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Next in Iraq -- redefined U.S. goals?

Mulling stability without democracy

Demonstrators gather outside the Abu Ghraib prison compound on Wednesday. Could America's goals in Iraq be redefined to stability without democracy?
Watch Carlos Watson Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on CNN's Paula Zahn Now and on Fridays at 5 p.m. ET on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports.
Carlos Watson
George W. Bush
John F. Kerry
America Votes 2004

This week, in "The Inside Edge," the question of redefining U.S. goals in Iraq -- perhaps by both President Bush and by John Kerry -- plus the shifting ground of election-year debate on economic issues.

And what might a high-profile (sometimes high-volume) Cornhusker offer to the Democratic ticket?

In Iraq, the ends as well as the means

Since the beginning of the Iraq War over a year ago, most of the debate regarding the conflict has been over the means used to try to turn Iraq into a strong and stable democracy. That includes pre-emptive war, troop strength, ally cooperation, etc.

But if you listen closely, to Republican senators and polls as well as to anti-Bush Democrats, you may begin to hear a large number of people asking a more fundamental question about the war's goals: Can we really achieve that strong and stable democracy in Iraq?

With success seeming less likely with each standoff, roadside bomb and call for more resources, do not be surprised to see America's goals redefined in the war by both President Bush and John Kerry -- stability without democracy.

While most politicians and a majority of the American people may ultimately accept such a redefinition of U.S. goals, will the families of dead American troops and other countries (including coalition allies) agree?

New economic debate

Just four months ago, it seemed likely that "jobs, jobs, jobs" would once again be the focal point of this election. But as jobs begin slowly to reappear, expect to hear more from Kerry and Bush not only about economic growth, but also about economic security and economic fairness as well.

By the fall, with an unemployment rate in the mid to low 5-percent range -- and in addition to promises of more jobs -- expect the election's dominant economic themes also to embrace college affordability, real and portable health insurance, reliable pensions and tax policy.

K, squared

Since the unofficial end of the Democratic primary season in early March, perhaps no potential vice presidential candidate has increased his chances as much as a former Cornhusker State entrepreneur Bob Kerrey.

The former Nebraska senator and health club impresario has become a VP favorite in many circles, given his outspoken performances in 9/11 commission hearings. His tough questioning has reminded many that this decorated Vietnam vet was an early voice in warning against the possibilities of terrorism on U.S. soil.

In recent times, Bob Kerrey would be an unusual choice for vice president. In the last half century, one war hero on a presidential ticket has typically been more than enough.

But in the aftermath of 9/11, even often decorated war vet John Kerry may need to bolster his national security credentials, hence the growing appeal of the second Kerrey, who brings not only military credentials but also national security credibility.

While two Kerrys/Kerreys for the price of one would undoubtedly lead to plenty of great slogans and jokes, the former two-term Nebraska senator who ran for president in the 1992 Democratic primaries does have his substantive detractors.

  • Some say he is too outspoken, a maverick who might be unpredictable in an already highly charged presidential campaign.
  • Others point out that his presence on the ticket is unlikely to put any new states in Kerry's column -- Nebraska itself was one of President Bush's best states in 2000.
  • Still others point out that although he's a decorated vet, recent questions about Kerrey's war conduct might be damaging to the Democrats.
  • With all of this said, unless he personally takes himself out of contention, expect Bob Kerrey to be a serious vice presidential nomination possibility. (Play's Veepstakes Game, now in Round 1: Make your picks)

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