Professor Henry Srebrnik

Professor Henry Srebrnik

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Clintons’ shady dealings have taken the shine off
Two-for-One Deal, Part 2

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is hugged by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, as he introduces her during a campaign rally in Louisville, Ky. on Monday. Many Democrats are uneasy with the prospect of a second Clinton presidency. (Elise Amendola / AP)

BARACK OBAMA has again become the favourite to win the Democratic Party nomination – and that’s a good thing.

Because even when Hillary Clinton was beating Obama in primaries in states like Indiana, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, super-delegates continued to move towards him, many stating they didn’t like Clinton’s "negative" campaign.

This may have been their way of saying "we know the Clintons better than the public does, and we know what unethical operators they are."

This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Often, when the well-known head of an institution – say, a CEO of a corporation, a president of a university, or a leader of a political party – leaves, the people on "the street" remember the "positive" things they have accomplished, but those working close to them may be glad to see a domineering, autocratic, aggressive boss depart.

As well, some Democrats were uncomfortable with the idea of having another Clinton in the White House, eight years after the previous one – who would himself be returning to the executive mansion as a spouse – left office.

Would this couple not in effect be circumventing the 22nd amendment to the U.S. constitution, which forbids more than two terms to a president?

When Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992, he and Hillary said people were getting a "two-for-one" deal.

Indeed, one could make the case that she was as much in charge as he was. Bill was useful to her, the advance guard, so to speak, for her own ambitions.

Now we would have seen the reverse. Bill would, at the very least, have been helping to formulate policy – and with no official legal standing, he would be far harder to control by the other branches of government. The system of checks and balances would not apply to him.

The former president has been involved in business dealings with shady characters around the globe, including government leaders, from Colombia and China to Kazakhstan and Dubai.

Would it be appropriate for the spouse of a sitting president to be in business with the leaders of foreign countries? Would some of these people have attempted to buy favours from Hillary through Bill?

Bill Clinton established the William J. Clinton Foundation in 1997 and it has raised $500 million since then, most of which has been spent on his presidential library in Arkansas. Donations soared to $135 million in 2006 alone, much of it from unsavoury foreign sources. Clinton has said he won’t violate the "privacy" of donors by disclosing their names.

An article by Greg Gordon that ran in the Miami Herald and other McClatchy newspapers on May 9 reported that special interests have paid millions of dollars to Bill Clinton for speeches and other work since he left the White House. "The ex-president has been crisscrossing the globe, speaking roughly 250 times on tours that brought him more than $40 million in six years."

By drawing on her husband’s earnings, Hillary Clinton was enabling sponsors, who have paid as much as $450,000 to hear Bill speak, to "funnel their funds through the Bill Clinton front," according to Lawrence Jacobs, the director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for the Study of Politics and Governance.

"It’s an ingenious method for fundraising" that bypasses campaign finance rules and the limits placed on those contributions, he added.

Clinton also granted some 140 last-minute pardons as he left office in 2000. In fact, Hillary Clinton’s brothers, Tony and Hugh Rodham, had lobbied the president on behalf of criminals who then received presidential pardons or a sentence commutation from Bill.

Even Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, a Clinton ally throughout the 1990s, called the pardons a "betrayal" and "contemptuous." Were there some quid pro quos involved?

These are important questions that were never adequately addressed.

In the latter days of her campaign, Hillary Clinton had adopted a populist stance, attacking the oil-producing nations and the energy industry as being responsible for the high price of gasoline.

Yet while she railed against the OPEC cartel, her husband was getting donations for his library from many Middle Eastern tycoons.

No wonder many voters couldn’t really believe anything she said.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Delayed Reaction to the Holocaust

Henry Srebrnik, [Toronto] Jewish Tribune

Rafael Medoff’s article in the Jewish Tribune of April 24, on the impact of Robert Morse’s 1968 book, While Six Million Died: A Chronicle of American Apathy, was a timely reminder of the indifference displayed even by the United States towards Jews trapped in Hitler’s Europe during World War II.

As we well know, the same held true for Canada, as documented by Irving Abella and Harold Troper in their 1982 book None is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe, 1933-1948.

It took a long time even for Jews to come to terms with the enormity of the crime against our people. As Franklin Bialystok has recounted in his book Delayed Impact: The Holocaust and the Canadian Jewish Community, published in 2000, few in Canada spoke about the genocide at first.

Indeed, before the 1967 Six-Day War, Holocaust memorial commemorations were confined mostly to survivors themselves.

I recall running across, by mere chance, Raul Hilberg’s massive study The Destruction of the European Jews, in the McGill University library stacks, in 1966. It had been published, after much difficulty, in 1961, by a minor American press, after many others had rejected it. I had never even heard of the book. In those days, McGill did not offer a single course in Jewish Studies.

Amazing as it may seem to us today, the two major Jewish advocacy organizations working as one in the Jewish Community Relations Committee – B’nai Brith Canada and the Canadian Jewish Congress – displayed little interest immediately after the war.

Following the end of hostilities, once the scale of the Holocaust had become apparent, a National Jewish Black Book Committee had been formed. It was a joint venture of the American Committee of Jewish Writers, Artists and Scientists in the U.S.; the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in the Soviet Union; the Vaad Leumi, the Jewish National Council of Palestine; and the World Jewish Congress.

The committee gathered a stellar group of sponsors: Albert Einstein was honorary chairman, the journalist B. Z. Goldberg the chairman, and novelist Sholem Asch the president.

Also involved were academics, artists and writers like Eddie Cantor, Morris Carnovsky, Marc Chagall, Thomas Mann, Dr. Raphael Mahler, Yehudi Menuhin, Paul Muni, Edward G. Robinson and Maurice Schwartz; and Jewish public servants and Zionist leaders such as Nahum Goldmann and Rabbi Stephen Wise.

The committee in 1946 published, in New York, The Black Book: The Nazi Crime Against the Jewish People, one of the earliest works documenting the enormity of the Nazi genocide. Yet the book went almost unnoticed in Canada.

Valia Hirsch, the executive secretary of the committee, voiced her concerns that no meetings had been held in the Jewish communities of Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, or Hamilton, to bring it to the attention to the Jewish community.

The Canadian Jewish Congress had ordered 100 copies of the book in the summer of 1946, but had never bothered, according to Hirsch, to obtain them from Canada Customs. The CJC indicated a year later that they were no longer interested and “cannot use them.”

Some Canadian Jews even remarked that enough had already been written.

Nathan Cohen, who would go on to become a major literary critic and television personality in Canada, in May of 1946 suggested that while the “incalculable cruelty” of the Nazi mass murders should be fully treated, “it is equally important that we should stress the rehabilitation of European Jewry” and the “healthy and constructive life of Jews in other countries.”

The CJC’s reticence was probably politically motivated. The problem for them, as the Cold War intensified, was that pro-Soviet Jews were the main force behind this book. After all, most of the Holocaust had taken place in what had become the east European “people’s republics” or the Soviet Union itself, so they had access to the sources and could make use of them for pro-Soviet ends.

Thankfully, things are different now. No longer are Jews divided by ideology when it comes to memorializing the six million who were murdered.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Indiana and North Carolina Vote . . . What Next?

Henry Srebrnik, [Summerside, PEI] Journal-Pioneer

The Indiana and North Carolina primaries take place today.

Hillary Clinton has proven remarkably successful in her “shape-shifting” during this long campaign, acting hurt one day, being tough another.

She was sniffling the night before the New Hampshire primary back in February, then turned into a barroom street-brawler, daring Barack Obama to come out and fight, before the Indiana and North Carolina contests.

MSNBC carried North Carolina Governor Mike Easley’s endorsement of Clinton a few days before the primary. He admired her for being so “determined” that she made “Rocky Balboa look like a pansy.” (Are homophobic remarks acceptable among North Carolina Democrats?)

A day later, the president of a steelworkers union local, when introducing Clinton at a rally in Indiana, said the nation needed a leader “that has testicular fortitude.”

To demonstrate how hawkish she is on foreign policy, Clinton had told ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America.” on April 22 that she would be prepared to “totally obliterate” Iran with nuclear weapons if necessary – a statement that Iran has formally complained about at the UN.

Clinton is benefitting, whether she set out to do so intentionally or not, from the support of two groups that loom large in this election.

First, women. While most of them are enthused by the idea of finally being able to vote for a fellow female, some, having been the victims of emotional, physical or career-related slights from men, are vicariously “getting back” at them by voting for Clinton.

Clinton’s differences on policy with Obama are irrelevant. They don’t care what she says, as long as she doesn’t have a Y chromosome. For them, simply put, “it’s our turn.”

We heard not a word of protest about Clinton’s threat to Iran from the most influential women’s group in America, the National Organization for Women, which would have been outraged had a male “warmonger” Republican made such a statement.

Secondly, lower-income, poorly-educated whites (of both genders), in many cases outright racists. Remember the 1970s TV show “All in the Family?” We can call these the Edith and Archie Bunker voters.

In the 29 caucuses and primaries held before May 6, Clinton got more votes than Obama among white working-class voters, those making less than $50,000US a year, in all but four.

America remains a more racist than sexist society. The idealistic intellectual has been “ghettoized” in their minds as just another Black candidate.

“Racism is deep in the culture of this country,” said Roger Wilkins, a prominent Black author to the New York Times. “I’m surprised that it took the Wright business to put it out on the table.”

He was referring to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the Black minister accused of making incendiary remarks about America. Obama was a member of his church for two decades.

But it was the Clintons who put racial politics back on the table. They may not be racists, but they opportunistically know how to benefit from it.

Here’s an apt comparison: Hitler was an ideological anti-Semite, pure and simple; Stalin used anti-Semitism when it helped him, and didn’t when it wasn’t necessary.

The Clintons have opened deep wounds within the Democratic Party which will take years to heal.

And Hillary Clinton’s constant 180 degree turns may yet exact a toll, should she end up as the nominee. Perhaps not too many people recall that she declared herself “absolutely honored” to be on the same stage as Obama at the end of their Austin, Texas debate back on Feb. 21.

Clinton’s Republican opponents, though, have longer memories than most voters. Should she emerge as the nominee, you can be sure that John McCain’s team will be showing clips of her love-in with Obama in their attack ads.