2008 Presidential Campaign Questionnaire
April 2008    

Responses from the Barack Obama Campaign

Domestic Issues of Concern to Polish American Voters

1. Political Inclusion

A. This election is about more than choosing the next president. Next November, Americans will make a choice that will define America's role in a historically new era. While elections happen every four years, only once in a while is a new President faced with the opportunity to shape a new sense of direction for America in a dramatically changing world. Today Americans, and that necessarily includes Polish-Americans, have the opportunity to be a spearhead for global progress in a world which is changing.

Tragically, up to now that opportunity has been squandered. After 9/11, instead of mobilizing global solidarity, the US pursued a unilateral approach which has discredited America worldwide. In the eyes of many around the world, the Statue of Liberty has been replaced by Guantanamo as the symbol of America.

The next president must have a demonstrated grasp of this historical moment, a person who understands what this time is all about. And an America that symbolizes and respects diversity can play a more effective role in a world that itself is diverse. And a more effective America is a better and more reliable friend of Poland.

Because we all care about America’s relationship with Poland and Central and Eastern Europe, I value the opportunity the Polish American Congress has given my campaign to interact with the Polish American community. I hope you will continue to give my campaign, and then my Administration, the chance to listen and learn from your membership. By working together, we can make sure that America’s strategic relationship with Central and Eastern Europe reflects a unity of purpose and maximizes our ability to address shared challenges.

2. Visa Waiver

A.  Today's visa regime with Poland reflects neither the current strategic relationship nor the close historic bonds between our peoples, and is out of date.  The United States Government should expand the Visa Waiver Program in a manner that is compatible with US homeland security and immigration policy.  In particular, this means expanding the program to countries, like Poland, that have demonstrated a capacity and willingness to cooperate with the U.S. in achieving counterterrorism goals. 
 
The Secure Travel and Counterterrorism Partnership Act of 2007, introduced by Senator Voinovich and passed by the Congress, is an important step forward.  It makes the Visa Waiver Program a more flexible tool of U.S. foreign policy, while at the same time introducing the security measures necessary to make it safe. It does not, however, go far enough in allowing the Secretary of Homeland Security the flexibility he needs to include many key U.S. allies.

3. Defamation

A.  I have dedicated my career to promoting civil rights and fairness, and fighting discrimination, racism and ethnocentrism.  As a community organizer in Chicago, I learned the value of community, the necessity of healing old wounds, and the possibility of faith in the midst of adversity.  I oppose discrimination  My own story has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts - that out of many, we are truly one.  Ethnic slurs and defamation divide and fragment our country, and will have no place in my Administration.  

As President, I will restore and build upon our nation’s commitment to equal justice and opportunity for all. Specifically, I will (1) restore professionalism to the Civil Rights Division and reinvigorate federal civil rights enforcement and (2) reform our criminal justice system so that it is free of racially discriminatory laws and so that it works for all, regardless of race, wealth or other circumstances.  As President, I will bring a new purpose and a new identity to America, one based on unity, not a divided America.

4. Jamestown 2008 - 400th Anniversary of Arrival of First Poles

A. The Jamestown celebration reminds us that for centuries America and Poland have been linked in the struggle for freedom.  Today there is a strong legacy of sacrifice between the two nations - sacrifice for the cause of American and Polish freedom alike.  As early as the Revolutionary War, Polish patriots like Casimir Pulaski and Tadeusz Kosciuszko fought alongside American patriots - from Germantown to Saratoga - to help win our country's independence.  
 
During World War I, Ignacy Paderewski, an unparalleled musician, helped lead the fight for a free and independent Poland.  He became Prime Minister after the war, only to be forced into exile by the Nazi Occupation.  After he died in exile in the United States, America gave this great friend of freedom a place alongside our honored dead in Arlington National Cemetery. There he would rest, in the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, "until Poland would be free."
 
It was a moving sight when, in 1992, President George H. W. Bush escorted Paderewski's ashes home to Poland.  No one will forget seeing thousands of Poles lining the streets over the miles from the airport to the city center, waiting to see the horse drawn carriage. 
 
It was the world's good fortune that a Pole infused with this same dedication to freedom and the dignity of all people was elected Pope at such a critical time.  Polish-Americans were thrilled at the election of Karol Wojtyla as Pope, a man who kept the faith when faith was forbidden. 
  
The raising of the Iron Curtain provided opportunities to renew the linkage between Poland and America.  Two centuries after the deaths of Pulaski and Kosciuszko, Poland and America became formal allies in NATO, institutionalizing the faith in freedom our countries have shared for centuries.  Since joining NATO in 1997, Poland has become one of America's most important strategic partners, dedicating troops and resources to our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.  
 
Education is the currency of the Information Age, and part of the renewal of American education involves a commitment to teaching our next generation about history.  And for America and Poland, there is a shared history reflecting a long and deep commitment to fighting for each other’s freedom.

International Issues
of Concern to Polish American Voters

1. Military Assistance

No response to this question

2. Missile shield defense system

A. We need to make sure any missile defense system would be effective before deployment.  The Bush administration has in the past exaggerated missile defense capabilities and rushed deployments for political purposes. If we can responsibly deploy missile defenses that would protect us and our allies, we should - but only if the system works. 
 
The Bush administration has done a poor job of consulting its NATO allies about the deployment of a missile defense system that has major implications for all of them.  The proposal also poses no threat to Russia.  The Russians have been briefed on the plan many times and know that it is not directed at them and it would be physically impossible for the proposed systems to degrade Russia’s deterrent capability.  But we should be transparent and consult with the Russians about any deployment.  At the same time, Russia must not be given a veto over a plan that it knows does not threaten it.
 
Russia has an important role to play in European and global affairs. But we should oppose any efforts by the Russian government to intimidate its neighbors or control their foreign policies. Since the end of the Cold War, Republican and Democratic administrations have supported the independence and sovereignty of all the states of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and we must continue to do so. President Putin’s threat to point missiles at Ukraine is simply not the way to promote the peaceful 21st century Europe we seek.

3. Energy Security

A. The U.S. must continue to support the diversification of energy suppliers and transit routes in Eurasia.  As President I will support international private investment in pipeline projects and new sources of supply to reduce the leverage that a monopoly supplier like Russia might otherwise be able to use in its foreign policy.  The U.S. imports only a tiny amount of oil directly from Russia, but many of our allies are highly dependent on Russian exports of oil and gas. The trend toward state control of the Russian energy sector and non-transparency in Russia’s international energy deals increases the potential for the use of energy as a coercive tool in Russian foreign policy.   We need Russia to act as a responsible supplier and not use its energy resources coercively for political purposes. The U.S. and its European allies have to manage this dependence on Russia, first by tolerating no energy blackmail of any country, second by avoiding further deteriorations in relations with Russia, and third by diversifying energy sources in Europe.

4. Dual Taxation

[PAC: Very soon after the Questionnaire was forwarded to the campaigns, the agreement has been signed.]

5. U.S.-Poland trade

No response to this question

6. Educational and scientific exchange

A. Education is the ally of democracy and democracy is the ally of the United States. As Benjamin Disraeli said, “Travel teaches tolerance.”  The United States must devote greater resources to support higher education throughout Central and Eastern Europe, including in Poland, by financing studies and exchanges at American and Western colleges and universities, and also educating a new generation of Americans who know and understand Poland and Central and Eastern Europe and the challenges before it. The United States has no greater asset for promoting democracy than the example of our own society.  A more open visa regime will help to encourage people from the region to come to the United States to study and learn.