Protest about President Clinton's Comments on Poland and Hungary
May 21, 2016
As the president of the Széchenyi István Society, a Hungarian-American organization, I am disappointed and disturbed by the offensive comments made recently by former President Bill Clinton, calling into question the civic character of the people of Poland and Hungary. While campaigning in New Jersey, Clinton stated that Poles and Hungarians were tired of democracy and wanted “authoritarian dictatorship.”
This is unambiguously false: the current Polish and Hungarian governments were elected by significant majorities in free and fair elections, recognized as such by the international community, and they enjoy broad public support. The fact that they are politically conservative may not be to the liking of Clinton and others, but this does not change either the fact that they are democratic, nor their standing in the international community as free and sovereign – just like the popularly elected socialist governments that preceded them.
The Polish and Hungarian people have earned the freedom they enjoy today through great human cost and decades of struggle. Clinton must know of the long fight against Soviet tyranny, which contributed in no small way to the strategic climate leading to the very dissolution of the Soviet Union. The firmness displayed by the Republican administration of President Ronald Reagan, and the Democratic administration of President John F. Kennedy before that, was critical to putting an end to this tyranny. But even more crucial, as Clinton fails to acknowledge, was the brave resistance of the Polish and Hungarian people themselves. It is ironic that a former President of the United States would suggest that the desire of the Polish and Hungarian people have changed, from freedom to dictatorship once again, on the 60th anniversary of two events that hastened the end of the Soviet Union: the uprisings in Poznań, Poland, and Budapest, Hungary.
This is a grave accusation that dishonors the heritage of nearly twelve million Polish- and Hungarian-Americans living in the United States today. But it dishonors those making it even more, regardless of who they are.
The same text has been sent to The New York Times and Wall Street Journal.