by MONITOR
BARACK Obama shows a commendable ability to deal with tricky issues in a straightforward and robust way.
On more than one occasion he has defused potentially explosive situations that a less clear-minded politician might have allowed to detonate with unpredictable consequences. He acted in this way over the anti-American remarks of the pastor of his local church, the Rev Wright - an incident that might have derailed his whole campaign if not handled cleanly. During the past few days Senator Obama has had to deal with the questioning of Senator McCain's military record voiced by retired General Wesley Clark who has been mentioned as a possible Obama choice for vice-president. “I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign” was Obama's immediate response, adding “For those like John McCain who have endured physical torment in service to our country, no further proof of such sacrifice is needed.” There are always loose cannons firing troublesome broadsides in US election campaigns. The candidates cannot control what the thousands of supporters will say or the TV commercials they may make.

The source of the Republican questioning of Senator John Kerry's Vietnam war record with Swiftboats in the 2004 campaign has still not been located even though it did real harm to Kerry's prospects. Obama is wise to bring such issues into the open as quickly as possible and handle them head-on. There will be plenty more between now and November.

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