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: Its 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 its 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 didnt 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. Thats 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 Iraqs 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 wont 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 Revolutions 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.