With Carol Moseley Braun
Democratic Presidential Candidate
Monday, May 12, 2003; 12:30 p.m. ET
Which of the nine Democrats currently seeking the 2004 presidential nomination have the best chance of removing President Bush from the White House? What issues should Democrats focus on during the campaign? What are the biggest obstacles for the candidates over the next 18 months?
Former ambassador and Illinois senator Carol Moseley Braun was online to discuss politics and the road to the 2004 election.
After representing Illinois in the U.S. Senate between 1992-98, Braun served as U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand. She has since taught law and political science at Morris Brown College and DePaul University, and started a business consultancy in Chicago.
The transcript follows.
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Carol Moseley Braun: Hello. This is Carol Moseley Braun, undertaking my first foray into the Washington Post's political chatroom. Before I take up your questions, and I will try to respond to as many as time will allow, I would like to tell you why I am running for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Democrats have an opportunity, and an obligation, to provide the American people with a vision and a program for this country that challenges the course the current Republican administration has taken. I want to rebuild America, both physically and spiritually, and employ specific responses to put us on a course of greater security and harmony for all Americans. I want to restore hope and idealism about our country both here at home and abroad, and engage with the rest of the world in ways that encourage support for democratic systems and human rights, and respect for individual liberty. I want our government to respect personal privacy and employ fiscal policies that promote individual opportunity. I want to reinvigorate our productive capacity, not only by encouraging investment in our manufacturing sector, but by investment in human capital: educational opportunities for lifetime learning will give our country the foundations for participation in this global economy in ways that can sustain the American dream. I believe that women have a role to play in leading this country toward its restoration, and that my credentials and experience make me uniquely qualified to rebuild America.
Ashburn, Va.: What specifically would you do to improve the national economy, and what role, if any, would a reduction in taxes play?
Carol Moseley Braun: The national economy will improve when businesses start to invest again, when consumers start to spend again, when foreigners buy our products and send us their investment, and when the engine of economic growth, our productive sector, is primed to create jobs. None of this is happening now, indeed, we face rising unemployment, possible price deflation and record level deficits that a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans will not remedy. The version of trickle down economics being practiced by this Administration has been discredited so many times in the past. We need to encourage savings and investment in ways that this current climate of uncertainty does not do. Specifically, I would take an approach similar to that embraced by Clinton's economic team at the outset of his administration: increase government spending in infrastructure (rebuild schools, roads, water treatment, security); take the cap off of the social security tax and reduce payroll taxes by a commensurate amount to encourage consumer spending; close tax loopholes and look at revising or repealing tax expenditures to raise revenue; and tackle long term unemployment by creating public service jobs.
Alexandria, Va.: To say that the 2004 Presidential election will prove challenging for the Democratic party would be an understatement. What obstacles do you plan to target during your campaign, and what challenges do you think the Democratic Party must work on together in order to have a successful election year?
Carol Moseley Braun: I want to rebuild America. My campaign will demonstrate that a woman can lead this nation toward peace, prosperity and progress, but transforming the way we do business to address the expectations and needs of all parts of our American community. My voice will be a voice for those who see the potential of domestic harmony and of our tapping the talents of 100 percent of our people in behalf of the public interest. My campaign will challenge the pandering to fear and division that is tragically being pursued by this administration, and will inspire hope and activism among people who despair that our national government does not see or care about their needs or concerns. Democrats have to make the case to the American people that we are the party of peace and prosperity and security and harmony, and that we represent change that will reinvigorate the American dream.
Chicago, Ill.: Please tell us why you did not support the war with Iraq. If we had not gone to war with Iraq, Saddam Hussein would still be in charge. Is that acceptable to you?
Carol Moseley Braun: The war with Iraq was one of choice, not necessity. This President (who did not win the popular vote) was given an arguably unconstitutional grant of authority by the Congress (Article I requires the Congress to declare war) to pulverize a country the size of Arizona in pursuit of a horrible dictator that our finances had installed and left in place after the '91 war. The rationale for going in shifted from getting the terrorists (in spite of the fact that bin Laden is still not caught and no Iraqi's were in those planes on 9/11) to looking for weapons of mass destruction (which still have not been found) to protecting human rights (by leaving scores of innocent people dead, antiquities looted, and American soldiers put in harms way) to installing democracy (in spite of the fact that it now is more likely that a Taliban type radical faction will take charge). The damage done to our international relations and international institutions is profound and will be long lasting, and the cynicism of paying "coalition members" off with money and contracts is appalling. We have sacrificed our own civil liberties, and your personal emails are subject to be monitored for no court-approved reason. The cost in dollars is borne almost exclusively by the American people. The $79 billion supplemental appropriation plus the $20 billion (est) cost of occupation, plus the open ended but possible $300 billion cost of reconstruction would have been better employed building schools in Chicago and elsewhere, providing states and local governments with the supplemental support they need to continue to provide health care to poor children, investing in job creation at home, making a down payment on deficit reduction. While none of us, particularly VietNam era people, wanted our troops to feel anything but honor in how they performed, this administration had no good reason, in my opinion, to put them in harms way to begin with. We will all pay the cost of almost universal enmity as we finance the rebuilding of Iraq by American companies that did not have to bid for the contracts, while our own country crumbles. I am for rebuilding America first....
Boston, Mass.: Ambassador,
While many people agree with your ideas and certainly would like to see you as the Democratic nominee, many of those same people argue that you are simply not going to be able to raise the kind of money that it will take to defeat any of your Democratic colleagues or President Bush. In an age when politics, unfortunately, is controlled so much by money, how are you going to win?
Carol Moseley Braun: We all have a stake in forcing our political processes to allow people to participate who are not rich or sponsored by the rich. Fundraising is excruciatingly hard, and it is not likely that I will raise the same amounts of money that my opponents will. I take heart in my own experience as a candidate: people vote for candidates based on what they believe in, and the person who gets the most votes wins. (except in the 2000 Presidential!) I have won elections in the past with less money than other candidates, because I gave people hope and a record of keeping my promises. I am the only former diplomat in this race (I once had a slip of the tongue and said Democrat) and I have more legislative experience than most. I know how to run a campaign, and I will raise enough money to compete. For me, the biggest hurdle is one of belief: that it is time, and that people of all races are ready to vote for a woman who is also African American for President. That is my leap of faith, the money is not nearly as significant. I have won before against the odds, and in this race I am betting that the American people are prepared to take this country to the next level.
Ashburn, Va.: How would you respond to those who suggest you have exhibited a pattern of unethical behavior in your personal and campaign finances?
Carol Moseley Braun: I would simply point them to the official records, which show no such pattern or conduct.
Rockville, Md.: Thank you for considering my question, Ms Braun.
Since the Republican Party gained control of both houses of Congress, it appears to me (a loosely associated Democrat), that the Democratic party is mostly unfocused and divided about how to not only gain some of those seats back, but how to regain the presidency. What would you do to both unify and refocus the party? Also, how can you bring attention to a unified democratic agenda without simply attacking the current administration's policies, which is what I see much of the time these days.
Carol Moseley Braun: Democrats have to show the American people that we have a plan to Rebuild America and revive the American dream. One of my former colleagues, Dale Bumpers, used to say that Democrats give the people peace and prosperity, the Republicans get in and give them depression and war. The truth is, we have to get back to campaign and organizing basics and speak to the interests and concerns of the people who share a vision of America that is inclusive, and vigorous and that works for everyone. We will not win trying to be replicant Republicans, and by dancing to a tune they call. This is a huge challenge, largely because the media is not as accessible to the "loyal opposition" as it is to the party line, and because so many have lost faith in the process. But the very health of our democracy depends on what we do, each of us, to engage in making the process work for all Americans. I am doing what I know to do, and running for President. You are doing your part, by participating in this session. Now WE have to take this conversation to our friends and neighbors, and create a climate of public opinion that is based in reality and that strives toward the best that we can be as a people. When we do that, even in the face of the "Orwellian" hype that has been fed to some of the less sophisticated, we live up to our patriotic responsibility to make this a government of, for and by the people. My Web site is at www.carolforpresident.com. I have to sign off now. Thank you all for your questions, and for participating. Thanks to the Washington Post for providing us with this opportunity.
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