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Candidate Interviews

These seven questions were among the most popular of over 1,800 posted and rated by MoveOn members on a MoveOn ActionForum.

Choose a question to see what the candidates had to say:

The Bush administration has established the pre-emptive war doctrine as a cornerstone of its foreign policy. There is no end in sight to the ways in which this doctrine can be misused -- simply observe the lack of evidence to support the case for war in Iraq. In other words, barring a change in policy, any country can become the target of our military might. Furthermore, pre-emptive war only legitimizes military aggression by other nations as well. Will you repeal Bush's pre-emptive war doctrine? --Ricardo Cisternas, Engineer (June 12, 2003; Carlsbad, CA)

BRAUN: Our Constitution (Article 1, Section 8) gives the power to declare war to the Congress. Since WWII the Congress has essentially abdicated that power by passing resolutions authorizing the President to decide. The Congress erred in giving this President that authority. Repealing the resolution is a bit like closing the barn door too late, but yes, I believe that this administration's claim of a right to start a war based not on aggression but on suspicion is dangerous and ought to be rejected by the American people.

DEAN: I’ve said all along that the Bush doctrine of preemptive war is wrong for America, and sets a dangerous precedent. The Democrats in Washington should have known this before they voted for this President’s war in Iraq. In fact, they did know it. In September of 2002, Al Gore warned that voting for the Iraq resolution would create “the precedent for preemptive action anywhere, anytime this or any future president so decides.” There were many reasons to oppose the war in Iraq, but that reason alone was paramount. Yet too many Democrats in Congress still voted for the war. It is incredible to me that so many who supported the war, knowing that it would set this precedent, now say that they are opposed to the doctrine of preemption. If they are opposed to the doctrine of preemption, then why did they vote for this preemptive war? I opposed the President’s war on Iraq, I continue to stand against his policy of preemption, and on my first day in office I will tear up the Bush doctrine and rebuild a foreign policy consistent with American values.

EDWARDS: The Bush Administration's preemption doctrine is unnecessary and unwise.

The United States has always had the right to protect itself against threats to our national security. It's called self-defense -- it isn't controversial and it doesn't need a fancy new doctrine. But this administration hasn't just reasserted our right to self-defense. That would have been fine, especially when our security sometimes requires us to act before terrorists strike. Instead, they asserted a new doctrine that suggests a uniquely American right to use force wherever and whenever we decide it's appropriate. Some in the administration seem to believe that military force should be used as first resort to meet our legitimate foreign policy goals.

The Administration's provocative new doctrine has been distracting and damaging.

At a time when we should be working to lead the world towards solutions on critical problems like North Korea and postwar Iraq, it was completely counter-productive for the administration to pronounce a doctrine that is not only unnecessary to justify action, but that alienates most of our friends and makes it harder for countries to cooperate with us

The world knows we’re powerful. But America must have a foreign policy that leads in a way that brings others to us, not that drives them away. And I say to every American family: your family is safer in a world where America is looked up to and respected, not in a world where America is hated.

GEPHARDT: The U.S. should not have a pre-emptive war doctrine. I am proud that as Democratic Leader, I pushed President Bush to go to the United Nations before we went to war with Iraq. I helped write the resolution language that said that Bush should go to the U.N. Unfortunately, this administration’s diplomatic efforts have been a dismal failure, and we did not get the U.N. to join us in the most important foreign policy effort our country has made in this new century.

First and foremost, we need to keep our people safe. We can not have a Ryder truck with a nuclear bomb exploding in one of our cities. But we also need to understand that diplomacy can go much further in building coalitions than can be achieved by launching an attack on our enemies. Yet President Bush has sent our country backward in our relationships with the world. He’s refused to join the Kyoto treaty in global warming, he’s refused the establishment of an International Criminal Court, and he ignored the problems in the Middle East for a year and a half – reversing the progress President Clinton had made toward peace in that region.

The United States needs allies to rebuild Iraq – sadly, we have lost support from our friends. This is a failure of foreign policy and a failure of diplomacy that I intend to reverse.

GRAHAM: As former Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I know first hand how little the Bush administration has done to fight the War on Terror and protect us from threats abroad.  I opposed and voted against authorizing the United States to go to war with Iraq because I simply felt it was a distraction from the real threats facing this country and it only enhanced the hatred of America abroad by those with the will and the means to attack our people.  We have now lost nearly all of the worldwide support we garnered after September 11, 2001 and our standing in the world is being questioned.  This is not a way to achieve peace and security for all people.

Now, six weeks after the war in Iraq ended, no weapons of mass destruction have been found.  I hope we do find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, because America’s credibility is at stake.  I fear that intelligence data was manipulated to sell the administration’s case for war to the American people and the world.

KERRY: I spoke out against it during the Senate’s Iraq debate, stating that we should not be “giving [Bush] carte blanche to run roughshod over every country that poses - or may pose - a potential threat to the United States.” Bush’s position is a blanket doctrine that can easily be misinterpreted and misapplied. The last thing we need is for India to justify an attack on Pakistan or China on Taiwan on the basis that it’s acceptable because it’s “preemptive.”

As President, I will use force when it is necessary to defend core American values and interests against imminent threats. But exercising that right when it’s absolutely necessary is not the same as choosing to go it alone in every situation, and it’s counterproductive to make preemption a doctrine.

I was in a war which started with a misrepresentation of facts and divided our country. Decisions about war and peace are the most critical a President can make, and as President I will make these decisions not just from the Situation Room but from the perspective of someone who has seen devastation on the battlefield, and spoken and marched to end a tragically misguided war.

KUCINICH: As President, I will repeal the preemptive war doctrine.  In Congress, I marshaled opposition to this doctrine before, during and after the Iraq war.  It is a centerpiece of my campaign.  When the President arrogates to himself the right to wage wars to "prevent" wars, as President Bush has done, he opens the door to aggression against any nation, for practically any reason he wants, and without evidence of a threat.  On Capitol Hill today, I am continuing my 9-month battle for the evidence that Iraq represented an "imminent threat" requiring "preemption."  President Bush is going beyond even the most aggressive episodes of U.S. history -- and is providing a reckless doctrine that other nations can use against their weaker neighbors. 

Not only will I repeal this doctrine, but I will work to establish a cabinet-level Department of Peace and Nonviolence, to develop nonviolent approaches to domestic and international problems.  The only preventive "wars" I want to wage are against world hunger, disease, dirty water and air, homelessness, and the shortage of schools.  It's time for America to tell the world we wish to be their partner in peace, not their leader in war.

SHARPTON: Yes. It’s a dangerous and traditionally un-American doctrine. If we can pre-emptively attack Iraq using shaky intelligence – “facts” and “an imminent threat theory” that was not convincing to most of the rest of the world - what’s to stop Russia from attacking Chechnya, China from attacking Taiwan, North Korea from attacking South Korea, Israel from attacking Iran or Syria, or Pakistan and India from attacking one another. Within the framework of the UN, if an attack on the United States is imminent, we already have the right of preemptive self-defense under existing international law.

The enactment of Patriot Act I is a dangerous erosion of civil liberties in the United States. The proposed Patriot Act II is even more frightening. The purpose of both pieces of legislations seems to be the stifling of dissent rather than improving security in the U.S. If elected would you revisit the Patriot Act with the view of revising or repealing it? If we cannot speak without fear, we aren't living in a democracy.
--Bonnie Mulligan, Supervisor (June 11, 2003; Lanham, MD)

BRAUN: This administration has used 9/11 as a shield to impose an extreme right wing agenda on the American people. Nowhere is that truth more apparent than in regards to civil liberties and the courts. The Patriot Act must be allowed to expire by its own terms, and we must insure that the privacy and constitutional protections traditionally enjoyed are not further diluted. George Orwell wrote fiction: we must not let it become prophecy.

DEAN: Too many in my party voted for the Patriot Act. They believed that it was more important to show bipartisan support for President Bush during a moment of crisis than to stand up for the basic values of our constitution. They trusted this President, knowing full well that John Ashcroft was the Attorney General. Only one senator had the courage to vote against the Patriot Act--- Senator Russ Feingold, and he deserves credit for doing so. We need more Democrats like Senator Feingold—Democrats who are willing to stand up for what is right, and stand against this President’s reckless disregard for our civil liberties. We don’t need John Ashcroft—or any other Attorney General—rifling through our library records. As Americans, we need to stand up—all of us—and ensure that our laws reflect our values. As President, I will repeal those parts of the Patriot Act that undermine our constitutional rights, and will stand against any further attempts to expand the government’s reach at the expense of our civil liberties.

EDWARDS: America must always be safe and free. This administration has sacrificed our freedoms—without even advancing our security. While they are not taking needed steps for our homeland security, they have taken steps that endanger our most fundamental liberties.

Here is one example: President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft are now asserting the right to arrest a United States citizen, label him an “enemy combatant,” deny him access to a lawyer, deny him the chance to offer evidence he is innocent, and then keep him in jail for as long as they want. This is not how we do things in America. I have personally questioned John Ashcroft about these measures, and I will continue to criticize them as long as this administration presses them.

I supported the PATRIOT Act because it contained provisions needed to strengthen our security, but I also believe this administration has abused its powers in implementing the law. One key provision of the act requires Congress to revisit key provisions of the law. I opposed efforts to repeal that “sunset,” and I believe Congress must rigorously review the PATRIOT Act—as well as any new legislation—to see whether it advances our security and honors our values.

I agree with you that we must be able to speak without fear. A few months after September 11, John Ashcroft came to Congress and suggested that people who criticize the government are aiding terrorists. That statement violated our must fundamental values as a people, and I said so then.

GEPHARDT: Even since September 11th, we have found that it is important to strike a balance between liberty and security. The problem is that John Ashcroft, alone, is making decisions about what the law means, and ignoring civil liberties. The administration has put no check on Ashcroft’s power. I oppose Patriot II. This administration needs to show a commitment to striking that balance, rather than over-reaching. We must find a way to protect our people while, at the same time, protecting our freedoms.

GRAHAM: The Patriot Act I passed the Senate 98-1.  It was a good faith effort by Congress in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks to protect our country from the threat of international terrorists. 

The problems we have seen with this law are the way provisions of it have been implemented by the Bush administration, specifically through the actions taken by Attorney General John Ashcroft.   

We can not win the war against terrorism by restricting the civil liberties and rights of privacy of our own citizens here in America.

I would not support a Patriot Act II.  Furthermore, I think that we need a serious, thorough examination of the current Patriot Act and the problems of how Mr. Ashcroft as implemented it before the act comes before Congress for reauthorization in 2005.

KERRY: We must never forget that the rights guaranteed us in the Constitution are precious, and one of the very first things that the terrorists we’re fighting would destroy. We do not need to give away our personal liberties to protect our country. We must defend our freedoms and defend ourselves against terrorism.

John Ashcroft has taken away far more liberties than this act ever authorized and that is wrong.

For example, The Bush Administration does not have the authority to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens as “enemy combatants” without charging them with a crime and without allowing them access to an attorney or any judicial review. I am outraged that the Justice Department’s has required tens of thousands of Muslim and Arab visa holders – students, workers, researchers, and tourists – to register with the government and be fingerprinted and photographed. This sweeping plan, proposed without any consultation with Congress, does little to provide real protection against terrorism. Instead it stigmatizes innocent Muslims and Arabs who pose no danger, and discourages those who want to support our law enforcement and counter-terrorism efforts.

I strongly supported including a sunset provision in the Patriot Act, which will cause the Act to expire unless Congress reauthorizes it. The Bush Administration reportedly plans to introduce a second “Patriot Act” – we have learned from the first Patriot Act that the last thing we need is John Ashcroft rewriting the Bill of Rights. I am alarmed by what has been reported to be part of “Patriot Act II” and I will very carefully review any new proposal and fight to ensure that it does not violate civil liberties. As President I would fight hard to win the War on Terrorism. But in the process, I would never forget the liberties and freedoms that we are fighting for in the first place.

KUCINICH: I am the only presidential candidate to vote against the misnamed "Patriot Act." I am proud of that vote.  As President, I will push to revoke it.  And I will challenge any Patriot II sequel, because I know that America is a great country when Americans feel free to dissent, to advocate for reform -- Americans like Tom Paine, the abolitionists, the suffragists, the early union organizers, Cesar Chavez, Rachel Carson, the women’s movement, Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, America appropriately mobilized and increased security.  But we must never repeal our precious Bill of Rights, or hand the Attorney General unfettered power to jail, wiretap and monitor our private communications and personal records.  In a December 2001 speech, I argued that the "Patriot Act" and related measures had effectively revoked half of the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights: the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments.  In Congress, I am now drafting a bill to repeal the "Patriot Act" and restore civil liberties essential to a functioning democracy.  As someone who participated with MoveOn in building the current antiwar movement, I couldn't agree with you more that "if we cannot speak without fear, we aren't living in a democracy."

SHARPTON: Yes, I would definitely revisit them. They seem to be a throw-back to the COINTELPRO days of J. Edgar Hoover, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Black Panthers - making legal today what was illegal then. These “Patriot Acts” appear to be using the legitimate fear of 9/11 to pass illegitimate legislation. This legislation is unpatriotic in the most patriotic sense.

I think many people using are concerned with the disastrous effects of the current administration. However, my sense is that most of mainstream America either does not see the faults or is too scared, for reasons related to Homeland and economic security, to question Bush's authority. How will you, the candidate, frame your message and reach out to mainstream America to show how the upcoming presidential election is relevant to their situation and demonstrate how the actions, policies, corporate influence and diplomatic laissez-faire of Team Bush is unhealthy for our country and our future?
--Karen Zgoda, (June 12, 2003; Brighton, MA)

BRAUN: My candidacy is predicated on being a voice for people who need to hear an alternative message than that currently being fed by the administration. As a woman of color, I know that perceptions are important. I hope that my effort to speak truth to power will have a transforming effect on the debate, and that by stirring the currents of opinion, we may be able to spark the imagination of the American people.

DEAN: I’m going to tell the American people the truth. James Madison, when speaking to the founding fathers, said, “What we fear the most is that economic power would try to seize democratic power.” Madison’s fear has been made real with the Administration of George W. Bush. Lincoln’s government of, by and for the people has been replaced by a government of the corporations, for the special interests, and by the campaign contributors. Our country was founded on the idea of democratic capitalism, in which the undeniable power of capitalism should be subservient to democracy, and not the master. We have to level with the American people about what is at stake in 2004: nothing less than the restoration or destruction of our American tradition. I believe we will win. The founding values of our nation are on our side. This is not a campaign about Democrats, or about Republicans, or about Greens or Independents—this is a campaign for America. That is the truth that must be told to the American people. So many in my party are afraid of speaking the truth; they are so afraid of losing, they have forgotten what it takes to win. We will win by standing up for America.

EDWARDS: We need to speak the truth. Americans believe in hard work. Yet, this administration honors wealth above work. The core of their agenda is to shift the tax burden away from the unearned income of the wealthy and onto work. That is wrong—economically wrong and morally wrong. I have laid out a plan to stop this radical agenda – and to once again reward work and help working families create wealth.

This president is responsible for 3.1 million lost jobs, $4.5 trillion lost in stock market, $5.5 trillion budget surplus lost, and $400 billion retirement savings gone. Since George Bush has been in the White House, our state budgets are in the worse crises since WWII, and our families are crushed under the weight of health care and education costs. While Bush calls for more tax cuts for the very wealthy, people out in real America are hurting. It matters when the local plant shuts down, when the there's no market for your crops, or a company goes under, and there are no jobs to be found. Unfortunately, this president doesn’t even see the problem; much less understand how to solve it.

Our values have been betrayed by corporate insiders who pay themselves millions while their companies collapse and their workers lose everything. This administration has stood by the insiders. That is wrong. We need to stand up for the values we all believe in: hard work, integrity, and responsibility. We need a president in the White House who will stand up for them as well.

I’ve put forward an agenda that stands-up for all Americans. My agenda includes a plan to make the first year of college free for any young person willing to work for it. My agenda for America includes a plan to protect older workers from losing their pensions, a plan to pass a prescription drug benefit and to stop drug companies from keeping less-expensive drugs off the market, and a $2500 family leave tax credit for new parents. I will take this vision to George Bush and stand-up for every American.

I encourage you to visit my website at and see my learn more about my vision for America.

GEPHARDT: The Bush administration has been a miserable failure. Over three million private sector jobs have been lost. More than 40 million Americans have no health care. People are losing jobs, losing health care, and they are losing hope.

I have the boldest plan for changing America’s course and putting us back on the right track. From the beginning of my campaign, I have framed a this elections as a stark choice: we can stay with the failed Bush economic plan of tax cuts for the few and the wealthy, or we can have a bold plan to give all Americans health care they can never lose – and create jobs while we’re doing it.

If I know we can not defeat George W. Bush in 2004 by nibbling around the edges. We must be bold, we must stand for something and we must take this fight to the American public.

GRAHAM: I promise to take this fight right at President Bush.  And in the first five weeks of my campaign, I’ve done that on a number of measures, whether it’s questioning Bush’s secrecy and the apparent manipulation of intelligence data over waging war in Iraq to the administration’s cover-up of the report on the terrorist attacks of September 11th.  I’ve questioned President Bush’s failure to tell the truth about how large of deficits this country faced in the wake of new tax giveaways to the upper-crust of society while he leaves average Americans without jobs, without hope and without the critical investments that will help make their lives better. 

I promise to hold George W. Bush responsible for putting corporate interests ahead of average Americans every single day he has occupied the White House.  This is a White House of, by and for the elite in this country.  This is a White House that has turned their back on average Americans.

KERRY: I trust Americans to think carefully about who is the best person to lead us into the future. And I have heard concerns about this Bush Administration all over the country from people of different backgrounds, careers, and incomes. People want to know why this President is rolling back environmental protections. Why everyone is sacrificing for the war on terrorism except millionaires who are just getting new tax breaks. And why is he selecting judges who want to turn back the clock on civil rights and workers rights and the right to choose.

In aftermath of 9/11, Americans demonstrated what a unified, patriotic country we can be. I want to tap into that spirit and call on Americans to make this country everything it can be - to turn around a jobless economy, to move forward on civil rights and environmental rights, and to build a strong future for this country.

We're going to remind this president that the American flag and patriotism doesn't belong to any political party - it belongs to all of us as Americans.

If Democrats can present Americans with a strong vision for our future, a strong vision that shows that we want to move American forward not backwards, I think most Americans will choose that future.

KUCINICH: I am a heartland politician from Ohio who knows how to win over mainstream voters and so-called "Reagan Democrats."  My populist message will emphasize placing the federal government on the side of Middle America -- not the Enrons, Bechtels, Halliburtons and Clear Channels.  I will emphasize my battles against unfair, corporate-friendly trade deals that threaten workers, family farmers and the environment.  By November 2004, few Americans will confuse this Administration's tax breaks for the rich with a jobs or stimulus program.  I will compare the billions given to the President's wealthy and corporate cronies to what could be done instead for job creation, universal healthcare and education.  By drawing such a contrast, I will help working Americans understand that while the Bush White House delivered for the top 1 percent, what we really need is a Kucinich White House to fight for a robust, sustainable economy for the other 250 million Americans.

Only a total challenge to this Administration's reckless policies -- both at home and abroad -- will defeat George Bush.  Half-way challenges, where Democrats concede to him on war and defense policy, will fail miserably -- as they did in November 2002.  I will win by stressing that this Administration's aggressive, unilateral foreign policy makes Americans less secure, not more, and that destabilizing wars like the one in Iraq isolate our country more than the terrorists who seek to attack us.

One of our greatest Presidents taught us, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."  As fear increases, it becomes an effective tool for the would-be empire-makers now running U.S. foreign policy.  Using fear, they can intimidate opponents and restrict free speech.  But I am not intimidated, as I know those of you in MoveOn are not.  A Kucinich White House will govern with hope, not fear.  And my campaign will challenge Americans to choose between a foreign policy based on aggressive bullying tactics or peaceful humanitarian help.  I believe most Americans will choose democracy and peace over empire and perpetual war.

SHARPTON: My campaign is based on fighting for human and constitutional rights. I believe that the vote, education, health care and equal rights for women are human rights that should be put in our Constitution as legal rights. That’s why I support Joint House Resolutions 28, 29, 30 and 31, which would add these rights in the form of new amendments to the Constitution. Fighting for human rights and constitution amendments would allow Democrats, Republicans and Independents to agree on the goals – that every American should have equal access to the vote, that every American should be given the opportunity and equal access to a high quality public education and health care, and treating every American, including women, equally under the law – even if we disagree on the means of achieving the goals. Our disagreements on the means should not keep us from agreeing on the goals – and, therefore, supporting the amendments. Human rights and constitutional amendments are non-partisan, non-ideological and non-programmatic.

I would like to know when a Democratic candidate will summon the courage to publicly question the honesty and truthfulness of President Bush. The barrage of spin alluding to intelligence failures and misleading advice of Bush's confidants belies the fact that he alone is ultimately responsible for his words and decisions. Will any candidate demand the truth and an end to this conspiracy of deceit?
--John Kowalko, Machinist (June 12, 2003; Newark, De.)

BRAUN: I have, and I will...

DEAN: This President has completely inverted the political vocabulary of our nation. He calls undermining our civil liberties “The Patriot Act;” destroying old growth “The Healthy Forest Act;” and polluting our air “The Clear Skies Act.” I am not going to let this President continue to deceive the American people. I have consistently demanded that this President give reasonable evidence that Iraq was an imminent threat to the United States. He did not do so before the war with Iraq. I have continued to ask, in regards to weapons of mass destruction, what did the President know and when did he know it? His answer to such questions? Attacking those who question him as “revisionist historians,” when he’s the one who is revising history even as we live it.

If we are going to defeat this President, his lies, and the more than $250 million he plans to raise for the 2004 election, we must all come together, today, to build the largest grassroots organization in the history of presidential politics. Self-government requires citizen participation. That is why I am seeking the MoveOn endorsement, and why I ask for your support in the MoveOn primary.

EDWARDS: I will never hesitate to question George Bush about any issue that affects America. The Intelligence Committee, on which I serve, has begun an investigation into the intelligence surrounding the war in Iraq.

But the concern you raise affects many issues. Just this week, I talked about this administration’s war on work—their effort to shift the tax burden away from the wealthy and onto working people. George Bush said he wanted to eliminate dividend taxes because he didn’t want income to be taxed twice. Of course, the bill he signed allows the income of corporations not to be taxed at all because of tax shelters in places like Bermuda. This tax bill wasn’t about double taxation—it was about shifting the tax burden away from the wealth of the wealthy. We need to have the courage and backbone to stand up to Bush and fight for what we believe in.

GEPHARDT: I believe that Congress can and should serve a valuable role by leading an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the war. It is the role of Congress to ask questions and find the truth. Only when we have all the facts can we then decide how best to proceed.

GRAHAM: One of the centerpieces of my campaign for the presidency is holding President Bush responsible for keeping Americans in the dark throughout his administration.  This White House has a Nixonian stench and I will force it to be accountable for its obsession with secrecy.

As I have in recent days, I will continue to push my case to find out the truth on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  I have taken the lead in criticizing President Bush for his failure to release to the public the report on the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.  This report is critical for the American people to understand 9-11 happened and what we can do to prevent further terrorist attacks on our country.  Instead of releasing this to the public, the administration has instead decided to engage in a cover-up of this information. 

The same argument can be made on nearly every domestic policy that has come from this administration. 

Government belongs to the people and it’s time to give the people and open and honest government once again. 

KERRY: I believe the words of Harry Truman, the buck stops in the Oval Office. As President, I will take full responsibility for the actions of my office and my Administration.

There is nothing more serious than the intelligence information that we receive and
it should never be manipulated to mislead the American people. I believe we have to have an investigation to know to a certainty whether the Administration’s claims were hype, whether we were misled, and whether the CIA was serving the political purposes of the administration. I want answers to that. I believe that the Congress has the responsibility to get the facts and the President has the responsibility of coming clean on what his Administration knew and when they knew it.

I have seen first hand the destruction that occurs when an Administration misleads the people. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution began the Vietnam War, and we later learned that we hadn’t been told the truth. The consequence was that war weakened our military and divided our country for almost 30 years. We can’t allow this to happen again.

I believe this Administration must tell Americans the facts and I won’t rest until they do. I trust the American people and believe that when provided with the truth they will support decisions that are in the best interest of the country. And I believe all leaders should do the same.

KUCINICH: I am your candidate. I have been publicly questioning the truthfulness of President Bush and his Administration on Iraq day after day on the House floor, on national TV and on the campaign trail across the country.  Two weeks ago, I made use of a rare Congressional procedure -- a "Resolution of Inquiry" -- to force the Bush Administration to turn over its "evidence" that Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction posed an "imminent threat" to America.  Over 36 Democrats joined, but I'm the only presidential candidate who has fought on this issue unrelentingly.  

It is clear that the Administration led this nation to war (and manipulated the 2002 elections) on the basis of a pretext.  I believe this deception exceeds the magnitude of Watergate, and if driven home by the Democratic nominee, could defeat Bush and usher in a Democratic tidal wave.  Eventually, if we keep fighting for it, the truth will come out.  I promise you that I will continue to speak truth to power, day after day.  If we do not unmask the Iraq deception, they will do it again.

SHARPTON: I have challenged this Administration - one of the most closed and secretcrative in our history – to explain the apparent discrepancies in its words and deeds. It said Iraq was an “imminent” threat to U.S. national security. That appears not to have been the case. It said U.S. intelligence “knew” that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. We now know they desired, but didn’t have, nuclear weapons. And I assume we have inspected first the places where our intelligence said such WMD would most likely be found. They have yet to find any – even though President Bush mistakenly said we “found” some – i.e., the trucks! We “know” the Bush Administration misused, misled, exaggerated and maybe even lied about some information – e.g., the uranium from Niger tale. So, yes, this Administration has a lot to explain to the American people and I’m going to continue to press them to explain it.

The present Administration and Congress have enacted huge tax cuts and extreme military spending which may well limit the ability of government to address social needs (health care, education, affordable housing, poverty reduction, etc) for some time to come, as well as entrap future generations in debt. Meanwhile, social ills become more acute. How will you balance fiscal responsibility with the growing needs for health care reform, reinvestment in education and affordable housing, etc?
--Cindy Maxey, organizer, health care justice organization (June 11, 2003; Cleveland, OH)

BRAUN: In 1993 I voted as a Senator for an economic plan that created new economic growth, balanced the budget, invested in education, health care and the environment, and began to address long standing issues such as building capacity in rural and inner city communities. The Clinton years saw an economic rebirth after Bush I did essentially the same thing to the American people that Bush II is doing. War and depression are hallmarks of failed leadership. I hope to put this country on a path toward harmony and security for the whole community. We are all in this together, and policy must reflect the panoply of real concerns and quality of life determinants that especially effect the working class and the most vulnerable in our society. Social justice goes hand in hand with security and law enforcement. We have the highest per capita prison population in the world. We should build schools and housing, not prisons, and focus as much on crime prevention as punishment, by addressing violence and education, health (including mental health)and poverty as we right now spend on trying to resolve the aftermaths of our neglect.

DEAN: The truth is that this President’s agenda is not about cutting taxes; it’s about destroying Social Security, Medicare and our public schools through financial starvation. The President and the ideologues that surround him cannot get the country to agree to the privatization of Social Security and other services through open debate. Instead, in order to achieve their radical agenda, their tax cuts are designed to cause such financial hardship to our government that the only way to achieve financial balance in the future will be by privatizing Social Security, the public schools, and our public services—a privatization plan from which they and their contributors will be the chief beneficiaries. Only by repealing all of the president’s tax cuts and returning to fiscal responsibility today will we have any hope of having any social justice in the future.

EDWARDS: We need to balance the need for fiscal responsibility against the need to invest in areas like health care, education, and help for working families.

I have proposed a series of measures to restore fiscal discipline. We need the courage to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and restore a tax code that honors work, not wealth. We need to get rid of billions in corporate subsidies. For example, John McCain joined me to try to get rid of the multibillion dollar tax break for companies that buy insurance on their janitors, but then keep the benefits for themselves. We lost that fight, but we’ll keep trying. And we need to stop wasteful spending that limits our ability to address real priorities like health and education.

GEPHARDT: I have constantly and adamantly called for the full repeal of the Bush tax cuts. I understand what it takes to grow the economy while making investments in people. I led the fight in Congress to pass President Clinton’s 1993 economic plan that was the foundation for the best economy in America in 50 years. We made tough choices – and we did it without a single Republican vote. Republicans said it would be a job-killer – instead, it resulted in 22 million new jobs. Our party does not need any lectures in fiscal discipline or the economy from the Republicans.

GRAHAM: I voted against the 2001 tax cuts and voted again this year against President Bush’s tax giveaways to the wealthiest Americans.  I am the only candidate for President to vote for a measure in the Senate that would have eliminated all of President Bush’s 2003 tax cut from the budget entirely – some others running for president voted against that amendment. [S. Con. Res. 23, Vote #69, 108th Congress, 1st Session, 3/21/03]

Fiscal responsibility starts by rescinding those parts of the 2001 and 2003 tax cut intended for the wealthiest Americans which have not gone into effect.  We need those resources to protect and ensure that Social Security and Medicare will be sustainable for future generations of Americans.  We need those resources to invest in health care reform, provide affordable housing, after-school programs, job training and so many other investments that will help America’s economy prosper in the long-term. 

As governor of Florida, we had balanced budgets every year I was governor, but we also dramatically increased critical investments in people.  We poured money into our education system to increase per-pupil spending, build new schools, raise teacher salaries, and ensure excellence in education for our children.  We increased investments in affordable housing, health care for the poor, and other initiatives that helped us create over 1.4 million new jobs in just eight years. 

As president, I am committed to working towards a balanced budget while investing once again in people so we can create jobs and get the economy moving again. We will invest in health care, education, job training, and housing.

KERRY: This President has led the most fiscally reckless Administration in history. They have worked to turn the largest budget surplus in our history into the largest deficit, in the process killing more than 3 million jobs.

Luckily we have learned from the last time Republicans assaulted our economy with their schemes, that with leadership and the right priorities we can restore it. We can get rid of their reckless policies and invest in our people. The first thing we have to do is to roll back the Bush tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. Fiscally responsible tax cuts for working families can grow the economy, but there is no excuse for special tax cuts for the rich.

Then we can create jobs and invest in our people. I have outlined a proposal to expand health care coverage to all children and their parents as well as single adults – so that we have a strong safety net that covers every American who needs it. It also allows every American to get the same health care plan as their Member of Congress does today and gives subsidies to small businesses and the self employed. My plan also works to reduce the costs of health care – including a new proposal to help cover catastrophic costs and reduce premiums by up to $1,000 and a plan to reduce the cost of prescription drugs.

My energy plan will create 500,000 well paying jobs while reducing our dependence on foreign oil and improving the environment. I am committed to funding education to assure that our teachers and students can meet our potential. Finally, I am committed to helping states with their current fiscal crisis that is causing states to raise middle class taxes and cut spending. With the right economic plan, we can turn our economy around, invest in people and reduce deficits all at the same time.

KUCINICH: Maybe it's because you're a fellow Clevelander that you've asked just the question I was hoping MoveOn would ask me -- because I have made cutting the Pentagon budget a campaign priority, when others have not.  A Kucinich White House will repeal -- totally, not just partially -- the tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.  But the only way to meet pressing social needs and be fiscally responsible is to cut the runaway Pentagon budget, which now almost equals the military spending of all other countries in the world combined.  Any candidate who promises to be fiscally responsible while enhancing our domestic agenda without cutting the military is not telling the truth.  The Pentagon is more than half of federal discretionary spending.  This issue should be a litmus test for anyone who calls themselves a peace candidate, because a soaring Pentagon budget becomes a rationale for war and empire. 

I am the candidate telling it like it is: The Pentagon budget must be cut so we can invest in people.  My Administration would eliminate the Star Wars National Missile Defense system, the profligate F-22 and Joint Strike Fighter and other expensive, unworkable and unnecessary weapons systems.  Plus, I would ban weapons in space.  We need the savings from tax cut repeal and a more efficient military to pay for national health insurance for all, jobs and anti-poverty programs, education, environmental cleanup and other domestic needs.

SHARPTON: First, I would repeal virtually all of President Bush’s tax cuts, since they mostly benefit the rich in a way that will not benefit the rest of us. I am not concerned per se about deficit spending in our present economic circumstance. But I am concerned about the current deficit spending that is primarily the result of tax cuts that will not result in creating a significant number jobs and balanced economic growth. A $50,000 debt is a $50,000 debt, but there is a difference if one $50,000 debt is the result of gambling and the other is the result of paying for an education. Education is likely to have a positive return, while gambling likely will not. Bush’s tax cut “gamble” is touted to result in over one million jobs being created – but his first $1.35 trillion tax cuts was to create 890,000 new jobs. Instead, we’ve lost 2.5 million private sector jobs. Contrast that with the 22 million new jobs created during the 8 years of the Clinton Administration.

Without dependence on fossil fuels, the air and water would be cleaner and we could free ourselves from our poisonous and deadly entanglements with Middle-Eastern oil dictators. What is your view? Can you show the imagination, innovation and determination needed to serve our country through serving the environment?
--Hilary Jirka, Merchandiser (June 12, 2003; Chicago, IL)

BRAUN: Lessening our dependence on fossil fuels should be a top priority for our government. I think we can do so by providing not only direct funding to the development of existing and new alternatives, but by using the tax code to inspire private investment in that direction. When I was in the Senate I was named the "ethanol queen" for my work to start the development of that fuel source. There are others (some even safer than ethanol-such as wind, sun and water techonolgies)that with technology transfer and leaderhip could dramatically reduce our addiciton to oil.

DEAN: Part of the reason this President’s foreign policy is such a disaster is because he has no energy policy. We need to wean ourselves from Middle East oil, because Middle East oil is the financial lifeline for the same terrorists that killed thousands of Americans in New York and Washington. Yet this President has no policy to reduce our dependence on Middle East oil. Instead, he argues that we should tear up our most treasured wild places, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, rather than conserving energy by raising mileage standards for SUVs. As President, you have the ability to set the agenda. This President’s agenda has been to drill in our national parks. My agenda will be to make our country the world leader in developing renewable energy technologies. We need to move away from an economy based on fossil fuels and toward an economy based on renewable energy. It’s not just about improving mileage standards—although we should do that. It’s about setting a goal of ending our dependence on fossil fuels and focusing the full resources of the federal government on meeting that goal.

EDWARDS: You’re right. We have tolerated and even supported authoritarian regimes in part because we depend on them for oil. A real commitment to energy independence — a commitment this administration lacks – will not only strengthen our own economy, but will also free us to promote the values we believe in overseas. And, of course, reducing our reliance on oil will also help us keep our air clean and combat the climate change that threatens our future.

I have already unveiled some measures to improve our energy independence. For example, I have proposed setting up new biorefineries to convert agricultural wastes like cornstalks into energy that can power our cars. I also support far more research into alternative ways to power our cars—not just fuel cells, as the President proposes—and higher CAFÉ standards for cars.

In the weeks and months ahead, I hope you’ll listen for my plan for energy independence.

GEPHARDT: We can end America’s dangerous addiction to foreign oil once and for all. We can achieve true energy independence over the next 10 years. That’s not some far-fetched claim – it’s a commitment I’ll make from the start of my presidency. And it’s within our grasp right now.

I have outlined a new “Apollo” project to free us from Persian Gulf oil in ten years. We’ll do it by becoming the world’s energy innovator. I have a plan to get 1 million hybrid cars on the road every year by 2010, and 2.5 million hydrogen fuel cell vehicles by 2020. We’ll give a 30 percent tax credit for renewable energy, so that everyone from large businesses to family farms will work toward reducing fuel consumption, and creating a cleaner environment and a sustainable future.

GRAHAM: As governor of Florida, I brought more environmentally endangered lands into public ownership than any other state in the nation during that time.  We launched efforts to save our rivers, wetlands, and coasts, and we enacted the historic Save Our Everglades program.  In the Senate, I’ve been a leader on protecting our coastlines, our national monuments, the Alaska wilderness and our other sensitive lands against oil drilling.

As President, I will invest like no other president has before in renewable energy, including ethanol, wind and solar.  We will wean our dependence from foreign oil by putting in place a strategy that takes us fully into the 21st Century through a dramatic increase in renewable energy production and consumption.

KERRY: Today we have an energy policy of big oil, by big oil, and for big oil. There is a better way. With common-sense investments in advancing and speeding breakthroughs, we can harness the natural world around us to light and power the world we live in - the sun, the wind, water, and a rich array of crops can provide us with secure forms of energy at reasonable costs for a modern 21st century economy.

I recently unveiled a plan to increase America’s security and improve the environment, by ending our dependence on foreign oil within 10 years. Instead of indefinitely sending money to the Mideast for oil, we should launch an energy strategy to invest in the Midwest and in the rest of America, generating hundreds of thousands of new jobs and new technologies here at home.

Highlights of my plan include:

I believe that we have an unprecedented opportunity to harness the resources to improve our security, our environment, and our economy. As President, I will lead on this issue to make sure we realize that potential.

KUCINICH: Thanks to advances in renewables, there are fewer technical obstacles to energy independence for our country.  There are many political obstacles -- but the oil, auto and electric utility corporations won't be directing energy policy in a Kucinich White House.  I will spur research and investment in "alternative" energy sources -- hydrogen, solar, wind and ocean -- and make them mainstream.  Clean energy technologies will produce new jobs.  We can easily double our energy from renewable sources by 2010.  And we can soon have hybrid and fuel cell cars dominating the market.  When I was Mayor of Cleveland, I defended public ownership of utilities; when I’m President, I will expand it.

As a peace advocate, I will launch a major renewables effort because then Middle East oil fields will not loom so large as strategic or military targets.  As an environmentalist, my view is always holistic and global: a Kucinich Administration will launch a "Global Green Deal" -- a major initiative to use our country's leadership in sustainable energy production to provide jobs to Americans, to reduce energy use here at home, and to partner with developing nations to provide their people with inexpensive, local renewable energy technologies.  As a citizen of Planet Earth, I want this project for the same reason I will sign the Kyoto climate change treaty -- because we need it for our children and our grandchildren.

SHARPTON: Yes, converting our economy to renewable fuels as rapidly as practical and feasible would be one of my top priorities. I believe that protecting the environment is also labor intensive. Thus, creating a clean, safe and sustainable environment would also create jobs, not cost jobs.

The Bush administration is engaged in an all out war against the environment. Nothing is safe in this assault - not our national parks, wilderness areas, endangered species, the water we drink or the air we breathe. The administration's energy and land use policies are based on the recommendations of private corporate supporters rather than on government-funded studies, their own appointees in the EPA or on public opinion (in keeping with the general disregard for civil rights, more and more often, public comment is not being taken into consideration - sometimes not even being allowed in environmental disputes). The short-sighted policies of this administration could have devastating effects on our country and our planet. Can the Democratic candidate assure us that he will support progressive environmental policies here at home, and assume a leadership position in the global effort to protect the environment?
--A.L. Zuckerman, Associate Producer (June 12, 2003; New York, NY)

BRAUN: My own patriotism proceeds out of a sincere belief that we have no right to leave the next generation less than we inherited. We are stewards of this planet. Stewardship of the land, the air and water is a core responsibility, and the public good of environmental protection must not be sacrificed to private greed. We should work closely with our international allies to advance a world wide environmental agenda, we should work efficiently at home to build on the enhanced environmental protections that the American people demand.

DEAN: This President has rejected the Kyoto treaty; he’s pushed to drill in ANWR and to log in the Tongass National Forest; he’s short-circuited the wilderness designation process and gutted our clean air and water acts. He has consistently sold out the interests of the American people for the short term gain of his campaign contributors. President Bush has shown zero leadership on the environment at a time when leadership on the environment is critical. Global warming is real, and not the fantasy this President believes it to be. Our window of opportunity to stop global warming is closing. I believe we have a moral obligation to combat climate change. We must protect global biodiversity. We must do it now, and if the United States is to play a leading role in the world environmental movement, we must defeat this President in 2004.

EDWARDS: Yes. Our country needs real leadership on many critical environmental issues: safeguarding the water our children drink, preserving our national parks and forests, and achieving energy independence while addressing dangerous climate changes are just a few. For over two years, the Bush administration has been working behind closed doors to weaken our clean air laws and threaten each and every American family.

I have fought this administration hard. Here’s just one example. George Bush’s EPA is using regulations to roll back the Clean Air Act. In a series of giveaways to big oil and power companies, he is making our air dirtier. It’s going to give more children asthma attacks and more seniors heart problems, but he’s doing it anyway. I have led the fight, on the floor of the United States Senate, to stop these devastating rollbacks. We lost our first vote by a hair, but we continue to fight.

I will continue to fight—not only to keep our air clean, but to support renewable energy, work with our allies to reduce global climate change, and give our children a better environment than the one our parents gave us.

GEPHARDT: The Bush-Cheney environmental policy is exactly what you would expect from two oil executives. They have refused to enforce the Clean Air Act for factories and plants churning our pollutants, and even sought to allow more arsenic in our drinking water.

I fought many battles like this against Newt Gingrich, and with the grassroots support of the American people, we won them. We stopped the Republicans when they wanted to gut the enforcement budget of the EPA, and when they tried to weaken the Clean Water Act.

But for too long, we’ve had to be on the defensive. We need an advocate for the environment in the White House. I’ll be that advocate, promoting cleaner, renewable energy – a real investment that will slash air pollution. I will continue to fight against oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and protect our national treasures. And I will get the oil industry lobbyists out of the Oval Office.

GRAHAM: I pledge to be the most pro-conservation and pro-environment president in American history.  I’ve spent a good deal of my public life working on this critical issue and I am proud of the progress that I helped make in Florida to protect our treasured Everglades and coastlines. 

I will not only reverse the policies of the Bush administration, I will strive to make clean air, clean water and a healthy environment the cornerstone of my presidency.

KERRY: For thirty years in public life I have committed myself to environmental protection. As an activist, I participated in the first Earth Day in Massachusetts. As Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor, I worked with other states to reduce acid rain. And as a Senator, I led the fight to protect the environment from a Republican assault and earned one of the highest career ratings given by the League Conservation Voters.

My commitment is driven by the belief that we can safeguard the environment and grow our economy. I have fought hard to reduce the threat of global warming by supporting renewable energy and increased funding for climate change research. I have also called on the Bush Administration to stop blocking progress and to engage in international efforts to mitigate the threat of climate change.

I will advance a national energy policy promoting clean, renewable and domestic energy and energy efficiency. It is a policy to reduce the acid rain, soot, smog and pollution that degrade our environment and sicken our citizens, and it will create American jobs.

I will respect America's natural heritage and work to preserve our treasured public lands, like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I will work for clean water by protecting watersheds and wetlands, our rivers and lakes, and our oceans. I will ensure that our environmental laws are enforced and that polluters are brought to justice. I will invest in understanding and preventing still emerging environmental and health threats, like the potential threat of rising levels of chemicals in the environment. And I will end the Bush policy of environmental isolationism by leading the international effort to avert dangerous global warming, preserve rare ecosystems and species, and to promote sustainable development. We have a moral obligation to pass on to our children and grandchildren an earth that is as clean and precious as we found it. As President I will do everything in my power to meet that obligation.

KUCINICH: As President, I will lead the way in protecting our oceans, rivers and rural environments -- and I have been speaking out on these issues across America.  I will also lead in fighting for clean, affordable and accessible drinking water -- which is an emerging global concern.  Over the years, I have worked hand-in-hand with the environmental movement on many battles, from thwarting a nuclear waste dump to boosting organics to demanding labels on genetically-engineered products. I've won honors from the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and League of Conservation Voters.

Last summer, I was one of the few U.S. officials at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.  To repair the earth, America must lead.  A Kucinich Administration would reverse course on most Bush Administration policies and support the Kyoto Treaty that Bush rejected.  My Administration would strengthen environmental laws and increase penalties on polluters.  It would provide tax and other incentives to businesses that conserve energy, retrofit pollution prevention technologies, and redesign toxins out of their manufacturing processes.  Nontoxic, safe substitutes for hazardous chemicals must become permanent.

And as I mentioned in the previous answer, I will initiate a "Global Green Deal" for renewable energy, to provide jobs at home, increase our independence from foreign oil, and aid developing nations with cheap, dependable, renewable energy technologies like wind and solar.  A clean environment, a sustainable economy, and an intact ozone layer are not luxuries, but necessities for our planet’s future.

SHARPTON: Yes, strengthening and enforcing our environmental laws would be one of my top priorities. For me, the scriptural mandate that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” is a religious and spiritual mandate to be good stewards of what God has given the human race for sustenance, beauty and enjoyment. Protecting, preserving and sustaining it must be one of our highest priorities.