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2004 Presidential Election/the Democratic Hopefuls

June 29, 2003

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

I voted against the congressional resolution authorizing war in Iraq, and I still believe today that it was the wrong policy. While Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator, he did not pose the greatest threat to Americans here at home and U.S. interests abroad. The war in Iraq distracted our focus from the war on terrorism. Instead of pursuing the most imminent threats to our nation, President Bush chose to settle old scores.... The consequence has been that Al Qaeda -- on the ropes after our military operations in Afghanistan -- has been allowed to regenerate, threaten us with new terrorist attacks and create havoc in Afghanistan.

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

On North Korea, it may be too late to prevent the development of nuclear weapons. According to the North Korean government, they have already begun the reprocessing of nuclear material and likely have sufficient material for at least a few nuclear weapons. We can only pray that they are not as quick to transfer this material to other states as they have been with their missile technology. The United States should reengage in direct negotiations with the North Koreans, while at the same time building an international diplomatic coalition to convince them to reverse course on their nuclear program. Finally, the North Koreans must know there is a credible threat of military force should they take actions that would put Americans in danger.

On Iran, we should encourage the movement toward an open, honest, democratic government. We also must find a way to cut off exports of reactor fuel to countries like Iran, and that means aggressive diplomacy with our allies in Europe, Russia and China to ensure that these nations can't get their hands on material to develop nuclear weapons.

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

The challenge will be to simultaneously bring everlasting peace to the Middle East while winning the war on terrorism. These two issues are interrelated, and we'll have trouble getting one without the other. We must aggressively step up our efforts to promote democratic institutions throughout the Middle East and to finally bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians. At the same time, we need to aggressively go after terrorists in their own backyard, dismantling terrorist operations and training camps.

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

I voted against President Bush's tax giveaways to the wealthy in 2001, and I did the same this year. This president has pursued a dangerous fiscal policy, giving away millions in tax breaks to millionaires while creating the largest deficits in the history of the United States. What we really need are tax cuts for middle-class families and the working poor -- people who actually need the help paying their bills and who will actually spend money to reinvigorate the economy. I've proposed a cut in payroll taxes, and I support additional tax cuts for middle-class families.

How would you provide health-care coverage to the uninsured?

It's shameful that we live in the wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth, yet 41 million Americans don't have health insurance.... About 20% of the uninsured Americans are children. I would expand the Children's Health Insurance Program to cover all children. Next, I would deal with the near-retirement or the retirement-before-65 group who are left without their previous employer-based health-care systems, and they're not eligible for Medicare. And I believe we should cover the working poor by modifying the Medicaid program to cover more adults.

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

We need to put money in the hands of middle-class families and the working poor. We need to provide help to state and local governments to prevent huge cuts in services and local tax increases, which would hamper demand. We must reinvest in infrastructure in this country, control the costs of health care and work to get America back to balanced budgets.

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

I've been devoutly pro-choice throughout my career and have always supported Roe v. Wade. I appointed judges throughout Florida [as governor] ... so I have experience with this issue. I oppose litmus tests for judicial appointees. I want to appoint judges who have the capacity to grow. I want to appoint judges who will also be seen as evenhanded and judicious.

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