In their debate
Sunday night in Manchester, N.H., Democratic presidential
candidates clashed on Iraq and over the security of the
country since the September 11, 2001, terror
attacks--but they were united in their
opposition to "don't ask, don't tell."
candidates raised their hands when asked by moderator Wolf
Blitzer if they would get rid of the ''don't ask, don't
tell'' policy on gays in the military instituted by
Was it a mistake?
Clinton said her husband's 1993 formulation ''was a
transition policy,'' but one that is no longer valid.
She said it is
being ''implemented in a discriminatory manner'' and has
been used to discharge Arabic linguists when such
translators are in short supply.
On the Iraq war,
former North Carolina senator John Edwards, trailing
both New York senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Illinois
senator Barack Obama in national polls, criticized
their cautious approach in forcing President Bush to
withdraw troops from Iraq.
members of Congress spoke out ''loudly and clearly'' last
month against legislation to pay for the war through
September but without a withdrawal timetable, ''others
did not,'' Edwards said.
quietly to the floor of the Senate, cast the right vote. But
there is a difference between leadership and legislating,''
Edwards told his rivals during the second Democratic
Both Clinton and
Obama voted against the bill, which passed, but without
making a strong case against the legislation.
''I think it's
obvious who I'm talking about,'' Edwards said.
with Edwards, both in his comments on her role on Iraq
and in his characterization of Bush's global war on
terrorism as a ''political slogan, a bumper sticker.''
As a New Yorker,
''I have seen firsthand the terrible damage that can be
inflicted on our country by a small band of terrorists,''
Still, she said,
''I believe we are safer than we were.''
At the conclusion
of the two-hour debate, the candidates were asked what
their top priority would be for their first 100 days in
''travel the world'' and ''reestablish America's moral
home U.S. troops from Iraq.
home U.S. troops and push for national health care.
governor Bill Richardson: upgrade U.S. schools and push a
$40,000-a-year minimum wage for teachers.
senator Joe Biden: end the war in Iraq and defuse tensions
with Iran and North Korea.
representative Dennis Kucinich: help ''reshape the world for
peace'' and end all nuclear weapons.
senator Mike Gravel: Remind congressional leaders they
can end the war in Iraq now.
senator Chris Dodd: ''Restore constitutional rights in this
sought to highlight their own differences on the war in
Edwards, who voted in October 2002 to authorize the war in
Iraq but now says that the vote was a mistake: ''John,
you're about 4 1/2 years late on leadership on this
Obama was not in
the Senate at the time of the vote but had voiced
opposition to the war resolution at the time.
''He was right, I was wrong'' on opposing the war from
the beginning. And Edwards sought to highlight his change of
heart on his vote with Clinton's continuing refusal to
disavow her vote for the war resolution.
''That was a sincere vote.''
declined to say her vote was wrong.
Kucinich said the
war on Iraq should not just be blamed on Bush but on
the Congress that authorized it.
''never should have been sent there in the first place,'' he
said. Rather than debate timetables and benchmarks, the
Democratic-controlled Congress should ''just say no money,
the war's over,'' he said.
To a question on
whether English should be the official language in the
United States, only former Alaska senator Mike Gravel raised
his hand in the affirmative.
protested the question itself, calling it ''the kind of
question that was designed precisely to divide us.'' He said
such questions ''do a disservice to the American
Asked what role
former president Clinton would play in a new Democratic
White House, Senator Clinton said, ''Bill Clinton, my dear
husband, would be sent around the world as a roving
Obama ducked the
question. Richardson said he would send the former
president to the Middle East as a peace envoy. Gravel said
he would use him as a traveling goodwill ambassador.
''He can take his wife with him, she'll still be in
the Senate,'' Gravel said to laughter.
challenged Obama, who recently unveiled his health care
plan, on the need for universal coverage. Edwards was the
first Democratic candidate to offer a proposal and he
complained that Obama's plan falls short of offering
split on ways to pressure the government of Sudan to end
violence in its Darfur region, where more than 200,000
people have been killed in four years of fighting
between local rebels and government forces.
suggested leaning on China, up to a possible threatened
boycott of the 2008 summer Olympics, to pressure Sudan to
allow in more U.N. peacekeepers.
to say whether she would use military force in Darfur,
saying she didn't want to ''talk about these
squared off as a new national poll found Clinton
maintaining a significant lead over her rivals. The
Washington Post/ABC News poll found the former
first lady leading the field with 42% support among adults,
compared with 27% for Obama and 11% for Edwards.
CNN, WMUR-TV, and
The New Hampshire Union Leader presented
the debate. (Beth Fouhy, AP)