CHICAGO--Here's the first 30 minutes of the AFL-CIO president forum. I'll post a full transcript as soon as I get it.
Click below for transcript
Subject: Debate-Part One
CANDIDATES' FORUM HOSTED BY THE AFL-CIO
AUGUST 7, 2007
SPEAKERS: SEN. CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, D-CONN.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.
FORMER SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, D-N.C.
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, D-N.M.
SEN. JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., D-DEL.
REP. DENNIS J. KUCINICH, D-OHIO
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.
KEITH OLBERMANN, MODERATOR
JOHN SWEENEY, AFL-CIO PRESIDENT
OLBERMANN: Good evening and welcome to Soldier Field here in Chicago, where we have definitely not gathered for an NFL preseason game. This season is fully under way, and thus so is this exhibition, exhibition in the best sense of the word. Seven candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination joining me on this stage for a forum sponsored by the AFL-CIO.
By now you are familiar with these candidates. They are-and in the interest of preserving time, I ask that you please hold your applause-from left to right, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Illinois Senator Barack Obama...
... Delaware Senator Joe Biden, New York Senator Hillary Clinton...
... Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards...
... and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich.
And I thank each of you for coming tonight.
In addition, we're joined here tonight by our host, the president of the AFL-CIO, John Sweeney.
Mr. Sweeney, good evening.
SWEENEY: Thanks, Keith.
Let me add my own welcome to this amazing crowd and to our television viewers. A huge thank you to the Illinois AFL-CIO and the Chicago Federal of Labor.
To all of our unions and to MSNBC, thanks for this opportunity.
Thank you to all the candidates for being here tonight and for
what you have done for working people throughout your lives, all of you.
The AFL-CIO organized this presidential forum because working families across our country want to hear want to hear what these candidates will do about our concerns, about rebuilding the middle class, about making America stronger, about health care and retirement security, about good jobs, and about the freedom of every working person to join a union and bargain for a better life.
This crowd came out because we are so ready to change the direction of our country.
SWEENEY: The AFL-CIO is planning to drive that change with our biggest election effort ever. Tonight we want to hear how each of these candidates will lead that change. We believe one of the people up here tonight will be our next president.
So you can think of this AFL-CIO presidential forum as one giant job interview, with workers doing the interviewing. It is workers who make our country great and it is working people who will make the difference in 2008.
Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, Mr. Sweeney.
In addition, I would like to welcome you if you are watching on our NBC station here in Chicago, WMAQ.
Before we get started, a brief word about how all this will unfold tonight.
To begin with this evening, I will be asking questions of the candidates. In our second segment, they will field questions from members of the audience, all 15,000 or so. We should mention they are members of the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions. Any follow-up questions will be at my discretion, presuming I have any.
And in round three tonight, more questions and lots of them on a wide variety of topics, in what we have been calling the lightning round. Given atmospheric conditions here in Chicago, we are hoping we do not mean lightning literally.
Speaking of lights, a yellow light tonight will warn when there
are 15 seconds remaining to respond. Red means time is up,
And, candidates, please heed the light cues. Ignore the lights, we turn off your air conditioning.
OLBERMANN: Second offense, your air conditioning becomes heat.
Also, in the interest of time, I would ask our audience to please hold your displays of affection for the candidates' answers until the end of the debate.
We only have 90 minutes here. It's not a lot of time, and there are enough questions ready to fill every seat in this stadium.
In this first round, initial responses for all of you, please, will be limited to 90 second, follow-up answers to 30 seconds. These formalities out of the way, the lucky recipient of our first question has been determined by lottery.
Senator Dodd, that would be you.
Obviously, in the light of what happened in Minnesota last week, maintaining infrastructure requires spending. And how tax dollars are spent is a matter of priorities. What should we not build? What should we not be funding to see to it that our highways and our bridges and our tunnels and our mines are all properly maintained?
DODD: Well, thank you, first of all, and thank you for the warm welcome this evening. I'm a union guy, proud to be a union man, and thank you for inviting us to be here tonight.
Let me, first of all, say that all of us here on the stage at this very moment are thinking about those six mine workers in Utah that are struggling-and their families-this evening. I can't begin without mentioning them and what they're going through this evening.
I happen to believe that putting our country back to work begins by cutting the funding for the war in Iraq. Spending $12 every month, spending $2 billion every week has got to stop if we're going to have a different set of priorities in our country.
I happen to believe that we need to look at our defense systems and decide which defense systems we need in order to face the threats that we face in the 21st century.
Looking at some of these programs out there, such as the Star Wars program, the missile defense system, I think, frankly, we need a different set of priorities.
We ought to be investing in the bridges and the highways and the water systems-the safe drinking systems in our country here.
DODD: In fact, just five or six days ago, after working a year and a half on this issue, Keith, I introduced legislation to do exactly that.
For every $1 billion we spend in that area, 40,000 jobs can be created in the United States of America.
Those are the things I'll do as president of the United States, if elected by my party. And I'm confident a Democrat is going to be elected president of the United States in November of 2008.
OLBERMANN: Senator Dodd, thank you.
Senator Clinton, by lot, the second question is yours, and it pertains to the same subject.
9/11, obviously, made us plan for terror prevention. Hurricane
Katrina made us prepare for natural disaster prevention and
preparation. Now, this tragedy in Minneapolis is putting
infrastructure into the news.
In the wake of that tragedy, we already know that you've co-sponsored legislation to establish a national commission on infrastructure but, without benefit of hindsight, is our government actually doing anything better at making us collectively safer?
CLINTON: Well, Keith, I want to thank the AFL-CIO and MSNBC for having us here. You know, my late father was a fanatic Bears fan, and the idea that any of his children would be on the 10-yard line in Soldier Field is an extraordinary accomplishment, as far as I'm concerned.
And I am very much in mind of those miners in Utah. And we know, as Chris said, our hearts and prayers and hopes go with them as this rescue effort continues.
We have to make investments in infrastructure. It's not only for the reasons that Chris was talking, as important as they are. This will create jobs, not only if we once again focus on our bridges, our tunnels, our ports, our airports, our mass transit. It will put millions of people to work, but it is also part of homeland security.
We need to have a better infrastructure in order to protect us. And it's not only the physical infrastructure; it is the virtual infrastructure, like a national broadband system that our police and firefighters can actually access and use to be safe.
CLINTON: So I think that we've got to look at this with the disasters that we see, from the levees in New Orleans to the bridge in Minneapolis, to what happened to us in New York City on 9/11, as the highest priority. And it will be at the top of my list when I'm president.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, Senator Clinton.
And, again, please, if you can hold your applause, we can get more questions in. Thank you kindly, audience.
Senator Obama, if we are not being proactive about everything to the degree perhaps we should in this country, what do you think we're not prepared for-what else are we not prepared for right now?
OBAMA: Well, first of all, I want to welcome everybody to Chicago, home of the NFC champions, the Chicago Bears.
And I want to thank the AFL-CIO for organizing this extraordinary event.
Look, I don't believe that we are safer now than we were after 9/11, because we have made a series of terrible decisions in our foreign policy. We went into Iraq, a war that we should have never authorized and should not have been waged.
It has fanned the flames of anti-American sentiment. It has, more importantly, allowed us to neglect the situation in Afghanistan. We know right now, according to the national intelligence estimates, that Al Qaida is hiding in the hills between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
And, because we have taken our eye off the ball, they are stronger now than at any time since 2001.
As president, I want us to fight on the right battlefield. And what that means is getting out of Iraq and refocusing our attention on the war that can be won in Afghanistan. And that also will allow us to free up the kinds of resources that will make us safer here at home because we'll be able to invest in port security, chemical plant security, all the critical issues that have already been discussed.
OLBERMANN: Senator Obama, thank you.
Continuing on this subject of infrastructure, Senator Biden, this is not to direct this personally to you, but the case could be made that the nation's bridges, perhaps, particularly that one in Minnesota, have been deteriorating for more or less the period of time you've spent in the Senate and all of your colleagues have spent with you there.
Every member of this panel is either a current or former member of our legislative branch.
You have personally voted on hundreds of funding bills. Did you guys drop the ball on infrastructure?
BIDEN: I didn't drop the ball. Let me tell you, 1992, I proposed, as labor knows, a $20 billion infrastructure bill, proposed by the mayors. We don't need any more studies. Of 560,000 bridges, 27 percent of them are in bad shape.
We-I have been proposing, since the day after 9/11, that we spend $980 million to refurbish the tunnels on the East Coast. More people tomorrow morning will be in Hillary's city, sitting in aluminum tubes, underneath, in six old tunnels that have no escape, no lighting, that, in seven-excuse me-than in 25 full 747s.
I've been pushing that from day one. My colleagues need to get on board. We don't need any more studies. We don't need any more operations. What we need is to put America back to work.
Put them to work at a prevailing wage. Make us safer as a consequence of that. And when it comes to determining whether or not this administration has been responsible, I can hardly wait to debate Rudy Giuliani on the issue of whether we're safer or not.
The 9/11 Commission -- $42 billion has not been funded -- $42 billion.
BIDEN: These guys, Republicans, have been irresponsible about our infrastructure, our security, and the safety of this country.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, Senator Biden.
Senator Edwards, of course, it's not just-it's not just money. It's a question of inconvenience in terms of fixing the American crumbling infrastructure.
How would you convince Americans that any inconveniences they would have to suffer-bridge closures, remodeling a subway system, as Senator Biden perhaps mentioned there-in addition to the cost, how would you convince them that these inconveniences are necessary to maintaining our infrastructure and making us collectively safer?
EDWARDS: Well, let me say, first, thank you to the AFL-CIO for hosting this forum. Thank you to all the men and women of organized labor for what you do every single day for working people in this country. We're all very proud to be here and proud to have been with you before tonight in the effort to help working people in this country.
I actually don't think it's very hard to convince the American people, given what's happened in Minneapolis, given what's just happened in the mine in Utah. The American people understand how serious this is. They want something done about the infrastructure.
But I think the fundamental question is: Who's going to bring about the change that has not occurred over the last three or four decades in Washington, D.C.?
Here's my belief. My belief is: We don't want to change one group of insiders for a different group of insiders. We need to give the power in America back to you and back to working men and women all across this country. And I do not believe we will see the kind of change that we need unless we begin to lead that change.
On Saturday, this past Saturday, I think a very stark contrast was presented to Democratic voters in this primary: What do you want to see done? I asked at that debate on Saturday here in Chicago whether all the Democratic candidates and whether the Democratic Party would say no from this day forward to Washington insider lobbyist money. We should say: This game is over; the system is rigged in Washington, D.C.
EDWARDS: It is not working for you. It is not working for the American people.
And we're going to stand up to give the power in America back to you and back to all Americans who deserve it by saying no forever to lobbyist money in Washington, D.C.
OLBERMANN: Senator Edwards, thank you.
And, by the way, you have given us a foretaste of a conversation we will be having later on in our forum this evening.
But to continue on infrastructure, Congressman Kucinich, we are here to night in this beautifully and recently renovated Soldier Field, partially renovated due to about $400 million in taxpayer money.
Should state and local-and in some cases, by proxy anyway- federal governments subsidize private businesses like sports teams by building them stadiums, when perhaps that choice is being made at the expense of infrastructure and bridges?
KUCINICH: I have actually involved in that for many years. Here is what I said in Cleveland. Instead of spending $400 million or more for a stadium, why don't we just buy the team?
I mean, really, you know, that's where the money is. So I think that we ought to be talking about an approach that gets people a return for their investment.
Now, with respect to infrastructure, for the third time I have introduced a bill. This time it is H.R. 3400. It is a bipartisan bill. Congressman LaTourette of Ohio is with me on it.
Here is what it will do. It will create millions of new jobs rebuilding America's infrastructure, rebuilding roads, water systems, sewer systems, bridges. I have been on this for many years. It will create jobs for laborers, for iron workers, for carpenters, for people who are involved in infrastructure-millions of new jobs, and create a Federal Bank of Infrastructure Modernization.
Now, the time to talk about infrastructure is a little bit late after Katrina. It is a little bit late after the bridge has fallen in Minneapolis. But I've been there and I understand the implication.
Why do you need an infrastructure? You need an infrastructure so you can create a basis for jobs. I want a new American manufacturing policy where the maintenance of steel, automotive, aerospace and shipping is seen as vital to our national security.
KUCINICH: And I want to see America take a new direction in trade as part of this, and that means it's time to get out of NAFTA and the WTO...
... and have trade that's based on workers' rights: the right to organize, the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike...
KUCINICH: ... the right to decent wages and benefits, and on and on. I'm here as the workers' candidate. Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, Congressman. And please-and once again, we appreciate the applause and we appreciate the sincerity of your emotions, but the less applause we have, the more questions we can get in.
And, in this case, I'm going to take one of my discretionary follow-up questions and ask Senator Obama particularly about this stadium. You were in the Illinois Legislature when Soldier Field was funded. You voted for it although you seemed reluctant at the time. Was it the right call? And give me your answer in 30 seconds.
OBAMA: Absolutely it was the right call because it put a whole bunch of Illinois folks to work, strong labor jobs were creating in this stadium and, at the same time, we created an enormous opportunity for economic growth throughout the city of Chicago. And that's good for the state of Illinois.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, Senator.
Governor Richardson, there is a push in some parts of this country to take the next step that we've seen in so many other parts of government business: sell the toll roads to private companies. Would that be a better way to fix this problem? Can we really outsource it, farm it out?
RICHARDSON: No, privatization is not the answer. But let me just say to all the union members here, I am proud to have gotten your support: financial and workers in my campaigns. I am here as a congressman, as a governor, as an elected official because of you. And I thank you and I will continue taking your financial support.
Here's one way that I believe we can finance our infrastructure
in this country. I would start out by the Congress eliminating the $23 billion they put forth for congressional earmarks.
RICHARDSON: I would also ensure that corporate welfare, $73 billion worth, is eliminated as a way to reduce the debt.
But we have to invest in our power grid. We have to invest in our bridges, in our highways. I was able to do that as governor of New Mexico, $1.5 billion worth of highway construction to repair our bridges, to repair our highways, to bring commuter rail.
We have to start thinking about new infrastructure in America. We have to start thinking about making sure we have strong land use policies, smart growth. The government should be a partner with the states and localities in building commuter rail, light rail, new forms of transportation that-besides repairing our highways and our bridges.
OLBERMANN: Governor, thank you.
Let's move on to another important topic for this audience in particular, the subject of trade. Senator Edwards had touched on this, Senator Clinton. Over the weekend, this past weekend, you expressed some disappointment that NAFTA, in your words, did not realize the benefits that it was promised-it promised, rather.
How would you fix it?
CLINTON: Well, I have said that for many years, that, you know, NAFTA and the way it's been implemented has hurt a lot of American workers. In fact, I did a study in New York looking at the impact of NAFTA on business people, workers and farmers, who couldn't get their products into Canada despite NAFTA.
CLINTON: So clearly we have to have a broad reform in how we approach trade. NAFTA's a piece of it, but it's not the only piece of it.
I believe in smart trade. I've said that for years. Pro-American trade; trade that has labor and environmental standards;
that's not a race to the bottom, but tries to lift up not only
American workers but also workers around the world.
It's important that we enforce the agreements we have. That's why I've called for a trade prosecutor to make sure that we do enforce them.
The Bush administration has been totally missing in action. They haven't been enforcing the trade agreements, at all.
It's important that we have good information to make judgments. And when I looked at some of the trade agreements that the Bush administration sent our way-I voted against CAFTA. I don't want to give fast track authority to this president.
So we've got to have a better approach to what we're going to do when it comes to trade around the world.
CLINTON: And it's important that we have an idea of how to maximize the benefits from the global economy, while minimizing the impact on American workers.
That includes things like real trade adjustment assistance and other support.
But finally, Keith, we've got to have a source of new jobs.
That's why we've got to invest in energy. We can create millions of new jobs if we go toward renewable energy.
Those are not jobs that will be outsourced. Those are jobs that will actually save us money and create jobs right here in America.
OLBERMANN: All right. Thank you, Senator.
We're going to...
On a couple of occasions tonight, we want everyone on the record on a particular issue. So let me do this in 30 seconds, and literally go left to right, with Senator Clinton having already established her stance on this.
Would you scrap NAFTA or fix it?
Governor Richardson, 30 seconds.
RICHARDSON: We should never have another trade agreement unless it enforces labor protection, environmental standards and job safety.
RICHARDSON: What we need to do is say that from now on America will adhere to all international labor standards in any trade agreement.
No child labor; no slave labor; freedom of association; collective bargaining, that is critically important; making sure that no wage disparity exists.
Something else that I will also do. My first day as president I will get rid of all the union-busting attorneys at the Department of Labor and OSHA and all our agencies.
OLBERMANN: Governor Richardson, thank you.
We're not going to contain the applause, I'm afraid. It's going to come out of my time, I know.
As we continue, scrap NAFTA, Senator Obama, or fix it?
OBAMA: I would immediately call the president of Mexico, the president of Canada, to try to amend NAFTA, because I think that we can get labor agreements in that agreement right now.
OBAMA: And it should reflect the basic principle that our trade agreements should not just be good for Wall Street; it should also be good for Main Street.
And the problem that we've had is that we've had corporate lobbyists; oftentimes, involved in negotiating these trade agreements. But the AFL-CIO hasn't been involved. Ordinary working people have not been involved.
And we've got to make sure that our agreements are good for everybody, because globalization right now is creating winners and losers, but the problem is it's the same winners and the same losers each and every time.
And we've got to mix it up. And that does mean, by the way, that you've got to have a president in the White House who is not subject simply to the whims of corporate lobbyists.
And that issue is going to be something that I think should be important throughout this campaign: Are we going to make certain that you have a voice in Washington and not just those who are paying the big money in Washington to have that opportunity to negotiate?
OLBERMANN: All right. To continue with this in a 30-second fashion, Senator Biden, scrap NAFTA or fix it?
BIDEN: I hope that red light is going to malfunction for me too.
Hey, look, the president's job is to create jobs, not to export jobs. And the idea that we are not willing to take the prime minister of Canada and the president of Mexico to the mat to make this agreement work is just a lack of presidential leadership.
I would lead. I would do that. I would change it.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, Senator Biden.
Senator Dodd, scrap it...
BIDEN: In time.
OLBERMANN: Yes, in time. Scrap it or fix it?
DODD: No, I agree it requires modification, but we also need to do something else here. In addition to having trading agreements that include labor, environmental health provisions in them and insisting upon those provisions in any trading agreement here, we need to stop exporting the jobs in the country that already are here. I offered legislation-by banning the outsourcing of jobs-in the Senate.
DODD: You know, one of the things that labor does that I've always admired is you listen to the speeches that are given, but one of the things you've always wanted to know is: "I have a better idea about where you're going to take me if I know where you've been."
Now, I'm proud to say, for 26 years, on every major issue that labor's been involved in, I've stood with you. I've stood with labor and banning the outsourcing of jobs, of offset contracts, of (inaudible) picketing, of plant-closing legislation. We need to stand up for the American worker because that's the best way to create the jobs in the United States.
OLBERMANN: Senator Dodd, thank you.
Senator Edwards, you touched on this before, but please take 30 seconds. Scrap it or fix it?
EDWARDS: It needs to be fixed, but the first thing I want to say is: NAFTA is a perfect example of the bigger problem. This deal was negotiated by Washington insiders, not by anybody in this stadium tonight.
And the question is: When are we going to change it? It's cost us a million jobs. We need environmental and labor standards. We need, actually, the Justice Department prosecuting the standards under NAFTA.
But the last thing I want to say-and I want everyone to hear my voice on this-the one thing you can count on is you will never see a picture of me on the front of Fortune magazine saying, "I am the candidate that big, corporate America is betting on."
That will never happen. That's one thing you can take to the bank.
OLBERMANN: Senator Edwards, thank you.
Congressman Kucinich, scrap NAFTA or fix it?
KUCINICH: You asked a direct question. I think it deserves a direct answer. In my first week in office, I will notify Mexico and Canada that the United States is withdrawing from NAFTA. I will notify the WTO we're withdrawing from the WTO.
We need a president who knows what the right thing is to do the first time, not in retrospect. And I think that we need to go back to trade-excuse me. We need to go forward to trade that's based on workers' rights, human rights and environmental quality principles.
KUCINICH: No one else on this stage could give a direct answer because they don't intend to scrap NAFTA. We're going to be stuck with it.
And I'm your candidate if you want to get out of NAFTA. Let's hear it. Do you want out of NAFTA? Do you want out of the WTO?
KUCINICH: Tell these candidates: Listen to the workers. Listen to the voices of the workers of America.
OLBERMANN: Congressman, forgive me-Congressman, forgive me...
KUCINICH: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: ... you're undermining my cause here to try to contain some of the applause.
We also-we did have, I believe, Senator Clinton, a veiled
reference to someone on this panel in Senator Edwards' answer. And I
think I'd be remiss if I did not give you an additional 30 seconds to reply to that.
CLINTON: Well, I am-I'm just-I'm just taking it all in.
You know, I've noticed in the last few days that a lot of the other campaigns have been using my name a lot.
But I'm here because I think we need to change America.
CLINTON: And it's not to get in fights with Democrats. I want the Democrats to win. And I want a united Democratic Party...
... that will stand against the Republicans.
And I will say that, for 15 years, I have stood up against the right-wing machine. And I've come out stronger.
So if you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I'm your girl.
OLBERMANN: I'm just wondering if Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln had a moderator and if he had to try to quiet the crowd down.
Totally unconnected to that, but back to our original topic, Senator Obama, the flip side to fair trade, obviously-if buying American costs more, and in many cases it does, how do you convince a working family that's struggling to get by on a tight budget and, in part, makes makes ends meet using $10 T-shirts for their kids, that buying American is still best for them, no matter what the price is?
OBAMA: Look, people don't want a cheaper T-shirt if they're losing a job in the process. They would rather have the job and pay a little bit more for a T-shirt.
And I think that's something that all Americans could agree to.
But this raises a larger point, which is globalization is here, and we should be trading around the world. We don't want to just be standing still while the rest of the world is out there taking the steps that it needs to in order to expand trade.
The question is: On whose behalf is the president negotiating? Is he or she negotiating on behalf of the people in this stadium or are you only negotiating on behalf of corporate profits?
And that is an important issue, and it is an important distinction that we have to make.
One other thing that has to be mentioned: Congress has a responsibility because we've got, right now, provisions in our tax code that reward companies that are moving jobs overseas instead of companies that are investing right here in the United States of America.
OBAMA: And that is a reflection of the degree to which special interests have been shaping our trade policy. That's something that I'll end.
OLBERMANN: Senator Obama, thank you.
We're going to try to do this, if we would all stay to 30 seconds here, to close out this segment on the subject of trade. And I'm also not going to go along with my friends at NBC Sports who asked me to mention that the Beijing Olympics starts one year from today.
But 28 percent of those surveyed-and we'll just go in order from Governor Richardson on down -- 28 percent of those surveyed in the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll perceived China as an ally.
More than half this nation views China as an adversary. Which do you think it is, ally or adversary, sir?
RICHARDSON: China is a strategic competitor.
RICHARDSON: And we've got to be tougher on China when it comes to human rights and trade. We've got to say to China, you've got to stop fooling around with currency; you've got to find ways to be more sensitive to your workers; you've got to do more, China, in the area of human rights around the world, like put pressure on the Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur.
But we have to have a relationship with China that is realistic.
We have to have a relationship that involves both strategic
competition and common interest.
Here's what I would do.
OLBERMANN: Governor, I'm going to have to cut you off or we're not going to be able to get through to everyone in the line here.
Senator Obama, is China an ally or an adversary?
OBAMA: China is a competitor, but they don't have to be an enemy, as long as we understand that they are going to be negotiating aggressively for their advantage. And we've got to have a president in the White House who's negotiating to make sure that we're looking after American workers.
That means enforcing our trade agreements. It means that, if they're manipulating their currency, that we take them to the mat on this issue.
OBAMA: It means that we are also not running up deficits and asking China to bail us out and finance it, because it's pretty hard to have a tough negotiation...
... when the Chinese are our bankers, and that's something that we're going to have to change.
OLBERMANN: Senator, thank you.
Senator Biden, we have two votes for competitor. Is China an ally or an adversary?
BIDEN: They're neither. The fact of the matter is, though, they hold the mortgage on our house.
This administration, in order to fund a war that shouldn't be being fought and tax cuts that weren't needed for the wealthy, we're now in debt almost $1 trillion, a $1 trillion to China.
We better end that war, cut those taxes, reduce the deficit and make sure that they no longer own the mortgage on our home.
OLBERMANN: Senator Biden, thank you.
Senator Clinton, China, an ally or an adversary?
CLINTON: I want to say amen to Joe Biden, because he's 100 percent right. You know, six and a half years ago, we had a balanced budget and a surplus.
CLINTON: Now we are in deep debt with a rising deficit. And it is absolutely true that George Bush has put it on the credit card, expecting our children and grandchildren to pay for it.
We've got to get back to fiscal responsibility in order to undercut the Chinese power over us because of the debt we hold. We also have to deal with their current manipulation. We have to have tougher standards on what they import into this country. I do not want to eat bad food from China or have my children having toys that are going to get them sick.
So let's be tough on China going forward.
OLBERMANN: Senator Clinton, thank you.
DODD: Well, again, I'd agree with what's been said here. In fact, last week I passed legislation out of the committee to deal with the Chinese currency situation. It's a massive subsidy for them in terms of disadvantaging our manufacturers here.
And I would say they're competitive, but be careful. It's getting close to adversary. Let's not have any illusions here.
DODD: China is investing a great deal of its resources in building up a military capacity. And in the 21st century, we better recognize here that while they're competitors today, if we're not careful here, that we could face some serious problems with China in the latter part of this century.
We need to be insisting, Keith, that for every product or every ability they-on our shelves here, we need to be insisting that we have access to their shelves, to their marketplaces.
That's not happening. And it needs to stop.
OLBERMANN: Senator, thank you.
Senator Edwards, China, is it an ally or an adversary?
EDWARDS: China is a competitor, but besides all the things that have been said and needs to be-these statements are all correct about them holding American debt, about our trade deficit. No one's mentioned human rights abuses, but there are huge human rights abuses going on in China.
But the other thing I want to mention is there's also a trade safety issue here. What about 2 million toys that have come into the United States and had to be recalled from China? How about the fact that we don't have real country-of-origin labeling that the United States of America actually enforces so the American people know what they're buying, where it's coming from.
We should have a president of the United States who enforces country-of-origin labeling. We should have a Consumer Product Safety Commission that's not looking out for big multinational corporations, but is actually looking out for the safety of our children here in America.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, Senator Edwards.
KUCINICH: The time to worry about China trade was really when some of my friends up here on the stage actually voted for most favored nation.
Now, as president, my most favored nation is America.
And I want to say, you know, there was a myth when I was growing up in Cleveland that if you dig a hole deep enough, you'll get to China. We're there. And we need to have a president that understands that...
... and is ready to take a whole new direction and change trade with China.
Thank you very much. A working person's president.
OLBERMANN: Congressman Kucinich, great thanks.
A hint to our candidates, our next topic will be of great interest to you. The subject will be Iraq after this break.