Democratic Party candidates running for president have taken aim at President Bush's war on terror in South Asia, criticizing his past support for Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. The ongoing political crisis in Pakistan was the main foreign policy topic at the most recent Democratic candidate debate – and Republican presidential hopefuls also have answered questions about the situation. But as Jim Fry reports, with no recent face-to-face meetings, those running for the Republican Party's nomination have dealt with fewer foreign policy questions.
This is the sort of 'feel good' campaign appearance candidates often seek. Rudy Giuliani and his wife Judith at the races – the final race of the season for NASCAR, the popular stock car circuit that attracts millions of fans each year. "This is our third one this year. So, now I feel like I really am a fan," he says.
Giuliani and other candidates for the Republican nomination have not held a formal debate in about a month.
Democrats have watched their presidential hopefuls debate each other twice since October 30th. Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards greeted his supporters in Las Vegas before the November 15th debate.
The political upheaval in Pakistan – where the country's president suspended the constitution – was the chief foreign policy topic at the Las Vegas debate. Democrats criticized President Bush's support for the government.
Senator Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner in most public opinion polls, said, "We are now in a bind. And it is partly, not completely, but partly a result of the failed policies of the Bush administration."
The U.S. has given $10 billion in assistance to President Pervez Musharraf's government in recent years -- a policy Senator Barack Obama says has not worked. "And we had two goals: Deal with terrorism and restore democracy. And we've gotten neither," said the presidential hopeful.
Much of the U.S. assistance has been to help Pakistan's military battle al Qaida, the Taliban and other extremists in the remote tribal areas of the country.
Senator Joe Biden says Pakistan's middle class has been left out and feel no connection to the U.S. "We have to significantly increase our economic aid relative to education, relative to N.G.O.'s [non-governmental organizations], relative to all those things that make a difference in the lives of ordinary people over there."
Since President Musharraf put Pakistan under emergency rule in early November, some Republican candidates have spoken out. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee defends the Bush policy. "I think President Bush has done a good job of bringing the Pakistan government and Musharraf back to reality that the suspension of the constitution is not acceptable to us."
Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson has warned of the danger that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal could fall into the wrong hands.
Another Republican hopeful, Congressman Ron Paul, who trails far behind his rivals in public opinion polls, is critical of current policies that he says reward nations that "go nuclear." "The Pakistanis have had a nuclear weapon. They have a military dictatorship. They overthrew an elected government. So, what do we do? We send them $11 billion. So why shouldn't Iran want to get a nuclear weapon? We might send them more money."
Republicans, who have debated six times since August, are scheduled to do so again next week.