I woke up Saturday morning thinking how wonderful it is to live in New Hampshire during the presidential primary season. I was going to go see Senator Hillary Clinton in afternoon for some "conversation" at a local high school, and Barack Obama had just announced his presidency and would be coming back to New Hampshire on Monday to speak with New Hampshire voters.
I first heard Hillary Clinton speak some sixteen years ago when I was a student at Wellesley College. At that time, she was stumping for her husband’s first presidential campaign and also speaking passionately about the need to protect and nurture our most valuable resource: children. I liked her then (she was a Wellesley woman, after all), voted for her husband, and can still remember the sense of elation I felt on that Tuesday evening in November 1992 when Bill Clinton won the U.S. Presidency.
On Saturday afternoon, I pressed into the Concord High School gym with hundreds of others to see and hear what Hillary had to say about her own presidential vision. As I found a seat I pondered an idea that could make any feminist giddy: For the first time in U.S. history, there could be a woman president.
During the program, she said some things I really liked. She was adamant about keeping abortion “safe, legal and rare,” and mentioned the need for conservation twice during her speech. (That said, she had a black glossy SUV waiting for her outside that I’d bet gets less than fourteen mpg.) However, she had nothing of substance to say about the madness in Iraq. And she did not commit to do the one thing that the Senate can do within its constitutional power to end the Iraq occupation – vote against the $100 billion supplemental budget request when it comes up for a vote later this spring.
Afterwards I joined the throng surrounding her – most were people who wanted books signed and pictures taken, for she really is like a rock star – to ask her about a statement she made last week about Iran in which she said “no options are off the table.” I asked her how she could threaten nuclear genocide on another nation’s children. She told me that we cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran, for it would be an “existential” threat to the U.S., and repeated that all options are on the table. When I tried to ask her about the very real role the U.S. is playing in spurring proliferation with our repeated threats and actual nuclear arsenals, she said she didn’t want to discuss it and turned away stiffly.
Now I’m really glad that I majored in philosophy at Wellesley, so I have at least a cursory grasp of concepts like “existential.” It’s interesting that Hillary used the word, because it’s not a term used much in American political vernacular. It’s much more common in Israel, where the term is used to describe possible, rather than actual, threats. For instance, from Israel’s perspective, the whole Middle East is an existential threat.
Yes, Hillary, we do need moral leadership. We need candidates from both sides of the political aisle who are staunchly and courageously committed to solutions for international challenges grounded in diplomacy, international law, and human rights, instead of military power and the threat and use of nuclear weapons. It’s not Hillary’s being a woman that is a problem - it’s her humanity. Never again can the U.S. use nuclear weapons on another nation’s children. And we, the good citizens of New Hampshire and of this nation, must not support any candidate who believes that the use of nuclear weapons can ever be an option.
Anne Miller is the Director of New Hampshire Peace Action.