Monday, February 12, 2007

2008: The Question for Candidates

Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Tom Vilsack, Dennis Kucinich, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and anyone else who's running for president will be making their way back and forth across Iowa and New Hampshire repeatedly over the next year. This year, more than ever, it's vitally important that each of them answer a single question.

To that end, I encourage everyone who lives in one of those states, or who expects to attend a town hall or other event anywhere in the country where you might have access to any of the candidates, to print out and take with you whichever version of "The Question" with which you're most comfortable (feel free to mix and match, if you wish!). Of course, anyone getting an answer is strongly urged to post it back here! (One suggestion--try to get a few friends or fellow travelers in on this, if the candidate hears people clapping when you ask your question, they'll be less likely to dismiss or dodge it.) Here they are:

The Nice Version

It seems these days that just about every campaign has advisors, paid or otherwise, to help ensure that candidates are sensitive to and reach out to just about every religious community: Christians, Jews and Muslims alike. Most surveys in recent years have found that non-religious, atheist and agnostic Americans outnumber the American Jewish and Muslim populations. Can you tell us whether you have any advisors or have made any effort to be sensitive to or reach out to the non-religious, atheist and agnostic communities in this country?

The Provocative Version

Surveys consistently tell us there are more Americans who reject or question the existence of God than there are American Jews and Muslims combined. Our country is embroiled in religious violence overseas. We were attacked by religious extremists on September 11th and the president who misled us into an unjust war has said he is guided by his god, too. According to media accounts, most Democratic campaigns, and certainly some Republican ones, make specific, concerted, strategic efforts to include religious viewpoints and religious advisors. What will you do to ensure that non-religious viewpoints and advisors who espouse them will be a part of your campaign and, if you win, your administration?

The Righteous-Anger Version

I don't believe in any gods. I share Thomas Jefferson's view of Jesus: That he was not divine. And yet, polls show that me and people like me are considered less moral--because we don't believe in magic beings--than people who share the beliefs of George W. Bush, Joe Lieberman or Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Numerous state laws discriminate against me and people like me. The first President Bush did not consider us full citizens. No one representing our views has ever been elected to Congress, even though we outnumber Jews and Muslims combined. Even you, I'm sure, reach out to many communities based on nothing else than their belief in gods or prayer or other forms of magic. To my knowledge, you have never spoken out against this socially-accepted hate against me and my kind. Why is that, and are you willing to oppose this discrimination by including open atheists in prominent positions in your campaign or cabinet?


Anonymous said...

Listening to Hillary Clinton’s clumsy attempts to paint herself as a longtime opponent of the war in Iraq, one has to wonder just how dumb she thinks the American voters are. She now seems to be claiming that her vote for the war resolution in 2002 was really not a vote to go to war!

In lines reminiscent of her husband’s famous “it depends on what the meaning of the word is,” Hillary told the New Hampshire Union Leader last weekend that her vote for the 2002 Joint Resolution, authorizing President Bush to deploy U.S. military forces in Iraq, was “not a vote for a preemptive war.” No, according to Mrs. Clinton, her vote was actually “a show of support for further United Nations weapons inspections.”


After several days of contentious debate in the Senate on what she described at the time as “the hardest decision” she had ever made, did she really think that she was voting to make the weapons inspectors feel better?

Did she actually read what the bill said before she cast that most difficult vote? Because the bill clearly said that:

“The president is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate…”

Was that so hard to understand?

Apparently only in hindsight.

Hillary voted ‘Yes” on the resolution, along with the Senate Republicans. At the time that the bill passed in October of 2002, she was in the midst of yet another makeover campaign. This time, she was repositioning herself as a centrist, to show that she wasn’t just a knee-jerk liberal. Being a hawk on Iraq was part of the strategy. And, with the polls showing overwhelming support for the resolution, Hillary’s vote was a cinch.

Two months later, after a trip to Iraq, Mrs. Clinton was still supportive of the war effort. In her first appearance on a national news show since her election in 2000, she told Tim Russert on Meet The Press that she wasn’t concerned about whether Saddam had actually had WMDs: 'I think that Saddam Hussein was certainly a potential threat'' and ''was seeking weapons of mass destruction, whether or not he actually had them.”

But now she claims that she was mislead and would not have voted for the resolution if she had known then what she knows now. Which is what? She’s known for years that there were no WMDs.

Now she’s against a troop surge in Iraq, too. But in late 2003, she also told Russert that we needed “more troops” in Iraq.

At about the same time, she spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. According to, “Clinton made four key points: She doesn't regret voting to authorize the president to go to war; she's "delighted" that Saddam Hussein was captured; American troops should stay in Iraq for as long as they're needed, and at higher levels than present, if necessary; and the postwar fight to secure Iraq is crucial.”

But that was then and now is now. At this point, she’s a presidential candidate and she’s suddenly adamantly against sending more troops. Why? Because she can’t afford to be a hawk in a field of anti-war democrats.

Apparently Mrs. Clinton believes that even though she voted for the war resolution, she, in fact, opposed it because she gave a speech on the Senate floor, saying she was not voting for a new “preemptive doctrine.”

And speaking of preemptive, what is Hillary talking about? Did she think that the Congress authorized the President to use troops in the event that Iraq attacked the U.S.? Of course not.

If the speech was meant to be a CYA memo, it won’t fly. The Senator who claims that she has the ‘responsibility gene’ and stands by her pro-war vote is trying to have it both ways. So when Mrs. Clinton says she knows more now than when she cast the vote, she must be referring to polling data showing that Democratic party primary voters don’t agree with her vote. That’s the only thing that’s new.

Naomi said...

I couldn't hope to be as erudite and long-winded as "anonymous".

Excellent questions! I'll be linking to this from a post on GifS. Look for it in a day or two.

Like you, I want the debate opened to every single American--not just the atheist/humanist blogs. To that end, I'm exploring the notion of forming a third-party called "Atheists for a Stronger Constitution", to run in my state in 2008. (Funnily enough, I've already had an agnostic ask me if we shouldn't leave "atheist" out of the name! When I explained that using the word "atheist" was the whole effing point but that I might consider making it "Atheists and Agnostics", he retreated back into his safe cave of indecision...)

In the meantime, why not email a few paragraphs from your post to Mike Finnegan, at Mike's Blog Roundup, on Crooks&Liars. He's included me two or three times already--just because I asked and because my view was somewhat different but still on the left.

And if you don't send it to Mike, I will!

Naomi, of

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