Senator John Kerry's Moment to Shine

By Curtiss, Richard H. | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, April 2004 | Go to article overview

Senator John Kerry's Moment to Shine


Curtiss, Richard H., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Following his victories in Iowa, New Hampshire and the February primaries, this is Sen. John F. Kerry's moment to shine. It also provides a good opportunity to consider how Kerry's views on the Middle East differ from Dr. Howard Dean's. The latter is quite blunt in saying that the U.S. must take an even-handed approach if a just peace is ever to be established in Palestine and Israel. Dean's campaign chairman, Steve Grossman, a former president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), resigned on the eve of Dean's third-place finish in the Wisconsin primary, and was expected to offer his services to Kerry. The Massachusetts senator has been much more cautious, saying that Israel must be supported at all costs. He has gone on to say, however, that most Americans and Israelis realize that Palestine must have a state of its own.

Along with his fellow Democratic senators John Edwards (NC) and Joseph Lieberman (CT), Kerry signed on to the war on Iraq. By contrast, Dean, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rep. Dennis Kucinich and Gen. J. Wesley Clark were against the war.

Senator Kerry voted to authorize President Bush's use of military force against Iraq. He later voted against Bush's $87 billion request to rebuild Iraq. Instead, Kerry would obtain a U.N. resolution to give the U.N. authority to rebuild Iraq and replace the Coalition Provisional Authority with a U.N. special representative.

For his part, Governor Dean opposed preemptive war in Iraq, and has proposed calling on NATO to maintain order. He advocates having Arab and Muslim countries and other allies share the costs of stabilizing Iraq, and has proposed transforming the U.N. Oil for Food program into an Oil for Recovery Program. This, he argues, would help pay part of the reconstruction and transition costs for a democratic transition to take place within 18 to 24 months, keeping our troops in for a longer period.

An important point, however, is that most Arab- and Muslim-Americans are deeply, deeply disappointed in President George W. Bush. They worked hard to back him in a very close race and now feel doubly betrayed that he has simply walked away from his campaign promises to do something about the Arab-Israeli dispute.

Until four years ago the Arab- and Muslim- American vote was about evenly divided between social conservatives and more liberal voters. Now all Arab Americans feel very strongly against Bush, and will vote for just about anyone from the Democrat Party. One can say with confidence that that is a given, and that almost nothing could change it.

With very few exceptions, Kerry and Dean have similar positions on Democratic issues. Kerry supports "preserving affirmative action" as a civil rights priority, and opposed efforts in the Senate to undermine or eliminate affirmative action programs.

He did, however, vote for the PATRIOT Act, and authored the law's anti-money-laundering provisions. Kerry also proposes expanding surveillance powers, but repealing the "sneak and peak" features.

Arab-American voters have been gravely concerned by the Bush administration's PATRIOT Act, which has greatly increased U.S. government surveillance and investigative powers. The law has been criticized by civil liberties organizations as far-reaching, unchecked and prone to abuse.

Dean has called for the rollback of the PATRIOT Act and the overly broad investigative and surveillance powers it gives to the government. The former Vermont governor urged Congress to reconsider aspects of the PATRIOT Act and other anti-terror tactics that lead to abuses. Dean also has challenged the FBI's practice of gathering information on anti-war demonstrations.

From Slow-Starter to Front-Runner

Kerry got off to a slow start in the primary season, partly because he had to recuperate from prostate surgery in mid-summer. It also has taken him a while to get over speaking in Senate jargon. In a Newsweek article, Howard Fineman commented, "His audiences were anesthetized by his lordly demeanor, verbose style and aura of entitlement. …

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