I’m running for president because I love America and hate the direction George Bush is taking us.
We’ve lost nearly 3 million private sector jobs. Millions have lost their health insurance and millions more can’t keep up with rising premiums. The middle class is getting squeezed. At least a million new people have fallen into poverty. The environment has been sold out to special interests.
And because of this administration’s arrogant and unilateral foreign policy, America is more hated around the world right when it needs more friends than ever.
We need a fresh start — leadership that will bring our country together and move it forward.
As president, I’m going to grow the economy and grow the middle class — starting with a tax cut for 98 percent of taxpayers and a national paid family-leave program. Protect the environment. Improve our schools. Extend access to good, affordable health care to every American. Defend a woman’s right to choose. Wean our country from its dangerous dependence on foreign oil. Reduce the poverty rate to the lowest level in history. And keep America strong in the world — with a muscular foreign policy working with allies and friends.
What does that mean for the Middle East?
It means that we need to recognize we have a special relationship with Israel. America and Israel share a unique bond built on our shared values, shared commitment to freedom and democracy, and shared interests in defeating terrorism and promoting security and stability in the region.
I also believe that peace and stability in the Middle East is vitally important to America’s national security, and we need to work hard to realize the day when we have a secure, democratic Jewish Israel alongside a democratic and peaceful Palestine.
The essential first step to achieve that goal is for the Palestinian leadership to make a 100 percent effort to stop terrorism and dismantle terrorist organizations. Once that happens, so much else is possible.
And until that happens, almost any step we take will be illusory.
The United States cannot force the parties to settle their differences or dictate the terms of a final settlement. But there is hope and progress only when America is engaged. When America is not engaged, peace, stability and security suffer.
The Bush administration has concentrated in fits and starts. That has not helped quell the violence or returned us to the path of peace. As well, we need to redouble our efforts in grappling with the broader security threats from Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
I have never believed that Jewish Americans should support me because I’m Jewish. But neither should Jews oppose me because I’m Jewish or worry about supporting me out of some fear of what might happen if a Jewish American becomes president.
The truth is that America is more accepting of difference now than at any time in its history, and it is the most ethnically and religiously tolerant country on earth.
I am running for president as an American — to give America the strong, serious leadership we need in these changing and challenging times.
I have confidence in the American people, who are so magnificently fair and accepting and are ready to support whoever they think would be the best president to provide them with safer, better lives, regardless of religion or any other description.
That’s the America of which I have always been proud — and which my grandparents believed in and dreamed of when coming to this great country. To quote the famous Jewish dictum, “If not now, when?”