SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Putting up barriers to foreign trade is an outdated idea, ABC News' national political reporter Sam Donaldson told attendees at the opening general session of Texas Credit Union League's 70th Annual Meeting & Expo April 21-24. "I support the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). I would like to see it extended. The world can no longer be isolated. We've got to not just adapt to these other countries, but beat them. The way to do it is not to put up barriers. It just won't work anymore; that game is over." But establishing a North American economy, as proposed by Mexico's President Vicente Fox, may not be achievable. "Unequivocally, it would be a good thing. I think we can do it – even though there's opposition in this country – but I'm not certain Mexico can," he said referring to continued corruption in the country's legislature and law enforcement. Outsourcing of manufactured goods is inevitable, Donaldson said, but challenges spur innovation in a capitalistic society. "I wish we could stop outsourcing, but we can't – not in a global economy. Jobs aren't going to come back. We just have to find ways to do things differently." The economy was among the topics Donaldson covered in his behind-the-scenes look at the people and activities in the nation's capitol over the last four decades. He shared anecdotes on Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan and answered audience questions on the war in Iraq, the 9/11 Commission proceedings, and the 2004 Presidential Election. Concerning the war in Iraq, while people may have had differing opinions on whether the United States should have entered Iraq, Americans should now pull together to accomplish the dream laid out by President Bush, he said. For the short term, at least, Donaldson said American troops should find a way to stay in Iraq to stabilize the security of the ravaged country. "If we were to leave now and turn it over to the Iraqis when they haven't got a government formed that will work – because the guys killing Americans want to kill them, too – we will not only have put the blood and the money, our treasure, down the rathole, but I think we'll be less safe than we were before we struck, the evil man Saddam Hussein not withstanding," Donaldson said. "Because if the insurgents think, `Hey, these are Americans. We can wait around pretty easy. They don't have any staying power. We can take these guys,' do you think that's going to make us safer? "If we can leave Iraq with a government that represents the people, that the people are happy with, that does not represent a threat to its neighbors or to us, and with the dream President Bush laid out 16 months ago that democracy will spread, we will have accomplished something. We've got to give it the American try." Responding to a question about a mandatory draft for the military, Donaldson said he believed the president had no plans for immediate implementation but was putting contingency plans in place should world events dictate a need for the draft. "How close are we to finding Osama bin Laden?" asked another participant. "We think he's in that disputed area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, in an area with tribespeople who never want anybody in there, in an area that is very loosely governed if at all and an area that also has a great number of sympathizers with the Taliban and Osama bin Laden," Donaldson answered. "I think eventually we'll get him. It just seems persistence will pay off here. I think it will be a psychological boost. As we saw in the case of Saddam Hussein, it won't end anything. Will it be, `Oh, we got Osama bin Laden, now we can breathe easier. We don't have to take off our shoes at the airport'? No, but psychologically, I think it would be good for the country." Donaldson said he hoped the outcome of the 9/11 Commission hearings would be a generic identification of mistakes made and development of a roadmap for better forecasting of these types of events in the future. "Just to point the finger doesn't make us safer, and I think that's the goal of everything we're doing today," said Donaldson. A lack of communication still exists among intelligence agencies, he said. "God forbid we have another catastrophe before we get this thing worked out." The question that generated the most audience interest was, "Who will be John Kerry's running mate?" After stressing that his track record for election predictions was not particularly good, he concluded, "I don't think Hillary will be on the ticket." Consultants want her to wait for several reasons, Donaldson said – her liberal stance reinforces, rather than offsets, Kerry's position, too many people don't like her, etc. He gave reasons he believed the vice presidential nomination would not go to John Edwards or Dick Gephart and suggested that Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson may be possibilities. "I think it will be a close election, and if you can't find someone who brings a lot to the ticket, you want someone who's the most innocuous." -


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