Ballot Box

The Agenda of Bob Graham

What he’d do as president.

Slate is running several series of short features explaining who the 2004 presidential candidates are, what they’re saying, and where they propose to take the country. The first series summarized their personal and professional backgrounds. The second series analyzed their buzzwords. This series outlines what each candidate would do as president. Candidates take positions on many issues, but once in the White House, a president tends to focus on the few issues he or she really cares about. The purpose of this series is to identify those issues and clarify how the candidate, as president, would address them. Today’s subject is Bob Graham.

1. Broaden the war on terror. Graham wants to reinvigorate the battle against al-Qaida in Afghanistan. He believes President Bush is insufficiently dedicated to eradicating that threat. He also wants to commit more American troops and intelligence to stopping other terrorist groups around the world. Graham voted against the October 2002 Iraq war resolution because he believed that fundamentalist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah presented a greater threat than Saddam Hussein and should therefore be dealt with first.

2. Increase funding for public schools. Graham voted for the 2001 “No Child Left Behind” education reform bill but believes Bush hasn’t provided enough money to make the reforms work. Graham would give school districts more federal money but would leave administrative control at the local level. He has indicated that he would repeal at least some of the Bush tax cuts and would use some of the cash to raise teacher salaries and fund school construction.

3. Make health insurance and prescription drugs more accessible, especially to seniors. Graham tried to pass legislation in 2002 to put a prescription drug benefit in Medicare. As president, he would try again. He believes such a benefit would make pharmaceuticals available to the non-wealthy and would reduce emergency room and other health-care costs, since more seniors would be able to ward off illness or injury. Graham would allow people nearing retirement age to buy into Medicare if they no longer had employer-provided coverage. He would also expand Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program to cover more people who otherwise couldn’t afford insurance.