Governor Tom Vilsack told a national cable TV. audience last (Friday) night that he does not intend to “scare off” other competitors for the White House from campaigning in Iowa. During an appearance on C-N-N, Vilsack — a Democrat who launched his presidential campaign last week — said 2008 will not be like 1992 when Iowa Senator Tom Harkin ran — and other Democrats did not compete in the Caucus campaign.

“I think every candidate for president who’s interested in being the President of the United States needs to come to Iowa and we need to campaign together. We need to debate the issues. We need to have fun. We need to make sure that the field is wide open,” Vilsack said. “I have, in specific conversations with many people who are thinking about this, invited them to come to Iowa and I hope that they do come.”

Harkin’s overwhelming victory in the 1992 Iowa Caucuses did not propel his candidacy past Iowa. This time around, Vilsack suggested he wants other candidates to compete here to legitimize his candidacy. “This is a much different situation and a much different time,” Vilsack said. C-N-N anchor Wolf Blitzer directly asked Vilsack if he believes Hillary Clinton will come into Iowa to compete against him.

“I don’t think it’s about challenging me, Wolf. I think it’s about talking about the future of this country,” Vilsack said. “You can’t have deficits, you can’t have a lack of discussion about health care and energy security, and a national and foreign policy that has essentially alienated most of our friends and somehow united most of our enemies. We need to have a debate about that in the state of Iowa and across the country and I welcome that debate. I look forward to that debate.”

As for the future of Iraq, the foremost foreign policy decision that next president may face, Vilsack said it’s time to hand over more responsibility to Iraqis. “What we have done is we’ve created a culture of dependency there and we have basically put ourselves in a position where the Iraqis are not making the decisions that only they are in a position to make. I would still maintain for a period of time troops in the northern part of the country to make sure that Turkey did not interfere, to make sure that we could send a very specific message to Iran that we do in fact have a military option which clearly we do not have today as we discuss diplomatically the nuclear issue with that country and if, in fact, chaos continues to reign we would be in a position to respond to it,” Vilsack says.

“I think it’s more than just military. I think we have to look at the reconstruction plan, encourage countries from the region to get involved and I think we also have to build local governing capacity, something that there’s been little discussion about but the reality is if you want basic services, it’s local government that provides them.”

On another foreign policy front, Vilsack suggested the U.S. should be more aggressive in diplomatic discussions to deal with nuclear threats in Iran and North Korea.