( - promoted by Matt Stoller)
Bill Richardson just put out an interesting action alert:
All the major Democratic candidates say they are eager to end this war, and they all say they don't believe there is a military solution in Iraq. Why, then, do they maintain that we must leave an indefinite number of troops behind for an indeterminate amount of time to work hopelessly towards a military solution everyone says doesn't exist?
It is time to get a straight answer from all the other candidates: how many troops would you leave behind? For how long?
We can help make sure we get the clear answers we deserve. Sign our petition asking Univision, the sponsors of the next Democratic candidates' debate on September 9th, to get an answer from each candidate: how many troops would you leave behind? For how long?
I applaud Richardson's efforts on this front, just as I applauded MSNBC when they attempted to get straight answers from candidates on how many troops they intend to leave in Iraq if they become President. However, if my experience on this front is any indication, even if this question is asked at the Univision debate, in all likelihood no one except Richardson and Biden will answer the question (Kucinich and Gravel might, since it is hard to predict what they do). The question will be labeled hypothetical, and the response will be that they will listen to the commanders on the ground. And then, the debate will move on to the next question.
The more I think about this dodge from Clinton, Obama, and Edwards on how many troops they intend to leave in Iraq, the angrier I become. Why is an inquiry into how many troops they intend to leave in Iraq a hypothetical question not worthy of an answer, but inquiries into how much their health care plans will reduce the cost of insurance premiums a hypoethical question worthy of prominently displaying an answer to on your website? For example, take Hillary Clinton on lowering health care costs:
Senator Clinton proposed a series of initiatives that will cut the spiraling rate of growth by one-third over time(…)
Senator Clinton's proposals would reduce costs and improve quality in the health care system. Taken together they would lower national health spending by at least $120 billion dollars a year. If businesses received a proportionate reduction in their health benefits spending, they would achieve at least $25 billion in savings in 2004 dollars. Families would substantially benefit as well. In fact, Business Roundtable has estimated $2,200 in national health savings for the typical family.
Now, pardon me for asking, but isn't every single one of these projections "hypothetical?" Senator Clinton does not know for certain exactly how much her initiatives will reduce the growth rate of insurance premiums, exactly how much it would lower health care spending nationwide, exactly how much it would save businesses, or how much it would save the average family. However, her campaign has no problem shouting all of these hypothetical estimates at the top of its voice. Why are these hypothetical questions worth answering, but not estimates on how many troops Senator Clinton would leave in Iraq?
John Edwards on poverty:
Edwards has outlined a Working Society initiative to lift 12 million Americans out of poverty in a decade and beat poverty over the next 30 years.
Get hypothetical much? Edwards provides a specific estimate on how many Americans his anti-poverty initiatives will raise out of poverty, 12,000,000, but will not provide an estimate on how many American troops he intends to leave in Iraq. Maybe it is just me, but that seems like a double standard on what hypothetical projections his campaign is willing to make, and which ones it is not willing to make.
Barack Obama on energy:
Barack Obama has proposed bold initiatives to put America on the path to a clean and secure energy future. Obama supports implementation of a bold market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce dependence on foreign oil and nonrenewable, polluting sources of energy. Obama will also dramatically increase federal investment in advanced clean-energy technologies and energy efficiency. The Obama plan to create an energy independent America will cut U.S. oil consumption by 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, take 50 million cars worth of pollution off the road, and save American consumers more than $50 billion at the gas pump.(…)
Barack Obama supports implementation of a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.
Did the definition of hypothetical change in the last couple of months? Apparently, the Obama campaign is willing to estimate how much his energy plan will cut oil consumption, how much it will cut automobile pollution, how much money it will save American consumers, and how much it will reduce carbon emissions 43 years from now. However, his campaign is not willing to estimate how many troops he would have in Iraq in just two years time.
The refusal to provide an estimate for how many troops Clinton, Edwards and Obama has nothing to do with a refusal to engage in hypotheticals. Presidential campaigns are clearly willing to dish out hypothetical numbers all the time on issues like health care and energy costs, or issues like reducing poverty and pollution, as long as their internal hypothetical numbers make them look good. As such, the only conclusions I can draw from repeated unwillingness of these campaigns to estimate how many troops they would leave in Iraq is that they either have no idea how many troops they would leave in Iraq, or the actual estimated figure would make these campaigns look very, very bad to the base. Either conclusion is disturbing should serve as the operating assumptions for every Democratic voter until these leading campaigns provide an actual estimate.
Right now, Bill Richardson is the only Democrat providing clarity on Iraq. I am not endorsing him, but I certainly hope he keeps rising in Iowa and New Hampshire using he transparent, progressive, "no residual force" position on Iraq. Richardson's Iraq stance is the equivalent of Howard Dean's differentiation in 2003, when he rocketed upward in the polls in large measure because he opposed the war from the start. While there are other attributes of Richardson that have prevented him from becoming a major netroots candidate, clearly what he is saying on Iraq is working big time in the early states. I have to say that brings a smile to my face.