Well, the last debate before the vote next week in Iowa, and are we coming together or are we picking each other apart? There wasn’t a lot of love lost in last night’s debate, especially when Al Sharpton railed against Howard Dean about the race issue. Points go to Carol Moseley Braun, who was the civil one in the debate with the poinant, “you can always blow up a racial debate and make people mad at each other. But I think it’s time for us to talk about, what are you going to do to bring people together?”. Bravo, Ambassador Braun! It’s time for the Democrats to start talking about what they can do instead of tearing each other down. Braun and Kucinich have done a damn good job of that during this campaign so far.
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Democrat hopefuls clash over race
By John Whitesides
Des Moines, Iowa
January 13, 2004
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Democrat hopefuls Dick Gephardt, left, Al Sharpton, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman, North Carolina senator John Edwards, Massachusetts senator John Kerry, Carol Moseley Braun and Howard Dean.
America’s Democratic presidential contenders clashed sharply over race in the final debate before the Iowa caucuses on Sunday, with civil rights activist the Reverend Al Sharpton challenging frontrunner Howard Dean’s record on race when he was governor of Vermont.
Barely a week before the January 19 caucuses start the Democratic contest for the White House, Dr Dean conceded under a barrage of questions from Mr Sharpton that he did not have a black or Hispanic in his cabinet during his more than 11 years as governor.
Iowa’s caucuses, the nation’s first, have proved to be a crucial first stop in the race for the presidency. Since its emergence in 1972 as the first caucus of each presidential season, Iowa has played a major role in the presidential nominating process.
“If you want to lecture people on race, you ought to have the background and track record,” said Mr Sharpton, one of two black candidates in the presidential race. The other is former Illinois senator Carol Moseley Braun.
“I will take a back seat to no one in my commitment to civil rights,” Dr Dean said, pointing out that he had the most endorsements from members of the black and Hispanic congressional delegations.
“I think you only need co-signers if your credit is bad,” Mr Sharpton responded.
Dr Dean still leads the nine-strong Democratic field vying for the right to challenge President George Bush in the polls despite relentless attacks from his rivals, who have accused him of making careless and conflicting statements and attacked his plan to repeal all of Mr Bush’s tax cuts.
Some Democrats also have questioned whether Dr Dean, who holds a narrow lead in Iowa polls over Missouri congressman Richard Gephardt heading into the final week before the caucuses, can expand his largely white support and bring blacks and Hispanics to the polls in November.
His home state of Vermont is 96 per cent white. Blacks make up only 2 per cent of the population in Iowa.
Dr Dean resurrected a line he first used during a September debate in Baltimore, which was fed to him by Bill Clinton’s former adviser James Carville during the taping of a television show.
“If the percentage of African-Americans in your state was any indication of what your views on race were, then Trent Lott would be Martin Luther King,” he said, referring to the Republican senator from Mississippi and the slain US civil rights leader.
Senator Braun went after Mr Sharpton after his attack on Dr Dean, telling him “you can always blow up a racial debate and make people mad at each other. But I think it’s time for us to talk about, what are you going to do to bring people together?” she said.
Mr Sharpton said he had heard Dr Dean “lecture” the other Democrats on race throughout the campaign, adding: “I want him to be accountable since he brought up race. That’s not racial hysteria; that is accountability.”
Sunday’s debate between the presidential contenders, was called the Iowa Black and Brown Forum and was designed to focus on racial issues.