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Morning Update: Economy Big in Tense Debate

by Joanna Klonsky
January 22, 2008

In a sometimes hostile discussion, the Democratic debate Monday in South Carolina was dominated by talk of which contender was most able to revive the economy. John Edwards, the only one of the three main candidates whose economic stimulus plan does not include a tax rebate, said his stance on trade is a main distinction between himself and his opponents. Edwards criticized Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-IL) for supporting the recent Peru Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Obama defended his Peru vote, saying the FTA “had labor and environmental agreements.” He criticized Edwards for his vote in favor of permanent trade relations with China, which he said “has been the biggest beneficiary and the biggest problem that we have with respect to trade, particularly because they’re still manipulating the currency.” Clinton sidestepped the trade debate, instead focusing on the details of her own economic plan.

Iraq: Clinton said that despite the decrease in violence in Iraq, she will still withdraw troops, and maintained that the surge has not been successful in accomplishing its larger goals of fostering political reforms. She said the U.S. presidential campaign is motivating the Iraqi government to reach a political deal. “They know they will no longer have a blank check from George Bush, that I will withdraw troops from Iraq,” she said.

Edwards called on Clinton and Obama to “commit to having all combat troops out and ending combat missions in the first year.”

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