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Los Angeles Times Q & A

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2004 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION / THE DEMOCRATIC HOPEFULS Q & A

Q:Should we have gone to war in Iraq? What would you have done differently?

A: I voted to disarm Saddam Hussein, and I believe I voted responsibly I think President Bush made an enormous mistake in not building a broader coalition or winning the support of the United Nations because, after all, Saddam Hussein broke an agreement with the world, not just the United States. If we'd secured a broader coalition, and we could have, the work of postwar Iraq would be far easier.

Q: How would you try to stop the development of nuclear weapons in North Korea and Iran?

A: First, we must ensure that Iran scrupulously adheres to all of its nonproliferation obligations and work internationally to respond to any violation. But we must do more. We should be prepared to engage with the current regime in areas of mutual interest, such as terrorism and the drug trade, if that government takes real steps to address our security concerns. At the same time, we must work to support the active and legitimate reform movement that has overwhelming support of the Iranian people North Korea is a failed state that survives on subsidies and blackmail We need a comprehensive solution with core elements: no nuclear weapons in North Korea; a broad-based strategy that talks to economic and other issues, as well as military. We need to do all this in lock step with our allies.

Q: What will be America's greatest foreign policy challenge in the next 20 years?

A: A new ideology of hatred and intolerance has arisen to challenge America and liberal democracy. Of course we need to hunt down and destroy those who are plotting mass murder against Americans and innocent people from Africa to Asia to Europe. We must drain the swamps of terrorists, but you don't have a prayer of doing so if you leave the poisoned sources to gather and flow again. That means we must help the vast majority of people of the greater Middle East build a better future. We need to illuminate an alternative path to a futile jihad against the world a path that leads to deeper integration of the greater Middle East into the modern world order.

Q: Should income taxes be cut? If so, how? If not, why not?

A: We can't afford the president's high-end tax cuts because they're unaffordable and ineffective in growing our economy. We need to stop the new Bush tax cuts for Americans who make over $314,000 a year and instead restore fiscal discipline, give a payroll-tax holiday to every working American, close the offshore Cayman Islands tax shelters that allow corporations to avoid paying their fair share, and focus on sound economic policy that creates growth which helps all Americans.

Q: How would you provide health-care coverage to the uninsured?

A: My plan [involving small-business tax credits and a state-federal swap of responsibilities for covering many of the uninsured poor] helps every American afford the same health care the president, vice president and members of Congress give themselves My plan is different because it makes a priority of both holding down costs and expanding coverage. It will cover almost all Americans, cover all of our children, and give our veterans the support they've earned.

Q: What are the most important steps the federal government can take to invigorate the economy?

A: I want to create jobs now by giving a middle-class tax cut through a payroll-tax holiday that puts money in the pockets of all workers now; by restoring confidence in our economy with fiscal responsibility the way President Clinton did over eight years; by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to lift more working-poor families out of poverty; by investing in schools, cities, transportation, housing, rural communities; by investing in the jobs of the future through a plan to declare energy independence — and put Americans back to work.

Q: As president, would you propose a plan to bring the federal budget back into balance by a specific date?

A: Our economy and the federal budget are in such a mess that no one can realistically promise a balanced budget tomorrow We have to restore long-term confidence in our government with budget and tax reform — simplifying the tax code and making sure it puts the interests of all Americans ahead of the special interests, closing tax loopholes and cutting corporate welfare We must take a hard look at federal spending I've joined John McCain in calling for a "Corporate Subsidy Reform Commission" modeled after the military-base-closing commission. A bipartisan group would recommend corporate subsidies to be eliminated and Congress would vote up or down on the entire package.

Q: Would you explicitly require that anyone you nominate to the Supreme Court commit to upholding the Roe vs. Wade decision that guaranteed a legal right to abortion?

A: I'd appoint Supreme Court justices who agree that the right to privacy — the bedrock of Roe vs. Wade — is a constitutional right. I believe that, after years of Republican court-packing and a Bush administration which has argued the need for "conservative" judicial appointments, it's imperative that we stop ideological efforts to take us backwards Moreover, when I am president of the United States, there will be no John Ashcroft trampling on the Bill of Rights.

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