Foreign interests should stay out of U.S. politics

August 28, 2002|By GREGORY KANE

LET'S HOLD OFF on all those cheers, hoorahs and war whoops filling the air since Georgia's Rep. Cynthia McKinney lost her congressional seat to Denise Majette, a former state judge.

I, for one (and apparently not many more, judging from the drubbing McKinney took), liked the woman. Sure, she shot off at the mouth after Sept. 11, daring to ask what the Bush administration knew about the terrorist attacks and if they could have been prevented. Sure, she all but groveled at the feet of a Saudi prince who handed $10 million to then-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in compensation for the terror victims but had it handed back when he suggested U.S. foreign policy was to blame for the attacks.

(McKinney wrote a sniveling letter of apology to the prince, asking that the money be donated to America's poor minorities.)

Sure, McKinney's detractors say she sounded like a nut at times, which inspires several observations:

Don't nuts deserve to be represented, too?

If she's that nutty, shouldn't she be in Congress, where we can keep an eye on her?

Don't we need a nut in Congress so that the rest of them will behave, because they don't know what the nut will do or say next?

Well, 58 percent of the people in McKinney's district didn't feel that way. They voted for Majette. Jewish groups, upset over McKinney's criticism of Israel's occupation of the West Bank, sent barrels of bucks to Majette, prompting a rehash of what now seems like eons-old angst about the sorry state of black-Jewish relations.

Those relations weren't helped much by McKinney's dad, Georgia state Rep. Bill McKinney, who spelled out his daughter's problem with getting re-elected the night before the primary: J-E-W-S. Apparently, enough offended J-E-W-S took themselves to the polls the next day to V-O-T-E for M-A-J-E-T-T-E. Why wasn't Bill McKinney's foot in his mouth when it needed to be?

But back to the daughter. Cynthia McKinney has other problems. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Friday that immigrants from India, upset at McKinney for accusing the Indian government of not protecting the lives of Muslims from Hindus, donated money to her opponent. It seems McKinney was an equal opportunity offender.

What's been little reported is that McKinney did have some Jewish support. Ahmed Bouzid, president of Palestine Media Watch, wrote in an article last week that he attended a McKinney fund-raiser organized by "a Jewish group that opposes Israeli occupation."

Many, though not most, Jews oppose that occupation. Some are in the Israeli Defense Forces, and since January they have refused to serve in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. Since the United States is still a democratic republic of sorts, one that claims it cherishes diversity of opinions and free speech, McKinney's voice stridently challenging an American foreign policy that is one-sidedly for Israel was sorely needed in the halls of Congress.

The reason should be obvious, although few people would want to hear this. But it's entirely conceivable that the interests of Israel and the interests of the United States will not always coincide. Ditto for U.S.-India relations, or U.S.-Nigeria relations, or U.S.-fill-in-name-of-any-foreign-nation-here.

When that happens, we may look back on the election of 2002 in Georgia's 4th District as one of those teachable moments. How do you, as an American, vote when the interests of your country clash with the interests of a foreign country from which you or your ancestors hail, or a country with which you identify strongly? Do you vote as an American, or as a supporter of that country? Isn't there a possibility foreign governments might try to influence American elections?

Bouzid began his article by saying, "And so we lost another one," as if McKinney were the representative to Congress from Palestine, not Georgia's 4th District. (One Jewish Web site sarcastically referred to "Cynthia McKinney, D-Gaza Strip." You have to wonder if Palestinian Web sites will list Georgia's new 4th District congresswoman as "Denise Majette, D-Tel Aviv.")

All Americans, whether pro-Palestine or pro-Israel, pro-Pakistan or pro-India, pro-this country or pro-that one, should shudder when foreigners start fretting about losing one of their "own" when an American politician loses a race. The first duty of our elected officials is to serve us. Foreign countries should consider themselves put on notice about that.

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