September 11, 2008
With Election Day less than 60 days away, NJ Jewish News is asking Jewish community leaders what issues they would like to hear the candidates address and what questions they want to have answered in a presidential debate. Their answers, of course, do not suggest that that subject is the only thing on their minds or that other issues aren’t as important. Rather, they were asked to speak from their areas of expertise and activism.
“What’s at Stake” will be a regular feature between now and Election Day.
Allyson Gall, executive director of the Metro New Jersey Area of the American Jewish Committee:
One of the most important decisions that will be made over the next year or two is the appointment of the next U.S. Supreme Court justice (when a vacancy occurs).
The next president is likely to appoint (technically, nominate) two or three U.S. Supreme Court justices. The court is now divided, and many important decisions affecting our liberty are being decided by votes of five to four.
Clearly, there may be decisions regarding a woman’s right to an abortion and other issues of importance to all of us in the coming four years. The next president will also make important appointments to federal district courts and federal appellate courts.
My question for John McCain and Barack Obama: What are your criteria for nominations to the Supreme Court and other courts?
A second question:
Scientists all over the world agree that global warming is real, has potential dire consequences, and that humans can do something to reduce the greenhouse gases that contribute to it. Oil is going to run out, and much of it is currently under the control of governments that are not democratic and that espouse values in conflict with ours. What federal policies will you support to reduce greenhouse gases and to reduce our dependence on oil or, at the very least, on foreign oil?
Ben Chouake, president of NORPAC and delegate to the Republican National Convention:
The Iranian development of nuclear weapons and delivery systems represents an existential threat to America, Israel, and the world. Given the danger of nuclear genocide this represents, what would be your plan and timetable for addressing the threat?
Shai Goldstein, executive director of the New Jersey Immigration Policy Network:
Both presidential candidates at times have supported comprehensive immigration reform. Would a President Obama or President McCain push for immigration reform legislation and recognize there can be no comprehensive health care reform without reform of federal immigration policies?
We strongly oppose enforcement-only or enforcement-first proposals. Immigration reform requires policies that provide maximum opportunity for integration and enforcement procedures that are fair, humane, and exemplify family values.
Comprehensive immigration reform mandates a realistic path to citizenship for the millions of hard-working residents in America. Small businesses are the engine that drives the American economy, and immigrants are the engine that drives the creation of small businesses. I am not suggesting that Torah should govern policy and I am a strong adherent of the separation of church and state, but it’s hard to ignore that the Torah mandates: “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 19:34)
Enactment of comprehensive immigration reform will not flow from a faith-based perspective alone; it will require the spirit of bipartisanship that was essential in enacting reform of immigration laws in 1965 and the series of civil rights acts enacted in the 1960s.
It is disturbing that the media in general and the Jewish media in particular have repeatedly cited canards and lies perpetrated by groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Immigration Studies. The Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center have issued well-documented reports that these organizations have ties to supporters of eugenics and white supremacists. They are not legitimate advocacy organizations and should not be cited as authoritative sources.
The key to comprehensive immigration reform is the election of candidates, regardless of party affiliation, who have the understanding of immigration issues and their relationship to the need for global security and economic well-being.
Rabbi Clifford Kulwin, Temple B’nai Abraham, Livingston:
I certainly hope to hear both candidates discuss their views on the Middle East. I am interested in hearing what role the United States might play in making progress toward peace and especially in being reassured that each candidate respects and appreciates Israel and is committed to an Israel that can exist in safety.
While the candidates will surely address the big issues that concern all Americans — energy, Iraq, health care, and the economy, to name a few — I hope that they will do so straightforwardly, telling us what they would do, why that is the right thing to do, and, where applicable, how they would pay for it.
Everyone agrees, for example, that health care needs to be fixed, but tell me (I might say), why is your plan the right plan, and, as I’m a fairly intelligent guy, go ahead and use big words when explaining it to me.
I watched both conventions nearly gavel to gavel, and while I am glad to hear that both candidates are in favor of “change” and “hope” and “opportunity” and “prosperity” — because I was really worried about that — I would like to know just what that means.