Big Changes in the New Congress?

This year’s congressional elections may produce the largest number of new members of Congress in the last forty years.

Political analysts estimate that the number of new members elected may be as high as 120, but will certainly not be less than eighty. By comparison, in recent years the average number of new members elected has been around forty.

The reasons for these projected changes should be understood.

1) Reapportionment

There are 435 members of the House of Representatives, and the number of congressmen per state is proportional to each state’s population.

Every ten years the United States conducts a census in order to calculate the number of congressmen appropriated to each state during the following decade. After the census is complete, those states showing a proportional rise in population receive additional seat(s) in Congress and those reflecting a relative decline in population seat(s) in Congress.

Since United States congressional seats are elected on the district level, population shifts mean that each state must redraw congressional districts, creating new ones where necessary, eliminating some and combining others—so that the average population per district is approximately the same nationwide.

The 1992 elections are the first since the 1990 census. The 1990 census showed dramatic shifts in population from the Northeast and Midwest to the South and the West. As a result, states such as Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio lost a total of seven congressional seats while California, Florida and Texas gained a total of fourteen seats in Congress.

The total number of congressional seats moving between states is 19, but that is not all of the change. With congressional maps in other states being redrawn, many other races will be directly affected by the changes.

The effects of redrawn congressional maps can be great. For example, while it is true that in 1982 pro-Israel PACs poured money into the campaign of former Representative Paul Findley’s opponent—a real culprit in Findley’s defeat was the 1980 redistricting. Republican Paul Findley saw his district change to include a large number of Democrats, making it easier for Democrat Richard Durbin to defeat him. This year an additional 10-15 congressmen may lose their elections due to changes in their newly drawn districts.

2) Resignation

Each year a number of Congressmen resign, some to pursue other careers, some to seek higher office, and others as a result of scandals. This year the number of those resigning is already a high 36 with a potential 20 more to come.

While 12 of the 36 who have resigned have done so to run for the Senate, in many cases the others who are resigning, have done so to avoid running against fellow congressmen in districts that have been combined due to reapportionment, or because they didn’t want to run in their newly redrawn congressional districts.

3) Anti-Incumbent Mood

A third factor that will in all probability contribute to the defeat of many sitting members of Congress is an anti-Washington, anti-incumbent mood that is so pervasive in the United States today. This mood has been fueled by recent revelations and allegations of congressional abuse of “perks” in Washington (check-bouncing in the House bank, use of campaign funds to buy cars and houses, and the now infamous 33% pay raise that Congress voted itself late last year).

Not only have George Bush’s popularity ratings come down, but so has Congress’. A recent poll has shown that 58% of the American public blames Congress for the poor economic condition in the United States, and an equal percentage believes that most congressmen do not deserve to be reelected.

***

An Example: Big Changes in the Illinois’ March 17th Elections

The recent primaries in Illinois provide direct evidence of the impact that these changes will have in changing the faces in the new Congress. As a result of reapportionment Illinois lost two seats in 1992. Districts were combined and maps were redrawn statewide.

Early on Representative Frank Annunzio, a venerable fourteen-term House member from Chicago resigned rather than face a new district. Four other seats were combined into two, forcing four members of Congress to run against each other. Representative William Lipinski defeated Representative Marty Russo in one race, and Representative Glenn Poshard beat Representative Terry Bruce in the other.

African American Gus Savage, a six-term congressman, saw his largely black congressional district changed to include a larger white suburban vote. Savage had beaten challenger Mel Reynolds, also an African American, three times before (in 1986, ‘88 and ‘90). Each time Savage challenged Reynolds for having received support from pro-Israel PACs and individual donors. At times Savage’s attacks bordered on anti-Semitism, but he won by using this issue to mobilize his strong nationalist base of African Americans. Savages’ new district was significantly changed to include more whites and wealthy blacks. As a result, this time Reynolds’ support base grew and Savages’ attacks did not take hold. He lost his reelection bid.

Five-term African American Representative Charlie Hayes, who was reelected in 1990 with 94% of the vote, was also defeated this year by an African American challenger, city councilman Bobby Rush. Reapportionment was not a big factor in this race. A more important factor in Hayes’ defeat was the revelation just a few days before the election that Hayes had `bounced’ 716 checks at the House Bank since 1988.

Thus the results from this one state’s primary election was five incumbents out and two new faces in! While the other states will probably not reflect the same dramatic changes, Illinois does provide a glimpse of the type of changes we can expect to see in 1992.

***

Arab Americans Running for Congress

In 1993, when the 103rd Congress is sworn in, a record number of new faces will most probably be present and a few of those new members may be Arab Americans. In addition to Congresswoman Mary Rose Oakar (an Ohio Democrat) and Nick Joe Rahall (a Democrat from West Virginia) who are running for reelection, this year will also see six other Arab Americans running for Congress.

Mary Rose Oakar faces a real challenge this year. Her district has been redrawn to add more Republicans to what had been an overwhelmingly Democratic district. Mary Rose was one of the 24 members of Congress who has been accused of being one of the check-bouncers at the House Bank, although she can show that the accusation is largely exaggerated. Her opponent in the Democratic primary, County Auditor Tim McCormack, will undoubtedly try to use this issue against her. Should she win the primary, she may face a strong Republican challenger in State Senator Tony Sanagra.

Nick Joe Rahall’s district has been left largely intact and is considered safe, though he will face a well-financed challenge from Ben Waldron.

Wadie Deddeh (Democrat), who has served more than twenty years in the California State Legislature will be running for Congress in a newly created congressional district in Southern California.

Luis Acle (Republican), an official in the Reagan administration, will be running on the Republican side for the same seat as seat as Wadie Deddeh. This election represents the first time that two Arab Americans might run against each other for a congressional seat.

Gary Hamud (Democrat) is making his second run for Congress in a newly redrawn congressional district in the Los Angeles area.

Sarkis Khouri (Republican), a political newcomer, will be running in a new congressional district in Orange County, California.

State Representative Eugene Saloom (Democrat) who has served in Pennsylvania House for twenty years will be running for Pennsylvania’s twentieth congressional district, left open by the retirement of 13-term Democrat Joseph Gaydos.

Also important to note is Sam Zakhem, a former State Senator and former U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain, who is running for the U.S. Senate from Colorado.

For comments or information, contact jzogby@aaiusa.org

Add your reaction Share

Israel's Friends Running for the Senate in 1992

Not only are the parties choosing their Presidential candidates this election year, but all 435 members of Congress and 35 Senate seats are up for reelection as well.

In fact, the biggest news to come out of the Illinois primary elections this past week was not was not the victories of Bush or Clinton, but the defeats of incumbent Senator Alan Dixon and four Democratic Congressmen. While there were different issues in each of these races, of course, three of them bring into sharp focus the vulnerability of incumbents in this unusual election year, where voters are increasingly anti-Washington and want change.

By contrast, in the 1990 elections’ 34 Senate races, only one incumbent Senator failed to win reelection, and 406 (out of 435) Congressmen won reelection in 1990. In all these Congressional races 79 ran unopposed and 158 had only token opposition. The figures were similar in 1988.

But this year all bets are off. Experts feel that at least 100 Congressional seats will change, making this one of the biggest years of change in recent history.

This week we will look at some of the Senate races.

***

Some of Israel’s strongest supporters in the Senate are running for reelection this year. Among them are Senator Dan Inouye of Hawaii and Senator Robert Kasten of Wisconsin who led the fight for the Israeli loan guarantees last fall, and Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Senator Robert Packwood of Oregon.

Also running for Senate seats open due to retirement are two of Israel’s strongest supporters in the Congress, Democratic Foreign Affairs committee members Mel Levine of California and Wayne Owens of Utah who sponsored the $10 billion loan guarantee bill in the House.

While many of these and other Senate races will be examined in this series as the year continues, this week we’ll survey the reelection campaigns of the three of the most stridently pro-Israel Senators. These races are particularly interesting because of the fact that these stridently pro-Israel Senators are Republicans running, in effect, against the President’s Middle East peace program.

Robert Packwood, Republican Senator from Oregon
Few Senators have pandered for pro-Israel money like Bob Packwood. Never a major recipient of pro-Israel PAC money ($39,000 in his 1986 race), Packwood has turned up the heat this year because he faces an exceptionally strong challenge from the Democrats this fall. Depending on the outcome of Oregon’s Democratic primary, Packwood will face either Les AuCoin, a strongly pro-Israel Congressman who has been caught in the check-bouncing scandal, or from Harry Lonsdale, a wealthy businessman who almost defeated Oregon’s other Senator (Mark Hatfield) in 1990.

After taking heavy criticism for receiving large amounts of PAC money in 1986, Packwood initially swore off PAC money this time and instead milked pro-Israel individual donors with letters filled with statements like these: “As a United States Senator, and a staunch friend of Israel, I have waged many, many legislative battles on Israel’s behalf…. instead of spending all my time raising money for my own reelection campaign, I’d prefer to devote my time and energies to protecting and defending the security of Israel.”

Another letter, in reference to the Madrid peace talks, asks, “Shouldn’t the Israelis get all of their land back?....there is no better historical claim to all of Judea and Samaria than that of the Jews.” To buttress his argument, Packwood’s letter includes a map of the old Jewish kingdom including not only the land West of the Jordan River, but also a swath of territory on the East.

Recently Packwood received attention for another shocking letter in which he writes, “I am frequently asked why I am so strongly pro-Israel—considering the very small Jewish population in the state of Oregon…. I have learned that Israel’s interests are America’s interests ….As a concerned friend of Israel, my commitment is to continue to support America and Israel, one and inseparable, now and forever.”

Letters like these helped Packwood raise $2.7 million in individual donations in 1991. But now that polls show him to be in danger of losing, Bob Packwood has turned to PACs as well and has managed to raise $51,350 in pro-Israel PAC money in less than three months.

Packwood has been a key actor in blocking arms sales to Arab States, including co-authorship of a 1987 letter to then-Secretary of State Schultz opposing arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Packwood is also one of the prime movers in maintaining consistently high levels of economic and military aid to Israel.

Arlen Specter, Republican Senator from Pennsylvania
Though his seat was once considered safe, he is now being challenged from the right in the Republican primary, and will face a strong Democrat in the fall.

State Representative Stephen Freind has made Israel an issue in the Republican primary, charging Specter with selling his vote to “the most powerful political action committee in the United States, and that’s AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee]. Friend also characterized Specter’s support for the Israeli loan guarantees as being “in direct contravention of the President’s peace plan.” Friend’s election chances are slim, however, because he is not well-known in the state and because those who do know him view him as an extremist candidate.

Lieutenant Governor Mark Singel, a friend of Arab Americans who has announced “I am both pleased and proud to have the support of the Arab-American community in Pennsylvania” and Bob Colville, a District Attorney from the Western part of the state, are the leading Democrats.

Specter has sent out his share of pandering letters this year including one raising the bogeyman of Arab Americans out to get him. Specter’s letter read in part, “The Arab lobby and their anti-Israel network already are planning a well-financed campaign in an attempt to remove Senator Arlen Specter from office. He was one of the first to speak out against the sale of AWACs to Saudi Arabia even though it meant going against the leader of his own party in 1981.”

I personally challenged Specter on this point and received press coverage in Pennsylvania which noted that his letter was nothing more than a sad attempt to exploit Jewish fears in order to raise money.

For all of his pandering, Specter received $88,250 in pro-Israel PAC money in 1991, which represents 16% of his total PAC receipts.

Specter is a very strong supporter of maintaining high levels of economic and military aid to Israel, and was the original sponsor of the Senate 252 which linked “Most Favored Nation” trading status for the Soviet Union to the establishment of direct flights from the Soviet Union to Israel. He has also been active in opposing U.S. contacts with the P.L.O. and arms sales to Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia.

Robert Kasten, Republican Senator from Wisconsin
Bob Kasten is noted as a pro-Israel lobby point man in the Senate. In 1991 he initiated a letter to President Bush urging emergency assistance be granted Israel to help it pay for expenses incurred as a result of the Gulf War. Kasten co-sponsored Senate 2119 which granted a $400 million dollar loan guarantee to Israel in 1990 to help resettle Soviet Jews, and he was also the Republican co-sponsor of the bill to grant the $10 billion loan guarantees back in October of 1990 and served as the main intermediary between the pro-Israel community and the Bush administration during the recent negotiations over the guarantees.

Political experts have doubts about Kasten’s ability to win reelection, and justifiably so. He squeaked by in his last reelection bid in 1986 with just 51% of the vote, making him the first Republican Senator reelected in Wisconsin in 30 years.

This year he faces a strong potential challenge from either State Senator Russ Feingold or Congressman Jim Moody. Based on recent polls, experts give Feingold the early edge, but Moody is a tough campaigner and his home district of Milwaukee is also Kasten’s electoral stronghold. Either one is capable of unseating Kasten

Just as the Democrats have targeted Kasten for defeat, pro-Israel PACs worried about his reelection prospects poured $70,300 into his campaign coffers in 1991.

A final note: the contributions from pro-Israel PACs received thus far by the candidates noted above are small because it is early in the election cycle, but amounts and the candidates who receive them are indicators of where the big money will go as campaign ‘92 develops. It can estimated at this point that the three Senators mentioned here will each receive more than hundreds of thousands of dollars before the election year is over. We’ll be exploring this issue in a future article.

In next week’s article, we’ll preview the 1992 election for members of Congress.

For comments or information, contact jzogby@aaiusa.org

Add your reaction Share

Campaign '92: Preparing for Super Tuesday

As the first half of the 1992 U.S. Presidential primary season stumbled to a close, the best one can say is that “it hasn’t been neat or pretty—but it has been interesting.”

George Bush’s renomination as the Republican candidate to run for reelection in November was never in doubt. After winning every contest in every region of the country during the past two weeks, it is now certain. Pat Buchanan’s challenge has now shrunk to that of a mere nuisance. And yet, Buchanan will not go away.

Until now the President has failed to win much more 70% of the Republican vote and Buchanan still is able to ring up at least a 25% protest vote. While this is not enough to take the nomination away from the President, winning was never a realistic goal for Buchanan. His sights are on the 1996 race, and establishing himself as the spokesperson for conservative agenda.

Analysts fault the President’s campaign team for not running a more defined and aggressive campaign. By starting late and changing themes frequently, the President has not helped his reelection efforts. Bush gave the Democrats a five month head start and therefore was forced to begin his own campaign on the defensive. And once it finally began running in January, the Bush team found itself attacked on a second front. A three month pounding from the left and the right has left the President appearing weak and out of touch—he seems more like the old George Bush, weak and indecisive.

Polls in some states show Bush losing to Clinton, and running no better than even in the rest. The President’s steadily declining popularity is a result of taking too many punches over the course of weeks without ever fighting back. Like Carter in 1980 and Dukakis in 1988, Bush lost control of the themes of the campaign, developed no counter-message, and continued to bleed.

The Gulf War, it will be remembered, helped George Bush redefine his presidency and himself. Long plagued by the image of being an upper-class Northeastern `wimp’ who had no real guiding political principles, the President emerged from the Gulf War as a strong leader, in touch with people and a fighter for principles. His strong stand for Middle East peace also helped redefine his image.

But while the President’s actions in foreign affairs were strong and decisive, his domestic advisory team cautioned against any quick action on the slumping economy. This, in retrospect, is what weakened the President. It is not simply the economy that must recover to improve Bush’s chances of winning—the President’s campaign must recover as well.

In politics, perception and media image are reality. While it is true that the economy is in a slump, it is not as bad as the public perceives it to be. Fed by political attacks and by negative media, the public has come to believe that the economy is in a near depression. This explains why Bush’s popularity and performance approval polls have continued to drop, even while the economy shows signs of improving. The Bush campaign can unmake this perception by capturing the media with a sharp, appealing and positive message of strength.

Apparently the White House has now received the message and is working to correct the problem. The old White House crew is out and a new, stronger, campaign team is in. In fact the new team includes many of the big players who engineered the President’s victory in 1988. Rich Bond, who served as top deputy to the late Lee Atwater (Bush’s tough 1988 campaign manager) is now running the Republican Party. Peggy Noonan, Reagan’s remarkable speech writer who wrote Bush’s impressive 1988 Convention speech is also back. And there are reports that Roger Ailes, the media professional who did Bush’s 1988 campaign may also return.

All this could spark a tough, more focused and better defined message from the President’s campaign, which is necessary to restore public confidence and combat the `wimp’ image one more time.

This is what Bush did in 1988. This is what he did during the Gulf War. And this is what he must do to turn this campaign around.

***

The eleven primaries and caucuses of the fabled Super Tuesday gave Bill Clinton his expected boost in the polls and delegates needed to win the nomination. But Clinton’s opponents pointed out that the results only reaffirmed the regional patterns that so characterize the Democratic electorate. Clinton won the eight states in the South, Tsongas won the two states in the Northeast, and Brown won the key contest in the West.

More important to Clinton’s claim to be the front runner were his two victories in the two Midwestern states of Illinois and Michigan this week. These Midwestern states were neutral territory for the three remaining Democratic candidates. Clinton’s 51% in both was impressive.

Tsongas has now withdrawn from the race, which seems to hurt the Brown campaign more than it helps. For while Brown’s self-styled low-cost people’s campaign and its attacks on “politics-as-usual” are interesting, Brown will find it difficult to compete in a national two-man race. Only a major scandal or a larger than expected “ABC” (Anybody but Clinton) vote could make Brown a real national contender.

The path to Clinton’s winning the nomination now seems clear, though some Democratic leaders have some reservations.

Under the surface of Clinton’s support lie deep fault lines of unrest in the Democratic party. Even at this late date, fully one-half of all Democratic voters still want to see someone else enter the race. A further indication of voter concern is the low turnout thus far: the primaries have averaged 18% voter turnout, while the caucuses have been averaging on 3%.

Clinton has scored well with black voters and low-income whites, giving hope to some that he can revive the old Democratic coalition. But black turnout has been about 25% lower this year than 1988. And in several southern states some 60% – 70% of the White vote was for Republican, marking a significant shift in voting patterns.

Democratic members of Congress, who form a significant block of delegates to the Democratic convention, have been hesitant to endorse any of the candidates. And one can hardly blame them, considering how the candidates refer to Congress in their stump speeches.

The remaining Democratic candidates are bashing Congress, including Congressional Democrats, for being “part of the problem.” Specifically, they have attacked the pay raise Congress granted itself last year and are helping stir the furor over the check-bouncing scandal. With members of Congress already facing difficult reelection campaigns of their own, it is easy to see how they can be less than enthusiastic about their party’s candidates for President.

Further, some Democrats are concerned that Clinton’s attempt to run as an anti-Washington outsider may backfire in the general election. Clinton is, after all, a co-founder of the Democratic Leadership Council, which is an insider group of Democratic elected officials. And then there are the “scandals” and “rumor”. As I said, Clinton’s path to the nomination seems clear.

***

As a final note, it now seems certain that there will be at least one, and maybe two, major independent campaigns for the presidency in 1992, potentially challenging both parties’ nominees from the right and the left.

H. Ross Perot, a Texas billionaire businessman has begun an exploratory effort to run a third-party campaign. He has already secured a position on the ballot in Tennessee and is organizing in other states as well. His campaign will focus on anti-politics, pro-business and anti-Gulf War themes. Jerry Brown’s campaign has also shown signs over the last three weeks that he has intentions to run beyond the Democratic Convention and launch and independent political effort on the left.

If only Perot runs, he could siphon off 6%-10% of the Republican vote in Texas, Florida and California, which would seriously threaten George Bush’s reelection effort. If both Perot and Brown run, they would siphon off the same 6%-10% on each side, thereby restoring balance to the field.

Expect more on this subject later.

For comments or information, contact jzogby@aaiusa.org

Add your reaction Share

Campaign '92: Observations at Half-Time

While President Bush continues to win in each of the presidential primaries, the margin of the victories is causing concern in the White House.

It is increasingly clear in many states that there is a solid 30% on the Republican side who will vote against the President, as shown in South Dakota, where 31% voted for “uncommitted” rather than cast a vote for Bush. At least half of this 30% represents a constituency which polls suggest Bush can no longer reach, while the rest are alienated and angry voters who want to send a one-time message.

In the two states where his opponent, Patrick Buchanan, actively campaigned, Buchanan has increased his protest vote to 37%. The increase reflects Democrats and Independents who “crossed over” to the Republican side to support Buchanan against Bush.

The president’s advisers are worried, not so much about November (as the Democrats have problems of their own—see below) but about the fate of the Republican coalition beyond 1992. This has caused many to take a closer look at who Buchanan is and what his challenge says about the Republican party.

When Buchanan, a political pundit by profession, first announced for the presidency his stated purpose was to challenge Bush from the right in the hope of convincing conservatives that Bush had strayed from the conservative principles articulated by former President Ronald Reagan.

Of course, conservatives never fully trusted Bush. They have not forgotten his 1980 campaign against Ronald Reagan (“voodoo economics”) or his voting record in Congress, which placed him firmly in the moderate, pragmatic wing of the Republican Party. Even in 1988, these conservatives preferred former Congressman Jack Kemp to Bush, Reagan’s chosen successor.

And so when Bush broke his promise in 1990 to hold the line on taxes, Buchanan saw an opportunity too inviting to resist. When the Gulf War drove Bush’s approval ratings up to 90%, Buchanan hesitated and only decided to enter the race as the president’s ratings fell.

Buchanan had two other, less obvious, reasons for running. First, he sought to pre-empt the anti-establishment candidacy of David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klansman and Nazi who hoped to make political hay with a growing number of “white” Americans who had fallen on hard economic times.

Despite his extreme past, Duke claimed to be a Republican and the damage he might inflict on the party was not to be underestimated. His attacks against big government and the status quo and his claims that black Americans were making gains at the expense of whites enabled him to capture 55% of the white vote in Louisiana in two statewide elections. He would no doubt find pockets of discontent across the nation, particularly in those areas where recession had put large numbers of people out of work.

(Buchanan’s candidacy at first generated sighs of relief among Republicans who preferred that he rather than Duke attract this “protest” vote.)

Second, Buchanan hoped to position himself as the “real” leader of the conservative movement and thus as a more serious presidential candidate in 1996, when the perceived weakness of Vice President Dan Quayle could leave the door open to challengers.

Buchanan is not just any conservative, however. His political philosophy poses a direct challenge to a conservative coalition that formed under the Reagan presidency. This coalition consisted of traditional conservatives who embraced the values of religion, family and free enterprise, but it also included neo-conservatives who had become disenchanted with the Democratic party and were won over by Reagan’s strident anti-communist and pro-Israel sentiments.

Buchanan’s isolationist, protectionist and nationalist instincts are not in harmony with the Reagan or neo-conservative agenda, but he nevertheless is winning 30%-plus in the primaries thanks to a solid base of discontented voters (including some traditional conservatives) who are willing to challenge the status quo under Bush.

Buchanan’s strong showing took many by surprise, including Republicans who initially wished Buchanan well in the hope he would derail Duke and spur Bush to return to the conservative fold. And Buchanan, having won over 30% in every primary, is beginning to believe he can derail Bush as well. I’ve seen it before. Candidates who experience a little success become intoxicated with the possibilities, perhaps because they have been introduced one too many times as “the next president of the United States” (as is standard practice on the campaign trail). In short, they start to believe their own campaign rhetoric.

Buchanan maintains he can deliver a “knock-out” punch to the Bush presidency and has gone so far as to call on Bush to resign! One result is that many conservatives and Republicans who only a few weeks ago were urging Republicans cast a tactical vote for Buchanan (just to send a message) now find they cannot rein him in.

It is important to note that as Buchanan continues he is coming under attack and scrutiny from two distinct groups. The neo- conservatives, while displeased with President Bush’s hard-line on Israel are even more disturbed by Buchanan’s “Israel bashing.” They simply do not want Buchanan designated as leader of the conservative movement. Neo-conservative columnists and politicians have in recent weeks taken to the airways in an all out assault on Buchanan’s views on Israel.

At the same the press and the White House have challenged Buchanan’s views on minorities (his claim to speak on behalf of “Euro-Americans” and his call to “take American back”—from whom?), his attitudes toward women (they are less qualified and less competitive than men) and foreigners (anti-immigration remarks about “Zulus” coming to the United States).

Tragically these views, when attacked, drew attention to them and even support from the very voters Buchanan is reaching. There is no doubt that Buchanan has found his niche. White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater calls him “the town bully” and accuses him of being “out to destroy Bush and the Republican Party.” While it is unlikely he will stop Bush from being nominated, it is less clear what he will do to the always fragile Republican coalition.

***

The Democrats

Last week, seven Democratic primaries and caucuses brought few surprises. These elections served to solidify the patterns that had been developing in the earlier weeks of the campaign.

In Georgia, Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton finally won his first primary. That the southern governor won in a southern state was expected, although his margin of victory was larger that was expected—especially after being blasted all week by military veterans over his failure to serve in Vietnam. Clinton received 57% of the vote. His nearest challenger got only 24%.

Clinton supporters cannot assume, however, that the “draft dodging” and “womanizing” issues have now been put to rest. Forty two percent of all voters in a recent poll say that they still have “serious doubts” about his character. And 61% of all Democrats say they are unhappy with all the candidates and want someone else to enter the race.

Former Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas won in Maryland and Washington State with polls showing that while he is not a regional candidate his candidacy is especially favored by well off, well educated liberal white voters. He does not do well with more traditional Democratic voters.

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, the traditional Democrat, as expected, won the caucuses in Minnesota and Idaho. But he cannot read too much into those victories. Only 4% of all voters go to these caucuses and therefore they can be won by anyone who has strong and organized “special interest” backing, such as Harkin, who has the support of organized labor.

While this is of help to Harkin in some states, it hurts with the larger voting public who identify Harkin as the epitome of what has been traditionally been wrong with the Democratic party—its pandering to special interest groups. National polls show Harkin getting the support of only 3% of all Democrats.

The biggest and most interesting surprise of the week was the performance of former California Gov. Jerry Brown, who won in Colorado and finished second in Washington State. It thus appears that his “protest” message on the Democratic side—against the corrupting influence of “big” money—and his highly unorthodox campaign style has earned him a faithful following.

In fact, Brown has little organization and almost no money with which to buy television advertising. Even so, his unique style has attracted large crowds and significant media attention. If the coverage continues, and it looks as if it will, he will continue to be a factor in the 1992 race.

In keeping with his unorthodox style for a Democrat, Brown has been the only Democratic candidate to oppose Israel’s loan guarantee request (to a cheering audience in Maine) and to support President Bush’s handling of the Middle East peace process (during a television debate this past week in Colorado).

On the other hand, the week proved to be a great disappointment for Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey. His 4th and 5th place finishes in all seven states prompted him to drop out of the race.

Many Democrats still think that, on paper, Kerrey was the most electable of the candidates. But his inability to project a consistent image and his inability to raise money doomed his candidacy.

It is important to understand that U.S. presidential politics is a multi-million dollar proposition. To run in 50 states requires private planes to fly candidates and staff and press to two or three states a day. It also requires enormous amounts of money for paid advertising as candidates try to shape their message and image, undermine the appeal of their opponents, and get their own supporters out to vote.

To keep the flow of money coming in, candidate must do reasonably well in the primaries each week. There is, therefore, a relationship between money and votes. The more money you raise, the more voters you can win. The more votes you win, the more money you can raise. It is precisely this fact that forced Bob Kerrey to withdraw. His poor showing caused the money to dry up.

At the same time, it is significant that Brown, with no plane, no staff and no advertising, has managed to win—mainly because he is exciting crowds, campaigning against big money in politics and getting free media attention. Thus is Brown defying the “rules” of contemporary American politics, and doing quite well in the process.

For comments or information, contact jzogby@aaiusa.org

Add your reaction Share

Campaign '92: Getting Meaner and More Confused

Last week, Democrats and Republicans in Maine and South Dakota voted in primary elections and the results only added more confusion to the already confused 1992 presidential campaigns.

On the Democratic side:

In Maine, former California Governor Jerry Brown tied for first place with Paul Tsongas. In South Dakota, Senator Bob Kerrey from neighboring Nebraska won decisively over Senator Tom Harkin, whose state of Iowa also borders South Dakota.

The results after three weeks and four elections of Campaign ‘92 show four separate winners in four states, with Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, the supposed front-runner, having failed to win anywhere.

The campaign now moves to the South, where Clinton is expected to do well. But a South Dakota poll, showing 32% of South Dakota voters concerned about Clinton’s character (i.e., rumors about his “womanizing” and “draft-dodging”), has Clinton supporters worried.

On the Republican side:

President George Bush won both states easily since Buchanan was not on either ballot. But it must concern Republicans deeply that in South Dakota a very high 31% voted for “uncommitted”. This was widely interpreted as a protest against the President. In fact, South Dakota polls showed that two-thirds of this 31%, or a total of 20% of all Republican voters, said they would not vote for George Bush in November.

***

As the ‘92 campaign moves into its next round with seven states holding elections this week, reporters are using words like “mean”, “blood-letting”, and “messy” to describe the ugly turn the campaign has taken.

In the first three weeks, all five Democrats and Buchanan attacked George Bush. Now they have turned their guns on each other and it is getting very messy indeed.

Bob Kerrey, fresh from his victory in South Dakota, flew to Georgia and attacked Bill Clinton for avoiding the Vietnam War and “not telling the truth about it.” Kerrey’s black supporters lashed out against Clinton for agreeing to the execution of a brain-injured black man in Arkansas who had killed a police officer. And one of Kerrey’s other supporters picked up on Clinton’s failure to serve in the military, saying, “We want a Commander in Chief, not a Chicken in Chief.”

Clinton struck out at Paul Tsongas’ pro-business economics and blasted Jesse Jackson for campaigning with (but not endorsing) Tom Harkin.

Tsongas returned the fire, saying he would no longer defend Clinton’s character, and he attacked fellow Democrats for being “fiscally irresponsible.”

Tom Harkin, who throughout the campaign has come under fire for being “mean”, turned up the heat and got even meaner.

Brown, for the most part, stayed on course and attacked all his opponents for practicing “big money politics as usual.” His protest campaign rejects the role of money in politics and is drawing the largest crowds—but outside of Maine, his vote totals have not increased.

George Bush finally focused on Buchanan’s challenge. An effective Bush television advertisement features retired Marine General P.X. Kelly chiding Buchanan for opposing the Gulf War and not supporting the U.S. military. The Bush campaign also sent out a team of highly respected pro-Administration conservatives who warned that support for Buchanan would reduce the chances of electing a Republican president in November.

One troubling stance, as far as Arab Americans are concerned, was Vice President Quayle’s charge that Buchanan’s view of Israel was very much like Jesse Jackson’s and should be rejected Buchanan isn’t a strong enough supporter of Israel.

Buchanan, not to be outdone, also got meaner. He threatened to deliver a “knockout punch” to Bush and dismissed Quayle’s counter-attack by saying: “We’re after the pit bull (meaning Bush) and they shouldn’t send in the pit puppy (Quayle) because he’ll get all chewed up.”

Buchanan continued his attack on Bush’s tax increase and added a new attack in the form of a television advertisement. The ad features clips from a film partially funded by the National Endowment for the Arts—a federal agency—which shows naked black homosexuals and accuses George Bush of supporting “art that his glorified homosexuality, exploited children and perverted the image of Jesus Christ.”

In short, the campaign is getting mean and ugly indeed. Buchanan, who can’t win, can continue to “bleed” George Bush. But for the time being, at least, Bush will be spared attacks from the Democrats who are busy wounding each other.

***

A final note. This is the week when Secretary of State Baker made his strong stand in Congress against unconditional loan guarantees to Israel. It is important to note that no Democratic candidate for President has as yet publicly challenged the Baker testimony on this issue. Support for Israel is at an all-time low and, while some candidates continue to make direct appeals to Jewish supporters, it now appears that they feel the current public mood will not tolerate any increase in aid to Israel. Challenges may come later, but for the moment al is quiet. This marks a significant change from past elections when the response would have been swift and certain.

For comments or information, contact jzogby@aaiusa.org

Add your reaction Share

Round One: The New Hampshire Explosion

As the dust settles from the explosive New Hampshire primary elections, both the Democratic and Republican parties and their leaders have been forced to take a fresh look at their political campaign strategies.

In this first round of the 1992 elections President Bush beat his conservative challenger, T.V. personality Pat Buchanan, by a margin of 53% to 37%. The surprisingly large Buchanan vote was a clear protest aimed at the White House. New Hampshire’s weakening economic situation (its unemployment rate has more than doubled since 1988), gave Buchanan a perfect platform from which to launch his angry attack on Bush’s performance as President.

By the time the election results were in, the White House made it clear it got the message. The President’s failure to respond earlier to the recession had made him appear to be out of touch and uncaring. Similarly, his failure to respond to weeks of Buchanan’s blistering attack allowed resentment against Bush to build.

The President and his Republican advisors now realize they must take this campaign seriously. While there is no doubt that Bush will win the Republican nomination to run for reelection (and while no one seriously believes that Buchanan can defeat him), it is now clear that the President must run a real campaign to win big. If he doesn’t, he may be so bloodied and wounded at the end of the primaries that the Democrats will have a real opportunity to win in November.

As it is, after nine weeks of being “pounded” in New Hampshire by Buchanan and five Democrats, Bush’s most recent approval rating is down to an all time low of 39% against a disapproval rating of 48%. And for the first time the polls are showing a Democrat beating the President by a margin of 48% to 44%.

The White House’s new strategy, announced this week, has Bush campaigning non-stop until the March 10th primaries. He will “appear presidential”, propose new sweeping economic reforms and attack the Democratic Congress for failing to work with his economic proposals and, when necessary, attack Buchanan’s isolationism (specifically his failure to support the Gulf War) and his protectionist trade politics.

It is hoped that such an aggressive campaign will win all 15 primaries between now and March 10th, reestablish the President’s standing in the polls and give his campaign much needed momentum.

Buchanan’s campaign must also now face some hard questions. His 37% has shown the President to be vulnerable, but Buchanan and his advisors know he cannot win the Republican nomination. While they are trying to force the President back to a more conservative political orientation, what they may actually be doing is giving Democrats a hand in defeating an incumbent Republican President.

Even Buchanan’s supporters are sometimes shocked by the vehemence of his attack on the President, referring to him as “King George” or even by mimicking one of the Democrats and mockingly calling the President “George Herbert Walker Bush”—in effect poking fun at his “aristocratic roots”.

Some have compared Buchanan to Eugene McCarthy, whose 1968 anti-Vietnam protest campaign so weakened President Lyndon Johnson that Johnson dropped out of the race. Since no one expects Bush to withdraw, however, the more fitting parallel may be with the Kennedy challenge to President Carter in 1980. In that drawn out battle Carter emerged victorious, but so bloodied that he became an easy target for Reagan in the November election.

Buchanan, who appears to have Presidential ambitions also in 1996, must now ask himself “how far is too far?” Does he want to be responsible for making Bush’s reelection more difficult? And will the Republican faithful support him if, in fact, he contributes to Bush’s undoing?

Democrats, too, have their questions to answer.

The two Democrats who emerged as winners in New Hampshire, former Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas who garnered 32% and Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton who won 25% of the votes, sent an important message to the Democratic party—especially to the Democrats in Congress.

The Tsongas and Clinton message of fiscal conservatism and pro-business economic growth is a more conservative view than that of the Congressional Democratic leadership—and far more conservative than the position of the other major presidential candidates (all of whom combined to receive less than 30%).

The similarities between some of Tsongas’ economic programs and those of President Bush present Congressional Democrats with a bit of a dilemma. This irony was seized upon by Republican Senator Bob Dole who both issued Tsongas an invitation to join the Republican Party and chided Democrats for blocking passage of the very Bush proposals supported by the New Hampshire Democratic winner.

The three other Democratic candidates will now step up their attacks on Tsongas and Clinton, focusing on their economic conservatism (Tsongas’ support for a reduction in the capital gains tax, his opposition to a middle-class tax cut and his support for nuclear power) as well as their conservatism on some social issues (Clinton, for example, supports the death penalty)

If this internal rupturing is not enough to worry Democrats, another weakness came into sharp focus in the days following New Hampshire. All of the losers sought to dismiss Tsongas’ New Hampshire win as a result of the fact that he comes from neighboring Massachusetts. They are portraying him as only a regional candidate who has no national appeal. Nevertheless, each of Tsongas’ opponents proceeded to focus on their regionalism as they sought a win of their own in the next round.

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin and Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey immediately shifted their campaigns to South Dakota (which borders both states) for that state’s February 25th caucuses. Harkin, on arrival, declared, “it’s good to be home” and Kerrey emphasized his status as a “neighbor”. Clinton, who is from Arkansas, was off to Georgia (for a March 3 primary) where he played on the theme of being a southerner.

Tsongas, meanwhile, ventured no further south than Maryland (another March 3 primary state) where he hopes that that state’s large Greek community will help him win and to demonstrate that he is not just a regional candidate!

All of this points to the Democrats’ real dilemma in 1992—Bush may be weakened but unless the Democrats can come up with an alternative who can unite the party and the country, in the words of Republican commentator Kevin Phillips, “Bush will squeak back in because the Democrats don’t quite have it together.”

Keep watching!

For comments or information, contact jzogby@aaiusa.org

Add your reaction Share

George Bush and His Challengers: Who They Are and Where They Stand on Arab Issues

Six months ago it appeared certain that the 1992 elections would be a non-event. Buoyed by high ratings in the polls, George Bush seemed unbeatable. Democrats were in disarray. Paul Tsongas, a little-known former one-term Senator from Massachusetts was the only announced Democratic candidate. Other bigger name Democrats seemed unwilling and afraid to enter the race.

What is certain today, however, as the first rounds of the primary election season begin, is that the 1992 elections will be a real contest. Most experts still predict a Bush reelection, but so much has changed in the past few months that no one is now taking this election for granted.

In August 1991, Bush was polling 75% favorable ratings with a high 67% of the public calling for his reelection. After months of press focus on the weakened state of the U.S. economy, today the President’s favorable ratings have fallen to 41% and his unfavorable ratings have risen to 47%. Less than 50% now support Bush’s reelection—a danger sign for his campaign.

Five Democrats have entered the race. Most of these Democratic candidates either represent a narrow regional base or represent a particular interest group within the party and do not, at this time, seem able to unite the entire Democratic party. This problem continues to hamper the Democrat’s chances of success in winning the presidency in November, 1992. This, however, provides only some consolation to the President since he is receiving regional and interest group challenges that threaten the unity of his own party.

The President is receiving a strong challenge in New Hampshire, the first primary election, from TV personality Pat Buchanan. Ku Klux Klan and Nazi leader David Duke is also running against Bush in primaries in several Southern states. When he last ran for president four years ago, Duke was viewed as an insignificant candidate, but after shocking the nation by receiving over 40% of the vote in two state-wide elections in his home state of Louisiana, his threat is no longer easily dismissed.

For the time being the Duke challenge does not concern Bush as he must first deal with Buchanan. Buchanan is peeling away 20% to 30% of the Republican’s conservative base by accusing Bush of betraying his 1988 “no new tax” pledge made to his right-wing supporters.

It does not appear likely that Buchanan can win, but he can embarrass the President and weaken him in the face of his Democratic rivals. This is precisely what Ronald Reagan did to President Ford in 1976 and what Ted Kennedy did to President Jimmy Carter in 1980. In both cases while Ford and Carter beat these primary challenges from within their own parties, they were weakened enough to lose reelections in their November races.

***

This 1992 election is playing out against the backdrop of a dramatically changed world—a world requiring and, for the most part, accepting U.S. leadership. It is, to say the least, ironic that having won the Cold War and the Gulf War, many Americans not only seem unwilling to accept this new world responsibility, but are resentful of the demands it has placed on the President’s time and the nation’s resources. This is principally due to a prolonged recession. One million bankruptcies in the past year, unemployment at 7.1%, 2.3 million homeless, and 12 million Americans on some form of welfare—all have combined to sap the nation’s strength and erode it’s optimism. The recession has led to calls for trade protectionism and “put America first” isolationism from both the Democratic left and the Republican right.

The Arab world has obvious concerns in this regard. Peace, trade, and regional security are all issues of vital concern to Arabs and all are tied to the U.S.-Arab relationship. It is no exaggeration to suggest that the outcome of the 1992 elections is as central to the short-term fate of the Arab world as it is to Americans.

It is useful, therefore, to look at the policies of George Bush and his six major challengers to see how they stand vis-a-vis issues directly effecting Arabs.

***

One observation that can be made at the outset is that there is much that is new in candidates’ views this year. In 1988, with the exception of Jesse Jackson, it appeared that the Middle East position of all the campaigns, Republican and Democratit, had been written by the same person. Even candidate George Bush mouthed strong pro-Israel positions in 1988.

A great deal has happened to change this. The Gulf War produced and strengthened a U.S.-Arab alliance and shaped new U.S. interest in the Middle East. The continuing Palestinian intifadah and the brutal repression and intransigence of the Shamir government has resulted in dramatic shifts in U.S. public opinion. A December 1991 Wall Street Journal poll showed that by a margin of 41% to 29% Americans view Israel as a greater obstacle to peace than the Arabs, and a Gordon Black poll of September 1991 showed that by 2 to 1 Americans support a Palestinian state.

In addition, the successful effort of the Secretary of State James Baker and President Bush to bring about Middle East peace talks has given many Americans a sense of pride and accomplishment. Thus while Democrats and critics of the President may attack his domestic policies and his emphasis on foreign affairs, there is virtual bi-partisan support for the Middle East peace process.

Finally, the nation’s economic woes and the calls for “American first” have caused many politicians to rethink support for foreign aid, even aid to Israel. Democratic Congressman David Obey, powerful chairman of the committee that oversees foreign aid said recently that “this year it maybe politically more dangerous to support aid to Israel than to oppose it.”

Thus, while four year ago little was said about the Middle East and what was said reflected a straight pro-Israel line, today the candidates views reflect a growing appreciation of the region’s complexities and a more balanced approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. While not all of the candidates’ statements reflect a fully developed policy and some pandering to pro-Israeli audiences still takes place, it is clear that views have shifted, candidates are feeling the tug of public opinion and their positions reflect this.

What follows is our attempt to outline the Middle East positions of the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates.

***

THE REPUBLICANS
GEORGE BUSH is the incumbent president. As President, Bush has effected a distinct transition in public American Middle East policy from what it had been under the Reagan administration, with regard to both the broader U.S-Arab relationship and the Arab-Israeli conflict. While the Reagan administration pursued a strong public U.S.-Israeli strategic relationship, often at the expense of Arab interests, the Bush administration responded to the end of the Cold war and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait by committing the U.S. in a dramatic way to the security and stability of the Gulf and to a U.S.-Arab partnership. The U.S. mobilized an international coalition and secured passage of 12 U.N. resolutions designed to liberate Kuwait and defend the Gulf states.

At the completion of the Gulf war the Bush administration sought to further advance peace and stability in the Middle East by pursuing a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. In his address to the nation on March 6, 1991, Bush himself stated explicitly this new policy in an outline of the steps his administration would take in the coming months to promote an Arab-Israeli dialogue. “By now it should be plain to all parties that peacemaking in the Middle East requires compromise.” “A comprehensive peace must be grounded in United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of territory for peace. The principle must be elaborated to provide for Israel’s security and recognition, and at the same time for legitimate Palestinian political rights. Anything else would fail the twin tests of fairness and security.” The imposition of this twin test is a milestone in U.S. Middle East policy, marking the first time that Palestinian rights have been given equal weight with Israeli security concerns.

The Bush administration perspective is strongly internationalist. And it seeks, in its vision of a “New World Order” a Middle East engaged in regional cooperation and trade as being in the best interests of the U.S. But it realizes that for such a vision to become real, the Arab-Israeli dispute must be resolved on a sound and acceptable basis.

Not only has this administration strengthened its public ties to the Arab world but, again unlike the Reagan administration, it has publicly challenged Israeli intransigence. Bush’s Secretary of State, James Baker, signalled this transition in a May 22, 1989 address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) when he declared, “For Israel, now is the time to lay aside, once and for all, the unrealistic vision of a greater Israel.” And by voting in favor of U.N. Security Council Resolution 726, the Bush administration went beyond previous statements regarding the territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 war. The resolution referred to the territories as “occupied Palestinian territories” and “Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, including East Jerusalem.” (emphasis added) The phrase in italics represents a specific departure from the Reagan administrations’ position of saying little in public against Israel’s claim to have annexed East Jerusalem.

With regard to the Israeli request for $10 billion in loan guarantees, Bush responded to a provocation by AIPAC and won a very significant battle with the pro-Israel lobby. By applying direct and public pressure on Israel to stop settlements as a condition for securing the loans, Bush has dramatically altered U.S. public opinion and caused a debate within Israel and the American Jewish community on the advisability of building settlements.

Finally, the Bush administration succeeded in using its prestige and power to convene two-track Middle East peace talks. This has not only created new conditions for peace in the Middle East, but it has also dramatically altered the U.S. debate on the Middle East. There is today bi-partisan support for the peace talks and strong public support for the principles on which they are based.

***

PAT BUCHANAN is a former White House speechwriter and is well-known as a columnist and television personality. The stated reasons for his campaign against an incumbent from his own party are primarily ideological. According to Buchanan, President Bush has abandoned the conservative agenda in the economic and social spheres. But Buchanan has also articulated a foreign policy agenda described as “America First”, arguing that the U.S. should retrench and take care of problems at home rather than worry about issues abroad.

Consistent with this campaign theme, Buchanan was an opponent of military action of any kind against Iraq prior to the Gulf war. He argued that such a war would not be in the interests of the U.S., and angered Israel and many of its U.S. supporters when he charged that “There are only two groups beating the drums for war in the Middle East—the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner here in the United States.” With the advent of hostilities, however, in a patriotic vein Buchanan supported the troops involved in the fighting, though he remained less than sanguine about the decision to initiate hostilities.

Buchanan continues to argue for a protectionist U.S. trade policy, against foreign aid, and for limiting U.S. security commitments abroad. He does, however, strongly support the administration’s efforts to convene Middle East peace talks and its continuing pressure on Israel to cede land for peace. Buchanan now supports Palestinian statehood, arguing that the intifada had changed his mind. “It was clear to me…that these were people who had reached a level of political maturity, that were willing to stand up to guns and assert their right of peoplehood and nationhood.”

Buchanan has responded to the charge of anti-semitism stemming from his criticism of Israel by saying: “I understand how American Jews can be supportive of Israel … But they’ve got to understand that I’m an American patriot. I believe in American national interests and I believe in justice. And if those beliefs conflict with the foreign policy of Yitzak Shamir and Ariel Sharon, I’m going to stand up and say so.”

***

THE DEMOCRATS
JERRY BROWN is a former two-term Governor of California and more recently served as the California Democratic Party Chair. The focus of his campaign has been to attack the traditional domestic political process, in which special interest and PAC money have so much influence on shaping politicians’ views and behavior. Brown has emphasized his record in spurring economic growth, respect for minorities and progressive social issues while serving as Governor of the nation’s largest state. His approach to Middle East issues has been difficult to gauge because he has only occasionally touched on the subject.

In an interview with NBC’s John McLaughlin, Brown endorsed the Bush administration’s handling of the Middle East peace talks and said that self-rule for Palestinians within five years was “very consistent with the Camp David accords…where there is a gradual process of democratization, where each side can learn to live with the other.” Brown also opined that the administration’s position on Palestinian self-rule did not put undue pressure on Israel, an opinion which the government of Israel and its supporters in the U.S. do not share. He has also made vague reference to a future Middle East “moving beyond nationalism” where trade, human rights and democracy are promoted.

While not an isolationist, Brown has expressed some displeasure with Israel’s request for $10 billion in loan guarantees. He told a cheering audience in Maine, “I can’t understand why we would give $10 million in loan guarantees to Israel when we have homeless right here in the United States.” As an environmentalist, Brown does challenge what he calls “Dependency on foreign oil…”, sometimes slipping into his rhetoric the term “Arab oil.” He has stated support for cutting U.S. defense commitments in Europe and Japan and slashing the defense budget by 50% in the next five years.

***

BILL CLINTON is the incumbent Governor of Arkansas, a position he has held for about twelve years. Formerly the Chair of the Democratic Leadership Council, a moderate-conservative grouping of Democratic elected officials he helped to found, Clinton seeks to challenge the “anti-business, anti-economic growth, fiscally irresponsible spending” of more liberal Democrats. He was the early front-runner of the Democratic field of candidates, but his campaign has been hit hard by press scrutiny and charges of “womanizing” and “draft dodging” during the Viet Nam war.

Through the course of his campaign he has expressed positions on a number of Middle East-related issues. While generally sympathetic to the arguments and positions advanced by pro-Israel groups, Clinton has at times sought a more balanced position. His top foreign policy advisor is Anthony Lake, an official in the Carter administration’s National Security Council.

Clinton is one of the few Democrats running who endorsed Bush’s Gulf war strategy in general, and voiced no dissent on tactics. In a campaign release Clinton notes that “the U.S. has vital interests at stake in the Middle East. that is why he supported President Bush’s efforts to throw Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, the only Democratic candidate who took this position.” But in talking about the Israeli role during the war, Clinton “called it ‘the height of hypocrisy’ for the president to assert that Israel should be grateful that the United States saved it from Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.” He added that Israel could have defended itself on its own if it had to.

On the issue of the Israeli request for $10 billion in housing loan guarantees, Clinton claimed that Bush’s linkage of the granting of the $10 billion to a cessation of Israeli settlement building was done not out of principle but for “Domestic politics” and implied that the President did so only after seeing that most Americans oppose foreign aid generally and because of a growing anti-semitism in the United States. At one point Clinton was quoted as saying, “It is not necessary to agree with everything the Shamir government has ever done” to grant the $10 billion. He restated and clarified this position in early January when he argued again that the loan guarantees should be granted, but that the conditions under which they would be granted should be negotiated. In yet another interview Clinton seemed to indicate that his disagreement with the president was due to his making the challenge to Shamir a public one. Clinton stated: “Certainly the settlement policy of [the Israeli government] has not been helpful to the peace process”, but “what I would do in private is different from what I would do in public.”

Finally, at a speech before a Jewish audience, Clinton stated his belief that Israel will “inevitably” be required to trade land for peace, and added that such a trade must be accompanied by “the democratization and demilitarization of the hostile Arab states.” Clinton has supported “President Bush’s efforts to get Israel and the Arab states to sit down at the peace table”—but warns that the U.S. should not put pressure on the parties or dictate terms.

***

TOM HARKIN is a two-term senator from Iowa. While many Democrats seeking national office adopt the style of John Kennedy, Harkin has unabashedly taken on the style of a hard-hitting Harry Truman (who served as U.S. President from 1945 through 1953).

Calling himself the “real Democrat”, Harkin has vigorously attacked George Bush from a traditional left-wing Democratic perspective. Harkin is the most isolationist of the Democrats, calling on the President to “come home” and “put America first.” He has called for halving the defense budget and leaving Europe and Japan to defend themselves. Harkin has attracted labor unions and strong Jewish support. Some peace organizations support him, but others have expressed discomfort over his one-sided Middle East views.

In his two elections to the Senate, Harkin has accepted $359,980 in pro-Israel PAC money. Of the Democratic field, he has made the most extreme pro-Israel statements on all issues, though it is illustrative of how far the debate has already shifted to note that his positions would be mainstream in 1988. There is even some doubt, however, that Harkin’s public statements are representative of his true stance on many of these issues since he has sometimes issued contradictory statements.

During the Gulf war Harkin was one of a number of liberals to oppose the war. After the war and during the period in which he was exploring a presidential bid, Harkin made the shocking observation that the Administration never should have agreed to liberate Kuwait or defend Saudi Arabia unless they agreed in advance to recognize Israel and normalize relations with it.

With regard to the peace process, Harkin has stated that he does not believe in a need for an even-handed approach to solving Middle East Problems. Harkin also labelled the administration’s argument that Israeli settlements are an obstacle to peace “ridiculous on its face. The biggest obstacle to peace is the lack of any will on the part of other countries to take off the boycott and sit down and negotiate with Israel.” He underscored these themes in a fundraising letter for his ‘92 Presidential bid in which he argues that one of the reasons he’s running is “because I’m deeply troubled by the Bush administration’s serious weakening of its support for Israel.” Later in the same letter he pleads: “I’m fighting them [the Bush administration and the GOP leadership] and their so-called ‘even-handed’ approach to the Middle East. I’m fighting George Bush, because he’s turned his back on Israel.”

In a speech to the American Section of the World Jewish Congress in New York city, Harkin ridiculed “the idea that the Golan Heights is somehow important to Syria. Of course it is not.” He elaborated on his belief that an even-handed approach to the peace process is not necessary by stating: “I find it more than passing strange that we would be pressuring Israel to give up land for peace, to reach all these agreements, when we know the best thing for peace in the Middle East are more democratic governments.” He warned against U.S. cooperation with Syria by saying, “It’s wrong that George Bush coddles up to Hafez Assad, perhaps like he coddled up to his old friend, Saddam Hussein.”

He also argued that as President he would move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In stating his position on the question of the $10 billion in loan guarantees, Harkin argued that the U.S. has “a moral obligation” to grant them, and added, “These are human beings, they should not be used for bargaining chips.”

Standing in a near total opposition to these stated views before and to Jewish audiences is a 1991 letter to a constituent who had questioned his positions on Middle East issues. In that letter Harkin wrote: “I believe that the only solution to the dispute is a negotiated settlement that would satisfy the national aspirations of both the Israelis and Palestinians. The negotiations should be based on the principle of ‘land for peace’, as propounded by the 1978 Camp David Accords.” He closed the letter by adding, “I support Secretary Baker’s ‘dual track’ approach to peace in the Middle East.” (emphasis added) And in an official campaign document outlining his position Harkin writes that he “has always been a strong advocate of a peaceful, negotiated resolution of the conflicts between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and Israel and its neighbors based on the Camp David Accords. In fact, on March 3, 1988, Tom Harkin joined with thirty Senate colleagues in sending a letter to then Secretary of State George Shultz stating that UN security resolution 242 should be the be the foundation for a resolution to the Middle East conflict.”

Harkin adds that he “is supportive of the current peace process now taking place between the parties in the Middle East. In fact, he would go even further in bringing lasting peace to the region. Specifically Tom Harkin believes the United states should take the lead in a temporary multilateral moratorium on the sale or transfer of arms to the Middle East and favors future arms constraints for the region. Stopping the flow of conventional and non-conventional weapons to the region would help defuse an explosive situation and place the parties on the path towards peace.” And, “Concerning Israeli settlements, in accordance with official U.S. policy, Tom Harkin believes this matter is best dealt with in the negotiations. the peace process is now the appropriate forum for the parties to decide the settlement issue as well as the Arab embargo against Israel and Arab recognition of Israel. In that regard, it in the interest of all parties at the Middle East peace conference to proceed to substantive talks as expeditiously as possible.”

There are two phases to Harkin’s legislative history and voting record as a member of Congress (1977-1985) and the Senate (1985-1992). From 1977 to the summer of 1980, he consistently voted in favor of lowering the level of foreign aid to all countries, including Israel. During this period he opposed efforts to reduce U.S. support for Arab states, including Syria, and showed clear support for Palestinian human rights. And in June of 1980 he voted against an effort to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The second phase of Harkin’s voting record, from summer of 1980 to the present, is entirely different from that of the first period. The change dates from shortly after a heated closed-door meeting in then-Rep. Harkin’s office between Harkin, an official from the Israeli embassy and an official from AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. After that date he changed his voting on almost all Middle East-related issues, including a vote in favor of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He consistently voted in favor of increasing aid to Israel, and was equally consistent in his opposition to arms sales to Arab counties, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. He voted against the resolution authorizing hostilities against Iraq.

***

BOB KERREY is Nebraska’s junior senator and formerly served as its Governor. Kerrey is a highly decorated war hero. During the Viet Nam war he lost a leg on combat a yet still continued to lead his troops to safety. For this he received the nation’s highest praise, the Congressional Medal of Honor. This experience served to shape much of Kerrey’s philosophy and campaign. The principle focus of his effort is the need for national health insurance. Though not an isolationist, he supports a strong U.S. military and supports a strong U.S. foreign trade initiatives. Kerrey has called for a reduction in defense spending as well as in domestic spending. He has maintained an independent stance on Middle East-related issues, yet has taken pains to avoid antagonizing any party.

In part due to his war experience, he opposed the Gulf war even to the point of being one of only three Senators to oppose the deployment of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia in 1990.

A Jewish reporter noted that “Mr. Kerrey’s recent record suggests his campaign won’t encourage pro-Israel democrats looking for a candidate to address their issues.” Kerrey was one of only 2 Democratic Senators to not sign on as a cosponsor of the Kasten-Inouye Bill granting the $10 billion in housing loan guarantees to Israel without conditions, and Morris Amitay, head of the pro-Israel Washington PAC, suggested that “Mr. Kerrey’s act of omission could well cost him—literally and figuratively.”

While principled on some issues, Kerrey can sometimes be confusing and even contradictory in his position. For example, in a 9/17/91 speech on Senate floor Kerrey addressed the causes for the rift in American-Israeli relations over the loan guarantees. He asked, “Where did we go wrong? The blame is shared. I believe Israel’s rapid construction of settlements in the West Bank has been provocative and counterproductive.” He cites his meeting with Shamir in which he strongly argued for a freeze in settlements. “But Israel’s settlements policy is not the proximate cause of the of the new tension in the peace process and in US-Israeli relations.” This cause the “the astounding performance of the President over the past week.” Bush’s request for the delay is “as baffling as it is destructive.” He assaults more the manner of the President’s action than the action itself, though he does accuse Bush of holding “humanitarian aid hostage to political aims.” He concludes “I want to make the case for the loan guarantees. I want to make the case for against Israel’s settlement policy. But I want that process to be a constructive one that can help break the gridlock—both within Israel and the Mideast—not exacerbate it. For that reason, I will join with my colleagues who reject an unjustified delay and act to consider the loan guarantees for Israel at the earliest opportunity.”

Kerrey supports the direction of the U.S.-led peace process, and has praised Bush and Baker for putting together the Madrid conference. Before a “predominantly Jewish group” of supporters in Omaha, Kerrey said Baker “deserves a great deal of credit for pursuing diligently these negotiations.” He argued that the US “should promote the idea of autonomy for Palestinians and not adopt the land-for-peace concept that some want to use as a basis for a settlement.”

In answer to question about moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem he said “The current policy of recognizing Tel Aviv should be continued.”

***

PAUL TSONGAS, was a Senator from Massachusetts from 1878-1984, and declined to run for a second term when he was diagnosed with cancer and given only 8-10 years to live. He has since been told that radical surgery was a complete success and that he is now fully cured, and has therefore renewed his quest for public office. Tsongas is the self-styled pro-business Democrat, supporting a targeted cut in capital gains taxes and offering incentives for research and development and investment in new businesses.

The first Democrat to announce, he was largely ignored because he was unknown and not at all charismatic. However, after Clinton’s campaign began to plummet in the polls, Tsongas began to draw attention with his high ratings in the polls in his neighboring state of New Hampshire.

Tsongas has said and done very little on Middle East issues. In his campaign’s book, A Call to Economic Arms, he described the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon as something out of Dante’s “Inferno”, but says that intervention would have helped nothing, that Lebanon is a mess, and possibly beyond hope.

However, in a 1982 letter written after his return from a fact-finding trip in Lebanon and Israel, Tsongas sharply criticized the Begin government and argued that the U.S. should make an intensive diplomatic effort to help Lebanon and backed that up by successfully getting the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to expand then-President Reagan’s request for emergency aid to Lebanon from $20 million to $50 million.

With regard to the peace process, Tsongas wrote in his 1982 letter that the PLO must renounce terrorism and accept U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338 and also recognize Israel’s right to exist. “The PLO must understand the war against Israel is over,” he wrote. “At the same time, I feel that the present Israeli government’s interpretation of the Camp David framework does not adequately address the Palestinian question” or address the long-term needs of any of the parties, including Israel. Tsongas urged autonomy negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and added that “Israel must not build any new settlements on the West Bank of the Gaza Strip.

Speaking more recently on NBC’s “Meet the Press” (7/20/91) Tsongas announced that he believes Arabs and Israel should cooperate not only politically but economically. He envisions the creation of “an economic tie that links them so it is in the vital interests of an Arab state to have a viable Israel and vice versa.”
Later in same “Meet the Press” interview Tsongas indicated support for a unilateral US strike against any remaining Iraqi nuclear capability, saying that while the UN should be the first recourse “in the last analysis, that nuclear capability has to be taken out.”

On 9/16 visit to Plains, GA Tsongas criticized Bush for “turning the issue of $10 billion in U.S. loan guarantees for Israel into a personal fight” with Shamir. “What I don’t understand is why he has gone out his way to pick this fight. No Arab state has made this an issue.” He added later that Bush is using this fight just as the same kind of ‘symbolic issue’ that Willie Horton served in the 1988 campaign. “We were the nation that put enormous pressure on the Soviets to let Jews emigrate. Finally, that has happened and now all of a sudden we change our mind.”

Standing in contrast with some of these public comments is a position paper issued by the Tsongas campaign which takes a strongly pro-Israel stance on a number of issues. The paper is very critical of the Bush administration’s Middle East policy in general, particularly regarding the peace process. It argues against including Jerusalem in the negotiations, as “it is time that we recognize that Jerusalem is and will remain the undivided capital of Israel.” The paper also argues against Palestinian statehood.

For comments or information, contact jzogby@aaiusa.org

Add your reaction Share

← Previous  1  2    139  140  141  142  143  144  145  146  147