BOSTON, MA – Former Massachusetts Governor and Democratic Presidential Nominee Michael Dukakis spoke with The National Herald in an exclusive interview, discussing politics both in Greece and here in the United States, as well the situation around the globe.
Dukakis does not believe that austerity measures are going to help Greece to emerge from its multiyear economic crisis. “Austerity measures didn’t work in 1929 here [in the United States] and they are not going to work in [Greece in ] 2014,” he said. “You don’t get out of a recession with austerity.”
As for the American politician scene, Dukakis said of the upcoming midterm elections: “I am concerned because if the Democrats lose the Senate then it is going to be very difficult for Obama in his last two years, and the gridlock is going to continue. Who needs that?”
The veteran politician also spoke about local elections in Massachusetts. “We are going to have a tough fight for governor here, we are not going to have a problem for the Senate with [incumbent Senator Ed] Markey. As far as New Hampshire is concerned, I have difficulty believing that Scott Brown can win the Senate seat there, but it is going to be a tough fight. But here in Massachusetts, basically it is the governorship.” And what about the 2016 presidential race? “I think Hillary is going to be the nominee for the Democratic Party, but I don’t know who the Republican is going to be,” Dukakis said.
GIVE OBAMA CREDIT
When asked where is America going with Obama, economically, socially, and politically, Dukakis said “economically we are doing very well. I don’t know why people don’t give Obama some credit for this. If we look where this country was when he took over and where is now economically, it is like night and day. Now, if we have done what the Republicans wanted to do, we would be looking like Europe these days. I think we should do a better job to explain that to the people, because the contrast economically now between the United States and Europe as you know better than anybody is like night and day, and in fact this economy is getting stronger every single day, there is no question about that. I am talking to people now that tell me that they can’t find people to work here in Massachusetts, because the labor market is getting tighter and tighter. Remember, it was Reagan who use to say: are you better now than you were? There is a lot of job growth out there, it is going to continue to get stronger and we have to give Obama a lot credit for this.” He added: “can we get this Congress to at least to agree that we ought to invest in the public interest? We will see.”
U.S. INTERVENTION OVERSEAS
Dukakis is not comfortable with the American intervention virtually everywhere. He said “we have to seriously rethink, and this is exactly what Obama is doing. This notion of America policing the world isn’t working. It is just causing more and more problems.” He emphasized that “if we had not invaded Iraq, this ISIS group never would have existed. We can’t run around and defend here and there and everywhere. If anyone was a candidate for no intervention, that is Syria. Don’t intelligent people understand what is going to happen if we start messing around there? The Middle East is going to be a difficult place for a long time. David Greenwell was the longtime foreign correspondent for the Boston Globe, a very thoughtful guy, and he has just written a book about his experiences and one of the things he says is: ‘avoid getting mixed up in other people’s civil wars until they themselves are ready to end them.’ Very good advice, don’t you think?”
Dukakis said that “the war in Iraq was a mistake – terrible, terrible – and we are paying the price. Not only us but France, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and everybody around there.”
So what options does Obama have? “You and I have talked about it in the past,” he told me. “I am a very committed internationalist because you can’t be the son of a Greek immigrant and be an isolationist. I think American policy should be designed to create a body of international law and international institutions that can effectively keep the peace. That’s what we ought to be focusing on and not to be supporting Japanese rearmament and flying surveillance planes along the Chinese coast and so on. What is this? Why do we need this?
The relationship between the United States and China is a very important one: 90% of what we buy is from China, 90% we borrow from China. It is an important relationship, so why are why fling surveillance planes close to the Chinese border? If they did that to us, we would be outraged. I don’t understand this. What is this, another Cold War?
“In fact,” he continued, “I chair something called Boston Global Forum and is designed to tap a lot of the expertise here in the Boston area and involve people all over the world with online international conferences on particular issues every year and then focus on that. Our issue this year is building framework for peace and security in the Pacific so we that we can come up with a set of rules, and then we can tell countries to go to the International court of Justice and settle the thing.”
Regarding the dispute in Ukraine, Dukakis said “I never understood why we wanted to expend NATO in the Russia border, because the consequences of that are political, and unpredictable. NATO was created, as you know better than everybody, to stop the Russians invading the Western Europe, and it was successful, so what is the point of expanding NATO? And you are dealing with a guy who is not the easiest guy in the world. Crimea was attached to Ukraine because Khrushchev wanted to give it to Ukraine back when we had something called the Soviet Union.
“I think it will work out; we are not going to have a war over Ukraine. I think we should think a little a bit what we are doing out there and at least have some sense of why the Russians are concerned about the Russian-speaking territory which presumably is going to be heading West. I just want the United States to be focusing intensively on the kind of international framework like I am talking about here, instead of running around intervening here interning there and everywhere. Thinking about America’s interventions, which ones have been successful? I think we were successful in Greece, in Korea, and in Kuwait, where else?”
As for the topic on everyone’s mind these days, the Middle East crisis and ISIS, Dukakis said: “I think you bring the international community together, and this is what Obama is trying to do, and make it impossible for those guys to function. But next time when we think of intervening in places, there are going to be consequences. You know that the Christian community in Syria is being wiped out, and also in Iraq. A delegation from Syria’s Christian community came to Washington and tried to explain to the Senate how serious the situation is and when they met with John McCain he walked out of the meeting.”
Dukakis called the situation regarding Gaza “very frustrating” and he added that “it is in the best interest of Israel to negotiate a two-state solution. Grabbing more territory in the West Bank doesn’t help that at all and I do not know why they are doing this. I understand the missiles is serious stuff but we have come so close so many times to an agreement there and I don’t know why Netanyahu decided to grab more territory in the West Bank. I am not happy.”