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August 08, 1980 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1980-08-08

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56 Friday, August 8, 1980


An Introductory to the Democratic Convention

Senator Carl Levin Defines His Party's Role


(Editor's note: On the eve of the Democratic Na-
tional Convention, opening in New York on Monday,
The Jewish News invited Senator Carl Levin to define
his party's position on many issues, including Israel
and the Middle East. While it is a partial statement, it
merits consideration in view of the pro-Reagan posi-
tion taken by Max M. Fisher in the special Republican
Party Convention issue of The Jewish News.)
For years, a large majority of the Jewish community
has found a philosophic home in the Democratic Party. And
we have found that home not just because the party has
been most consistent and vocal in recognizing that support
for Israel is in the American national interest. We have also
found a home here because our conception of progress and
our interest in specific programs and policies found a
friendly and fertile soil in the coalition which makes up the
Democratic constituency.
It seems to me that we need to retain our role in the
party and with its basic constituency, not only because the
country needs strong support for progressive programs, but
also because Israel needs strong support as well.
The American-Israeli relationship is entering a period
of tremendous strain. And, at the same time, Israel is enter-
ing a period in which she needs America and American
support more than ever. Over the years, we have grown
used to the shenanigans which periodically take place in
the UN General Assembly on the so-called "Zionist Ques-
tion," but it still comes as a shock when only seven nations
in the entire assembly have the courage to vote against a*
resolution calling upon Israel to make unilateral conces-
sions — concessions which involve land occupied in wars
Israel did not seek; and concessions which would gain her
no greater prospect of peaceful co-existence with her
The recent UN vote indicates that Israel is finding
herself more and more isolated in the world commu- ,
pity. And as she does, she will have to rely more and
more heavily on her most dependable ally, the United
States. And that, in turn, means that American Jews
who are concerned about Israel's future have more
and more reason to consider the political party which
has been most consistent and most vocal in its recog-
nition that support for Israel is in America's national
interest. Should there be any doubt about just what
party that is, let me quote briefly from the Democratic
platform on the issue:
"Our nation feels a profound moral obligation to sus-
tain and assure the security of Israel. That is why our
relationship with Israel is, in most respects, a unique one.
Israel is the single democracy, the most stable government,
the most strategic asset and our closest ally in the region
. . . . The Democratic Party recognizes the strategic value of
Israel and that peace in the Middle East requires a militar-
ily secure Israel . . . Therefore we pledge a continued high
level of U.S. military support for Israel . . . Nearly half of all
U.S. aid to Israel since its creation as a sovereign state —
more than $10 billion — has been requested in the last 31/2
years . . . We have not and we will not use our aid to Israel
as a bargaining tool; and we will never permit oil policies to
influence our policy toward peace or our support for Israel."
Yet despite these warm words and despite the very real
breakthrough represented by the Camp David accords, and
despite the historic affinity of the Jewish community for
the Democratic Party, there is now a growing sense of
dissatisfaction, a feeling that the past relationship has
soured and that perhaps it is time for a trial separation if
not a divorce. In part, I assume that this fee/ling grows from
the policies of President Carter, which hai7e too often been
so inconsistent and mixed vis-a-vis the Middle East and
other foreign and domestic concerns of the United States.
But before our marriage becomes just another statisti-
cal victim of the social disintegration which characterizes
our times, it seems to me that we really ought to consider
the alternatives and, in their unattractive light, re-
evaluate the nature of our historic relationship to the
Democratic Party.
The practical alternatives — at least for those who
do not wish to commit the self-immolating act of with-
drawing from the political process — come down to a
vote for either John Anderson or Ronald Reagan. Let
us consider what those votes would mean.
A vote for John Anderson comes as close to withdraw-
ing from politics as one can get while still inside the voting

booth. His chances of winning the election are nil and his business" if foreign nations develop their own nuclear
weapons. And it's the height of demagoguery when Reagan
strategy seems to be based on the hope that the ultimate
decision will be thrown into the House of Representatives says, "We are in greater danger today than we were the day
where, in some way, he might be able to exert an influence after Pearl Harbor — our military is absolutely incapable
on policy and personnel sufficient to control the next ad- of defending this country."'
Reagan calls for tax cuts, a balanced budget and a
ministration. I can think of nothing which would be more
disturbing to the national psychology and the fragile politi- massive increase in defense spending — all at the same
cal future than an election to the Presidency of a candidate time. If he could really do all that at once, he would not need
with fewer popular votes than his opponents. Yet, that is to run for President; he would have been anointed a long
time ago. The tax cut he supports will simply set off a new
the ultimate end of the "throw it to the House" scenario.
But if Mr. Anderson is a hopeless alternative, Mr. round of inflation. The type of defense increases he supports
Reagan is a dangerous one. Space does not permit a com- do not add to our strength, but they do subtract from our
plete analysis of the threat he poses, but one might do worse , ability to help improve our economy and the quality of our
than start with the fact that the next President will appoint life here in the United States. And his version of a balanced
many new members of the Supreme Court. What kind of budget will harm the poor and ignore the middle class.
No, neither Mr. Reagan nor Mr. Anderson offe
appointments can we expect from Mr. Reagan and what
kind of rulings can we anticipate from the Justices he a viable alternative. But, the question remains,
the Democratic Party offer us anything more
shelter from the storm? Does it offer us a promise of
fair weather ahead?
I think the answer is yes. And I think the evidence is on
the record.
I think we can vote for the Democratic candidate —
whoever it may be — based on the party's continuing efforts
to deal with the world as it is. We have seen advances in the
past few years for women and minorities which are un-
paralleled in the history of this country. We have seen a
President and a party support, despite its unpopularity in
certain segments of this society, a Panama Canal Treaty
which four previous administrations had been unable to
conclude. We have seen a President and a party negotiate
an acceptable Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty with the
Soviets — a treaty which Mr. Reagan opposes and would
We have seen a President and a party translate a
commitment to human rights into effective action to assist
thousands of persons seeking to leave the Soviet Union and
people seeking freedom in other places in the world. And
Can we expect them to protect the separation of despite recent reversals, the party stands firmly committed
Church and State when Mr. Reagan endorses a platform
to increasing our pressure on the Soviet Union — and
which supports "Republican initiatives . . . to restore the
denying them favorable trade status — until they adopt the
right of individuals to participate in voluntary, non-
basic policies of free movement for all people and until they
denominational prayer in the schools and other public leave Afghanistan.
facilities?" Can we expect them to protect the rights of
Despite these advances, there have been prob-
women when Mr. Reagan opposes the ERA? Can we expect
lems. The economy is one. I happen to disagree with
them to closely scrutinize the use of capital punishment
some of the President's policy in this area. But within
when the platform Mr. Reagan endorses calls the death
that policy that are some positive components. After
penalty . . . an effective deterrent . . . (which) should be
years of indecision, we do have an energy policy now
applied by the federal government and the states . . . as an
which promises to remove our reliance on OPEC and
appropriate penalty for certain major crimes?" And can
allow us to pursue a truly independent foreign policy
even we expect them to be independent when Reagan
again. We have decontrolled the price of oil to encour-
applauds his party's platform requiring judges to pass a
age conservation and captured excessive profits for
"litmus" test on abortion before they are appointed? I am
social purposes. We have just finalized a legislative
afraid that the answers to these questions are as clear as
commitment to a full-scale synthetic fuel effort. And
they are depressing.
we have begun to develop a reasonable balance be-
But we need not look at the decisions that appoin-
tween imports and domestic coal, oil and nuclear re-
tees will make in order to find a reason for fear — we
can look at the kind of decisions that Governor Re-
The President is beginning to turn around on the prob-
agan would make as well. One can begin with his call
lems of the auto industry and is moving to provide us with
for a return to the gold Standard to begin to sense the
some of the assistance we so desperately need. His willing-
kinds of progressive policies we are likely to see from
ness to call for an accelerated hearing by the International
his administration. We can see it in his statements
Trade Commission on the UAW petition for import relief
about urban policy: "When Chicago burned down,
was one sign of his growing concern and sensitivity. His
they didn't declare it a disaster area. They just rebuilt
it, the people of Chicago, and that is the kind of proposals for regulatory relief are another. :n the weeks
America we can have again." Aside from the fact that and months ahead, I believe that any Democratic President
is going to show more concern and compassion for the plight
the statement is historically incorrect, it is also mor-
ally incorrect. Even if that were the kind of America of the people in the auto industry than would Mr. Reagan —
we used to have, it certainly isn't the kind of America whose only contribution so far was to oppose federal assis-
tance to Chrysler.
we want to have.
In terms of foreign policy, the promise of Camp David
America is more than a country that watches with
been forgotten in the problems of implementa-
admiration as people suffer and succeed — it is also a
country that, as a whole, seeks to minimize, suffering and tion. I have objected to some of the President's behavior in
terms of implementation. I have disagreed with his intru-
maximize success. But that vision of America is antitheti-
sion into the negotiating process and have urged him to let
cal to a man who calls unemployment compensation —
the parties involved resolve their own differences without
which clearly is not welfare — "little more than a paid
vacation for freeloaders." And it is antithetical to a man public pressure bor, private intimidation. But whatever
who looks at the problems of our cities and says, as he did problems we are experiencing now, we have to recd'
when we considered federal assistance to New York, that "I that they are a result of progress.
President Carter's unique personal relationship with
have included in my morning and evening prayers every
President Sadat and Prime Minister Begin allowed him to
day the prayer that the federal government not bail out
do what no on else had been able to even contemplate. He
New York City."
Those kinds of simplistic statements are not restricted was able to get Israel and Egypt to sit down togethe
seek to resolve their differences at a negotiating
to social issues. They also apply to national defense, where
Governor Reagan observed that "I just don't think it's our rather than at a field of battle. And, in the years ahead, if
peace is finally restored to this troubled area of the world,
then a lot of the credit will go to the Camp David Accords.
There are indeed problems with our current position in
the world and current conditions at home. And I recognize
how easy it is to blame the party in power for those condi-
tions and to turn to anything else as a solution. But, in this
case, "anything else" is really "something worse." In our
frustration with the economy and our unhappiness over
certain elements of.our foreign policy, we ought not — we
cannot — turn our backs on the known and, with a wing and
a prayer, launch off in a new direction which will only make
us look back at this time as "the good old days."

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