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2004 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS / THE DEMOCRATIC HOPEFULS

Q&A / Richard Gephardt

2004 Presidential Elections / The Democratic Hopefuls

June 08, 2003

Should we have gone to war in Iraq? What would you have done differently?

I supported our military operation in Iraq. We had to deal with Saddam Hussein's threat to the U.S., the Middle East, the world and his own people. Prior to the conflict, I argued that we must deal with the Iraqi threat diplomatically if we can, but militarily if we must. While the Bush administration ultimately changed course and engaged with the U.N. in efforts to win international support for the war, I believe this could have begun earlier and we could have also done a far better job of persuading our longtime allies to support us in Iraq. These diplomatic efforts could have been handled more skillfully.

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How would you try to stop the development of nuclear weapons in North Korea and Iran?

First of all, we have to talk to Iran and North Korea directly. Secondly, we have to tell our partners and allies that it's time to get serious about these issues and they must be engaged in dissuading both countries from their pursuit of nuclear weaponry. I am concerned that the Bush administration's original position of not talking to the North Koreans has made this situation worse than it had to be at this point.... The best way to stop the development of nuclear arms is to send a clear message with our allies that further development of these weapons will have serious negative ramifications and to demonstrate the diplomatic and economic benefit of ceasing such action.

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What will be America's greatest foreign policy challenge in the next 20 years?

To keep our people safe from terrorism. In pursuit of that goal, we must be guided by the fact that there are too many threats to our security and too many global challenges for America to simply go it alone. We need the friendship and cooperation of our time-honored allies. The U.S. must begin to reengage with our allies and strengthen international institutions.... We must not rely on military force alone.

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Should income taxes be cut? If so, how? If not, why not?

The first thing we must do is repeal all the Bush tax cuts. In place of these misguided tax cuts, I would provide every American with access to high-quality health insurance coverage that can never be taken away.

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How would you provide health coverage to the uninsured?

By harnessing what's best about the existing private health insurance system and helping Americans afford it. My plan requires every employer to offer quality coverage to their employees and gives the employer tax credits to cover most of the cost. By providing true universal coverage immediately, my plan will save billions in health-care costs and grow the economy.

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What are the most important steps the federal government can take to invigorate the economy?

Providing the security of universal health insurance will stimulate the economy and help far more working Americans than would ever benefit from the Bush tax cuts. The economic stimulus would result in over $316 billion in increased wages and benefits over the first three years.... Also, by helping states pay for their employee health-care costs, we're giving them a $172-billion stimulus in the first three years.... Additionally, I would support a living wage for all Americans.

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As president, would you propose a plan to bring the federal budget into balance by a specific date?

As House majority leader, I led the fight to pass the Clinton-Gore economic plan to slash the deficit, invest in education, cut taxes for working families and ask the wealthy to pay their fair share. Not a single Republican voted for that plan. They said it was a job-killer. Instead, it led to the single longest economic expansion in history.... President Bush has taken us back to the broken policies of the past: unaffordable tax cuts for the few, zero new jobs and surging unemployment. I will repeal the Bush tax cuts and put our country back on the path of economic growth.

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Would you explicitly require that anyone you nominate to the Supreme Court commit to uphold the Roe vs. Wade decision that guaranteed a legal right to abortion?

A woman's right to choose has never been in more peril than it is today. We must protect this vital right. I support efforts in the months and years ahead to protect Roe vs. Wade as the law of the land. While I do not have any specific litmus test for judicial nominees, I do expect any qualified jurist to protect our constitutional rights, including the right to privacy.

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