Why The #DemDebate Exchange Over Henry Kissinger Matters for Asian Americans

Henry Kissinger. (Photo credit: Unknown)
Henry Kissinger. (Photo credit: Unknown)

In a presidential primary cycle that has largely failed to acknowledge or address the growing AAPI electorate, last week the two remaining candidates for the Democratic party’s nomination appeared on-stage for their seventh debate appearance. Many have focused on the debate’s coverage of domestic issues – particularly on the answers by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders on racial justice – but few have focused on a crucial exchange between the two primary candidates that should have critical relevance for the Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

In the latter third of the debate, debate moderators turned the attention of the candidates to foreign policy, and Sanders seized upon the moment to launch into an impassioned critique of former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (full video after the jump).

Sanders said:

I happen to believe that Henry Kissinger was one of the most destructive Secretaries of State in the history of the country. I’m proud to say that Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger.

Unfortunately, the momentousness of this statement went largely unnoticed by debate viewers; after all, it has been nearly forty years since Kissinger served any president in the White House. But, this rare example of a mainstream presidential primary candidate daring to speak out against Henry Kissinger – who remains a protected pillar of the foreign policy establishment in Washington – is noteworthy.

The AAPI community must, in particular, take heed.

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The problem with that Axe #KissForPeace Superbowl ad

make-love-not-war-axe

If you were watching that thrashing of the Denver Broncos by the Seattle Seahawks last night, chances are you caught Axe’s Superbowl ad, which suggested that world peace could be achieved through heterosexual love.

In the ad, four scenes representing international militarism and aggression are interspersed: 1) Iranian nuclear armament, 2) the Vietnam War, via the iconic helicopter scene of Miss Saigon, 3) North Korean mass conformity, and 4) the tank of Tiananmen Square, reimagined with Russian players. In all four scenes, the love of a woman prevents each of the men from military aggression, and the ad concludes with the insipid message:  “Make Love. Not War.”

And while that Coca-Cola ad — and the racist backlash against it — is probably going to grab all the headlines this post-Superbowl Monday morning, I gotta say: yes, this Axe ad was all sorts of wrong (video after the jump).

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