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May 19, 2003

Questions Are Many For Presidential Candidates To Answer

George Wenschhof

The Democratic field is off and running in the race for their Party’s nomination for President in 2004. Nine candidates faced off recently in a debate held in South Carolina. (Do you know who they are? - Answer at end of column).

These candidates are vying for the opportunity to run against President George W. Bush who currently is enjoying a 70+% approval rating among Americans across the country. Are these Democrats crazy or do they see cracks in President Bush’s armor? "Are we better off than we were?" and "Are we safer than we were prior to 9/11?" are questions Americans will be asking themselves prior to the election.

President Bush is coming off two impressive military campaigns, one in Afghanistan and the more recent one in Iraq. The horrific terrorist attack against our country and our subsequent successful military actions have brought about an increased feeling of nationalism across the USA.

The majority of residents of any country will always experience an increased level of nationalism in the short term following a threat to their country and a subsequent successful military engagement. The major questions that have not been answered regarding the recent military campaigns and won’t be until the ether wears off and time goes by is: "Did we really accomplish what we intended?" and "Where do we go from here?"

Recent reports indicate that the nation-building efforts by the Bush administration in Afghanistan have been dismal, where a president installed by the U. S. has already experienced one assassination attempt; where a warlord, who has assembled an army larger than the country of Afghanistan has been able to assemble, is the country’s minister of defense; where the Taliban is regaining a foothold in the country; and where poppy is once again the major export of the country. The infrastructure is a mess and who knows where Bin Laden is?

In Iraq, after only three weeks since the end of military action, there have already been major administrative changes in the American organization that is responsible for the reconstruction efforts in Iraq and which was put in place by President Bush.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has indicated the Iraqis will experience democracy and be free to determine their own leadership, as long as it is not Shiite. Interestingly, 60 percent of the Iraqi population is Shiite.

No weapons of mass destruction have been located; the infrastructure is a mess, and where is Saddam Hussein? Halliburton, a company where Vice President Dick Cheney was employed, received a billion dollar no-bid contract for reconstruction efforts in Iraq and no one asks why?

President Bush is proposing that England and the U.S. control the oil in Iraq when the White House continually stated the war with Iraq was never about the oil. In addition, the cost of the U.S. occupation of Iraq has not been discussed with the American people, nor has the time frame for occupation.

As a result of these military actions and the failure of diplomatic initiatives by the Bush Administration, it is argued the image of the U.S. is at an all time low in the world.

After years of conflict between Palestinians and Israelis (despite the overwhelming military superiority of Israel), that conflict still exists today. Terrorist acts by certain Palestinian factions seem to take place on a daily basis. This begs the question: "Does military action and superiority result in peace?"

In addition, it is argued that the Homeland Security Act passed by Congress is woefully under-funded and that the states are scrambling for funds due to the economic crisis that is enveloping the U.S.

While foreign policy is dominating the thoughts of many Americans (thoughts about North and South Korea, Pakistan-India, Palestinian-Israeli, and China will come another day), do not discount the importance Americans put in an effective domestic policy.

There are 1.7 million more Americans out of work since the first tax cuts by the Bush Administration went into effect in 2001. Why, then, would the current proposed $550 million tax cut work to improve the economy?

It is interesting that a recent poll conducted by The Washington Post indicated that a majority of Americans would prefer that money be spent on services rather than implement this proposed tax cut. In addition the Dow Jones is currently at 8700+/- and was at 10,000+/- when President Bush was sworn into office. And the American dollar continues to shrink in value overseas.

It is projected the national debt will triple during the four years that President Bush has been in office and the lock box to be put on Social Security discussed during the 2000 presidential campaign was broken during Bush’s first year in office. Too many Americans are without adequate health care and we have a public education system that is badly in need of repair. In addition, various long-standing protections for the environment, such as clean air regulations, are being gutted, while the administration deepens our dependency on fossil fuels and foreign oil by promoting 20th century technology.

Well, the race for President has begun. Let’s hope for open, honest, and frank discussions on the issues that are important to Americans: discussions that are free of character attacks and personal agendas. Let’s hope that Americans stay informed of the positions of the candidates and most important cast their vote for President in November 2004.

The announced Democratic candidates for President (in alphabetical order) are as follows: Former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois; Former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont; Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina; Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri; Sen. Bob Graham of Florida; Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts; Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio; Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut; and the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York City.

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