LSA junior Salim Alchurbaji wasn’t himself last night.
The College Democrats executive board member told the audience to call him Tim Russert as he moderated an hour-long debate between the heads of four campus groups campaigning for Democratic presidential candidates.
The debate was held between students representing Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.
It covered eight topics, including the candidates’ plans for the Iraq War and their proposals for making college tuition more affordable.
LSA senior Travis Radina, who chairs Students for Edwards, highlighted Edwards’s plan to pay one year of college tuition for any student who graduates from high school and commits to work at least 10 hours a week during college.
Radina also pointed out how Edwards wants to use scholarships to fight terrorism.
Edwards has proposed scholarships for students studying Arabic who commit to going to work for U.S. intelligence after graduation.
All the representatives talked about their candidate’s plans to increase Pell Grants.
Last week, President Bush signed legislation increasing the maximum Pell Grant to $5,300 each year.
Significant differences in the candidate’s platforms emerged when the debate turned to reforms in health care policy.
Radina blasted Obama and Clinton’s healthcare plans.
“Senator Obama’s plan doesn’t cover every citizen and Senator Clinton clearly didn’t learn from her mistakes in 1993,” he said.
In 1993, Clinton headed a task force on health care reform. Her plan to give healthcare to every citizen in America encountered strong opposition and was eventually abandoned due to a lack of support.
LSA sophomore Tom Duvall played up the fact that Obama is a newcomer with regards to Washington politics.
“He’s been in Washington long enough to know that he doesn’t like it and that it needs to be changed,” Duvall said.
The representatives also debated their candidates’ proposed courses of action in Iraq.
LSA sophomore Kelly Bernero defended Clinton’s initial vote to authorize the war and advocated what she called a responsible withdrawal of troops.
“The troops don’t care about who voted ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to authorize the war,” she said. “They care about who is willing to end it.”
LSA freshman Justin Schon connected the war on terrorism to Biden’s 2005 crime bill, which provided the funds to hire 50,000 new police officers.
“The person who prevents a terrorist attack is not going to be a Marine or special forces guy – it is going to be a local cop in the right place at the right time,” he said.