2008 Election Forum: (Your Choice) for President!
A range of security, economic and social issues will confront voters next month as they head to the polls. What’s the Jewish voter to do?
McCain or Obama? Obama or McCain? a Some American voters made their choice weeks, or months, ago, while others may wait until the last minute to make up their minds. In an effort to help our readers decide, Hadassah Magazine solicited statements of support for each of the candidates from a spectrum of public figures and observers.
This forum consists of a dozen endorsements, evenly divided between the two senators. We asked contributors for short statements that focused on issues of concern to Jewish voters. Statements appear in alphabetical order, according to the writer’s last name.
With McCain, we will have the benefits of 25 years of outstanding service in the House and the Senate, after his military career. He can be relied on to stand up to the dangers facing us and to rally our nation behind him. McCain has already shown that he is not an ideologue, working as a genuine unifier with Democrats to pass vital legislation. As we face both old and new challenges, we need certainty that proven and principled hands are on the helm of government.
—Morris J. Amitay
Washington attorney specializing in defense issues, former executive director of AIPAC
Barack Obama’s analyses and positions are as thoughtful as his demeanor is steady. He understands that America’s route to economic renewal is also the route to energy independence, which is also the route to address climate change: overcoming the fossil-fuel economy with energy efficiency and the rapid development of alternative fuels. He understands that national health care is a priority and that our scattershot “system” of insurance is a costly and unjust scandal. He understands that bombast and bellicosity are the opposite of a remedy for the wounds of the Middle East. He understands how the war in Iraq and the threat of war with Iran jeopardize the security of both the United States and Israel.
But his positions are only the skin of what is admirable about him. Values matter. This devout Christian echoes Jewish tradition. He is intellectually serious, thoughtful and responsible. Empathy is second nature to him. He is mindful of how people unlike himself live, inside and outside our borders; mindful of the moral and intellectual effort it takes to be “a light unto the nations.” More than ever, we need such brains and moral seriousness in the White House.
Columbia University professor of journalism, sociologist, writer
I am honored to endorse Senator Barack Obama for president. As one of the senator’s Middle East policy advisers, I had the privilege to accompany him on his visit to Israel in July, where he met with Israeli officials to discuss key regional issues.
Senator Obama has always been a stalwart supporter of Israel. He understands the serious, even existential, threats that Israel faces. He insists on a robust, expansive U.S.-Israel security relationship. He believes in a two-state solution and will work from the outset to help achieve a secure peace. Senator Obama is firm in his conviction that any final agreement must safeguard Israel’s status as a Jewish state and must enhance the security and well-being of Israel’s citizens. Significantly, Senator Obama will restore America’s role as a world leader by working with our allies to address serious issues, such as preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and combating global terrorism. This will also help safeguard Israel’s security.
I know firsthand the importance of a close working relationship between Israel and the United States. I am certain that, as president, Barack Obama will strengthen and deepen this bond, which, in his words, is “rooted in shared interests and shared values and a deep friendship among our people.”
—Daniel C. Kurtzer
former United States ambassador to Israel and Egypt
We face a critical choice in selecting our next president. The leadership of our nation in the coming years will help shape energy, education, environmental, economic and national security policies far into our future.
As a key global leader, U.S. policies will influence the work of current and soon-to-be democratic nations around the world.
It is therefore very important that our nation select a proven leader who can effectively navigate not only the issues that American families are dealing with, but also has international experience with diplomatic issues that accompany a nation and a world at war against terrorism.
It is with that as a backdrop that I unequivocally support Senator John McCain, Republican candidate for president of the United States.
Senator McCain has a record of results, expertise, experience and bipartisanship, which makes him totally prepared to lead our nation and be a strong leader throughout the globe, starting immediately on January 20, 2009. He will not have any learning curve!
Senator McCain also has demonstrated strong support for Israel’s future. His uniquely keen understanding of foreign policy in the region as well as the international relationships he has built over the years make him the best friend Israel and the Jewish people have in this election.
Finally, I personally know Senator McCain and know he means what he says about Eretz Yisrael. As a Jewish governor, I am honored and privileged to call John McCain my friend and believe in my heart he will support Israel both in good and trying times.
governor of Hawai’i
The future of the United States and the survival of Israel both depend on the world view of the next president. Specific policies put forward in the heat of a campaign matter far less than the terms in which a candidate sees the defining struggle of our time.
Like past conflicts with Hitlerism and Soviet Communism, our current war with Islamic extremism represents an implacable battle between good and evil. John McCain understands the nature of that struggle; his opponent does not.
Negotiation, appeasement, U.N. resolutions, pretty speeches and anti-poverty programs won’t prevail against religious fanatics who seek the total destruction of the West and its values.
Israel wants to live in peace and security with its neighbors and has made consistent commitments to coexist with a new Palestinian state. Israel’s enemies, on the other hand, seek obliteration of the Jewish state and the genocide of its people. Such struggles don’t allow for a split-the-difference compromise. One side is right, the other wrong; one party wants life, the other glories in death.
More than any American leader since Ronald Reagan, McCain emphasizes the moral dimension in international conflict and the importance of core values. And like Reagan, he understands that evil must be called by its name and, ultimately, defeated.
author and syndicated talk radio host
Barack Obama is good for the Jews. First, he will strengthen Israel by helping to lessen the venomous hatred of America throughout the Middle East and Europe. Will all Arab states come to love Israel? No. But will they hate the “Little Satan” as viciously as they do now? Not likely, once Barack Hussein Obama, our first truly internationalist president, is inaugurated. This isn’t appeasement; it’s wise foreign policy—speak softly and carry a big stick.
Second, Obama is right on Iran. John McCain is a carbon copy of the Bush administration on Iran: shortsighted and dangerous. Thanks to the war in Iraq, we are spread too thin already, and empowering the extremists in Iran, instead of the moderates, is backward. (McCain also has made some serious blunders, like talking about an Iran-Pakistan border, which doesn’t exist.)
Third, Obama is right for America. We need to stop thinking “Jewish issues” are just the ones that affect us—the Christian right doesn’t think that way, and they’ve been very successful. Jewish issues include economic fairness (Deuteronomy 15:7-8, Leviticus 25:35-36, Leviticus 19:9-10) and the pursuit of justice (Deuteronomy 1:16-17, Deuteronomy 16:20). Yet the Republican Party continues to favor the ultra-rich over everyone else, in tax policy, in health care, in oil drilling, in everything.
Don’t just be inspired by Obama’s soaring rhetoric. Read the specifics of his proposals on his Web site. They will make for a stronger, kinder, holier world.
recent visiting assistant professor at Boston University Law Schooland columnist for The Forward
I intend to vote for Senator Barack Obama.
Throughout my career, I have preached about the obligation to vote, calling it a civic mitzva. Senator Obama has inspired hope instead of indifference among our youngest voters, the least likely to vote.
Senator Obama’s emphasis on the goodness of government, its mission to care for the least of us with at least the vigor exercised for the privileged, and the protection of individual liberties is coupled with expectations of personal responsibility. Those are my values, too.
Finally, I find Senator Obama’s willingness to respect the past without romanticizing it to be refreshing in politics. He offers a message of affirmation to older Americans that their hard work to create a better world was successful but not concluded, and we are not free to desist from it now.
Both candidates will build on America’s support for Israel and neither will tolerate discrimination. But only Senator Obama will restore American self-respect and increase the regard of others.
He gives voice to Americans of every generation and commands respect at home and abroad. As a Jew and as an American, I do not see a better choice than Senator Barack Obama.
rabbi, Agudas Achim Congregation, Alexandria, Virginia
Given the effects of Jew-hatred on world history, Israel’s issues are not a parochial concern—World War II and Islamic terror originated in Jew-hatred. As Israel goes, so will we all.
I want to state first that it is not fair to sow distrust of Barack Obama’s personal commitment to a secure Israel. Though the left, in all countries, is anti-Israel, this is one leftist position that Barack Obama—even though he has the most left-wing voting record in the Senate—does not share.
It is fair, however, for supporters of Israel to raise questions about those who advise Senator Obama, about the influence of the left-wing world he inhabits, about the Afro-centric world he did inhabit, about his naive faith in diplomacy when confronting evil and about his greater faith in international institutions than in American power.
When compared to John McCain’s lifelong commitment to Israel, utterly realistic understanding of the nature of evil, list of advisers and belief that American power, not the U.N. or diplomacy, best guarantees Israel’s (and America’s) security, the presidential choice is so clear that no supporter of Israel can honestly argue there is no or even little difference between them.
Finally, it is nonsense to argue, as some Obama supporters do, that George W. Bush has made Israel less secure. As Dan Gillerman, Israel’s former ambassador to the U.N., recently said to me, the notion that Israel with Saddam Hussein in power was more secure than with him and his regime gone borders on the incredible. If indeed that notion is believed by Senator Obama’s supporters, Israel is in for trouble in an Obama administration.
syndicated radio host, columnist and fellow at the Hoover Institutionat Stanford University
I support john McCain for president because he recognizes the nature of the threat to America and Israel posed by violent Islamic extremists and radical regimes like Iran pursuing nuclear weapons. He knows such evil cannot be appeased, as we learned from World War II and the Holocaust.
President McCain will leverage all aspects of U.S. national power to advance our national interests. Rather than placating our enemies and engaging in dialogue for dialogue’s sake, he will work to cripple them by imposing comprehensive economic and political sanctions, refusing them legitimacy and denying them opportunities to expand their power and arsenals.
Equally, President McCain will demonstrate to the world that America is faithful to our allies. He will remain a stalwart supporter of Israel’s right to defend itself and exist as a Jewish state, expanding the alliance between our two countries, including taking the long overdue step of moving our embassy to Jerusalem. Rather than placing the burden of peace on Israel, he will require concrete progress from the Palestinians in combating terrorism and incitement.
McCain’s commitment transcends mere words. He has proven himself throughout decades of service to our nation. Held captive and tortured by totalitarian thugs, he knows firsthand the meaning of the words “never again.” As he stated last June: “The safety of free people can never be taken for granted. And in a world full of dangers, Israel and the United States must always stand together.”
John McCain stands with us, and we should stand with him.
member of Congress (R-FL)
Barack Obama is a leader who can restore our faith in ourselves and our standing in the world. In an interconnected world, we cannot solve all problems—whether terrorism, proliferation or the threats of rogue regimes like Iran’s—on our own. Unfortunately, America’s standing and credibility have dramatically declined over the last few years. In the Middle East today, where I still spend a great deal of time, the United States seems increasingly reduced to the status of a bit player. For someone who has served in Democratic and Republican administrations, this is not only hard to imagine, it is simply unacceptable. Our stakes in the region are too high and the threats to our interests (and to Israel’s) demand that we are once again a nation that is respected and admired by our putative friends and feared by our collective adversaries.
Having been with Senator Obama on his trip to Israel and Europe, I was struck not only by his command of the issues but his capacity to deal with foreign leaders (and their publics) in a way that is much more likely to produce responsiveness to American objectives. I was particularly impressed by how he used his understanding of the threat that Iran and radical Islamists pose to explain why a far more collaborative approach will be needed to ensure that they do not become the arbiters of the future in the Middle East.
Few things are more important for the United States and Israel, and that is why I hope Senator Obama will be elected in November.
consultant, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, former special Mideast peace coordinator
I strongly support Barack Obama because I believe as president of the United States there will be no one more committed to the issues of concern to Hadassah and the American Jewish community.
From supporting the unbreakable bond between the U.S. and Israel and advocating for quality health care and education for all Americans to promoting energy security and stem cell research, Senator Obama is in lockstep with the beliefs and positions of Hadassah. Additionally, unlike his opponent, Senator Obama is the only candidate who will fight to protect the reproductive choice for women and oppose any attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade.
As a member of Congress passionate about strengthening America’s ironclad relationship with Israel, I know there would be no stronger friend of Israel in the White House than Barack Obama. With an A-plus record on Israel, he has been a staunch supporter of the U.S.-Israel partnership and fought to ensure Israel’s security in the face of terrorism, Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad rocket attacks and threats from Syria. Finally, having introduced tough sanction legislation in the Senate, Barack Obama has been resolute in addressing the most serious security threat facing the U.S and Israel—a nuclear Iran.
member of Congress (D-FL)
I’ll vote for John McCain with greater than usual confidence. No other presidential candidate ever demonstrated greater proven courage, capacity for leadership or sustained faith in the power of goodness over evil.
I supported the war in Iraq, which removed Saddam Hussein from power and opened up the first major opportunity for incremental democratization in the Arab Middle East. McCain advocated the infusion of troops into Iraq before it was called “the surge” and promoted the goal of winning the war on terror with the stamina that I pray for in our commander in chief.
Do I agree with McCain in all his enthusiasms? Hardly. It did not take long for the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act of 2002 to expose its unintended, but foreseeable, negative consequences. I don’t usually appreciate the “maverick’s” role in a political process that needs political discipline to get things done. But McCain’s independence is always principled, and he has shown that he can work effectively within and across party lines. If anyone can temper the divisiveness of political process, he is that man.
Israel is my primary concern. The late Jeane Kirkpatrick once told me that she voted according to what was best for Israel, because no criterion correlated better with what was best for the cause of freedom in the world. I share that judgment.
McCain understands the nature of enmity and what it takes to overcome it. The security of the world, emphatically including Israel, depends on America’s readiness to exercise its power, and McCain can be trusted to apply it wisely.
—Ruth R. Wisse
Harvard University professor of Yiddish and comparative literature, writer