By: Fern Sidman
As candidates throughout the nation gear up for what promises to be heated battles in the upcoming November mid-term elections, our regional candidates, some hitherto unknown to the public, are setting the stage to challenge the agenda of the Obama administration. Susan Kone, an attorney from Manhattan is the GOP candidate for the 8th congressional district which covers parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan’s upper west side. She is taking on the incumbent Jerrold Nadler (D) who has held this seat since 1992. Ms. Kone describes herself as a “grassroots candidate” who gives voice to the frustrations of New Yorkers who staunchly oppose the policies emanating from the current administration. I sat down with Ms. Kone to discuss her policy positions.
FS: Can you tell our readership about your background?
SK: My family immigrated to this country from Russia and Eastern Europe around 1900. I was given the Hebrew name Sarah Leah and named after my great uncle Sol who was killed saving children in Germany during World War II. When my grandmother passed away she asked me to always honor his memory and bequeathed to me his Purple Heart which to this day remains my most cherished possession.
I worked throughout high school and graduated as valedictorian which enabled me to attend Dartmouth College. I graduated Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude with high honors in government and then I attended the University of Pennsylvania School of Law on a partial scholarship. I practiced as an attorney for 10 years and for the last several years have run my own small business in the district. I am not a professional politician but I am a professional. I have real world experience – not Washington experience. I earn my living by finding people jobs and helping businesses to grow and thrive; by bringing people together with creative, common sense solutions.
FS: Why did you decide, at this juncture, to enter the political arena and run for the Congressional seat in the 8th district?
SK: I want our community to be served well so that we and our loved ones are safe, secure and given every opportunity to succeed. My neighbors and I believe that the 8 year incumbent, Representative Jerrold Nadler is a professional politician who is out of touch. He is misrepresenting us and is insensitive to the needs and concerns of our community. He sees his seat as a “safe” one to which he is entitled. We are not sure who he is representing – but we know it isn’t us.
FS: Congressman Nadler has stated that he is in favor of the controversial mosque and Islamic cultural center that is to be built near Ground Zero. What are your thoughts on this?
SK: Many people are upset about the plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero. They oppose the mosque out of deference to the feelings and sensitivities of the families of the victims of 9/11. They do not see it as an issue of religious freedom or the right to build a mosque — but as a very poor choice of location. Rather than listening to and addressing the legitimate concerns raised by members of our community, Mr. Nadler, who was the first to support the mosque, accused those who oppose it, including the families of the victims of 9/11, as engaging in “hate speech” and of being “shameful and divisive.” Not only does Mr. Nadler not listen to members of our community — he denigrates and marginalizes those who espouse views other than his own.
Another example is the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial. I share the concern of many in our community who are upset about trying the confessed mastermind of 9/11 in a civilian court right in our district. Most in our community share my view that it is the wrong forum and the wrong location. Yet Mr. Nadler was one of the earliest proponents of the plan. Inexplicably, Mr. Nadler is more concerned about terrorists’ rights than about terrorists’ wrongs.
Also, many wonder why the congressman in the district which is the number one target for terrorism, the district in which Ground Zero is located – the district in which another potentially catastrophic terrorist attack was very recently averted in Times Square has spent a career undermining our nation’s defense and intelligence capabilities which are critical to keeping us safe.
FS: What are your positions on “big government” as actualized by the Obama administration and what measures would you be taking in Congress to impede the “tax and spend” legislation that has been passed such as government bailouts?
SK: Due to the uncertainty posed by selective government takeovers and the excessive and uncertain tax and regulatory environment, businesses and investors are sitting on the sidelines rather than taking risks; and are relocating to more business friendly venues. We will not create jobs or revive our economy in this climate. This has to change. I believe to achieve prosperity and create opportunity we must tap what has always been our greatest resource – the innovation and ingenuity of our people. In order to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit, we need to stimulate the private sector, not the public sector. We need to stop strangling our citizens and our businesses with over taxation and red tape. I would lower taxes and make the tax code simpler. I would do away with the alternative minimum tax, the Death Tax and other taxes which would increase the burden on many of the residents in our district. We need consumer spending, not government spending. I would make elimination of the federal deficit a top priority. I would also create incentives to make capital available to small businesses.
FS: Do you believe that the universal health care bill is unconstitutional and if so, would you lead the charge to have it repealed?
SK: I certainly would lead the charge to have the “Obamacare” bill repealed. While I am not a constitutional lawyer I do believe that many valid constitutional issues are being raised throughout the country. Many of my neighbors are very concerned about this new reform. They wonder whether it will affect their choice of doctor or their access to medical services. I have spoken to many medical professionals in the district who believe that the newly enacted legislation dealt “a crushing blow to American freedom and medical excellence” and will result in higher costs, poorer quality care and less availability of care, overall. I believe that to improve our healthcare system we need more competition, not more bureaucracy. Our system could be improved in a 20-page bill, not a 2000 plus page government takeover of our healthcare industry. Some say that is the way it is done in Washington. I say it can be done differently. If I am elected to Congress, I will lead the charge to try to “do things differently.“ We need clarity, transparency and accountability.
I shared the frustration and anger of many Americans about the insensitive manner in which this monumental piece of legislation was rammed through without giving us ample time or opportunity to express our views. I am concerned for the senior citizens who worked their entire lives to pay into the system and are now being shortchanged.We are not being well served when Mr. Nadler voted for this legislation without reading or understanding it. Particularly disturbing was Speaker Pelosi’s comment that, “you have to pass the bill before you know what is in it”. I can only imagine the tens of thousands of pages of regulations that will be promulgated by unelected bureaucrats who will gain unprecedented control over our healthcare decisions. I do not believe this is the “representative democracy” or “liberty” that our founding fathers had envisioned.
FS: Concerning US foreign policy on the Middle East, what is your opinion of the Obama administration’s agenda as it pertains to relations with Israel?
SK: In general, I believe that we must approach our relations with others with moral clarity and from a position of strength. We need to support our allies and be tough on our enemies. The Obama administration does not appear to subscribe to this philosophy and its insensitive treatment of Israel is but one example. It was insensitive to treat Prime Minister Netanyahu in a recent visit to the White House like a persona non grata – a nebechal or a nobody. I also share the views of many in the Jewish community who are quite concerned about the incessant pressure that the administration is placing on Israel to relinquish parts of Jerusalem to a future Palestinian state.
Concerning the insensitivity issues, as it became clear that this outraged some Jewish voters and Jewish campaign contributors, suddenly President Obama underwent a “foxhole conversion” with the November elections pending. He invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to the White House and proclaims that the “bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable.” Where was Mr. Nadler when that bond was cracking, when Israel and its prime minister—our allies—were treated insensitively?
If, indeed, the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable, then there needs to be consistency, certainty and sensitivity in the way the United States deals with Israel. And we need leaders in Congress and in our communities to stand up and speak out when there’s insensitivity regarding the safety and security of Israel. It is insensitive and inaccurate to portray Israel as an obstacle to peace in the Middle East. It is insensitive and inaccurate to suggest that Israel has anything other than the right and obligation to defend herself from attack, whether the assault or the threat comes from terrorists like Hamas or enemies like Iran with its nuclear build-up. It was insensitive to lend credibility to the so-called “Human Rights Council” of the United Nations which has been silent on repression from such regimes as Havana to Caracas to Pyongyang and Tehran — while focusing its criticism excessively on Israel. Mr. Nadler would not support Representative Peter King in his recent effort to cease our involvement with that body. I would join Representative King. in spearheading that effort.
It is insensitive for the State Department to send the very same imam who wants the mosque built near Ground Zero on a month long “outreach” to Arab countries, to be paid for by the taxpayers. This imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, has refused to label Hamas as a terror organization and he also once claimed that the U.S. was “an accessory to 9/11” and that Osama Bin Laden was “made in the United States.” He also refuses to comment on his membership in the Malaysian-based Perdana Global Peace Organization which sponsored the pro-Palestinian activists who, as The New York Post reported, ‘clashed violently with Israeli commandos at sea’ in an attempt ‘to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.’
FS: On the subject of Iran, it appears that UN economic sanctions have proved ineffective as a deterrent to the nuclear threat that Iran represents to Israel. What legislation would you propose to confront this imminent crisis?
SK: A nuclear armed Iran poses a significant threat not only to Israel but to the entire Middle East, Europe and the United States. I hope and pray that the sanctions that have been recently enacted have an impact but certainly no option should be off the table. Preventing the world’s most dangerous regime from acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons should be out top priority. I think it was naive and dangerous to think that Iran’s nefarious objectives were going to be thwarted diplomatically and to let the clock tick while pursuing that strategy. Iran is the most prominent and dangerous exporter of terrorism throughout the globe — and one of the most flagrant abusers of the human rights of its people.
The current fundamentalist regime denies its citizens freedom of speech, press and assembly. It engages in tortures, sexual abuses and executes its political opposition including children; stones and denigrates women and persecutes gays and other minorities. It is a regime that is inciting the insurgency in Iraq, supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan and promoting the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah. It is closely aligning itself with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez near our southern border and is effectively expanding its influence throughout the globe. The symbolic head – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad— the Hitler wanabee of the 21st century is a Holocaust denier who boasts of his desire to annihilate both the State of Israel and the United States.
FS: As you know, many Jews are concerned with the rampant rise in global anti-Semitism and the fact that the demonization of Israel has become legitimized in the academic, political and religious arena. Do you think the Republication party is addressing these issues strongly enough and what would you do within your own party to give visibility to these issues?
SK: I am extremely concerned with the rampant rise in global anti-Semitism and this would be a primary focus of my tenure as congresswoman. In its current form, anti-Semitism is most often cloaked as anti-Zionism and manifested in the demonization of Israel. It is critical that we learn from the very difficult lessons of our past. There are profoundly disturbing parallels between the 1930s and today. The challenge we face is even greater given both a greater capacity for the proliferation of misinformation and a greater capacity for mass destruction. It is important that we all stand committed to never let evil wreak havoc and destruction again.
I recently visited Sderot and saw firsthand the shells of the rockets that had been deliberately launched on Israel’s civilian population incessantly for months. The Goldstone Report unfairly chastised Israel for exercising her legitimate right of self-defense in their attempts to disarm those firing the rockets while, at the same time, exercising the utmost caution to avoid civilian casualties. While most Republicans supported a resolution which strongly condemned this report, I was particularly disturbed by the alarmingly high number of Democrats who either voted against the resolution, or voted present or just not voting at all.