College Democrats, Republicans debate issues
By TJ Greaney ~ Southeast Missourian
It may not be the protests and dean's office occupations of the 1960s, but there is still a place for debate on college campuses.
Thursday night in Dempster Auditorium, representatives of Southeast Missouri State University's College Democrats and Republicans debated issues ranging from the Iraq war to health care to the role of government in society.
The event was organized by the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity to give students a better handle on what separates the two political parties.
A moderator refereed the event.
Lucas Presson, a senior and Central High School graduate, represented the Republicans, saying his party is one of strong national defense and personal freedom. Social issues including abortion and gay marriage are most important to him, he said.
Presson denounced a bill passed Thursday by the U.S. Senate that funds the Iraq war but includes benchmarks for the Iraqi government and a timeline for withdrawal.
"I call it a cut-and-run measure. It basically says, 'Mr. President, we'll fund your war, but we want to micromanage it,'" Presson said.
Justin Gregory, a senior and Malden, Mo., native, spoke for Democrats. Issues of poverty and the plight of the 46 million people without health insurance drew him to the Democratic Party.
Gregory defended comments by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that the war in Iraq is lost, saying the Bush administration mismanaged the run-up to war and underestimated the potential for an insurgency.
"Right now we're occupying Iraq and we're baby-sitting a civil war," said Gregory.
"We should build [Iraq] up. The problem is it can't be done. We've never faced an insurgency like this after we've already won a war," he said later.
The two also split on how to control rising tuition.
Gregory, who used Missouri's "A+" program to help pay for school, slammed Gov. Matt Blunt's plan to sell Missouri Higher Loan Authority assets to pay for infrastructure improvements around the state.
"The first thing we don't need to do is sell off student loans to a big company like Fannie Mae," he said, indicating the sale would result in higher interest rates.
But Presson liked the move, saying it will help pay for Southeast's River Campus for the Visual and Performing Arts.
"I don't know about you, but I don't want to pay for that," he said. Presson touted Missouri Senate Bill 389, which, he said, would stabilize tuition increases to no higher than the rate of inflation and make sure 20 percent of students get need-based scholarships.
"Blunt is the education governor," he said.
Both candidates were asked who they support for president in 2008. Presson said he'd support whoever is nominated by Republicans and Gregory said he favors a ticket of Sen. John Edwards and Gov. Bill Richardson