PHILADELPHIA---Transcript of Oct. 30 Democratic debate at Drexel University below. Courtesy MSNBC.
DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES PARTICIPATE IN A DEBATE
SPONSORED BY MSNBC
OCTOBER 30, 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.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR
TIM RUSSERT, MSNBC ANCHOR
WILLIAMS: Philadelphia, the cradle of American democracy, where
the founding fathers gathered to declare our nation's independence and
to ring out that news on the Liberty Bell, still proudly displayed
Philadelphia is also home to Drexel University, with a student
body some 20,000 strong. Top majors here include business and
engineering. But everybody rallies around the university mascot,
Mario the Dragon.
Drexel was founded by financier and philanthropist Anthony J.
Drexel back in 1891, the very same year the ornate main building was
Tonight, in that building, Drexel continues Philadelphia's proud
political tradition, playing host to the Democratic candidates for
president, gathered here to debate as the race heats up and the early
contests draw near.
Democracy in action, tonight in this City of Brotherly Love.
WILLIAMS: And from the Drexel campus in Philly, good evening.
Brian Williams with Tim Russert.
We have thanked our hosts for this evening. We have thanked the
candidates for being here. We should get started.
Senator Obama, we'll begin with you.
You gave an interview to the New York Times, over the weekend,
pledging in it to be more aggressive, to be tougher in your campaign
against your chief rival for the nomination, the leader among
Democrats so far, Senator Clinton, who is here next to you tonight.
To that end, Senator, you said that Senator Clinton was trying to
sound Republican, trying to vote Republican on national security
WILLIAMS: And that was, quote, "bad for the country and
ultimately bad for the Democrats." That is a strong charge, as you're
aware. Specifically, what are the issues where you, Senator Obama,
and Senator Clinton have differed, where you think she has sounded or
voted like a Republican?
OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think some of this stuff gets over-
hyped. In fact, I think this has been the most hyped fight since
Rocky fought Apollo Creed, although the amazing thing is, I'm Rocky in
But, look, we have big challenges. We're at war. The country is
struggling with issues like rising health care.
OBAMA: We've got major global challenges like climate change.
And that's going to require big, meaningful change. And I'm running
for president because I think that the way to bring about that change
is to offer some sharp contrasts with the other party.
I think it means that we bring people together to get things
done. I think it means that we push against the special interests
that are holding us back. And most importantly, I think it requires
us to be honest about the challenges that we face.
It does not mean, I think, changing positions whenever it's
politically convenient. And Senator Clinton, in her campaign, I think
has been for NAFTA previously. Now she's against it. She has taken
one position on torture several months ago, and then most recently has
taken a different position.
She voted for a war, to authorize sending troops into Iraq, and
then later said this was a war for diplomacy.
OBAMA: I don't think that it -- now, that may be politically
savvy, but I don't think that it offers the clear contrast that we
need. I think what we need right now is honesty with the American
people about where we would take the country. That's how I'm trying
to run my campaign. That's how I will be as president.
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, rebuttal?
CLINTON: Well, I don't think the Republicans got the message
that I'm voting and sounding like them.
If you watched their debate last week, I seemed to be the topic
of great conversation and consternation. And that's for a reason --
because I have stood against George Bush and his failed policies.
They want to continue the war in Iraq; I want to end it. The
Republicans are waving their sabers and talking about going after
Iran. I want to prevent a rush to war.
On every issue from health care for children to an energy policy
that puts us on the right track to deal with climate change and make
us more secure, I have been standing against the Republicans, George
Bush and Dick Cheney, and I will continue to do so. And I think
Democrats know that.
WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
RUSSERT: Senator Edwards, you issued a press release, your
campaign, and the headline is "Edwards to Clinton: American people
deserve the truth, not more doubletalk on Iran."
What doubletalk are you suggesting that Senator Clinton has been
engaging in on Iran?
EDWARDS: First, good evening. It is wonderful to be here.
Let me talk a little bit about what I see as the choice the
voters have. I think that from my perspective, President Bush over
the last seven years has destroyed the trust relationship America and
its president. In fact, I think he has destroyed the trust
relationship between the president of the United States and the rest
of the world.
I think it is crucial for Democratic voters and caucus-goers to
determine who they can trust, who's honest, who is sincere, who has
EDWARDS: And I think it's fair in that regard to look at what
people have said. Senator Clinton says that she believes she can be
the candidate for change, but she defends a broken system that's
corrupt in Washington, D.C.
She says she will end the war, but she continues to say she'll
keep combat troops in Iraq and continue combat missions in Iraq.
To me, that's not ending the war, that's a continuation of the
She says she'll stand up to George Bush on Iran. She just said
it again. And, in fact, she voted to give George Bush the first step
in moving militarily on Iran -- and he's taken it. Bush and Cheney
have taken it. They have now declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard
a terrorist organization and a proliferator of weapons of mass
EDWARDS: I think we have to stand up to this president.
And then, finally, she said in our last debate that she was
against any changes on Social Security -- benefits, retirement aid, or
raising the cap on the Social Security tax -- but apparently, it's
been reported that she said privately something different than that.
And I think the American people, given this historic moment in
our country's history, deserve a president of the United States that
they know will tell them the truth, and won't say one thing one time
and something different at a different time.
RUSSERT: You stand behind the word "doubletalk"?
EDWARDS: I do.
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton?
CLINTON: Well, I think that anyone who has looked at my record
of 35 years fighting for women and children and people who feel
invisible and left out in this country knows my record. I fought for
expanded education and health care in Arkansas. I helped to bring
health care to six million children while in the White House.
CLINTON: And now in the Senate, I've been standing up against
the Republicans and everything from preventing them from privatizing
Social Security to standing up against President Bush's veto of
children's health. You know, I have a long record of standing up and
fighting. And I take on the special interests. I've been taking them
on for many years.
And I think all you have to do is go back and read the media to
But, on specific issues, I've come out with very specific plans.
With respect to Social Security, I do have a plan. It's called,
"start with fiscal responsibility." That's what we were doing in the
1990s, and we had Social Security on a much better path than it is
today because of the irresponsible spending policies of George Bush
and the Republican Congress.
If there are some of the long-term challenges that we need to
address, let's do it in the context of having fiscal
responsibility,and then let's put together a bipartisan commission and
look at how we're going to deal with these long-term challenges. But
I am not going to balance Social Security on the backs of seniors and
hardworking middle-class Americans.
CLINTON: Let's start taking the tax cuts away from the wealthy,
let's take away the no-bid contracts from Halliburton before we start
imposing a trillion-dollar tax increase on the elderly and on middle-
class workers. I don't think that's necessary, so I have a very
specific plan. My friends may not agree with it, but I've been saying
it and talking about it for many months.
RUSSERT: We're going to get to Social Security in a little bit,
but I want to stay on Iran, Senator Clinton.
As you know, you voted for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, the only
member of the stage here who did that.
Senator, Jim Webb of Virginia said it is for all practical
purposes mandating the military option, that it is a clearly worded
sense of Congress that could be interpreted as a declaration of war.
Why did you vote for that amendment which would -- calls upon the
president to structure our military forces in Iraq with regard to the
capability of Iran?
CLINTON: Well, first of all, I am against a rush to war. I was
the first person on this stage and one of the very first in the
Congress to go to the floor of the Senate back in February and say
George Bush had no authority to take any military action in Iran.
CLINTON: Secondly, I am not in favor of this rush for war, but
I'm also not in favor of doing nothing.
Iran is seeking nuclear weapons. And the Iranian Revolutionary
Guard is in the forefront of that, as they are in the sponsorship of
So some may want a false choice between rushing to war, which is
the way the Republicans sound -- it's not even a question of whether,
it's a question of when and what weapons to use -- and doing nothing.
I prefer vigorous diplomacy. And I happen to think economic
sanctions are part of vigorous diplomacy. We used them with respect
to North Korea. We used them with respect to Libya.
And many of us who voted for that resolution said that this is
not anything other than an expression of support for using economic
sanctions with respect to diplomacy.
You know, several people who were adamantly opposed to the war in
Iraq, like Senator Durbin, voted the same way I did, and said at the
time that if he thought there was even the pretense that could be used
from the language in that nonbinding resolution to give George Bush
any support to go to war, he wouldn't have voted for it. Neither
CLINTON: So we can argue about what is a nonbinding sense of the
Senate, and I think that we are missing the point, which is we've got
to do everything we can to prevent George Bush and the Republicans
from doing something on their own to take offensive military action
I am prepared to pass legislation with my colleagues who are here
in the Congress to try to get some Republicans to join us, to make it
abundantly clear that sanctions and diplomacy are the way to go. We
reject and do not believe George Bush has any authority to do anything
RUSSERT: Senator Dodd, you said that bill was a justification
for war in Iran.
DODD: Well, Tim, I believe that this issue is going to come back
to haunt us. We all learned, some of here painfully, back in 2002,
that by voting for an authorization regarding Iraq, that despite the
language of that resolution which called for diplomacy at the time,
this administration used that resolution, obviously, to pursue a very
aggressive action in Iraq.
DODD: I'm in a view here, what you didn't learn back in '02, you
should've learned by now. And you don't just have to listen to this
resolution. There's been a series of drumbeats by this
administration, by Dick Cheney, by the president, by others, clearly
pointing in a direction that would call for military action in Iran.
It is a dangerous view, in my view. And therefore, I thought it
was incumbent upon us. It was interesting that people like Dick
Lugar, the former Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations
Committee, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska -- Republicans who also had serious
reservations and voted against that resolution the other day on
I'm very concerned that we're going to see those 76 votes come
back, being waved in front of us here as a justification when the Bush
administration decides to take military action in Iran.
DODD: So it was a moment -- it's a critical moment, when I think
leadership is called for here. If you're going to seek the leadership
of our country, this is the most serious time in a generation. You
have an ascending China. You have an Iranian that's ambitious to
acquire nuclear weapons. You have, obviously, a $4 trillion economy
that's in trouble, a health care crisis in this country, energy and
other issues that are going to confront the next president.
Good judgment and leadership at critical moments must be a part
of this debate and discussion. That was a critical moment and the
wrong decision was made, in my view.
RUSSERT: Senator Biden, do you agree with Senator Webb: It was,
de facto, a declaration of war?
BIDEN: Well, I think it can be used as declaration. Look, we
have a problem in the Senate -- and I'm not just directing this at
Hillary; there were 75 other people who voted with her; we are in the
minority -- that there are consequences for what we do.
And it's not even about going to war. Let's look at what
happened from the moment that vote took place. Oil prices went up to
$90 a barrel.
BIDEN: Who benefits from that? All this talk of war, all this
talk of declaring people to be terrorists droves up the price of oil.
Secondly, we have emboldened Bush, at a minimum, his talk of
world war III -- totally irresponsible talk. We've emboldened him,
Tim, to be able to move, if he chooses to move.
They're terrorists. The fact that they're terrorists on one side
of the border or the other, we just declare them terrorists. That
gives him the color of right to move against them.
Thirdly, this has incredible consequences for Afghanistan and
Pakistan. Nobody talks about this. The 75 of our colleagues don't
understand. We have no driven, underground, every moderate in
Pakistan and in Afghanistan.
This literally -- literally puts Karzai, as well as Musharraf in
jeopardy. The notion is it plays into this whole urban legend that
America's on a crusade against Islam.
This was bad -- if nothing else happens; not another single thing
-- this was bad policy. The president had the ability to do
everything that that amendment -- that resolution called for without
us talking to it.
BIDEN: And all it has done is hurt us. Even if not another
single action is taken, actions have consequences. Big nations can't
WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, let's get at this another way. "Red
line" is the current expression of the moment where Iran is concerned
in Washington. What would your red line be concerning when to, if to
attack Iran? What would make it crystal-clear in your mind that the
United States should attack Iran?
OBAMA: I don't think we should be talking about attacking Iran
at this point for some of the reasons that Chris and Joe just talked
about. Look, we have been seeing, during the Republican debates, the
drum beat of war. The president has been talking about World War III.
That is a continuation of the kinds of foreign policy that
rejects diplomacy and sees military action as the only tool available
to us to influence the region.
And what we should be doing is reaching out aggressively to our
allies, but also talking to our enemies and focusing on those areas
where we do not accept their actions, whether it be terrorism or
developing nuclear weapons, but also talking to Iran directly about
the potential carrots that we can provide in terms of them being
involved in the World Trade Organization, or beginning to look at the
possibilities of diplomatic relations being normalized.
OBAMA: We have not made those serious attempts. This kind of
resolution does not send the right signal to the region. It doesn't
send the right signal to our allies or our enemies.
And, as a consequence, I think over the long term, it weakens our
capacity to influence Iran.
Now, there may come a point where those measures have been
exhausted and Iran is on the verge of obtaining a nuclear weapon,
where we have to consider other options. But we shouldn't talk about
those options now, when we haven't even tried what would be a much
more effective approach.
WILLIAMS: Same question to Senator Clinton. What would be your
CLINTON: Well, first of all, we have to try diplomacy, and I see
economic sanctions as part of diplomacy. We have used it with other
very difficult situations -- like Libya, like North Korea. I think
that what we're trying to do here is put pressure on the Bush
administration. Joe is absolutely right. George Bush can do all of
this without anybody. You know, that is the great tragedy and that's
why we've got to rein him in, and that's why we need Republican
support in the Congress to help us do so.
I invite all of our colleagues to pass something immediately that
makes it very clear: He has no authority and we will not permit him
to go take offensive action against Iran. But what we're trying to do
is push forward on vigorous diplomacy. That has been lacking. I
believe we should be engaged in diplomacy right now with the Iranians.
CLINTON: Everything should be on the table, not just their
nuclear program. I've been advocating this for several years. I
believe it strongly.
But I also think when you go to the table to negotiate with an
adversarial regime, you need both carrots and sticks. The
Revolutionary Guard is deeply involved in the commercial activities of
Iran. Having those economic sanctions hanging over their heads gives
our negotiators one of the set of sticks that we need to try to make
progress in dealing with a very complicated situation.
Everybody agrees up here that President Bush has made a total
mess out of the situation with Iran. What we're trying to do is to
sort our way through to try to put diplomacy, with some carrots and
some sticks, into the mix and get the president to begin to do that.
WILLIAMS: Respectfully, Senator, same question though: Do you
have a threshold, a red line beyond which...
CLINTON: I want to start diplomacy. I -- you know, I am not
going to speculate about when or if they get nuclear weapons.
CLINTON: We're trying to prevent them from getting so. We're
not, in my view, rushing to war. We should not be doing that, but we
shouldn't be doing nothing, and that means we should not let them
acquire nuclear weapons. And the best way to prevent that is a full
court press on the diplomatic front.
WILLIAMS: I've noted all of our candidates want in on this.
Senator Edwards, you next.
EDWARDS: Thank you very much.
Well, I just listened to what Senator Clinton said and she said
she wanted to maximize pressure on the Bush administration. So the
way to do that is to vote yes on a resolution that looks like it was
written, literally, by the neo-cons.
I mean, has anyone read this thing? I mean, it literally gave
Bush and Cheney exactly what they wanted. It didn't just give them
what they wanted. They acted on it.
A few weeks later, they declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard
a terrorist organization, and -- this is going to sound very familiar
-- remember from Iraq? The prelude to Iraq? -- proliferators of
weapons of mass destruction.
The way you put pressure on this administration is you stand up
to them; you say no.
EDWARDS: A lot of us on this stage have learned our lessons the
hard way, that you give this president an inch and he will take a
mile. And this is about such an important issue, and we have to stand
up to this president. We need to make it absolutely clear that we
have no intention of letting Bush, Cheney or this administration
invade Iran because they have been rattling the saber over and over
And what this resolution did, written literally in the language
of the neo-cons, is it enables this president to do exactly what he
wants to do. He continues to march forward. He continues to say this
is a terrorist organization. He continues to say these are
proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.
How in the world is that -- Democrats -- we're not talking about
Republicans now, Chris and Joe -- Democrats standing up to this
president and saying, "No, we are not going to allow this, we are not
going to allow this march to war in Iran"?
RUSSERT: Governor Richardson, would you negotiate with Iran
without any conditions?
RICHARDSON: Yes, I would. And I'm the only one on this stage
that has actually negotiated with a foreign country...
(UNKNOWN): That's not true.
RICHARDSON: And I want to just say to you that, in my judgment,
we have to use diplomacy. And there is a redline. We cannot permit
Iran to use nuclear weapons. And I do believe what you do is
Ahmadinejad -- it's very difficult to deal with him. But there are
moderate elements in Iraq. There are moderate clerics. There's
students. There's a business community.
And I believe that we can achieve a compromise on the nuclear
issue. In exchange for them having a nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear
power, they don't develop nuclear weapons -- carrot and sticks,
diplomatic initiatives, economic incentives.
The problem is we saber-rattle. And this resolution in the
Senate saber-rattles. I was U.N. ambassador. I know this region.
And I do believe that it's critically important that we talk to North
Korea, that we talk to Syria, that we talk to Iran.
RICHARDSON: It's going to take skilled diplomacy. What we have
in this administration is a policy of preemption, of saber-rattling,
of leaking out potential targets in Iran. That's not going to get
I believe its critical that if we're going to resolve the
situation in the Middle East, if we're going to get Iraq to stop
Iran's helping terrorists, we have to engage them vigorously,
potentially also with sanctions. We need to get European allies who
refuse generally to help us with sanctions, as well as Russia. What
you saw recently is Russia and Iran embracing each other. That is not
RUSSERT: Congressman Kucinich, your opinion of this resolution?
KUCINICH: Well, first of all, we need to adamantly reject any
kind of a move toward war with Iran.
KUCINICH: There's no basis for it whatsoever. But we have to
realize, Tim, that we have a number of enablers who happen to be
Democrats who have said over the last year, with respect to Iran, all
options are on the table. And when you say all options are on the
table, you are licensing President Bush.
And I'm the only one up here on the stage who not only voted
against the war in Iraq, voted against funding the war, but also led
the effort against Bush's drive toward war.
The problem is: These policies of preemption license a war.
Preemption, by virtue of international law, is illegal. Our president
has already violated international law.
The war in Iraq is illegal. Even planning for the war against
Iran is illegal. Tim, we're here in Philadelphia, the birthplace of
democracy. I want to know when this democratic Congress is going to
stand up for the Constitution and hold the president accountable with
Article II, Section 4, an impeachment act.
KUCINICH: I think that our democracy is in peril, and unless the
Democrats and the Congress stand up for the Constitution, we are going
to lose our country. We need to challenge him on this war, but we
need to challenge him at his core, and the core is, there needs to be
a separation of powers, a balance of powers.
Things are out of balance. It is time for us to stand up for the
Constitution of the United States.
RUSSERT: I want to ask each of you the same question.
Senator Clinton, would you pledge to the American people that
Iran will not develop a nuclear bomb while you are president?
CLINTON: I intend to do everything I can to prevent Iran from
developing a nuclear bomb.
RUSSERT: But you won't pledge?
CLINTON: I am pledging I will do everything I can to prevent
Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
RUSSERT: But, they may.
CLINTON: Well, you know, Tim, you asked me if I would pledge,
and I have pledged that I will do everything I can to prevent Iran
from developing a nuclear bomb.
RUSSERT: Senator Edwards?
EDWARDS: What I will do is take all the responsible steps that
can be taken to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
RUSSERT: Senator Obama?
OBAMA: I think all of us are committed to Iran not having
nuclear weapons, and so we could potentially short circuit this.
But I think there is a larger point at stake, Tim, and that is,
we have been governed by fear for the last six years. And this
president has used the fear of terrorism to launch a war that should
have never been authorized. We are seeing the same pattern now. We
are seeing the Republican nominees do the same thing.
And it is very important for us to draw a clear line and say, "We
are not going to be governed by fear. We will take threats seriously.
We will take action to make sure that the United States is secure."
As president of the United States, I will do everything in my
power to keep us safe.
OBAMA: But what we cannot continue to do is operate as if we are
the weakest nation in the world instead of the strongest one, because
that's not who we are and that's not what America has been about,
historically. And it is starting to warp our domestic policies, as
We haven't even talked about civil liberties and the impact of
that politics of fear -- what that has done to us, in terms of
undermining basic civil liberties in this country, what it has done in
terms of our reputation around the world.
RUSSERT: Senator Biden, would you pledge to the American people
that Iran would not build a nuclear bomb on your watch?
BIDEN: I would pledge to keep us safe. If you told me, Tim --
and this is not -- this is complicated stuff; we talk about this in
isolation. The fact of the matter is, the Iranians may get 2.6
kilograms of highly-enriched uranium.
But the Pakistanis have hundreds -- thousands of kilograms of
highly-enriched uranium. If by attacking Iran to stop them from
getting 2.6 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium, the government in
Pakistan falls, who has missiles already deployed with nuclear weapons
on them that can already reach Israel, already reach India, then
that's a bad bargain.
BIDEN: Presidents make wise decisions informed not by a vacuum
in which they operate, by the situation they find themselves in the
I will do all in my power to stop Iran from getting a nuclear
weapon, but I will never take my eye off the ball. What is the
greatest threat to the United States of America: 2.6 kilograms of
highly enriched uranium in Tehran or an out-of-control Pakistan? It's
WILLIAMS: Senator Dodd?
DODD: Well, listen, there's a deeper question here, because not
only the pledge you make, but this audience and others here make a
determination which of us here have the experience, the background
here to manage the situation. It's a critical question.
As I at the outset of my -- the first question you gave me here,
this is the most critical time in a generation in this country. The
problem's not only the Middle East. What's going on in the Far East,
as well as in Latin America and elsewhere.
And which of us here brings the background, the experience, the
ability to make a difference on these issues, including the question
DODD: I agree with Joe. I think the more immediate problem is
Pakistan, the one that needs to be addressed. But certainly, bringing
that experience together so that you're able to marshal the resources,
put together the kind of team, and demonstrate as a result of what
you've been able to accomplish over the years that you can actually
handle this situation.
Results matter. Experience matters. Having the demonstrated
ability to deal with these issues is critical.
So, certainly, I would make a pledge obviously to do everything
we can to avoid this problem. But I would suggest to you, Tim, that
the more immediate issue is the one exactly that Joe has identified
here. Pakistan does pose a more serious issue for this country, and
one that needs to be addressed.
That is what I did in Latin America when I negotiated the
settlements in El Salvador and Nicaragua, going back 20 years ago,
deeply involved in the process, working day after day with various
elements to bring about the kind of results that today has reduced the
threats of violence in that part of the world.
That's what's needed here, a leader that has the experience and
the background to grapple with these issues.
WILLIAMS: Governor Richardson?
RICHARDSON: Well, I would make the pledge. It would be through
diplomacy. And what we're also talking about is not just Pakistan.
We're talking about enriched uranium, a loose nuclear weapon, nuclear
materials, fissionable material throughout the world.
RICHARDSON: Even more of a threat than nuclear weapons is a
loose nuclear weapons crossing the border. So what we need is an
international agreement. But the key has to be diplomacy.
And I have -- in the fourth row, there's a man named Bill
Barloon, who I rescued from an Iraqi prison in Abu Ghraib. And it's
going to take leadership. It's going to take diplomacy. It's going
to take negotiation.
I went head to head with Saddam Hussein and I brought two
Americans out. Bill Barloon is one. And the greatest words I heard
after I got him out was, "Thank you." And then I said, "I'm taking
That's diplomacy. That means talking to the Irans, to the
Syrias, to the -- North Korea. I've done it, all my life, as
diplomat, as a U.N. ambassador, as a special envoy, as a hostage
RICHARDSON: I've got the most international experience here,
with all due respect. There's a lot of good international experience
here. But I've gone head-to-head in North Korea, and we got back --
we got back six remains of our soldiers six months ago. We got the
North Koreans to stop their nuclear reactor.
And so, I believe it's important that we have a leader, not just
who can bring people together, but could resolve some of the thorniest
problems we have.
WILLIAMS: Congressman Kucinich, same question.
KUCINICH: With all due respect to our friends from the media
here, the media itself has to be careful how you frame these
questions. We don't want to be put in a position where we are taking
this country to the threshold of war. The media did play a role in
taking us into war in Iraq. And I'm urging members of the media --
urge restraint upon you and our president, whose rhetoric is out of
KUCINICH: I would go to Iran and I would urge Iran not just to
not have nuclear weapons. I would urge then to give up nuclear power
because nuclear power is the most expensive type of power there is.
It is not a sustainable type of power because of the costs of it. It
is unsafe. I would urge Iran to give up nuclear power.
But I would also do something further. It is time that the
United States government enforced and participated in fully the Non-
Proliferation Treaty, which calls for the abolition of all nuclear
We must lead the way, and we must have a president who
understands the danger of these nuclear weapons and have America lead
the way among all nations towards nuclear abolition.
When we do that, we will have the credibility to go to an Iran
and any other nation that may have desires for nuclear power to say,
"Look, we want to take it in another direction."
We are not going to stand by and watch our country lost because
we are ratcheting up the rhetoric toward war against Iran.
KUCINICH: We have to stop this, Tim. We have to stop ratcheting
up the rhetoric for war. We really need to stop it.
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, elsewhere in the region, let's talk
about Iraq. One of your military advisers, retired Lieutenant General
Claudia Kennedy, while campaigning for you in New Hampshire, was
recently quoted saying, quote, "I don't oppose the war. I have never
heard Senator Clinton say 'I oppose the war.'"
Senator Clinton, do you oppose the war in Iraq?
CLINTON: Absolutely. But I do not -- and I don't think any of
us do -- oppose the brave young men and women who have fought this war
with such distinction and heroism.
You know, I have said, repeatedly, that I will begin to bring our
troops home as soon as I am president, because it is abundantly clear
that President Bush does not intend to end the war while he is still
In order to do that, we're doing to have to get the Joint Chiefs
and my secretary of defense and advisers together to start the
planning to move as quickly as possible, because I don't believe that
the planning has been sufficiently undertaken in the Pentagon under
CLINTON: But we've got to do more. We have to try to get the
Iraqi government to understand its obligations, because there is no
military solutions. And they have, thus far, failed to do so.
And, finally, we need to engage in diplomacy, with respect to
Iraq. You know, we have a big diplomatic apparatus. This president
doesn't use it. He relies on a very small group of people. I think
that's a terrible mistake.
In addition to the foreign service officers, I would bring in a
lot of other distinguished Americans who have experience -- people,
you know, like my colleagues, Bill and Joe and Chris. We need a lot
of Americans trying to fan out across the world following President
Bush, because he's going to leave so many problems.
His policies have alienated our friends and emboldened our
enemies. And Iraq and Iran are tinder boxes -- the Middle East,
CLINTON: I agree with Joe -- the Afghanistan situation.
Everywhere you look in the world we've got work to do, and I
think we've got to do more than just send our young men and women out.
That is not an appropriate use of their power.
WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, was Senator Clinton's answer to the
opposition of the Iraq war question consistent, in your view?
OBAMA: I don't think it's consistent with the Iran resolution,
for example, which specifically stated that we should structure our
forces in Iraq with an eye toward blunting Iranian influence. It is
yet another rationale for what we're doing in Iraq, and I think that's
Now, I agree that we've got to focus on diplomacy. The president
has to lead that diplomacy, which is why I've said I would convene a
meeting of Muslim leaders upon taking office because I think we have
to send a strong signal that we are willing to listen and not just
talk, and certainly not just dictate or engage in military action.
But the real key for the next president is someone who has the
credibility of not having been one of the co-authors of this
engagement in Iraq.
OBAMA: I think I am in a strong position to be able to say I
thought this was a bad idea in the first place. We now have to fix
it. We have to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting
in. But we nevertheless have to take steps that are not only engaging
Iraqis -- the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurds -- but also engaging Iran,
Syria and other powers in the region.
WILLIAMS: Senator Edwards, same question.
EDWARDS: Well, here's what I want. I want to make certain that
voters in Iowa and New Hampshire and all across America, Democrats and
Independents, understand that you have choices in this election, very
If you believe that combat missions should be continued in Iraq
over the long term, if you believe that combat troops should remain
stationed in Iraq, and if you believe there should be no actual
timetable for withdrawal, then Senator Clinton is your candidate.
EDWARDS: I don't. I think that we need to end combat missions;
we need to get combat troops out of Iraq. As president of the United
States, I will do that. I think it's a requirement of leadership, as
president. And I will do it in my first year in office: combat
missions ended, combat troops out of Iraq, period.
So there's a very clear choice here between the candidates.
And the second thing that I want to make certain that voters are
aware of, when we talk -- we've had a long discussion about Iran. And
Barack just made the connection to Iran, and there is a very clear
Because we need to learn from the past. And what we've learned
from the past is you cannot trust this president. And what I worry
about is, if Bush invades Iran six months from now, I mean, are we
going to hear: "If only I had known then what I know now?"
Well, we know enough now to know we have to stand up to this
EDWARDS: And the second point I would make is, I was surprised
by Senator Clinton's vote. I'll be honest about that. And then I saw
an explanation of it in The New York Times for her vote which
basically said she was moving from primary mode to general election
I think that our responsibility as presidential candidates is to
be in "tell the truth" mode all the time. We should not be saying
something different in the primary than we say in the general
election. I think that's what Americans have been hearing from George
Bush, and I think they're looking for something different and voters
have a choice in this election.
WILLIAMS: Senator Clinton, 30-second rebuttal.
CLINTON: Well, I need to rebut this. I don't know where to
start. Number one, when we talk about combat missions in Iraq, my
understanding is that we had the same agreement -- most of us on this
stage -- that we would bring out combat troops but we would pursue a
mission against Al Qaida in Iraq if they remained a threat.
Now, I don't know how you pursue Al Qaida without engaging them
in combat. So I think we're having a semantic difference here. I
think we should get as many of the combat troops out as quickly as
CLINTON: If we leave any troops in, like special operations, to
go after Al Qaida in Iraq, I assume that we don't want them just
sitting around and watching them. We want them to engage them. That
is a very limited mission. That is what I have said consistently.
And you know, when it comes to where I stand, I have been
explaining that to the American people. I stand for ending the war in
Iraq, bringing our troops home.
But I also know it's going to be complicated, and it's going to
take time. And I intend to do it in a responsible manner that is as
safe for our troops as possible.
We're going to have troops remaining there, guarding our embassy.
We may have a continuing training mission, and we may have a mission
against Al Qaida in Iraq. So that's a very big difference than having
the 160,000 troops that George Bush has there today.
WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
And a brief housekeeping note here. We have built two or three
rather short breaks into tonight's program, this two-hour debate. And
we're going to choose to take the first of them right now, mostly so
everyone can take a breath on this hot stage on this otherwise cool
night in Philadelphia.
We will continue with our debate from the campus of Drexel
University in Philadelphia right after this.
WILLIAMS: We are back, from the campus of Drexel University in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, resuming what will be tonight a two-hour
WILLIAMS: And we're going to start with another subject at the
top of this segment.
Senator Clinton, it will go to you. It speaks to electability.
Earlier this month, Republican presidential frontrunner, Rudolph
Giuliani, said this about you, quote, "I don't know Hillary's
experience. She's never run a city. She's never run a state. She's
never run a business. She's never met a payroll. She's never been
responsible for the safety and security of millions of people, much
less, even hundreds of people.
"So I'm trying to figure out where the experience is here," end
Senator, how do you respond to the former mayor of New York?
CLINTON: Well, I think the kind of experience that the
Republican nominees are exhibiting is the kind of experience we don't
need. And I think my experience of 35 years -- as an advocate for
children and families, as a citizen-activist, as someone who helped to
bring educational reform and health care reform to Arkansas, bringing
the Children's Health Insurance Program to fruition during the years
in the White House, my time in the Senate -- I think my experience on
both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
CLINTON: But it's really about what's at stake in this election
and who can deliver the change that we all know this country
In a perverse way, I think that the Republicans and their
constant obsession with me demonstrate clearly that they obviously
think that I am communicating effectively about what I will do as
president. I am trying to do that because it matters greatly. We've
got to turn the page on George Bush and Dick Cheney. In fact, we have
to throw the whole book away.
This has been a disastrous period in American history, and we
hope it will be an aberration. Then we need to get back to doing what
will work again here at home and around the world. I have set forth
big goals to restore America's leadership, to once again rebuild a
strong and prosperous middle class, to reform our government, and to
reclaim the future for our children.
That means ending the war in Iraq, having an energy policy that
works and creates jobs, having health care for everyone, having an
education system from pre-kindergarten to college affordability and so
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I'd like to follow up, because in
terms of your experience as first lady, in order to give the American
people an opportunity to make a judgment about your experience, would
you allow the National Archives to release the documents about your
communications with the president, the advice you gave?
Because, as you well know, President Clinton has asked the
National Archives not to do anything until 2012.
CLINTON: Well, actually, Tim, the Archives is moving as rapidly
as the Archives moves. There's about 20 million pieces of paper
there. And they are move, and they are releasing as they do their
process. And I am fully in favor of that.
Now, all of the records, as far as I know, about what we did with
health care, those are already available. Others are becoming
available. And I think that, you know, the Archives will continue to
move as rapidly as its circumstances and processes demand.
RUSSERT: But there was a letter written by President Clinton
specifically asking that any communication between you and the
president not be made available to the public until 2012. Would you
lift that ban?
CLINTON: Well, that's not my decision to make, and I don't
believe that any president or first lady ever has. But, certainly,
we're move as quickly as our circumstances and the processes of the
National Archives permits.
RUSSERT: Senator Obama, your hand is up?
OBAMA: Well, look, I'm glad that Hillary took the phrase "turn
the page." It's a good one, but this is an example of not turning the
page. We have just gone through one of the most secretive
administrations in our history.
And not releasing, I think, these records at the same time,
Hillary, that you're making the claim that this is the basis for your
experience, I think, is a problem.
Part of what we have to do is invite the American people back to
participate in their government again. Part of what we need to do is
rebuild trust in our government again.
OBAMA: And that means being open and transparent and accountable
to the American people. And that's one of the hallmarks of my
previous work in the state legislature, in the United States Senate,
making sure that Americans know where our money is going, what
earmarks are out there, what kinds of pork barrel spending is being
done, who's bungling money for who.
And that, I think, is part of the job of the next president, is
making Americans believe that our government is working for them;
because right now, they don't feel like it's working for them. They
feel like it's working for special interests and it's working for
One last point I want to make -- part of the reason that
Republicans, I think, are obsessed with you, Hillary, is because
that's a fight they're very comfortable having. It is the fight that
we've been through since the '90s.
And part of the job of the next president is to break the
gridlock and to get Democrats and independents and Republicans to
start working together to solve these big problems like health care or
climate change or energy.
OBAMA: And what we don't need is another eight years of
bickering. And that's precisely why I'm running for president,
because one of the things I've been able to do, throughout my
political career, is to bring people together to get things done.
RUSSERT: Senator Edwards had his hand up. Then I want to give
Senator Clinton a chance to respond.
EDWARDS: Thank you very much.
I mean, another perspective on why the Republicans keep talking
about Senator Clinton is, Senator, they may actually want to run
against you, and that's the reason they keep bringing you up.
What I would say is, Senator Clinton just said that she believes
we desperately need change in this country. And I agree with that. I
actually think we have a system that's broken; it's rigged; it's
corrupt. And it does not work for the American people.
And it's time we start telling the truth about that -- too much
influence from entrenched interests, insurance companies, drug
companies, oil companies, too much influence from Washington
And so the question, I think, that voters have to ask themselves
is: Do you believe that the candidate who's raised the most money
from Washington lobbyists, Democrat or Republican, the candidate who's
raised the most money from the health industry, drug companies, health
insurance companies, the candidate who's raised the most money from
the defense industry, Republican or Democrat -- and the answer to all
of those questions is: That's Senator Clinton.
EDWARDS: Will she be the person who brings about the change in
this country? You know, I believe in Santa Claus. I believe in the
tooth fairy. But I don't think that's going to happen. I really
And I think that if people want the status quo, Senator Clinton's
your candidate. That's what I believe. If they want real change,
then they need somebody who tells the truth about a system that
doesn't work, who believes that this may actually be the first
generation we're all worried about. This being the first generation
that doesn't leave the world and America better for our children,
unlike 20 generations that came before us.
This is not an abstract thing.
EDWARDS: This is not about lobbyists. As a matter of fact, it's
not about any of us. The truth is, when this election is over, I'm
going to be fine. Senator Clinton is going to be fine. Senator
Obama's going to be fine.
The question is: Will America be fine? And will we ensure --
and I think this is the great moral test of our generation -- will we
ensure that our children have a better life than we have had? That's
the responsibility we have.
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, please.
CLINTON: Well, I think we were making progress in the 1990s and
I am very proud of the progress were making until, unfortunately, the
Supreme Court handed the presidency to George Bush, and we have been
living with the consequences ever since.
I think it is time for us to step up and say we are going to
change the way Washington works. I've laid out very specific plans
about how to do that. I'm going to take $10 billion away from a lot
of these industries, starting with money from the HMOs that are
getting too much out of Medicare, starting with the no-bid contracts
for Halliburton; starting with the defense industry that needs to be
pared down and reined in.
CLINTON: I've been very clear about that. And I intend to
You know, change is just a word if you don't have the strength
and experience to actually make it happen.
WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, to you, let's apply what we'll call the
Giuliani question about having run a city, a state, a payroll. What,
specifically, is your relevant experience for being president?
OBAMA: The experience I have in politics is primarily
legislative. But here's the experience that I think the next
president needs. I think the next president has to be able to get
people to work together to get things done, even when they disagree.
And I've done that. You know, when I was in Illinois, we brought
police officers and civil rights advocates together to reform a death
penalty system that had sent 13 innocent men to death row.
And we ended up passing it unanimously, even though originally
people had said it couldn't be done.
You know, Dennis earlier was talking about the need to work on
nonproliferation issues. I've worked with Dick Lugar, Republican
spokesperson for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to focus on
the next generation of nonproliferation efforts.
OBAMA: Now, that, I think, is critical experience.
I also think it is critical for the next president to be
experienced to stand up to special interests. I'm glad Hillary is
talking about it, but I'm the only person on this stage who has worked
actively just last year passing, along with Russ Feingold, some of the
toughest ethics reform since Watergate, making sure that lobbyists
could not provide gifts and meals to congressmen, making sure that the
bundling of moneys by lobbyists was disclosed.
And finally, I think we've got to have a president who has the
experience of standing up, even when it's not easy, which is what I
did in 2002 when i stood up against this war in Iraq 10 days before
That is the kind of judgment that I'm displaying during this
campaign when I go to Detroit and I say to the automakers that they
need to raise fuel efficiency standards; not in front of some
That kind of consistency and principled leadership, I think, is
what is going to move us in the next direction. That's what I'll
provide as president.
WILLIAMS: Governor Richardson, though, there was broad
disagreement on this panel about you having the only negotiation
WILLIAMS: You did raise your qualifications earlier. Is your
contention that, say, the top three frontrunners in this race are less
qualified than you are to be president?
RICHARDSON: No, and I'm positive. You know what I'm hearing
here? I'm hearing this holier than thou attitude towards Senator
Clinton that -- it's bothering me because it's pretty close to
personal attacks that we don't need. Do we trust her? Do we -- did
she take money from special interests?
We need to be positive in this campaign. Yes, we need to point
out our differences. And I have big differences with her over the war
-- I would get all our troops out -- over No Child Left Behind -- I'd
get rid of it. I also have differences over Iran. I think that was
the wrong vote for her to cast because I think it was saber-rattling.
But I think it's important that we save the ammunition for the
Republicans. If we continue, I believe, harping on the past and not
focusing on the future -- look, the reality on the electability issue
is, the last senator that was elected president was 40 years ago.
RICHARDSON: Look, the reality on the electability issue is, the
last senator that was elected president was 40 years ago. His name
was John F. Kennedy.
We elect governors as president. Seven out of the last eight
have been either governors or ex-governors.
And my view is that I know how to bring people together. More
than all the issues that we're talking about it's who can govern, who
I'm the only CEO in this race. I've balanced budgets. I've
provided health care to kids under 12. I've improved education. I've
got foreign policy experience. I've negotiated with foreign countries
as a diplomat, as a hostage negotiator.
Yes, I do think it is substantially more than my colleagues,
although they have a strong record.
But the important thing is that we need to stay positive. We
need to have disagreement on the issues, not on whether you can trust
-- I trust Senator Clinton, but I don't agree with her on a majority
WILLIAMS: Senator Dodd, you gave an interview to our local NBC
station here today, alluding to problems with Senator Clinton's
national electability. What is the point you want to make on that
DODD: Well, first, I think electability's a very critical issue.
Look, at the end of this process here, we need to have a Democrat in
the White House come January 20, 2009. That is essential in my view
to get this country back on its feet again, to restore our moral
authority in the world. It is a critical question.
Whether it's fair or not fair, the fact of the matter is that my
colleague from New York, Senator Clinton, there are 50 percent of the
American public that say they're not going to vote for her. I'm not
saying anything that people don't know already. I don't necessarily
like it, but those are the facts.
We as a party certainly have to take that into consideration.
But let me add, since the matter's been brought up here as well, this
situational ethics situation does bother me in a sense, what Bill
Richardson has alluded to. My friend John Edwards here, certainly
taking money from the trial bar, special interest group, here to be
condemning one candidate for taking money from one group as opposed to
DODD: I happen to believe we ought to have public financing for
our campaigns. I've supported that for 25 years. I managed the
McCain-Feingold legislation on the floor of the United States Senate
several years ago. I won't take a back seat to anybody on trying to
reform our political process.
But let's remember what's at stake here. We need to elect a
Democrat, a Democrat that's electable and a Democrat that can bring
the country together.
For 26 years, I have, in every major landmark piece of
legislation, had a Republican as my co-sponsor, because no one party
is going to straighten all of this out.
When I started the children's caucus in 1981, I did it with Arlen
Specter of this state. When I wrote the Family and Medical Leave
bill, I did it with Kit Bond and Dan Coates.
When I wrote the first child care legislation since World War II,
I did it with Orrin Hatch, not because I agreed with him on any other
issue, but because I knew, in order to move our country forward, we
had to have leadership in this country that understood the value of
reaching out and finding common ground with people.
So electability and the ability the govern and to do so
immediately are important. But don't discount the importance of
DODD: It's a very important hurdle...
WILLIAMS: Senator Edwards, do you want to take 30 seconds and
respond on situational ethics?
EDWARDS: I do. First of all, let me be absolutely clear about
this. I think I said it a few minutes ago. Nobody on this stage is
pure, and that absolutely includes me. I am not perfect, nor do I
claim to be.
It is true that I, like Senator Obama, have taken no money from
Washington lobbyists in this campaign and no money from special
interest PACs. But I am not interested in patting myself on the back,
or actually talking about anybody personally on this stage.
I completely disagree with what Bill said. This is not about the
past. This is about the future. This is about whether we believe
this system works. I mean, we are here in Philadelphia where the
founding fathers decided that the power, the sovereign power in this
government should not reside with the rich and the powerful. It ought
to reside with the people.
And everybody in America can see what is happening now. We don't
have universal health care because of drug companies, insurance
companies and their lobbyists.
EDWARDS: The reason we haven't tackled global warming is because
of oil companies, power companies and their lobbyists.
And the question is, what are we going to do for our children? I
mean, I'll say this to every voter who's watching this debate: Are
you -- listen, we've all stood by and watched this happen. That
includes me. I'm guilty. Guilty as charged.
But the question is, are you willing to look your children in the
eye tonight and say, "I'm going to turn this mess over to you"?
Because if you turn your back on the incompetence and the corruption
that exists in Washington today, that's exactly what you're saying.
You're saying, "I'm going to let my children and my grandchildren take
care of that. I'm not willing to do that."
WILLIAMS: Congressman Kucinich. You're smiling. Why?
KUCINICH: Well, I'm glad to hear people take a stand for
integrity. When people get money from New York hedge funds and then
they attack another person for getting money from Washington interest
groups, you know what? They're both right. So I'm not going to get
in the middle of that one.
KUCINICH: Now, I want to go beyond that.
The American people have a right to know what's different here
among all these candidates. We haven't really established that, I
don't think. And I'm the only one up here who stands for a not for
profit health care system, which means that the insurance industry has
enormous influence in this race.
Why shouldn't Democrats stand for universal, single-payer, not
for profit with 46 million Americans uninsured and 50 million
Tim, I want to tell you something. There's got to be people
watching this at home saying, "Hey, you haven't talked about me losing
my job because of NAFTA." Well, I'll cancel NAFTA and the WTO and
have trade that's based on workers' rights -- human rights and
environmental quality principles.
Somebody's got to be saying, "Wait a minute. Who's talking about
whether I'm going to have health care?" I've introduced the bill,
You have somebody worried about losing their home. We need to
cancel Bush's tax cuts and flip them so we give the benefit to the 80
percent, while currently it's going to the top one percent, so people
will have more money so they can save their homes.
KUCINICH: I mean, we have to talk about people's practical
aspirations here. And, if we don't do that tonight, this debate is a
WILLIAMS: Senator Biden, you said recently, "While Mrs. Clinton
was meeting socially with the prime minister of a country, I was
sitting down and negotiating with them. I know my experience is
considerably deeper and more relevant."
Do you stand by that quote, and is your inference that she is
less qualified than you to be president?
BIDEN: I'm not running against Hillary Clinton. I'm running to
lead the free world. I'm running to lead this country. And the irony
is, Rudy Giuliani, probably the most underqualified man since George
Bush to seek the presidency...
... is here talking about any of the people here.
Rudy Giuliani -- I mean, think about it. Rudy Giuliani --
there's only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun and a
verb and 9/11. I mean, there's nothing else.
There's nothing else, and I mean this sincerely. He is genuinely
not qualified to be president. Here's a man who brags about how he
made the city safe. It was the Biden crime bill that became the
Clinton crime bill that allowed him to do that.
BIDEN: They wipe it out. He remains silent.
The 9/11 Commission comes along and says the way to keep your
city safe is to do the following things. He's been silent. He's done
And now he's talking about he's going to go in and he will
demonstrate to Iran, he's going to in fact lay down the law.
This man is truly not qualified to be president. I'm looking
forward to running against Rudy Giuliani.
And with regard to my experience, hey, Bill, 1979, I was -- I led
a delegation of 19 senators negotiating the START agreement with
Brezhnev. I was deeply involved in Bosnia, as the first lady and now
Senator Clinton will tell you. I've been negotiating while you were
still in Congress, man.
And so the point is -- and I introduced the first public
financing bill. If you all had been around long enough you -- maybe
I've been around too long. They forget all the wonderful things I've
All kidding aside, I'm running not against Hillary Clinton or
anybody on this stage.
BIDEN: I'm running to be the leader of this country to put it
back on track and to regain control in the world which is lost.
WILLIAMS: On that note, Tim Russert's going to take us into a
segment on Social Security.
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I want to clear something up which
goes to the issue of credibility. You were asked at the AARP debate
whether or not you would consider taxing, lifting the cap from
$97,500, taxing that, raising more money for Social Security. You
said, quote, "It's a no." I asked you the same question in New
Hampshire, and you said "no."
Then you went to Iowa and you went up to Tod Bowman, a teacher,
and had a conversation with him saying, "I would consider lifting the
cap perhaps above $200,000." You were overheard by an Associated
Press reporter saying that.
Why do you have one public position and one private position?
CLINTON: Well, Tim, I don't. I have said consistently that my
plan for Social Security is fiscal responsibility first, then to deal
with any long-term challenges which I agree are ones that we are going
to have to address.
CLINTON: We would have a bipartisan commission. In the context
of that, I think all of these would be considered. But, personally, I
do not want to balance Social Security on the backs of our seniors and
middle-class families. That's why I put fiscal responsibility first,
because we have to change the Bush tax cuts, which I am committed to
We have to move back toward a more fair and progressive tax
system, and begin once again to move toward a balanced budget with a
surplus. You know, part of the idea in the '90s was not just so Bill
would have a check mark next to his name in history, but so that we
would have the resources to deal with a lot of these entitlement
George Bush understood that. The Republicans understood that.
They wanted to decimate that balanced budget and a surplus because
they knew that that would give them a free hand to try to privatize
CLINTON: I am not going to be repeating Republican talking
points. So when somebody asks me, would something like this be
considered, well, anything could be considered when we get to a
bipartisan commission. But personally, I am not going to be
advocating any specific fix until I am seriously approaching fiscal
RUSSERT: But you did raise it as a possibility with Tod Bowman?
CLINTON: Well, but everybody knows what the possibilities are,
Tim. Everybody knows that. But I do not advocate it. I do not
support it. I have laid out what I do believe, and I am going to
continue to emphasize that.
I think, for us to act like Social Security is in crisis is a
Republican trap. We're playing on the Republican field. And I don't
intend to do that.
RUSSERT: You call it a Republican talking point. Georgetown
University, February 9, 1998: "We are in a -- heading to a looming
fiscal crisis in Social Security. If nothing is done, it will require
a huge tax increase in the payroll tax or a 25 percent in Social
Security benefits," Bill Clinton, 1998.
RUSSERT: That's recent history. Only two years to go in his
term. Is that a Republican talking point?
CLINTON: No, but what he did was to move us toward a balanced
budget and a surplus. And, if you go back and you look at the
numbers, they really took off starting in '98, '99, 2000, 2001.
And that would have given a president who actually believed in
Social Security -- which George Bush does not -- the resources and the
options to make decisions, but not the kind of draconian decisions,
and certainly not the move toward privatization, which is what the
Republicans have been advocating for as long as I can remember.
RUSSERT: Senator Obama, you said in May, that, quote,
"Everything is on the table when it comes to Social Security." You
now have an ad up in Iowa which says that any benefit cuts are off and
raising the retirement age are off.
Why have you changed your mind?
OBAMA: Well, what I say is that that is not my plan.
OBAMA: Now, I just want to go back to what Senator Clinton said,
because I think it's important for us not to engage in business as
usual on Social Security and talk straight.
Everybody on this stage is against privatization and we all
fought against it -- everybody. I absolutely agree that Social
Security is not in crisis; it is a fundamentally sound system, but it
does have a problem, long-term.
Even if we deal with the issue of fiscal responsibility, the
trust fund is no longer being rated -- that's something that all of us
are in favor of.
We've got 78 million baby boomers who are going to be retiring
over the next couple of decades. That means more retirees, fewer
workers to support those retirees.
It is common sense that we are going to have to do something
about it. That is not a Republican talking point. And if we don't
deal with it now, it will get harder to deal with later.
So what I've said, and I know some others on this stage have
said, is that among the options that are available, the best one is to
lift the cap on the payroll tax, potentially exempting folks in the
middle -- middle-class folks -- but making sure that the wealthy are
paying more of their fair share -- a little bit more.
OBAMA: Now, it is important, if we are going to lead this
country, to be clear to the American people about what our intentions
are. And this is part of the politics that we have been playing,
which is to try to muddle through, give convoluted answers.
Ultimately, we then don't have a mandate and we can't bring about
change, in part because we're afraid to give Republicans talking
I'm not fearful, just as Joe isn't, to have a debate about this
with Rudy Giuliani because we've got the facts on our side. But we've
got to be clear about those facts and not pretend that those facts
RUSSERT: But when asked by The New York Times whether Senator
Clinton has been truthful, you said no.
OBAMA: What I said is that she has not been truthful and clear
about this point that I just made, which is we can talk about fiscal
responsibility and all of us agree with that. All of us oppose
OBAMA: But even after we deal with those issues, we are still
going to have an actuarial gap that has to be dealt with. It is not
going to vanish and if we have a moral responsibility to the next
generation to make sure that Social Security is there, the most
successful program to lift seniors out of poverty that we've ever
devised, then we need to start acting now and having a serious
conversation about it.
CLINTON: Tim, I don't see any difference here. You know, my
view is we go towards fiscal responsibility, which is hard. It's not
going to be easy inheriting what we're going to inherit from Bush and
And there are some long-term challenges. I have no disagreement
But I think the best way to handle them is within the context of
a bipartisan commission. That's what worked in 1983 when Social
Security was on the ropes. Our colleagues in the Senate had a hearing
today talking about how they could move toward a bipartisan
CLINTON: And, once there's a bipartisan commission, then we can
see what we need to do. But I don't want these decisions to be made
in a vacuum. I want it to be made in the face of moving back toward
fiscal responsibility, because that will influence which choices are
And I certainly don't want to impose a trillion-dollar tax
increase on middle-class families, or any kind of additional burdens
on our seniors.
WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, we're going to transfer into a new area
here. A question specifically for you because you're in a rather
unique position. It's about religion and misinformation. Governor
Romney misspoke twice on the same day, confusing your name with that
of Osama bin Laden.
Your party is fond of talking about a potential swiftboating.
Are you fearful of what happened to John McCain, for example, in South
Carolina a few years back; confusion on the basis of things like names
OBAMA: No, because I have confidence in the American people.
OBAMA: And I don't pay much attention to what Mitt Romney has to
say -- at least what he says this week. It may be different next
But there is no doubt that my background is not typical of a
presidential candidate. I think everybody understands that. But
that's part of what is so powerful about America, is that it gives all
of us the opportunity -- a woman, a Latino, myself -- the opportunity
And, listen, when I was running for the United States Senate
everybody said nobody's going to vote for a black guy named Barack
Obama; they can't even pronounce it. And we ended up winning by 20
points in the primary and 30 points in the general election.
The way to respond to swiftboating is to respond forcefully,
rapidly and truthfully. And I have absolute confidence in the
American people's capacity to absorb the truth, as long as we are
forceful in that presentation.
OBAMA: And we are seeing it. As we travel all across the
country, we have received enormous support, in states where, frankly,
there aren't a lot of African-Americans, and there aren't a lot of
WILLIAMS: Let's take this opportunity to fit in what will be the
second of three breaks tonight.
We'll be back with more from the campus of Drexel University in
Philadelphia right after this.
WILLIAMS: We are back from the campus of Drexel University here
in Philadelphia. Our debate continues now. We're going to introduce
some rule changes as we go, and for this next question, alone in this
segment, we're going to enforce a -- or try to -- a 30-second limit on
responses. We're going to begin with Senator Dodd and go right down
Most experts believe we're looking at $100 a barrel oil prices,
perhaps very soon. Most experts further believe there are some folks
in America who may be paying 50 percent more for things like heating
oil this winter, let's say, where winters are difficult, in two states
that come to mind: Iowa and New Hampshire, say nothing of your home
state of Connecticut.
As a member of the U.S. Senate, are these people doomed to paying
more, to suffering through these energy costs this winter, Senator?
Aside from blue ribbon panels, what can be done right now about what
afflicts the United States on this issue of energy?
DODD: I would suggest to you what Senator Byron Dorgan and I
offered twice in the last couple of years, and that was to say that
any increase in price over $40 a barrel either be reinvested in
alternative energies or new exploration here, or provide a direct
rebate to consumers across the country to reduce the cost that you
have exactly described here with these increases in the price of a
barrel of oil.
That would provide some immediate relief, with low-income energy
assistance and other programs, which I and others have championed over
the years to provide assistance to those who are going to be in
desperate conditions with health as well. But that's the short-term
answer to this problem.
The longer-term answer is obviously to stop what we do every
single day and that is borrow $1 billion every single day to buy
foreign oil offshore here.
DODD: We ought to moving more directly, obviously, to energy
independence here. I'd invite people to chrisdodd.com to get a long,
detailed explanation of exactly how to do that.
WILLIAMS: We're going to try to enforce this time limit.
BIDEN: A big piece of that cost is risk. People are betting on
things getting worse. That old joke, you know: When you're in a
hole, you should stop digging.
Why do we continue to cause the price of oil to rise by
continuing to rattle the saber with Iran? Why do we continue to cause
the price of oil to rise by a foreign policy that is absolutely
moribund of any center?
And what we have to do immediately to take care of those people
in Iowa and New Hampshire: provide for emergency fuel assistance.
WILLIAMS: Senator Edwards?
EDWARDS: Well, what we can do in the short term -- and I will do
as president -- is ensure that my Justice Department investigates what
these oil companies who are vertically integrated, you know, from
refinery to pump, are doing.
But I think there's something else that -- we've talked a lot
about being straight with people tonight. I think it's really
important that every four years the presidential candidates roll
through Iowa and New Hampshire, promise this, promise that, promise
Here's the truth: We need to ask Americans to be patriotic about
something other than war.
EDWARDS: And I want to be the president who says to America,
we're in this together. We're going to have to be willing to
sacrifice. If we love this country enough, we're going to have to
conserve, in our homes, in our workplaces, and alter our behavior to
make America what it's capable of being.
WILLIAMS: Senator Clinton?
CLINTON: Well, I agree with everything that my colleagues have
just said. I think it's important that we do have enough money in
LIHEAP. It's a battle we fight every year against the Republicans.
That's the program to help consumers pay their bills. We should have
a crash program on weatherization, which will help to drive those
We need to do more to investigate, as John says, and we might
even have to look at the strategic petroleum reserve, which the Bush
administration has been filling up beyond any expectation of need for
the short term, at least. But we also have to have a serious move
toward energy efficiency and conservation. And that is where we need
to get people to be more conscious to do it for themselves.
WILLIAMS: Senator Obama?
OBAMA: As Joe pointed out, out of the $90 that it's costing
right now for a barrel, about 30 percent of that is just risk.
OBAMA: It's not dictated by supply and demand. If we can lower
the rhetoric, with respect to military action in the Middle East, that
will have an immediate impact.
All the other suggestions that have been made are sound. But one
of the things that we have to do, with respect to conservation is
increase fuel efficiency standards on cars.
And we have to make that commitment not just by going to
environmentalist groups and saying we're going to do it but doing what
I did, which is go to Detroit, talking to the auto makers. Joe and I
have been working on legislation that would provide them the
incentives to start making those shifts.
WILLIAMS: Congressman Kucinich?
KUCINICH: Everyone knows that the war against Iraq was about
oil. This administration was trying to gain control of Iraq's oil,
with the help of Congress. It's time we had a president who stood for
the Constitution and international law.
And that's exactly what I'll do.
KUCINICH: Everyone knows that the saber-rattling against Iran is
driving up the price of oil. We have to stop the war in Iraq, bring
our troops home, end the occupation, have an international security
and peacekeeping force that moves in as our troops leave.
We have to stop planning for war against Iran. We have to insist
that we enforce the Constitution of the United States, which this
president continues to violate, and, again, I state that the president
and the vice president should be subject to impeachment.
Then we can start to get control of our energy policies by
rejecting this doctrine of preemption, which is not worthy of this
WILLIAMS: Thank you. Thank you, Congressman.
RICHARDSON: You need an energy revolution in this country -- an
Apollo program that does the following: one, reduces consumption of
fossil fuels by 50 percent by 2020. Fuel efficiency -- I'm going to
be specific -- 50 miles per gallon. A renewable portfolio standard --
in other words, all electricity in America -- 30 percent renewable
RICHARDSON: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by
2040; by 30 percent by 2020. A cap-and-trade system.
Energy efficiency, too. You got to ask the American people to
sacrifice a little bit. What does that mean? That means when we use
appliances, mass transit, air conditioning, that we all bound together
to reduce this dependence on foreign oil that affects our national
security, when 65 percent of your oil is imported.
When the planet -- when the planet is polluted by fossil fuels
and manmade pollution, it is American leadership, and it's
presidential leadership, and it has to be an energy revolution, not
these little energy bills that the Congress keeps passing that are
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Governor.
A question for Senator Dodd.
A question to you alone, Senator, about this intersection of
environment and sacrifice. So many people have been saddened by the
pictures these past few days from Southern California. There are
reports that major cities in the state of Georgia are threatened will
running out of drinking water in a matter of days.
WILLIAMS: Are you truly prepared to lead, on a national scale,
the kind of sacrifice it would require where it intersects with the
DODD: Well, I think you've got to. I find it somewhat startling
here that Ronald Reagan's former secretary of state and George Bush's
first economic -- chief economic adviser are, frankly, more courageous
and bold on energy policy than my fellow competitors here for this
job, the presidency.
I've called for a corporate carbon tax. All of us share the same
goals here of achieving energy independence, reducing our dependency
on fossil fuels and the carbons they emit. But you're not going to
achieve that unless you deal with price, quite frankly, here.
And there's a direct correlation between continuing a policy that
produces the CO2 emissions and the health hazards to our country and
the climate change problems here. You've got to deal with price
because, frankly, consumers are not going to be in a position where
they can afford the more expensive fuels, the alternative fuels and
DODD: So the corporate carbon tax, taxing carbon, is a critical
element if you are going to achieve this kind of energy change we need
in our country. That directly bears on the kinds of problems we're
seeing. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a correlation
between what you've just described, Brian, and energy policy here; not
to mention the national security and economic security risks as a
result of our continuing dependence on fossil fuels, particularly oil
out of the Middle East.
So those are things that I advocate that no one else does on the
stage here this evening. Al Gore has called it the most bold and
honest plans. It has been called the blue ribbon, or the gold
standard, rather, of any of the energy policies that have been
suggested by presidential candidates.
This is a major issue. It requires hardship. A corporate carbon
tax is not without a cost to it. I understand that. But the status
quo of continuing borrowing $1 billion every day to buy foreign oil,
continuing the risk to our country, I think is unacceptable.
DODD: That's why I'm advocating it.
WILLIAMS: Senator Edwards, should there be a bottomless well of
federal dollars for people who knowingly live in areas of this country
that are disaster-prone to rebuild their homes if lost in a disaster?
EDWARDS: Well, I think that when families are devastated -- and
we've lived with this in North Carolina because we've been regularly
hit by hurricanes, and I've spent an awful lot of time in New Orleans.
When families are hit by natural disasters, I think it is for the
national community to be there for them.
I think that's our joint responsibility as a national community
to be there for them. And my view about what's happening,
particularly in New Orleans, is it's absolutely heartbreaking to see
what's happened there. Because this is a perfect example of a
government that's a mess and the American people who are absolutely
I mean, you look at how America has responded to this tragedy.
They have been volunteering, contributing. I took 700 college kids
down to New Orleans who gave up their spring break to go down there
and work to help rehabilitate houses.
EDWARDS: I was so inspired and proud of those young kids.
But the government has been a complete disaster. And contracts
have been let to these multi-national corporations, instead of
allowing the people of New Orleans to rebuild their own city.
My view is: We didn't need a surge in Baghdad -- we needed a
surge in New Orleans. We need to be there for our people who are
And I do think we can be smart about planning. I think actually,
in the case of New Orleans, there was an extraordinary opportunity to
rebuild a city that was more economically integrated, more racially
Those pictures that we saw coming out of the Ninth Ward of New
Orleans, I think, broke a lot of people's hearts. And I think it
actually was a wake-up call to a lot of Americans who didn't realize
that kind of problem existed any longer.
WILLIAMS: But does smarter mean any limits?
Let's just take 20 seconds more here -- from Malibu to the Outer
Banks down to Florida -- should there be unlimited federal
EDWARDS: Of course we have to be smart. We have to be
environmentally sensitive. There's actually on the coast of North
Carolina, we've done a great deal to do that, to preserve wetlands,
for example, which are crucial barrier to help protect our coasts.
EDWARDS: But, yes, smart, but when a natural disaster comes, our
country needs to be there for our people.
WILLIAMS: To Tim Russert.
RUSSERT: I'd like to talk about taxes.
Senator Clinton, I'd like to start with you. Because the
chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Charlie Rangel, is a
strong supporter of your campaign.
He wants to repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax. But he also
wants to have a 4 percent surtax on a single $150,000 income or
$200,000 married couple.
You went to Harlem with your husband, with Charlie Rangel. And
the former president said, quote, "Charlie Rangel wants me to pay more
taxes so you can pay less and I think that's a good idea."
Is that also your view?
CLINTON: Well, I am a great admirer of Chairman Rangel. And
what he's trying to do is deal with a very serious problem. You know,
the Alternative Minimum Tax was never intended to hit people are in
middle income, upper middle income. It was meant for people who are
rich and evading taxes.
Now I don't know all the details of what Charlie is recommending,
but I certainly agree with the goal. We've got to do something with
the Alternative Minimum Tax.
CLINTON: There are a lot of ways of getting there. I want it to
be fair and progressive. It starts in the House, it starts in the
Ways and Means Committee, which he chairs. But I think my husband was
expressing an opinion that a lot of people who have been very
fortunate and blessed over the last six and a half years feel.
You know, we've not been asked to sacrifice anything. You know,
young men and women wearing the uniform of our country are dying and
being maimed. We have the average American family losing a thousand
dollars in income, and George Bush and his cronies can't figure out
how they can give even more tax cuts to the wealthiest of Americans.
Now, I never thought Bill and I would be in that category, to be
honest with you. So it's kind of a new experience. But it's not one
that make us very comfortable, because we should be investing in new
energy, we should be investing in college affordability, universal
pre-K, the kind of health care plan that I've outlined.
CLINTON: That's what we intend to do. But we're going to have
to deal with the AMT, something that the Republicans have refused to
do because, very frankly, it hits people who are below their concern.
They're concerned about the real top wage earners. This hits people
that are, you know, the police chief. This hits people that are, you
know, two income families that are doing well.
So we're going to have to do something about it. I think
Charlie's being very courageous in moving forward. I don't agree with
all the details, but he's on the right track to say we've got to do
something about the AMT.
RUSSERT: So in principle, you would be in favor of looking at a
4 percent surtax?
CLINTON: No, I didn't say that, Tim. I said that I'm in favor
of doing something about the AMT. How we do it and how we put the
package together everybody knows is extremely complicated.
It's not going to happen while George Bush is president.
Everybody knows that. I want to get to a fair and progressive tax
system. The AMT has to be part of what we try to change when I'm
And there are a lot of moving pieces here. You know, there are
kinds of issues we're going to deal with as the tax cuts expire.
CLINTON: I want to freeze the estate tax at the 2009 level of $7
million for a couple.
There's a lot of moving parts. So I'm not going to get committed
to a specific approach, but I applaud Chairman Rangel for beginning
RUSSERT: But you will not campaign on the Rangel plan?
CLINTON: No, no. That's Charlie Rangel's plan. And, as I say,
I support and admire his willingness to take this on.
RUSSERT: Senator Obama, would you campaign on the Rangel plan?
OBAMA: No, because I don't know all the details of it and I may
not agree with some aspects of it.
But let's broaden the conversation here. We're all traveling all
across the country -- Iowa, New Hampshire. Everywhere you go, you'll
meet a single mother who is raising her kids, working at the same
time, trying to go to college. And every one of her costs, from
health care to college tuition, has gone up. Home heating oil is
going up. She can't even imagine the idea of saving.
Now, in the meantime, we've got a 10,000-page tax code that is
rife with corporate loopholes.
OBAMA: There's a building in the Cayman Islands that supposedly
houses 12,000 U.S. corporations, which means it is either the largest
building in the world or the biggest tax ripoff in the world, and I
think we know which one it is.
So there has to be a restoration of balance in our tax code to
help that single mom, to help a two-parent working family that is
struggling to make ends meet.
So I put forward a very specific plan. I've said we are going to
offset some of the payroll taxes that people are experiencing so that
families who are making less than $50,000 a year get a larger break.
I want to make sure that seniors who are making less than $50,000,
that they get some relief in terms of the taxes on their Social
Those kinds of progressive tax steps, while closing loopholes and
rolling back the Bush tax cuts to the top 1 percent, simply restores
some fairness and a sense that we're all in this together, as opposed
to each of us being in it on our own.
RUSSERT: Congressman Kucinich, I want to move to the issue of
hedge funds -- hedge funds. Managers of hedge funds. There's a
listing in the paper the other day of 100 top managers of hedge funds.
At the top, $1.5 billion. Number 100 makes $50 million. They pay a
tax rate of 16 percent, rather than ordinary income of 31, 32 percent.
The Democrats took control of Congress in November of '06. The
leader of the Democrats in the Senate, Harry Reid, said, we're not
going to change it this year. Your reaction.
KUCINICH: It's one of the reasons why the American people are so
distressed with the current condition of the Democratic Party. They
won't stand up to Wall Street, where there's over a trillion dollars
of unregulated capital with hedge funds.
They won't end the war, as our party promised to do in the 2006
election. They won't stand up to the insurance companies, the for-
profit insurance companies, by joining me in a not-for-profit system.
KUCINICH: So people are asking them, "What's the difference
between Democrats and Republicans?" Tim, my candidacy is a candidacy
which will protect the interests of Main Street.
No privatization of Social Security, make the hedge funds
accountable, protect the small investors who are at risk with these
public offerings of these hedge funds.
My Domestic Policy Subcommittee has been looking at this. I was
one of the first ones on Capitol Hill to look at it.
Right now, it's all about a redistribution of the wealth upwards,
Tim. You know, the tax system is about redistributing the wealth
upwards. The health care system redistributes the wealth upwards.
Our energy policies redistribute the wealth upwards.
We have to have a president who is independent enough to be able
to stand up to these interest groups and push the Democratic Congress
to defend the American people by standing for the end of the war in
Iraq, by standing for a universal, not-for-profit health care system,
by standing for control of these oil companies, which are out of
control, and, finally, by standing for the Constitution.
KUCINICH: I will say it one more time. It's time for the
Democratic Party to take a position on impeachment, and for the House
of Representatives to move the bill that I've introduced.
RUSSERT: Senator Edwards, you worked for a hedge fund. By every
estimate, we could save $25 billion over 10 years, new revenue that
could be used for a whole variety of programs. Why won't the
Democratic Party act on this issue?
EDWARDS: They should. I mean, this is an example of the
extraordinary corruption that still exists in the system and in the
What happened was, the Congress started to move to act. The
lobbyists for the hedge funds descended and managed to kill it. It's
just that simple.
This is one, unfortunately of a whole series of things, that
indicate that our government doesn't work the way it should, and that
corruption has crept into it. I wish it was the only thing. It's not
the only thing.
I mean, we have young men and women serving this country
patriotically and heroically in Iraq, and we've got a bunch of paid
mercenaries moving around over there, working for Blackwater and
others, who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to Bush and the
EDWARDS: We've got politically connected people at home making
millions of dollars while our men and women serve and put their lives
on the line in Iraq.
We decided to try to keep the country safer by inspecting
containers that come into this country. And who lobbied against it?
The biggest company in America: Wal-Mart. We've had trade deals that
have cost us millions of jobs, and what did America get in return? We
got millions of dangerous Chinese toys.
These things are all evidence of a system that doesn't work.
Now, we can turn our backs on it and pretend it's not true and, as I
said earlier, leave this mess to our children and our grandchildren.
Or we can do what the founding fathers said we should do.
And what has happened over and over in American history when this
happened? There is nothing the American people can't do. We --
there's nothing wrong with the American people. They are strong,
heroic, passionate. But their voice needs to be heard. The
government belongs to them. It doesn't belong to this crowd of
powerful, monied interests in Washington, D.C.
EDWARDS: And we have to be willing to say the truth about it and
to change this system so that our children actually can have a better
life than we've had.
WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you. We're going to introduce the
concept of a lightning round here. Take one question, go down the
line; 30 seconds each, a time we're going to enforce.
And, Governor Richardson, we're going to start with you. This is
about something called trends in international mathematics and science
study. It's called "TIMS." A number of overseas nations took part in
It found that, overseas, students spend an average of 193 days,
annually, in school.
The deficit, compared to the U.S., where it's 180 days, over 12
years, that adds up to a one-year gap between education in the U.S.
Do you believe ewe in this country need to extend the school day
and/or extend the school year, and will you commit to it?
RICHARDSON: Yes, I'd commit to it. And I'm glad, finally,
education is coming up in a major debate.
RICHARDSON: This is what I would do. We are 29th in the world
in science and math compared to the E.U., to countries in China and
India. They graduate four or five times more engineers. There is a
competitiveness gap here.
This is what I would do.
One, I'd have 100,000 new science and math teachers. But we have
to pay our teachers what they deserve, a minimum wage of what I
believe is $40,000 per year. I'd get rid of No Child Left Behind. I
would have science and math academies, but in the high school
curriculum it is critically important that we have more civics, more
language, and art in the schools to provoke creativity in science and
WILLIAMS: A third-second limit on these, Congressman.
KUCINICH: There's a statue above the House of Representatives of
a woman whose arm is outstretched and she is protecting a child
sitting next to a pile of books. The title of this statue is "Peace
Protecting Genius." We need to have a country that stands for peace,
that gets us out of the wars. We see the connection between global
warring and global warming.
KUCINICH: If we cut the Pentagon budget 15 percent, $75 billion
will go into a universal pre-kindergarten program so our children ages
3, 4 and 5 will have access to full-time day care and more money would
go into elementary and secondary education.
In addition to that, our college-age students need to know that
with a Kucinich administration they're guaranteed a two- or four-year
college, tuition free, and it'll be paid for by the government
investing in our young people. That's the kind of approach I'll take
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Congressman.
OBAMA: I do think that we have to have more instruction in the
classroom. We're going to have to pay for that, and the federal
government has to help strapped local districts in order to make that
We also have to, if we want to development math and science
curriculums, we've got to make math and science jobs attractive, which
means increasing research grants.
OBAMA: And this is something that is important not just for our
competitiveness, but also for our long-term national security. And
when George Bush requests $196 billion for next year's wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan and is seeing a flatlining of investment in science
research, that makes it more difficult for us to encourage our
children to go into sciences.
WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, thank you.
CLINTON: Well, very quickly, I would start at the very
beginning. We need to do more to help our families prepare their
children. A family is a child's first school. The parents are a
child's first teacher. This is something that I've worked on for many
We need to really support it through nurse visitation or social
work or child care. We need to do more with the pre-kindergarten
program that I have proposed. In addition, though, this has to fit
into an overall innovation agenda, which I have also set forth.
Because we can't just say, go to school longer. We need to do
what happened when I was in school and Sputnik went up, and our
teacher said, your president wants you to study math and science.
CLINTON: That's what I want kids today to feel, that it's part
of making sure we maintain our quality of life and our standard of
WILLIAMS: Senator Edwards?
EDWARDS: I think we still have two public school systems in many
ways in America. We have one for affluent communities, and one for
I think the things that we need to do, specifically -- we should
have universal pre-K for all 4-year-olds. We ought to deal with
nutritional and health care needs of younger children -- young than
four years of age, starting at about age two.
We should have a national teaching university so that we attract
our most talented young people, send them out across America to teach
in the toughest places to teach. We should give incentive pay to
teachers who are willing to teach in the most difficult places.
We should have second-chance schools for kids who are dropping
out and college for any kids who's willing to work when they're in
WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
BIDEN: Yes, I proposed it in 1987. We should go to school
longer. We either have to assume that our kids are (inaudible)
brighter every other child in the world, or that somehow we have to go
to school longer.
BIDEN: Secondly, we should have a minimum 16 years of education.
Thirdly, we should be focusing on the socioeconomic
disadvantaged, mostly minorities in inner cities. That's something
we've ignored. We pay no attention to it. We pretend they're the
same circumstances as every other kid in America. They start off with
half. Half of the education gap exists before they set foot in the
first classroom. That should be the focus.
WILLIAMS: Senator Dodd?
DODD: Well, Brian, this is a -- I've often said the single most
important issue. And I've been asked the question over the years,
"What's the single most important issue?" I always say education
because it is the answer to every other problem we confront as a
We've got to begin -- I'm proud to have been named "Senator of
the Decade" by the Head Start Association. All the ideas that are
being advocating in early childhood education are critical.
The federal government needs to be a better partner in all of
this, not take away control locally. But a child's quality of
education shouldn't depend on the accident of birth, and that's what
happens too often in our country. The children of Philadelphia or in
Connecticut or wherever else are going to be competing with children
in Johannesburg, in Sydney, in Moscow, in Beijing.
DODD: We need to make the kind of investments jointly with our
local communities. Higher education community colleges need to be
more tuition-free -- I have an idea on how to do that -- so that we
provide that continuum from the earliest stages through higher
education to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
WILLIAMS: I have to keep you to time, Senator.
We're going to continue this notion of a lightning round after a
We're going to start our next segment with a question handed to
me by a student here at Drexel today.
So, again, our last break now, and a short one. We will continue
from Philadelphia right after this.
WILLIAMS: We are back at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
Something we'd like to institute as the lightning round -- we've
put a clock -- a noise perhaps not loud or severe enough on the screen
as we tried this out in the previous segment.
We're going to try to get tougher and heavier concerning our
I promised to begin with a question handed me by a Drexel student
It dovetails -- Senator Dodd, we will start with you -- it
dovetails with what physicians have asked me to ask in this room to
this group here tonight.
With so many young people choosing not to go into medicine, so
many veteran physicians choosing to get out or losing heart because
their ability to earn an income is going down. How do you expect this
nation to attract, to continue to attract quality people to medicine,
DODD: Well, a couple of things very quickly again in 30 seconds
here. But first, obviously providing some benefits to people who
choose to go into that educational field and profession so we can
attract them to work in areas that they are needed, and that certainly
needs to be done.
DODD: I believe there's an answer to the medical malpractice
issue, not the ones that Republicans have been proposing, but that's
one of the issues that people are concerned about.
And part of a larger health care plan ought to be a part of that
as we consider universality and other elements here to make sure that
this profession becomes one, where the cost of insurance, the cost of
other items here are not going to be so excessive that you'd be
discouraged from going in that direction.
WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
BIDEN: You got to help them pay off their education. They start
off in the hole. They graduate and have these gigantic bills, 40,000
bucks a year. They graduate hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.
You got to give them ability to write that off if they engage in
public service, move into areas where they need doctors, number one.
Now, number two, you got to get the insurance company out of
looking over their shoulders and everything. They know the decisions
to make. They know what they should be doing. And they should be
rewarded for their decisions.
The light's on, and I want you to know I stay inside my time.
WILLIAMS: Very good. It's our new tough guy policy.
Senator, thank you.
EDWARDS: What we need is a universal health care system that
gets doctors out of the business of having to deal with insurance
companies on a daily basis, to protect them from that.
EDWARDS: But I want to talk about another piece of this, which
is we have a nursing crisis in America, a serious nursing crisis. So
what we need to do is expand our nursing schools, give scholarships to
young people who are willing, when they go to nursing school, to
commit to come out and go to the places that are underserved.
We need to get rid of things like mandatory overtime. We need to
have safer staff-to-patient ratios so that we can deal with this
crisis, for the men and women who actually provide a huge amount of
the health care in this country.
WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
CLINTON: Well, again, I agree with everything that has been
said. In my proposal, for the American Health Choices plan, we
basically give the insurance companies an ultimatum. They have to get
into the business of actually providing insurance, instead of trying
to avoid covering people.
They cannot deny people coverage. They cannot have a pre-
existing condition which is not covered.
That is one of the biggest problems that doctors face. They face
this constant barrage of harassment and bureaucratization from the
private insurance world.
CLINTON: We also need to clean up Medicare and Medicaid.
They're not as friendly as they need to be, either.
WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
OBAMA: We need to deal with the insurance companies. On
Medicare and Medicaid, the reimbursement system is not working the way
it should. And by the way, instituting a universal health-care system
that emphasizes prevention will free up dollars that potentially then
can go to reimbursing doctors a little bit more.
But we've got to deal with the cost of medical education. We
have to deal with college costs generally, and that's why I put
forward proposals to get banks and middle men out of the process and
expand national service to encourage young people to go into these
helping professions where we need a lot more work.
WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
KUCINICH: I'm the co-author of the bill, H.R. 676, that
establishes Medicare for all. As long as you have the private
insurance companies in involved in providing health services, people
aren't going to get care. Doctors know that the insurance companies
want to substitute their judgment for their practice. Everyone knows
that the insurance companies make money not providing health care.
I'm standing for Medicare for all. There is no one else on this
stage who is ready to take on the insurance companies directly by
saying we should join every other industrialized nation in the world
by caring for our people by having a not-for-profit health care
Just because you say it's universal doesn't mean it's not-for-
profit. Even the insurance companies want a universal health care
WILLIAMS: Thank you, Congressman.
RICHARDSON: Well, I have a specific proposal -- here it is: In
exchange for two years of tuition paid by the government or loans, you
give one year of national service to the country. This will attract
more doctors and will enable students to afford a college education
when it's taking them seven years to pay for this.
Get rid of the student loan and bank agencies that are ripping
off the system. Re-establish, on a general basis, the doctor-patient
relationship. Deal with Medicare reimbursement. Deal with ways that
we also not forget health professionals, and that's nurses, that's --
RICHARDSON: ... in our health care system are not given the same
WILLIAMS: Governor, thank you.
Senator Obama, a question to you. More than one columnist
covering the field of transportation has compared our current
commercial aviation business to Aeroflot in the old Soviet Union. One
writer said, "Hold on, that's insulting to Aeroflot. They have raised
The question to you is, how did this country get into a state
where point-to-point air travel is no longer truly dependable, but
more important, what would you be truly willing to do as president to
OBAMA: Well, this is a problem that's been building for a long
time. The airlines got into trouble after deregulation, and it has
continued and compounded. And they have now tried to make more money.
And they're seeing better solvency, but they've done it on the backs
of consumers. And anybody who's flying commercial knows that service
has gone down and deteriorated further and further and further.
So, as president of the United States, we have to look at making
sure that there's enough airport capacity. We've got to place,
potentially, restrictions on some flights and encourage airlines to
deal with the problems of remote areas that are having difficulty in
terms of making connections.
But this is going to require the kind of leadership that we have
not seen from this president, not just on transportation in the
airlines industry, but in transportation generally.
We haven't seen that kind of commitment on Amtrak...
OBAMA: I'm sorry. I didn't realize this was a lightning round.
WILLIAMS: Yes. Yes, sorry. The rules are...
OBAMA: But, generally speaking, this president has failed on
this issue. We've got to keep on -- we have to make much bigger
progress than we've done.
WILLIAMS: We should probably repeat. The lightning round
continues with my colleague, Tim Russert.
RUSSERT: Thank you, Brian.
Senator Clinton, Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer has proposed
giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. He told the Nashua,
New Hampshire, Editorial Board it makes a lot of sense.
Why does it make a lot of sense to give an illegal immigrant a
CLINTON: Well, what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is fill the
vacuum left by the failure of this administration to bring about
comprehensive immigration reform. We know in New York we have several
million at any one time who are in New York illegally. They are
undocumented workers. They are driving on our roads. The possibility
of them having an accident that harms themselves or others is just a
matter of the odds. It's probability.
So what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is to fill the vacuum.
I believe we need to get back to comprehensive immigration reform
because no state, no matter how well intentioned, can fill this gap.
There needs to be federal action on immigration reform.
RUSSERT: Does anyone here believe an illegal immigrant should
not have a driver's license?
(UNKNOWN): Believe what?
RUSSERT: An illegal immigrant should not have a driver's
DODD: This is a privilege. And, look, I'm as forthright and
progressive on immigration policy as anyone here. But we're dealing
with a serious problem here, we need to have people come forward. The
idea that we're going to extend this privilege here of a driver's
license I think is troublesome, and I think the American people are
reacting to it.
We need to deal with security on our borders. We need to deal
with the attraction that draws people here. We need to deal fairly
with those who are here.
But this is a privilege. Talk about health care, I have a
different opinion. That affects the public health of all of us.
But a license is a privilege, and that ought not to be extended,
in my view.
CLINTON: Well, I just want to add, I did not say that it should
be done, but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to
(UNKNOWN): Wait a minute...
CLINTON: And we have failed. We have failed.
DODD: No, no, no. You said -- you said yes...
DODD: ... you thought it made sense to do it.
CLINTON: No, I didn't, Chris. But the point is, what are we
going to do with all these illegal immigrants who are driving...
DODD: That's a legitimate issue. But driver's license goes too
far, in my view.
CLINTON: Well, you may say that, but what is the identification?
If somebody runs into you today who is an undocumented worker...
DODD: There's ways of dealing with that.
DODD: This is a privilege, not a right.
CLINTON: Well, what Governor Spitzer has agreed to do is to have
three different licenses, one that provides identification for
actually going onto airplanes and other kinds of security issues,
another which is another ordinary driver's license, and then a special
card that identifies the people who would be on the road, so...
DODD: That's a bureaucratic nightmare.
CLINTON: ... it's not the full privilege.
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I just want to make sure of what I
heard. Do you, the New York senator, Hillary Clinton, support the New
York governor's plan to give illegal immigrants a driver's license?
You told the New Hampshire paper that it made a lot of sense. Do
you support his plan?
CLINTON: You know, Tim, this is where everybody plays "gotcha."
It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do? He is
dealing with a serious problems. We have failed. And George Bush has
failed. Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to do?
No. But do I understand the sense of real desperation, trying to get
a handle on this? Remember, in New York, we want to know who's in New
York. We want people to come out of the shadows.
He's making an honest effort to do it. We should have passed
WILLIAMS: New subject, Senator Edwards.
You have young children. As you know, the Internet can be a bit
of a cultural wild west.
Assuming a lot of homes don't have parental support, would you be
in favor of any government guidelines on Internet content?
EDWARDS: For children? To try to protect children -- using
technology to protect children, I would.
I want to add something that Chris Dodd just said a minute ago,
because I don't want it to go unnoticed. Unless I missed something,
Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two
minutes just a few minutes ago.
And I think this is a real issue for the country. I mean,
America is looking for a president who will say the same thing, who
will be consistent, who will be straight with them. Because what
we've had for seven years is double-talk from Bush and from Cheney,
and I think America deserves us to be straight.
WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, why are you nodding your head?
OBAMA: Well, I was confused on Senator Clinton's answer. I
can't tell whether she was for it or against it. And I do think that
is important. One of the things that we have to do in this country is
to be honest about the challenges that we face.
Immigration is a difficult issue. But part of leadership is not
just looking backwards and seeing what's popular or trying to gauge
popular sentiment. It's about setting a direction for the country.
And that's what I intend to do as president.
RUSSERT: Are you for it or against it?
OBAMA: I think that it is the right idea, and I disagree with
Chris because there is a public safety concern. We can make sure that
drivers who are illegal come out of the shadows, that they can be
tracked, that they are properly trained, and that will make our roads
That doesn't negate the need for us to reform illegal
RUSSERT: Congressman Kucinich, I want to move to a different
area, because this is a serious question. The godmother of your
daughter, Shirley MacLaine, writes in her new book that you sighted a
UFO over her home in Washington state...
... that you found the encounter extremely moving, that it was a
"triangular craft, silent and hovering," that you "felt a connection
to your heart and heard directions in your mind."
Now, did you see a UFO?
KUCINICH: I did. And the rest of the account -- I didn't -- it
was an unidentified flying object, OK? It's, like, it's unidentified.
I saw something. Now, to answer your question, I'm moving my -- it's
-- and I'm also going to move my campaign office to Roswell, New
Mexico, and other one in Exeter, New Hampshire, OK?
And also, you have to keep in mind that more -- that Jimmy Carter
saw a UFO and also that more people in this country have seen UFOs
than I think approve of George Bush's presidency.
KUCINICH: And so, wait, we're just getting started here.
RUSSERT: No, no. Let me -- well, 14 percent of Americans say
they have seen UFOs. I'm going to move...
KUCINICH: What was the percentage?
RUSSERT: Fourteen percent.
KUCINICH: What as that percentage?
KUCINICH: Thank you.
RUSSERT: I want to see...
I'm going to ask Senator Obama a question, in the same line. The
three astronauts of Apollo 11 who went to the moon back in 1969, all
said that they believe there is life beyond Earth. Do you agree?
OBAMA: You know, I don't know. And I don't presume to know.
What I know is there is life here on Earth.
And -- and that we're not attending to life here on Earth.
We're not taking care of kids who are alive and unfortunately are
not getting health care. We're not taking care of senior citizens who
are alive and are seeing their heating prices go up.
So, as president, those are the people I will be attending to
There may be some other folks on their way.
WILLIAMS: Let's talk about life on earth. Senator Clinton,
Lance Armstrong called here today with a question. He made the point,
as he often has, 3,000 people, roughly, killed on 9/11; roughly $1
trillion spent in the years since. About that many people die of
cancer every two days.
He wanted us to ask any of you: Are you willing to be the
president, or are you willing to pledge to be the president that
knocks cancer down from its status as number one killer of Americans
under the age of 85.
CLINTON: I'm going to do everything I can to do that. I went to
Lance Armstrong's cancer symposium in Iowa. It was a very moving
experience, not only people like us speaking, but a lot of cancer
survivors, a lot of researchers.
It's just outrageous that under President Bush, the National
Institutes of Health have been basically decreased in funding. We are
on the brink of so many medical breakthroughs, and I will once again
fund that research, get those applications processed, get those young
researchers in those labs, to know that we're going to tackle cancer
and try to do everything we can to drive its death rate down.
WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
RUSSERT: Senator Dodd, you went on the Bill Maher show last
month and said that you were for decriminalizing marijuana.
Is there anyone here who disagrees with Senator Dodd in
Senator Biden, Senator...
Senator Edwards, why?
EDWARDS: Because I think it sends the wrong signal to young
people. And I think the president of the United States has a
responsibility to ensure that we're sending the right signals to young
DODD: Can I respond just why I think it ought to be?
We're locking up too many people in our system here today. We've
got mandatory minimum sentences, they are filling our jails with
people that don't belong there.
My idea is to decriminalize this, reduce that problem here.
We've gone from 800,000 to 2 million people, in our penal institutions
in this country. We've got to get a lot smarter about this issue than
we are. And as president, I'd try and achieve that.
WILLIAMS: Senator Biden, I have to introduce a new subject here.
Christmas shopping season, holiday shopping, almost upon us, as there
is a chill in the air.
Would you advise Americans against buying imported toys from
China, in light of the recent health and safety problems?
BIDEN: If I were president, I'd shut down any imports from
China, period, in terms of their toys -- flat shut it down, number
Number two, imagine if this was Morocco selling us these toys, we
would have shut it down a year ago. They have mortgage on our house
because Bush mortgaged us to a $1 trillion to them. He is responsible
for this. This is outrageous.
And by the way, where is Rudy where we need him, here?
He could have helped you on this, you know what I mean -- on the
I don't know.
WILLIAMS: This is what happens late at night in a hot room.
Senator Obama, we started with you. Let's take a stab at this
one. Tomorrow, of course, is Halloween. You will go as what?
OBAMA: Well, we haven't decided on the costume yet. I know my
nine-year-old is going as a mad professor. And my six-year-old's
going as a witch. I will be accompanying them. I am thinking about
wearing a Mitt Romney mask, which I think will really...
But it has two sides to it. It goes in both directions at once.
WILLIAMS: Let's perhaps try to end on that note, along...
... along with this. If you didn't hear your question asked or
answered here tonight we are guessing there will be ample opportunity.
We, among others, will be back at this pursuit with now 65 days to go
until the Iowa caucuses.
I want to thank my partner, first and foremost, Tim Russert in
the questioning here tonight. We, of course, want to thank our hosts
at Drexel University, the great city of Philadelphia, and the
candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination for being with us
On behalf of all of us at NBC News, especially our road crew here
who makes these all possible, good night from Philadelphia. Thank you
for being with us.