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May 2, 2006

Challenging Hillary Clinton


New York takes on the War Party

by Joshua Frank

Hillary Clinton is pocketing enormous amounts of cash across the country for her reelection campaign, from Manhattan to Hollywood. Yet, Hillary is facing what seems to be fierce opposition from within her own party, as well as from third parties here in New York. The main reason candidates have signed up to challenge Hillary is her position, er, non-position on the disgraceful "war on terror."

Hillary, in a letter to constituents last November, expressed her belief that the war in Iraq shouldn't be "open-ended" but was clear that she would never "pull out of Iraq immediately." Translation: Hillary Clinton supports a continued occupation of Iraq. Her stance on Iran isn't much better; in fact, it may be worse. In the same letter, Clinton hoped contingents of U.S. soldiers would remain in the region with "quick-strike capabilities. This will help us stabilize that new Iraqi government," she attested. "It will send a message to Iran that they do not have a free hand in Iraq despite their considerable influence and personal and religious connections there."

Messages, I guess, carry more weight when they are delivered at gunpoint. "Watch out Tehran," Hillary seems to be declaring, "I'll strike quick." Such neoconish attitudes have upset antiwar activists, and now many are rallying 'round any alternative they can find to challenge Hillary in her bid for reelection this year.

Jonathan Tasini, who is running against Clinton in the New York Democratic primary, is gaining the most visible support. His position on the Iraq war is solid, as he wants all U.S. troops home now. Tasini also believes that democracy in Iraq is a long way from developing and argues that there will be no such thing in Iraq's future as long as the U.S. stays the course. "[The] invasion of Iraq has created a theocracy," says Tasini. "The people of Iraq have the right to decide what law they choose to follow."

The Green Party is also tossing its antiwar weight into the ring. Sander Hicks, the founder of Soft Skull Press and operator of indie publishing house Vox Pop, is challenging Steve Greenfield for their party's nomination. Both Hicks and Greenfield support bringing U.S. troops home immediately and oppose any US involvement in Iran. The Libertarian Party of New York recently nominated Jeff Russell, who says he'd bring soldiers home as soon as possible, and the Socialist Equity Party is running Bill Van Auken, who wants to bring U.S. troops home now.

None of the antiwar third-party candidates at this point in the campaign season have any real name recognition or financial backing. Even so, Tasini the Democrat does. Antiwar flyers plaster campuses throughout New York City touting Tasini, and his campaign is being discussed on numerous antiwar blogs and e-mail discussion lists. Tasini's drive may soon spark some real tension among antiwar activists in New York, however, as many believe supporting Tasini will fail the movement against the war.

For starters, they contend that Tasini is still a Democrat, which means that if he doesn't beat Hillary in September's primary election, he will most likely endorse her campaign and hand over his antiwar funds to the pro-war Democratic Party, much like Dennis Kucinich did during his presidential race in 2004 when he endorsed John Kerry.

When I contacted Tasini's campaign manager, Adam Koch, he challenged these criticisms.

"Tasini won't be endorsing Senator Clinton after the primaries if he doesn't win," says Koch. "Nor will he be giving any of his money to the Democratic Party." Koch also noted that Tasini is currently seeking the Working Families Party line, but if that falls through he will not be appearing on the ballot.

The Working Families Party will be endorsing a New York senatorial candidate on June 3, and Hillary and Tasini have been the only two candidates to seek the party's line thus far. Hillary scored the endorsement in 2000, so it's not guaranteed to go to Tasini.

If the antiwar movement is to truly take on Hillary this election season, we need to challenge her all the way up to November. The majority of New Yorkers who oppose the Iraq war aren't even Democrats and can't vote for Tasini in New York's closed primary elections. The validity of Tasini's campaign is now greatly dependent on whether or not he receives the Working Families' endorsement.

Supporting another antiwar candidate or voting "none of the above" may be the only way to hold Hillary Clinton accountable for her depraved Iraq war stance on Election Day 2006. Until then, let's track Hillary across the country and let her know we don't agree with what she's offering.

Fortunately, antiwar activists can all agree on one thing: Hillary Clinton doesn't deserve our votes.

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  • Joshua Frank is the author of Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, just published by Common Courage Press. You can order a copy at a discounted through Josh's blog at www.brickburner.org. He can be reached at brickburner@gmail.com.

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