This is the fourth in a series of interviews with Democractic presidential candidates.
Presidential hopeful Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) fired volleys at President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean during a frank discussion at the Kennedy School forum last Monday night (Nov. 3). The event was broadcast live on MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews” – one in a series of Matthews’ one-on-one interviews with presidential candidates at the forum this fall.
While defending his own vote in Congress authorizing the president to go to war last spring, the Missouri Democrat assailed the president’s unilateral approach in Iraq. “He listens to Rumsfeld and Cheney and not enough to Powell,” Gephardt said, explaining that if he were president he would “go to the UN” to seek international support for the democratization of Iraq.
In the battle against terrorism, however, Gephardt remained resolute. “We have to fight against the systems of terrorism,” he said. “That’s why we’re in Afghanistan. That’s why we’re in Iraq.”
Sponsored by the Institute of Politics, the ‘Hardball’ series continues 7 p.m., Nov. 17, with former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun. Admittance to the forum event will require a ticket. Information is available at http://www.iop.harvard.edu/.
On the domestic front, where he draws much of his support, Gephardt pushed his agenda of expanding health-care coverage and other protections for working Americans. “We need to return to programs and ideas that lift up the poor,” he exclaimed. Among those proposals is a controversial plan to raise the national minimum wage to $9 an hour and one that would repeal the Bush tax cuts to fund a national health insurance plan. “If you want to live like a Republican, vote for the Democrats,” he said.
As expected, Gephardt voiced his support for labor unions, which are among his biggest political supporters. “The reason we have a middle class in this country is because we have unions,” he said. “We’ve had a president there for big business. We need a president who will be there for the workers!”
Differentiating himself from his competition in the Democratic race, Gephardt said that he and Dean disagree on Medicare, trade, guns, and the war in Iraq. He called himself the candidate of “bold, big, and realistic ideas” and said he was inspired when he was young by President Kennedy’s call to public service. “Give back to your country,” he told the Kennedy School audience. “Don’t just take from it.”