The Alaska race for U.S. Senate drew Democratic heavy hitter Max Cleland to Juneau on Monday to campaign for former Gov. Tony Knowles.
Cleland, a former U.S. senator from Georgia who was defeated in 2002, has traveled to campaign this year for Sen. Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, and Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who's running on the Republican ticket, also has brought political bigshots to the state this year, including Vice President Dick Cheney.
A veteran who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam, Cleland said he was targeted in 2002 by the Bush "slime machine." During that election, campaign commercials compared Cleland to Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein for voting against the formation of the Department Homeland Security. Cleland said he holds the president personally responsible for the commercials.
Cleland said Knowles would push for full funding for the Veterans Affairs health care system if elected.
"We need to expand our VA health care system with the Iraqi veterans and the Afghan veterans coming back," he said. "They're going to need the VA for the rest of their lives."
Cleland also touted Knowles' and the Democratic Party's support for allowing Americans access to imported drugs from Canada.
"I come from a state, Georgia, where we manufacture Celebrex, which sells for $76 in America and $26 in Canada - same bottle, same box," he said, adding that the cost of prescription drugs keeps the cost of health care artificially high. "It's obvious that the people of America, especially those on Medicare, are not pocketing those profits. We are not seeing a reduction in prescription drugs. We are seeing a continued increase in them and that is driving up medical care costs."
During the afternoon press conference, Cleland also stumped for Kerry, saying the country needs a "fresh start" in Iraq.
"We have gone in there ... without allies and without enough troops to get the job done," Cleland said. "John Kerry has a plan to deal with that and get the international community in there, boost our military by about 40,000 troops, double our special forces and bring the Guard and Reserve home."
He said the National Guard and Army Reserve personnel in Iraq are serving as a "back-door draft" and that sending more troops to the region would allow them to return home.