Arizona Gov.: Dem Platform Renews Promise

The Democrats will present their 2008 platform, Renewing America's Promise in Denver next week. Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, chair of the Platform Drafting Committee, says it offers goals for a better economic future and emphasizes options to make it easier for women who want to have children.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Next week in Denver, the Democrats will present their 2008 platform to the national convention. It's a document that marks some changes in tone and emphasis from the party's platform four years ago.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Janet Napolitano, the Democratic governor of Arizona, is the chair of the Platform Drafting Committee, and she joins us from Phoenix. Welcome to the program once again.

Governor JANET NAPOLITANO (Democrat, Arizona): Well thank you.

SIEGEL: I'd like to ask you first about the language in the 2008 platform on choice, or on abortion. It says - take a while to read it - the Democrats strongly and unequivocally support Roe vs. Wade and a woman's right to choose a safe and legal abortion regardless of ability to pay.

The Democrats oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Then it goes on to say the Democratic Party strongly supports access to comprehensive, affordable family-planning services and age-appropriate sex education. And then it goes on to say the Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman's decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre and post-natal health-care planning, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.

I skipped a little bit there, but what is the takeaway message there from the platform this year, which seems to be saying we both support the right to abortion but also we very much support women who choose not to have an abortion?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Well, you summed it up very accurately, that the issue of choice needs to be informed by making it easier for a woman who wants to have a child to do that, by making services available for that child. And we kind of list some of those there, that should held a woman as she's making this very difficult personal decision.

SIEGEL: But this is a commitment both to make sure that abortion for the poor is paid for but at the same time that the children of the poor who choose to have children rather than have an abortion will also be paid for.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: That's right, and that really is looking at not only the choice issue but life and the child's life. And again, we want to - you know, the phrase that was used in prior platforms was safe, legal and rare.

SIEGEL: Rare is not there this year.

Gov. NAPOLITANO: We don't use that phraseology because we think that you needed to be more express - well, how do you make it rare? Well, one of the ways you make it rare is you work on more complete sex education, family planning services and the like. And also then, you let women know and have real choices about what kind of services will be available for them and their child should they choose to go ahead and have the child.

SIEGEL: I want to ask you broadly about the economy, which is the dominant issue, by all accounts, for American voters this year. Is there anything in the platform that is as clear, say, as the elaboration of what it means to make abortion rare by offering health education and support for mothers in post and pre-natal care? Where do we see that kind of detail of what change is going to mean in terms of economic policy?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: I think you would see that in the first section of the platform. The overall platform is entitled "Renewing America's Promise," but the first section is called "Renewing the American Dream," and in that section, we put all of the elements that go into a better economic life.

It's wages and conditions of work like family leave. It is energy policy. It is universal access to health care, which is a huge economic issue, as well as a moral issue for our country.

SIEGEL: How do you defend the platform against the criticism that between universal health care, and I think it's a $50-billion economic stimulus plan, and a variety of other things, whether it's better post and pre-natal medical care and seven more days of paid annual leave, that this platform is phenomenally expensive?

Gov. NAPOLITANO: Well, I think that there are a variety of ways to pay for it, and that is also stated in the platform. We realize that you need to have responsible budgeting. Some of these things will need to be phased in. You're not just going to wave a magic wand. But the platform sets the goals, what we think we can accomplish in the first term and the like. And you know, you've got to remember, this government has been under the control of the Republicans for the last seven years, and they've driven us heavily into debt, and we have none of these things.

So all of the things we want to do in our platform and pay for budgetarily, we believe we can do that. We're just not going to make the same bad decisions that have been made over the last seven years.

SIEGEL: That's Janet Napolitano, she's governor OF Arizona and chair of the Platform Drafting Committee for the Democratic National Convention.

Last month, I spoke with the co-chair of the platform committee for this year's Republican National Convention, and you can hear that interview at NPR.org.

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