on the issue, described Sharon and his policies as a threat to the existence of the Israeli state in my candidates speech to the Jewish community center, and my candidacy was endorsed by the Palestinian Affairs Council.

As far as Cobb’s motivations are concerned, you describe him as driving out Camejo and McKinney as candidates for President. I have heard Cobb on two occasions, in public, say, well before the convention, that he would withdraw if either of them would run. That this had happened was confirmed, in the case of Camejo, by Camejo himself in his acceptance of the vice -presidential nomination as an independent with Nader. Camejo then asked if Cobb would now withdraw, although of course, the offer was for Camejo running for president as a Green, not vice-president as an independent.

On the question of local organizing, you quote an unnamed Green organizer as saying that Cobb was uninterested in opposing the stadium referendum here in Houston. Perhaps at one time, but I had Cobb as a representative of the Greens on my show along with four others in the middle of that campaign in a panel discussion of people who were all opposed to the stadium.

And finally, you describe Cobb as marketing himself as a working class hero. Actually, although he is proud of his raised poor working class roots, his last words to the convention were “We’re two ordinary people rolling up their sleeves and getting the job done.” What’s wrong with that? And what’s wrong with a dirt poor kid from the valley getting a law degree and going to work for an insurance firm? Perhaps working class children should only aspire to get jobs directly in the revolution?

On the larger question of whether the convention did the right thing, the issue was whether or not some of the ballot positions would be given to the Nader-Camejo candidacy by voting for no candidate and then endorsing their candidacy, or running a Green organizer who wanted the position. 5 positions out of 22 would have been lost altogether by doing so. While this certainly had advantages for the Nader campaign campaign, it would have had none for the Green Party, and I think would have meant the end of the party as an independent expression of a progressive political perspective. If you think as I do, that the Green party is not just a pressure group on the Democratic party establishment, but should be nurtured as a replacement for the Democratic party, then the choice was clear. If you are mainly concerned with defeating Kerry in this election as a means of forcing the Democratic establishment to the left, which I think is at least as unlikely an outcome, then of course you would disagree. Cobb’s latest take on this is to leave it up to state parties in contested states as to how they want him to campaign in their state.

Sincerely yours,

GEORGE REITER

GEORGE REITER can be reached at: reiter@mail.uh.edu

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