blogenlust
9.13.2004

Zell Miller She Ain't


A friend forwarded me this story about a lifelong Republican woman from New Hampshire who is voting for John Kerry in November. Her husband is a former Republican congressman, and she is close friends with the first President Bush and his wife, Barbara.
''George and Barbara are very dear friends. But this war, so wrong to begin with, is destroying the image of America as a peace-loving country in the world," she said. ''I know the president would say that he is 'liberating' Iraq but I don't think that Iraqis who don't have running water, electricity, a job, or safety on their streets would agree with him. It's fair to say he has disappointed me." Hilary Cleveland had expected to be as supportive of George W. Bush's presidency as she had been of his candidacy in 2000. She organized vigorously for him then, hosting his mother on a campaign swing through this bucolic village in the shadows of Mounts Sunapee and Kearsarge. She was finance chairwoman of the senior Bush's presidential primary campaign in New Hampshire in 1980. In 1990, President Bush appointed her to the International Joint Commission, which acts as an intermediary in boundary water and air pollution disputes between the United States and Canada. [...] As an adjunct professor of political history at Colby-Sawyer, a small liberal arts college just down the street from the Cleveland homestead, Hilary Cleveland talks and thinks a lot about politics at an age when others might be content to enjoy a quiet retirement. ''We have the future to think of," she said, citing her urgent concern for the threatened environment, the ballooning deficit, and the faltering status of the United States in the international community. ''Jim would be horrified," she said of her late husband's likely reaction to Bush administration policies that have created record $400 billion deficits. ''Republicans are fiscal conservatives. Cutting taxes at the same time you are spending billions for this war makes no sense. My father used to say, 'When the going gets tough, tighten your belt; you can't spend what you don't have.' That's always made sense to me. It's really a Republican idea." But, mostly, it is Bush's doctrine of preemptive war that pushed Hilary Cleveland into the camp of Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee. She supported Bush's military action in Afghanistan, just as she supported his father's Gulf War in 1991. ''The goals were clear and limited and the threats were real; Afghanistan was harboring terrorists and Iraq had invaded Kuwait," she said. ''This war is very different. I think he is usurping an authority he does not have. He has alienated our allies, destroyed our relations in the Muslim world, and actually invited terrorists into Iraq. I think Kerry is our best hope to get us out of Iraq and reestablish our diplomatic relations in the world." She has not spoken to her friends in Kennebunkport about her change of mind. ''I should write them a note," she said. ''It's awkward. Parents, of course, are so proud of their children."
If only Zell Miller would have been so articulate. I think it goes without saying that Hilary Cleveland and people like her will play an enormous role in this election. Furthermore, the importance of their role will likely increase if things in Iraq keep going the way they are going. The Administration has been trying to keep Iraq out of the headlines, and for good reason. They bungled the occupation and now many are questioning the legitimacy of the entire endeavor, which has left many people like Hilary Cleveland rethinking their votes this fall.