Saturday, September 25, 2004

Updated Saturday, September 25, 2004, revised at 9:25 pm

W stands for Women? Not according to the one thousand, or so, women, and sprinkling of men at the lunch for Obama, held at the Fairmont Hotel earlier this week.

Barack Obama on John Kerry’s [and Barack’s?] position on the Iraq War- “We now are in a terrible mess in Iraq…”

But, mess or not, does Senator Kerry have a timetable to exit Iraq and should he? Would Obama recommend a timetable to exit Iraq? Would Alan Keyes?

Perhaps a topic worth debating. A second televised Obama-Keyes debate? To supplement the already scheduled televised debate, televised forum and radio debate?
Let the debates begin.

Kerry v. Bush; Keyes v. Obama. A choice, not an Echo.
Jeff Berkowitz: We are standing here [Fairmont Chicago Hotel] on September 23 [2004] and we are speaking with Barack Obama, the Democratic Candidate for the United States Senate. Barack just finished speaking to what, Eight hundred? One Thousand women-- Women for Obama. One of the things that just came up in the news is John Kerry-- your Presidential candidate seems to have shifted his views slightly on the [Iraq] War. One, do you understand his position on the War and [two], do you support it?

Barack Obama: Well, his position on the War is that he felt it was important to give authorization to the President to enhance his leverage in negotiating a disarmament of Iraq. He feels that the President completely abused that authority and as a consequence of extraordinary bad planning, we now are in a terrible mess in Iraq and I have no doubt that a John Kerry presidency is going to be more effective in not only reconstructing Iraq but, more importantly, helping with our overall national security in the War on Terrorism than the current mishaps of the administration have displayed so far.

Berkowitz: Has John Kerry articulated a timetable to leave Iraq- starting in the summer of 2005 and completing it in four years- and, if so, is that a mistake? To articulate that kind of timetable?

Obama: You know, what I have heard John Kerry say- and I don’t want to characterize his message- because I have been busy in my own campaign, but I think what he has essentially said is [that] he can’t anticipate what conditions are going to be on the ground when he assumes power on January 20th. What he can paint is a broad picture of the ingredients that are needed for this reconstruction process to proceed, which includes actually building a security force of Iraqis that can provide basic law and order, making sure that we are putting the money in for the reconstruction that have already been appropriated by Congress but somehow have not actually hit the ground. Internationalizing the process- even though we know we may not get German and French troops in, at least getting them to participate in the process of training and investing in the Country. So, there are a whole host of steps that I think he [Kerry] has outlined- what exactly he is going to be able to accomplish when he is sworn in as the next President of the United States? It is too early to tell because the conditions have been so volatile over there.
Democratic U. S. Senate Candidate Barack Obama, interviewed by “Public Affairs,” show host and legal recruiter Jeff Berkowitz, after Obama spoke on September 23, 2004 at a Fairmont Chicago Hotel lunch event of “Women for Obama.”

We realize that Barack Obama was answering the above foreign policy question on the fly, and was rushing from one event to another-- when he graciously agreed to spend a few minutes answering questions. However, it does seem that he did not quite answer the questions as to whether John Kerry has a timetable in mind for the U. S. to exit Iraq and what does Barack think of Kerry’s position on that issue?

The New York Times reported on Senator Kerry’s September 6, 2004 Labor Day speech in Cleveland, stating, Mr. Kerry brand[ed] it [the Iraq War] "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time" and saying he [Kerry] wanted all American troops home within four years, while Mr. Bush defended the war as "right for America then and it's right for America now." New York Times, online edition, September 7, 2004.

The Wall St. Journal editorial page, in commenting on Senator Kerry’s New York University speech of Monday of this week, advises: “Mr. Kerry would be on stronger ground if his criticism of Mr. Bush’s war management included a vow to win the war, rather than a promise to leave Iraq at the earliest possible moment.”

The Journal goes on to argue that John Kerry is offering, “A minimalist conception of the war on terror, focused on Al Qaeda and a rapid exit from Iraq. Mr. Bush spoke to the United Nations yesterday again pushing his democracy-for- the-Middle-East line. No one will be able to say voters weren’t offered a clear foreign policy choice come November.” Wall St. Journal, September 22, 2004, p. 28.

It certainly sounds as if the New York Times and the Wall St. Journal think that Senator Kerry has a timetable to exit from Iraq. Of course, they apparently differ on whether such a timetable is a good idea. It also appears as if President Bush does not have a timetable to exit Iraq and if he does, he is not announcing it.

The issue of whether Senator John Kerry and President George Bush have timetables for the U. S. to exit Iraq, and whether that would be good public policy, will most likely be addressed in the Presidential Debate this coming Thursday night. But, when will it be addressed by Senate candidates Alan Keyes and Barack Obama? In one of their two scheduled televised debate/forums in late October? And, how will they address it? Shouldn't we have that discussion in a televised debate a little sooner than that?

Indeed, it was Democrat Barack Obama who proposed, in June, a series of six "statewide Lincoln-Douglas-style debates in the race for the United States Senate." And, now with 37 days left in the campaign, Obama apparently is holding to his position that he will agree only to one televised debate [WTTW] and a Leaque of Women Voters/Ch. 7 "candidate forum," both of which will be in Chicago. In addition, Obama has agreed only to one radio debate [Illinois Radio Network] in Springfield.

Shouldn't we go back to the six televised debates proposal of Barack Obama. Indeed, why not get Keyes and Obama in a room, say next week, and ask them the question about Iraq timetables and a few additional questions. We would ask the candidates to discuss their respective answers, with follow-ups by each other and the moderator, on television. I am happy to offer them the “Public Affairs,” studio and our television production staff, and, of course, myself, as the moderator.

Sounds like an offer they can't refuse.
Jeff Berkowitz, host and producer of “Public Affairs,” and a legal recruiter, can be reached at