Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards have said that all the candidates have about the same position on Iraq. Well, that is just not true. I would pull all of our troops out as quickly as possible. I would not leave any combat troops behind. They all would leave troops behind indefinitely -- up to 75,000 by some estimates. That is a serious difference; American lives hang in the balance.
Over the past few days, General David Petraeus has stood up and clearly stated his position on the war to the American people. I respect him for doing so. He is doing the best he can to support the George Bush-Dick Cheney position on Iraq. The problem is that the position is disastrous. There is no longer a military solution to the debacle in Iraq. Numerous independent reports confirm the obvious: we are not making real strategic progress. Our troops are dying in the midst of a civil war. The Iraqis will not take the necessary steps toward political reconciliation until we make it clear that we are leaving their country for good.
Unlike General Petraeus, some of my opponents in the race for the Democratic nomination have been less forthcoming about their positions. At the ABC presidential debate in Des Moines, Iowa, I asked the other candidates point blank: How many troops would you leave behind? 25,000? 50,000? 75,000? For how long would you leave them?
I did not get an answer. I am still waiting -- and so are the American people. We got into this mess in Iraq because we did not pay enough attention. We did not scrutinize exactly what our leaders were telling us. Now is the time to debate these matters in detail, not after we have picked our nominee. I have laid out my plans explicitly. Unlike some in this race, you know where I stand. Our troops have performed magnificently, but they have become targets in a civil war. We must get all of our troops out and get them out now. I believe any plan short of this unnecessarily risks extending a tragic war. Only when all of our troops are out can the diplomatic work begin to reconcile the parties, rebuild the country, and stabilize the region.
I am the one candidate in this race with a straightforward plan to end this war and the international experience to make it happen.
Education is the key to our country's future. It may not be a sexy topic, but it should be one of the top issues discussed in this presidential campaign. We can no longer turn our backs on the needs of our public schools and teachers. We must once and for all get rid of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). In many urban areas of this nation, nearly half of the students don't graduate from high school on time. That is unacceptable in America! When I am president, we are going to bring real help to our public schools. Pay higher wages to teachers. Create math and science innovation academies so our kids can compete in the 21st century. As president, I will set a national goal- American students will be #1 in the world in math and science within 15 years.
President Bush promised to be the education president. That promise got about as far as his promise not to run an arrogant foreign policy. NCLB has been a failure because like everything else the Bush administration does, after the photo-ops, the policy got stuck in a drawer and forgotten about. Well, we cannot afford to forget about our children. Schools that are in trouble need help, not punishment. That is the basic problem with NCLB -- it hurts the schools that most need help. Few things motivate me more to serve as President of the United States than the opportunity to lead on the issue of education.
The quality of life for your child should not depend on how much money you make. Health care is literally a life and death issue for large segments of our country. We have a moral obligation to act. My plan would guarantee affordable coverage for every American. The plan will achieve its goal without creating new levels of bureaucracy. Anyone can choose to keep his or her own coverage if so desired. For veterans, I will create a Heroes' Health Card to provide the care they need. We cannot afford to fail on health care -- we need a president with a record of getting things done. In New Mexico, I offered coverage for every child under the age of 12. My "Insure New Mexico" initiative expanded health insurance for working families. I increased the number of immunizations and doubled the number of school health clinics for children. Universal coverage is not merely a pipe dreamv -- I will implement it. I am the candidate with a record of results.