Radical Islamist Group Hands Out Honors
McKinney Debate IsReal
By JAKE HONIGMAN
Michael Moore, in his 2002 book Stupid White Men, called Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) his favorite member of Congress. A few months later she was gone. Now the controversial figure will be joining the Cornell community as a visiting professor, enlivening campus for several weeks a year over the next three years.
The announcement of her appointment has prompted Cornellians to note her strong opposition to the Iraq War and other criticism of the Bush administration's policy. Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) writes that she is brave and unapologetic in her views. But to someone interested in understanding McKinney's history, none of that really answers any questions -- she lost her seat before the Iraq debate took center stage, and Hinchey's characterization could be, and is, said of politicians of any stripe. Think Bush.
So who is Cynthia McKinney, and what happened to her seat in the House?
She was indeed an unabashed progressive, and her condemnation of Bush's handling of Sept. 11 -- even as he enjoyed overwhelming support in its wake -- was rare, and courageous, really, by any standards. But that's only half the story.
McKinney had been an outspoken opponent of the strong friendship between the US and Israel throughout her term in Congress. In what would be her final term, she brought her anti-Israel attitudes to the forefront. The August 2002 primary that she lost to Rep. Denise Majette (D-Ga.) was heavily charged with the issue of American support of Israel. Surely other concerns factored into the race, but, to a degree, McKinney was judged on this issue and lost. Her extremist views and allies haunted her during the campaign, and eventually were enough to send her packing.
An email sent out by the Ohio-based Council on American Islamic Relations' PAC (CAIR-PAC) a month before the election might put the controversy into perspective. The email called her "our strategic choice." Why? She is "against aid to Israel." Maybe this email wasn't supposed to be seen by anyone outside CAIR's mailing list. But it was. And more importantly, McKinney's vociferous encouragement that we leave Israel to stand on its own in the Middle East drew quite a bit of attention. Which had consequences I don't think McKinney liked too much.
About a month after the Sept. 11 attacks, McKinney wrote a letter to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal thanking him for his offer of $10 million to aid New York City -- an offer which had been refused by Rudy Giuliani due to the comments which accompanied it. The prince wrote that the US "should re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced view of the Palestinian cause." It starts out a fair enough statement, though perhaps poorly timed -- not to mention slightly ironic coming from a member of the Saudi royal family -- but when he explains that these "policies" are America's support of Israel, he stops looking so nice. Alwaleed was all but blaming the US-Israel relationship for Sept. 11, and McKinney was loving it. She thanked him, reviled Israel's "atrocities," and concluded by suggesting that his highness consult with her office, which would advise him on what to do with the $10 million.
Immediately the pro-Israel community reacted. In the months leading up to the primary, Majette noticed a boon of support from people who normally showed little interest in Georgia's Fourth District, as many nationwide donated money to show their disapproval of her opponent's stances.
Simultaneously, McKinney raked in money from those on the other side of the issue. The Washington Post wrote that she "received campaign contributions from at least 18 donors who are either officers of Muslim foundations under investigation by the FBI, have voiced support for Palestinian and Lebanese terrorist organizations or have made inflammatory statements about Jews."
Maybe these activists were impressed with her sympathy for the terror-supporting Saudi monarchy. Maybe they were primarily trying to counter the Jewish and pro-Israel weight that was being thrown behind Majette.
Either way, the tone of the race came to be dominated by this divergence. Majette herself broached the subject with McKinney in a televised debate, poignantly accusing that "on Sept. 11 while the rest of the world watched in horror ... you were counting money received from some people who have been named as Arab terrorists."
McKinney lost. 58 to 42 percent.
Her conservative adversaries rejoiced, while some liberals lamented losing her outspoken ideology.
But the loudest reaction to her defeat stemmed from the cessation of her anti-Israel voice in Congress. The Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council expressed relief that "one of the most antagonistic persons -- if not the most antagonistic person -- to the US-Israel relationship is gone." And in the magazine Counterpunch, the author of an article on McKinney's defeat asserted that "the pro-Israel groups funding Majette [are] supporting and helping fund terror" by virtue of their backing the Jewish state.
McKinney herself showed off her disgust for Israel several months after her defeat, when she wrote that chastising Saddam Hussein and not Israel shows that "we have different standards for different countries."
McKinney will come to campus soon, and should have some worthwhile things to say about Bush's policy in the Middle East. His willingness to go to war with everyone but Saudi Arabia while neglecting our soldiers and veterans deserves way more attention than it gets. I look forward to hearing a dynamic progressive viewpoint, and a debate on affirmative action.
But her anti-Israel stance can't be ignored. Without it, she wouldn't be here.
Jake Honigman is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at email@example.com Guest Room appears periodically.
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