Democratic hopefuls woo union members
CHICAGO -- Democratic presidential candidates tangled Tuesday at an AFL-CIO forum over Iraq, Pakistan and corporate influence while mostly agreeing on issues crucial to their union audience, such as trade deals and increased spending on infrastructure.
New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for saying in an Aug. 1 speech that he would consider taking military action against Pakistan if intelligence identified al-Qaeda targets there and President Pervez Musharraf would not act. "You shouldn't always say everything you think if you're running for president, because it has consequences across the world," she said.
Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd also criticized Obama. "Gen. Musharraf is no Thomas Jefferson," but he is a U.S. ally, he said. Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden joined the fray. If al-Qaeda set up a base in Iraq after a U.S. withdrawal, he said, "All these people who are talking about going into Pakistan are going to have to send your kids back to Iraq."
"I find it amusing that those who helped to authorize and engineer the biggest foreign policy disaster in our generation are now criticizing me," Obama replied.
Dodd, Clinton, Biden and former North Carolina senator John Edwards voted to authorize the Iraq war in 2002. Obama was in the Illinois Legislature then and opposed the war.
The candidates agreed that ending the Iraq war would free up more money for improving bridges, roads and other infrastructure.
Edwards criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement, the pact with Mexico and Canada that took effect in 1994 during Bill Clinton's presidency. "This deal was negotiated by Washington insiders," he said. "It's cost us a million jobs." Clinton said the way NAFTA has been implemented "has hurt a lot of American workers" and called for a "trade prosecutor" to enforce such agreements.
Referring to a photo of Clinton on the cover of the July 9 issue of Fortune with a headline reading "Business Loves Hillary," Edwards said, "You will never see a picture of me on the front of Fortune magazine saying I'm the candidate that corporate America is betting on."