In 2000, I spent many evenings and some very cold days campaigning for Hillary Clinton's election to the U.S. Senate. I believed then, as I believe now, that Sen. Clinton had the makings of greatness. I carefully followed Sen. Clinton's performance in the Senate and, during her first several years, enjoyed watching her play the expected role of a quiet freshman. Her votes were in keeping with her campaign promises and our expectations for her political future were high. However, as those of us who study history and politics know, events beyond our control often have a way of disrupting carefully planned agendas and blurring even the clearest of visions. Those events often call for the abandonment of otherwise appropriate tentative and cautious approaches, and instead, require bold and clear leadership. It is here that Senator Clinton has disappointed us.
Prime examples of Senator Clinton's failure to lead are her actions with regard to the Iraq war. Instead of questioning the administration's discovery of the axis of evil and the president's pre-established plan to invade a country with whom we were at peace to further his scheme of regime change in Iraq, Senator Clinton, along with most of the Congress, speedily, and without investigation of the facts, abdicated its responsibility under the Constitution and granted broad authority to the executive to commence and wage war. To this day, the senator insists that knowing what we now know, that there were no WMD, no connection between 9/11 and Saddam, no purchase of uranium by Iraq from Niger, no post invasion plan, insufficient troop deployment, manipulation of intelligence findings to support the war, a total lack of attention to or understanding of the religious and political situation in Iraq and a child-like belief that there would be insignificant opposition in Iraq to our presence; that more than 2,500 American soldiers have died in this war and that Iraqis are dying at the rate of 100 a day (that's one World Trade Center death toll every month) and that our effort has cost us over $300 billion and that there is no end in sight, that she would have still voted to authorize the invasion. Instead of the bold leadership required by the president's insane compulsion to invade Iraq, Senator Clinton took the easy way out. Instead of using those enormous talents she demonstrated as First Lady and on the campaign trail, she followed the herd.
Unfortunately, outside events have once again put the senator to the test and again, in my opinion, she has come up wanting.
As a Jew, Israel is very dear and important to me. Without question, the State of Israel has the right to exist and to defend itself. Without question, Hezbollah has acted without provocation and poses a threat to Jewish and Arab Israelis alike. However, as I expect my country, the United States, to demonstrate leadership in the world through policies that create and maintain peace and assist in improving the quality of life for people around the globe, so too do I expect the nation that symbolizes my heritage, Israel, to lead by example, to love peace, to respect human life, and, when armed defense becomes necessary, to undertake that task with caution, care and in doses measured to meet the need. We expect more from those we love and that goes for nations as well as individuals.
When the latest hostilities broke out in Northern Israel and Southern Lebanon, I hoped that Senator Clinton would speak out for calm, for forbearance and for caution. Instead, she said she supported “whatever steps are necessary” to defend Israel. “We will stand with Israel because Israel is standing for American values as well as Israeli ones,” she (ironically) added. Instead of using her pulpit to call for an immediate cease-fire, she, once again, fell in lock step with the Bush administration and did the politically expedient thing of backing both the U.S. and Israeli policy of using superior military force in a reckless fashion that has killed hundreds of innocent Lebanese civilians, weakened the Lebanese government and destroyed the infrastructure of that nation beyond repair in the lifetime of many who live there.
Jonathan Tasini is running against Senator Clinton in the Democratic primary. He has written eloquently about Israel and the current war. Tasini, a Jew whose father fought in the Haganah (the Israeli underground) in the war of independence and who lived in Israel for seven years and still has extensive family there, has said, “A [true] friend of Israel, not someone who simply seeks votes, would understand that employing collective punishment against people in Lebanon only embitters a population, possibly for generations, and that even a short-term military victory will be empty if it leaves behind a shattered country.”
For these and similar comments Tasini has been vilified by the Clinton campaign and her supporters with false accusations that he labeled Israel as a terrorist state and that his comments are “beyond the pale.” I urge readers to examine his statement, (www.commondreams.org/views06/0727-22.htm) and compare his depth of understanding and his leadership to the shallow and predictable comments of Senator Clinton.
Hillary Clinton still has the makings of greatness. Because of that, we expect more from her than we have received.
Marty Luster, represented the 125th District (which includes Ithaca) as a Democrat in the NY State Assembly from 1988-2002.
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