The following question was asked to the following three candidates for President of the United States:
Racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and homophobia, fueled in part by religious demagoguery and manipulation of the Internet, are
a reality both here and abroad. What specific steps would your administration take to combat this rising scourge?
John McCain: I believe that a free exchange of ideas and open
dialogue contributes to the essential vitality of our
democracy, for which so many have fought and
died. But those who would exploit these ideals to
serve the causes of hatred and extremism offend
the traditions of freedom we cherish. I oppose
discrimination of any kind and have a long record
of fighting to ensure that every American has
an equal voice in the political process. I am pleased by the recent
advances in technology, which have had an undeniable impact on
politics, campaigns and governance more generally. The Internet, for
example, serves as a powerful tool, enfranchising and empowering
new voices, particularly among those who struggle to be heard in the
political arena. However, the promise that the Internet holds must be
balanced by forbearance at the potential for its abuse. Consistent
with our laws, intelligence agencies and law enforcement must
closely monitor the use of the Internet by those who would use it to
incite violence and take appropriate action to combat such activities.
Furthermore, we must always exercise our freedom of speech at home
and use our bully pulpit to denounce forcefully those who use the
Internet to spew extremist rhetoric.
Barack Obama: Throughout my career, I’ve spoken out against
intolerance and hatred, and have worked to bring
people together. In recent months, my campaign
has addressed these topics directly. I had the
honor of delivering a speech on Martin Luther
King Day from the pulpit of Dr. King’s church,
Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta. During that speech,
I called on the congregation to be honest about
our own failings in living up to Dr. King’s Dream and creating a united
And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none
of our hands are entirely clean. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll
acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to
King’s vision of a beloved community. We have scorned our gay
brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of
anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For
too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs
instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.
And recently, I gave a major address on race and American life
barack_obam_53.php), partly to respond to and condemn offensive,
incendiary, and divisive remarks by my former pastor that denigrated
the goodness and greatness of our country, but also to give broader
context to some of the racial divisions that persist. But I also gave
that address to open up a wide and honest dialogue about racial
tensions and to challenge those listening to not let this overdue
conversation be reduced to soundbites and distract us from uniting
around a common purpose.
We’ve made considerable progress on healing many of these
tensions in our society; but it is undeniable that we have more work
to do. I do not believe that a single speech or a political campaign is
the answer to racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, xenophobia and
all of the other divisions that plague our society. But I do believe
that until we address these issues in a manner that is open, honest,
respectful, and thoughtful, they will persist. As president, I will be
fully committed to continuing the dialogue that we’ve tried to start in
this campaign. And I will pursue policies that further seek to eradicate
discrimination from our society; that work toward closing the stubborn
achievement, wealth, and health care gaps; and that will help create a
society that is more equal and free, both domestically and abroad.
Hillary Clinton: I believe that we have all have a responsibility to
confront racial injustice and intolerance. When I
am President, I will make a strong commitment to
fully enforcing our anti-discrimination laws. I will
ensure that our laws and our policies reflect that
commitment by combating racism, anti-Semitism,
xenophobia, and homophobia.
My administration will restore the historic role
of the Department of Justice and return the civil rights division to
its original mission as a body that vigorously enforces people’s civil
rights, instead of ignoring them. I have put forth an agenda to fight
discrimination that includes increasing funding for the civil rights
division by $30 million; restoring professionalism and removing
politics from hiring, case deliberations, and policy decisions within
the Department of Justice; and combating ongoing racial and sex
discrimination in the labor market by improving laws and expanding
enforcement. I will also appoint an attorney general who cares about
the rule of law and Supreme Court Justices who understand and
respect our Constitution’s civil rights guarantees. And I will commit
to promoting diversity in our public institutions and our private
businesses. I will set an example by ensuring that my administration
recruits the best and the brightest of all backgrounds and walks of life.
My administration will be as diverse as is our great country.
I will sign the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) into law.
Throughout my Senate career, I have been an original co-sponsor of
ENDA. It is inconceivable to me that people who work hard and do
a good job every day can still be fired because of who they love. It’s
unfair, it’s un-American, and I will put a stop to it. I was proud to help
champion the New York state version – called the Sexual Orientation
Non-Discrimination Act – which was signed into law in late 2002, and
I look forward to addressing this important issue at the federal level.
I will also sign into law the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement
Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which I co-sponsored. I believe that hate
crimes undermine the fundamental principle upon which our
nation was founded, that all men and women are equal. And I will
end the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. Courage, honor, patriotism and
sacrifice – the traits that define our men and women in uniform – have
nothing to do with sexual orientation, and I am concerned that the
military is discharging people with critical skills.
I believe it is vital to the health and future of our democracy that our
government protects and promotes the rights of all citizens equally.
For more than 35 years, I have been an advocate for Americans of
all backgrounds, cultures, faiths, and beliefs. In the Senate, I have
taken a leading role in spearheading initiatives to expand the circle of
opportunity and break down prejudices. As President, I will build on
these past efforts. I will promote equality for all through the policies I
champion, the appointments I make, the justices I nominate, and my
own words and actions.