Jewish World Review Dec. 24, 2003 / 29 Kislev, 5763

Edward I. Koch

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Why I'm voting for Bush | Last week I served as moderator of a forum on the contributions to America's intellectual life made by Eric Breindel who died in 1998 at the age of 42. At the time of his death, Eric was editorial page editor of the New York Post.

In its report on the forum, The New York Sun stated: "Mr. Koch told the crowd Wednesday night that he would vote for President Bush, entirely on the basis of his concern for embattled Israel."

I don't believe that is what I said. To the best of my recollection, my impromptu remarks mirrored what I have been saying for over a year.

I intend to vote for President George W. Bush in the next election, because in my view he is best able to wage the war against international terrorism. There is no greater threat to the United States than that posed by Al-Qaeda and similar groups. President Bush has confronted that threat head on.

After 9/11, the President announced the Bush Doctrine, which in my opinion rivals in importance the Monroe Doctrine which barred foreign imperialism in the Western Hemisphere, and the Truman Doctrine which sought to contain Communism around the world. The Bush Doctrine, simply stated by the President before a joint session of Congress, is "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them." The President has applied that doctrine in Afghanistan and Iraq and has put other countries on notice that he will do so elsewhere, if necessary.

Of course, there are many other important foreign and domestic issues facing Americans. I do not agree with the President on any major domestic issue, ranging from tax relief to the recently-enacted Medicare prescription drug law. But these concerns pale in comparison with the problem of international terrorism. It is the primary responsibility of government to provide for our physical safety. A president who does not realize this puts all of us at the mercy of fanatics who would not hesitate to use conventional and non-conventional weapons with the aim of killing as many innocents as possible. The United States, of course, is not the only country victimized by terrorism. That list is growing and now includes Turkey, Russia, India, Malaysia, Ireland, Israel and Colombia, to name a few.

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I do not believe the major contenders for the presidential nomination in the Democratic primaries have the stomach to confront the terrorist scourge comparable to President Bush. This is especially true of the current Democratic frontrunner, Howard Dean, whose stated reason for entering the race is his opposition to the war. Most of the other candidates who were in Congress and voted for the war resolution are now tacking to the wind to satisfy the left-wing constituency, hoping if they win to move to the center before the general election. The exception is Joe Lieberman, whom most observers believe has no chance of winning the nomination.

On the issue of my "concern for embattled Israel," I believe all of the major Democratic candidates, with the exception of Howard Dean, have records of support for that country as our steadfast ally in the Middle East. They and the presidents from both the Democratic and Republican parties beginning with Harry Truman have been staunch supporters of the Jewish state. So my reservation concerning the Democratic candidates is not with respect to their support for Israel, but with regard to their willingness to take on the ongoing battle against international terrorism which threatens all countries.

My vote for Bush, therefore, is based on much more than the fact that he has been a firm supporter of Israel. My first concern, aside from that for my immediate family, is for the U.S. where I was born 79 years ago. My parents came to the U.S. from Poland as adolescents in the early 1900s to escape anti-Semitism and poverty. They raised three children, provided them with an education, and all of us have been successful in our professional fields. I became a lawyer, city councilman, congressman and mayor. I will never be able to repay this city, state and country for all that it has allowed me to do.

The United States has my loyalty, and I will do everything that I can to protect this country and provide for its general well-being. This wonderful nation, unlike many others, permits us to maintain a continuing relationship and concern for the countries of our ancestors. For me, that is the State of Israel. However, were needs of the two countries to diverge, my loyalty is to the United States.

Years ago when I spoke to my colleagues at a Congressional breakfast, I discussed the question of dual loyalty. I pointed out that most U.S. citizens retain ties with the countries of their birth or ancestry. The obvious examples are those from Ireland, Italy, Poland, Israel, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and other Caribbean Islands, to name just a few. At the end of the discussion, for emphasis I raised my right hand and said to those in attendance, "I swear to you, if Israel ever invades the U.S., I shall stand with the U.S."

It was President John F. Kennedy in 1960 who successfully articulated his right to exercise his religious faith which included support for the Pope and Vatican and at the same time, be a dedicated president of the U.S., totally committed to the U.S., the country of his birth. He established the principle that loyalties of the nature I have described are to be encouraged. They make for a stronger America.

Of course, I am concerned for the security of Israel, surrounded as it is by nations hostile to its very existence. I am concerned for the safety of Jewish communities in Europe, now subject to degrees of anti-Semitism not seen since the 1930s with French children being warned by their Chief Rabbi to wear baseball caps instead of yarmulkes to avoid being assaulted.

I become apoplectic when someone born Jewish conveys that he or she is more concerned about a candidate's position on abortion or the environment than his position on the security of Israel. Yes, I am intolerant of those like CNN's Robert Novak who describes himself as a "cultural Jew" and, as far as I can recall, has always been hostile to Israel.

I have no quarrel with The Sun, a paper I enjoy reading. If I did not make myself clear at the Breindel forum, it is my fault, not theirs. But I want the record to show what I intended to convey and why.

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JWR contributor Edward I. Koch, the former mayor of New York, can be heard on Bloomberg Radio (WBBR 1130 AM) every Saturday from 9-10 am. Comment by clicking here.

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07/30/03: As the world churns
07/23/03: America not so different than Russia in pursuing white collar criminals
07/16/03: Dems, media are making an unforgivable mistake
06/18/03: Keep American troops out of Israel
05/22/03: It's lots of fun to remain relevant
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05/07/03: Wall Street settlement was not justice
04/16/03: The doves were proven wrong. Instead of conceding defeat, they are throwing another political tantrum
04/09/03: As the world churns
04/03/03: Gulf War II: The misleading media does it again
03/18/03: Have the courage to admit it, Pat: You're a classic anti-Semite who gives conservatives a bad name
03/12/03: "There they go again"? Not quite!
03/05/03: Making the case for war on British TV left some panelists stunned
02/20/03: Death penalty=racism? Don't confuse them with the facts
02/12/03: History is now repeating itself --- why don't the American bashers grasp it?
02/05/03: As the world turns
01/30/03: Why are sports exempt from racial diversity and universities encouraged to engage in racial preferences over individual academic achievement?
01/23/03: We absolutely can't back down
11/13/02: President blunted the Ted Kennedys of Democrat party --- good for him!
10/23/02: New Jersey's bigot laureate is no private citizen and his 'defenses' are idiotic
10/01/02: Congress is not doing its job
09/26/02: Confronting pathetic Americans in a post 9-11 world
09/19/02: Don't be fooled by Saddam
09/05/02: Necessary or not, getting congressional approval for war is common-sense
08/28/02: In defense of terrorism
08/22/02: Saddam Hussein is extremely popular in "Arab street," so why attack him?
08/15/02: My potpourri
08/09/02: Traitors: Journalistic and 'patriotic'
07/31/02: Euros should spend their time analyzing their own country's wartime actions
07/25/02: I may know next to nothing about the stock market, but I'm not getting out
07/18/02: Dems should stop trying to 'Whitewater' the President
07/11/02: Real Americans and the Islamic threat

© 2002, Edward I. Koch