Jan. 11 (JTA) In 2002, as I began to travel the country the way one does when seeking the presidency, I had three priorities: expanding health-care coverage to all Americans, improving programs for early childhood development, and balancing the budget to bring financial stability and jobs back to America. As the campaign has developed, the central message I carry is to energize the Democratic Party to stand up for its traditional principles and policies and to take our country back from the special interests that have captured our political system. My candidacy has already demonstrated the power of this message: We the people do have the power to transform the political landscape. But in seeking change, we also remain committed to historic American values, because the American flag belongs to all of us, not only to John Ashcroft, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. For instance, as we wage a vigorous fight against terrorism, we can and we must do so without taking away fundamental civil rights. John Ashcroft should not be allowed to detain American citizens without charge and without legal representation. America’s strength rests with our respect for others and with our diversity. Similarly, freedom of religion is a bedrock American value. We are all free to practice our own religions precisely because the government does not regulate religion. This cherished freedom is in jeopardy. Like so much of what this president has done, his faith-based initiative has been used to drive wedges between well-intentioned people. While religious charitable institutions have a critical role to play in meeting our nation’s problems, recipients of federal money should never be allowed to proselytize or engage in employment discrimination. We must not allow people to use government money to endanger tolerance and the rights of minorities. America’s challenges, of course, do not end at our borders. We must continue to wage a vigorous battle against terrorism but without lying to the American people and to our brave soldiers. And in this global fight, the United States and Israel are partners. Let me be clear: preserving Israel’s security is a bedrock principle that will guide my administration’s foreign policy. On a tour of the Old City in Jerusalem during my 2002 trip to Israel, I experienced first-hand the miracle of the modern Jewish state. I saw remains of a house next to a stone wall that King Hezekiah had ordered built to defend against invaders. In a neighboring house, I looked out the window down at the stone wall and the remains of that house and understood that 3,000 years ago people prayed the same prayers in the same Hebrew language. That experience reinforced my commitment to the special relationship the United States has with Israel. Israel will always have the resources necessary to guarantee its long-term defense and security. And we do this not as a favor for Israel but because it is in America’s interests to do so. I also believe that peace in the Middle East is a key U.S. interest and that the United States is the only intermediary that can bring the Israelis and Palestinians to the peace table. Playing the role of a fair and honest broker is consistent with the special relationship the United States has with Israel. This land is holy to Jews, Muslims, and Christians and I am committed to working together to find solutions that are acceptable to the parties. Ultimately, only the Palestinians and the Israelis themselves can make and keep the peace and work out the specifics of a lasting agreement. It seems clear that this will not happen as long as Yasser Arafat is in control. People ask me about the Middle East conflict all the time and ask me what I would do. I remind them that I saw first-hand the horror of violence when I worked at hospitals as a medical student at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein Medical College. And I always say that we’re never going to get peace in the Middle East as long as we have terror. Israel has both the right and the responsibility to protect and defend its citizens against terrorists. This president has implemented a foreign policy characterized by dominance, arrogance and intimidation. We are losing our role as a world leader. His brand of diplomacy has driven a deep wedge into the alliances and the security organizations we established to safeguard our freedoms and our safety. This has put America and our allies in danger. There is perhaps no larger threat to the United States and Israel today than the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction by rogue states and terrorist groups in particular Iran and North Korea. I will lead a global alliance against terror, seeking to use improved relations with our friends to stop the flow of nuclear and missile technology to Iran. I will also commit $30 billion to a global fund to seek and destroy weapons of mass destruction and their components, including purchasing nuclear fuel from the states of the former Soviet Union and working with the Russian government to stop transfers of weapons and know-how by Russian companies to Iran. I seek to lead our nation with hope, not fear. Our nation, once looked to as a beacon of hope from around the globe, now is looked at with suspicion and distrust. We can do better. We should stand up strongly when injustice is done. We should protest when rights are jeopardized. We should help unite the world for the common good. Our path for the future is clear. It is the path that generations before us have taken. It is to change America the only way it can be changed through the people. It is time to take our country back. Howard Dean is a medical doctor and former governor of Vermont.
Howard Dean’s statement