January 22, 2019

Hillary: More than ever (here’s why)

As with many, I opposed the 2015 Iran Deal negotiated between the White House (no need to kid ourselves about the P-5) and the Iranian mullahs. I said so forthrightly last July while speaking at a rally before the U.S. Consulate in Toronto.

My words that afternoon, particularly about President Obama, were unsparing. “It's not so much that the shrewd Iranians outflanked the naive Americans”, I observed.  “It is that President Obama, fueled by an ideology he deliberately sought to hide (or, to put it more delicately, due to being in want of a 'legacy'), pursued this from the beginning.”

I judge presidents and prime ministers (I'm an American who's lived almost thirty years now in Canada), and so cast my ballot, based on four matters, the first three in the realm of foreign policy: the need, chaotic world as ours is, for an interventionist US foreign policy; the requirement in the Middle East, the most chaotic of all neighbourhoods, for political leaders to have Israel's back; and the capacity of our leaders to summon the political will to name radical Islam as the scourge it is. Finally, on the home front, I readily favor elected officials who push for an expansionist immigration approach, one simultaneously sane and liberal. Others have their essentials, I have mine.

My policy preferences — passions, really — land me looking up pretty squarely at my personal political Mt. Rushmore: Jack Kennedy, Scoop Jackson, Bill Clinton. If I have a political beau ideal, Joe Lieberman comes closest. Out of favor as he is, my admiration for Stephen Harper remains unflagging.

In short, mine is a political worldview whose day has largely has come and gone. Friends look askance, and I confess, sometimes I want to duck. Politically, I often feel literally out in the Dakotas.

Nonetheless, in this election season, almost out of the blue, but not quite, I have a candidate. Her name is Hillary Rodham Clinton. I even have hope in my candidate.

While yanked leftward by Bernie Sanders, and often spouting views most everybody knows aren't really hers, still, Hillary Clinton's strong liberal interventionist impulses and support of the Jewish State remain apparent. It's in her bones and in her eyes — you can see it, even when she tends to hide or prevaricate. Yes, these sentiments have been mothballed the past eight years; yes, the world and the context in which she'd find herself ( one hopes) in the White House have changed dramatically over this time; and, yes, the isolationist left and others hardly sweet on Israel, now clutch for the reigns of power. All worrisome. 

But, here's my hunch, for what it's worth: Hillary will swing well left on domestic matters, in part, so that her administration can be judged tough minded — and, when necessary, actually act tough — in the world at large. Putin will be confronted more robustly; China too; and, no less, (goes my guess) the mullahs in Tehran. In essence that's the kind of president she'll aim to be: compassionate, inclusive and left-leaning on American shores — all the while resolute, at times confrontational, veering centre-right, more often than not, abroad.

Will a President Hillary Clinton roll back the Iran Agreement? Probably not. But I believe she'll be far more disposed than her predecessor to employ sanctions and monitoring capability to constrain Iran's nefarious activities. And while she may not love Bibi Netanyahu, undermining him won't preoccupy Clinton, as it has Obama.  Simply put, Clinton likes Israel, maybe more importantly, she has a feel for its unique story. In part, this is because she believes in American exceptionalism, as President Obama, by his own admission, does not.

A couple of months ago I wrote a piece for the Jewish Journal entitled, “Who Knew? I'm In For Hillary”.  There, I was decidedly more anti-Donald Trump than pro-Hillary Clinton. While Trump remains an anathema to me, now — wheat separated from the chaff and all — I'm drawn more towards Clinton for who she is, and because of how she is likely to conduct her presidency. Perhaps my hopes are unduly high and she may not reach my Rushmore, but slowly I've come to realize how good a president Hillary Clinton is likely to prove.

Oh, and this note to any of my friends counting on taking down Hillary because of behavior by her husband, that may or may not have happened two or more decades ago: get over it. The stakes are too high; it’s time to say goodbye to that obsession. The need to get on with having a responsible leader at the helm of the world's most consequential country is too paramount to dally over matters that, however important, are not existential.

Who knew? Now I'm really in for Hillary.

John Moscowitz is rabbi emeritus, Holy Blossom Temple Toronto, and the author of “Evolution of An Unorthodox Rabbi” (Dundurn Press, 2015).