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“I’ve had business people come up to me and say this plan makes sense,” Gephardt claimed. “It is an expensive plan,” he concedes, “and we’d have to get rid of the Bush tax cut to pay for it.” That the voters would be willing to endorse a tax hike for more health-care benefits seems dicey at best. Oregon — not exactly a hotbed of right-wingers — offered its voters this choice last November, and they defeated it by a near 3-to-1 margin.
Gephardt will also have to offer a plan to combat terrorism, and it is here that he seems rather uncomfortable. In Davenport he only mentioned the war on terror in his stump speech at the end; in Dubuque and Bellevue it wasn’t in the speeches at all, although he did talk about it in the question-and-answer period.
He vacillates between supporting President Bush and sounding like a '60s-style liberal. On the one hand he said, “I think we’ve got to do everything in our power to prevent further acts of terrorism. That’s why I voted to deal with Iraq; it’s why I voted to deal with Afghanistan.” On the other, “We need to go at the root causes of terrorism like bad governance and poverty.”
He faulted Bush for not getting U.N. and NATO support for the invasion of Iraq. How would Gephardt get their support? “You have to talk to them. You have to listen to them.” Using sociological terms and proposing what sounds like a group-therapy session isn’t likely to convince many voters that he’s got what it takes to deal with the threat of terrorism.
However, that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Gephardt has to win the nomination before he can move on to the general election, and sounding a bit more like Dean on foreign policy is not a bad way to appeal to primary voters.
Gephardt appears to be playing well the hand that was dealt to him after Dean came along and stole the deck. Bill Burton remarked, “After New Hampshire, it will probably be just Gephardt and Dean.” Here’s betting he’s right.
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