Ex-NYC Mayor Koch Brings Politics Upstate

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch spoke on Thursday evening in an open session as part of the University’s Political Awareness Day, an event intended to get students involved with debating and discussing the presidential election and related issues. Ed Koch is widely known as a figure who sparks controversy, especially in light of his recent declaration of support for President George W. Bush at the Republican National Convention, despite his strongly Democratic affiliation. “I do not agree with [Bush] on any domestic issue I can think of,” Koch said at the outset of his dialogue, “but all of them are trumped by the issue of international terrorism that’s why I’m voting for Bush.” Yet for all the polarization observed in this presidential race, Koch condemned instances of partisan squabbling, such as the questioning of time served and awards earned by both Bush and Senator John Kerry during their involvement with the Armed Forces.Koch spent the majority of his time outlining his stance regarding the upcoming presidential election, with particular emphasis on the War on Terror and his reasons for supporting it. Citing what he calls the “Bush Doctrine,” he believes that the first priority of the United States today should be dealing with terrorists and the countries supporting them. “The Islamic fundamentalists…are out to kill us; I believe that,” he said “This is a clash of civilizations.” After stating that he had never before voted for a Republican in a presidential election, he made it clear that this issue alone had impelled him to diverge from the Democratic line on foreign policy and vote for Bush.More than a dozen students took their place at the microphones in the gallery to challenge Koch’s positions. Long discussions took place as he answered each question in turn. For example, when asked why he supported the war in Iraq, he replied at length on the sensitive topic. “Iraq was an immediate threat to its region and a foreseeable threat to the United States,” Koch said. “All fifteen countries at the Security Council had intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.” Opinions varied greatly on his comments. One student heckled Koch on two separate occasions. Most were more reasonable in posing their questions and absorbing the responses regardless of their state of agreement. “It’s interesting that they’d bring somebody to our campus who is a Democrat but still supports our president,” sophomore Beth Weick said. “It was typical [Republican] party line about support for the war. He said too many things that contradicted themselves about terrorism, torture, prisoners of war and domestic versus foreign policy.” Professor of Political Science Stanley Brubaker also reacted strongly to the to the attack. “I think he has a very powerful thesis, that the Democrats have lost the stomach for this war,” he said.This interest in controversial topics, however, is precisely the point of Colgate’s Political Awareness Day. According to Professor Robert Kraynak, the purpose of having such a speaker visit our campus was the hope that it would help students in “overcoming apathy and getting interested… beyond the Bush-Kerry name calling and the conventional stereotypes of the Republican and Democratic parties.”Kraynak leads the Center for Freedom and Western Civilization whose stated mission is “to promote a conservative viewpoint at Colgate University as a way of enhancing intellectual diversity and a genuine exchange of ideas.” The Center advances the value of debate, research and the philosophical foundations of Western culture to students and provides a means for students to experience these ideas at work directly. “This is the kind of thing that students should take advantage of when they come to Colgate,” he said.One way they accomplished this was a private, informal dinner with the guest speaker for a small number of students from the sponsoring groups before his appearance before the general student body.