Seven of the nine announced candidates for the Democratic party’s 2004 presidential nomination appeared together at a forum in Des Moines this weekend. The candidates appeared before 900 members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union. Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, a doctor, began the forum by accusing President Bush of mismanaging the economy. “The President’s prescription for everything is ‘Take two tax cuts and see me in the morning,'” Dean said. Missouri Congressman Dick Gephardt said the next election will be a referendum on Bush’s handling of the economy. “This President’s economic policy is failing. It’s made a mess of this economy,” Gephardt said. North Carolina Senator John Edwards suggested Bush can’t relate to the problems of common Americans. “He comes from a place where wealth is inherited, not earned. He comes from a place where wealth is hoarded, not shared,” Edwards said. Florida Senator Bob Gramm repeatedly questioned whether Bush had mishandled the war on terrorism and let Al-Qaeda off the hook by focusing on Iraq. “Iraq was a distraction from the war on terror. We are less secure, not more secure,” Gramm said. Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich focused on union issues, like the repeal of trade agreements which unions say are helping ship American jobs to Mexico. “One of my first acts in office will be to cancel NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and the WTO (World Trade Organization),” Kucinich said. Reverend Al Sharpton, a citizen activist who has never held office, said a professional politician won’t succeed against Bush. “This is not about what you say. This is about what you do,” Sharpton said. Former Illinois Senator Carol Moseley-Braun ended the forum by stressing that women do things differently. “We try to find balance and fairness in the way that we approach issues,” Moseley-Braun said. A recent national poll found over 60 percent of Americans can’t name one of the Democrats who’re running. A sampling of union members at this weekend’s AFSCME convention found half had picked a candidate already.
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