Chairman Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, CMG, CBE: On: ‘America at home and Abroad 5th November 2007

Chairman Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, CMG, CBE:

On:

‘America at home and Abroad

5th November 2007

 

Thank you very much. We’re here tonight with the Association of Former Members of Congress and also we have the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library, Professor Davies is going to be opening the discussion in a minute, as well as the American Society in London. So we have a remarkable number of U.S. delegates here and I’m pleased to associate with the United States. On my part, I have been associated with the United States for some sixty years, since I made my landfall there as a student in 1949. Somebody asked me once how I got there and I said I went in a tanker and I went to a place called Port Arthur, Texas. (Inaudible) It was rather hot. But anyways that’s my association to the United States and I’ve been going there since and I think it’s a great country.

We’re very privileged to have tonight two distinguished Congresswomen, both retired from Congress and therefore able to speak freely and give their views on subjects which we’re all interested in, America both at home and abroad. Of course America being the world super power, she is something which everybody around the world, including citizens of this country, as a long time ally of the United States, are very interested in. My father actually went to America for the first time when Eisenhower had just become president, invited by Eisenhower through his boss (inaudible) and indeed the formation of NATO.  (Inaudible) he was asking if he had ever been to the White House before and he said, “No, I’ve never been here except in spirit... (Inaudible).”

I think we’re going to start by having these two distinguished Congress ladies speak in turn and we’re going to start off, because they’re in office, with the Republicans. Over to Sue Kelly who is a Republican retired Congress lady. The title of this evening is America at Home and abroad and because there is so much happening abroad we are going to talk about abroad first and then come to home, secondly, with Congressman Barbara Kennelly.

So Sue Kelly you have the floor.

The Honourable Sue Kelly:Can everybody hear? Good. I want to tell you that it’s been a long day, we’ve had an excellent dinner, some fine wine, so if you gentlemen want to loosen your ties, ladies kick off your shoes, if you all want to slump down, let your chins rest on your chest, so long as you don’t snore while I’m talking it’s perfectly okay to have a nap.

I’m a New Yorker. I represented the district that is 50 miles due North of New York City. It’s a commuting area. On September 11th, 2001 I lost a number of friends. I went to many, many funerals. But I also, at the time, was vice chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and was also very senior on the Transportation and infrastructure committee. Within two weeks I put on jeans and a pair of boots and went with two other people in Congress and crawled down a handmade ladder. We walked from a subway station that had been closed down up underneath the burning towers to try to establish what kind of structural means had to be taken care of so that we could get the subways restarted under New York City. Once we had established what happened there we came out, went to Congress and we got the authorizing done and we got the appropriating done to get New Yorkers going again. I have to tell you that what I saw from wading through ashes knee deep was such destruction. It looked worse than anything I had ever seen in a war movie and I realized this was an act of war. I then was so angry. I thought somebody had to pay for this. Somebody paid to have those people in those airplanes to attack America and I wanted to know who. I wanted to know how they got that money. So because I was vice-chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and I was chairman of the oversight sub-committee on that committee, I used that position to begin to track terrorism’s money, across and around America and I began to look at what terrorism was doing to America. Now we’ve had terrorists for years in America and everywhere else. Terrorism is not new. Terrorism has been in America for years. If you go back and think about the 70’s and about the fact that terrorists attacked our embassy in Lebanon, they had all these people trapped in Lebanon for a bunch of years, they took down the Khobar towers. Americans turned a blind eye. It took an act on American soil to make America wake up to the fact that everybody else in the world was having to face terrorism on their own soil. We joined the club. And, fortunately, after 9-11, the club let America in and we began to work together, especially in a very interesting and coherent financial way.

I tracked down a lot of interesting things happening with the money laundering that I was doing and finding groups. One of the worst, most violent terrorist groups I found has been banned in Pakistan because it is so violent; it actually has its headquarters 60 miles north of my hometown and it’s been there for quite some time. They have enclaves in 15 states in the United States. And when I found them and began to track them I discovered that in 2004 they had a convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Folks, Philadelphia are the city of brotherly love. I thought that was very funny. These jihadists found that the city of brotherly love opened its arms and welcomed them to have a convention. This is the most violent jihadist group in America. But they did and they are there. This is the same group that recently you may have heard about. They were the group that decided they would target the gas pipeline, the natural gas pipeline that was in New Jersey and went right under Brooklyn and went all the way out to try to blow up the John F. Kennedy Airport. They were going to kill 300,000 people with that gas pipeline. They got caught. At any rate, you have them, we have them, the world has them and it’s a world wide problem. They do money laundering. They’ve been doing money laundering for years. And when we were able to stop a lot of the electronic transfer I know we got it because we were able to pick up where they got into the headquarters at one of these places. This was because we had a letter that had been transferred saying, “We’re having trouble raising money, we can’t get it transferred.” So I know that we were being very effective. And thank you. I thank everybody in this room for backing their government because you helped put together a very interesting group. It’s non-governmental. It’s a group of cooperating governments. It’s called the Egmont Group. We who are involved in the Egmont Group are cooperating governments who do not want the terrorists to succeed and what we are doing is cooperating by sharing information on the primary people who are transferring money. When we shut them down electronically they go to high value goods: human traffic, drugs, diamonds, gold, art, high value items like that. These are all things that we are tracking which support terrorism. It’s a fight we have to keep fighting because it’s long term.

One of the things I found was about charities. Money was being transferred into charities for the support of terrorism. One of the bank accounts was with an Arab bank in New York, amongst other banks. The Americans were not really doing their job; some of the agencies were not doing their job very well. So when I looked at the Arab bank we had some information from an Israeli raid. The Israelis had gone in and found a computer that held something that looked like a balance sheet. It was for the Committee for Palestinian Relief and on it was a thing that looked like a balance sheet. It was like accounting, the way you would have an accounting ledger and it read something like this for pages. I’ll read you one line and it’s not accurate names or amounts but close. To the Rashid family: for the death of Ahmed on March 1999 for 2 killing two Israelis in the market in Jerusalem: $46,800.00, one line after another. The money was being transferred from, let’s say, Saudi Arabia and it was given to the Committee for Palestinian Relief. It was then transferred into the Arab bank in New York, changed into dollars and sent back to Palestine. That bank was money laundering and it was money laundering for terrorism.

Another incident I found was when I began surfing the internet and I found something called Ten Euros for the Resistance. Ten Euros for the Resistance was being run out of the Netherlands and we tracked it and we found a lot of information about it. Basically what they were doing was passing on money to the resistance fighters which were fighting against Holland’s troops, British troops and American troops in Iraq. They didn’t care what they did with the money, if they were buying arms to kill Americans that was fine. They didn’t care. I had been firing off letters to the Italian ambassador. I got very bland replies from the Italian ambassador. So, you’ve heard that Shakespearean line, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” I went to the floor of the house and I made a speech about this. Within two weeks there was a raid in Italy and this thing was shut down. It brought a price on my head. I’m not going to be visiting Italy soon. But, on the other hand, it stopped the group from collecting money to take out our troops.

Another speech I made involved the fact that I had just received a letter from the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia, Prince Bandar, and it was absolutely condescending beyond belief. Well it’s true that I am a woman and it’s true that I am not a political entity. I never ran for office for anything in my life until I ran for Congress. I beat a bunch of political people and even my own party could not believe I had won. And so there I was in Congress standing up and trying to be an honest person doing my job. At any rate, after I got this letter back from Prince Bandar it happened to be I was going to a dinner to speak about economic issues and financial issues in New York. I mentioned this condescending letter from Prince Bandar and it turned out one of his good friends was in the audience and he said, “I can’t believe Prince Bandar would send such a letter.” I said, “Well I’m not so surprised because I’ve been arguing with them for three years about whether or not they had a Financial Intelligence Unit set up.” They said they did and I knew they didn’t. So, he said, “Well I’ll talk to Bandar.”

Two days later a representative from Saudi Arabia came into my office and said “Madam you are so wrong, we definitely have a Financial Intelligence Unit.” And I said, “So tell me about it.” He started to tell me about it and I said, “I’m sorry but that is not a Financial Intelligence Unit, they’re not doing the job.” Finally he stood up and said, “Madam if you want to know what is going on in Saudi Arabia why don’t you come?” I said,” Fine, when?” I went alone with one of my staff to Saudi Arabia as a guest of the King of Saudi Arabia. He and I had a nice chat and the Saudis have a Financial Intelligence Unit. It is not fully functioning. They are not a member of the Egmont Group. They would like to be and they’re coming along. It’s very important to be a member of the Egmont Group and they want to be a member of the Egmont Group. I think it’s very important that we put this kind of pressure on world bodies because we all, including Saudi Arabia, are affected by terrorism.

I’m going to stop now but I want to just say that that’s really my point here tonight. Meetings like this, getting together and getting to know each other, talking with each other, sharing experience with each other is really what is going to make this world work. We’re in a whole different age. This is not the age of my father and mother. It’s not even the age I grew up in. This is the age of my children. This is a world community and we need to live that way. Thank you.

(Applause)

The Honourable Barbara Kennelly: I am delighted to be here also. And thank you for coming and thank you for this wonderful dinner. It has been very good.

I was thinking about what Sue had to say and what I had to say and I’m going to have a little fun. Sue and I have been together all day and have been talking and have learned more and more about each other although we knew each other in the Congress and we went to China together. Many times during the day she said she was not a politician. I used to say that. But at my age I am a politician, I really am. I was born into a Democratic family. My father was the National Chairman of the Democratic Party during what I call the good years, the Kennedy-Johnson years. He was National Chairman for eight years and we had a wonderful life. He was State Chairman of the State of Connecticut for 35 years. The day he died he was State Chairman of the state of Connecticut. So I had a wonderful youth because he took us everywhere he went if we behaved and we knew enough to behave. I then went to a dance when I was in college and met my husband; it was a meet-the-candidates dance. I met my husband Jim, who then went on and it was thought he would be the politician in the family.

He was eventually Speaker of the House of the state of Connecticut. In the meantime, I had my four children, and as we did in those days I stayed home with them but I told my husband as soon as our youngest was in the first grade I was going to work; I had a wonderful education. I said that at a speech at Wesleyan University, my son was in the audience and he said, “She hasn’t been seen since”, which is not the truth. But I did go to work. I went for a job in the 70’s when there was a recession. I didn’t get the job and I asked the principal why not and he said, “Well you came in second, the person who came in first was a veteran.” I could not fit that in. I had never been able to fit that one in. But then I went downtown.

There was a vacancy on the City Council and so I ran for City Council and I loved every minute of it. It was grassroots, it was my hometown and I had a wonderful time. Then the Coliseum roof fell in and I was appointed to investigate why and unfortunately the people at City Hall were the reason that the roof fell in. And so I had to leave City Hall and I ran for Secretary of State for Connecticut which sounds wonderful but I was bored to death. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to run for Congress and I ran for Congress and won. I had 17 very happy years. I knew leaving my children, one in grammar school, and two in high school and one in college that we would spend a lot of time in Washington DC in the Congress. I knew I wanted to be on a good committee. I spotted the Ways and Means Committee which raises all the money through taxation and then spends half of it and decided that’s where I wanted to be.

I went on that committee and did taxation. I met a woman over here that does insurance. I did insurance. I was from Hartford, Connecticut, what else did I do? And then when I was looking around the Congress at the other committees and I realized that on the Intelligence Committee there had never been a woman. I was the third woman in history on the Ways and Means Committee, but no women on the Intelligence Committee, life and death, war and peace. So I went to Tip O’Neal and I said, “Tip, why isn’t there a woman on the Intelligence Committee? I would like to be on the Intelligence Committee.” He said to me, “Barbara, are you never satisfied? You’re on the Ways and Means Committee.” I waited and went with Jim Wright who then became speaker and said, “Life and death, war and peace,” and he appointed me. It was six of the most fascinating years of my life on the Intelligence Committee. I was on it during a time when Russia was still in Afghanistan, when many things happened, and many things that are happening today and in that area of the world are not terribly, terribly surprising.

After I left Congress I went with the Clinton administration with social security and I went all over the country talking about social insurance and the need for social insurance. A lot of people would say, “Why did she do that?” Well a lot of people don’t agree with our social insurance in America. As you know, one President, George Bush, during his second campaign in 2004 said that, “I have a lot of political capital and I’m going to use it and I’m going to privatize social security.” So I was a very busy busy woman for three years fighting the president. I have, luckily now, about three and a half members in my organization. But I was told that you didn’t want to hear about social security so I said, “Can I talk about politics? I would love to talk about politics!”

I’m looking here at a woman that I met at the reception and she was not a very big fan of Hilary Clinton. And then I met a dentist who is in the audience and she was a great fan of Hilary Clinton and I think that’s the beauty of politics: that we can agree and disagree and have some fun with it.

But this is a very serious serious election for so many reasons. But it also, for us who are involved, and everybody else, is a very very interesting election. It’s the first time since 1952 that we do not have a president or a vice president who is an incumbent running for office. And I know how long that is because I was 15 at the 1952 convention at which I was at because I behaved. Adelaide Stevenson got the nomination and General Eisenhower got the Republican nomination. I went back four years later and Adelaide got it again and he couldn’t do it again. This election has nobody who has anything behind them. And when you are an incumbent president, and even when you are an incumbent vice president, as Vice President Gore was in 2000, you have a lot that goes with being the president or being the vice president. And you also have a record that people can run against. This time there is none of that and it is one of the reasons that we have so many viable candidates on both sides. Both sides have a number of candidates that aren’t really registering in the polls. One of them is my own senator, Senator Dodd. Magnificent man, great record, but his timing is pretty tough. I see the Professor shaking his head no.

The fact of the matter is this, as I said, is an interesting election. How I always wanted to see an African American run for President of the United States. How I always wanted to see a woman run for President of the United States. Did I need them in the same party in the same year? No, absolutely not. But that is what’s happening. John Edwards of course ran for vice president and is very articulate. So, really, on the Democratic side those three candidates are taking the attention right now. On the Republican side, who knows anymore than you know on the Democratic side? It looks like Romney or Giuliani, possibly Thompson but that has not shaken out very much.

If you bothered to come tonight you are going to have some interest in American politics and the election. Hold your hat because we’re going to have quite a time. We have the Iowa caucus which is going to be January 3rd. Can you imagine that? We have the holidays and then you have the caucus and the attention on this caucus is unreal. Then you have the New Hampshire primaries. I’ve been out to Iowa twice this year. First, I went out for the first debate. You would have thought John Edwards was going to win in Iowa. You would have definitely thought that because there was all sort of activity after the debate. He had a huge crowd. Elizabeth, his wife, spoke, he spoke, it just looked like heavens, John Edwards is going to win Iowa. Then I went over three or four weeks later, Senator Tom Harkin had a steak roast and in an off year they have about 500 people at the steak roast. He had 10,000 because of the Iowa caucus.  We all sat on the ground in the fields and candidates just had a mike like this, none of the high tech stuff, and each of them spoke. Then Senator Barack Obama came in. He came in walking with 1,000 people. It was very impressive and you go home thinking I think Senator Obama is going to win this caucus. But John Edwards has lived there, literally lived there, so he could win that caucus. So what happens in Iowa is going to be very interesting.

Maybe I would be taken by what happened in Iowa except I went to the Iowa Caucus 4 years ago and I saw the small number of people that vote in the caucus who make this huge decision. They get all this media attention and the media doesn’t always get it right. I was there when Dr. Dean made the scream as some of you may have heard about. And they played the scream over and over and over again. Can I tell you something? He made the scream after he lost and he was trying to get his troops back up again but they reported that he was hysterical. But he was dead by then anyway. Congressman Gephardt had a huge union support, trucks going all over Iowa which is a very rural and very calm state; they did not like all these union members that Mr. Gephardt had with him. Dr. Dean had young people in orange hats, and a caucus is not an election and there’s really not much to do, and they basically went around stopping cars saying, “Vote for Dr. Dean,” and they didn’t like that so that’s how John Kerry got the nomination. He came in 6th in the polls at that moment but he got the bump from Iowa and the rest is history.

I say get ready for what’s coming because with Iowa when it is and New Hampshire when it is you then have the April primary with half the states of the United States of America running, having primaries, and it’ll probably be over by then. And if it’s over in February, and with the history of our last couple of elections, I want to tell you something, you’ve not seen anything yet. What happened last time was Senator Kerry did not answer the swift boat ads. He thought that it was so outrageous that he was being attacked for his service, and he had certainly served well in Vietnam. He was attacked and he did not respond for the whole month of August. I think the Democrats have learned their lesson. You will see response on both sides. You will probably see one of the ugliest campaigns in the history of our campaigns except when you go back to the old days when they really had tough campaigns. Is it an important campaign? As a Democrat I think it’s incredibly important. As a grandmother of ten grandchildren I think it’s incredibly important.

I think we have gone too far in our country in a number of ways. Social insurance: I earn my living protecting social insurance. That’s what Roosevelt called what you have to have when the accidents and vicissitudes of life turn on you. I didn’t think I’d live to see the day when we saw a president leading the charge against social insurance. Every industrialized country has social insurance. Why then we’re talking about not having it, I don’t know.

I’m sure most of you are wondering about Iraq. I can’t believe what’s happened in Iraq. I think Obama is in the best shape because he said, “I was against it!” because he wasn’t in the senate and didn’t have to vote. But the fact of the matter is that we do in our country have great regard for the Commander in Chief, great regard, and when he says he’s going to go to war, you think he might be right. Well this time he was wrong and we’ve been in a war now, longer than the Second World War, longer than Vietnam. People in America have had it but the campaign is still very much undecided because there is an opportunity for the Democrats to have a voice, there’s an opportunity for the Democrats to win.

People say that Hilary Clinton is going to win the nomination, that there’s no doubt about it. Hilary Clinton has 48% negative no matter where you go. You start with 48% negative and it’s very difficult to win that campaign. We don’t know who’s going to have the Democrat nomination, we don’t know who’s going to have the Republican nomination but I think there is a very definitive difference between the parties and I think that it has to be articulated. Why do I feel it’s important? I stand here as a proud Democrat, but I stand here as a proud American and I think some of the decisions that have been made that did not follow our Constitution in the last few years have been just unacceptable.

I was a political appointment in the Clinton administration, a political appointment on social security. You have political appointments after a presidential race. You know exactly where they are and then when the next president comes in those political appointments automatically go and a new group comes in. This administration has been absolutely brilliant. It came out during a situation with our attorney general that not only are there political appointments but one very Christian school had a couple of hundred graduates brought into the justice department. Those are not political appointments.

A lot of things have changed in the last seven years. A lot of things have changed. Will the Democrats be able to articulate who they are and what they want to be and what they want our country to do and how it should be? I don’t know. I do know that we are not in the FDR period. That was the New Deal and for years the Republicans tried to get rid of the New Deal and they couldn’t and after Truman they gave up. Nixon brought in Medicare. But now those really Conservative Republicans, Libertarians have done a better job than Conservatives, have come back and have done a very well job and I think it’s very important now that the Democrats get in. Will they? I don’t know. I hope they will. I’m sure Sue and many of you hope they won’t but you don’t have to care as much as we care because it’s our country but I know how much you’ve been such a wonderful ally to us, such a wonderful friend. And I know that I’m interested in your country and your government and I know you’re interested in my country and my government. But I promise you that you will not be bored in this election.

(Applause)

Chairman Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, CMG, CBE: Thank you very much indeed. I can assure you, the both of you infact, that we in this country take very considerable interest in your own. You are the number one world power and we are very much committed to what is going to happen and we will follow with considerable interest this long election, nearly over the next year. Starting as you said, in January if it has not started already. So it’s already started and we’re in the action following right up to November next year, the very last day in a year’s time. So I can assure you that we are very interested in what you’re going to tell us and what you have told us, both of you, from different angles… (Inaudible)… so we know about that sort of thing. They’re persistent but they’re not comparable at all … (inaudible)… and now I’m going to ask Professor Davis who is responsible for this organization to open the discussion and then I shall come around the room and ask anyone who wants to ask a question to raise their hand.

Professor Philip Davies: Thank you very much.  One of the things that I can think about the United States at the moment is a country that has some of the most inordinately long election campaigns in the world has chosen this year to extend it by another year. We’ve already gone through debates, we’ve already gone through polls and we’ve already gone through an amount of media coverage. I’ve never seen this sort of election year before. Candidates this year have spent ten times more than the candidates in a similar position even four years ago.

Why? Well partly because, as Barbara said, there is no incumbent who is going to be running, no incumbent president or vice president since 1952. It’s the first time the incumbent vice president or president has not even been running since 1938 (inaudible)… I’m sure you’ll remember him. So getting in early has become tremendously important. But in this long, I think it’s exciting but others might say it’s (inaudible) period in election (inaudible). It’s interesting also to speculate just where this range of issues is going to play. Can you really interest and engage a public with foreign policy issues, even foreign policy issues that are so significant, over such a length of time that they’re going to cast their votes on it? Does it actually matter if they have much difference between the parties on these foreign policy issues that they should become so significant? Quite honestly what people do tend to vote on, generally, are hot button domestic issues: immigration, taxes, Medicare, social security, these kinds of issues. Now, there is something of a difference historically between voting in Congress, for Congress rather, and voting for President. People see the President as the representative of The United States internationally. And so foreign policy plays a part in it as it reflects the place of America in the world. Some of my colleagues in the academic world have used this to explain the situation where, in recent years, I think in the last generation, in fact the whole period, where the Republicans have held the presidency and Democrats have held the Congress. In fact some of them have gone so far as to say it’s boiled down to the American public seeing the Republican party as the “daddy party” and the Democratic party as the “mummy party” who will take care of them at home where as the “daddy party” will represent them abroad in all these places where they’ve got to look proud and look strong.

That has been part of the reason why there has been a divided government in the United States for most of the period since 1968: government in the United States, the presidency and the two chambers of Congress, have been divided between the parties. During the whole time there has been a massive tension while both parties attempt to reassert their party control and we’re seeing it again where Republicans have had their chances two or three times to assert long term control over America as a whole and it has slipped between their fingers. It is strange to me that it seems that one of the reasons it seems to be slipping through their fingers now is actually because of actions in their area of strength which is foreign policy. The foreign policy that the public supported very strongly has been interpreted over the last few years by President Bush in a way that the public has gradually fallen out of favour with.

This has moved them into a different sense of their satisfaction with their national government and given the Democrats an opportunity that I think many Republicans will feel wrongly chagrined about, to take control over the Executive and the Legislature. That’s not to say it’s a done deal. It’s going to be a very tight race. There are those viable candidates that she mentioned, at least three on the Democrat side, three on the Republican side and one we’ve been talking about during the day, Mayor Bloomberg of New York who is interested enough and rich enough to come in at a late stage as an independent and blow the whole stack of cards down. So the election is certainly going to be interesting. It’s certainly going to be tense and exciting. We were warned to expect quite a lot of nasty play in this election. It will count even though election advisors in the United States actually take a pledge not to engage in negative advertising. As one of them said to me, “nothing moves the polls like negative advertising.” So it’s certainly going to be out there too. All these things will be in play. I do though wonder how far that foreign policy issue can be retained as an engaging public issue in the face of all these things that effect people’s direct lives.

Chairman Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, CMG, CBE: Thank you very much indeed. Now I’m going to take questions from the floor and if you just raise your hand and when I call you indicate who is speaking. I will just ask you to say your name, and the association that you are from, and if you could be very brief because we only have about half an hour for questions, so be very brief otherwise I may have to stop you. I’ll take one or two at a time. I was told by Justin that the acoustics in this room are so good that you don’t have to have the roaming mike. We have a rather curious situation because there is only one mike here altogether.

David Corry: Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I would just like to give a vote of thanks to our chairman who has done so much for the society here. To Dame Dangerfield who gave most of her money and her house for this charity and organization and to Justin Glass who does so much for the society. And of course Lady Killearn who has been with us for so many years and also her Royal Highness who’s mentioned. Anyway, it’s just a thank you for all the hospitality you’ve all given the society. It’s a vote of thanks that I am saying tonight, not a question. Thank you very very much.

:Applause:

Viscount Montgomery: Thank you very very much I think we can all agree with that.

Question 1:…I’ll direct my question to the honourable Sue Kelly … It says that when you talk about ‘we,’ whom do we mean? Also, terrorism in the United States is not exclusively from outside the country. Let us not forget that there is a large portion of the United States outside of the big cities who are not white, middle class intellectuals. Not only am I thinking about the minority populations but the very large uneducated population in the country and the religious extremism which has formulated a fair amount of terrorists and anti-federalist activity. Should the United States not also try to address these problems? Would that not be a good way towards resolving other problems?

Response from Sue Kelly: Well I think it’s a nice idea but it doesn’t exactly fly because we now have home grown terrorism in every country as well as people who are coming into America and other countries to take a step. So it’s a world problem. It has a lot less to do with people being unhappy because they’re not happy with their living circumstances. It simply has to do with people being affected by an education level that does not inform them enough to be able to evaluate quality. There are other ways to obtain information that will help them to make an informed judgment about what you’re hearing.

One of the problems that we have in America, and worldwide, is we must educate our children to understand what they’re facing. This is not yesterday’s world. We have to start teaching our children what they’re facing. In America recently, Time Magazine did a civics poll with the senior class at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth, all the major universities. They asked the basic questions about American politics and about American geography and they failed. They failed!

These seniors at college could not answer these questions. The highest grade came from someplace like Syracuse University where they got 69%+ of the test right. Everyone else failed. Now that’s wrong. You need to teach your children no matter what country you’re in. You need to teach your children about your country and why your country stands for what it does. De Tocqueville came to America and wrote a book years ago about what democracy was all about and it’s still valid. Democracy is about the freedom of people having the right to serenity, to choose their government and to do so in freedom, without pressure from that government. That buys you liberty. And it’s not surprising that in 1900 there were ten democracies in the world and today there are one hundred and nineteen democracies out of a hundred and ninety-some countries. It’s because people can choose their lives. It has a lot to do with economics. It also keeps the government out of the way; they can handle their lives. So they have an unimpeachable judiciary and property rights. It’s a neat form of government, messy as all, but it works otherwise people wouldn’t keep emulating it.

Mrs. Louise Hutchinson, Member of E-AG, Property Developer, Artist:  My name is Louise Hutchinson. I have a question for Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly. The European Court has gone nowhere with Iran over the last four years. I wanted to know if you think that Iran is a serious threat to world peace and what you would want to do about that. Further negotiation or what?

Barbara Kennelly:  I don’t think there’s an “or” after negotiation issues. I think it certainly should happen and should be possible to contact, to have willingness to negotiate and when I say negotiate I mean have conversation with Iran. Iran is a very, very important country. There are other countries involved with proximity to Iraq and what’s happened there, we all know, but that’s no reason to shut Iran out. I think that it kind of went downhill when the President’s State of the Union talked about the axis of evil and Iran was mentioned and from then on it hasn’t been good. I know what happens with Iran and with the United States affects everybody, it’s very important. I have a daughter in the State Department and she says, “Negotiating” and I say, “That’s not the right word.” We should be talking and talking and listening and listening.  We don’t want another Iraq.

Question 3: We just had a question about Iran. My question is about Pakistan. I would like to know from both of you how you plan to approach that topic….

Sue Kelly: That’s a very good question. I think Pakistan is an issue. I am a republican. I’m against big government. I’m against our government actually going and messing with other people’s governments. I think we need leave people alone and let them solve their problems. I was not in favour of Bush trying to make the world become democratic. I don’t think this is a smart move. People need to make their own choices.  I think that it will work out in the end. That also is a republican tenet. I think we can help guide them, we can support them, and we have supported Musharaf. I think he’s got himself a mess over there. I agree. I don’t know about Barbara, maybe she has something better to say. There are some things I think Pakistan Government could do and some of them I think there’s no way that the present one can do. I read the Financial Times delivered every single day and I read the Economist because I get world news that way. I also download the BBC and some of the other world programs because there’s no way in the United States that you can listen to any US program and get anything but slanted news. I shouldn’t say that but it’s all editorializing and I’m trying to get some hard core facts. There’s somebody from Pakistan here and I wonder if he’d like to address that but I think Barbara has some words. I don’t know how it’s going to work out. Right now if I were Musharaf I’d clamp down on some things and try to work some things out. Hold on for a little bit until they can hold an election that can make some sense where people aren’t so fired up. Your go Barbara.

Barbara Kennelly: As we were flying over here the state of emergency was declared. We’re all very aware that Musharaf had a military government and then it became a different kind but seems to be going back. The last time I was in Pakistan Abdullah was the Prime Minister and that was a trip. That was interesting also. Thank God she’s alive after what happened the other day. It is a very very dangerous world. … (Inaudible)… If there was ever a need for diplomacy it is right now. (Inaudible) This is a terrible time but it could get a lot worse and that’s why you have diplomacy at its very best. All we can do is reach out, we saw how Iraq went so bad, let’s not see anything else go so bad or at least let us, your country and my country, not be the reason that it goes so bad.

Prince Mohsin Ali Khan of Hyderabad: (inaudible)  Question 4: There are 6 million Americans living outside the United States, these are civilian citizens, not military. However, the question I’m going to pose to both Congresswomen relates to the US presidential election coming up, I believe it’s about one year from today. And some very important facts have been mentioned, one by Professor Davies who mentioned that quite often the elections for the President, there’s actually a great deal of talk about foreign affairs, but the elections themselves tend to, for the large part, be decided on domestic issues. Many of these domestic issues probably have not yet emerged. But there is one that is emerging and it may have taken its first casualty last week. That is with regards to the governor of New York, Elliot Spitzer. We all may remember him as the US attorney who fought fraud and corruption with regard to various instruments and eventually he was elected Governor. The issue now is that Governor Spitzer has decided that New York has approximately five hundred thousand to one million undocumented aliens which are called illegal aliens and is topical in other areas of the world as well. What Governor Spitzer has proposed is that these aliens be given the right to obtain drivers licenses without Social Security numbers. That is an issue. The issue is that if he allows this to happen these unauthorised illegal immigrants will be given some type of respectability. With these drivers’ licenses they will be able to open bank accounts. They will be able to use these drivers’ licenses to get on airplanes. Republican State Majority Leader Bruno has come out very strongly against this saying that this might make New York an attractive place or a more attractive place for terrorists. On the other side, Governor Spitzer makes the argument that some five percent of all fatalities in driving…

Viscount Montgomery: I think we’re quite clear what the issue is  Questioner 4:

… the issue is that this issue has been brought up to Senator Hilary Clinton in, I believe, the last debate. I believe there was some tooing and froing which they believe may have cost her politically. I want to ask each, Barbara Kennelly and Sue Kelly, their view on the granting of drivers’ licenses to undocumented individuals.

Sue Kelly: Eliot Spitzer happens to be my governor. When I was in Congress, I wrote a bill that was going to curtail his powers because he was incurring on the federal investigative powers. Eliot called my office and I was the recipient of the very first of his line of temper tantrums during which he called me some very, very bad names. I can tell you that he called Bruno very, very bad names. Eliot’s agreed to a three step program. He’s probably not going to back off until he can save face. It’s a stupid idea because of just the reasons you pointed out. You can understand the rational. I am totally against it. I can tell you that the legal immigrants from all parts of the world that I have worked with over the course of twelve years helped me. Most of the people that I see on streets have looked at me and they shake their finger at me and say, ‘Don’t you let him do that. I had to wait. I had to wait. Make those people wait and don’t let them get drivers licenses.’ So there could be a war going on because many of the county clerks are not going to issue drivers licenses to those people anymore.

Barbara Kennelly: I’ve been around long enough to know when an issue is dead and yes this is absolutely dead. Hilary likes to be the student of all subjects so she knew that it was three levels of licenses and they couldn’t get on a plane with the license that they could get. But forget all that. This has become such an issue right now that this will not happen. This will not happen. We were talking about what were going to be some of the key issues in our presidential election and one of the very key issues is going to be immigration. Interestingly enough, it’s not the number one or two issue with either the Democrats or the Republicans but it is the number one issue with the people who are going to decide this election which are the unaffiliated so we’re going to hear an awful lot more about immigration. I know you’ve had the issue for years and we’re going to have the issue and it’s going to be complicated but it can be dealt with. But you’re not going to hear anymore about this license thing.

Question 5: Thank you so much. We’re done with that issue for the time being. I just wanted to come back to the issue of terrorism and ask you ladies a question concerning Britain and how we are to bring terrorists to book when they are captured here. There’s the very strong counter lobby, the Human Rights Lobby. How do we reconcile the Human Rights Lobby with the importance of brining criminals to book?

Sue Kelly: In law school they teach you a saying: ‘Your rights end at the end of my nose.’ ‘Your rights end at the end of my nose.’ Got it?

Chairman Montgomery: I like it. We count that but it’s not what’s happening.

Sue Kelly:  That’s kind of what people are thinking but terrorism is bigger. We just had a couple of cases in the United States. It’s been seven years developing one case and when it comes to our law, under Constitutional law, the way the law is and the people who are clearly terrorists who have clearly harmed America have gotten either a tap on the wrist or gotten off and the juries can’t convict them. They can’t get them convicted. And you can talk about human rights. You may be talking about Guantanamo but that’s been cleaned up. Fortunately it was exposed and it’s going to be closed up so it won’t exist. (Inaudible) It’s a problem when you have a possible terrorist who won’t say anything. How do you get the information that’s going to save lives? What do you do? When you know that someone has a key to open a lock that will open a door that will save many many lives. It’s very very hard question and I have no answer for that. So I think that in many ways the human rights concerns are very valid but I wish instead of demonstrating in the street, they would help us find some answers.

Barbara Kennelly: Our country is very young in relation to your country but our Constitution has stood by us for over two hundred years and I know this is a very difficult question but I truly believe that we will get over this with our Constitution. Difficult, yes. But if we don’t follow our Constitution we’re not a democracy.

Chairman: Very good. Very good answers. The lady over there, are you coming up here? Right.

Question 6:  I’ve lived in London for 45 years. I’m very proud to be an American. I believe as you do, and Sue Kelly, that democracy gives people the right to choose. I’ve been appalled to know during all of these years that less than half of the Americans who have the right to vote, actually vote. As both of you are experienced Congresswomen, I wonder what your opinion would be about having a change, perhaps, to the Constitution and making the right to vote compulsory, and if so, how would that impact this election?

Sue Kelly: I think it’s an interesting idea but I doubt that we’d ever be able to get a change in the Constitution. If you realize what it takes to get a change in the Constitution, it’s not only passing it through Congress but then you’ve got to go out and get all of these states to agree. We couldn’t even get women’s rights, the Equal Rights Amendment, to get through. So I don’t know if it’s feasible. The other thing is the old, ‘dog ate my homework’ excuse for not voting. I think it’s a great idea though. Thanks.

Barbara Kennelly: I’m on the board of the International __ Sisters in the United States. It’s a group that focuses on elections all over the world so yes, it’s disgraceful. It is disgraceful. I believe one of the reasons is we’re spoiled. We take it for granted. It’s not that important. And I only hope that we don’t get to the point where we don’t take it for granted and we know we’d better get to the polls. And I think we should all watch out because that day might come. As I said I was Secretary of State and I would tell people day in and day out why they should vote. But unless people realize the importance of the vote, they’re not going to vote. But to get a Constitutional amendment, it isn’t going to happen, but I worry about our country at this point.

Chairman:  We don’t have a written Constitution but we have a very low turnout in elections here as well, I’m afraid. So I think we’ve both got something to learn. You sir.

Question 7: Hi my name is Matthew Konieczny. I apologize that this is a very general question but today people use the term global leader and superpower to describe the US and I agree that it is true. I grew up in Canada admiring the US as a moral beacon and a country with the political clout that it had the inhibition to act as a guide on the international state, on pressing issues. My concern is that, today the US is no longer turned to as the moral beacon and that it perhaps alienates itself in some ways from international discussion and my question is whether or not my concern is valid, one, and what the US needs to address this?

Barbara Kennelly: I think your concern is valid. It’s certainly a concern. We all can manipulate polls. We can all come up with a poll that says what we want to say. But if you look at the polls, and I’ve spent much of my life looking at polls, I give money to both Republicans and Democrats who agree with my association so I agree with that. One consistent thing in polls these days is that people do not think that their government is worrying about them, that they’re not prepared for globalisation and that we have got ourselves so caught up in the Iraq question with so much money going to the Iraq war that we are not looking to our future. You see across the board in polls, Democrats, Republicans and Independents, up to 70% say that the government is going the wrong way and that there’s something wrong. People know that the government is not addressing their needs and that’s what we’ve got to get back to. Our whole situation about wages, if you look at the wages of the average worker in the United States they haven’t gone up. And one of the reasons that it’s staying where it is is because women are working.

Sue Kelly: I think that Barbara is right. There are a ton of things that we need to do. We hear talking heads on TV saying, ‘the United States, nobody likes the United States, they’ve lost their … blah blah.’ In fact, if you’re going to have a group of heads of state that really means anything you’re going to include the United States. You’re going to include Great Britain. You’re going to include a few other people. But you’re always going to include the United States. And if you thought the United States was dying, it continues to reach out and doing other things in the world. This Egmont group for instance. Doing things like that: quiet, highly significant. These things go on but nobody is talking about them that is all. They’re there and they will continue to be there. Iraq is drowning out so much noise. Eventually something happens and they all calm down a little and we breathe a sigh of relief and so do you. That’s what’s happening right now. We’re all fine. And it is going to be fine. Everybody has got their heads in a knot because we’ve got this election coming up. As soon as it’s over people will take a deep breath. Iraq will still be there.

It looks to me as though this thing is working. It looks to me as though things are calming down. I have great hope in the future of the world. You are young and I have great hope for what you will have when you get to be my age, I am 71 years old. I have lived a long time and I look at what I think you’re going to have. It’s going to be a great world.

This is the last question I’m afraid to say.

Question 8: (inaudible) … Will Al Gore be called in against the other three candidates in the 2008 Presidential Race?

Barbara Kennelly: Will Al Gore get in? No! Because Al Gore is still Al Gore! I don’t think so. 2000 is a short enough time ago that we remember Al Gore. For two reasons: I don’t know what Al Gore thinks. I’ve known him all my life but  I think he went through a matter thinking that he was elected President and then that he wasn’t elected President. But for two reasons: I know Sue thinks that it’s possible that the mayor of New York might get in and I know there are people like yourself wondering about Al Gore. Why this is not going to happen, the one good reason, money! If you’ve been following these elections, leading up to these primaries, you will see the incredible amount of money being raised and being spent! Candidates are not following the limits. This is absolutely shocking that in 8 years we have not had federal limits being honoured. Spend as much as you want! As you know, George Bush was the first one to not accept the federal limitations and then Kerry decided not to accept the limitations and right now nobody is going to take the limitations. The amount of money that is made and the way this race is going, it’s going to be very difficult for a new candidate to get in. But anything could happen this year. I don’t think Al Gore is going to get in unless Hilary Clinton crashes there’s a possibility that Al Gore could get in. But as long as Hilary is there, I don’t think you’re going to have that.

Chairman:Thank you very much indeed. That’s a rather exciting situation in which to end: Hilary is going to crash. Hilary has got the war chest anyway. I think we’ve been treated this evening to a rather remarkable situation: two former Congresswomen who’ve retired and given us objective views about what’s going on in their great country. Everyone in this room, that’s why they’re here, takes enormous interest in what’s going on in the United States. You are the world leaders, we have interest in what happens in your country and some of us have been going there for many years and we love your country and we want to make sure it continues to work.  There’s no way that we’re not going to be following you with great interest because after all…(inaudible)… This is the way that things are going in the world today…(inaudible)… That’s another story but not for this evening. So I want to thank you two ladies and it’s customary of the European-Atlantic Group that we like to give our guests a small present. We have two books, one for each of them, which were written by members of the European-Atlantic Group. Some of them are very literary minded and have written lots of books and so we hope that you’ll find them interesting. One is about the Suez (inaudible) and so these are useful reading for you. I’m sure you get lots of reading materials in your life. I’d like to thank everybody for being here, I’d like to thank the audience for an extremely interesting and a wide range of questions because we have had a marvellous evening. The European Atlantic Group goes from strength to strength because of Justin and his team, the people who work with him. The next meeting is going to be on European-Atlantic relations who are exactly what we were talking about this evening but with a different angle. So that will be 10th of December. I’d like to close the session. I see the clock is actually at half past ten.  Thank you all very much for being here and thank our speakers above all for the marvellous thoughts on this variety of subjects.

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