- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 24, 2007

CHARLESTON, S.C. — The Democratic presidential candidates used a new debate style last night to illustrate clear distinctions among them on foreign policy, health care and their ability to relate to the common man.

The questions posed at the forum were asked by regular people via YouTube.com and struck a different-than-usual tone immediately when the eight White House hopefuls were criticized for talking about their unity in previous meetings.

In multiple cases, the candidates tried to showcase their differences. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois said he would have talks with foreign leaders in Iran and Syria within one year of taking office, while Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York immediately said she would not meet leaders such as Fidel Castro of Cuba and Kim Jong-il of North Korea.

Mr. Obama got the question first, saying: “The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them — which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration — is ridiculous.”

But Mrs. Clinton, a former first lady, responded that although she has represented the U.S. in more than 80 countries, “I don’t want to be used for propaganda purposes.”

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s answer about using diplomacy in response to a question from three aid workers standing in front of a refugee camp in Sudan’s Darfur region provoked a spirited response from Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware.

“I’m so tired of this,” he said, adding the United States must send troops “now.”

“Those kids will be dead by the time the diplomacy is over,” he said. “Twenty-five hundred American troops — if we do not get the 21,000 U.N. troops in there — can stop the genocide now.”

When pressed on the same question, Mrs. Clinton said she does not support putting American troops in Darfur because “we’ve got to figure out what we’re doing in Iraq, where our troops are stretched thin, and Afghanistan, where we’re losing the fight to al Qaeda and [Osama] bin Laden.”

Mr. Richardson, the only candidate with experience as governor, told voters that his experience made him best-qualified to get the United States out of Iraq.

“I’m trying to provoke a debate here, because there’s a difference between the senators and me on when we get our troops out,” he said, adding his position was clear that all troops be withdrawn in six months and no residual forces would remain.

Mr. Biden also seized on his opponents during the Iraq discussion as another example of contrast, following Mr. Obama who said he would pull all combat troops out by March 31.

“It’s time to start to tell the truth,” he said. “If we started today, it would take one year … to get 160,000 troops physically out of Iraq.”

Mr. Obama took a rare harsh tone toward Mrs. Clinton to highlight that he opposed the war before being elected to the Senate and she voted for it.

“The time for us to ask how we were going to get out of Iraq was before we went in,” he said. “That is something that too many of us failed to do.”

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