After the Democratic debate in Las Vegas, reporters circle around Obama chief strategist David Axelrod in the "Spin Room."
(Photo by Lynn Sweet)
LAS VEGAS, NV.--Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton differ over how a president approaches the job. Obama sees himself as the big picture guy while Clinton sees herself as the master over the govenment machinery.
(photo by Lynn Sweet)
> DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES PARTICIPATE IN A
> DEBATE ON MSNBC
> JANUARY 15, 2008
> SPEAKERS: SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.
> FORMER SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, D-N.C.
> SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.
> NATALIE MORALES, MODERATOR
> BRIAN WILLIAMS, MODERATOR
> TIM RUSSERT, MODERATOR
> WILLIAMS: Before we get under way, we need to thank all of our
> hosts for this evening, in part so our candidates don't feel the need
> The Nevada Democratic Party. That includes Senate Majority
> Leader Harry Reid.
> The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
> The African-American organization known as 100 Black Men of
> Also, our local Nevada partners in this: Impacto; the African-
> American Democratic Leadership Council; and, of course, the College of
> Southern Nevada.
> We have told the members of our vast studio audience here tonight
> that we cannot allow applause or any outbursts following the
> candidates' responses.
> We will open with a Q&A format, allowing for 90-second answers,
> lights will alert the candidates to the end of time; some 30-second
> answers; and then follow-ups at the moderator's discretion.
> Finally, for tonight's debate of the top three Democratic
> contenders, I am joined by my partner Tim Russert, our Washington
> bureau chief and of course moderator of "Meet the Press" on NBC; and
> Natalie Morales of "Today" on NBC, who will be handling some of the
> thousands of e-mail questions we've received over the past few days
> directed to the candidates.
> We thank you all for being here.
> And before we begin with the questioning, we have to mix a bit of
> breaking political news with the business of our debate tonight. At
> this hour, as we come on the air, we are prepared to report that NBC
> News is projecting that when all the votes are counted in tonight's
> Michigan primary, Mitt Romney is the projected winner of that contest.
> Again, in the Michigan primary tonight, a former Massachusetts
> governor, a son of the state of Michigan, Mitt Romney, will be the
> projected winner.
> WILLIAMS: That is according to an NBC News estimate. And now,
> we can begin with the questioning tonight.
> As we sit here, this, as many of you may know, is the Reverend
> Martin Luther King's birthday. Race was one of the issues we expected
> to discuss here tonight. Our sponsors expected it of us. No one,
> however, expected it to be quite so prominent in this race as it has
> been over the last 10 days.
> We needn't go back over all that has happened, except to say that
> this discussion, before it was over, involved Dr. King, President
> Johnson, even Sidney Poitier, several members of Congress, and a
> prominent African-American businessman supporting Senator Clinton, who
> made what seemed to be a reference to a party of Senator Obama's
> teenage past that the Senator himself has written about in his
> The question to begin with here tonight, Senator Clinton, is: How
> did we get here?
> CLINTON: Well, I think what's most important is that Senator
> Obama and I agree completely that, you know, neither race nor gender
> should be a part of this campaign.
> CLINTON: It is Dr. King's birthday. The three of us are here in
> large measure because his dreams have been realized. John, who is, as
> we know, the son of a millworker and really has become an
> extraordinary success, as Senator Obama who has such an inspirational
> and profound story to tell America and the world; I, as a woman, who
> is also a beneficiary of the civil rights movement and the women's
> movement and the human rights movement, and the Democratic Party has
> always been in the forefront of that. >
> So I very much appreciate what Senator Obama and I did yesterday,
> which is that we both have exuberance and sometimes uncontrollable
> supporters; that we need to get this campaign where it should be.
> We're all family in the Democratic Party. We are so different
> from the Republicans on all of these issues in every way that affects
> the future of the people that care so much about.
> So I think that it's appropriate on Dr. King's birthday, his
> actual birthday, to recognize that all of us are here as a result of
> what he did, all of the sacrifice, including giving his life, along
> with so many of the other icons that we honor.
> CLINTON: But I know that Senator Obama and I share a very strong
> commitment to making sure that this campaign is about us as
> WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, same question?
> OBAMA: Well, I think Hillary said it well. You know, we are,
> right now, I think, in a defining moment in our history. We've got a
> nation at war. Our planet is in peril. And the economy is putting an
> enormous strain on working families all across the country.
> Now, race has always been an issue in our politics and in this
> country. But one of the premises of my campaign and, I think, of the
> Democratic Party -- and I know that John and Hillary have always been
> committed to racial equality -- is that we can't solve these
> challenges unless we can come together as a people and we're not
> resorting to the same -- or falling into the same traps of division
> that we have in the past.
> OBAMA: I think our party has stood for that. Dr. King stood for
> that. I hope that my campaign has inspired that same sense, that
> there's much more that we hold in common than what separates us.
> And that is how I want to move this campaign forward and I hope
> that's how it moves forward.
> WILLIAMS: Senator Edwards, you waded into this topic
> tangentially yesterday.
> EDWARDS: Well, the only thing I would add is I had the
> perspective of living in the South, including a time when there was
> segregation in the South.
> And I feel an enormous personal responsibility to continue to
> move forward. Now, we've made great progress, but we're not finished
> with that progress.
> EDWARDS: And the struggles and sacrifice of Dr. King and many
> others who gave blood, sweat, tears, and in some cases, their lives to
> move America toward equality.
> And I saw it. I saw it when four young men walked into a
> Woolworth luncheon counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, and sat
> down, had the courage and strength to do the right thing. And they
> literally stood up, stood up on behalf of African Americans, on behalf
> of southerners, on behalf of Americans helped move this country
> forward in a really serious way.
> And having seen the pain and the struggle and the sacrifice of so
> many up close -- because I lived with it. I lived with it in my years
> growing up -- I think we, all of us, have an enormous responsibility
> not to go back but to go forward.
> And I would just add, I think it goes far beyond the Democratic
> Party. This is about America and about creating real equality in
> America across the waterfront.
> WILLIAMS: Questioning continues with Tim Russert.
> RUSSERT: In terms of accountability, Senator Obama, Senator
> Clinton on Sunday told me that the Obama campaign had been pushing
> this storyline. And, true enough, your press secretary in South
> Carolina -- four pages of alleged comments made by the Clinton people
> about the issue of race.
> In hindsight, do you regret pushing this story?
> OBAMA: Well, not only in hindsight, but going forward. I think
> that, as Hillary said, our supporters, our staff get overzealous.
> They start saying things that I would not say. And it is my>
> responsibility to make sure that we're setting a clear tone in our
> campaign, and I take that responsibility very seriously, which is why
> I spoke yesterday and sent a message in case people were not clear
> that what we want to do is make sure that we focus on the issues.
> Now, there are going to be significant issues that we debate, and
> some serious differences that we have.
> OBAMA: And I'm sure those will be on display today.
> What I am absolutely convinced of is that everybody here is
> committed to racial equality -- has been historically. And what I
> also expect is that I'm going to be judged as a candidate in terms of
> how I'm going to be improving the lives of the people in Nevada and
> the people all across the country, that they are going to ultimately
> be making judgments on can I deliver on good jobs at good wages; can I
> make sure that our home foreclosure crisis is adequately dealt with;
> are we going to be serious about retirement security; and are we going
> to have a foreign policy that makes us safe.
> If I'm communicating that message, then I expect to be judged on
> that basis. And if I'm not, then I expect to be criticized on that
> basis. That's the kind of campaign that we want to run and that we
> have run up until this point.
> RUSSERT: Do you believe this is a deliberate attempt to
> marginalize you as the black candidate?
> OBAMA: No. As I said, I think that if you've looked not just at
> this campaign, but at my history, my belief is that race is a factor
> in our society, but I think what happened in Iowa is a testimony to
> the fact that the American public is willing to judge people on the
> basis of who can best deliver the kinds of changes that they're so
> desperately looking for.
> OBAMA: And that's the kind of movement that we want to build all
> across the country, and that, I think, is the legacy of Dr. King that
> we need to build on.
> RUSSERT: In New Hampshire, your polling was much higher than the
> actual vote result.
> Do you believe, in the privacy of the voting booth, people used
> race as an issue?
> OBAMA: No. I think what happened was that Senator Clinton ran a
> good campaign up in New Hampshire. And, you know, I think that people
> recognize we've got some terrific candidates who are running vigorous
> It's going to be close everywhere we go. It's close here in
> Nevada. It's going to be close in South Carolina.
> And, you know, at any given moment, people are going to be making
> judgments based on who they think is best speaking to them about the
> urgent problems that they're facing in this country.
> OBAMA: Now, the one thing I'm convinced about -- and this was
> true in Iowa and this was true in New Hampshire, as well -- is that
> change is going to happen because the American people determine that
> change is going to happen.
> And that's what I draw from Dr. King's legacy. You know, what
> happens in Washington is important. And we've got to have elected
> officials that are accountable and serious about moving forward on the
> goals of opportunity and upward mobility.
> But if we don't have an activated people, a unified people,
> black, white, Latino, Asian, who are all moving in the same direction,
> demanding that change happens, then Washington, special interests,
> lobbyists end up dominating the agenda. That's what I want to change.
> RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, in terms of accountability, you told
> me on Sunday morning, "Any time anyone has said anything that I
> thought was out of bounds, they're gone. I've gotten rid of them."
> RUSSERT: Shortly thereafter, that same afternoon, Robert
> Johnson, at your event, said, quote, "When Barack Obama was doing
> something in the neighborhood, that I won't say what he was doing, but>
> he said it in his book," widely viewed as a reference to Senator
> Obama's book ,"Dreams From My Father" from 1995, where he talked about
> his drug use as a teenager.
> Will you now not allow Robert Johnson to participate in any of
> your campaign events because of that conduct?
> CLINTON: Well, Bob has put out a statement saying what he was
> trying to say and what he thought he had said. We accept him on his
> word on that.
> But, clearly, we want to send a very clear message to everybody
> that this campaign is too important for us to either get diverted or,
> frankly, get the message of what we want to do for our country
> subverted by any kind of statements or claims that are just not part
> of who I am or who Barack or John are.
> CLINTON: Because I think what's critical here is that the
> American people understand clearly what is at stake in this election.
> The stakes are really high, and there's an urgent need for leadership
> on a range of issues, you know, some of which are now becoming right
> here in front of us about whether or not people are going to be able
> to keep their homes in Nevada, whether they're going to have jobs.
> You know, I went door to door in Las Vegas last week and, you
> know, I've met construction workers who've been laid off. I met a
> casino employee who's already been laid off.
> So what people talk to me about is not what somebody they never
> heard of said, but what we say, what we're for, what we're standing
> for, and what we're going to be pushing for.
> So I accept what he said, but I think what's important is what I
> say and what each of us says about the kind of president we intend to
> be and how we're going to get there.
> RUSSERT: Were his comments out of bounds?
> CLINTON: Yes, they were.
> CLINTON: And he has said that.
> WILLIAMS: We're going to continue the questioning now with
> Natalie Morales.
> MORALES: Thank you, Brian.
> And this is a question for Senator Edwards. It comes to us from
> Margaret Wells from San Diego, California.
> Senator, she's asking, "The policy differences among the
> remaining candidates is so slight that we appear to be choosing on the
> basis of personality and life story. That being said, why should I,
> as a progressive woman, not resent being forced to choose between the
> first viable female candidate and the first viable African American
> EDWARDS: Well, I think that the decision for every voters in
> this election should revolve around first whether you believe America
> needs change. If you do, who you think will be most effective in
> bringing about that change. We have different perspectives on that.
> I think the system in Washington is broken. I don't think it
> works. And I think the American people, middle-class Americans, are
> struggling and suffering.
> They can't pay for their health care. They're losing their jobs.
> They can't pay for their kids to go to college.
> This is a very personal thing for me.
> EDWARDS: Hillary mentioned a minute ago that I grew up in a
> family of millworkers. I was the first person in my family to
> actually be able to go to college.
> And so this battle for real opportunity for everybody, the kind
> of chances I've had in my own life, is central to everything I do. It
> is central to this campaign. It is a personal, personal fight for me.
> And I think the decision that voters make about who can best
> fight for the middle class, who will never give up on the fight for
> universal health care, who will actually stand up strongly and
> affirmedly to -- for the right to organize, for unions to be able to
> organize in the workplace.
> These things are not academic for me; they are my life. I
> believe in them to my soul and I will fight with every fiber of my>
> being to make sure that everybody gets that kind of opportunity, and I
> think there are some differences on policy and perspective between the
> three of us, and I hope we get a chance to talk more about that
> MORALES: Senator Edwards, as a follow-up to Margaret Wells'
> question, what is a white male to do running against these historic
> EDWARDS: You know, I have to say on behalf of my party, and I've
> said this many times, I'm proud of the fact that we have a woman and
> an African American who are very, very serious candidates for the
> presidency. They've both asked not to be considered on their gender
> or their race. I respect that.
> I do believe, however, that it says really good things about
> America. I think I actually believe that both through these primaries
> and caucuses and in the general election, that the American people are
> going to make decisions based on who we are, what we stand for, and
> what we're fighting for.
> WILLIAMS: Question for Senator Obama. You won the women's vote
> in Iowa, but Senator Clinton won the women's vote in New Hampshire,
> and there probably isn't an American alive today who hasn't heard the
> post-game analysis of New Hampshire, all the reasons the analysts give
> for Senator Clinton's victory. Senator Clinton had a moment where she
> became briefly emotional at a campaign appearance.
> WILLIAMS: But another given was at the last televised debate,
> when you, in a comment directed to Senator Clinton, looked down and
> said, "You're likable enough, Hillary."
> That caused Frank Rich to write, on the op-ed page of the New
> York Times, that it was "your most inhuman moment, to date." And it
> clearly was a factor and added up.
> Senator Obama, do you regret the comment, and comments like that,
> OBAMA: Well, I absolutely regret it because that wasn't how it
> was intended. I mean, folks were giving Hillary a hard time about
> likability. And my intention was to say, "I think you're plenty
> And it did not come out the way it was supposed to.
> But, you know, I do think that, during the course of that debate,
> there was a tendency to parse out what is, I think, not an issue.
> I think all three of these candidates are good, capable people.
> And what we really should be focusing on is who's got a vision for how
> we're going to move the country forward?
> And I believe that, right now, the only way we're going to move
> the country forward is if we can bring the country together, not just
> Democrats but independents, Republicans who have also lost trust in
> government, and we are able to push aside the special interests and
> the lobbyists, and we are truthful with the American people and
> enlisting them in changing how our health care system works, how our
> economy works, what our tax code looks like.
> OBAMA: And that is going to be an issue that, I think, all of us
> are going to have to struggle with over the coming days. It's not
> going to be an issue of, you know, who's got the nicest smile or, you
> know, who's going to be fun to have a beer with.
> It's going to be, who can provide the leadership that makes sure
> the country is moving forward through what I anticipate are going to
> be some difficult times, and who is going to be able to transform how
> Washington works in a fundamental way.
> WILLIAMS: And one more question about that last televised
> debate, Senator Edwards. Afterwards, Senator Clinton said it was as
> if you and Senator Obama had formed a buddy system against her.
> Senator Clinton put out an Internet ad that was entitled "Piling On."
> Looking back on it, the campaign for New Hampshire in total, do
> you admit that it might have looked that way?>
> EDWARDS: Might have looked that way or actually was that way? I
> don't think it was that way. I mean, my job as a candidate for
> president of the United States is to speak the truth as I see it.
> I've spoken the truth, I will continue to speak the truth whatever the
> consequences are and whatever the perception that people have is.
> I do believe that I am a candidate for president who is fighting
> for change, who believes that we have entrenched, moneyed interests in
> this country that are preventing the middle class from having a real
> chance. And it's drug companies, insurance companies, oil companies.
> There are lobbyists. Barack spoke about them just a few minutes ago.
> It's why I've never, the whole time I've been in public life,
> taken a dime from Washington lobbyist or special interest PAC, because
> I do believe those people stand between America and the change that it
> so desperately needs, in real ways.
> EDWARDS: They're the reason we don't have universal health care.
> They're the reason we have a trade policy that's cost America millions
> of jobs. They're the reason we have an insane tax policy that
> actually gives tax breaks to American companies sending jobs overseas.
> The promise of America that I and millions of others have lived
> -- and then we are in Nevada tonight, a place that people come to in
> the thousands every day to find the promise of America because they
> believe in it.
> It is central to everything we are as a nation. And I do believe
> that promise is being jeopardized by very well-financed monied
> interests. I believe that's the truth, and I'm going to keep saying
> WILLIAMS: Tim?
> RUSSERT: Senator Clinton...
> PROTESTER: Will you stop all these race-based questions?
> These are race-based questions...
> RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, your husband said that Senator Obama
> very well could be the nominee -- he could win.
> With that in mind, when you say that Senator Obama is raising
> false hopes, and you refuse to say whether he's ready to be president,
> what are the consequences of those comments in the fall against the
> CLINTON: Well, Tim, we're in a hard-fought primary season. I
> think each of us recognize that. You know, we're the survivors of
> what has been a yearlong campaign.
> But I certainly have the highest regard for both Senator Obama
> and Senator Edwards. I've worked with them. I have, you know,
> supported them in their previous runs for office. There's no doubt
> that when we have a nominee, we're going to have a totally unified
> Democratic Party.
> The issue for the voters here in Nevada, South Carolina and then
> all of the states to come is, who is ready on day one to walk into
> that Oval office, knowing the problems that are going to be there
> waiting for our next president: a war to end in Iraq, a war to
> resolve in Afghanistan, an economy that I believe is slipping toward a
> recession, with the results already being felt here in Nevada with the
> highest home foreclosure rate in the entire country, 47 million
> Americans uninsured, an energy policy that is totally wrong for
> America, for our future?
> CLINTON: President Bush is over in the Gulf now begging the
> Saudis and others to drop the price of oil. How pathetic. We should
> have an energy policy right now putting people to work in green collar
> jobs as a way to stave off the recession, moving us towards energy
> All of that and more is waiting for our next president.
> You know, obviously each of us believes that we are the person
> who should walk into the oval office on January 20th, 2009. I'm
> presenting my experience, my qualifications, my ideas, my vision for
> CLINTON: And it's routed in the voices that I hear, that I've>
> heard for 35 years, of people who want a better life for themselves
> and their children. And I'm going to keep putting forward what I have
> done and what I will do. And this is what this election, I think, is
> really about.
> RUSSERT: You may think you are the best prepared, but would you
> acknowledge that Senator Obama and Senator Edwards are both prepared
> to be president?
> CLINTON: Well, I think that that's up to the voters to decide.
> I think that's something that voters have to make a decision about on
> all of us. They have to look at each and every one of us and imagine
> us in the Oval Office, imagine us as commander in chief, imagine us
> making tough decisions about everything we know we're going to have to
> deal with, and then all of the unpredictable events that come through
> the door of the White House and land on the desk of the president.
> RUSSERT: Senator Obama, you gave an interview to the Reno
> Gazette-Journal and you said, "We all have strengths and weaknesses."
> WILLIAMS: You said one of your weaknesses is, quote, "I'm not an
> operating officer."
> Do the American people want someone in the Oval Office who is an
> operating officer?
> OBAMA: Well, I think what I was describing was how I view the
> presidency. Now, being president is not making sure that schedules
> are being run properly or the paperwork is being shuffled effectively.
> It involves having a vision for where the country needs to go.
> It involves having the capacity to bring together the best people
> and being able to spark the kind of debate about how we're going to
> solve health care; how we're going to solve energy; how we are going
> to deliver good jobs and good wages; how we're going to keep people in
> their homes, here in Nevada; and then being able to mobilize and
> inspire the American people to get behind that agenda for change.
> That's the kind of leadership that I've shown in the past.
> OBAMA: That's the kind of leadership that I intend to show as
> president of the United States. So, what's needed is sound judgment,
> a vision for the future, the capacity to tap into the hopes and dreams
> of the American people and mobilize them to push aside those special
> interests and lobbyists and forces that are standing in the way of
> real change, and making sure that you have a government that reflects
> the decency and the generosity of the American people.
> That's the kind of leadership that I believe I can provide.
> RUSSERT: You said each of you have strengths and weaknesses. I
> want to ask each of you quickly, your greatest strength, your greatest
> OBAMA: My greatest strength, I think is the ability to bring
> people together from different perspectives to get them to recognize
> what they have in common and to move people in a different direction.
> And as I indicated before, my greatest weakness, I think, is when it
> comes to -- I'll give you a very good example.
> OBAMA: I ask my staff member to hand me paper until two seconds
> before I need it because I will lose it. You know, the --- you
> And my desk and my office doesn't look good. I've got to have
> somebody around me who is keeping track of that stuff.
> And that's not trivial; I need to have good people in place who
> can make sure that systems run. That's what I've always done, and
> that's why we run not only a good campaign, but a good U.S. Senate
> RUSSERT: Senator Edwards, greatest strength, greatest weakness?
> EDWARDS: I think my greatest strength is that for 54 years, I've
> been fighting with every fiber of my being.
> In the beginning, the fight was for me. Growing up in mill towns
> and mill villages, I had to literally fight to survive.>
> But then I spent 20 years in courtrooms fighting for children and
> families against really powerful well-financed interests. I learned
> from that experience, by the way, that if you're tough enough and
> you're strong enough and you got the guts and you're smart enough, you
> can win. That's a fight that can be won.
> It can be won in Washington, too, by the way.
> And I've continued that entire fight my entire time in public
> EDWARDS: So I've got what it takes inside to fight on behalf of
> the American people and on behalf of the middle class.
> I think weakness, I sometimes have a very powerful emotional
> response to pain that I see around me, when I see a man like Donnie
> Ingram (ph), who I met a few months ago in South Carolina, who worked
> for 33 years in the mill, reminded me very much of the kind of people
> that I grew up with, who's about to lose his job, has no idea where
> he's going to go, what he's going to do.
> I mean, his dignity and self-respect is at issue. And I feel
> that in a really personal way and in a very emotional way. And I
> think sometimes that can undermine what you need to do.
> RUSSERT: Senator Clinton?
> CLINTON: Well, I am passionately committed to this country and
> what it stands for. I'm a product of the changes that have already
> occurred, and I want to be an instrument for making those changes
> alive and real in the lives of Americans, particularly children.
> CLINTON: That's what I've done for 35 years. It is really my
> life's work. It is something that comes out of my own experience,
> both in my family and in my church that, you know, I've been blessed.
> I think to whom much is given, much is expected.
> So I have tried to create opportunities, both on an individual
> basis, intervening to help people who have no where else to turn, to
> be their champion. And then to make those changes. And I think I can
> deliver change. I think I understand how to make it possible for more
> people to live up to their God-given potential.
> I get impatient. I get, you know, really frustrated when people
> don't seem to understand that we can do so much more to help each
> other. Sometimes I come across that way. I admit that. I get very
> concerned about, you know, pushing further and faster than perhaps
> people are ready to go.
> But I think that, you know, there is a difference here. I do
> think that being president is the chief executive officer. I respect
> what Barack said about setting the vision, setting the tone, bringing
> people together. But I think you have to be able to manage and run
> the bureaucracy.
> CLINTON: You've got to pick good people, certainly, but you have
> to hold them accountable every single day.
> We've seen the results of a president who, frankly, failed at
> that. You know, he went in to office saying he was going to have the
> kind of Harvard Business School CEO model where he'd set the tone,
> he'd set the goals and then everybody else would have to implement it.
> And we saw the failures. We saw the failures along the Gulf
> Coast with, you know, people who were totally incompetent and
> insensitive failing to help our fellow Americans. We've seen the
> failures with holding the administration accountable with the no-bid
> contracts and the cronyism.
> So I do think you have to do both. It's a really hard job, and
> in America we put the head of state and the head of government
> together in one person.
> CLINTON: But I think you've got to set the tone, you've got to
> set the vision, you've got to set the goals, you've got to bring the
> country together.
> And then you do have to manage and operate and hold that
> bureaucracy accountable to get the results you're trying to achieve.>
> RUSSERT: Senator Obama, Senator Clinton invoked your name. I'll
> give you a chance to respond.
> OBAMA: Well, there's no doubt that you've got to be a good
> manager. And that's not what I was arguing. The point, in terms of
> bringing together a team, is that you get the best people and you're
> able to execute and hold them accountable.
> But I think that there's something, if we're going to evaluate
> George Bush and his failures as president, that I think are much more
> important. He was very efficient. He was on time all the time, and
> you know, and had...
> OBAMA: You know, I'm sure he never lost a paper. I'm sure he
> knows where it is. What he could not do is to listen to perspectives
> that didn't agree with his ideological predispositions.
> What he could not do is to bring in different people with
> different perspectives and get them to work together.
> OBAMA: What he could not do is to manage the effort to make sure
> that the American people understood that, if we're going to go into
> war, that there are going to be consequences and there are going to be
> And we have to be able to communicate what those costs are; and
> to make absolutely certain that, if we're going to make a decision to
> send our young men and women into harm's way, that it's based on the
> best intelligence and that we've asked tough questions before we went
> into fight.
> I mean, those are the kinds of failures that have to do with
> judgment. They have to do with vision, the capacity to inspire
> people. They don't have to do with whether or not he was managing the
> bureaucracy properly.
> That's not to deny that there has to be strong management skills
> in the presidency. It is to say that what has been missing is the
> ability to bring people together, to mobilize the country, to move us
> in a better direction, and to be straight with the American people.
> OBAMA: That's how you get the American people involved.
> WILLIAMS: Time for the rebuttal has expired.
> Senator Obama, a fresh question here.
> It may not come as news to you that there's a lot of false
> information about you circulating on the Internet.
> We received one e-mail, in particular -- usually once several
> weeks; we've received three of them this week. This particular one
> alleges, among other things, that you are trying to hide the fact that
> you're a Muslim, that you took the oath of office on the Koran and not
> the Bible...
> ... that you will not pledge allegiance to the flag or generally
> respect it.
> How do you -- how does your campaign go on about combating this
> kind of thing?
> OBAMA: Well, look, first of all, let's make clear what the facts
> are: I am a Christian. I have been sworn in with a Bible.
> WILLIAMS: I figured.
> OBAMA: I pledge allegiance and lead the pledge of allegiance
> sometimes in the United States Senate when I'm presiding.
> I haven't been there lately because I've been in Iowa and New
> OBAMA: But you know, look, in the Internet age, there are going
> to be lives that are spread all over the place. I have been
> victimized by these lies. Fortunately, the American people are I
> think smarter than folks give them credit for. You know, it's a
> testimony -- these e-mails were going out in Iowa. They were going
> out in New Hampshire. And we did just fine.
> If we didn't do well, for example, in New Hampshire, it wasn't
> because of these e-mails. It was because we didn't do what we needed
> to do in our campaign.
> So my job is to tell the truth, to be straight with the American
> people about how I intend to end climate change, what I'm going to do
> with respect to providing health care for every American, how we're>
> going to provide tax relief to hard-working Americans who are really
> feeling the pinch, and to present my vision for where the country
> needs to go.
> If I'm doing that effectively, then I place my trust in the
> American people that they will sort out the lies from the truth, and
> they will make a good decision.
> WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, thank you.
> At this point, we are going to take the first of exactly three
> breaks in the two-hour broadcast tonight. On the other side of this
> break, among the topics we will take on the economy, when we continue
> from Las Vegas after this.
> (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
> WILLIAMS: We are back live in Las Vegas, Nevada, with the three
> top candidates for the Democratic nomination for president. Brian
> Williams with Tim Russert, Natalie Morales.
> WILLIAMS: We're going to continue the questioning here on the
> topic of the economy. And then, within this portion of the broadcast,
> we're going to try something new for this series, and that is, the
> candidates will have two questions each to ask of their fellow
> So while they think about that, we will start off with the
> economy and a question for you, Senator Clinton.
> This evening on NBC Nightly News, our lead story was about the
> fact that Citigroup and Merrill Lynch have both "gone overseas," as
> some put it, hat in hand, looking for $20 billion in investment to
> stay afloat from, among other things, the government of Singapore,
> Korea, Japan, and the Saudi Prince Alwaleed, the man -- Rudolph
> Giuliani turned his money back after 9/11.
> This is -- strikes a lot of Americans as just plain wrong.
> WILLIAMS: At the end of our report we said this may end up in
> What can be done? And does it strike you as fundamentally wrong,
> that much foreign ownership of these American flagship brands?
> CLINTON: Brian, I'm very concerned about this. You know, about
> a month and a half or so ago I raised this concern, because these are
> called sovereign wealth funds. They are huge pools of money, largely
> because of oil and economic growth in Asia. And these funds are
> controlled often by governmental entities or individuals who are
> closely connected to the governments in these countries.
> I think we've got to know more about them. They need to be more
> transparent. We need to have a lot more control over what they do and
> how they do it. I'd like to see the World Bank and the International
> Monetary Fund begin to impose these rules, and I want the United
> States Congress and the Federal Reserve Board to ask these tough
> But let's look at how we got here.
> CLINTON: We got here because, as I said on Wall Street on
> December 5th, a lot of our big financial institutions, you know, made
> these bets on these subprime mortgages. They helped to create this
> meltdown that is happening, that is costing millions of people who
> live in homes that are being foreclosed on or could be in the very
> near future because the interest rates are going up.
> And what they did was to take all these subprime mortgages and
> conventional mortgages, bundle them up and sell them overseas to big
> investors. So, we're getting the worst of both worlds.
> We can't figure out, under this administration, what we should
> do. I have a plan: a moratorium on foreclosures for 90 days,
> freezing interest rates for five years, which I think we should do
> The administration is doing very little. And what we now see is
> our financial institutions having to go hat in hand to borrow money
> from these foreign funds. I'm very concerned about it.
> CLINTON: I'd like to see us move much more aggressively, both to
> deal with the immediate problem with the mortgages and to deal with>
> these sovereign wealth funds.
> WILLIAMS: Senator Edwards, I neglected to point out that one of
> the companies keeping these giant American banks afloat is Kuwait, a
> nation, an economy arguably afloat itself today, as you know, thanks
> to the blood, sweat and tears of American soldiers.
> What would you do as a remedy?
> EDWARDS: Well, the things that Senator Clinton just spoke about
> are correct. We need more transparency. We need to know what's
> actually happening. But the fundamental problem is what's happening
> at the core of the American economy. What's happening to the economy
> in America, if you look at it from distance, is we have economic
> growth in America -- we still do -- but almost the entirety of that
> economic growth is with the very wealthiest Americans and the biggest
> multinational corporations.
> You ask any middle class family in America and they will tell you
> they do not feel financially secure. They are worried about their
> job. They are worried paying for health care. They're worried about
> having to send their kids to college. They're worried about, in so
> many cases, here in Nevada particularly, worried about their home
> being foreclosed on.
> EDWARDS: I spoke a few minutes ago about thousands of people
> coming to Nevada everyday to try to find the promise of America, to
> try to find a good job, a good home to meet the great moral test that
> all of us have as Americans, which is to make certain that our
> children have a better life than we had.
> This is the great challenge that we're facing in this election.
> We talked about other historic moments. It is an historic moment for
> America in this election.
> Are we going to do what our parents and our grandparents did, who
> worked and struggled and suffered to ensure that we would have a
> better life?
> They have now passed that torch to us and it is our
> responsibility, and it will be my responsibility as president to
> ensure that our children and our grandchildren have a better life than
> we had.
> WILLIAMS: Tim?
> Oh, Senator Obama, a rebuttal.
> OBAMA: Well, not a rebuttal. I just want to pick up on a couple
> of things that have been said.
> Number one, part of the reason that Kuwait and others are able to
> come in and purchase, or at least bail out, some of our financial
> institutions is because we don't have an energy policy.
> OBAMA: And we are sending close to $1 billion a day. And this
> administration has consistently failed to put forward a realistic plan
> that is going to reduce our dependence on foreign oil; is going to
> invest in solar and wind and biodiesel.
> You look at a state like Nevada; one thing I know is folks have
> got a lot of sun here.
> And yet we have not seen any serious effort, on the part of this
> administration, to spur on the use of alternative fuels, raise fuel
> efficiency standards on cars. That would make a substantial
> difference in our balance of payments and that would make a
> substantial difference in terms of their capacity to purchase our
> And the second thing, I just want to point out, is that the
> subprime lending mess -- part of the reason it happened was because we
> had an administration that does not believe in any kind of oversight.
> And we had the mortgage industry spending $185 million lobbying
> to prevent provisions such as the ones that I've proposed over a year
> ago that would say, you know, you've got to disclose properly what
> kinds of loans you're giving to people on mortgages.
> OBAMA: You've got to disclose if you've got a teaser rate and
> suddenly their mortgage payments are going to jack up and they can't
> pay for them. And one of the things that I intend to do as president>
> of the United States is restore a sense of accountability and
> regulatory oversight over the financial markets.
> We have the best financial markets in the world, but only if they
> are transparent and accountable and people trust them. And,
> increasingly, we have not had those structures in place.
> WILLIAMS: Time is up, Senator.
> RUSSERT: Senator Edwards, poor folks, middle class folks really
> feeling the pinch.
> EDWARDS: Yes.
> RUSSERT: Bankruptcies are up 40 percent in one year, 5 percent
> of credit card debts are now delinquent. In 2001, you voted for a
> bankruptcy bill which was the precursor to the 2005 bankruptcy bill
> that become law, which made it much tougher for middle class folks,
> particularly women, when they became bankrupt.
> RUSSERT: Do you regret that vote?
> EDWARDS: I absolutely do. I should not have voted for that
> bankruptcy law.
> If you look at what's happening in America today, the
> bankruptcies that are occurring, about half of them are the result of
> medical costs. And the idea that any single mom who has a child who
> gets catastrophically sick and incurs $30,000 of medical cost has to
> go into bankruptcy as a result, and can't be relieved of that debt,
> makes absolutely no sense. And it's not fair and it's not right.
> And I spoke just a few minutes ago about the great struggles that
> the middle class are faced with in this country, and you hear it every
> single day. Because what's happening in America is jobs are leaving,
> cost of everything is going up -- health care, college tuition,
> everything -- and, on top of that, middle class incomes are not going
> EDWARDS: The incomes at the very top are going up. Profits of
> big corporations are going up. But the incomes of middle class
> families are not going up.
> So the question is, what do we do about it? Besides having
> somebody who truly understands in a personal way what's happening,
> what would the president of the United States do? There are a bunch
> of things we need to do.
> We desperately need truly universal health care that covers every
> single American and dramatically reduces health care costs. We do
> need, as Barack spoke about just a few minutes ago, a radical
> transformation of the way we produce and use energy. We can create at
> least a million new jobs in that transition.
> We need a national law cracking down on predatory and payday
> lenders that are taking advantage of our most vulnerable families. We
> ought to raise -- the national minimum wage is going up to $7.25 an
> hour. That's fine. It's not enough.
> The national minimum wage should be at least nine and a half
> dollars an hour. It ought to be indexed to go up on its own. We need
> to make it easier for kids to go to college. My proposal is that we
> say to any young person in America who's willing to work when they're
> in college, at least 10 hours a week, we'll pay for their tuition and
> books at a state university or community college.
> EDWARDS: And that can be paid for by getting rid of big banks as
> the intermediary in student loans. They make $4 billion or $5 billion
> a year. That money ought to be going to sending kids to college.
> RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, you voted for the same 2001 bankruptcy
> bill that Senator Edwards just said he was wrong about. After you did
> that, the Consumer Federation of America said that your reversal on
> that bill, voting for it, was the death knell for the opponents of the
> bill. Do you regret that vote?
> CLINTON: Sure I do, but it never became law, as you know. It
> got tied up. It was a bill that had some things I agreed with and
> other things I didn't agree with, and I was happy that it never became
> law. I opposed the 2005 bill as well.>
> But let's talk about where we are now with bankruptcy. We need
> urgently to have bankruptcy reform in order to get the kind of options
> available for homeowners. In addition to what I want to do, which is
> the moratorium on foreclosures for 90 days to see what we can do to
> work them out, and freezing interest rates for five years, and making
> the mortgage industry more transparent so we actually know what
> they're doing.
> CLINTON: I mean, look what happened with Countrywide. You know,
> Countrywide gets bought and the CEO, who was one of the architects of
> this whole subprime mess, is set off with $100 million -- $100 million
> in severance pay.
> You know, the priorities and the values are absolutely wrong.
> So, what we've got to do is move urgently.
> In addition to what I proposed, I think we've got to reform the
> bankruptcy law right now, going forward, so that people who are caught
> in these subprime and now increasingly conventional loans that they
> can't pay because of the way the interest rates are going up and many
> of the fraudulent and predatory practices that got people into them in
> the first place will have the option of getting relieved of this debt.
> So there's a lot we need to do right now. And, you know, I want
> to just add that the groups that sponsored this are primarily black
> and brown groups that care deeply about these issues.
> Everything we're talking about falls disproportionately on
> African Americans, on Hispanics, on a lot of Asian Americans.
> CLINTON: Here in Nevada, the African-American and Hispanic
> communities are really the ones that are most victimized by these sub-
> prime mortgages. They're the ones who are often the first to be let
> go when the economy begins to slide. You know, in and out of the
> homes that I have visited, and here in Las Vegas, those are the
> stories that I am hearing.
> So we need to move urgently. We have a lot of big agenda items
> that I agree with John on: universal health care, college
> affordability. But we can't wait. We're going to lose another, you
> know, million Americans in home foreclosures.
> We're going to see a deteriorating community across America
> because homes will be left vacant. The housing market is down.
> Nobody will buy those homes. Housing wealth, which the principle
> source of American middle class wealth, is now decreasing.
> So I have a real sense of urgency.
> CLINTON: We need to be acting now. And I know that the
> Democratic Congress, under Senator Harry Reid and Speaker Pelosi, are
> going to do everything they can to address this.
> RUSSERT: Senator Obama, the 2001 bankruptcy bill; the 2005
> bankruptcy bill?
> OBAMA: I opposed them both. I think they were a bad ideas.
> Because they were pushed by the credit card companies. They were
> pushed by the mortgage companies. And they put the interests of those
> banks and financial institutions ahead of the interests of the
> American people.
> And this is typical. Now, Hillary's exactly right that we've got
> to modify some of the fraudulent practices, predatory lending
> I put in a bill, a year and a half ago, to make that happen.
> Because it does affect communities, including my own, on the south
> side of Chicago.
> But, unless we are able to rid the influence of special-interest
> lobbies in Washington, we're going to continue to see bad legislation
> like that.
> And that's why we're going to have to change how politics is done
> in Washington.
> Now, we have an immediate problem. I met with a number of folks
> up in Reno, just two days ago, who are already seeing their homes
> being foreclosed upon.
> One of the things that we have to do is we have to release people
> who are in bankruptcy as a consequence of health care; we've got to>
> give them a break.
> OBAMA: One woman who I was with, her husband is a police
> officer. He contracted cancer, went through chemotherapy, ends up
> being hit by a car while in the line of duty, and they fall three,
> four months behind on their health care payments, and that's it, they
> can't make the payments on their house.
> We've got to provide them some relief. I've put forward a $10
> billion housing fund that can help bridge people who have been
> responsible in making their payments. They're not speculators,
> they're not trying to flip properties. They're in their own homes.
> We've got to make sure that they can get the kinds of help that
> they need to stay in their homes and make the payments and live out
> the American dream that is so important to so many people.
> WILLIAMS: Time is up, Senator.
> We're going to get some more e-mail questions from Natalie
> MORALES: All right. And this one is directed to Senator Obama.
> MORALES: It comes from a resident of Miami, Florida: "As a
> middle class retiree whose primary source of income is dividends,
> capital gains from stock investments, what if any safeguards would you
> put in place to protect us from your proposed reversal of the Bush tax
> cuts on these investment vehicles?"
> OBAMA: Well, what I would do is I would exempt middle income
> folks, potentially, from increases in capital gains and dividends.
> But what I have insisted upon is that we make our tax code fair. And
> if for example, my friend and Hillary's friend, Warren Buffett, makes
> $46 million last year, and he is paying a lower rate on -- a lower tax
> rate than his secretary, there is something fundamentally unjust about
> Yeah. And I think, you know, he acknowledges it. And by the
> way, he has offered $1 million to any CEO of a Fortune 500 company who
> can prove that they pay a higher tax rate than their secretary.
> OBAMA: Now, nobody has taken them up on the offer, by the way.
> So part of the reason is because he primarily gets his income from
> dividends and capital gains, and he's taxed at a lower rate. That has
> to change, and that's part of a broader shift that I'm proposing in
> our tax rates.
> We were talking earlier about lower and middle income people
> really getting squeezed. I've said we need to provide tax relief to
> them. If you're making less than $75,000 a year, we are proposing
> that we offset the payroll tax to give you relief, $1,000 for the
> average family. That if you're a senior citizen who is making less
> than $50,000 a year, or getting less than $50,000 in Social Security
> benefits, then you shouldn't have to pay taxes on that Social Security
> Homeowners who do not itemize their deductions, we want to give
> you a mortgage deduction credit, and we're going to pay for that by
> closing loopholes, closing tax havens, and yes, rolling back some of
> these breaks that have gone disproportionately to the wealthiest
> OBAMA: That will help the economy grow, because part of the
> reason we've got a bubble financially -- first in the Internet sphere
> and then in the real estate market -- is because of what John referred
> to earlier.
> You've got all this money going to the top 1 percent, and they're
> looking for ways to park the money. We need the money in the hands of
> hard-working Americans who deserve it. They will know how to spend
> it, and they will actually help spur business growth across the
> WILLIAMS: Time is up, Senator. One more question from Natalie.
> MORALES: And this one is for Senator Clinton, and you spoke
> already about foreclosure rates. So on that subject -- this was
> coming from Christian Denny from Henderson, Nevada: "Senator Clinton,
> recently, while visiting Las Vegas, you mentioned your plan to freeze
> interest rates to help prevent foreclosures. Are you aware of any
> long-term effects on the housing market and our economy that this may
> CLINTON: Well, Natalie, I think that the question really goes to
> the heart of what we're trying to do here. We have short-term,
> medium-term and long-term goals when it comes to our economy.
> You know, the Federal Reserve is cutting interest rates in order
> to spur the economy.
> CLINTON: But because of a lot of the way these mortgages were
> structured, the interest rates are going to keep going up. And a lot
> of people who can pay what they're paying now will not be able to pay
> what they're expected to pay next month or the month after that.
> So freezing the interest rates is not only a way of being able to
> stabilize the housing market, but it also is in line with what the Fed
> is doing on monetary policy.
> In other words, you can't be cutting interest rates in one part
> of the economy and letting them go through the roof in the other part
> and expect to be able to stimulate the kind of economic growth that we
> need to have right now.
> I have other pieces of my economic action plan.
> In addition to dealing with the home foreclosure issue on the
> moratorium and the rate freeze, I'd like to have a fund of about $30
> billion that communities and states could go to work in order to
> prevent foreclosures and the consequences of foreclosures.
> When I was talking about this issue last week here in Las Vegas,
> somebody from the mayor's office said they're starting to see a
> slowdown in property tax receipts.
> CLINTON: That means police services and other services start to
> deteriorate. That compounds the problem.
> I want to see money in the pocket's of people who are having
> trouble paying their energy bills. That stimulates the economy.
> I want to make sure the unemployment compensation system is there
> for people as they begin to get laid off, which is happening here in
> Las Vegas and around the country.
> And then, finally, I want to have about $5 billion put to work
> right now to employ people in green-collar jobs like I saw when I was
> in L.A. last week with electrical workers being trained to put in
> solar panels.
> And then, if we need additional stimulation, we should look at
> tax rebates for middle class and working families, not for the wealthy
> who've already done very well under George Bush.
> WILLIAMS: Two bits of housekeeping at this point. I've been
> asked to remind our candidates that we have a system of lights that
> they can plainly see.
> WILLIAMS: The yellow one starts flashing...
> The yellow one starts flashing when they're starting to run out
> of time...
> ... and the red one starts flashing when they are out of time.
> And another reminder that only seven feet separates us from the
> Now to that segment we promised earlier. We asked the candidates
> and their campaigns to come here tonight prepared with two questions,
> one for each of their opposition candidates.
> It's not our intention that these be novelty or, at all,
> throwaway questions but that they be real questions. And we should
> know, right away, here, whether this was a good or a very bad idea.
> Senator Edwards, I would like to start with you. A question for
> Senator Obama and a question for Senator Clinton?
> EDWARDS: I get to do both, to begin with?
> WILLIAMS: Sure.
> EDWARDS: OK. Well, let me start this question. This is about
> campaign finances. And let me start it by saying the obvious, which
> is, all three of us have raised a great deal of money in this
> EDWARDS: And so this is not preachy or holier than thou in any
> possible way. What we know is that all three of us want to do
> something about health care in this country. And we also know that
> until recently, Senator Clinton had raised more money from drug
> companies and insurance companies than any candidate, Democrat or
> Until you passed her, Senator Obama, recently to go to number
> one. My question is, do you think these people expect something for
> this money? Why do they give it? Do they think that it's for good
> government? Why do they do it?
> OBAMA: Well, let's be clear, John. I just want to make sure
> that we understand: I don't take money from federal lobbyists. I
> don't take money from PACs.
> EDWARDS: As I don't, either.
> OBAMA: As you don't, either. What happens is, is that you've
> got -- if you've got a mid-level executive at a drug company or an
> insurance company who is inspired by my message of change, and they
> send me money, then that's recorded as money from the drug or the
> insurance industry, even though it's not organized, coordinated or in
> any way subject to the problems that you see when lobbyists are given
> OBAMA: And I'm proud of the fact that I've raised more money
> from small donors than anybody else, and that we're getting $25, $50,
> $100 donations, and we've done very well doing it that way.
> Now, what I'm also proud of is the fact that in reducing special
> interest lobbying, I, alone of the candidates here, have actually
> taken away the power of the lobbyists.
> Part of the reason that you know who's bundling money for various
> candidates is because of a law I passed this year, which says:
> Lobbyists, if you are taking money from anybody and putting it
> together and then giving it to a member of Congress, that has to be
> Ultimately, what I'd like to see is a system of public financing
> of campaigns, and I'm a cosponsor of the proposal that's in the Senate
> right now. That's what we have to fight for. In the meantime, what
> I'm very proud of is to make sure that we continue to make progress at
> the federal level to push back the influence that lobbyists have right
> now, and that's something that I'm going to continue to work on.
> WILLIAMS: Now, I've been told in midstream here, Senator
> Edwards, I have to take away one of your options. We were -- we
> apparently told the campaigns bring one question for an opponent,
> which now brings us to you, Senator Clinton.
> So you get your choice on either side.
> CLINTON: Well, I want to ask Senator Obama to join me in doing
> You know, we both very much want to convince President Bush,
> which is not easy to do, in the remaining year to end the war in Iraq,
> to change direction.
> It appears that not only is he refusing to do that, but that he
> has continued to say he can enter into an agreement with the Iraqi
> government, without bringing it for approval to the United States
> Congress, that would continue America's presence in Iraq, long after
> President Bush leaves office.
> CLINTON: I find that absolutely unacceptable. And I think we
> have to do everything we can to prevent President Bush from binding
> the hands of the next president.
> So I've introduced legislation that clearly requires President
> Bush to come to the United States Congress. It is not enough, as he
> claims, to go to the Iraqi parliament, but to come to the United
> States Congress to get anything that he's trying to do, including
> permanent bases, numbers of troops, all the other commitments he's
> talking about as he's traveling in that region.
> And I want to ask Senator Obama if you will co-sponsor my>
> legislation to try to rein in President Bush so that he doesn't commit
> this country to his policy in Iraq, which both of us are committed to
> OBAMA: Well, I think we can work on this, Hillary.
> OBAMA: Because I don't think -- you know, we've got unity in the
> Democratic Party, I hope, on this.
> OBAMA: The notion that President Bush could somehow tie the
> hands of the next president, I think, is contrary to how our
> democracy's supposed to work and the voices of the American people who
> spoke out in 2006 and I expect will speak out again in 2008.
> I have opposed this war consistently. I have put forward a plan
> that will get our troops out by the end of 2009. And we already saw
> today reports that the Iraqi minister suggests that we're going to be
> in there at least until 2018 -- 2018, 10 years, a decade-long
> Currently, we are spending $9 billion to $10 billion a month.
> And the notion is that we're going to sustain that at the same time as
> we're neglecting what we see happening in Afghanistan right now, where
> you have a luxury hotel in Kabul that was blown up by militants and
> the situation continues to worsen.
> My first job as president of the United States is going to be to
> call in the Joint Chiefs of Staff and say, "You've got a new mission,"
> and that is to responsibly, carefully, but deliberately start to phase
> out our involvement there and to make sure that we are putting the
> onus on the Iraqi government to come together and do what they need to
> do to arrive at peace.
> WILLIAMS: If I could just interrupt, here, before I give you
> your question -- would the other two of you join in the 2009 pledge
> that Senator Obama has made, concerning the withdrawal of American
> CLINTON: Oh, yes, I'm on record as saying exactly that, as soon
> as I become president, we will start withdrawing within 60 days. We
> will move as carefully and responsibly as we can, one to two brigades
> a month, I believe, and we'll have nearly all the troops out by the
> end of the year, I hope.
> WILLIAMS: Senator Edwards?
> EDWARDS: I think I've actually, among the three of us, been the
> most aggressive and said that I will have all combat troops out in the
> first year that I'm president of the United States. I will end combat
> missions. And while I'm president, there will be no permanent
> military bases in Iraq.
> RUSSERT: In September, we were in New Hampshire together, and I
> asked the three of you if you would pledge to have all troops out of
> Iraq by the end of your first term.
> All three of you said, you will not take that pledge. I'm
> hearing something much different tonight.
> OBAMA: No, no, no. There's nothing different, Tim.
> I want to make sure...
> OBAMA: No, no. I think this is important because it was
> reported as if we were suggesting that we would continue the war until
> 2013. Your question was, could I guarantee all troops would be out of
> Iraq. I have been very specific in saying that we will not have
> permanent bases there. I will end the war as we understand it in
> combat missions.
> But that we are going to have to protect our embassy. We're
> going to have to protect our civilians. We're engaged in humanitarian
> activity there. We are going to have to have some presence that
> allows us to strike if Al Qaida is creating bases inside of Iraq.
> So I cannot guarantee that we're not going to have a strategic
> interest that I have to carry out as commander-in-chief to maintain
> some troop presence there, but it is not going to be engaged in a war
> and it will not be this sort of permanent bases and permanent military
> occupation that George Bush seems to be intent on.>
> CLINTON: It's not only George Bush.
> CLINTON: I just want to add here...
> RUSSERT: But you both will have a presence?
> CLINTON: Well, I think that what Barack is what John and I also
> meant at that same time, because, obviously, we have to be
> responsible, we have to protect our embassy, we do need to make sure
> that, you know, our strategic interests are taken care of.
> But it's not only George Bush. The Republican candidates running
> for the presidency are saying things that are very much in line with
> president Bush.
> You know, Senator McCain said the other day that we might have
> troops there for 100 years, Barack.
> I mean, they have an entirely different view than we do about
> what we need to have happening as soon as we get a Democrat elected
> RUSSERT: Thirty seconds for Senator Edwards.
> EDWARDS: I just want to say, it is dishonest to suggest that
> you're not going to have troops there to protect the embassy. That's
> just not the truth.
> It may be great political theater and political rhetoric, but
> it's not the truth.
> EDWARDS: There is, however, a difference between us on this
> issue. And I don't think it's subtle. The difference is, I will have
> all combat troops out in the first year that I'm president, and there
> will be no further combat missions, and there will be no permanent
> military bases.
> WILLIAMS: Senator Obama.
> OBAMA: I just want to pick up on what John said, because we've
> had this discussion before. John, are you saying that you're -- I
> don't know if I'm using my question here, but...
> WILLIAMS: I think you are.
> OBAMA: Well, I've got to be careful, then.
> Instead of phrasing it that way...
> WILLIAMS: Oh, no, no, no, no.
> OBAMA: Let me...
> WILLIAMS: That sounded like the start of a question to me.
> OBAMA: Look, I think it's important to understand that either
> you are willing to say that you may go after terrorist bases inside of
> Iraq if they should form, in which case there would potentially be a
> combat aspect to that, obviously, or you're not.
> OBAMA: And, you know, if you're not, then that could present
> some problems in terms of the long-term safety and security of the
> United States of America. So I just wanted to make sure that we got
> that clarification.
> EDWARDS: Is that a question?
> WILLIAMS: Yes, I think we've ruled it a question.
> EDWARDS: My answer to that is, as long as you keep combat troops
> in Iraq, you continue the occupation. If you keep military bases in
> Iraq, you're continuing the occupation. The occupation must end. As
> respects Al Qaida, public enemy number one, they're responsible for
> about 10 percent of the violence inside Iraq according to the reports.
> I would keep a quick reaction force in Kuwait in case it became
> necessary, but that is different, Barack, than keeping troops
> stationed inside.
> OBAMA: John...
> EDWARDS: Excuse -- let me finish, please.
> OBAMA: I'm sorry.
> EDWARDS: That is different than keeping troops stationed inside
> Iraq, because keeping troops stationed inside Iraq -- combat troops --
> and continuing combat missions, whether it's against Al Qaida or
> anyone else, at least from my perspective, is a continuation of the
> occupation. And I think a continuation of the occupation continues
> the problem, not just in reality, but in perception that America's
> occupying the country.
> OBAMA: Let me suggest, I think there's a distinction without a
> difference here. If it is appropriate for us to keep that strike
> force outside of Iraq, then that obviously would be preferable.
> The point is, at some point you might have that capacity, and>
> that's the -- that's the clarification I want to make sure...
> WILLIAMS: Having come close to settling that, we're going to
> take another one of our breaks.
> When we come back, we'll get to some more domestic issues, when
> we continue live from Las Vegas.
> (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
> WILLIAMS: And we are back, live, in Las Vegas. We promised
> going into the break that we would return with a discussion on
> domestic issues.
> WILLIAMS: This is of a type -- and just before the break, we got
> onto things military. We're going to start this off with a
> continuation of the questioning by Tim Russert.
> RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I'll start with you. The volunteer
> Army, many believe, disproportionate in terms of poor and minority who
> participate in our armed forces.
> There's a federal statute on the books which says that, if a
> college or university does not provide space for military recruiters
> or provide a ROTC program for its students, it can lose its federal
> Will you vigorously enforce that statute?
> CLINTON: Yes, I will. You know, I think that the young men and
> women who voluntarily join our all-volunteer military are among the
> best of our country.
> I want to do everything I can, as president, to make sure that
> they get the resources and the help that they deserve. I want a new,
> 21st-century G.I. Bill of Rights so that our young veterans can get
> the money to get to college and to buy a home and start a business.
> And I've worked very hard, on the Senate Armed Services
> Committee, to, you know, try to make up for some of the negligence
> that we've seen from the Bush administration.
> You know, Tim, the Bush administration sends mixed messages.
> They want to recruit and retain these young people to serve our
> country and then they have the Pentagon trying to take away the
> signing bonuses when a soldier gets wounded and ends up in the
> hospital, something that I'm working with a Republican senator to try
> to make sure never can happen again.
> CLINTON: So I think we should recognize that national service of
> all kinds is honorable and its essential to the future of our country.
> I want to expand civilian national service.
> But I think that everyone should make available an opportunity
> for a young man or woman to be in ROTC, to be able to join the
> military and I'm going to do everything I can to support the men and
> women in the military and their families.
> RUSSERT: Of the top 10 rated schools, Harvard, Yale, Columbia,
> Stanford, they do not have ROTC programs on campus.
> Should they?
> CLINTON: Well, there are ways they can work out fulfilling that
> obligation. But they should certainly not do anything that either
> undermines or disrespects the young men and women who wish to pursue a
> military career.
> RUSSERT: Senator Obama, same question.
> Will you vigorously enforce a statute which says colleges must
> allow military recruiters on campus and provide ROTC programs?
> OBAMA: Yes. One of the striking things, as you travel around
> the country, you go into rural communities and you see how
> disproportionally they are carrying the load in this war in Iraq, as
> well as Afghanistan.
> OBAMA: And it is not fair. Now, the volunteer Army, I think, is
> a way for us to maintain excellence. And if we are deploying our
> military wisely, then a voluntary army is sufficient, although I would
> call for an increase in our force structure, particularly around the
> Army and the Marines, because I think that we've got to put an end to
> people going on three, four, five tours of duty and the strain on
> families is enormous. I meet them every day.
> But I think that the obligation to serve exists for everybody,>
> and that's why I've put forward a national service program that is
> tied to my tuition credit for students who want to go to college. You
> get $4000 every year to help you go to college.
> In return, you have to engage in some form of national service.
> Military service has to be an option.
> OBAMA: We have to have civilian options as well. Not just the
> Peace Corps, but one of the things that we need desperately are people
> who are in our foreign service who are speaking foreign languages can
> be more effective in a lot of the work that's going to be require that
> may not be hand-to-hand combat but is going to be just as critical in
> ensuring our long-term safety and security.
> RUSSERT: This statute's been on the books for some time,
> Senator. Will you vigorously enforce the statute to cut off federal
> funding to the school that does not provide military recruiters and a
> ROTC program?
> EDWARDS: Yes, I will. But I have to say, it's not enough to
> talk about the extraordinary service of men and women who are wearing
> the uniform and have worn the uniform of the United States of America.
> Tonight across this country, 200,000 men and women who wore our
> uniform and served this country patriotically, veterans, will go to
> sleep under bridges and on grates. We have men and women coming back
> from Iraq with PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, other kind of
> emotional problems; many with serious physical injuries.
> EDWARDS: We have families who are here at home, while they serve
> in Iraq, who are having a terrible time paying for child care, paying
> the bills. We have reservists and members of the Guard who go to
> serve and get paid 50 cents, 60 cents on the dollar for what they were
> making in their civilian jobs.
> What are we going to do about this? Every man and woman who
> comes back from Iraq or Afghanistan deserves to have a thorough
> comprehensive evaluation of their medical needs, including mental
> health needs and physical health needs. Every one of them ought to
> get job training if they need it, and additional education if they
> need it.
> We, America, you know, we should help them find a job. They
> didn't leave us on our own, we shouldn't leave them on their own. And
> we need to narrow this gap between civilian pay and military pay, and
> help these families with their child care.
> And then finally, for all the veterans who have served this
> country, we need a guaranteed stream of funding for the Veterans
> Administration so we don't have veterans waiting six months or a year
> to get the health care that they deserve.
> WILLIAMS: Let's go...
> CLINTON: This is...
> OBAMA: There just one thing that I wanted to...
> WILLIAMS: Go ahead, Senator Obama.
> Thirty seconds each, Senator Obama and Clinton.
> OBAMA: Very briefly, because I think this shows you how this
> administration has failed when it comes to our veterans.
> I went to Walter Reed to talk to the wounded warriors who had
> come back to discover that they were still paying for their meals and
> their phone calls while in Walter Reed, while rehabbing, which I could
> not believe. And I was able to gain the cooperation of a Republican-
> controlled Senate at the time and pass a bill that would eliminate
> But that indicates the callousness with which we are often
> treating our veterans. That has to stop.
> WILLIAMS: Well, I think that we have to do everything necessary
> to help these returning veterans get the health care and the support
> that they need.
> And this new signature wound called traumatic brain injury is
> something that I am really upset about, because we've only begun to
> recognize it and diagnose it.
> CLINTON: And, John, I was able to pass legislation to begin to>
> provide the physical and mental evaluations so that we could begin to
> treat this.
> And, you know, we have 1,200 people in Nevada who sign up to join
> the military every year. They're now going to be getting these exams
> because we've got to track what happens to young men and women when
> they go into the military, then provide the services for them.
> WILLIAMS: We have to, at this point, turn a bit more local.
> And let's talk for a moment about Yucca Mountain.
> As sure as there's somebody at a roulette table not far from here
> convinced that they're one bet away from winning it all back, every
> person who comes here running for president promises to end the notion
> of storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.
> And the people of Nevada have found it's easier to promise to end
> it than it is to end it.
> Anyone willing to pledge here tonight, beginning with you Senator
> Obama, to kill the notion of Yucca Mountain?
> OBAMA: I will end the notion of Yucca Mountain because it has
> not been based on the sort of sound science that can assure the people
> in Nevada that they're going to be safe. And that, I think, was a
> Now, you hate to see billions of dollars having already been
> spent on a mistake, but what I don't want to do is spend additional
> billions of dollars and potentially create a situation that is not
> safe for the people of Nevada. So I've already -- I've been clear
> from the start that Yucca, I think, was a misconceived project. We
> are going to have to figure out how are we storing nuclear waste.
> And what I want to do is to get the best experts around the table
> and make a determination: What are our options based on the best
> science available? And I think there's a solution that can be had
> that's good for the country but also good for the people of Nevada.
> WILLIAMS: Thirty seconds each, Senators Clinton and Edwards.
> CLINTON: Well, I voted against Yucca Mountain in 2001. I have
> been consistently against Yucca Mountain. I held a hearing in the
> Environment Committee, the first that we've had in some time, looking
> at all the reasons why Yucca Mountain is not workable. The science
> does not support it. We do have to figure out what to do with nuclear
> You know, Barack has one of his biggest supporters in terms of
> funding, the Exelon Corporation, which has spent millions of dollars
> trying to make Yucca Mountain the waste depository. John was in favor
> of it twice when he voted to override President Clinton's veto and
> then voted for it again.
> I have consistently and persistently been against Yucca Mountain,
> and I will make sure it does not come into effect when I'm president.
> WILLIAMS: Your rebuttal to the...
> OBAMA: Well, I think it's a testimony to my commitment and
> opposition to Yucca Mountain that despite the fact that my state has
> more nuclear power plants than any other state in the country, I've
> never supported Yucca Mountain. So I just want to make that clear.
> ' WILLIAMS: Senator Edwards?
> EDWARDS: Well, I'm opposed to Yucca Mountain. I will end it for
> all the reasons that have already been discussed, because of the
> science that's been discovered, because apparently some forgery of
> documents that's also been discovered -- all of which has happened in
> recent years.
> EDWARDS: But I want to go to one other subject on which the
> three of us differ. And that is the issue of nuclear power.
> I've heard Senator Obama say he's open to the possibility of
> additional nuclear power plants. Senator Clinton said at a debate
> earlier, standing beside me, that she was agnostic on the subject.
> I am not for it or agnostic. I am against building more nuclear
> power plants, because I do not think we have a safe way to dispose of>
> the waste. I think they're dangerous, they're great terrorist targets
> and they're extraordinarily expensive.
> They are not, in my judgment, the way to green this -- to get us
> off our dependence on oil.
> WILLIAMS: Tim Russert?
> CLINTON: Well, John, you did vote for Yucca Mountain twice, and
> you didn't respond to that part of the question.
> EDWARDS: I did respond to it. I said the science that has been
> revealed since that time and the forged documents that have been
> revealed since that time have made it very -- this has been for years,
> Hillary. This didn't start last year or three years ago. I've said
> this for years now -- have revealed that this thing does not make
> sense, is not good for the people of Nevada, and it's not good for
> Which, by the way, is also why I am opposed to building more
> nuclear power plants.
> RUSSERT: I want to pick up on that.
> Senator Obama, a difference in this campaign: You voted for the
> energy bill in July of 2005; Senator Clinton voted against it.
> That energy bill was described by numerous publications, quote,
> "The big winner: nuclear power." The secretary of energy said this
> would begin a nuclear renaissance.
> We haven't built a nuclear power plant in this country for 30
> years. There are now 17 companies that are planning to build 29
> plants based on many of the protections that were provided in that
> bill, and incentives for licensee construction operating cost.
> Did you realize, when you were voting for that energy bill, that
> it was going to create such a renaissance of nuclear power?
> OBAMA: Well, the reason I voted for it was because it was the
> single largest investment in clean energy -- solar, wind, biodiesel --
> that we had ever seen. And I think it is -- we talked about this
> earlier -- if we are going to deal with our dependence on foreign oil,
> then we're going to have to ramp up how we're producing energy here in
> the United States.
> Now, with respect to nuclear energy, what I have said is that if
> we could figure out a way to provide a cost-efficient, safe way to
> produce nuclear energy, and we knew how to store it effectively, then
> we should pursue it because what we don't want is to produce more
> greenhouse gases. And I believe that climate change is one of the top
> priorities that the next president has to pursue.
> Now, if we cannot solve those problem, then absolutely, John, we
> shouldn't build more plants. But part of what I want to do is to
> create a menu of energy options, and let's see where the science and
> the technology and the entrepreneurship of the American people take
> OBAMA: That's why I want to set up a cap and trade system.
> We're going to cap greenhouse gases. We're going to say to every
> polluter that's sending greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, "We're
> going to charge you a dollar -- we're going to charge you money for
> every unit of greenhouse gas that you send out there." That will
> create a market. It will generate billions of dollars that we can
> invest in clean technology.
> And if nuclear energy can't meet the rigors of the marketplace --
> if it's not efficient and if we don't solve those problems -- then
> that's off the table. And I hope that we can find an energy mix
> that's going to deliver us from the kinds of problems that we have
> right now.
> RUSSERT: Senator Clinton?
> CLINTON: Well, Tim, I think it's well accepted that the 2005
> energy bill was the Dick Cheney lobbyist energy bill. It was written
> by lobbyists. It was championed by Dick Cheney. It wasn't just the
> green light that it gave to more nuclear power. It had enormous
> giveaways to the oil and gas industries.
> CLINTON: It was the wrong policy for America. It was so heavily>
> tilted toward the special interests that many of us, at the time,
> said, you know, that's not going to move us on the path we need, which
> is toward clean, renewable green energy.
> I think that we have to, you know, break the lock of the special
> interests. That's why I've proposed a strategic energy fund, $50
> billion to invest in clean, renewable energy.
> How would I do that? Take the tax subsidies that were given in
> the 2005 that Dick Cheney wrote; take them away from the gas and oil
> industry. They don't need our tax dollars to make these enormous
> Let's put to work the money that we should get from the oil and
> gas industry, in terms of windfall profits taxes, so that we can begin
> to really put big dollars behind this shift toward clean, renewable,
> green energy.
> It's not going to happen by hoping for it. And these small, you
> know, pieces of puzzle that are starting to take shape around the
> country are not sufficient for us to break our addiction to foreign
> CLINTON: So that 2005 energy bill was big step backwards on the
> path to clean, renewable energy. That's why I voted against it.
> That's why I'm standing for the proposition -- let's take away the
> giveaways that were given to gas and oil, put them to work on solar
> and wind and geothermal and biofuels and all the rest that we need for
> a new energy future.
> RUSSERT: Senator Edwards, you say you're against nuclear power.
> But a reality check: I talked to the folks at the MIT Energy
> Initiative, and they put it this way, that in 2050, the world's
> population is going to go from six billion to nine billion, that CO2
> is going to double, that you could build a nuclear power plant one per
> week and it wouldn't meet the world's needs.
> Something must be done, and it cannot be done just with wind or
> EDWARDS: Well, yes, there are a lot of things that need to be
> EDWARDS: If you were to double the number of nuclear power
> plants on the planet tomorrow -- if that were possible -- it would
> deal with about one-seventh of the greenhouse gas problem. This is
> not the answer.
> It goes beyond wind and solar. We ought to be investing in
> cellulose-based biofuels. There are a whole range of things that we
> ought to be investing in and focusing on.
> I want to come back to something Senator Clinton said a minute
> ago. I agree with her and Senator Obama that it's very important to
> break this iron grip that the gas and oil industry has on our energy
> policy in this country.
> But I believe, Senator Clinton, you've raised more money from
> those people than any candidate, Democrat or Republican. I think we
> have to be able to take those people on if we're going to actually
> change our policy.
> Now, what we need in my judgment is we need a cap on carbon
> emissions. That cap needs to come down every year. We need an 80
> percent reduction in our carbon emissions by the year 2050. Below the
> cap, we ought to make the polluters pay.
> EDWARDS: That money ought to be invested in all these clean
> renewable sources of energy: wind, solar, cellulose-based biofuels.
> As I said earlier, I'm opposed to building more nuclear power plants.
> But I'd go another step that at least I haven't heard these two
> candidates talk about. They can answer for themselves. I believe we
> need a moratorium on the building of any more coal-fired power plants
> unless and until we have the ability to capture and sequester the
> carbon in the ground.
> Because every time we build a new coal-fired power plant in
> America when we don't have that technology attached to it, what
> happens is, we're making a terrible situation worse. We're already
> the worst polluter on the planet. America needs to be leading by>
> WILLIAMS: Rebuttal time to both senators, 30 seconds, please.
> Senator Clinton.
> CLINTON: Well, I have a comprehensive energy plan that I have
> put forth. It does not rely on nuclear power for all of the reasons
> that we've discussed. I have said we should not be siting any more
> coal-powered plants unless they can have the most modern, clean
> technology. And I want big demonstration projects to figure out how
> we would capture and sequester carbon.
> But you know, this is going to take a massive effort. This
> should be our Apollo moon shot.
> CLINTON: This is where a president needs to come in and say, "We
> can do this, America. You know, we can make this change." We've got
> to do it by having a partnership with what needs to happen in
> Washington, but there's work for everybody to do -- the states,
> communities and individuals.
> That's what I want to summon the country to achieve, and I think
> we can make it.
> WILLIAMS: Senator Obama?
> OBAMA: Well, I think that one thing that we haven't talked as
> much about that we need to is reducing the consumption of energy. We
> are inefficient, and oftentimes during the presidential campaign,
> people have asked, what do we expect out of the American people in
> bringing about real change.
> This is an example of where ordinary citizens have to make a
> change. We are going to have to make our buildings more efficient.
> We're going to have to make our lighting more efficient. We're going
> to have to make our appliances more efficient. That is actually the
> low-hanging fruit if we're going to deal with climate change. That's
> the thing that we can do most rapidly.
> And there's no reason why, with the kind of presidential
> leadership that I intend to provide, that we can't make drastic cuts
> in the amount of energy that we consume without any drop in our
> standard of living.
> WILLIAMS: Senator Edwards, in touching on immigration here,
> let's go to something that a lot of people have found to be a
> disconnect between the Democratic Party and majorities of voters in a
> lot of states.
> What would be the problem with English as an official language,
> as a bedrock requirement of citizenship?
> EDWARDS: Well, at least from my perspective, what we need to be
> doing is we need comprehensive immigration reform. We need to create
> a path for citizenship for 11 million to 14 million who are here who
> are undocumented We need to give them a real chance to earn -- I'm
> not for amnesty, but I am for being able to earn American citizenship.
> WILLIAMS: But what about speaking the language?
> EDWARDS: I'm about to get to that.
> I think that a couple of the requirements, in order to be able to
> earn American citizenship, are, first, if you came here illegally, we
> can't pretend it didn't happen. We are a country of laws and we
> believe in enforcement of those laws. So we have to show recognition
> of having violated the law, and that means payment of a fine.
> EDWARDS: Second, I think if you want to become an American
> citizen and earn American citizenship, you should learn to speak
> Now, I think that we should help with that process. We should
> help make sure that those who are living here, and they're not
> English-speaking as their first language, get a chance to actually
> learn English.
> But I think that should be a requirement for becoming an American
> WILLIAMS: Tim Russert?
> RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, one of your pollsters was quoted in
> The New Yorker magazine as saying this: "The Hispanic voter has not
> shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates."
> Does that represent the view of your campaign?
> CLINTON: No, he was making a historical statement. And,>
> obviously, what we're trying to do is to bring America together so
> that everybody feels like they're involved and they have a stake in
> the future.
> This is a black/brown debate. We haven't actually talked about
> black/brown issues -- I regret that. And I think that we have a lot
> that we can do together.
> You know, Tavis Smiley's "Covenant" is a great way to start.
> CLINTON: There's a lot that we should be doing. I've worked
> with many of the Latino groups, over many years. We've got work on
> education and health care.
> The agenda for America is the agenda for African-Americans and
> for Hispanics. And we need to merge that and we need to have a
> political system where people feel like they can vote for anybody
> because we're all on the same page; we're all going to make progress
> But I wanted to follow up, quickly, on something that...
> RUSSERT: Let me ask Senator Obama. Do you believe there's a
> history of a decision, where Latino voters will not vote for a black
> OBAMA: Not in Illinois. They all voted for me. And so...
> You know, if this is being asked in the context of my candidacy,
> one of the things that I know is that, when Latino voters know of my
> commitment to them and the work that I've done for years, then they
> gravitate toward my candidacy.
> We were talking earlier about immigration reform.
> OBAMA: I think that John and myself and Hillary may agree on the
> broad outlines of where we need to go, but two years ago I stood with
> Ted Kennedy and John McCain and took on this tough issue, and have
> consistently been involved in making sure that we've got the kind of
> comprehensive plan that makes us a nation of laws and a nation of
> That's the kind of leadership that I've shown. And when Latino
> voters read or hear about that leadership, then they know that they're
> going to have an advocate even if it's politically tough.
> And I think that's, you know, that's the real test of leadership
> -- not when it's easy, not when the things poll well, but how you do
> when you've got a contentious issue like how we solve this immigration
> problem. That's an area where I've consistently stepped up.
> WILLIAMS: Time is up. E-mail question, Natalie Morales.
> MORALES: This one is to Senator Obama. This comes to us from
> one of our co-sponsors of tonight's debate, the 100 Black Men of
> MORALES: They ask, "To what do you attribute the
> disproportionately high dropout of black males at every level in our
> educational process, and what would you do to stem the tide of black
> men exiting the educational system?"
> OBAMA: Well, I think it's similar to the reason that Latinos
> have such a high dropout rate. What you see consistently are children
> at a very early age are starting school already behind.
> And that's why I've said that I'm going to put billions of
> dollars into early childhood education that makes sure that our
> African-American youth, Latino youth, poor youth of every race, are
> getting the kind of help that they need so that they know their
> numbers, their colors, their letters.
> Every dollar that we spend in early childhood education, we get
> $10 back in reduced dropout rates, improved reading scores. That's
> the kind of commitment we have to make early on.
> OBAMA: We've got to improve K through 12. And that means not
> just talking about how great teachers are but rewarding them for their
> greatness by giving them higher salaries and giving them more support
> and professional development; and making sure that No Child Left
> Behind is not a tool to punish people, and we're not just basing how
> we fund our schools on a standardized test.>
> We need after-school programs and summer-school programs because
> minority youth and poor youth are less likely to get the kind of
> environment and supplemental activities that they need.
> But let's be clear: We have good answers for how to make these
> schools work. What we don't have is a sense of urgency in the White
> And, you know, I was raised by a single mom and my grandparents.
> I did not get money and privilege when I was young. But I did get a
> good education. And we've got to have that attitude for every single
> child in America.
> And that also means -- last point I'll make, because sometimes
> this doesn't get talked enough about. We have to have our parents
> take their jobs seriously, and particularly African-American fathers
> who all too often are absent from the home, have not encouraged the
> kind of, you know, nurturing of our children that they need.
> OBAMA: And as somebody who grew up without a father, I know how
> important that is. That is something that, as president, I intend to
> talk about.
> The schools can't do it all by themselves. Parents have to
> WILLIAMS: Time up.
> Time Tim Russert?
> RUSSERT: We arrived in...
> CLINTON: Could we just follow up on this? Tim, could we just
> follow up on this?
> Because, you know, again, this is a black/brown debate, and this
> is one of the most important issues. And I really commend Barack for,
> you know, taking on the full range.
> You know, this has to start in the families. This is what I've
> done for 35 years. We've got to do more to give families the tools
> and the support that they should have so that they can be the best
> parents. You know, they are a child's first teachers.
> And I want to commend the 100 Black Men, because I worked with
> the 100 Black Men in New York to help create the Eagle Academy, a high
> school for young African-American and Latino men.
> CLINTON: And the 100 Black Men in New York said they would
> mentor these young men.
> We also need more involvement from the community. It's not only
> the family; it's not only the school system. We all have a role to
> play. And that's going to be one of our highest priorities.
> WILLIAMS: Senator Edwards, 30 seconds.
> EDWARDS: Thank you.
> We need universal pre-K. Barack spoke about early childhood
> education. We need universal pre-K for every 4-year-old in America.
> And we ought to go earlier than that with child care, nutrition needs,
> health care needs.
> We also have a huge dropout rate. We have high schools that are
> essentially dropout factories. We have to create second chance
> schools. We have to create opportunities of those young people to be
> -- even though a lot of them do, he's right, start to drop out from a
> very young age, we need to get them on the right track. But once
> they're in high school, if they drop out, these second chance schools
> have been remarkably successful in getting them back into school.
> WILLIAMS: Now, Tim Russert?
> RUSSERT: We arrived in Nevada, the headline in Nevada Appeal
> newspaper: Nevada leads in gun deaths.
> RUSSERT: The leading cause for death among young black men is
> guns -- death, homicide. Mayor Bloomberg of New York, you all know
> him, he and 250 mayors have started the campaign, Mayors Against
> Illegal Guns.
> Senator Clinton, when you ran for the Senate in 2000, you said
> that everyone who wishes to purchase a gun should have a license, and
> that every handgun sale or transfer should be registered in a national
> registry. Will you try to implement such a plan?
> CLINTON: Well, I am against illegal guns, and illegal guns are
> the cause of so much death and injury in our country. I also am a>
> political realist and I understand that the political winds are very
> powerful against doing enough to try to get guns off the street, get
> them out of the hands of young people.
> The law in New York was as you state, and the law in New York has
> worked to a great extent.
> CLINTON: I don't want the federal government preempting states
> and cities like New York that have very specific problems.
> So here's what I would do. We need to have a registry that
> really works with good information about people who are felons, people
> who have been committed to mental institutions like the man in
> Virginia Tech who caused so much death and havoc. We need to make
> sure that that information is in a timely manner, both collected and
> We do need to crack down on illegal gun dealers. This is
> something that I would like to see more of.
> And we need to enforce the laws that we have on the books. I
> would also work to reinstate the assault weapons ban. We now have,
> once again, police deaths going up around the country, and in large
> measure because bad guys now have assault weapons again. We stopped
> it for awhile. Now they're back on the streets.
> So there are steps we need to take that we should do together.
> You know, I believe in the Second Amendment. People have a right to
> bear arms. But I also believe that we can common-sensically approach
> RUSSERT: But you've backed off a national licensing registration
> CLINTON: Yes.
> RUSSERT: Senator Obama, when you were in the state senate, you
> talked about licensing and registering gun owners. Would you do that
> as president?
> OBAMA: I don't think that we can get that done. But what I do
> think we can do is to provide just some common-sense enforcement. One
> good example -- this is consistently blocked -- the efforts by law
> enforcement to obtain the information required to trace back guns that
> have been used in crimes to unscrupulous gun dealers.
> That's not something that the NRA has allowed to get through
> Congress. And, as president, I intend to make it happen.
> But here's the broader context that I think is important for us
> to remember. We essentially have two realities, when it comes to
> guns, in this country. You've got the tradition of lawful gun
> ownership, that all of us saw, as we travel around rural parts of the
> And it is very important for many Americans to be able to hunt,
> fish, take their kids out, teach them how to shoot.
> And then you've got the reality of 34 Chicago public school
> students who get shot down on the streets of Chicago.
> We can reconcile those two realities by making sure the Second
> Amendment is respected and that people are able to lawfully own guns,
> but that we also start cracking down on the kinds of abuses of
> firearms that we see on the streets.
> RUSSERT: Senator Edwards, Democrats used to be out front for
> registration and licensing of guns. It now appears that there's a
> recognition that it's hard to win a national election with that
> position. Is that fair?
> EDWARDS: I think that's fair, but I haven't changed my position
> on this. I'm against it. Having grown up where I did in the rural
> South, everyone around me had guns, everyone hunted. And I think it
> is enormously important to protect people's Second Amendment rights.
> I don't believe that means you need an AK-47 to hunt. And I
> think the assault weapons ban, which Hillary spoke about just a minute
> ago, as president of the United States I'll do everything in my power
> to reinstate it. But I do think we need a president who understands
> the sportsmen, hunters who use their guns for lawful purposes have a
> right to have their Second Amendment rights looked after.>
> WILLIAMS: Our third and final break is upon us. Our final
> segment of our live debate here in Las Vegas when we come back.
> (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
> WILLIAMS: We're back in Los Angeles for our final segment of our
> live debate coverage.
> WILLIAMS: Did I...
> RUSSERT: Las Vegas.
> WILLIAMS: All right. OK. Wow, it is a tough crowd. It is a
> tough crowd.
> And I'm up $130 from last night, which is OK. I owe the city of
> Las Vegas my thanks.
> We're back in Las Vegas tonight with our live debate coverage.
> Thanks for saving me on that, Tim.
> Question for Senator Clinton. In 2006, you railed against Karl
> Rove and the Republicans for playing what you called the fear card.
> But on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, you said this: "I
> don't think it was by accident that al Qaeda decided to test the new
> prime minister, Gordon Brown, immediately. They watch our elections
> as closely as we do, maybe more than some of our fellow citizens do.
> They play our, you know, allies. They do everything they can to
> undermine security in the world. So let's not forget you're hiring a
> president, not just to do what a candidate says he or she wants to do
> in an election. You're hiring a president to be there when the chips
> were down."
> You were suggesting, it's been suggested that you would be a
> better president to deal with a possible terrorist attack than,
> perhaps, Senator Obama.
> CLINTON: Well, what I said is what you quoted, and I'm not going
> to characterize it, but it is the fact. You know, the fact is that we
> face a very dangerous adversary, and to forget that or to brush it
> aside, I think, is a mistake.
> So I do feel that the next president has to be prepared because
> we are up against a relentless enemy. And they will take advantage of
> us. They will certainly, as they have over the last several years,
> continue their attacks against our friends and allies around the
> You know, we haven't talked as much about homeland security as I
> think is necessary in this campaign. Maybe I feel it acutely because
> I do represent New York.
> CLINTON: But the highest and greatest duty of the president of
> the United States is to protect and defend our country. And at the
> end of the day, voters have to make that decision, among all of us,
> Democrats and Republicans, who are vying for the votes.
> Because it is a critical question. It always is. There are, you
> know, reasons going back in our history why that is so.
> But in this time, in this period, where we're going to have to
> repair a lot of the frayed relationships coming out of the Bush
> administration, where we're going to have to summon the world to a
> concerted effort to quell the threat of terrorism, to root them out
> wherever they are, it's going to be one of the biggest jobs facing our
> next president.
> And I feel prepared and ready to take on what is a daunting but
> necessary responsibility.
> WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, if you look just outside where we are
> tonight, they're building 40,000 new hotel rooms in this city.
> National security is never far from their minds in Las Vegas, either.
> You are fond of saying you won't use 9/11 as a kind of hook.
> WILLIAMS: Do you think some of that goes on in both parties?
> OBAMA: Well, I think there's no doubt that we've been dominated
> by a politics of fear since 9/11. Now, some of that's understandable.
> We have real enemies out there. The tragedy in New York was a trauma
> to the country that it is going to take a long time for us to work
> And Senator Clinton did good work in terms of helping the city>
> recover. But I have to say that when Senator Clinton uses the specter
> of a terrorist attack with a new prime minister during a campaign, I
> think that is part and parcel with what we've seen the use of the fear
> of terrorism in scoring political points. And I think that's a
> mistake. Now, I don't want to perpetuate that.
> OBAMA: I think that's part of why we ended up going into Iraq
> and made a big strategic error that has made us less safe. Resources
> that could have been spent on homeland security have been spent in
> Baghdad. Resources that could have been spent hunting down bin Laden
> have been diverted to Iraq.
> And that's what happens when your judgment is clouded. And what
> I intend to do as president of the United States is to be honest and
> straightforward with the American people about how I'm going to
> implement all the 9/11 Commission report findings, make sure that we
> are hunting down bin Laden, getting out of Iraq so that we can refocus
> our attention on building the networks and alliances that are required
> to reduce terrorism around the world.
> That's going to be my priority, and that's part of the reason I'm
> running for president of the United States.
> RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I just want to make sure, you're not
> suggesting that Al Qaida would test a President Obama before they'd
> test a President Clinton?
> CLINTON: No, of course not, Tim. But it is a fact that
> immediately upon taking office the new prime minister in Great
> Britain, Gordon Brown, confronted, thankfully, two failed attacks by
> Al Qaida -- people who had gone and been trained in the training camps
> in Pakistan, who got their directions from Al Qaida operatives, who
> launched two massive bomb efforts in London and in Glasgow.
> CLINTON: They didn't know how to ignite the bombs they had set,
> but the rammer their cars into the airport in Glasgow.
> Part of the reason why it matter who's president, in terms of
> operating the government and the bureaucracy, is because we have a
> very constant need for vigilance and preparedness.
> There is no time off for the president on issues of security here
> at home, or around the world.
> And I think that there's a difference between what President Bush
> had done, which has, frankly, used fear as a political weapon and a
> recognition, in a very calm and deliberative way, that, yes, we have
> real enemies and we'd better be prepared and we'd better be ready to
> meet them on day one.
> RUSSERT: Senator Edwards, on the conduct of foreign policy,
> after Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, you made a phone call to
> General Musharraf in Pakistan. He called you back quickly.
> Close to half the people in Pakistan believe the government of
> Musharraf or allies were involved in the assassination of Miss Bhutto.
> EDWARDS: Yes.
> RUSSERT: Was it appropriate for you to talk to Musharraf at that
> time, perhaps give him cover at a time when he needed legitimacy?
> EDWARDS: It was absolutely appropriate, and I didn't actually
> speak -- place a call to President Musharraf. I placed a call to the
> Pakistani ambassador in the United States and told him that I knew
> Musharraf, we had met in Islamabad years ago and talked about some of
> the problems in Pakistan at that time and that I had some things I
> wanted to say to him.
> Now, the things I had to say to him were tough. And they were
> exactly the things that the president of the Untied States should say
> to a President Musharraf under these circumstances.
> First, I said to him, you have to continue on the march to
> democratization in South Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto, who I was with in
> Abu Dhabi in the Middle East just a few years ago, I heard her talk
> about the path to democratization being baptized in blood in Pakistan.>
> She put her life at risk for that path to democratization.
> What I said to Musharraf is: You have to stay on that path.
> Now, he said he would. That needs to be taken with great cynicism and
> a huge grain of salt, given his history.
> Second, I said you must allow international investigators in to
> determine what happened, because no one is going to trust some
> internal investigation that you conduct. Actually, they have now
> allowed Scotland Yard investigators into Pakistan to at least conduct
> some investigation.
> And then, third, I said these elections that are scheduled have
> to take place as soon as possible, but they need to be real. They
> have to be open, fair. The opposition parties need to be represented.
> They have to be secure.
> And those are the points I wanted to make to him. And those are
> exactly the points I would make to him as president of the United
> WILLIAMS: We promised this audience we would read a particularly
> thoughtful e-mail. And we're going off the air in a matter of
> minutes, so we're going to truly enforce the time limits.
> Thirty seconds from all of you to answer the following from Jim
> Milton of California: "Given the decision to run for president in the
> first place has to be and should be one of the most important and
> memorable decision-making moments any American can make, tell us when
> you made that decision." Senator Clinton?
> CLINTON: I made it over New Year's this past year. And I made
> it because I believe our country has to have a new beginning.
> Tomorrow in Reno, I'll be having an economic town hall, the first of a
> series of town halls to address, specifically, the economic anxieties,
> insecurities and problems that Americans have, to come up with
> You know, we've got to get back in the solutions business in
> America. I want to be the problem-solver who lifts our sights and
> sets our goals.
> And a year ago, I made the decision that I would get into this
> presidential race. And it's been the most amazing and extraordinary
> year of my life. And I thank everyone for making that happen.
> WILLIAMS: Senator Edwards?
> EDWARDS: It was December, a little over a year ago; made the
> decision with my family. And the discussion was, what is the cause of
> our lives -- with my wife, Elizabeth -- and what is it we want to
> spend our time doing, to serve this country we love so much?
> And the cause of my life is the middle class, low-income
> families, and having everybody in America have the kind of chances and
> opportunity that I've had.
> And that is what my campaign is about. It is central to
> everything I do. And it is personal to what I'll do as president of
> the United States.
> WILLIAMS: Senator Obama?
> OBAMA: It was December of '06 while I was on vacation with my
> wife and kids.
> And, you know, I asked myself two big questions: Number one,
> could my family survive the rigors of a presidential campaign, since
> I've got two young children?
> And because my wife is extraordinary and my children are above
> average, I figured they could manage it.
> But the most important question was not at whether I could win
> the presidency, but whether I should.
> Was there something that I could provide this country, in terms
> of leadership, that would be -- that I could do more effectively than
> any other candidate?
> And I concluded I could bring the country together, break out of
> some the old arguments, make sure that we are speaking honestly with
> the American people, bringing them in to the process of change.
> WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
> And, at this point, that concludes tonight's debate.