Kerry’s Record at Home, Abroad Deserves American Jewish Support

As an American, a Jew and a former public servant, I strongly support John Kerry and urge my fellow Americans and the American Jewish community to do likewise. At a time of unprecedented challenge, Sen. Kerry’s long and distinguished career in the United States Senate and the values he would bring to the presidency make him the right person, at the right time, to lead our country.

I have known and worked with John Kerry since he entered the United States Senate in 1985, have testified in hearings he chaired on environmental and energy security issues, and have admired his leadership on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

First, John Kerry has been a lifelong advocate for Jewish causes. He was a firm supporter for the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate in the 1980s. He supported my efforts at securing justice for Holocaust victims in the 1990s.

Today he is an outspoken advocate for justice for Hungarian Holocaust survivors who are trying to obtain justice from the United States over the Hungarian Gold Train captured by the United States — over the objections of the Bush administration’s Justice Department.

Sen. Kerry has been outspoken in condemning anti-Semitism in the Arab world and in Europe. He has a 19-year voting record of 100 percent support for Israel, consistently supporting higher levels of U.S. aid, opposing weapons sales to Israel’s enemies and supporting Israel’s security needs in forcefully responding to terrorist attacks that take innocent Israeli lives, and, most recently, standing up for Israel’s right to build a security fence.

Few things would do more to enhance Israel’s security than Sen. Kerry’s energy program, which encourages alternative energy sources and conservation and makes us less dependent on volatile and increasingly expensive Middle East oil.

Second, John Kerry stands for the social values that animate our Jewish religion and our prophetic vision: advancement of civil rights at home and human rights abroad; an active concern for the disadvantaged; a positive program for poverty reduction; a tolerance for those with different lifestyles.

In our Yom Kippur service, we have read the majestic Haftarah from the prophet Isaiah that embodies the values so many Jews hold dear to this day, and which I believe is best represented in the social values of John Kerry: to “let the oppressed go free. . . to deal thy bread to the hungry. . . to see the naked and cover him to relieve the afflicted soul.”

His detailed, market-based health care program offers the best hope of providing coverage for the over 40 million Americans without any health care insurance, and in keeping soaring drug prices down. Moreover, Sen. Kerry will protect our environment — air, water, land, which have been increasingly endangered over the past four years.

Third, John Kerry is better prepared for the presidency and to be Commander-in-Chief in this time of world challenge than virtually any modern candidate. He knows war up-close and has the medals and awards to show it. He has spent almost two decades making foreign affairs his specialty, meeting with world leaders, traveling widely, analyzing the challenges of weapons of mass destruction, developing anti-terrorism strategies.

A Kerry foreign policy will help end the estrangement the Bush administration has created with our key allies in Europe and countries around the globe, making them more effective partners of the United States in the fight against terrorism, and relieving some of the burden now on American soldiers and taxpayers. He will reinvigorate NATO, which should have been used from the start in the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. He will have credibility in dealing with the United Nations.

Sen. Kerry’s four-point program for Iraq offers the best hope of shifting responsibility to the Iraqis and our allies and removing U.S. troops within a four-year period. He will also make the kinds of investments in homeland security, in protection of ports and critical infrastructure that will make terrorism on U.S. soil less likely, while aggressively pursuing the war on terrorism on all fronts.

Fourth, at a time of stagnant job growth and bloated federal deficits, which threaten to pass an immense debt burden on to our children and grandchildren, John Kerry has proposed plans to reduce the federal deficit in half, develop creative tax incentives for job creation and to encourage companies to create jobs in the United States rather than abroad. We can create 10 million new jobs over the next four years, the pace of the Clinton years.

But this election is also a referendum on the performance of the Bush administration. The Bush campaign has become the most negative in modern times, because they cannot run on their own record. They have to make the American people forget their record and try to tear down Sen. Kerry, a celebrated war hero. Consider the following:

With tax cuts heavily benefiting the most wealthy and with slow economic growth, the administration has squandered massive, hard-earned government surpluses under President Clinton (the first in five decades) and created a sea of deficit spending as far as the eye can see. This year will see the largest federal deficit in American history. This means passing along a massive debt burden to our children and grandchildren, less investment possible in education, health care and the environment, enormous stress on Social Security and Medicare;

The President will be the first since Herbert Hoover to have no net job creation over a four-year term. Indeed, we have lost over a million private sector jobs;

Poverty levels have increased significantly over the past four years and the number of Americans without health care coverage has increased to some 45 million;

Per capita incomes are stagnant and not keeping up with the rise in inflation;

The administration has taken the country to war in Iraq based upon faulty premises, threatening alliances; and

Far from uniting the country, as promised in the 2000 campaign, “wedge” issues have been used to divide Americans.

This is hardly the foundation to call for four more years.

I will be proudly and enthusiastically casting my vote for John Kerry and John Edwards on Nov. 2. I hope overwhelming percentages of American Jews will do so as well. (Stuart E. Eizenstat was chief domestic policy adviser to President Jimmy Carter. In the Clinton administration, he was U.S. ambassador to the European Union, undersecretary of commerce, undersecretary of state and deputy secretary of the Treasury. He was President Clinton’s special representative on Holocaust-era issues.)

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