My column this week in Human Events:
The Arab American Institute held its national conference in Detroit over the weekend, and presidential hopefuls Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul were there. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards addressed the conference via video hookup. Obama also sent an adviser, Tony Lake, and Edwards sent his campaign manager, David Bonior. Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean was there as well.
A Detroit Free Press article noted how much this was indication of changing times: “In 1988, Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis rejected the endorsement of a major Arab-American group.” But now? “This year, Democratic party leaders gave the candidates permission to address the conference despite a campaign boycott of Michigan because legislators moved up the date of the state’s primary.”
The candidates lined up to prove they were More Antiwar Than Thou. “This is a war that I have opposed from the start, and I still do,” said Obama on his video. “Our neglect of the Middle East peace process has spurred despair and fueled terrorism.” Kucinich pledged to end the war in Iraq immediately: “We as a nation must take a new direction,” he said. “We must stop telling people ‘It’s my way or the highway.’ It’s time for American to get out of the Middle East and stop trying to dominate the politics of the region. My plan is to end the war now. It is the occupation of Iraq that is feeding the insurgency.” Edwards declared: “I want to be the president who is going return America as keeper of peace in the region. America needs to return to the position in which it is the moral leader in the world.”
Listening to them, a visitor from a distant planet might be forgiven for thinking that the entire problem between the West and the Islamic world stems from the United States’ unprovoked invasion of Iraq. The wisdom of that invasion as a truly effective means to limit the advance of the global jihad is debatable, but none of the candidates took into account the 9/11 attacks that brought that jihad to the United States. They didn’t seem to make any recognition of the fact that Islamic jihad terrorism and Islamic supremacism exist.
Thus they took a similarly dim view of domestic measures to protect Americans from another jihad terror attack, expressing empathy over the alleged erosion of the civil rights of Arab-Americans, and a determination to redress it. “I will follow the Constitution of the United States,” said Richardson. “The erosion of our civil liberties is not just something that is felt by minorities -- it affects all Americans.” He also said: “I will protect these values we have compromised through unwarranted surveillance and ethnic profiling.” Obama, according to the Detroit News, “reminded the potential voters that he has introduced legislation to make police profiling illegal,” and Kucinich emphasized his consistent opposition to the Patriot Act.
But it was Howard Dean played to the galleries most shamelessly, telling the conference attendees: “You have been singled out unfairly and unjustly...by politicians who hope to have a cheap electoral trick.” He then referred to former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell and Apple CEO Steve Jobs as successful Arab Americans, adding: “It is important for us to stand and recognize these leaders at a time when this community is under siege by those who would divide America in order to win elections.”
The Democrats apparently believe that the Patriot Act was an unprovoked racist measure designed to rob Arabs of their civil liberties. The fact that America faces a threat from Islamic jihadists – who come in all races, colors, and ethnicities – who have vowed to destroy this nation never seems to enter into their calculations. After all, it was Edwards who said that the terror war was just a “bumper sticker.”
The candidates could have used the occasion of the AAI conference to exhort Muslims in America to support anti-terror measures instead of fulminating against them, and institute comprehensive programs in American mosques and Islamic schools teaching against the ideology of Islamic supremacism.
Instead, they pandered.