Volume 19 • Issue 6 | June 23-29, 2006

talking point

What would Eleanor do, Senator Clinton?

By Ed Gold

Dear Sen. Clinton:
As a  longtime supporter, I  am moved  to make a friendly  and heartfelt  suggestion: It’s  time for you to have  another  talk with Eleanor Roosevelt.

She might, for example, remind you not to snub principled supporters like the Village Independent  Democrats who joined your  camp early in your senatorial race in 2000 and  have  mirrored your long-standing  commitment  to human dignity and international cooperation   during a  nearly 50-year-old  history  that  predates  your  Goldwater days.

I mention Mrs. Roosevelt because she was an important  presence during  V.I.D.’s  underdog struggle  to help democratize the Democratic Party in New York City  by unseating the  last  of the  great Tammany leaders.

So it’s  really sad, in light  of your  affection  for Mrs. Roosevelt  and  the  hope she represented  for  steadfast  progressive  action,  that   in  six  years, for  reasons  unclear, you have avoided association with a  political group  that  historically  should  have earned your respected consideration.

You won admiration from many of us as you stood  resolute  during your  eight  years  in  the  White House against  steady rightwing hostility  that  would  have  demoralized  many political figures who lacked your  intellect, courage  and  dedication.

But now the Iraq war has  left you in a  distasteful  position  of  seeming to turn your  back on a  host  of  natural allies, V.I.D.  among  other  progressive  clubs that  are  supporting  an  unknown candidate  against  you because  of  his opposition to the  war.

You have  left many of your previously  fervent  supporters with the view that  your  attitude  towards the war  differs little from those held by Bush and  Cheney.

Yet, even in granting  war  power  to the president  in your 2002 commitment, you expressed  great trepidation  about doing  so.

In that speech you noted your respect for differing  opinions and argued on “no account should dissent be  discouraged or disparaged,” adding with prescience   that “history has proven our great dissenters to be  right.”

You opposed  an immediate  attack  as “fraught with danger,” adding  that the  option of attacking Iraq, “alone  or  with a  few allies, could set a  bad  precedent  that could come back to haunt  us.”

And you said “a  unilateral attack on the present   facts  is  not a good  option.” You  argued that a strong resolution  for  complete unlimited  inspection was our best  option.

But then you said you would take the president at his  word that  he will try hard to pass a U.N.  resolution  and  “will seek to avoid war  if at  all possible.”

So you gave the president “awesome  responsibility”  and  urged that  “he  use  such power  wisely and  as a  last  resort, when  hindsight  now indicates  he was intent  on  pre-emption and  virtual  unilateralism.

In the spring of 2004 you were still defending your vote while regretting that the president had used the authority that Congress had given him.

You told Larry King two years ago that the  Bush administration “didn’t  let  enough sunlight  into their  thinking process to really make the kind of debate that  needs to take  place” when  going  to war is being determined. That’s what everyone in the anti-war camp would say.

And you went further in May of last year, e-mailing supporters  that  Congress  would not  have  granted war  authority  to the president “on what  we  now  know,” adding that  the Bush Administration had  misled the  American people with “fake intelligence  on Iraq’s weapons  of mass destruction.”

So while many longtime supporters think you share the Bush-Cheney view, your statements would  seem to belie that.

What you won’t  discuss is  what  we should do now in the  midst  of ethnic and religious  conflict, daily slaughter  and where  Americans, having  lost almost  2,500 with more than  18,000  wounded, can hardly tell  friend from enemy.

So you have taken what  some call a “triangulation” position: “I reject a rigid  timetable that  terrorists can “exploit,” and “I reject an open timetable  that  has  no ending attached to it,”  in effect taking no defined position.

At some point, leadership calls for tough decisions and frankly serious  consideration for your natural allies.

Mrs. Roosevelt had to make those decisions on a wide range of issues, standing firmly against the Daughters of the American Revolution’s racism, battling for human rights  at the  U.N.,  and  in our  neighborhood, standing  steadfastly with reformers to rescue her  party from old-line Tammanyites.

Always polite and diplomatic, Mrs. Roosevelt  will probably raise her eyebrows when she hears about  you cozying up to Rupert Murdoch and your  support for laws  banning  flag-burning — a  memory from the Vietnam War  days. But it is how to end the Iraq occupation that should be  the central  issue  of your  conversation.  I am confident she will give you wise advice.


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