Q&A: JEANE KIRKPATRICK

An American iron lady

March 28 1988
Q&A: JEANE KIRKPATRICK

An American iron lady

March 28 1988

An American iron lady

Q&A: JEANE KIRKPATRICK

Through four stormy years as American ambassador to the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick clashed with critics of U.S. policy in Grenada, Afghanistan and Central America. Handpicked by President Ronald Reagan when she was a university professor—and registered Democrat—Kirkpatrick quickly became known as a conservative hardliner. Last fall, three years after she left her post, Kirkpatrick, 61,

found herself under pressure to stand for nomination as Republican presidential candidate. She declined, but she is widely considered to be a potential vicepresidential running mate—a first for a woman in the party. Maclean’s Correspondent Larry Black interviewed her in Washington.

Maclean’s: Would the Republicans benefit if they have a woman on their presidential ticket—in view of the last election's so-called gender gap which saw a lower percentage of female voters than male voters support President Reagan?

Kirkpatrick: It depends on which Republican and which Democrat are running as to whether there will be a gender gap. Some candidate may try to do it in a situation where it would not help them at all. I didn’t think, for example, that Geraldine Ferraro’s presence last time

either helped or hindered the Democratic ticket. I am glad it happened but I don’t think it affected the electoral outcome.

Maclean’s: Jack Kemp, who recently withdrew from the Republican race, mentioned you as a potential vice-president. Kirkpatrick: Yeah, well, people kick my name around. My position is that it is a very bad job. It is one of the worst jobs in America. A vice-president has nothing to do. They go to funerals, and they wait. Beyond that, I don’t think that any serious person would want the job, and I don’t think that any serious person would probably turn it down, either. You know, I really feel all those ways together. Maclean’s: Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell has said that you would be an ideal secretary of state if the evangelist and Republican candidate Pat Robertson were president. Would you accept that position in a Republican cabinet?

Kirkpatrick: It would depend on who. I don’t take a job because it has a lot of status and perks, frankly. If that is not what you are after in life, then you stop and think about who you would be working for. It depends on P what the president thinks a sec11 retary of state ought to do and jo what he thinks about the world, p I would not want to be secretary IS of state for somebody who had a world view I didn’t agree with. Maclean’s: Are you concerned, in terms of domestic issues, about the rise of the extreme right and the religious wing in the party?

Kirkpatrick: I don’t worry about it. Everybody is entitled to try to gain influence in the party. I think it is interesting this year that we have Pat Robertson and [Democratic candidate] Jesse Jackson running for president, quite frankly. It is something new in American politics, and it is particularly interesting because we don’t have a crisis situation, which is what usually pulls out more deviant candidates. I don’t think either one is going to win the nomination and I don’t think either one is going to shape the platform of their party.

Maclean’s: What do you think is

going to happen to President Reagan's Strategic Defence Initiative—the socalled Star Wars program—after the election in November? Would Republi-

can candidate George Bush pursue it? Kirkpatrick: Yes, I think Bush would go ahead with it. I think [Democratic candidate Richard] Gephardt or [Democratic candidate Albert] Gore would go ahead with it.

Maclean’s: What about the Democrats’ Michael Dukakis?

Kirkpatrick: No, I don’t think Dukakis would pursue it. But actually, I don’t think anybody is going to stop in this area. The fact is that missile defence is the greatest frontier of national security research and development today. That is true in the Soviet Union, true in the United States and true in Europe. In its most complete form, maybe the Democrats would not continue it. But I think they would under another name, in a more incremental fashion. Maclean’s: In terms of the Reagan doctrine, the Nicaraguan contras are losing support. On the other hand, it now looks as though the Afghan rebels will win their fight. What is left to accomplish?

Kirkpatrick: Well, Angola, Ethiopia. But let us back up. You asked me about the Reagan doctrine. A doctrine is an idea, a concept. I don’t think the Reagan doctrine pertains to the outcome of a specific struggle. I think it is part of the government’s whole strong, firm affirmation of an American identification with freedom struggles. It states that where there is a government that governs by force and is heavily supported by the Soviet Union, and where there is an indigenous fighting force, it is legitimate and appropriate for the United States to provide assistance.

Maclean’s: But under the doctrine, why not sweep out what remains of rightwing, rather than Soviet-backed, dictatorships in this hemisphere? Kirkpatrick: Well, no—I would rather start, frankly, with the left-wing dictatorships in this hemisphere. And I’ll tell you why: because they are more repressive to their own people. Cuba is more repressive to its own people than any other dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere. You can count any indicators you want—political prisoners, constraints on speech and assembly, constraints on press in the country. Maclean’s: Is the Nicaraguan regime more repressive than Chile ’s right-wing military dictatorship, with its abominable human rights record?

Kirkpatrick: Nicaragua right now, as a result of the signing of the accords, is better than it was before. But in terms of free expression, there is more opposition press in Chile than in Nicaragua. There are many more political prisoners in Nicaragua than in Chile today. Let me just say that I support democracy in this hemisphere. □