At Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate, one of the most memorable questions came from Erin Flanagan, whose brother died in Iraq last year. She asked what the candidates would do to end the war in Iraq:
As a member of an American family who has suffered so greatly at the choices made by the current administration, I desperately would like to know what you as commander in chief would do, both in the halls of the American government, to bring the parties together, as well as on the desert sands of the Middle East to bring this conflict to a point in which we can safely bring our troops home.
On NBC News this morning, Flanagan said that none of the candidates actually answered her question. “Obviously, I know it’s a tough one, and I knew when I asked it,” Flanagan said. “But I think — I truly believe that’s what the American public wants to know: how we can work together to get out.” Watch it:
Not only did no one answer her question, many gave glowing reviews of the Bush administration and advocated staying in Iraq longer:
John McCain: I believe we have a fine general. I believe we have a strategy which can succeed.
Rudy Giuliani: [Going to war was] absolutely the right thing to do. … I believe that what we’re doing in Iraq, if we can get it right, is going to help reduce the risk for this country.
Mitt Romney: And at this stage, the right thing for us to do is to see if we could possibly stabilize the central government in Iraq. … Not to do that adds an enormous potential risk that the whole region could be embroiled in a regional conflict.
Duncan Hunter: So what I would do, and what we need to do right now, and we are doing, is standing up the Iraqi army.
Flanagan is right. Sixty-three percent of the American public wants the United States to set a date for withdrawing troops from Iraq by 2008.
ANCHOR: The campaign for President is already in full swing with staged photo-ops and appearances planned to a tee. But every so often there is a spontaneous moment that catches everyone’s attention. There was one of those moments at the Republican debate on Tuesday night, provided by a young woman who talked about her brother, who fought and died in Iraq. NBC’s Lisa Daniels has her story.
DANIELS: It was a moment not easily forgotten. A question not from a candidate but a grieving sister from Bedford, New Hampshire.
[DEBATE CLIP]: Unfortunately, my beloved little brother, 1st Lieutenant Michael Joseph Cleary, was killed in action in Taji, Iraq, eight days before he was to return home on December 20th of 2005. … As a member of an American family who has suffered so greatly at the choices made by the current administration, I desperately would like to know what you as commander in chief would do.
DANIELS: Despite the comforting words from the candidates Tuesday night, Erin Flanagan says she never did get the answer she was looking for.
FLANAGAN: Obviously, I know it’s a tough one, and I knew when I asked it. But I think — I truly believe that’s what the American public wants to know: how we can work together to get out.
DANIELS: She didn’t expect her question to touch so many. She said she simply wanted to honor her baby brother.