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Kiwi-Dems Weigh-in on Bush-Kerry Debate

American Democrats in New Zealand Weigh-in on Bush-Kerry Debate

CHRISTCHURCH —Today’s debate between rival U.S. presidential candidates John Kerry and George W. Bush focussed on foreign policy, with President Bush’s decision to wage war in Iraq taking centre stage. John Kerry admitted he made a mistake voting with a Congressional majority authorising the war, but claimed the president’s decision to wage the war and his misleading justifications for it were bigger mistakes. Kerry pledged to correct both if he is elected in November.

American Democrats watching the debate live in New Zealand say they found Kerry confident, poised and respectful. “George W. Bush wanted this debate about foreign policy because it’s his strong suit. But John Kerry displayed the confidence and competence expected of America’s commander-in-chief,” said Mark Chubb, chair of the Democrats Abroad country committee in New Zealand.

While Bush questioned Kerry’s voting record on the war, his response to Kerry’s accusations that he misled the American people and her allies abroad led many of those watching here to question the president’s values. “The president suggested admitting he made a mistake by taking the decision to invade Iraq would be the wrong thing to do. He argued that changing tack now goes against his core values and would undermine the troops’ morale and other world leaders’ confidence in his abilities. This only indicates how far out of touch he has become: Confidence in and respect for America’s moral leadership is at an all-time low overseas,” said the New Zealand co-chair of Americans Overseas for Kerry, Ronald Nelson.

“Rebuilding relationships with America ’s friends and allies requires a president who isn’t afraid to correct the mistakes of the past to forge a better future,” said Mr Nelson. “If this means abandoning failed foreign policies that repudiate arms control and non-proliferation agreements, damage the natural environment, consume its resources at an unsustainable pace, and undermine efforts to hold all nations accountable to the same standards of international justice while burying future generations under a burgeoning mountain of war-debt, then so much the better.”

Democrats here agreed that a safer, more secure world, free from the scourge of international terrorism cannot be achieved by undermining civil liberties at home or placing the United States ’ interests above those of its friends and allies abroad. “Freedom cannot thrive in an atmosphere of fear and mistrust. John Kerry will restore American credibility by upholding the country’s commitment to human rights, justice and democratic values, while employing force only as a last resort,” said Mr Chubb.

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