According to the New York Times’ Caucus blog, presidential candidate John Edwards was recently stumped by a question on conflict diamonds.
“If you were to become president, what actions would you take to stem the flow of conflict diamonds into our country,” asked 16-year-old junior Marie Collins. The answer:
“I don’t even know what that term is,” Mr. Edwards said.
A student sitting in front of me muttered: “And people think Bush is bad.”
“Like blood diamonds, from Africa,” Ms. Collins said.
“Oh, oh, oh sorry,” Mr. Edwards said. “Boy you guys really do have your own things don’t you? Can I tell you I have had probably hundreds of town hall meetings, I have literally never been asked that question. Or had the issue raised.”
“I don’t know, I don’t know the answer to that. It would require more thought than I have given it. But since you raised it I will do it. I know about the issue,” he said. “I certainly know about the movie. But I would have to give that more thought than I have to give you an honest answer to it. But thank you for raising it.”
When I asked a school administrator for Ms. Collins’s phone number, the administrator said she had no idea what conflict diamonds were either.
Ms. Collins later told me on the phone: “Well, I thought that his response was good. I think it was good that he was honest when he didn’t understand it. But I feel like it is something he should have known about.”
Well, the Clean Diamond Trade Act (PDF) did pass when Edwards was a Senator.
Anyway, if any presidential candidates are reading this — highly unlikely — here is a good list of things to do to help stop conflict diamonds:
– Enforce existing legislation. (The aforementioned Clean Diamond Trade Act.)
– Increase border searches of rough diamonds.
– Strengthen the Kimberley Process.
– Increase development aid to hard-hit African countries.
– Protect the legitimate diamond industry.
The last one is helpful for a candidate that doesn’t want to tick off the 30,000 or so independent jewelers in this country.
Any other suggestions?
On a related topic, the “blood diamond” ring in Belgium may actually be a “blood diamond” ring. If it’s true, I hope they get nailed.