Al vs. the Dems

Presidential Candidate Sharpton Goes After His Party

In the Middle East, can we defuse the tensions? Whatever you do, I feel, in honesty, there will be some tensions for a while. To defuse it long-term, you have to have a consistent policy. I went to the Middle East in 2001, invited by the Foreign Affairs Office, Shimon Peres. I met with him; I met with Arafat. Both of them said what the United States ought to be doing is pushing hard on the Mitchell Accords. Everybody agreed to it; everybody signed off on it. The clout of the Bush administration should have been used to enforce those accords. That has not happened. Bush has, when he's met with the Saudis, said, well, maybe we need to look at Palestine. When he meets with [Israeli prime minister Ariel] Sharon he takes the hard-right view. Sharon does not speak to everybody's sentiment there.

What about easing the tensions with Korea? It's an interesting contradiction. You have Iraq, who we say has weapons of mass destruction, and we're in imminent danger. Even with Powell's stellar performance, we didn't prove anything. It's like indicting someone for murder and going to court proving grand larceny. He proved non-cooperation with the weapons inspectors. He did not prove they had the weapons. He did not prove there was a conspiracy to attack the United States. So, I think the videos and the tapes showed more what they didn't have than what they did. Having said that, we have the suspicion of the weapons of mass destruction and the duplicity of Iraq. With Korea, you know there's weapons, and you know they lied; they admitted they lied. No one explains to me how you're going after someone you think has something, and you're going to engage in protracted dialogue with someone who you know has something and lied to you about it. And I think if there's anything that's blatantly telling about the inconsistency and suspicious motives of the Bush administration, it's that.

Maybe that's because Korea doesn't have oil? Well, that's the most obvious thing that comes to mind. I think that Bush and others' actions have really raised to a lot of us the view that this is about who will control post-Hussein Iraq and the oil fields. Otherwise, why wouldn't Korea be on the top of our list? I listened intently to Bush's state of the union address. One name he never mentioned was bin Laden. He's no longer even beating the drum about bin Laden. So the example I use is: Someone breaks in my house, the police come, I don't tell the police, let's go after the guy who broke in my house, I don't even tell them about a guy up the block who I know has an arsenal. I tell them, there's a guy around the corner who I think has a weapon, and he insulted my daddy 20 years ago.

Sharpton: trying to stop the Dems' rightward drift
photo: Marc Asnin
Sharpton: trying to stop the Dems' rightward drift

How would a war affect the economy? We're already into real deficit spending, with all of the hoopla from the Republicans about balanced budgets. Both Bush and his father perfected deficit spending. Look at this $2.2 trillion budget, $300 billion almost in defense spending, and the war in Iraq is not even in that budget. You have states operating at record budget deficits: California, $34 billion; Texas at $10 billion; New York, $2.2 billion. If we go to war, those deficits are going to skyrocket. And we don't even know where the cost is going to stop. I think it could devastate whatever potential we have for recovery from this recession.

Setting aside the war as a factor, how can we put Americans back to work? We've got to invest in putting them back to work. One, I am going to be pushing a plan of infrastructure redevelopment, a $250 billion, five-year plan—$50 billion a year into the federal deficit to create jobs and rebuild bridges, highways, tunnels, and school buildings, and the ports. Ports redevelopment ought to be part of homeland security. Secondly, I'm working on now—and will release in March—a progressive flat tax proposal where we really deal with taxes from a level of protecting working-class America, not just lower-class America, and not continue these escalating tax cuts for the wealthy. He came up with one last year; now it's the dividend tax cut, more of the same.

Is it time for a jobs program, and how can we target urban communities? There must be a jobs program, not just capital investment programs in inner cities. See, what the Republicans have done is shift everything to creating entrepreneurs, using the empowerment zones to bring retailers into the community. That's not a jobs program. That's why I'm talking about a program to rebuild the infrastructure, not depending upon somebody owning something—there's too many factors between the public and the job. There absolutely must be a government-funded jobs program. Unemployment is higher now than it's been in a decade. And married to that would be a training program. When I was growing up in Brooklyn, we had Manpower Training and Development, the Neighborhood Youth Corps. None of that is there anymore. What is bringing inner-city youth into the mainstream of jobs, even into the culture of work? That is something we can budget and do.

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