Pulling for Pollard: Lazio and Clinton

Assemblyman Dov Hikind - Jewish Press - Sept. 8, 2000

All locked up. Jonathan Pollard enters his 16th year of lock-up this November, while Rick Lazio, who aspires to the New York Senate this November, believes he has our vote all locked up. Lazio has left no room for considerations for justice and due process for Jonathan Pollard. Why should he take a position and possibly alienate John McCain's supporters? Why should he jeopardize their votes when he assumes that the anti-Hillary sentiment is so intense that it guarantees him our votes? There is little left for him to do for us except sit back, relax, and wait for us to vote for him.

Ignoring a constituency should not be the platform of choice for a candidate seeking office. Democracy is about moving candidates into taking serious positions, especially when they prefer to be guardedly aloof.

That Jonathan Pollard passed intelligence information to is uncontested. Nor do we contest his guilt. However we do take issue with the provisions of his incarceration. The bedrock of our democracy is a transparent legal system that is open to cross examination to preserve justice and equity. Due process does not allow for secret evidence even by the Secretary of State. Plea agreements are sacrosanct in our legal system. And yet, a life sentence was imposed based following Casper Weinberger's last minute submission to the sentencing judge. That shadowy document was never reviewed by Pollard's attorneys and was never subject to the scrutiny of legal review.

If he were your son, your husband, your brother, if he were a member of your family denied equity, how would you face each day with the reality that your loved one was facing a sentence longer than any imposed for a similar crime? Your son, your husband, your brother pleads no contest to receive a shorter sentence, and instead is slammed with the maximum for a crime he did not commit - treason. How would you deal with 15 long, harsh years in some of the most infamous federal prisons in the nation?

Rick Lazio initially broadcast his position on clemency for Jonathan Pollard in June, when it was reported that he would call on the next president to conduct a comprehensive review of the case, within six months of taking office. This preposterous assertion basically took us back 10 years to the days when the case for clemency for Pollard was largely ignored. This past Labor Day weekend, Lazio all but indicated that he would not be taking a positive position for Jonathan Pollard, saying, "There's only one person who can actually offer the clemency and that's the president."

Congressmen, though, regularly take positions on critical issues that may run contrary to those presented by a sitting president. Furthermore, the preponderance of New York's elected officials have taken precisely such a position, including Lazio's predecessor in the Senate race, Rudy Giuliani. A candidate who does not support clemency for Jonathan Pollard should not necessarily be disqualified based solely on that determinant. However, within the spectrum of New York's potential candidates for office, it does not bode well that Lazio excludes himself from conventional wisdom on Jonathan Pollard.

The other Senate candidate, Hillary Clinton, has yet to establish her position on clemency. When I approached her with the details of Pollard's expected transfer to a federal penitentiary where he would be exposed to a general inmate population that included neo-Nazis and skin-heads, she immediately intervened and averted the transfer on humanitarian grounds. We applaud her for moving in the appropriate direction and urge her to take the issue of clemency to the President.

The New York electorate is remarkably astute. We know stonewalling when we see it, and we know that honest dialogue cannot happen in that province. We demand more from our candidates than mere photo ops. They have to prove themselves, and if they have not or cannot, then they have not earned our vote or the right to speak for us as our democratic representative.

See Also:
  • Pollard's Rudy Card
  • Where Does Rick Lazio Stand?
  • The Senate Race page