Richardson Responds to YDAJC Questions

December 20, 2007 at 6:26 pm | Posted in Announcements + Events | Leave a comment

What conditions do you see as necessary for fostering peace between Israelis and Palestinians?

At its most basic level, the conditions necessary for fostering peace between the Israelis and Palestinians will require Israelis to feel safe, secure, and welcome in the region, and for the Palestinians to have a coherent homeland where they can build a strong economy.

What role should the United States play in building Israeli- Palestinian peace?

George Bush has failed miserably to lead on Middle East peace – and by failing to keep things moving forward we have sunk backwards.  I’m going to appoint a high level envoy and I’m going to get personally involved.  I am going end the stubborn refusal of this administration to talk to parties like Syria.  We need a two-state solution which protects the security of Israel. This can only be accomplished through energetic American engagement in strengthening moderates and pushing both sides to make difficult but necessary compromises.   The borders inevitably will have to be some modification of the pre-1967 borders, modified by negotiated swaps acceptable to both sides.  All parties on the Arab side must recognize the right of Israel to exist.  We need a President will devote the energy and experience to getting this done – true Arab-Israel peace would be a boon to American security and it will take a real diplomat with significant experience to get this done.

In your view, what kind of a threat does Iran pose to the United States and to our allies?  What should we be doing about it?

In dealing with difficult regimes like Iran, we must remember that no nation has ever been forced to renounce nuclear weapons – but that many nations have been convinced to renounce them.  If we unite the world behind the right carrots and sticks, and provide the Iranians with face-saving ways to step back from the nuclear brink, we will prevail.  We need to unite the world to impose tough sanctions on Iran if they persist in their nuclear enrichment program. Their economy is fragile, and these sanctions hurt.  But we also must let the Iranians know that if they desist from nuclear enrichment, they can expect secure supplies of reactor fuel and meaningful security guarantees.   And furthermore, if they refrain from provocative statements and actions, and stop all support for international terrorist groups, we should be willing to improve our trade and economic relations.

Peace comes to those who have the courage to learn from their own errors.  We should recognize that U.S. support for the Shah’s repressive regime, and then for Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s—and our silence when Saddam used chemical weapons against Iran—were wrong.  The seizure of American hostages by Iran was wrong.  The path to a better relationship with Iran will require that both nations acknowledge our difficult shared history, and we need to work to get beyond it.

The road to peace is hard: it is difficult to forgive past injustices and outrages. But for the good of America and for the good of Iran—and for the sake of peace—both nations must focus not on the past, but on the future.

What would your administration do about the situation in Darfur?

As President I will push for enough U.N. peacekeepers to make a difference and for tough sanctions against Sudan.  I’ve met with the Sudanese leaders and I know that they will respond to sanctions with teeth.  China has the Olympics coming up in 2008, which gives us leverage over them as well – and they, in turn, have leverage over Sudan.  I was the first candidate to call for boycotting those Olympics if China doesn’t start using its influence over Khartoum to stop the violence.  Some disagree with that decision, but I believe that genocide is more important than sports.

I do not believe we should intervene militarily in Darfur; we don’t need another military involvement right now.  But there’s a lot more we can do to support the international humanitarian commitment to this crisis, including providing diplomatic and logistics support to the hybrid AU-UN force that is currently being put together.

I’ve spent a lot of time in Darfur and Sudan, and I know the region well.  In 1996 I negotiated the release of a New Mexican Red Cross worker and two of his colleagues.  Last fall I negotiated the release of three other hostages.  In January I went to Darfur with the Save Darfur Coalition and worked to secure a fragile cease-fire.  The cease-fire was intended to provide a setting for dialogue so all sides could negotiate a political solution—there is no military solution.

I said at the time that while we had agreement on a cease-fire, it would be up to the UN and African Union to continue the process and keep the pressure on all sides to actually lay down their weapons.  I spoke directly with the UN Envoy to Sudan and to the African Union, but unfortunately the cease-fire we negotiated did not hold.  Leadership from the White House could have helped make that happen.

However, our delegation’s efforts did result in improved conditions for humanitarian workers in Darfur, and a streamlined process to get them into and out of the country.  Although improving humanitarian relief-access will not address the root causes, it will improve the responses and alleviate some of the suffering.

On what basis should the United States formulate its immigration policy (i.e. who should be let in for what reasons)?  What do you plan to do with those who have migrated to this country illegally?

I am committed to both enforcing our borders and pushing for immigration reform.  Despite what some critics allege, these goals are not mutually exclusive.  We need tough, effective border control—and building a fence will not increase security; only more border patrol manpower will.  I believe in realistic immigration reform that requires undocumented workers to earn their legal status.  If they are to remain in our country, they must pay fines for illegally crossing the border, learn English, pay taxes, and obey our laws.

As President, I will secure the border by hiring and training enough patrol guards to cover the entire border.  We need to more than double the number of guards at the border and provide them with the best surveillance technology available.

We must establish a realistic path to legalization for those who are already here.  This is not amnesty, but an effort that draws out those already here by offering legal status in exchange for good behavior, learning English, payment of back taxes, and fines for illegal entry.  Applicants would also pay an application fee and undergo a medical examination and background check.  Those who break the law will be immediately and permanently deported. The number of guest workers allowed at any one time must be based upon the needs of the U.S. economy. The goal must be to meet demand for jobs that go unfilled by American citizens, and no more.

We also must crack down on immigration fraud and illegal workers, and I also believe we must work in partnership with the Mexican government and other nations.  We must develop border infrastructure to move goods through the free-trade zones along the border, revitalizing communities on both sides of the border and creating much-needed jobs. We will also work with the Secretary of the Organization of American States on Latin American initiatives that focus on economic development and immigration. We need to demonstrate to OAS member states that they have an equal responsibility to solve the immigration problem.

What role should the government play in addressing poverty and hunger?  Should social welfare programs targeting the poor be expanded, kept about the same, or shifted to private forms of assistance?

I believe that the best anti-poverty plan is job creation and education, and I absolutely believe that the federal government has a large role to play in these areas.

Beyond that, however, I also believe in other strong anti-poverty tools, such as a strong commitment to workforce development, an expanded and simplified Earned Income Tax Credit, Transitional Jobs, and career training programs, especially in conjunction with nascent Green-Collar technology jobs, such as retrofitting homes and businesses to meet newer environmental standards.

Of course, universal health care must also be an essential part of this plan, and as I stated previously, I have a sensible plan that gets us there, without creating new bureaucracies or raising new taxes.

Additionally, America’s small, rural towns are not getting the attention they deserve from Washington.  That’s why I’m proposing a tax credit for jobs created in rural parts of the country.

In the richest country in the world, it is a disgrace that there is still so much poverty.  We simply must be doing more to combat it.

What restrictions, if any, should be placed on the ability to have an abortion?  Should laws be put in place requiring parental notification when minors request an abortion?

I am pro-choice, I support Roe v. Wade, and I do not support laws requiring parental notification when minors request an abortion.  As President, I will continue to support abortion rights and medical privacy for women, and I will support full law enforcement against domestic terrorists who bomb abortion facilities.

Moreover, I have gone on record saying that I will ask any potential nominees to the Supreme Court whether they consider Roe v. Wade settled law.  If they say ‘yes,’ they have a good chance of being chosen.  If they say ‘no,’ I will not choose them.  It’s as simple as that, and I encourage the other presidential candidates to make the same commitment.  A woman’s right to choose is under attack in this country, and we can’t afford to be shy about saying where we stand on the issue, loud and clear.

How would you characterize the role of the Faith-Based Initiatives program?  How would it change, if at all, in your administration?

I support certain elements of faith-based initiatives, but there must be very strong firewalls against proselytizing, discrimination in hiring, and other potential civil rights violations.

Are you in favor of or opposed to a voucher program that would subsidize public school students to attend private and/or parochial schools?  In what circumstances would this be acceptable/unacceptable?

I oppose private school tuition vouchers, especially when funds for vouchers compete with funds for overall improvements in America’s public schools.  I will, however, support and expand the number of public charter schools, and will insist that they have the same standards of accountability and access as other public schools.


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