Candidates discuss Iraq war, Korea and economy

Charley Bruce

Democrats need six seats to take the majority in the U.S. Senate, and Minnesota’s race is one of the hottest races in the country.

Tim Russert of MSNBC’s “Meet the Press” hosted a debate between U.S. Senatorial candidates Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy and Democrat Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, where issues like North Korea, the war in Iraq and the economy were aggressively discussed.

A Star Tribune poll conducted Oct. 6 through Oct. 11 put Klobuchar ahead with 55 percent compared to Kennedy with 34 percent. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.4 percent.

North Korea’s nuclear testing

Russert’s first question about North Korea and its nuclear ambitions went to Kennedy.

“I think we need to continue to ratchet up the diplomatic efforts,” Kennedy said.

Every diplomatic channel needs to be pushed to achieve a peaceful end to the situation, he said.

He also said he wants more pressure from China to influence North Korea’s actions.

Klobuchar said she doesn’t want North Korea’s nuclear capabilities to lead to an arms race.

“We can’t have North Korea begin to be some kind of weapons factory,” she said.

There needs to be multilateral discussions creating diplomatic pressure like it did in the Cold War, Klobuchar said.

“We have to keep talking,” she said.

The war in Iraq

Russert’s next question delved into a statement Kennedy made after a 2003 trip to Iraq, when Kennedy said the trends in Iraq were very positive overall.

It was “a bit optimistic,” and the United States has faced more challenges than expected, Kennedy said.

But he said the United States has trained 300,000 troops and a unity government has been created.

He said he thinks the troops should be brought home, but not until the terrorists would be unable to take Iraq once U.S. forces are no longer there.

Kennedy stood by his vote to go to war in Iraq.

“We acted on the information we knew at the time and acted correctly,” he said.

Kennedy said he supports the needs and decisions of commanders on the ground in Iraq.

Klobuchar said she wants more leadership from Washington on Iraq.

Russert questioned Klobuchar’s claim she wants to bring home a significant number of troops home by 2007, which is only months away.

She said she blamed her incorrect claims on faulty predictions and promises of progress given by the Bush administration.

Klobuchar said the war has devolved into a civil war. The solution, she said, will not come with more boots on the ground, but through diplomatic and political solutions, which have brought peace in more difficult situations.

“This war, as of Thanksgiving, will have lasted longer than World War II,” she said.

The economy

Russert changed topics to domestic issues like Klobuchar’s idea to roll back the Bush tax cut on those making more than $200,000 a year to raise revenue.

Kennedy said the Bush tax relief helped add 6 million new jobs and helps families and small businesses keep their “hard-earned money,” but the government needs to keep discretionary spending under control.

“I would like the president to take a little more leadership on spending,” Kennedy said.

Russert asked Klobuchar why she would impose tax increases on families and small businesses.

Klobuchar said this administration and Congress turned a $200 billion surplus into a $250 billion deficit.

This hurts Minnesotans because one of every 12 tax dollars goes to pay interest on debt, she said.

She said she wants to return to the pay-as-you-go model in place under the Clinton administration, get rid of no-bid contracts and reduce oil and drug subsidies to save money.

Kennedy said Minnesotans agree with his tax policies.

“People are supporting my policies of keeping spending under control so we can keep taxes low,” Kennedy said.