There are now just three months left before Iowa’s Caucuses on January 19th signal the start of the 2004 Presidential campaign, and two issues continue to dominate the debate among democrats who’re running for president. The issues are Iraq and the economy, and the three candidates who were campaigning in Iowa this past weekend focused on those issues. Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt delivered a speech in Cedar Rapids linking international trade policy to jobs at home. Gephardt says a more rational trade policy is the great moral issue of our time.Gephardt says the job of the U.S. is to “gloablize” the world economy in such a way that it lifts up people all over the world, and creates a middle class in other countries. Gephardt says one means of doing that is to insist on a minimum wage in other countries.Massachusetts Senator John Kerry delivered a speech in Cedar Rapids focusing on helping laid off workers gain new skills. Kerry says President Bush is cutting job training programs. Kerry says such programs need more federal money because they help people who, midway through life, find themselves without a job and need to make a transition to a new job. Kerry would credit a four-thousand dollar per year tuition tax credit for on-going education. Kerry says working adults who want to gain additional skills find they can’t afford the tuition, and his proposal would help make it more attainable. On the subject of Iraq, Kerry voted against extending 87 billion dollars for military operations and reconstruction in Iraq. Kerry says Bush hasn’t done enough to get other countries involved. Gephardt voted for the 87 billion dollar package.Gephardt says a “yes” vote was the responsible thing to do because it sent the right signal to the U.S. troops who’re on the ground and to the people of Iraq. But during a weekend appearance on Iowa Public TV, Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean said he would have voted against the 87 billion dollars for Iraq because President Bush didn’t say how he’ll pay for it. Dean says if the Iraq occupation is a high enough priority for the President, he’ll outline where he’s going to get the money. Dean, a critic of the Iraq war, says Bush should repeal the tax cuts he ushered in over the past two years to pay for the war and its aftermath. Dean says if Bush took that step, he would have voted for the Iraq package if he were in Congress.Dean says it was a terrible mistake to go there in the first place, but he says the U.S. can’t cut and run now because it will become a hot bed for al Qaeda or a fundamentalist Shiite regime. Dean says the country can’t keep racking things up on a credit card because we already have half a trillion dollars on the credit card and the huge federal budget deficits are killing the economy. A WHO-TV poll released last night shows Gephardt pulling out ahead with 27 percent; Dean’s close behind with 22 percent and Kerry sits in third with 15 percent. Dean sets out this morning on a three-day tour of northern Iowa, starting with a town hall meeting in Sioux City at 10:30.
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