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Sweet Las Vegas Dem debate. Full transcript.


LAS VEGAS--Full Nov. 15 Democratic debate transcript.

Below is the full transcript from tonight's Democratic Presidential Primary Debate. Please credit any use of this information to CNN.

For additional information, please contact: Christine Pietz, 212-275-8067,

For accompanying art, download pictures at the following link, which will be updated often throughout the evening:

Highlighted excerpts:

Senator Hillary Clinton: And I understand, very well, that people are not attack me because I'm a woman; they're attacking me because I'm ahead. And I understand that...


Wolf Blitzer: Congressman Kucinich, I believe you're the only person on this stage who had a chance to vote on the Patriot Act right after 9/11 who voted against it right away.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich: That's because I read it.


Senator Joe Biden: I know there's more to say, Campbell. I appreciate you asking me the question, and I'm sorry I answered it. I know you're not supposed to questions based on what I...(laughter)


Senator Hillary Clinton: That's why what I've tried to do is oppose a rush to war. I started speaking out against it back in February because I was worried about President Bush. Working with members of Congress to do exactly what Joe is saying, which is to make it absolutely clear there is no legal authority whatsoever. But what I think is most important is that we have aggressive diplomacy with Iran. I believe that the Bush administration has allowed this situation to worsen and fester because they won't have any diplomatic relations of any sort with Iran. So what I would do is to immediately begin that kind of negotiation. And I wouldn't ask the Iranians to give up their quest for nuclear power or anything else. Get them to the table. Let's figure out if there's some way we can, number one, ratchet down the tensions; number two, prevent from becoming a nuclear weapons power. Because that would be dangerous for all of us. And get the rest of the world to help us.


Senator John Edwards: God bless you for what you did for us and for America. Men and women like you have served this country so courageously, and I'm proud of both you and your mom being here to speak up, because I think this is such a crucial issue for the future of the country. My own view is that it's important for us to stop Bush, Cheney and the neocons at every, single stage. (APPLAUSE) And I think there was an important opportunity to do that on the vote on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Bush, Cheney and the neocons wanted the Iranian Revolutionary Guard declared a terrorist group, as Senator Biden just spoke about, because it's part of their path to moving militarily on Iran. And, actually, the fear a lot of us had about that was realized about a week ago when Bush, Cheney and the administration declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, and -- this is the part everyone's going to love -- a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction.


BLITZER: Welcome to the Cox Pavilion. We're at the University

of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Tonight, a little bit of history. This will be the first -- the

first -- presidential debate ever in this state, one of the fastest

growing, most prosperous in the country, and a state with a new

starring role in the kickoff events of this, the primary and caucus

season, right up there with Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Voters here will assemble and caucus on Saturday, January 19th,

and that's only two months away.

Over the next two hours in this debate -- officially sanctioned,

by the way, by the National Democratic Party -- the candidates for

president of the United States will be questioned by both journalists,

as well as ordinary people, undecided voters likely to attend those

caucuses here in Nevada.

The program tonight is going to be a little different, as well.

As you can see, the candidates are not yet on stage. The traveling

press pool is here. They're awaiting the arrival and the big photo

opportunity. We thought, "You know what?," we're going to bring that

to you as well tonight.

So let's get started.

First up, Senator John Edwards.


Next up, Senator Chris Dodd.


BLITZER: Senator Barack Obama.


Senator Hillary Clinton.


Congressman Dennis Kucinich.


BLITZER: Governor Bill Richardson.


Senator Joe Biden.


The Democratic presidential candidates.


BLITZER: All right, while they continue the photo op over here,

I want to bring in some of our reporters and analysts to give us a

sense of what we can expect tonight. We've got the best political

team watching all of this unfold.

Gloria Borger, what are you going to be looking for as we get

ready? This debate is about to begin.

GLORIA BORGER: Well, we know that tonight's going to be a really

tough night for Hillary Clinton.

BORGER: Barack Obama and John Edwards are going to challenge her

not only on her positions on immigration, but on all kinds of issues.

They have to break through one of them as the alternative to

Hillary Clinton here tonight. We're also going to be watching to see

how she handles their attacks.

Wolf, I think she has to engage tonight. She can't just float

above it all; she has to take them on, as well, and I expect her to do


BLITZER: John King, what are you looking for?

JOHN KING, CNN: I think Gloria is dead on. The pressure is,

most of all, on Senator Clinton, who has to reassert her command of

this race after a tough few weeks.

But also, Wolf, there are significant policy disagreements. The

Democrats agree, for the most part, on the big issue. But there are

also significant policy disagreements on immigration, and also on what

would the role of U.S. troops be in Iraq.

All of the Democrats say they would get out as soon as possible,

but they do have disagreements about whether the troops remaining

during that pull-out would, say, block Iranian influence. That's a

disagreement between Obama and Clinton.

As we get closer and closer to Iowa, the voters are tuned in,

paying much more close attention to the details and there's a great

opportunity for them tonight.

BLITZER: Campbell Brown and John Roberts are going to joining me

in the questioning during the first hour of this debate.

Campbell, give us a sense of what you're looking at.

BROWN: Well, just to follow up a little bit on what Gloria has

said, it will be interesting to watch Senator Clinton -- and obviously

she is under a lot of pressure tonight, given her performance at the

last debate.

But what I think will be more interesting is whether she decides,

as some have suggested she should, to go after her opponents, not only

to aggressively defend herself, but to really get in there and mix it

up with Barack Obama and John Edwards, who have been most aggressive

in going after her.

Or will she do what she has tended to do in the previous debates,

which is sort of take the high road to try to stay focused on the

issues, and to continue to sort of portray herself as the inevitable


BLITZER: John, a quick thought from you, John Roberts?

ROBERTS: Well, it will be interesting to watch how John Edwards

and Barack Obama comport themselves tonight. They know that there is

a crack in Hillary Clinton's suit of armor. Can they get inside there

and wedge it open just a little bit more? It is a natural for John

Edwards to go in and try and do that. Barack Obama, he has a

different personality.

ROBERTS: He tends to shy away from direct conflict like that.

We'll see how strong he can be tonight.

BLITZER: Our Emmy Award-winning best political team on

television, and they're standing by. All that coming up.

And even before we begin watching all of this unfold, we want to

give some housekeeping items to all of you, on behalf of all of us.

First of all, I'd like to thank our hosts, the University of

Nevada, Las Vegas, the Nevada State Democratic Party...


... and the people of Nevada, so the candidates -- they don't

have to use up all of their valuable time doing it themselves. Thanks

to all of you.

The debate tonight will be in two halves. In the second part, we

will hear directly from some of this group of about 100 undecided

Nevada Democrats. We look forward to hearing what's on their minds

tonight. That's coming up.

But for roughly this, the first hour, questions will be asked by

CNN anchors Campbell Brown and John Roberts. We're more or less, by

the way, on the honor system, here tonight. There will be no loud

bells, no flashing lights. The candidates all know they'll have a

little bit more than a minute to respond to these opening questions.

BLITZER: If they lose track, I'll gently try to remind them.

Some answers, by the way, might even be less than a minute. You never


Then we'll try to spend the next six or seven minutes following

up on that specific subject. At my discretion, I'll ask either that

candidate or any of the other candidates here up on the stage to weigh

in on that topic.

We hope in the process to get a real conversation going on

important issues. There are few other rules other than this.

Candidates must stay on the topic of the original question. If

they stray or try to answer a question on another topic, I'll gently

try to stop them immediately, and then we'll move on to another

candidate for a question -- another candidate or a question, that is.

That's enough from me, at least for now.

So let's begin our questioning tonight, Campbell Brown.


BROWN: Senator Clinton, recently in an interview on CNN, you

said of the last debate that you weren't at your best that day.

BROWN: You stumbled on an important question involving illegal

immigration. But your opponents are saying that that's really part of

a larger pattern with you, that you often avoid taking firm positions

on controversial issues. And one of your opponents on this stage

calls this "the politics of parsing."

How do you respond to that?

CLINTON: Well, Campbell, I am happy to be here tonight. And

this pantsuit, it's asbestos tonight.


So I am aware that some people say that, but I think that the

American people know where I've stood for 35 years. I've been

fighting for issues affecting women and children, workers and


CLINTON: I've been fighting for universal health care.

And I know that people are looking at this campaign and

evaluating us, and I've put forth very specific policies about what I

will do as president.

Because this has to be a big election. This is going to be one

of the most important elections we've ever had in our country's

history. And it is important that we have a candidate who is tested

and a president who is ready to lead from day one.

And I'm perfectly comfortable leaving these assessments up to the

American people to make their judgments among us.

BLITZER: Let me bring in Senator Obama, because you've been

among those critical of Senator Clinton. You've suggested she's

triangulating, whatever that means, on some of the key issues. She's

running a textbook Washington campaign, you've suggested that.

I want you to explain, if you don't mind, Senator: What do you

mean by that?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I'm really happy to be here in

Nevada, and I appreciate this opportunity.

OBAMA: Senator Clinton, I think, is a capable politician and I

think that she has run a terrific campaign.

But what the American people are looking for right now is

straight answers to tough questions, and that is not what we've seen

out of Senator Clinton on a host of issues -- on the issue of drivers'

licenses for illegal immigrants.

We saw in the last debate that it took not just that debate, but

two more weeks before we could a clear answer, in terms of where her

position was.

The same is true on Social Security. We have serious

disagreements about how we're going to make sure that Social Security

is there for the people who need it.

And what I'm absolutely convinced of is that, right now, we need

a different kind of politics. Everywhere I go all throughout Nevada,

people are struggling with health care, people are working harder for

less, they are having a tougher time saving, tougher time retiring.

And part of the reason is because they don't feel that Washington

is listening to them.

OBAMA: And what I want to do in this campaign is make certain

that we are breaking out of the gridlock and the partisanship and the

standard practices of Washington, and actually start listening to the

American people to get things done.

BLITZER: All right.

Senator Clinton, you want to respond?

CLINTON: Well, I hear what Senator Obama is saying, and he talks

a lot about stepping up and taking responsibility and taking strong


But when it came time to step up and decide whether or not he

would support universal health care coverage, he chose not to do that.

His plan would leave 15 million Americans out. That's about the

population of Nevada, Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire.

I have a universal health care plan that covers everyone. I've

been fighting this battle against the special interests for more than

15 years, and I am proud to fight this battle.

You know, we can have a different politics, but let's not forget

here that the people who we're against are not going to be giving up

without a fight. The Republicans are not going to vacate the White

House voluntarily. We have some big issues ahead of us, and we need

someone who is tested and ready to lead. I think that's what my

candidacy offers.


BLITZER: All right, Senator Obama.

OBAMA: Well, let's talk about health care right now because the

fact of the matter is -- the fact of the matter is that I do provide

universal health care.

OBAMA: The only difference between Senator Clinton's health care

plan and mine is that she thinks the problem for people without health

care is that nobody has mandated, forced them to get health care.

That's not what I'm seeing around Nevada.

What I see are people who would love to have health care. They

desperately want it. But the problem is they can't afford it, which

is why we have put forward legislation...


We've put forward a plan that makes sure that it is affordable to

get health care that is as good as the health care that I have as a

member of Congress. That's what the American people are looking for,

that's what they deserve and that's what I intend to provide as

president of the United States.

CLINTON: I can't let that go unanswered. You know, the most

important thing here is to level with the American people. Senator

Obama's health care plan does not cover everyone. He starts with

children, which is admirable. I helped to create the children's

health insurance program back in 1997. I am totally committed to

making sure every single child is covered.


He does not mandate the kind of coverage that I do, and I provide

a health care tax credit under my American health choices plan so that

every American will be able to afford the health care. I open up the

congressional plan, but there is a big difference between Senator

Obama and me. He starts from the premise of not reaching universal

health care.


BLITZER: Senator Obama, we're going to have a lot more on health

care. Go ahead. Go ahead.


OBAMA: I will be very brief on this issue. Hillary states that

she wants -- she states that she wants to mandate health care

coverage, but she is not garnishing people's wages to make sure that

they have it.

BLITZER: OK, please.

Go ahead.


OBAMA: She is not -- she is not enforcing this mandate. And I

don't think that the problem with the American people is that they are

not being forced to get health care. The problem is they can't afford

it. And that is why my plan provides...


... the mechanism to make sure that they can.


BLITZER: All right. We're going to get back on health care

shortly. Because we have a lot more to talk about.

KUCINICH: But wait. The American people are entitled to a

debate here...

BLITZER: I want Senator Edwards to weight in. Because you have

spoken about the politics of parsing in your criticism of Senator

Clinton. I want you to explain what that means.

EDWARDS: Well, can I say, first, nobody on this stage is

perfect, and that certainly includes me. And I don't claim

perfection; far from it.

What I would say is, that the issue is whether we can have a

president that can restore trust for the American people, in the

president of the United States.


Because I think this president has destroyed that trust. And I

think there are fair questions to be asked of all us, including

Senator Clinton.

EDWARDS: Senator Clinton says she will end the war. She also

says she will continue to keep combat troops in Iraq and continue

combat missions in Iraq.

She says she will turn up the heat on George Bush and the

Republicans, but when the crucial vote came on stopping Bush, Cheney

and the neocons, on Iran, she voted with Bush and Cheney.

On the issue of Social Security...


... on the issue of Social Security, she said, standing beside me

on the stage, that she would not do anything about the cap on Social

Security taxes, and she has said privately to people, because it's

been reported in the press, that in fact she would consider raising

that cap.

And the most important issue is she says she will bring change to

Washington, while she continues to defend a system that does not work,

that is broken, that is rigged and is corrupt; corrupted against the

interest of most Americans and corrupted...


BLITZER: All right...

EDWARDS: ... and corrupted for a very small, very powerful, very

well-financed group.

BLITZER: We're going to...

EDWARDS: So we have fundamental differences.

BLITZER: We're going to get to all of these issues, including

energy and Iran and everything else.

CLINTON: Well, Wolf, I've just been personally attacked again,

and I...

BLITZER: Senator Clinton, I'll let you respond because there was

a direct charge made against you.

CLINTON: Thank you.

BLITZER: Then we're going to bring in everybody. Everyone's

going to get time tonight; don't worry, we got a lot of time.

Go ahead.


CLINTON: Well, you know, I respect all of my colleagues on this



CLINTON: And, you know, we're Democrats and we're trying to

nominate the very best person we can to win.

And I don't mind taking hits on my record on issues, but when

somebody starts throwing mud, at least we can hope that it's both

accurate and right out of the Republican playbook.


Because what I believe is important is that we put forth what we

stand for. I have been active for 35 years. The American people know

where I stand.

You know, Senator Edwards raised health care again -- when

Senator Edwards ran in 2004, he wasn't for universal health care. I'm

glad he is now.

CLINTON: But for him to be throwing this mud and making these

charges I think really detracts from what we're trying to do here

tonight. We need to put forth a positive agenda for America...

BLITZER: All right.

CLINTON: ... telling people what we're going to do when we get

the chance to go back to the White House.

BLITZER: Senator Edwards, we're going to give you a chance in a



We're going to give Senator Edwards a chance to respond. I want

Senator Biden to weigh in.

BIDEN: Oh no, no, no, no.


BLITZER: Senator Biden, I want you to weigh in.


BIDEN: Don't do it, no! Don't make me speak!

BLITZER: I want you to. Go ahead.


What do you think? Senator Biden, here's the question: What do

you think about this exchange among Democrats? Is that good for the

Democrats or is it bad?

BIDEN: Hey, look, let's get to it, folks. The American people

don't give a darn about any of this stuff that's going on up here.

Look, they're sitting -- no, seriously, think about it.

They're sitting down at their tables at night, they put their

kids to bed, and they're worried about whether or not their child is

going to run into a drug dealer on the way to school. They're worried

about whether or not they're going to be able to pay for their

mortgage because, even if they didn't have one of those subprime

mortgages, things are looking bad for them.

BIDEN: They're worrying about whether they're going to keep

their job. And they're worried about whether their son in the

National Guard's going to get killed in Iraq. Ladies and gentlemen...


Every political campaign gets to this place. And I'm not

criticizing any of the three people who are the ones who always get to

talk all the time at these things.



I'm not. I'm not. I'm not criticizing. But look, folks, let's

get straight to it here. This is not about experience. It's not

about change. It's about action.

Who among us is going to be able to, on day one, step in and end

the war? Who among us understands what to do about Pakistan? Who

among us is going to pick up the phone and immediately interface with

Putin and lay off Georgia because Saakashvili is in real trouble?

Who among us knows what they're doing? I have 35 years of

experience. While everyone's talking about their experience -- and

Hillary has great experience and John and the rest of them, I was

passing the Violence Against Women Act.

BIDEN: I was passing the crime bill. I was passing...

(UNKNOWN): You're right.


BLITZER: Let me just point out, everyone is going to have plenty

of time tonight. I want John Roberts to go ahead and ask the next

question, and then we'll bring everybody in, I promise.

ROBERTS: Senator Clinton, you were saying just a moment ago...



The question is not going to her, by the way. Reiterating what

you said, you said you think it is legitimate for you to take hits on

your record.

Well, some of those hits on your record have come from the far

right-hand side of the stage from Senator Edward, who has frequently

attacked you for flip-flopping.

Senator, you have changed your position on several issues. You

were for the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository before you were against

it. You were for the Iraq war before you were against it.

People change their positions. If it is fair for you to change

your position, is it not fair for her to change hers?

EDWARDS: It's absolutely fair. It's absolutely fair for people

to learn from their experience and grow and mature and change.

Anybody who's not willing to change based on what they learn is

ignorant, and everybody ought to be willing to do that.

That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying there's a difference

between that and saying the exact same two contrary things at exactly

the same time.

I mean, for example, just over the course of the last week,

Senator Clinton said in Washington that she would vote for the Peru

Trade Deal, and she said in Iowa, talking to union members, that she

wanted a moratorium on trade deals.

The important thing about this, though, is none of us -- none of

us -- because the reality is, and I want to add on to something that

Joe Biden said -- you know, before I came over here tonight, I was

thinking we're going to have this debate. When we finish, all of you

are going to be on television saying, "Oh, who scored points? Who won

the debate?"

All of us are going to be fine.

EDWARDS: The question is: Will America be fine?

Because what I saw...


... before we came over here, on your troll underneath the

screen, 35 million Americans, last year, went hungry; 37 million

people in this country live in poverty every day; 47 million Americans

have no health care coverage.

And there is a fundamental choice that everyone in this room, and

Democratic voters have to make. And that is, who do you believe will

take on this system and change it so that it's no longer rigged,

corrupt, and rigged against the interests...

BLITZER: All right. All right.

EDWARDS: ... of the American people.

That is the fundamental choice. And I think people are entitled

to know that they have choices. There's nothing personal about this.

This is about what America needs to be. This is about those 35

million people...

BLITZER: All right.

EDWARDS: ... who are hungry every single year. When is our

party going to show a little backbone and strength and courage and

speak up for those people who have been left behind?


BLITZER: All right. Hold on one second.

BLITZER: I want Senator Dodd to weigh in.

Senator Dodd, because you said -- made a statement earlier in the

week, and I'm quoting you now: you're, "surprised at just how angry

Senator Edwards has become," and you suggested, "He's not the same

person I once knew."


Go ahead and elaborate. Tell us what you mean.

DODD: Well, let me, I mean, pick up on this point here.

I think, first of all, we Democrats have a job to do, and that is

to unite this party, attract independents, Republicans who are

seeking change, to join us 12 months from now and elect a Democrat to

the White House and to hold on to the House and Senate. That's number



And it's going to take more than just getting people in our own

party to support us. We're going to have to reach out.

There's a shrillness to the debate. The American people want

results, they want the job done, exactly what Joe Biden talked about

here. But people get up in the morning and go to work, they sit

around and they worry about their jobs, their retirement, their health

care, this kids' education, and they wonder if anybody in Washington

is paying any attention to them and whether or not the job is being

done on their behalf.

And, frankly, when a campaign is about turning up the heat or

who's angrier or who's yelling louder, the American people turn off,

in terms of listening.

They want us to come together. They want a president that can

lead the country.

DODD: We want a Democratic candidate who can unite our party.

And I think if we waste time on the shrillness of this debate, then we

lose the American people.

BLITZER: All right.

DODD: So it's important to focus on those.


BLITZER: Governor Richardson, go ahead.

RICHARDSON: Well, by the way, I'm Bill Richardson. I'm Governor

of New Mexico.



And nice to meet you all.


I -- you know, it seems -- you know, it seems that John wants to

start a class war. It seems that Barack wants to start a generational

war. It seems that Senator Clinton, with all due respect on her plan

on Iraq, doesn't end the war.

All I want to do is give peace a chance.


And I say that because these are the fundamental issues. Do our

plans end the war? Do our plans make America energy-independent?


RICHARDSON: Do our plans -- do our plans give health care to

every American? Are we creating jobs and economic growth? Are we

resolving the real problems affecting this country?

You know, let's stop this mud-slinging. let's stop this going

after each other on character on trust. Let us debate the issues that

affect the American people, and let us be positive. Let's be



BLITZER: I just want to go down the line and ask everyone, and

then we're going to move on to the next question.

Just to be precise, because there was a little confusion thanks

to Senator Edwards earlier in the week -- I just want to make sure I

fully understand all of you Democrats.

Are you ready to commit, absolutely, positively that you will

support the Democratic nominee, no matter who that nominee is? No

ifs, ands or buts.

Senator Edwards?

EDWARDS: Is that a planted question?


BLITZER: Yes, I planted it.

EDWARDS: Yes, I absolutely will support the Democratic nominee

for president.

DODD: Absolutely.

CLINTON: Absolutely, yes.

KUCINICH: Only if they oppose war as an instrument of policy.


RICHARDSON: Yes, I will support the nominee.

BIDEN: Hell, no, I wouldn't support any of these guys.


No, I'm joking. Of course, I'm for them all.


BLITZER: Campbell, go ahead.

BROWN: All right, let's talk about the issues. Senator Obama, I

want to ask you about immigration. It's an important issue in this

state in particular. There are between 100,000 to 200,000 illegal

immigrants here in Nevada.

And you supported various benefits for illegal immigrants,

including drivers licenses and in-state college tuition. What do you

say to those Americans who say they are losing out because you would

give benefits to people who broke the laws of this country, who came

here illegally.

And then more generally, as president, where do you draw the line

when it comes to benefits for illegal immigrants?

OBAMA: I would say that they're justified in feeling frustrated

because this administration, the Bush administration, has done nothing

to control the problem that we have. We've had 5 million undocumented

workers come over the borders since George Bush took office.

OBAMA: It has become an extraordinary problem. The reason the

American people are concerned is because they are seeing their own

economic positions slip away.

Oftentimes, employers are exploiting these undocumented workers.

They're not paying the minimum wage. They're not observing worker

safety laws.

So what we have to do is create a comprehensive solution to the

problem. Now, I have already stated that as president I will make

sure that we finally have the kind of border security that we need.

That's step number one. Step number two is to take on employers.

Right now, an employer has more of a chance of getting hit by

lightning than be prosecuted for hiring an undocumented worker. That

has to change.

OBAMA: They have to be held accountable.


And when we do those things...


When we do those things, I believe that we can take the

undocumented workers, the illegal aliens who are here, get them out of

the shadows, make sure that they are subject to a stiff penalty, make

sure that they're learning English, make sure that they go to the back

of the line so they're not getting an advantage over people who came

here legally.

And when we do that, I think that we can, instead of shedding all

this heat, start shedding some light on the problem, and we can once

again be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. That's what I

intend to do as president of the United States.

BLITZER: All right. I want to just press you on this point,

because it's a logical follow-up, and then I want to go and ask


On the issue that apparently tripped up Senator Clinton earlier,

the issue of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, I take it,

Senator Obama, you support giving driver's licenses to illegal


Is that right?

OBAMA: When I was a state senator in Illinois, I voted to

require that illegal aliens get trained, get a license, get insurance

to protect public safety. That was my intention.


And -- but I have to make sure that people understand. The

problem we have here is not driver's licenses. Undocumented workers

do not come here to drive.


They don't go -- they're not coming here to go to the In-N-Out

Burger. That's not the reason they're here. They're here to work.

And so instead of being distracting by what has now become a wedge

issue, let's focus on actually solving the problem that this

administration, the Bush administration, had done nothing about it.

BLITZER: Well, let's go through everybody because I want to be

precise. I want to make sure the viewers and those of us who are here

fully understand all of your positions on this barring -- avoiding,

assuming -- there isn't going to be comprehensive immigration reform.

Do you support or oppose driver's licenses for illegal


OBAMA: I am not proposing that that's what we do.

OBAMA: What I'm saying is that we can't...


No, no, no, no. Look, I have already said, I support the notion

that we have to deal with public safety and that driver's licenses at

the same level can make that happen.

But what I also know...

BLITZER: All right...

OBAMA: But what I also know, Wolf, is that if we keep on getting

distracted by this problem, then we are not solving it.

BLITZER: But -- because this is the kind of question that is

sort of available for a yes or no answer.


Either you support it or you oppose it.


Let's go down and get a yes or no from everyone, starting with

Senator Edwards.

EDWARDS: Tell me again what your question is.


BLITZER: Do you support driver's licenses for illegal


EDWARDS: If we don't have comprehensive...

BLITZER: In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform --

doesn't look like it's going to happen any time soon -- do you support

driver's licenses for illegal immigrants?

EDWARDS: No, but I don't accept the proposition that we're not

going to have comprehensive immigration reform.


What I do support, and what I will do as president of the United

States, is move this country toward comprehensive immigration reform.

And anyone who's on the path to earning American citizenship should be

able to have a driver's license.


BLITZER: Senator Dodd?

DODD: Well, it's important to put it in context. It's obviously

-- look, clarity is important here. The American people, in a debate

like this, want clarity here. Certainly, the whole idea of getting

immigration reform is something I strongly support.

But I believe part of our job is to discourage those who want to

come here -- I understand why they want to come, but coming illegally

creates serious problems -- four to 500,000.

BLITZER: So, is that a yes or a no?

DODD: No, my belief is that giving a -- as I've said in the very

beginning here, I think drivers' licenses are the wrong thing to be

doing, in terms of attracting people to come here as undocumented.

BLITZER: All right. Thank you.

Senator Obama, yes or no?




OBAMA: I'll tell you, I am going to be fighting for

comprehensive immigration reform, and we shouldn't pose the question

that, somehow, we can't achieve that.

I believe that the American people desperately want it; that's

what I'm going to be fighting for as president.


BLITZER: Senator Clinton?


BLITZER: Congressman Kucinich?

KUCINICH: I take issue with your description of people being

illegal immigrants. There aren't any illegal human beings. That's

number one.


KUCINICH: Number two, they are undocumented. I believe that the

best way to do it -- thank you.


I believe the best way to deal with this is cancel NAFTA and

renegotiate the trade agreement with Mexico.


BLITZER: Let me re-phrase the question, Congressman.

If undocumented people in this country should be able to get

driver's licenses...

KUCINICH: You give people a path to legalization, and then they

can be legal and have their driver's license. That's the way to work


BLITZER: What about in the absence of comprehensive immigration


KUCINICH: You know what? You give people a path to legalization

and you work to make sure that you don't criminalize their status any

further. Again, I take exception to the way you framed that question.

BLITZER: Governor?

RICHARDSON: Well, my answer is yes, and I did it. You know why?

Because the Congress, and I notice Barack mentioned the president, but

the Congress also failed miserably to pass comprehensive immigration.

RICHARDSON: And we need to have it in this country. I did it

four years ago. My legislature sent me a bill. I signed it. My law-

enforcement people said it's a matter of public safety.

What we need is public safety, a reduction in traffic fatalities.

We wanted more people to be insured. When we started with this

program, 33 percent of all New Mexicans were uninsured. Today, it's

11 percent.

BLITZER: All right.

RICHARDSON: Traffic fatalities have gone down. It's a matter of

public safety. States have to act when the federal government and the

Congress doesn't act. The answer is comprehensive immigration. The

answer is...

BLITZER: All right.

RICHARDSON: The answer is -- secure the borders, a stronger

relationship with Mexico. Those that knowingly hire illegal


BLITZER: All right.

RICHARDSON: ... should be punished. And a path to legalization.

That is the solution.

BLITZER: Senator Biden?




BLITZER: John Roberts?

ROBERTS: Senator Dodd, a lot of people in this room, no doubt,

are very concerned about the quality of education that their children

will have and how it will prepare them for a post-secondary education

and the working world after that.

ROBERTS: In workplaces across America, it's pretty common to

reward high-performing employees with pay raises and to terminate bad


However, in our education system across the country by and large,

in our nation's public schools, teachers' unions make it difficult to

do that.

Question is: What is wrong with rewarding a teacher who excels

at the job that they're doing by paying them more than an average

teacher would make?


DODD: Well, I think if you define excelling by teachers who will

go into poor -- rural or poor urban areas and make a difference,

mentor children after school, put in extra time to make a difference,

then I think that sort of merit pay has value.

If you're judging excelling by determining whether or not that

teacher has students who do better because they're in better

neighborhoods or better schools, I'm totally opposed to that.


DODD: That's not the way to be judging...


And this is critical. I always say, this is the single most

important issue. I've been asked the question, over 26 years in the

Senate, 1,000 times. It's a difficult question to answer. What's the

most important issue?

This is the most important issue. Every other issue we grapple

with depends upon our ability to have the best-educated generation

we've ever produced.


And we need to have, in my view, far more cooperation at the

national level.

We spend less than 5 percent of the national budget on elementary

and secondary education. That is deplorable, in my view.


It's basically Title I. We need to fundamentally reform No Child

Left Behind. No Child Left Behind is a disaster for most schools and

most teachers...


I've spent 26 years in the Senate. I started the Children's

Caucus, 26 years ago, with Arlen Specter.

DODD: I wrote the legislation dealing with after-school

programs, infant screening, autism issues, as well. I spent a good

deal of my time -- head start senator of the decade by the Head Start


I've dedicated a good part of my public career to children and to

education -- one-quarter of the population, but truly, 100 percent of

our future.

This is an issue that deserves far more attention. We ought to

have one single debate on education.


It comes up about once every two hours in the discussion.

BLITZER: We're talking about education right now, and I want I

want to bring Congressman Kucinich in, because I know you're a strong

supporter of the unions -- the teachers union, very powerful --

teachers unions, very powerful.

Are there any issues with unions -- teachers unions or other

unions, for that matter -- with which you disagree?

KUCINICH: My father was a truck driver. He was a member of The

Teamsters. I happen to be a member of the IATSE. I think that the

trade -- that the union movement is essential to upholding human


And I think that if we had trade agreements that had workers'

rights in them, that would lift up conditions for workers in this

country and in all countries.

KUCINICH: So I'm the candidate of workers in this -- this

campaign because I've stood for jobs for all, full employment economy,

health care for all, education for all.

And the fact of the matter is that a Kucinich administration will

means a workers' White House. Right now wealth is being accelerated

upwards, and I'm the one candidate in the race who comes right from

the working class and can address those needs directly because I

remember where I came from.


BLITZER: All right. I take it that the answer is there's

nothing -- there's no issues, no major issues you disagree with

America's unions.

KUCINICH: Well, you know, the Teamsters wanted to drill in

Alaska. I voted against drilling in Alaska. So it's not like I'm a

slam dunk on every issue.

BLITZER: All right.


KUCINICH: But I'm for working people. That's why I'm up here.

RICHARDSON: I think the key -- the key -- I want to be the

education president.

RICHARDSON: The key to a good education is a strong teacher.

One of the problems we have in this country is we disrespect teachers.

We underpay them. I would have a minimum wage for all teachers

starting out at $40,000 per year.


And, Chris, I think we need to be bolder with No Child Left

Behind. I would junk it. This is a disaster. It's got to go. I

would have preschool for every child. I would have full-day

kindergarten. America is 29th in science, to the European Union, to

Japan. We need to have science and math academies. Hire 100,000

science and math teachers. Have art in the schools.


We need also to have a college education policy that deals with

these huge loans that are killing our college students.


What I would do -- and, you know, we are in a great college here.

RICHARDSON: What I would do is in exchange for two years of

tuition, government pays tuition, one year of national service to this

country. Those are the kind of creative solutions we want in this



BLITZER: Let me -- thank you, Governor. Thank you very much.

I want Senator Clinton to weigh in on the issue of merit pay.

If there's a teacher out there who's doing a great job, should

that teacher get merit -- get a bonus for doing a great job, that

individual teacher who works really hard, does a great job educating

young people?

CLINTON: Well, I support school-based merit pay for a lot of the

reasons Chris was talking about. We need to get more teachers to go

into hard-to-serve areas. We've got to get them into underserved

urban areas, underserved rural areas.

But the school is a team, and I think it's important that we

reward that collaboration. You know, a child who moves from

kindergarten to sixth grade, say, in the same school, every one of

those teachers is going to affect that child.

BLITZER: But what if there's an excellent teacher in that team

and a crummy teacher in that team, a teacher who's simply riding along

and not really working very hard, not really educating those young


Do you give just everybody the merit pay, or do you give it to

individual teachers?

CLINTON: Well, you need to weed out the teachers who are not

doing a good job. I mean, that's the bottom line. They should not be

teaching our children.


CLINTON: I mean, what I believe so strongly is that our

education system has served this country very well. But we're in the

21st century. We do need to reimagine it. We've got to get everybody

to talk about it.

But what I object to with the Bush administration is it's always

talking down. We need to have a collegial collaboration. And the

teachers need to be at the table...

BLITZER: All right.

CLINTON: ... helping us figure out what the best way is to

achieve our goals.


BLITZER: I want to move on to the next question, but I want

Senator Biden to weigh in, because I know your wife is a teacher, so

go ahead. Should an excellent teacher be given merit pay?

BIDEN: An excellent teacher should be judged by whether or not

that teacher outside of the classroom improves themselves and their

teaching skills.

BIDEN: My wife got two master's degrees and a doctorate degree.

That's merit pay. She went out there and she earned the ability to be

able to demonstrate to everyone that she was an exceptional teacher,

because she went out and she gathered this additional knowledge,

instead of being -- not just being a good teacher.

Here's the problem with simple merit pay, based on the principle.

Who makes the decision, based on merit pay?


Who is the person who...


I believe there should be teaching excellence. I think we should

demand more of our teachers in continuing education. I think there

should -- and unions don't like that.

I think there should be -- demand more of the teachers, in terms

of the participation after school and in school.


But I think you've got to pay them.

And the last point I'll make is, Bill is correct. You have to --

look, the idea you start teachers at $28,000, in most states, where,

in the countries we're competing with, they start off and they

graduate their -- the graduating seniors are getting the same pay that

engineers are getting in those same schools.

BIDEN: My father has an expression -- God love him -- before he

passed away. He'd say, "Don't tell me what you value, show me your

budget and I will tell you what you value."


I've laid out a $30 billion plan...

BLITZER: Thank you.

BIDEN: ... over five years to -- 16 years of education is what

our kids need. They need to start two years earlier and be guaranteed

two years after school.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.


Campbell Brown?

BROWN: Senator Biden, a question on Pakistan.

As you know, in the past few weeks Pakistani leader Pervez

Musharraf has declared a state of emergency there. He's dismissed

several Supreme Court justices. He's recently placed opposition

leader Benazir Bhutto under house arrest twice now and imprisoned

numerous other dissenters.

And I know you spoke with Musharraf last week. And you, along

with several others on the stage, assert that the U.S. should maintain

its current level of financial support for Pakistan.

And my question is, is it your view that there are times when the

security of the United States is more important than the way a key

ally, like Musharraf, disregards freedom and disregards democracy?

BIDEN: First of all, I do not think we should maintain the same

aid we're giving. I have made it clear to Musharraf personally when

he called me, and I've spoken personally to Bhutto, before -- I might

add, the president spoke to either one of them -- I spoke to them and

I indicated very clearly two things.


One, if he did not -- if he did not take off his uniform, if he

did not hold fair and free elections by the middle of January, I would

on the floor of the Senate move to take away the aid we're giving with

regard to F-16s and P-3s, because that's the biggest leverage you have

on him within his military.

BIDEN: He is not a sole player. He has to keep his military

happy, as well. I would use that leverage.

Secondly, I've indicated that what we should do is move from a

Musharraf policy to a Pakistan policy. Unlike anyone else, within

five days of this happening, I laid out a detailed plan. The

president hasn't, no one on this stage has -- no else has -- a

detailed plan, as president, how I will proceed with Iraq.

And you have to move from military aid to giving to the middle

class there.

BIDEN: The middle class is overwhelmingly the majority. They

get no connection with the United States. We have to significantly

increase our economic aid relative to education, relative to NGOs,

relative to all those things that make a difference in the lives of

ordinary people over there, and not be doing it through the military


I know there's more to say, Campbell. I appreciate you asking me

the question, and I'm sorry I answered it. I know you're not supposed

to questions based on what I...


BLITZER: Well, let me bring in Governor Richardson.

Governor Richardson...


... you've suggested cutting off military aid to Pakistan so long

as the Pakistani leader doesn't take these steps to restore the

constitution, take off his military uniform, end the national state of

emergency and have free and fair elections.

But some are worried, including the opposition leader, Benazir

Bhutto -- I spoke with her earlier this week -- that cutting off

military aid to the Pakistan military could undermine U.S. national


BLITZER: This is a country that has nuclear weapons. It has a

strong Taliban presence, an Al Qaida presence. Are you worried at all

that as bad as President Musharraf might be, it could get a whole lot

worse over there.

RICHARDSON: Well, of course I'm worried, but what happened with

our Pakistan policy, we got our principles wrong. We forgot our

principles, our principles that we said to Musharraf: You know,

Musharraf, security is more important than human rights.


If I'm president, it's the other way around -- democracy and

human rights. What I would do is, yes, I would condition the

assistance to Musharraf. We give him $10 billion. Sixty percent of

that is to his military.

I would say, President Musharraf, unless you restore the

constitution; unless you have elections in January; unless you end the

state of emergency; unless you allow Benazir Bhutto to run as a

candidate; unless you put the supreme court back -- and something else

we forgot.

RICHARDSON: He is supposed to go after terrorists on his border.

And he has done a very weak job of doing that.

And you know, I would condition the assistance...

BLITZER: All right.

RICHARDSON: ... but here's another point -- no, but here's

another point. Pakistan and the politics of Pakistan, Islamic parties

get maybe 15 percent of the vote. I mean, so this threat that, oh,

revolutionary elements are going to overtake him, if he has a fair

election, and you take his party and Benazir Bhutto's party, and you

get the military...


RICHARDSON: ... I believe that moderate forces can win. So, if

we're on the side of democracy and human rights, and we're on the side

of Musharraf having elections, then U.S. interests are preserved, and

the Pakistani people have a democracy.

BLITZER: Let me just be precise because I want to make sure we

all -- I heard you correctly.

BLITZER: What you're saying, Governor, is that human rights, at

times, are more important than American national security?



... because I believe we need to find ways to say to the world

that, you know, it's not just about what Halliburton wants in Iraq.

It's also about...


... our values of freedom, equality. Our strength is not just

military and economic.

BLITZER: All right.

RICHARDSON: Our strength as a nation is our values: equality...

BLITZER: All right.

RICHARDSON: ... freedom, democracy...

BLITZER: All right.

RICHARDSON: ... human rights.

BLITZER: Senator Edwards, I want you to weigh in.

RICHARDSON: That's why we are strong.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Senator.

EDWARDS: Well, I think, first of all, we have some basic goals

that we need to be focused on with respect to Pakistan.

One is to make sure that the extremists in northwest Pakistan are

under control; second that we provide support for the democratic

reformers; third, as Senator Biden just spoke about, to make sure

these elections take place in January; and, fourth, we need to make

certain that the nuclear weapons are under control.

Now, this leads to a bigger questions. I think Pakistan is the

living, breathing example that America's ad hoc policy of dealing with

the spread of nuclear weapons, while it's absolutely required in

today's world given what's happening with Iran, given what we see

today in Pakistan and the incredible fragility of the administration

in Pakistan and the presidents of an extraordinary extremist element

within Pakistan.

EDWARDS: But this is the living, breathing example of a policy

that will not work over the long-term -- I'm about to finish. What we

have to do, what America needs to do and what I will do, as president

of the United States, is to lead a long-term international effort to

rid the world of nuclear weapons.

It is the only way we're going to keep the world secure and keep

America secure.


BLITZER: Everybody's going to have a chance.

Senator Obama, is human rights more important than American

national security?

OBAMA: The concepts are not contradictory, Wolf.

BLITZER: Because occasionally, they could clash.

OBAMA: They are complementary. And I think Pakistan is a great


Look, we paid $10 billion over the last seven years and we had

two goals: deal with terrorism and restore democracy.

OBAMA: And we've gotten neither.

And Joe and Bill are exactly right on this. Pakistan's democracy

would strengthen our battle against extremists.

The more we see repression, the more there are no outlets for how

people can express themselves and their aspirations, the worse off

we're going to be, and the more anti-American sentiment there's going

to be in the Middle East. We keep on making this mistake.

As president, I will do everything that is required to make sure

that nuclear weapons don't fall into the hands of extremists,

especially going after Al Qaida in the hills between Afghanistan and


But we've got to understand that, if we simply prop up anti-

democratic practices, that that feeds the sense that America is only

concerned about us and that our fates are not tied to these other


And that's going to make us less safe.

OBAMA: That's something I intend to change.

BLITZER: Hold on. Hold on one second. Senator Dodd, I want you

to weigh in. What is more important when they clash: human rights

versus national security?

DODD: Well, first of all, I hope maybe others don't find this as

ironic as I do that have President Bush urging the Turks not to invade

Kurdish areas of Iraq and lecturing Musharraf about restoring the

constitution. This is an administration that stepped all over our own

constitutional processes.


And this isn't. Elections are -- there is an expression in

Spanish that says elections...

BLITZER: What is more important, human rights or national


DODD: Obviously, national security, keeping the country safe.

When you take the oath of office on January 20, you promise to do two

things, and that is to protect and defend the Constitution of the

United States and protect our country against enemies both foreign and

domestic. The security of the country is number one, obviously.

BLITZER: All right. OK.

DODD: Secondly, this doesn't mean -- elections are only one

note, as they say, in the tune of democracy. Be careful what you wish

for. If there were totally free elections. In many of the countries

we're talking about today, the Islamic Jihad or the Islamic

Brotherhood would win 85 percent of the vote.

DODD: That's not a great outcome for us at this point either.

BLITZER: All right.

DODD: So we need to have a sense of balance about this here. I

disagree with those who suggest here that we ought to condition

Musharraf's actions regarding some of these issues on aid and

assistance here.

There's only one way into Afghanistan. It's through Pakistan.

The generals in the military control the nuclear weaponry here. We

need to move and remind Musharraf that there are obligations he needs

to fulfill.

Be careful here about insisting upon...

BLITZER: All right, you answered the question, Senator.

DODD: No, no, let me finish. Because, literally, then you have

to do what you say you're going to do. And if he doesn't do what he's

suggesting, then you have to terminate that relationship, and that

puts this country in a very, very dangerous position right now.

BLITZER: You say national security is more important than human

rights. Senator Clinton, what do you say?

CLINTON: I agree with that completely. The first obligation of

the president of the United States is to protect and defend the United

States of America. That doesn't mean that it is to the exclusion of

other interests.

And there's absolutely a connection between a democratic regime

and heightened security for the United States. That's what's so

tragic about this situation. After 9/11, President Bush had a chance

to chart a different course, both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan, and

could have been very clear about what our expectations were.

CLINTON: We are now in a bind. And it is partly -- not

completely, but partly -- a result of the failed policies of the Bush


So where we are today means that we have to say to President

Musharraf, "Look, this is not in your interest either; this is not in

the interest of the United States. It is not in your interest to

either stay in power or stay alive." We have to figure out how we're

going to navigate this.

When I was meeting with him earlier this year, I asked him if he

would accept a high-level presidential envoy to begin to negotiate

some of these issues.

He said yes. I got back, I called the White House, I asked them

to send such a high-level envoy -- they did not do it. They're going

to send one now.

So, I mean, you've got to stay on top of this and you have to

manage it all the time. That requires presidential attention; we

haven't had that, and part of the reason is obvious now.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.


BLITZER: John Roberts?

Stand by. Stand by.

John Roberts, go ahead.

You're going to have a chance.

ROBERTS: To Governor Richardson, a military police unit from the

Nevada National Guard, stationed about 12 miles from here, just left

for its third tour of duty in Iraq.

I want to talk to you for just a moment here about the effect of

the troop increase over there.

It's true that 2007 is the deadliest year so far since 2003 for

American forces, but it's also true that U.S. troop deaths have been

declining steadily since the spring. And in fact, in the month of

October, they were at their lowest level in nearly two years. At the

same time, there has been a marked decline in the number of deaths of

Iraqi people.

Is General David Petraeus correct when he says that the troop

increase is bringing security to Iraq?

RICHARDSON: John, we shouldn't be talking about body counts.

One American death is too much.


And what I am saying here is the surge is not working.

RICHARDSON: There is less -- right now, less possibility of a

political solution. Three out of the 18 benchmarks of the General

Accounting (sic) Office have been fulfilled. Even among Republican

math, that is a failing grade.


What I'm saying also is that -- look at this statistic: 65

percent of the Iraqi people now say it's OK to shoot an American

soldier. Our troops are dying -- over 3,800, two today, 60,000

wounded, casualties, mainly mental trauma.

Now, my position is that we get the troops out in a year, leave

no residual forces behind -- unlike some of my colleagues here that

want to leave some until 2013 -- but not just wave goodbye, because we

have a responsibility.

And that is: one, to get a political compromise, a U.S.-led

political compromise among the three groups that they share power --

the Sunni, the Shia, the Kurds -- that they share oil revenues, that

we have an all-Muslim, all-Arab peacekeeping force, with some European

forces, headed by the U.N., a donor conference that involves other

countries -- European Union, rich Arab states, contributing to the

reconstruction of Iraq, where we have spent...

BLITZER: All right.

RICHARDSON: ... $500 billion...

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

RICHARDSON: ... in this war, when this money should be used in

America, for health care, education, and for kids.


BLITZER: Congressman Kucinich, is the troop increase...


BLITZER: Is the troop increase, as General Petraeus has put

forward over these past few months -- is it working?

KUCINICH: No. The occupation is fueling the insurgency. In

2003, I put forth a plan to get out of Iraq. I'm actually the only

one on this stage who voted against the war...


... voted against funding the war, 100 percent of the time.


KUCINICH: And also who has a plan to bring the troops home. And

they should be brought home now. And let me tell you something, the

Democrats in Congress have not done the right thing for the American

people. They should tell President Bush, we're not going to give you

another dime. We're not putting a bill on the floor. Bring them home



Also, when you talked about Pakistan, you didn't get a chance to

come to me on that question, but I want to point something out to you,

Wolf. You cannot look at Pakistan and the destabilization that is

occurring in many Muslim nations without understanding the role that

our aggression against Iraq has played in contributing to that

destabilization. So I am speaking about a new policy of strength

through peace, no more unilateralism, no more preemption, no more

first-strike, open-dialogue diplomacy, and adherence to international


BLITZER: Thank you, Congressman.

Senator Obama, I will put the same question to you.


Is General Petraeus' strategy working?

OBAMA: There is no doubt that because we put American troops in

Iraq, more American troops in Iraq, that they are doing a magnificent


OBAMA: And they are making a difference in certain

neighborhoods. But the overall strategy is failed because we have not

seen any change in behavior among Iraq's political leaders. And that

is the essence of what we should be trying to do in Iraq.

That's why I'm going to bring this war to a close. That's why we

can get our troops out -- our combat troops out within 16 months.

That's why we have to initiate the kind of regional diplomacy, not

just talking to our friends, but talking to our enemies, like Iran and

Syria, to try to stabilize the situation there.


OBAMA: But I just want to make this important point, because all

of us as we're campaigning, we're seeing this in human terms. People

are on two, three, four tours of duty. Families are carrying an

enormous burden.

This year, we saw the highest casualty rates for American troops

in Iraq since this war started.

OBAMA: The same, by the way, is true in Afghanistan. If we have

seen a lowering violence rate, that's only compared to earlier this

year. We're back to where we started back in 2006.

BLITZER: All right.

OBAMA: And so the notion that somehow because we've gone from

horrific violence to just intolerable levels of violence, and that

somehow that justifies George Bush's strategy is absolutely wrong, and

I'm going to bring it to a halt when I'm president of the United



BLITZER: All right. Thank you.

Thank you, Senator.

Campbell Brown?

BROWN: Congressman Kucinich, we're approaching the holiday

season right now and parents across the country are in a panic. They

are rifling through their toy boxes. They are throwing things away

because they are so worried that toys, that products coming from China

right now are too dangerous for their children.

Do you believe that the people on this stage who voted to fully

open trade relations with China bear some of the responsibility for

what's going on right now?

KUCINICH: Well, of course they do, in the same way that people

who voted for the war bear responsibility for what's going on.

KUCINICH: People who voted for the Patriot Act bear

responsibility for what's going on.


People who voted for Yucca Mountain bear responsibility.

People have to take responsibility for their positions.

Now, let's talk about China trade. The fact of the matter is,

Wolf, it was well known when China trade came up that China doesn't

have environmental quality standards, doesn't have health standards,

doesn't have workers' rights, doesn't permit people to form unions.

Now, everyone knew that. And for someone to come up afterwards

-- and I think in the last debate, I think Hillary Clinton was

criticized by John Edwards for some trade-related issue, but the fact

of the matter is, John, you voted for China trade understanding that

workers were going to be hurt.

Now, you're a trial lawyer, you knew better. I'm saying that

it's important, really.


BLITZER: All right.

Senator Edwards, he made a specific reference to you.

KUCINICH: This is a fact, though. I mean, I'm not backing down

from this. This is a fact. People have to take responsibility for

their position.


BLITZER: Let's ask Senator Edwards to respond.

Was that vote a mistake?

EDWARDS: I'm not sure what I being a trial lawyer has to do with

it, but -- wait, what my response is...

KUCINICH: Product liability.



EDWARDS: Cute, Dennis.

I think America's trade policy has been a complete disaster. I

do believe that NAFTA, CAFTA, Colombia, Korea, Peru, which we're now

considering, has been a complete and total disaster.

And I think it's really important to prove what's been happening

with trade into the bigger picture of what's happening with America.

Because what I believe is that powerful interests, particularly big

corporate interests, have literally taken over this government.

And they've taken over against the interest of ordinary

Americans. And the living, breathing example of that is, in 1993,

when we were in control of the White House, of the United States

Senate and the United States House, we made an effort to pass

universal health-care.

The big drug companies, insurance companies and their lobbyists

killed it.

EDWARDS: The same time, NAFTA was put on the table.

BLITZER: All right.

EDWARDS: The big corporations in America were for NAFTA. So,

what did we get with a Democratic Congress, with a Democratic



EDWARDS: We didn't -- no, let me finish this. We didn't get

something that America desperately needed, which is universal health

care. But we got something America did not need, which is NAFTA,

which has cost us millions of jobs. We will not change this



EDWARDS: ... if we replace a crowd of corporate Republicans with

corporate Democrats. We have to give the power in this democracy back

to the American people. That's what's at stake in this election.

BLITZER: All right. I'm going to let Senator Clinton respond.

But let me just rephrase the question. Was your vote to normalize

trade relations with China a mistake?

EDWARDS: I think what is a mistake is allowing China to operate

unfettered, to send dangerous products into this country, to not have

the president of the United States hold them responsible for their

trading obligations to the WTO, which has not been done.

BLITZER: So it was a mistake.

EDWARDS: I think it was right to bring them into WTO. It's

wrong to not hold them responsible for their obligations.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Clinton, all of us remember the big

NAFTA debate when your husband was president of the United States. A

lot of us remember the debate between Al Gore, who was then vice

president, and Ross Perot.

BLITZER: Ross Perot was fiercely against NAFTA.

Knowing what we know now, was Ross Perot right?


CLINTON: All I can remember from that is a bunch of charts.


That, sort of, is a vague memory.

Look, NAFTA did not do what many had hoped. And so we do need to

take a look at it and we do need to figure out how we're going to have

trade relations that are smart, that give the American worker and the

American consumer rights around the world.

And I want to go back to Campbell's question for a minute,

because it's really related to this.

It is something that every parent should be worried about. It's

not only the toys. It's the pet food. It's the medical components in

prescription drugs.

If we don't impose a third-party, independent investigative arm

on our corporations that do business in China, as well as the Chinese

government, we should not permit any items to be imported into our

country until we're sure they're safe.


CLINTON: I mean, that, to me, is rule number one.

BLITZER: All right. So let me rephrase the question. I'll

rephrase the question. Was NAFTA a mistake? Was NAFTA a mistake?

CLINTON: NAFTA was a mistake to the extent that it did not

deliver on what we had hoped it would, and that's why I call for trade

timeout. When I am president, I'm going to evaluate every trade

agreement. We do need to get back to enforcing the ones we have,

which the Bush administration has not done. They have totally

abdicated that.

But I think we have to get broader than that. We've got to have

enforceable labor and environmental standards. We've got the WTO that

enforces financial and corporate rights. We need the International

Labor Organization and other mechanisms that will be there to enforce

labor rights and environmental rights.

CLINTON: And that's what I intend to do as president.


BLITZER: I want to go to John Roberts in a second, but I know

Senator Dodd and Senator Obama want to weigh in on this. Senator

Dodd, you first.

DODD: Well first of all, look, I respect the fact that we are

calling for time-outs. But, as pointed out earlier by John Edwards,

we have had Senator Obama and Senator Clinton both come out in support

of the Peruvian free trade agreement.

Now, you're switching our positions on these issues here for the

convenience of a debate and discussion, and where polling data may be.

We are in a global economy. It is critically important that we do

everything we can to expand those markets so that our products and our

services can be sold in foreign nations.

It was outrageous in a sense here. If a U.S. corporation

produced contaminated toys or food, they would have been shut down in

20 minutes. I called upon the president to put a moratorium on trade

coming out of China. When those products were announced to be

contaminated, it should have stopped right then and there.

BLITZER: All right. Quickly, Senator Obama was NAFTA a mistake?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I hope Chris is clear. I haven't

changed positions on Peru.

OBAMA: I am intending to...


OBAMA: I am for it, and I plan to vote for it, because it is a

small country. This is a trade agreement that has the labor

agreements and the environmental agreements that we've been fighting

for in it. And I think it's the right thing to do.

I am opposed to CAFTA. I've been opposed to South Korea.

But going back to the issue of China, you know what Japan does

with Chinese, when it comes to, for example, food importation. They

send their own inspectors over to China, and they set up their own

safety system, and they say, "If you don't abide by our rules, you

can't send food into Japan."

Now, the question is, why doesn't the United States impose these

same rules and regulations as Japan has?


This is the biggest market -- this is the biggest market in the

world. China has to sell here.

But this goes back to how we did most favored nation trading

status with China. The problem was, we had one lever. When we

allowed them in, we should have said, "We will review this every

single year, so if you are not behaving properly, if you are not

safeguarding our consumers and find that you are not looking out for

American workers, or the administration is not, we will have that

subject to review."

BLITZER: Thank you.

BIDEN: Wolf?

OBAMA: That was the failure on that China vote.

BIDEN: Thirty seconds, Wolf, 30 seconds.

BLITZER: All right, 30 seconds. I got to let Senator Biden...

BIDEN: Look, it's not the agreement; it's the man. Under the

WTO, we can shut this down. What are they all talking about here?

It's about a president who won't enforce the law.


When they contaminated chicken, what happened? They cut off all

chicken going in from Delaware, a $3 billion industry, into China --

they cut it off.

We have power under this agreement. I don't know what anybody is

talking about here. Enforce the agreement. Shut it down.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.



BLITZER: Go ahead, John.

ROBERTS: I want to explore the energy issue for a moment here,

because it's of particular importance to this state.

Senator Obama, the price of oil is flirting with $100-a-barrel-

mark right now, making all the more urgent the need for alternate fuel


ROBERTS: You support nuclear energy as a part of the plan for

the future, but there is an issue of what to do with the waste. You

are opposed to the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository about 90 miles

from here. Your state uses about -- gets about 48 percent of its

power from nuclear compared to 20 percent for most other states, yet

you are opposed to bringing nuclear waste from other states and

keeping it in Illinois.

The question is, if not in your backyard, who's?

OBAMA: Well, as I've said, I don't think it's fair to send it to



... because we're producing it.

So what have to do is we've got to develop the storage capacity

based on sound science. Now, laboratories like Argonne in my own home

state are trying to develop ways to safely store nuclear waste without

having to ship it across the country and put it in somebody else's


But keep in mind that I don't think nuclear power is necessarily

our best option.

OBAMA: It has to be part of our energy mix. We have a genuine

crisis that has to be addressed. And as president, I intend to

address it. And here's what we have to do.

We have to, first of all, cap greenhouse gases, because climate

change is real and it's going to impact Nevada, and it's impacting the

entire planet. That means that we're going to have to tell polluters:

We're going to charge you money when you send pollution into the air

that's creating climate change.

That money we can then reinvest in solar, in wind, in biodiesel,

in clean coal technology, and in superior nuclear technology.

BLITZER: All right, Senator, until there's some new

technological breakthrough, as you would hope and all of us would

hope, where do you send the waste?

OBAMA: Well, right now, it is on-site in many situations. And

that is not the optimal situation, Wolf. But don't keep on assuming

that we can't do something.

OBAMA: I mean, this is about the third time where you said,

assuming we can't do it, what's our option?

BLITZER: Well, until we can...

OBAMA: But -- but -- but I'm running for president because I

think we can do it.


I reject...


I reject the notion that we can't meet our energy challenges.

BLITZER: All right.

OBAMA: We can, if we've got bold leadership in the White House

that is saying we are going to do something about climate change, we

are going to develop renewable energy sources. That's what I intend

to do as president.


OBAMA: And we shouldn't, you know, be pessimistic about the

future of America.

BLITZER: OK. Well, I'm optimistic.



Governor Richardson is a former energy secretary. What do you do

with the nuclear waste, in the interim?

RICHARDSON: Well, you mentioned all the labs, Argonne, Yucca

Mountain. I was in charge of them.

Here's what you do. First, the future is renewable. It's not

oil. It's not coal. It's not nuclear.


What you do with the waste is you don't put it in Yucca Mountain.

All my life, as secretary of energy, as a congressman, I oppose the

site, for environmental reasons, water saturation.

RICHARDSON: I don't think the answer also is in regional sites.

There is a technological solution, a scientific solution.

What I would do, I would turn Yucca Mountain into a national

laboratory. We have the greatest brains in our national lab

scientists. We need to find a way to safely dispose of nuclear waste.

There is a technological solution, but while we do that, we shouldn't

be giving the nuclear power industry all of these advantages in the

Senate bills that are coming forth, or subsidies. Oil, coal and

nuclear are getting most of the subsidies.

We need an energy revolution in this country to shift from fossil

fuels to renewable sources by 50 percent by the year 2020. Eighty

percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions are mandated.

We need to have 30 percent of our electricity renewable, and it's

going to be also the American people -- I going to say this honestly

-- sacrificing a little bit when it comes to appliances, when it comes

to being part of an energy efficiency revolution.

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.


BROWN: Senator Clinton, you went to your alma mater recently,

Wellesley College, and you said there that your tenure had prepared

you to compete in the all-boys-club of presidential politics.

At the same time, your campaign has accused this all-boys-club,

surrounding you on stage, of piling on with their attacks against you.

And then your husband recently came to your defense by saying that

these, quote, "boys," had been getting rough with you.

And some have suggested that you, that your campaign, that your

husband are exploiting gender as a political issue during this


What's really going on here?

CLINTON: Well, I'm not exploiting anything at all. I'm not

playing, as some people say, the gender card here in Las Vegas. I'm

just trying to play the winning card.


And I understand, very well, that people are not attack me

because I'm a woman; they're attacking me because I'm ahead. And I

understand that...


You know, as Harry Truman famously said, "If you can't stand the

heat, get out of the kitchen."


CLINTON: And I feel very comfortable in the kitchen.


And I'm going to withstand the heat. But, you know, this is

really one of the kind of issues that we can laugh about because it's

exciting when you look at this field of candidates.

You know, several of us would never have had a chance to stand

here and run for president -- a Latino, an African-American, a woman

-- if it hadn't been for the progress of America over my lifetime.

And I am thrilled to be running to be the first woman president.


BROWN: But, Senator, if I can just ask you, what did you mean at

Wellesley when you referred to the "boy's club"?

CLINTON: Campbell...


BROWN: Just curious.

CLINTON: Well, it is clear, I think, from women's experiences

that from time to time, there may be some impediments.


CLINTON: And it has been my goal over the course of my lifetime

to be part of this great movement of progress that includes all of us,

but has particularly been significant to me as a woman.

And to be able to aim toward the highest, hardest glass ceiling

is history-making.

Now, I'm not running because I'm a woman. I'm running because I

think I'm the best qualified and experienced person to hit the ground

running, but it's humbling...


It's been inspiring. And I have to tell you, as I travel around

the country, you know, fathers drive hours to bring their daughters to

my events. And so many women in their 90s wait to shake my hand. And

they say something like: I'm 95 years old, I was born before women

could vote, and I want to live long enough to see a woman in the White


BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.


We're going to take a quick break, but I want to give all the

boys up here a chance...


... to quickly respond, if any of them want to respond.

Do any of you believe that Senator Clinton is playing this so-

called gender card?

EDWARDS: I think -- you looking at me?



EDWARDS: I think that -- I think that every single candidate on

this stage should be held to exactly the same standard.

I do believe, however, that voters need to know that we have

choices. There's nothing personal about this. I think there are very

good people running in the Democratic Party for president, and we need

to have a strong candidate in this presidential race.


But -- but I think there are differences between us. And voters

are entitled to know what those differences are, without it being

personal, without it being attack-oriented.

I spoke earlier about the difference between corporate Democrats

and corporate Republicans and how critical it is for us to give the

power in the democracy back to the American people so we can give a

better life to our children, as 20 generations before us have done.

EDWARDS: And my point is, some of us have taken a different

approach to that. Senator Clinton defends the system, takes money

from lobbyists, does all those things.


EDWARDS: My point is simply that people have -- no, wait a

minute -- voters have those choices. Voters have those choices, and

they deserve to know that they have those choices, that there are in

fact differences between us. But I think every one of us should be

held to the same standard.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

Thank you, all of you. We're going to take a quick break. We

have a lot more to do. We're going to readjust the stage up here, get

some chairs, and when we come back, you're going to be hearing

directly from voters here in Nevada. They're going to have a chance

to ask these Democratic presidential candidates questions.

Much more of our Democratic presidential debate, right here on

the campus of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. We'll be right




BLITZER: Welcome back. We're on the campus of the University of

Nevada, Las Vegas, in the Cox Pavilion. All the candidates are now

seated. We're going to begin the second half of this presidential


Our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is here with us.

And, Suzanne, you have some undecided voters who are ready to ask

these presidential candidates some specific questions. Let's begin

right now.


They are all very excited, about 100 folks here. I've had a

chance to actually meet at least some of you here. And, obviously, I

noticed when you were responding to some of the candidates you were

shaking your head, wrinkling your nose. I'm not sure if they've

answered your questions, and this is your opportunity to ask the

candidates what you really care about.

Catherine Jackson, I want to start off with you, if you'd stand

with your son, please. Now, Catherine, I understand that you're quite

concerned about your son, Christopher. You have served three tours of

duty in Iraq, and you're recognized for service.


That's for you, Christopher.

MALVEAUX: Your mother, I spoke with her, your mom is so worried

that you're going to be called to duty again, but not to be deployed

in Iraq, but rather Iran. Do you share her concern?

CHRISTOPHER JACKSON: Yes, I do. I feel that if we continue on

the path we're at, that's where we're going to end up: in Iran. And

that's not what our troops need. Our troops need to come home now.


MALVEAUX: Catherine? Catherine, your question?

CATHERINE JACKSON: I finally got my son home after three tours

of policing in the Iraq civil war. Now, members of the Bush

administration and the conservative members of Congress are beating

the drums of war again.

My son is still part of the Marine Individual Ready Reserve.

And, if President Bush starts another unnecessary war, there will be a

chance that he will likely be recalled for war. All of you on the

stage have either -- I'm sorry -- have former political power or

significant informal power and have the ability to stop the rush to


Please tell me how you are going to show us your leadership on

this issue now so I can decide who I think would be the best leader

for tomorrow.

MALVEAUX: To Senator Biden, please.

BIDEN: They way you do that, ma'am, is to not ratchet up the

winds of war here. We had a vote in the United States Senate on

declaring the Quds Force -- their special forces -- and the

Revolutionary Guard to be a terrorist organization.

A lot of people voted for that -- 70-some voted for it. it's a

serious, serious mistake. Because what it does -- it was completely



What it was, ma'am -- what it did was, it convinced the rest of

the Muslim world this is really a war against Islam and not a war in

Iraq, and, number two, it rose the -- caused the price of oil to head

to a hundred dollars a barrel -- we're paying $30 a barrel for what

they call a risk premium -- and it helped to stabilize the situation

both in Iran -- I mean, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

BIDEN: So the way to do this is keep quiet, hush up, and do what

I told the president personally and what I've said as chairman of the

Foreign Relations Committee: If he takes the country to war in Iraq

(sic) without a vote of Congress, which will not exist, then he should

be impeached.


Senator, Senator Clinton, you voted for that resolution. You're

the only one on the stage who did vote for that resolution. Do you

want to respond to Senator Biden?


BIDEN: I wasn't attacking Senator...

CLINTON: No, no, no, no.

BLITZER: I know, but she did vote for the resolution.

But if you could address this young man...


BLITZER: ... and his mother about their fear that because of

your vote he might have to go fight in Iran.

CLINTON: Well, there is no basis for that fear. There is,

however, a deep concern that is well justified about this president.

CLINTON: That's why what I've tried to do is oppose a rush to

war. I started speaking out against it back in February because I was

worried about President Bush. Working with members of Congress to do

exactly what Joe is saying, which is to make it absolutely clear there

is no legal authority whatsoever.

But what I think is most important is that we have aggressive

diplomacy with Iran. I believe that the Bush administration has

allowed this situation to worsen and fester because they won't have

any diplomatic relations of any sort with Iran.

So what I would do is to immediately begin that kind of

negotiation. And I wouldn't ask the Iranians to give up their quest

for nuclear power or anything else. Get them to the table.

Let's figure out if there's some way we can, number one, ratchet

down the tensions; number two, prevent from becoming a nuclear weapons

power. Because that would be dangerous for all of us. And get the

rest of the world to help us.

CLINTON: We need China and Russia, the neighbors in the region.

That's what I would be doing.

The only thing I would add, in addition to thanking you for your

service, is that, having been in Iraq, you know that the Iranian

Revolutionary Guard has assisted the militias and others in killing

our Americans and in maiming them.

They have imported technology and technical assistance.

I believe they are a terrorist group. I think sanctioning them

and putting some pressure on them is an important part of getting to

the diplomatic table with both carrots and sticks.

BLITZER: All right.

CLINTON: So, oppose the rush to war, but get tough and have a

diplomatic approach to Iran.


BLITZER: All right. I want to hear from Senator Edwards first.

Go ahead, Senator Edwards. Do you accept her explanation this was no

vote for a rush to war with Iran?

EDWARDS: Well, let me say -- can I just say, first, Christopher,

thank you.

EDWARDS: God bless you for what you did for us and for America.

Men and women like you have served this country so courageously, and

I'm proud of both you and your mom being here to speak up, because I

think this is such a crucial issue for the future of the country.

My own view is that it's important for us to stop Bush, Cheney

and the neocons at every, single stage.


And I think there was an important opportunity to do that on the

vote on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Bush, Cheney and the neocons

wanted the Iranian Revolutionary Guard declared a terrorist group, as

Senator Biden just spoke about, because it's part of their path to

moving militarily on Iran.

And, actually, the fear a lot of us had about that was realized

about a week ago when Bush, Cheney and the administration declared the

Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, and -- this is

the part everyone's going to love -- a proliferator of weapons of mass



EDWARDS: We've seen this movie. We know how it turns out. And

I think it is absolutely crucial for Democrats on this issue to show

real strength, real backbone and stop this president from moving

forward on Iran.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.


Very quickly, Senator Obama.

OBAMA: Well, Chris, we appreciate your service. And your mom, I

can only imagine what she went through when you were away. So we're

glad you're back home.

But understand the problem with this vote on the Iranian

Revolutionary Guard. It wasn't simply that it was identified as a

terrorist organization; it was also that in the language of the

resolution, it said we should maintain our forces in Iraq with an eye

toward blunting Iranian influence.

So it's not just going to have an impact, in terms of potentially

having a war against Iran; it also gives this administration an excuse

to perpetuate their failed strategy in Iraq. And that could mean that

you could be redeployed in Iraq.

OBAMA: That's why this was a mistake, and that's why not only do

we have to bring the war in Iraq to a close, but we have to change the

mindset that got us into war. Which means we initiate -- yes, I agree

with Hillary that we've got to initiate bold diplomacy.

I think the next president has to lead that diplomacy. It can't

just be envoys. And one of the reasons I'm running for president, and

Hillary and I had a disagreement on this, I said I would meet with not

just our friends but also with our enemies. Because that's what

strong countries and that's what strong presidents do is meet with our

adversaries, tell them where we stand.

BLITZER: Senator, I want to go back to Suzanne Malveaux, but

this was an important vote, and you missed that vote. You weren't

present in the Senate when that vote occurred.

OBAMA: No, this is true. And it was a mistake. This is one of

the hazards of running for president. But what I have consistently

said, and I said at the time of the vote, was that we should not take

steps that would increase two presences inside Iraq with an eye

towards blunting the impact of Iran. I always think that's a mistake.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

Go ahead, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Jeannie Jackson, if you would stand for us please.

You have something in common with the other mother, you have a son

that's also in Iraq. But your question, your concern is very

different. What is your question?

JEANNIE JACKSON: Well, I think you're all about getting us out

of Iraq, and I appreciate, so it may be a moot point. But my son's

making $30,000, while corporate people are making minimum $100,000 for

going over there.

Is there any way to end this disparity in wages?

And also, I'd like to say to Bill Richardson, happy birthday.


Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. Well, let's throw the question to the

birthday boy. Go.

MALVEAUX: OK. I guess he gets the gift here. And obviously

we're talking about private contractors.

Governor Richardson, you know that Senator Obama has said he

would pull out all of the private contractors if, in fact, that he was

president. But in light of how stretched our military is, do you

think that's a practical solution?

RICHARDSON: Yes. I would pull out all the contractors.


I would get them all out...


... just like I would get all our troops out, all residual

forces, and I would do it within a year.

(UNKNOWN): Great answer.

RICHARDSON: Here's my answer. What I believe we need to do is

we need to reform our military. This is what I would do. This war in

Iraq has bled us enormously, has bled our military enormously.

I would find ways to keep the all-volunteer force. Now, I would

say to you that I would have two more divisions in the Army, two more

in the Marines.

I would increase military pay and educational benefits, a new

G.I. Bill for our military.


But what I would also do is, with our veterans -- you know, in

military families, I would have a hero's health card for every

military person in this country...


... which would mean that they could get health care, not just at

the V.A. system, but anywhere they want.

RICHARDSON: I would fully guarantee funding at the V.A. And

most importantly, the big, big challenge is mental health. We don't

treat mental health with the parity that this country deserves.


And our kids coming back from Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, there's

a huge burden -- mental trauma, traumatic brain injury, PTSD. We have

a V.A. system and we have a mental health system in this country this

is not given the parity, the coverage that it deserves.


BLITZER: Thank you, Governor. Thank you.


MALVEAUX: Our next questions is -- Khalid Khan, if you would

please stand for a moment. You and I spoke very briefly, and you said

you have some concerns about racial profiling.

KHALID KHAN: Yes, I do. I am an American citizen and have been

profiled all the time at the airport. Since 9/11, hundreds of

thousands of Americans have been profiled. And, you know, it is like

a harassment.

KHAN: My question is that -- our civil liberties have been taken

away from us. What are you going to do to protect Americans from this

kind of harassment?

MALVEAUX: Senator Edwards, we'd like you to take that. You

obviously voted for the Patriot Act, which gives the government

extended powers of surveillance. What do you say to people like Mr.

Khan who say he's been abused by that power?

EDWARDS: I say he's right. He's right. This administration has

done more than abuse the Patriot Act, and the Patriot Act needs to be

dramatically changed, by the way.


But in addition to that, the racial profiling that you are

describing has to be stopped, and it will be stopped when I am

president of the United States. We're going to take the steps that

need to be taken to restore America's moral leadership in the world,

and that means a whole group of things: stopping the profiling,

stopping the illegal -- and I use that term intentionally -- the

illegal spying on the American people that this president has been

engaged in.


Closing Guantanamo, which I think is a national embarrassment.


No more secret prisons, no more rendition.

EDWARDS: And it's just absolutely amazing to me that there's

actually an open discussion in the United States of America about what

kind of torture will be tolerated. I'll tell you what kind of torture

will be tolerated when I'm president of the United States -- no

torture will be tolerated when I'm president of the United States.

BLITZER: Thank you. Thank you, Senator.


EDWARDS: We're going to restore our respect in the world.

BLITZER: Congressman Kucinich, I believe you're the only person

on this stage who had a chance to vote on the Patriot Act right after

9/11 who voted against it right away.

KUCINICH: That's because I read it.


BLITZER: Now, here's the question.


Here's the question. Here's the question. Here's the question.

Congressman, do you feel, as you felt on other issues, that those

who voted for the Patriot Act, and there are several here on this

stage, bear a responsibility for the way this individual, this

American citizen is being treated when he goes through an airport?

KUCINICH: You're owed an apology, you really are. And every

American should be able to present themselves without having to be

further scrutinized based on ethnic identity.

But let's go back to the point that you made here. The time --

you know, the president of the United States is called upon to make

the right decision at the right time. And you've seen here tonight

people who voted for the war, voted to fund the war, now they have a

different position. People voted for the Patriot Act. Now they have

a different position. People voted for China trade. Now they have a

different position. People who voted for Yucca Mountain. Now they

had a different position.

Just imagine what it will be like to have a president of the

United States who's right the first time. Just imagine.


And I don't think -- I don't think that the first questioner's

question was really answered about what are you going to do about this

president, and for that matter the vice president, because they're out

of control, and Congress isn't doing anything.


BLITZER: Thank you. Thank you, Congressman.

KUCINICH: It's called impeachment and you don't wait.


You do it now. You don't wait.

BLITZER: All right. Suzanne has another question...

KUCINICH: Now. Impeach him now.

BLITZER: ... but I want -- Senator Biden, go ahead and respond,

because you voted for the Patriot Act.

BIDEN: You know, let's -- facts are a funny thing. They get in

the way.


You know what I mean? There is nothing in the Patriot Act that

allows profiling. Let's get that straight. Nothing in the Patriot

Act allows profiling. Number one, you're profiled illegally. I have

voted against and worked with legislation with many people on this

stage to stop profiling. That's number one. It did not. It's not

because of the Patriot Act. It's a convenient thing to talk about,

number one.

Number two, you know, when we had a chance to close down

Guantanamo, I voted against funding Guantanamo. Other folks up here

voted for funding it, including the two leading candidates. I voted

to not build the new $36 million part. I called for closing it three

years ago.


And so folks, this -- but this is not about who was right when.

BIDEN: It's: What's your plan now?

What are you going to do now?


BLITZER: Thank you. Thank you, Senator.


Go ahead, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: George Ambriz, you're a graduate student here, and

you're also a mentor to children. I understand that you have a

concern about immigration.


Buenos noches y bienvenidos.


It seems that many political commentators, such as Lou Dobbs, are

guiding the debate and strongly shaping U.S. policy on immigration, by

insinuating a linkage to terrorism.

As many people know, no terrorist has come from our southern


Do you consider fighting terrorism and slowing the flow of

illegal immigration coming from our southern border as intrinsically

related issues?

MALVEAUX: Governor Richardson, since you're the only one on this

stage who does not support even building a fence, why don't you take

this one?

KUCINICH: That's not true.

RICHARDSON: By the way, Dennis, you keep -- stop including me in

all these votes. I've been a governor. I'm in New Mexico. I'm not

in Washington.



Here's my answer. You know, two years ago -- and I'm the only

one who's dealt with the immigration issue directly.

RICHARDSON: You know, and by the way, with the Congress, let me

just say the Congress' approval rating is 11 percent. Now, you know

who's higher? Dick Cheney and HMOs.

My point is that, you know...


Let's talk about the need to bring this country together.

Dysfunctional relationships exist between the president and the

Congress. It needs to be corrected.

Here's my answer. Two years ago, I'm the first governor to

declare a border emergency because the federal government wasn't doing

its job in stopping the flow of drugs and people. But you know what?

We should stop demonizing immigrants. We should stop doing that.


And I'm against the fence because it will not work. The Congress

only funded half of the fence...


... and it's not American. What I would do is do four quick

things. One, we have to secure the border. Double the number of

border patrol agents. Keep the National Guard there a little longer.

Detection equipment, as you mentioned.

RICHARDSON: Secondly, those who knowingly hire illegal workers

should be punished.


Third, we should have a relationship -- it's called foreign

policy -- with Mexico. They're our friend. But we should speak

frankly to our friends, and it should be something like this: Mexico,

give jobs to your people.

At the very least...


You know, at the very least, stop handing out maps on the easiest

place to cross.


And then, lastly, a legalization plan -- a legalization plan.

Not amnesty, not citizenship, but a path to legalization that involves

conditions -- learning English...

BLITZER: Thank you.

RICHARDSON: Paying back-taxes.

BLITZER: I want to Senator Dodd, though, to respond, because you

voted for that security fence along the border between the U.S. and


DODD: Bienvenidos tambien. (SPEAKING IN SPANISH)



I Was in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic.

DODD: I will give you some points. In certain places you could

make a case that a wall might help, not of course on the entire

border. I am opposed to that. But the idea of having some sort of

better security, including additional guards, additional technology

here to allow us to deal with the issues.

But there ought not to be any correlation here. When you take

the oath of office, you don't swear to uphold the Constitution or

protect the country. I believe by upholding our rights, we do protect

the country. And the administration has taken the opposite view.

They are posing to us the false choice, the dichotomy that to be

safer, we have to give up rights. I think that is so fundamentally

flawed and fundamentally dangerous for the United States of America to

embrace that idea.


BLITZER: All right. Thank you, senator.

Let's go back to Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: We have Judy Bagley here with us. If you would stand

for a moment.

MALVEAUX: You have been working in the casino business for some

27 years now, a cashier?

BAGLEY: That's right.

MALVEAUX: You've seen a lot of people come and go, obviously.

BAGLEY: Absolutely.

MALVEAUX: What is your concern?

BAGLEY: I'm a booth cashier and we moved here over 30 years ago.

And I have three children, and as of yesterday, 8 grandchildren.


MALVEAUX: And what is your -- congratulations. That's amazing.

BAGLEY: Thank you.

MALVEAUX: And what is your question to the candidates?

BAGLEY: My question is, over the next several years, the Baby-

Boomers, like my husband and I, will be retiring en masse. At the

same time, the country is at a record deficit. We face a major


When I retire, I will have my pension, but many others will not.

Throughout the campaign, we've heard the candidates supporting --

committing to support -- oh my goodness -- committing to support

Social Security and Medicare.

BAGLEY: My question is -- but the ideas on reform are often


My question is: What do you plan to do to ensure that Social

Security and Medicare are truly available to us, our children and

grandchildren in light of the current budget conditions?

MALVEAUX: Thank you very much. Very important issue.


Senator Obama?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, Judy, thank you for the question, and

thanks for the great work you do on behalf of the culinary workers, a

great union here.


Look, this is something that we've talked about in our campaign.

We've got 78 million baby boomers who are going to be retiring. And

the first thing we have to do is to put an end to George Bush raiding

the Social Security trust fund to pay for a misguided war in Iraq.


If we take some of that money back and we start getting control

of our budget and have fiscal discipline, that will make some of the

difference. But not all of it, because we're going to have more

senior citizens, more retirees and fewer workers.

OBAMA: So I've been very specific about saying that we should

not privatize, we should protect benefits. I don't think the best way

to approach this is to raise the retirement age.

But what we can do is adjust the cap on the payroll tax. Right

now, anybody who's making $97,000 or less, you pay payroll tax on 100

percent of your income. Warren Buffett, who made $46 million last

year, pays on a fraction of one percent of his income.

And if we make that small adjustment, we can potentially close

that gap, and we can make sure Social Security's there.


BLITZER: Thank you.

OBAMA: Last point, just because I have to answer the full

question. Medicare is a tougher problem because we've got health-care

inflation going up. And I am meeting people all across the country

who just can't manage even if they've got health insurance.

OBAMA: Their premiums have gone up 78 percent since George Bush

took office. It's a scam. And people are getting desperate.

The only way we're going to fix Medicare is if we get that rising

cost under control. And that means having a universal health care

plan, where every single person has prevention, and they are able to

get the treatments they need.

We're instituting health technologies and managing the

chronically ill so that we save money, we provide coverage for

everybody. That, over the long term, will save Medicare enormous

amounts of money and it will be there for you.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.


Senator Clinton, you've been criticized by Senator Obama and, I

think, Senator Edwards, among others, for refusing to take a hard and

fast position on whether you would raise the tax above those making

$97,500 a year, to try to secure Social Security in the long term.

Are you ready to make a hard and fast statement, now, on your

position on what Senator Obama just said?

CLINTON: Well, I'll tell you what I'm for. And I think Judy

raises two really important issues. I am for getting back to fiscal

responsibility. I think I counted you said "deficit" three times.

Six and a half years ago, when George Bush came into office, he

inherited a balanced budget and a surplus.


And the Social Security system was on a path to be solvent into

2055. We have long-term challenges with Social Security.

We have a crisis with Medicare, just like we have a crisis with

health care costs.

We have a crisis with energy costs.

We have a lot of very intense challenges we have to meet right


So what I want to do is move back toward fiscal responsibility.

I think if we don't do that, we're not going to deal with any of these

problems adequately.

Then I think we will demonstrate that we're serious about getting

our house in order again, and then I think we have to have a

bipartisan commission.

I do not want to fix the problems of Social Security on the backs

of middle-class families and seniors. If you lift the cap completely,

that is a $1 trillion tax increase. I don't think we need to do that.

But I want to say one final word about Medicare. Number one,

Medicare should be able to negotiate for lower drug prices. It was a


BLITZER: All right. Thank you, Senator.

CLINTON: ... when the Bush administration did not allow that to

happen, and I have a lot of other ideas about we'll preserve and

strengthen Medicare.

BLITZER: So, Senator, you're not ready to accept a raising of

the cap on that? But I know that Senator Obama wants to respond to


OBAMA: I will be very brief on this because, Hillary, I have

heard you say this is a trillion-dollar tax cut on the middle class by

adjusting the cap. Understand that only 6 percent of Americans make

more than $97,000 a year. So 6 percent is not the middle class.


It is the upper class. You know, this is the kind of thing that

I would expect from Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani, where we start

playing with numbers. We start playing with numbers in order to try

to make a point.


And we can't do that. No, no, no. This is too important -- this

is too important for us to pretend that we are using numbers like a

trillion dollar tax cut instead of responsibly dealing with the

problem that Judy asked for, and she said she wants a specific answer.

And she said she wants a specific answer and that's what I provided.

But understand that this is the top 6 percent, and that is not

the middle class.

BLITZER: Senator?


CLINTON: First of all -- first of all, I think that you meant a

tax increase, because that's what it would be.

But, secondly, it is absolutely the case that there are people

who would find that burdensome. I represent firefighters. I

represent school supervisors. I'm not talking -- and, you know, it's

different parts of the country. So you have to look at this across

the board and the numbers are staggering.

Now, when people say, "Be specific," I listened very carefully to

what Senator Obama said when he appeared on one of the Sunday morning

shows, and he basically said that he was for looking at a lot of

different things and using a bipartisan commission to do it. I think

that's the right answer. That is where I have been from the very


That's what worked back in 1983 when we had a real crisis in

Social Security. The government got together. President Reagan and

Speaker Tip O'Neill put together a bipartisan commission.

Then everybody looked at everything at once. It wasn't one

person's idea or somebody else's idea. Everybody had to get into a

room and say, here's what we're going to do to fix the problem.

That's what I want to do, because I think that's what will work for



BLITZER: I want everybody to stand by because we have a lot more

to talk about, a lot more of these questions from undecided voters

here in Nevada, but we're going to take a quick commercial break.

Much more from the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas,

right after this.



DODD: First of all, thanks for your question. But obviously you

want people here that are going to have a balanced sense of justice,

that bring a life experience to that bench, where they're not just

there are academics, that have a clear record in the judicial branch,

where they either served as a judge or as a lawyer, where they've

demonstrated that ability to be fair and just when it comes to the

administration of the laws of our country here.

I don't necessarily believe in applying litmus tests here. I

think that's a dangerous precedent to begin that process here. You

start down that path, others may follow it, you end up with a court

then that may lack that kind of balance.

Obviously, as someone who's pro-choice and have been their entire

public life and career, I feel very strongly about Roe v. Wade. I

would not want a justice to be appointed who would even think about

overturning that.

But I want to be very carefully here...


But I'd want to be careful about making sure that I'd know the

person, I'm not just looking at people I don't know or don't

understand their background, so I have a very good feel of where

they're going to be on these matters, not the people here, when they

make the statement that they will uphold precedent and they raise

their right hand before the Judiciary Committee and make that

committee, and then violate that commitment. That I find highly


That will not happen in a Dodd administration. I promise.

BLITZER: All right, let's go through the whole panel. I want

everybody to weigh in; this is an important question that was raised

with Senator Biden.

Would you insist that any nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court

supported abortion rights for women?

BIDEN: Suzanne's decided. I'm not answering her question. I'm

answering the question of the woman who was there, OK?


And, number one -- and then I'll answer Suzanne's question.

BLITZER: So, let's ask the woman.

Do you want him to answer that question?

BIDEN: Do you want me to answer your question?

(UNKNOWN): I would like for you to answer both questions.

BIDEN: I will answer both. Answer your question first.

Your question first. I've provided over more Supreme Court

justices than anyone in American history -- number one.

Number two, I have taken on those justices who, in fact, show no

balance -- they are ideologues. We have enough ideologues. We have

enough professors on the bench.

I want someone who ran for dog catcher. I want someone --

literally, not a joke. When Hillary's husband asked me for his advice

when he was appointing people, I wanted to go to people and so did he

-- we couldn't. Four people turned it down.

We wanted to get someone who, in fact, knew what it was to live

life. Knew what it was -- not as some intellectual feat.


And by the way, the next person that is appointed in a Biden

administration is going to be a woman. We don't have enough women on

the bench, number one.

Number two, to Suzanne Malveaux's question, I would not appoint

anyone who did not understand that Section 5 of the 14th Amendment and

the liberty clause of the 14th Amendment provided a right to privacy.

That is the question I would ask. If that is answered correctly, that

that is the case, then it answers the question, which means they would

support Roe v. Wade.

BLITZER: Let's go down the whole panel, and if you could give me

a short yes or no, would you insist on a Supreme Court nominee

supporting abortion?

RICHARDSON: I would have diversity as a prime criteria, but I

would also ask my nominee, this is what I would ask. Number one, do

you believe Roe v. Wade is settled law? Number two, do you support

the right to privacy? Number three, do you support civil rights?

Number four, do you support what you asked -- education, school


If the answer is no to those questions, that basically say, is it

settled law or not -- you want to call it a litmus test, fine -- those

would be the judges that I would appoint to the Supreme Court.


BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.


KUCINICH: A Kucinich appointment to the Supreme Court would have

a litmus test on abortion. It's a question of a woman's right to

choose and a right to privacy.

But a president has to do more than that. A president has to be

a healer. And this has been one of the great divides in our country.

And so I want to let the American people know that I'll stand for

prenatal care, postnatal care, child care, a living wage, universal

health care, sex education, birth control...


BLITZER: All right.

KUCINICH: We can make abortions less necessary if we have a

healer in the White House. And we can also protect a woman's right to

choose. We can do both.

BLITZER: Thank you, Congressman.

Senator Clinton?


Senator Clinton, would this be a sine qua non for you that any

nominee you name to the Supreme Court would have to share your view on


CLINTON: Well, they'd have to share my view about privacy, and I

think that goes hand-in-hand. Privacy, in my opinion, is embedded in

our Constitution. What does it mean to have a right to free speech or

the right to worship as you choose if you also don't have the right to

be left alone, to have that privacy that goes with being an American.


So it would be absolutely critical. And I, like Senator Biden...

BLITZER: So the answer is yes.

CLINTON: Yes, the answer is yes.

BLITZER: OK, all right.

CLINTON: But I just want to say, Senator Biden really deserves a

lot of plaudits because he knows this issue forwards and backwards,

and I think it's important to have a president who understands the

intricate connections of our branches of government and the


I think that's one of the great tragedies of George Bush's

presidency, is he didn't really understand the way our government was

supposed to work.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Senator Obama, you used to be a professor of law.


OBAMA: I would not appoint somebody who doesn't believe in the

right to privacy. But you're right, Wolf. I taught constitutional

law for 10 years, and when you look at what makes a great Supreme

Court justice, it's not just the particular issue and how they ruled.

But it's their conception of the court.

And part of the role of the court is that it is going to protect

people who may be vulnerable in the political process, the outsider,

the minority, those who are vulnerable, those who don't have a lot of

clout. And part of what I want to find in a Supreme Court justice --

and Joe's exactly right. Sometimes we're only looking at academics or

people who've been in the courts.

If we can find people who have life experience, and they

understand what it means to be on the outside, what it means to have

the system not work for them, that's the kind of person I want on the

Supreme Court.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

We heard from Senator Dodd, so let Senator Edwards go ahead.

Would you insist that nominees support abortion?

EDWARDS: I would insist that they recognize the right to privacy

and recognize Roe v. Wade as settled law.

But I want to go beyond what some others have said here, because

it is so crucial, if you grew up like I did in the segregated South

and you saw how important it was to have federal judges who had some

backbone and were willing to stand up against popular opinion.

We had a judge who desegregated the public schools in North

Carolina, in Charlotte, North Carolina. He literally had to have

armed guards take him from home to work and home each day.

That's the kind of courage and strength we need in a United

States Supreme Court justice.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

All right, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Frank Perconte is a student here.

Frank, what is your question.

FRANK PERCONTE: Whether it's the continuing violence in Iraq or

if it's a potential confrontation with Iran or even the emerging

instability in Pakistan, nothing seems to be getting any better in the

Middle East; it only seems to be getting worse.

And if the upcoming election is anything like the last two

elections -- if any of you is elected, in all likelihood, you'll be

presiding over an extremely divided electorate.

Almost half the country is not going to agree with you on the

direction you want to take this country to meet those challenges in

the Middle East.

So, my question to you is, assuming you are elected, the day

after you take the oath of office, what message will you offer the

whole country to unite all of us behind you so you can see us through

this period of transition that we're in?


MALVEAUX: I'd like to throw that to Senator Obama.

Senator Obama, you said on a TV interview just this past weekend

you didn't believe that Senator Clinton was able to unite this


Why do you believe she can't?

OBAMA: No, that's not what I said. What I said was I thought I

could do it better, that's why I'm running for president.


If I didn't think I could do it better, then I wouldn't be

running for president, because the stakes are too high, just as we


Here's what I would do immediately. I would convene a continuous

advisory meeting with not just Democrats, but Republicans,

specifically on national security issues, because there is a long

tradition that our differences in foreign policy should end at the

water's edge. And we have lost that tradition.

And there's some wonderful Republicans -- Dick Lugar, Chuck Hagel

-- there are a group of them who have continued that tradition, but we

have lost it because the polarization of the Bush administration.

So I want Republicans and Democrats and independents to

understand that, as president, I am going to want to go before the

entire world and say: America's back. We are ready to lead. But

we're not just going to lead militarily. We're going to lead by

building schools in the Middle East that teach math and science

instead of hatred of Americans. We're going to lead by shutting down

Guantanamo and restoring habeas corpus in this country so that we

offer them an example.

BLITZER: Thank you.


OBAMA: We're going to lead by talking to our enemies, and not

just our friends. And I believe that there are a lot of Republicans

who hunger for that kind of bipartisan approach. That's what I will

offer as president of the United States.


BLITZER: Senator Clinton -- thank you, Senator...


Senator Clinton, some have suggested, including some on this

stage, that you are simply too polarizing to unit the country, if you

were elected president.

What do you say to those critics?

CLINTON: Well, I say that I am running to be the president of

the entire country.

You know, when I started running for the Senate in New York, I

heard the same things. And what I did was to reach out to

Republicans, Democrats, independents, rural, urban. Because we've got

to begin to work together.

That's what I've tried to do in the Senate, working across party

lines, trying to find common ground -- to go back to Chris -- you

know, working to get health care for Guard and Reservists with a

colleague, a Republican colleague from South Carolina.

You know, you have to look to find common ground. It is the

responsibility of a leader to try to make that possible.

Now, that doesn't mean there won't be differences, because there

are. We're not going to wake up the day after the election and not

believe what we believe and not see the world as we see it.

But we can certainly begin under presidential leadership to

listen to one another, to look for those chances to find that common

ground and work together.

That's the kind of president I will be. I will spend a lot of my

time working with not just Republicans, but people who aren't in

public life. We've got smart people all over this country who want to

make a contribution, who want to give something back. Let's enlist

the best that we have and start acting like Americans again to solve

our problems and make a difference.


BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

Senator Biden?

BIDEN: Let me give you a direct answer to this question. I'd

start by ending the war. And I've already gained the respect of my

Republican colleagues -- the only person that's gotten 75 votes in the

United States Senate on a plan to end the war. It's sitting in a

drawer. It'd begin the day that I get elected.

Secondly, one of the ways you work in the House and the Senate

is, over time you gain respect. Find me a Republican on the other

side that doesn't respect my judgment and that doesn't think I tell

them straight up the truth. I've worked with them. I've already done


I would also include Republicans in my administration. Look, the

basic premise you operate on, I reject. The vast majority of

Republicans think this war stinks as well. The vast majority of

Republicans out there think that our foreign policy is a shambles.

The vast majority of the independents think that. Folks, this is

not going to be that hard. This is like not -- this isn't pushing a

rope. They're sticking with George Bush out of loyalty.

But I promise you, I've already brought them along. I brought

them along on Bosnia under the administration of President Clinton. I

brought them along on the issue of dealing with arms control. I've

brought them along on the issue of the war in Iraq.

So folks, don't buy into this premise that Republicans, average

Republicans and Republican senators, don't agree with this. They do.

They're afraid to take on Bush. I will end that, I've already done

it, and I would start with ending the war in Iraq with 75 senators



BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

We're going to go back to Suzanne.

But go ahead, Governor Richardson, very briefly.

RICHARDSON: Well, you know, tonight, we've talked about Iran;

we've talked Iraq; we've talked about regimes that have not been

friendly. I'd throw in North Korea.

The cornerstone of my foreign policy would be diplomacy and

negotiation. We would be not the world's policeman, but the world's


All my life as an ambassador to United Nations, as a special

envoy, I've brought people together: as a governor, bipartisan

solutions; as a congressman; as the secretary of energy.

I'm going to answer your question specifically on the Middle

East. Number one, I would have a Middle East peace envoy. This

president is the only president that hasn't had one.

I would base a Middle East settlement on a two-state solution --

protection for the security of Israel and a Palestinian state.

I would also look at adjustments in the '67 borders. I would

also look at dealing effectively and efficiently and fairly with the

settlements issue, with Jerusalem.

I would do something else. I would talk to Syria. I would talk

to Iran.

It's all tied in a solution. It's called leadership and

diplomacy. And to take these steps you have to be bold.

BLITZER: Thank you.

RICHARDSON: We're talking about electing a president that is

going to need to repair the enormous damage of this administration...

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.

RICHARDSON: ... in the last eight years.

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.

Suzanne, go ahead.

Maria, would you stand please? Give us your full name.

MARIA PARRA SANDOVAL (ph): Maria Parra Sandoval (ph), and I'm a

UNLV student. And my question is for Senator Clinton.

This is a fun question for you. Do you prefer diamonds or




CLINTON: Now, I know I'm sometimes accused of not being able to

make a choice. I want both.



MALVEAUX: Do we get to ask any of the other candidates or I

supposed just Senator Clinton?

BIDEN: I'm for diamonds. Diamonds.

SANDOVAL (ph): It's the only thing -- it's the only thing shiny

up there.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you so much.

BLITZER: All right. So on that note, diamonds and pearls, I

want to thank all of the Democratic presidential candidates for

joining us here this evening. Let's give them a big round of



And that wraps up our debate tonight. This is the first

presidential debate ever held here in the state of Nevada. We'd like

to thank our hosts here at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and

the Nevada Democratic Party for all their help and all their

volunteers in putting this together.


Please tell me that I'm not the only one who noticed over the past two debates that on the rear occassion that Sen. Biden gets first crack at a question that he answers it fully, especially in the area of international affairs, and that each of the other democratic candidates follow his lead in their answers and are often are heard to say..."I agree with Joe" and then go off finishing their answer on some other topic? Could it be that he might be the brightest and the media is ignoring him because they are to focused on the "Big 3"?

Dodd doesn't get nearly as much credit as he should. I can't wait until all the media research comes out after the election is over where pundits can stand back and criticize the media to death for missing on candidates who really DO deserve the presidency, like Dodd or Biden.

I like Biden, but I echo Jeremy Greenstock on his plan to divide Irag: how can Baghdad be divided? Anyway, the Iraqis have to figure out what they want to do themselves. The US can offer suggestions, but I can't see imposing anything like that would work. Can you imagine if another country had imposed partition on the US during/after our own Civil War?

i think senator biden is brilliant, i mean simply brilliant. i also think senator dodd is equally brilliant, however i am for hilary rodham clinton anyday, if she were not there i would have been for senator biden, i mean once again i think he is simply brilliant, intelligent and a great sense of humour!

I missed most of the debate last night, and I'm appalled at what I've just read. Clearly, Clinton and Obama had the most opportunity to speak. Edwards seems to have been interrupted multiple times during his answers, although they were not as long as either of the other two. Biden, Dodd, and Kucinich had little opportunity to participate and were also interrupted frequently. Richardson had more chances to speak than they did, but it's not clear why he was singled out of the 4 lower-polling candidates to get more time. Maybe because he came to Clinton's aid last time??

The debates should be a forum where all candidates are treated equally with regard to time allotted as well as respect from the moderators AND the audience (why was booing tolerated?). They should be a way for the American people to get to know the candidates and make an informed choice. I think it would be a good idea to have issues-oriented debates. Instead of asking the same questions over and over in each location (and us hearing pretty much the same 90-second responses - or, in the case of Clinton, 3-minute responses), why not have one debate focused solely on foreign policy, one on health care, one on immigration, one on education, one on energy, etc.? Give each candidate 10 minutes to spell out his/her plans and experience on the topic - without interruption, without booing, without "softballs" or trick questions - then have some questions. This election is too important to let the media decide for us.

By the way, I am an Edwards supporter and have been since 2003. I believe Sen. Clinton is a smart and capable woman, but I do believe she is too polarizing; I know of no one - Democrats included - who has said they would vote for her. I'd like Obama as the president AFTER Edwards :), but I have also been impressed with both Biden and Dodd, who unfortunately (and in no small part due to the way these debates are conducted, I think) are polling in single digits. Richardson is OK, Kucinich has some great points to make as well but he is probably too extreme to be elected in the general election.

Still, any of them are vastly preferable to a continuation of Bush policies.

I again say - the format of the debates should be changed to make them more useful and relevant to Americans who are sincerely interested in hearing from ALL the candidates and to making an informed choice. Right now, we're going to have people voting based upon name recognition or, worse, not voting at all because they've been led to believe that the race is over although not a single vote has yet been cast. THIS IS WRONG!

All media who have contributed to this hijacking of the American political system should be ashamed.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on November 15, 2007 9:47 PM.

Sweet Las Vegas Dem debate: Partial Transcript was the previous entry in this blog.

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