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January 23, 2004
Copyright © 2004 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved. 

What Democrat Would Be Best For Puerto Rico as President?

When Puerto Rico’s 58-person delegation arrives at the Democratic Party’s Convention in Boston this summer, it could well be that their votes will be pivotal in selecting the man who will oppose Republican President George W. Bush in the November election.

This week, Herald readers have the chance to participate in a virtual selection process and, in so doing, advise the Puerto Rican Delegation to the Democratic National Convention to be held in July.

After the January 19th Iowa Caucus, wherein the previous front-runner, Vermont’s Governor Howard Dean was humiliated by a third place finish behind Senators John Kerry and John Edwards, who placed first and second, respectively, some pundits predicted that, for the first time in decades, the selection of a candidate could be determined by the national party convention. In such a case, a delegation as large as Puerto Rico’s could be pivotal in selecting the winner.

Puerto Rico Senator Kenneth McClintock, who will be in that delegation, thinks that possibility is a long shot. "It’s way too early to be predicting such a scenario," he told the Herald.

The large field of Democratic hopefuls — at one time it was as large as twelve -- has been winnowed to eight, with the relatively unknown Indiana military retiree Bill Pearman informing the Herald that he will be withdrawing next week. Also abandoning the race at various times were Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun, Florida Senator Bob Graham, and Missouri Congressman Richard "Dick" Gephardt, who announced his departure after a poor showing in Iowa last Monday.

Remaining in contention, besides Dean, Kerry and Edwards are retired Army General Wesley K. Clark, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman and Activist Rev. Al Sharpton. Gadfly protester Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr., a Virginia man who has run for decades under different political party banners, has announced this year as a Democrat, but is given no chance to gain traction as a candidate.

The campaign, already featuring numerous group debates wherein each primary hopeful strove to separate him or herself from the pack, has had at least one unifying theme, strong opposition to incumbent President George W. Bush. Opposition to his conduct of the war in Iraq, or at least his reasons for initiating the war, has been an almost universally expressed theme. The notable exception to this has been Senator Joe Lieberman, who instead has stressed his generally liberal stand on social issues, positions that have made him a solid friend of Puerto Rico in the U.S. Senate. Also, Lieberman is a strong supporter of a self-determination process for Puerto Rico.

Other complaints about the Bush administration expressed by candidates are the lack-luster economy, the high unemployment rate, the mounting deficit, a tax policy that favors the rich, the lack of universal health coverage, savaging of the Social Security system and the perceived tendency for the administration to favor special interest groups, especially those who represent the extractive industries and Wall Street.

On foreign policy, Democratic candidates almost universally bemoan the tendency for the United States to "go it alone" on the world stage, ignoring the counsel and eschewing the cooperation of traditional allies.

These themes have gained traction among primary voters, as polls show the reelection of President Bush as less than the foregone conclusion it was assumed to be when the Democratic Primary Campaign began. A recent Zogby poll shows Bush vulnerable in a race against a generic Democrat. Also, his approval rating — once astronomical — is now about 50%-50% among Americans who approve or disapprove of his performance.

For this reason, Democratic primary voters will be looking at the factor of "electability," as they choose among the candidates in the various state primaries. General Wesley K. Clark, stresses this in his appeal to the voters. The former NATO Commander and architect of the U.N.’s suppression of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, argues that as President, he would internationalize Iraq’s reconstruction and repair U.S. relations with the United Nations.

Those watching last night’s candidate debate from New Hampshire could detect in each candidate’s demeanor his awareness of voter scrutiny as to his relative electability in a future contest against incumbent President Bush.

Puerto Rico will select the majority of its delegates to the convention beginning on June 6, 2004, when caucuses will be held in each of the eight Senatorial Districts, with seven of them selecting four delegates and one selecting five, for a total of 33 individuals, each pledged to an individual candidate through the first convention ballot. Then, on June 13, 2004, a Puerto Rico Democratic Party Assembly will name twenty "at-large" delegates. Rounding out the total are five "super delegates" whose identities are already known: Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, current Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner in the US Congress; Roberto Prats, the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Resident Commissioner Candidate in the 2004 election; Dr. Cecelia Arroyo; Sen. Miguel Lausell; and, as mentioned, New Progressive Party (NPP) senator Kenneth McClintock.

In a bipartisan alliance, McClintock and Acevedo Vilá have already endorsed Vermont Governor Howard Dean. According to the statehood-advocating McClintock, Howard Dean has privately expressed support for Puerto Rico self-determination but has yet to make a public statement to that effect. "It worries me that the candidate I endorsed has not publicly expressed his position regarding the status issue," McClintock said to reporters recently.

About other Democrats in the Presidential race, McClintock characterized John Kerry as "knowledgeable about Puerto Rico, a supporter of self-determination." He also praised the Massachusetts Senator for his opposition to the 956 economic development plan favored by the Commonwealth Party.

Senator McClintock also commended General Wesley Clark’s reasoned anti-war stand and his recent written statement titled "Complying with the United States’ promise to Puerto Rico," in which he promised, if elected President, to support a political status referendum offering voters three option: independence, free association and statehood. "The options should be constitutionally feasible," Clark said, implying that an enhanced version of the Commonwealth arrangement was not.

McClintock remarked that Senator John Edwards had yet to express himself on Puerto Rico issues, but made it clear that he and all of the Democratic candidates should do so. "(They) will have to define what will be the position of (their) White House regarding Puerto Rico."

Many will remember that Rev. Al Sharpton was an active protestor in the effort to remove the U.S. Navy from its training grounds in Vieques. Congressman Dennis Kucinich was also a visitor to Vieques and a supporter of the Navy pullout. Also, in 1998, he voted with the majority in favor of the "Young Bill" (H.R. 856) legislation that, if it had been passed by the Senate, would have given Puerto Rico a Congressionally authorized process to achieve a permanent political status.

After the New Hampshire Primary concludes next Tuesday, it is possible that several leaders will emerge to enter into the many contests that await them in the south and west. It is also possible that others will drop out of the race as support for their candidacies wanes.

As things presently stand, however, the Herald offers the following candidates for your consideration. Please choose the one you think would be the best President for Puerto Rico’s interests.

General Wesley K. Clark

Governor Howard Dean

Senator John Edwards

Senator John Kerry

Congressman Dennis Kucinich

Senator Joe Lieberman

Rev. Al Sharpton

Please vote above!

This Week's Question:

What Democrat Would Be Best For Puerto Rico as President?

 (Mainland Residents, please vote in the left column; PR Residents vote on the right)

US . Residents
. PR
General Wesley K. Clark

11% Governor Howard Dean

9% Senator John Edwards

24% Senator John Kerry

9% Congressman Dennis Kucinich

9% Senator Joe Lieberman

10% Rev. Al Sharpton



.To submit your idea for a future PR Herald poll question or "Hot Button" issue, please click here.

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