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Campaign Profile:  Carol Moseley-Braun - 2004-01-09


Editors Note: On January 15, five days before the Iowa caucuses, Carol Moseley-Braun bowed out of the presidential race and threw her support to candidate Howard Dean.

Of the nine Democrats running for president this year, only one is a woman. Former U.S. Ambassador and Senator Carol Moseley-Braun describes herself as an old-fashioned liberal. But so far, she has drawn little in the way of public support or fundraising.

"I am Carol Moseley-Braun and I want to be your nominee for president of the United States," the candidate said. That was Carol Moseley-Braun's optimistic message to Democrats meeting in Washington last year.

In addition to being the only woman among the Democratic Party candidates, she is also one of two African-Americans running for the White House. The other is New York civil rights activist Al Sharpton.

Carol Moseley-Braun is 56. She grew up in Chicago and demonstrated an early interest in politics.

In 1978 she decided to run for the state legislature in Illinois, but only after a local political boss told her she could not win because she was a black woman. "Well, that did it and while I had actually not been inclined to get involved in the rough and tumble of electoral politics, his threat actually produced the opposite result and I shortly thereafter declared my candidacy for office," she said.

In 1992, Carol Moseley-Braun made headlines when she challenged an incumbent Democrat senator and won, becoming the first African-American woman elected to the Senate. However, she was defeated for re-election in 1998, in part because of alleged financial irregularities and some controversial meetings during her term with members of Nigeria's then-military dictatorship.

After her defeat, Ms. Moseley-Braun was appointed U.S. ambassador to New Zealand by President Clinton.

She says her experience in politics, including on the local, federal and international levels, distinguishes her from the rest of the Democratic presidential field.

"I have the credentials, the experience and the vision to put our nation back on the track that we enjoyed with the last Democratic administration, a time of economic prosperity and peace in the world," she said. "We can show our country that we are clever enough to defeat terror without destroying our own liberty."

Her status as the only woman in the Democratic field has excited some woman Democrats. She has been endorsed by the National Organization for Women and the National Women's Political Caucus.

"The fact of the matter is that all the presidents have been boys and at some, at some point, we have to make the point that women have a role to play in providing leadership for this country," she said.

On domestic issues, Carol Moseley-Braun describes herself as an old-fashioned liberal. She favors a broad expansion of health care benefits and she wants to strengthen safeguards on the environment and child labor in many international trade agreements.

The former ambassador opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq but says now that the United States is there, "we cannot cut and run." She has called for greater international and United Nations support for Iraq's transition to democracy.

She also says that if elected president, she would defer to Congress on the crucial decision of when to go to war.

"Remember the Constitution of the United States, ladies and gentlemen. Article I, Section VIII says that it is the Congress' job to make decisions about when we go to war," she said. "And the practice of just passing resolutions saying the president can make these decisions unilaterally has got to stop."

Carol Moseley-Braun acknowledges she is a long shot in the Democratic field, and she has the poll ratings and low fundraising totals to back that up. But she also says the race is still wide open and says her encounters with voters have convinced her that many Americans are ready to support a black woman as President of the United States.

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