Religious Studies professor Carlos Eire GRD ’79 doesn’t usually dabble in politics.
“I run from conflict and confrontation,” Eire said during a phone interview Sunday. “I served as chair of the Religious Studies Department here for three years, and that was more than I could take. I’m not the kind of person who likes to deal with conflict and stress.”
Odd, then, that last summer Eire decided to join former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign as an adviser on Cuban affairs. But if there is a single issue Eire is willing to get confrontational about, it is Fidel Castro’s rule in Cuba.
During an interview with the News, Eire, who fled the country at age 11, criticized Castro’s rule at length. He regards Giuliani’s stance on dealing with what Eire calls the “military junta” in Cuba as the most realistic of all the candidates’.
“I guess you could call me a one-issue voter,” Eire said. “[Giuliani] understands that if there’s going to be any kind of movement for opening up this regime, there will have to be concessions by the people in power there.”
Giuliani has also been critical of Castro’s leadership in the past, taking aim at the Communist leader last summer for his country’s discrimination against gays and lesbians and attacking Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for imitating Castro’s style of rule. Giuliani’s campaign strategy has centered on winning large states like Florida during the primaries, and in recent weeks the former prosecutor has been seen courting the state’s large Cuban-American population.
The addition of Eire to Giuliani’s Senior Foreign Policy Advisory Board brings the number of Yale professors advising the campaign to three. Political Science professor David Cameron said in an e-mail that he is sharing his expertise on Russian and European politics with Giuliani, and Yale lecturer and former diplomat Charles Hill, who recruited Eire to the Giuliani campaign, is Giuliani’s chief foreign-policy advisor.
Cameron and Hill declined requests for phone interviews.
Eire said he was still undecided about which candidate to support when he was approached by Hill in late May to join the Giuliani campaign. Historically, Eire said, he has been an independent voter — he even once voted for Ralph Nader. All in all, Eire has found the politicians of his day less than impressive.
“My entire adult voting life there hasn’t been a president in office that I liked or respected,” Eire said. “Unfortunately, the way things are set up in this country, [politics] does not attract the best people. Who in their right mind would put themselves through this hell?”
Eire’s role as an adviser is fairly impersonal, and he said he has not met Giuliani or spoken to him directly. Eire referred to a “pyramid” structure in Giuliani’s campaign by which Eire, his fellow Cuba specialists and his counterparts in other areas of expertise communicate by phone or e-mail with campaign officials, who then sift through the advice and relay it to Giuliani.
Eire praised the candidate for being open to hearing all perspectives on a given issue and said Giuliani may make a president whom Eire could finally admire.
“He knows where he needs assistance, and he wants to hear all sides of the issue,” Eire said. “He wants to have the whole scenario laid out for him. I’d say I’m impressed so far.”