Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Complete transcript.Democratic presidential debate. Cleveland, Feb. 26, 2008.

| 3 Comments

CLEVELAND, OHIO--Complete transcript of the Democratic presidential debate on Feb. 26, courtesy MSNBC.


DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES PARTICIPATE IN A
DEBATE SPONSORED BY MSNBC

FEBRUARY 26, 2008

SPEAKERS: SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MODERATOR

TIM RUSSERT, MODERATOR
[*]
WILLIAMS: Thanks to our candidates for being here on a snowy
night in the great city of Cleveland, Ohio.

A lot has been said since we last gathered in this forum,
certainly in the few days since you two last debated.

Senator Clinton, in your comments especially, the difference has
been striking. And let's begin by taking a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: You know, no matter what happens in this contest -- and
I am honored, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am
absolutely honored and...

So shame on you, Barack Obama. It is time you ran a campaign
consistent with your messages in public. That's what I expect from
you. Meet me in Ohio. Let's have a debate about your tactics and
your behavior in this campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Senator Clinton, we're here in Ohio. Senator Obama is
here. This is the debate. You would agree the difference in tone
over just those 48 hours was striking.

CLINTON: Well, this is a contested campaign. And as I have said
many times, I have a great deal of respect for Senator Obama. But we
have differences.

And in the last several days, some of those differences in
tactics and the choices that Senator Obama's campaign has made
regarding flyers and mailers and other information that has been put
out about my health care plan and my position on NAFTA have been very
disturbing to me.

And, therefore, I think it's important that you stand up for
yourself and you point out these differences so that voters can have
the information they need to make a decision.

You know, for example, it's been unfortunate that Senator Obama
has consistently said that I would force people to have health care
whether they could afford it or not.

You know, health care reform and achieving universal health care
is a passion of mine. It is something I believe in with all my heart.


CLINTON: And every day that I'm campaigning -- and certainly
here throughout Ohio, I've met so many families, happened again this
morning in Lorain, who are just devastated because they don't get the
health care they deserve to have.

And, unfortunately, it's a debate we should have that is accurate
and is based in facts about my plan and Senator Obama's plan, because
my plan will cover everyone and it will be affordable. And on many
occasions, independent experts have concluded exactly that.

And Senator Obama's plan does not cover everyone. It would
leave, give or take, 15 million people out.

So we should have a good debate that uses accurate information,
not false, misleading and discredited information, especially on
something as important as whether or not we will achieve quality,
affordable health care for everyone.

That's my goal. That's what I'm fighting for and I'm going to
stand up for that.

WILLIAMS: On the topic of accurate information and to that end,
one of the things that has happened over the past 36 hours, a photo
went out on the Website, the "Drudge Report," showing Senator Obama in
the native garb of a nation he was visiting, as you have done in a
host country on a trip overseas.

Matt Drudge, on his Website, said it came from a source inside
the Clinton campaign.

Can you say unequivocally here tonight it did not?

CLINTON: Well, so far as I know, it did not and I certainly know
nothing about it and have made clear that that's not the kind of
behavior that I condone or expect from the people working in my
campaign.

But we have no evidence where it came from. So I think that it's
clear what I would do if it were someone in my campaign, as I have in
the past, asking people to leave my campaign if they do things that I
disagree with.

WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, your response.

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I take Senator Clinton at her word
that she knew nothing about the photo. So I think that's something
that we can set aside.

I do want to focus on the issue of health care, because Senator
Clinton has suggested that the flyer that we put out, the mailing that
we put out was inaccurate.

Now, keep in mind that I have consistently said that Senator
Clinton's got a good health care plan. I think I have a good health
care plan. I think mine is better.

But I have said that 95 percent of our health care plan is
similar. I have endured, over the course of this campaign, repeated
negative mail from Senator Clinton in Iowa, in Nevada, and other
places, suggesting that I want to leave 15 million people out.

According to Senator Clinton, that is accurate. I dispute it and
I think it is inaccurate. On the other hand, I don't fault Senator
Clinton for wanting to point out what she thinks is an advantage to
her plan.

The reason she thinks that there are more people covered under
her plan than mine is because of a mandate. That is not a mandate for
the government to provide coverage to everybody. It is a mandate that
every individual purchase health care.

And the mailing that we put out accurately indicates that the
main difference between Senator Clinton's plan and mine is the fact
that she would force, in some fashion, individuals to purchase health
care.

If it was not affordable, she would still presumably force them
to have it, unless there is a hardship exemption, as they've done in
Massachusetts, which leaves 20 percent of the uninsured out. And if
that's the case, then, in fact, her claim that she covers everybody is
not accurate.

Now, Senator Clinton has not indicated how she would enforce this
mandate. She hasn't indicated what level of subsidy she would provide
to assure that it was, in fact, affordable. And so it is entirely
legitimate for us to point out these differences.

But I think it's very important to understand the context of
this, and that is that Senator Clinton has, in her campaign at least,
has constantly sent out negative attacks on us, e-mail, robo-calls,
flyers, television ads, radio calls, and we haven't whined about it
because I understand that's the nature of this campaigns.

But to suggest somehow that our mailing is somehow different from
the kinds of approaches that Senator Clinton has taken throughout this
campaign I think is simply not accurate.

CLINTON: I have to...

WILLIAMS: And, Senator Clinton, on this subject...

CLINTON: I have to respond to that, because this is not just any
issue and certainly we've had a vigorous back-and-forth on both sides
of our campaign.

But this is an issue that goes to the heart of whether or not
this country will finally do what is right, and that is to provide
quality, affordable health care to every single person.

Senator Obama has a mandate in his plan. It's a mandate on
parents to provide health insurance for their children. That's about
150 million people who would be required to do that.


CLINTON: The difference between Senator Obama and myself is that
I know from the work I've done on health care for many years that if
everyone's not in the system, we will continue to let the insurance
companies do what's called cherry picking, pick those who get
insurance and leave others out. We will continue to have a hidden tax
so that when someone goes to the emergency room without insurance, 15
million or however many, that amount of money that will be used to
take care of that person will be then spread among all the rest of us.

And most importantly, you know, the kind of attack on my health
care plan which the University of Pennsylvania and others have said is
misleading, that attack goes right to the heart of whether or not we
will be able to achieve universal health care. That's a core
Democratic Party value. It's something that ever since Harry Truman
we have stood for.

And what I find regrettable is that in Senator Obama's mailing
that he has sent out across Ohio, it is almost as though the health
insurance companies and the Republicans wrote it, because in my plan
there is enough money, according to the independent experts who have
evaluated it, to provide the kind of subsidies so that everyone would
be able to afford it. It is not the same as a single state trying to
do this, because the federal government has many more resources at its
disposal.

So I think it's imperative that we stand as Democrats for
universal health care. I've staked out a claim for that. Senator
Edwards did. Others have. But Senator Obama has not.

WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, a quick response.

OBAMA: Well, look, I believe in universal health care, as does
Senator Clinton. And this is -- this is, I think, the point of the
debate, is that Senator Clinton repeatedly claims that I don't stand
for universal health care. And, you know, for Senator Clinton to say
that I think is simply not accurate.

Every expert has said that anybody who wants health care under my
plan will be able to obtain it. President Clinton's own secretary of
labor has said that my plan does more to reduce costs and, as a
consequence, makes sure that the people who need health care right now
all across Ohio, all across Texas, Rhode Island, Vermont, all across
America, will be able to obtain it. And we do more to reduce costs
than any other plan that's been out there.

Now, I have no objection to Senator Clinton thinking that her
approach is superior. But the fact of the matter is, is that if, as
we've heard tonight, we still don't know how Senator Clinton intends
to enforce a mandate, and if we don't know the level of subsidies that
she's going to provide, then you can have a situation which we're
seeing right now in the state of Massachusetts, where people are being
fined for not having purchased health care but choose to accept the
fine because they still can't afford it even with the subsidies.

And they are then worse off. They then have no health care and
are paying a fine above and beyond that.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

OBAMA: That is a genuine difference between myself and Senator
Clinton.

And the last point I would make is, the insurance companies
actually are happy to have a mandate. The insurance companies don't
mind making sure that everybody has to purchase their product. That's
not something they're objecting to.

The question is, are we going to make sure that it is affordable
for everybody? And that's my goal when I'm president of the United
States.

CLINTON: You know, Brian...

WILLIAMS: Senator, as...

CLINTON: Brian, wait a minute. I've got -- this is too
important.

You know, Senator Obama has a mandate. He would enforce the
mandate by requiring parents to buy insurance for their children.

OBAMA: Yes. This is true.

CLINTON: That is the case. If you have a mandate, it has to be
enforceable. So there's no difference here. It's just that I know...

OBAMA: No, there is a difference.

CLINTON: ... that parents who get sick have terrible
consequences for their children. So you can insure the children, and
then you've got the breadwinner who can't afford health insurance or
doesn't have it for him or herself.

And, in fact, it would be as though Franklin Roosevelt said,
let's make Social Security voluntary. That's, you know -- that's --
let's let everybody get in it if they can afford it. Or if President
Johnson said, let's make Medicare voluntary.

OBAMA: Well, let me...

CLINTON: What we have said is at the point of employment, at the
point of contact with various government agencies, we would have
people signed up. It's like when you get a 401(k) at your employer,
the employer automatically enrolls you.

You would be enrolled. And under my plan, it is affordable
because, number one, we have enough money in our plan.

A comparison of the plans like the ones we're proposing found
that actually I would cover nearly everybody at a much lower cost than
Senator Obama's plan because we would not only provide these health
care tax credits, but I would limit the amount of money that anyone
ever has to pay for a premium to a low percentage of your income. So
it will be affordable.

Now, if you want to say that we shouldn't try to get everyone
into health insurance, that's a big difference, because I believe if
we don't have universal health care, we will never provide prevention.


CLINTON: I have the most aggressive measures to reduce cost and
improve quality. And, time and time again, people who have compared
our two approaches have concluded that. So let's have a debate about
the facts.

OBAMA: Brian, I'm sorry, I'm getting -- I'm a little
filibustered a little bit here.

WILLIAMS: The last answer on this topic.

OBAMA: It is just not accurate to say that Senator Clinton does
more to control costs than mine. That is not the case. There are
many experts who've concluded that she does not.

I do provide a mandate for children because, number one, we have
created a number of programs in which we can have greater assurance
that those children will be covered at an affordable price.

On the point of many adults, we don't want to put in a situation
in which on the front end we are mandating them, we are forcing them
to purchase insurance, and if the subsidies are inadequate the burden
is on them and they will be penalized. And that is what Senator
Clinton's plan does.

Now, I am happy to have a discussion with Senator Clinton about
how we can both achieve the goal of universal health care. What I do
not accept, and which is what Senator Clinton has consistently done --
and, in fact, the same experts she cites basically say there's no real
difference between our plans, that they are not substantial -- but it
has to do with how we're going to achieve universal health care.

That is an area where I believe that, if we make it affordable,
people will purchase it. In fact, Medicare Part B is not mandated.
It is voluntary, and yet people over 65 choose to purchase it,
Hillary. And the reason they choose to purchase it is because it's a
good deal.

And if people in Cleveland or anywhere in Ohio end up seeing a
plan that is affordable for them, I promise you they are snatching it
up because they are desperate to get health care. And that's what I
intend to provide as president of the United States.

WILLIAMS: Senators, I'm going to change the subject.

CLINTON: About 20 percent of the people who are uninsured have
the means to buy insurance. They're often young people who think
they're immortal...

OBAMA: Which is why I cover them.

CLINTON: ... except when the illness or the accident strikes.
And what Senator Obama has said, that then, once you get to the
hospital, you'll be forced to buy insurance, I don't think that's a
good idea. We ought to plan for it, and we ought to make sure we
cover everyone. That is the only way to get to universal health care
coverage.

OBAMA: With respect...

CLINTON: That is what I've worked for, for 15 years...

OBAMA: With respect...

CLINTON: ... and I believe that we can achieve it. But if we
don't even have a plan to get there and we start out by leaving
people, you'll never, ever control costs, improve quality, and cover
everyone.

OBAMA: With respect to the young people, my plan specifically
says that, up until the age of 25, you will be able to be covered
under your parents' insurance plan. So that cohort that Senator
Clinton is talking about will, in fact, have coverage.

WILLIAMS: Well, a 16-minute discussion on health care is
certainly a start.

(LAUGHTER)

I'd like to change up...

CLINTON: Well, there's hardly anything more important. I think
it would be good to talk about health care...

WILLIAMS: Well, here's another important topic, and that's
NAFTA, especially where we're sitting here tonight. And this is a
tough one, depending on who you ask.

The Houston Chronicle has called it a "big win" for Texas, but
Ohio Democratic Senator Brown, your colleagues in the Senate, has
called it a "job-killing" trade agreement.

Senator Clinton, you've campaigned in south Texas. You've
campaigned here in Ohio. Who's right?

CLINTON: Well, could I just point out that, in the last several
debates, I seem to get the first question all the time? And I don't
mind. You know, I'll be happy to field them, but I do find it
curious. And if anybody saw "Saturday Night Live," you know, maybe we
should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow.

I just find it kind of curious that I keep getting the first
question on all of these issues, but I'm happy to answer it.
You know, I have been a critic of NAFTA from the very beginning.
I didn't have a public position on it because I was part of the
administration. But when I started running for the Senate, I have
been a critic.

I've said it was flawed. I said that it worked in some parts of
our country, and I've seen the results in Texas. I was in Laredo in
the last couple of days. It's the largest inland port in America now.
So, clearly, some parts of our country have been benefited.

But what I have seen, where I represent upstate New York, I've
seen the factories close and move. I've talked to so many people
whose children have left because they don't have a good shot.

I've had to negotiate to try to keep factories open -- sometimes
successfully, sometimes not -- because the companies got tax benefits
to actually move to another country.

So what I have said is that we need to have a plan to fix NAFTA.
I would immediately have a trade time-out. And I would take that time
to try to fix NAFTA by making it clear that we'll have core labor and
environmental standards in the agreement.

We will do everything we can to make it enforceable, which it is
not now.


CLINTON: We will stop the kind of constant sniping at our
protections for our workers that can come from foreign companies
because they have the authority to try to sue to overturn what we do
to keep our workers safe.

This is a big issue in Ohio, and I have laid out my criticism;
but, in addition, my plan for actually fixing NAFTA.

Again, I have received a lot of incoming criticism from Senator
Obama. And the Cleveland Plain Dealer examined Senator Obama's
attacks on me regarding NAFTA and said they were erroneous.

So I would hope that, again, we could get to a debate about what
the real issues are and where we stand, because we do need to fix
NAFTA. It is not working. It was, unfortunately, heavily
disadvantaging many of our industries, particularly manufacturing. I
have a record of standing up for that, of chairing the Manufacturing
Caucus in the Senate, and I will take a tough position on these trade
agreements.

WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.

Before we turn the questioning over to Tim Russert, Senator
Obama.

OBAMA: Well, I think that it is inaccurate for Senator Clinton
to say that she's always opposed NAFTA. In her campaign for Senate,
she said that NAFTA, on balance, had been good for New York and good
for America.

I disagree with that. I think that it did not have the labor
standards and environmental standards that were required in order to
not just be good for Wall Street, but also be good for Main Street.

And if you travel through Youngstown and you travel through
communities in my home state of Illinois, you will see entire cities
that have been devastated as a consequence of trade agreements that
were not adequately structured to make sure that U.S. workers had a
fair deal.

Now, I think that Senator Clinton has shifted positions on this
and believes that we should have strong environmental standards and
labor standards. And I think that's a good thing.

But when I first moved to Chicago in the early '80s and I saw
steel workers who had been laid off at their plants, black, white and
Hispanic, and I worked on the streets of Chicago to try to help them
find jobs, I saw then that the net costs of many of these trade
agreements, if they're not properly structured, can be devastating.

And as president of the United States, I intend to make certain
that every agreement that we sign has the labor standards, the
environmental standards and the safety standards that are going to
protect not just workers, but also consumers.

We can't have toys with lead paint in them that our children are
playing with. We can't have medicines that are actually making people
more sick instead of better because they're produced overseas. We
have to stop providing tax breaks for companies that are shipping jobs
overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that are investing
here in the United States of America.

And if we do those things, then I believe that we can actually
get Ohio back on the path of growth and jobs and prosperity. If we
don't, then we're going to continue to see the kind of deterioration
that we've seen economically here in this state.

RUSSERT: I want to ask you both about NAFTA, because the record
I think is clear, and I want -- Senator Clinton, Senator Obama said
that you did say in 2004, that on balance, NAFTA has been good for New
York and America. You did say that.

When President Clinton signed this bill -- and this was after he
negotiated two new side agreements for labor and environment --
President Clinton said it would be a force for economic growth and
social progress. You said in '96 it was proving its worth as free and
fair trade. You said that in 2000, it was a good idea that took
political courage.

So your record is pretty clear. Based on that -- and what you're
now expressing your discomfort with it -- in the debate that Al Gore
had with Ross Perot, Al Gore said the following: "If you don't like
NAFTA and what it's done, we can get out of it in six months. The
president can say to Canada and Mexico, we are out. This has not been
a good agreement."


RUSSERT: Will you as president say, we are out of NAFTA in six
months?

CLINTON: I have said that I will renegotiate NAFTA, so obviously
you'd have to say to Canada and Mexico that that's exactly what we're
going to do. But you know, in fairness...

RUSSERT: So let me be clear...

CLINTON: Yes, I am saying...

RUSSERT: You will get out, you will notify Mexico and Canada,
NAFTA is gone in six months?

CLINTON: No. I will say, we will opt out of NAFTA unless we
renegotiate it. And we renegotiate it on terms that are favorable to
all of America.

But let's be fair here, Tim. There are lots of parts of New York
that have benefited, just like there are lots of parts of Texas that
have benefited. The problem is in places like upstate New York,
places like Youngstown, Toledo and others throughout Ohio that have
not benefited. And if you look at what I've been saying, it has been
consistent.

You know, Senator Obama told the farmers of Illinois a couple of
years ago that he wanted more trade agreements...

RUSSERT: We're going to get -- we're going to get to Senator
Obama.

CLINTON: ... like NAFTA.

RUSSERT: But I want to stay on your comments...

CLINTON: Well, but that -- but that is important.

RUSSERT: ... because this was something that you wrote about as
a real success for your husband. You said it was good on balance for
New York and America in 2004. And now you're in Ohio, and you're
words are much different, Senator. The record is very clear.

CLINTON: Well, you don't have all the record, because you can go
back and look at what I've said consistently. And I haven't just said
things, I have actually voted to toughen trade agreements, to try to
put more teeth into our enforcement mechanisms. And I will continue
to do so.

But, you know, Tim, when you look at what the Cleveland "Plain
Dealer" said when they examined the kind of criticism that Senator
Obama was making of me, it's not me saying it. They said it was
erroneous. And it was erroneous because it didn't look at the entire
picture, both of what I said and what I've done. But let's talk about
what we're going to do.

It is not enough just to criticize NAFTA, which I have, and for
some years now. I have put forth a very specific plan about what I
would do. And it does include telling Canada and Mexico that we will
opt out unless we renegotiate the core labor and environmental
standards.

Not side agreements, but core agreements. That we will enhance
the enforcement mechanism, and that we will have a very clear view of
how we're going to review NAFTA going forward to make sure it works.
And we're going to take out the ability of foreign companies to sue us
because of what we do to protect our workers.

I would also say that you can go back and look at from the very
beginning. I think David Gergen was on TV today remembering that I
was very skeptical about it.

It has worked in some parts of America. It has not worked in
Ohio. It has not worked in upstate New York. And since I've been in
the Senate, neither of us voted on this. That wasn't something either
of us got to cast an independent vote on.

Since I have been in the Senate, I have worked to try to
ameliorate the impact of these trade agreements.

RUSSERT: But let me button this up. Absent the change you're
suggesting, you are willing to opt out of NAFTA in six months?

CLINTON: I'm confident that as president, when I say we will opt
out, unless we renegotiate, we will be able to renegotiate.

RUSSERT: Senator Obama, you did, in 2004, talk to farmers and
suggest that NAFTA had been helpful. The Associated Press today ran a
story about NAFTA saying that you have been consistently ambivalent
towards the issue.

A simple question. Will you as president say to Canada and
Mexico, this has not worked for us, we are out?

OBAMA: I will make sure that we renegotiate in the same way that
Senator Clinton talked about, and I think actually Senator Clinton's
answer on this one is right. I think we should use the hammer of a
potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labor and
environmental standards that are enforced.

And that is not what has been happening so far. That is
something that I have been consistent about.

I have to say, Tim, with respect to my position on this, you
know, when I ran for the United States Senate, the "Chicago Tribune,"
which was adamantly pro-NAFTA noted that in their endorsement of me,
they were endorsing me despite my strong opposition to NAFTA. And
that conversation that I had with the Farm Bureau, I was not
ambivalent at all.

What I said was that NAFTA and other trade deals can be
beneficial to the United States, because I believe every U.S. worker
is as productive as any worker around the world. And we can compete
with anybody.

And we can't shy away from globalization. We can't draw a moat
around us. But what I did say in that same quote, if you look at it,
was that the problem is we've been negotiating just looking at
corporate profits and what's good for multinationals, and we haven't
been looking at what's good for communities here in Ohio, in my home
state of Illinois, and across the country. And as president, what I
want to be is an advocate on behalf of workers.

Look, you know, when I go to these plants, I meet people who are
proud of their jobs. They are proud of the products that they have
created. They have built brands and profits for their companies. And
when they see jobs shipped overseas and suddenly they're left not just
without a job, but without health care, without a pension, and are
having to look for seven-buck-an-hour jobs at the local fast-food
joint, that is devastating on them, but it's also devastating on the
community.

That's not the way that we're going to prosper as we move
forward.

RUSSERT: Senator, two journalists here in Ohio wrote a piece
called, "Business as Usual," which is very well known, suggesting it
wasn't trade or manufacturing jobs that were being lost because of it,
but rather business as usual, lack of patents, lack of innovation,
lack of investment. Seventy percent of the Ph.D.s in biology,
chemist, engineering, leaving the state.

The fact is, exports now have the highest share of our national
income ever. Ohio ranks fourth in terms of exports to Canada and
Mexico.

Are you sure this has not been better for Ohio than you're
suggesting?

OBAMA: I'm positive that it hasn't been better for Ohio. But
you are making a very legitimate point, which is, is that this --
trade can't be the only part of our economic agenda.


OBAMA: Look, we've seen seven years in which we have a president
who has been looking out for the well-heeled and people who are doing
very well in the global economy in the financial industries, in the
telecommunications industries, and has not been looking out for
ordinary workers.

What do we have to do? We're going to have to invest in an
infrastructure to make sure that we're competitive, and I've got a
plan to do that.

We're going to have to invest in science and technology. We've
got to vastly improve our education system. We have to look at energy
and the potential for creating green jobs that can not just save on
our energy costs, but more importantly, can create jobs in building
windmills that will produce manufacturing jobs here in Ohio, can put
rural communities back on their feet by working on alternative fuels,
making buildings more energy efficient.

We can hire young people who are out of work and put them to work
at a trade. So there are all sorts of things that we're going to have
to do to make the United States economy much more competitive and
those are plans that I have put forward in this campaign and I expect
to pursue as president of the United States.

RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, on the issue of jobs, I watched you
the other day with your economic blueprint in Wisconsin, saying, "This
is my plan, hold me accountable." And I've had a chance to read it
very carefully.

It does say that you pledge to create five million new jobs over
10 years, and I was reminded of your campaign in 2000 in Buffalo, my
hometown, just three hours down Route 90, where you pledged 200,000
new jobs for upstate New York.

There's been a net loss of 30,000 jobs. And when you were asked
about your pledge, your commitment, you told the "Buffalo News," "I
might have been a little exuberant."

CLINTON: Well...

RUSSERT: Tonight, will you say that the pledge of five million
jobs might be a little exuberant?

CLINTON: No, Tim, because what happened in 2000 is that I
thought Al Gore was going to be president and when I made the pledge,
I was counting on having a Democratic White House, a Democratic
president, who shared my values about what we needed to do to make the
economy work for everyone and to create shared prosperity.

And as you know, despite the difficulties of a Bush
administration and a Republican Congress for six years of my first
term, I have worked very hard to create jobs. But, obviously, as
president, I will have a lot more tools at my disposal.

And the reason why we can create at least five million new jobs
-- I mean, this is not a big leap -- 22.7 million new jobs were
created during the eight years of the Clinton administration under my
husband.

We can create at least five million new jobs. I'm not just
talking about it. I helped to pass legislation to begin a training
program for green collar jobs. I want to see people throughout Ohio
being trained to do the work that will put solar panels on roofs,
install wind turbines, do geothermal, take advantage of biofuels.

And I know that if we had put $5 billion into the stimulus
package to really invest in the training and the tax incentives that
would have created these jobs, as the Democrats wanted, as I
originally proposed, we would be on the way to creating those.

You know, take a country like Germany. They made a big bet on
solar power. They have a smaller economy and population than ours.
They've created several hundred thousand new jobs, and these are jobs
that can't be outsourced.

These are jobs that have to be done in Youngstown, in Dayton, in
Cincinnati. These are jobs that we can create here with the right
combination of tax incentives, training and a commitment to following
through.

So I do think that at least five million jobs are fully capable
of being produced within the next 10 years.

RUSSERT: Brian?

WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, yesterday, Senator Clinton gave a
speech on foreign policy, and I'm going to read you a quote from it.

Quote, "We've seen the tragic result of having a president who
had neither the experience nor the wisdom to manage our foreign policy
and safeguard our national security. We cannot let that happen again.
America has already taken that chance one time too many."

Some of the comments in the speech were more pointed. The
Senator has compared your foreign policy expertise to that of George
W. Bush at the same period.

Provided you could be going into a general election against a
Republican with vast foreign policy expertise and credibility on
national security, how were her comments about you unfair?

OBAMA: Well, Senator Clinton, I think, equates experience with
longevity in Washington. I don't think the American people do and I
don't think that if you look at the judgments that we've made over the
last several years, that that's the accurate measure.

On the most important foreign policy decision that we face in a
generation, whether or not to go into Iraq, I was very clear as to why
we should not, that it would fan the flames of anti-American
sentiment, that it would distract us from Afghanistan, that it would
cost us billions of dollars, thousands of lives, and would not make us
more safe, and I do not believe it has made us more safe.


OBAMA: Al Qaida is stronger than any time since 2001, according
to our own intelligence estimates.

And we are bogged down in a war that John McCain now suggests
might go on for another 100 years, spending $12 billion a month that
could be invested in the kinds of programs that both Senator Clinton
and I are talking about.

So on Pakistan, during the summer, I suggested that not only do
we have to take a new approach towards Musharraf, but we have to get
much more serious about hunting down terrorists that are currently in
northwestern Pakistan.

And many people said at the time, "Well, you can't target those
terrorists because Musharraf is our ally and we don't want to offend
him." In fact, what we had was neither stability in Pakistan nor
democracy in Pakistan.

And had we pursued a policy that was looking at democratic
reforms in Pakistan, we would be much further along now than we are.

So on the critical issues that actually matter, I believe that my
judgment has been sound and it has been judgment that I think has been
superior to Senator Clinton's, as well as Senator McCain's.

WILLIAMS: Well, Senator Clinton, in the last debate you seemed
to take a pass on the question of whether or not Senator Obama was
qualified to be commander-in-chief. Is your contention in this latest
speech that America would somehow be taking a chance on Senator Obama
as commander-in-chief?

CLINTON: Well, I have put forth my extensive experience in
foreign policy, you know, helping to support the peace process in
Northern Ireland, negotiating to open borders so that refugees fleeing
ethnic cleansing would be safe, going to Beijing and standing up for
women's rights as human rights, and so much else.

And every time the question about qualifications and credentials
for commander-in-chief are raised, Senator Obama rightly points to the
speech he gave in 2002. He's to be commended for having given the
speech. Many people gave speeches against the war then.

And the fair comparison is he didn't have responsibility; he
didn't have to vote. By 2004, he was saying that he basically agreed
with the way George Bush was conducting the war. And when he came to
the Senate, he and I have voted exactly the same. We have voted for
the money to fund the war, until relatively recently.

So the fair comparison is when we both had responsibility. When
it wasn't just a speech, but it was actually action, where is the
difference? Where is the comparison that would in some way give a
real credibility to the speech that he gave against the war?

And on a number of other issues, I just believe that, you know,
as Senator Obama said, yes, last summer, he basically threatened to
bomb Pakistan, which I don't think was a particularly wise position to
take.

I have long advocated a much tougher approach to Musharraf and to
Pakistan and have pushed the White House to do that. And I disagree
with his continuing to say that he would meet with some of the worst
dictators in the world without preconditions and without the real, you
know, understanding of what we would get from it.

So I think you've got to look at, you know, what I have done over
a number of years, traveling on behalf of our country to more than 80
countries, meeting and working out a lot of different issues that are
important to our national security and our foreign policy and our
values, serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee for now five
years.

And I think that, you know, standing on that stage with Senator
McCain -- if he is, as appears to be, the nominee -- I will have a
much better case to make on a range of the issues that really America
must confront going forward and will be able to hold my own and make
the case for a change in policy that will be better for our country.

WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, quick response?

OBAMA: Let me just follow up.

My objections to the war in Iraq were not simply a speech. I was
in the midst of a U.S. Senate campaign. It was a high-stakes
campaign. I was one of the most vocal opponents of the war, and I was
very specific as to why.

And so when I bring this up, it is not simply to say, "I told you
so," but to give you an insight in terms of how I would make
decisions.

And the fact was this was a big strategic blunder. It was not a
matter of, "Well, here is the initial decision, but since then we've
voted the same way."

Once we had driven the bus into the ditch, there were only so
many ways we could get out. The question is: Who's making the
decision initially to drive the bus into the ditch?

And the fact is that Senator Clinton often says that she is ready
on day one, but, in fact, she was ready to give in to George Bush on
day one on this critical issue. So the same person that she
criticizes for having terrible judgment and we can't afford to have
another one of those -- in fact, she facilitated and enabled this
individual to make a decision that has been strategically damaging to
the United States of America.

With respect to Pakistan, I never said I would bomb Pakistan.
What I said was that if we have actionable intelligence against bin
Laden or other key Al Qaida officials and we -- and Pakistan is
unwilling or unable to strike against them, we should.

And just several days ago, in fact, this administration did
exactly that and took out the third-ranking Al Qaida official. That
is the position we should have taken in the first place. And
President Musharraf is now indicating that he would generally be more
cooperative in some of these efforts. We don't know how the new
legislature in Pakistan will respond. But the fact is, it was the
right strategy.

And so, my claim is not simply based on a speech. It is based on
the judgments that I've displayed during the course of my service on
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while I've been in the United
States Senate, and as somebody who during the course of this campaign
I think has put forward a plan that will provide a clean break against
Bush and Cheney, and that is how we're going to be able to debate John
McCain.

Having a debate with John McCain where your positions were
essentially similar until you started running for president I think
does not put you in a strong position.

WILLIAMS: Tim Russert?

RUSSERT: Let me talk about the future -- let me talk about the
future about Iraq, because this is important I think to Democratic
voters particularly.

You both have pledged a withdrawal of troops from Iraq. You both
have said you'd keep a residual force there to protect our embassy, to
seek out Al Qaida, to neutralize Iran. If the Iraqi government said,
President Clinton or President Obama, you're pulling out your troops
this quickly? You're going to be gone in a year? But you're going
to leave a residual force behind? No. Get out! Get out now! If you
don't want to stay and protect us, we're a sovereign nation, go home
now. Will you leave?

OBAMA: Well, if the Iraqi government says that we should not be
there, then we cannot be there. This is a sovereign government, as
George Bush continually reminds us.

Now, I think we can be in a partnership with Iraq to ensure the
stability and the safety of the region, to ensure the safety of Iraqis
and to meet our national security interests. But in order to do that,
we have to send a clear signal to the Iraqi government that we are not
going to be there permanently, which is why I have said that as soon
as I take office, I will call in the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We will
initiate a phased withdrawal. We will be as careful getting out as we
were careless getting in. We will give ample time for them to stand
up to negotiate the kinds of agreements that will arrive at the
political accommodations that are needed. We will provide them
continued support.
But it is important for us not to be held hostage by the Iraqi
government in a policy that has not made us more safe, is distracting
us from Afghanistan, and is costing us dearly not only and most
importantly in the lost lives of our troops, but also the amount of
money that we are spending that is unsustainable and will prevent us
from engaging in the kinds of investments in America that will make us
more competitive and more safe.

RUSSERT: So, Senator Clinton, if the Iraqis said, I'm sorry,
we're not happy with this arrangement, if you're not going to stay in
total and defend us, get out completely. They're a sovereign nation.
You would listen?

CLINTON: Absolutely. And I believe there is no military
solution that the Americans, who had been valiant in doing everything
that they were asked to do, can really achieve in the absence of full
cooperation from the Iraqi government and...

RUSSERT: Let me ask you this, Senator, I want to ask you...

CLINTON: And they need to take responsibility for themselves.

RUSSERT: I want to ask both of you this question, then. If this
scenario plays out and the Americans get out in totality, and Al Qaida
resurges and Iraq goes to hell, do you hold the right in your mind as
American president to reinvade, to go back into Iraq to stabilize it?

CLINTON: You know, Tim, you ask a lot of hypotheticals. And I
believe that...

RUSSERT: But this is reality.

CLINTON: No, well, it isn't reality. You're making lots of
different hypothetical assessments.

I believe that it is in America's interest and in the interest of
the Iraqis for us to have an orderly withdrawal.

I've been saying for many months that the administration has to
do more to plan. And I've been pushing them to actually do it. I've
also said that I would begin to withdraw within 60 days based on a
plan that I ask begun to be put together as soon as I became
president. And I think we can take out one to two brigades a month.

I've also been a leader in trying to prevent President Bush from
getting us committed to staying in Iraq regardless, for as long as
Senator McCain and others have said it might be -- 50 to 100 years.

So when you talk about what we need to do in Iraq, we have to
make judgments about what is in the best interest of America.


CLINTON: And I believe this is in the best interest. But I also
have heard Senator Obama refer continually to Afghanistan, and he
references being on the Foreign Relations Committee.

He chairs the subcommittee on Europe. It has jurisdiction over
NATO. NATO is critical to our mission in Afghanistan. He's held not
one substantive hearing to do oversight, to figure out what we can do
to actually have a stronger presence with NATO in Afghanistan.

You have to look at the entire situation to try to figure out how
we can stabilize Afghanistan and begin to put more in there to try to
get some kind of success out of it. And you have to...

RUSSERT: All right. Let me...

CLINTON: ... work with the Iraqi government so that they take
responsibility for their own future.

RUSSERT: Senator Obama, I want you to respond to not holding
oversight for your subcommittee. But also, do you reserve a right as
American president to go back into Iraq once you have withdrawn with
sizable troops in order to quell any kind of insurrection or civil
war?


OBAMA: Well, first of all, I became chairman of this committee
at the beginning of this campaign, at the beginning of 2007. So, it
is true that we haven't had oversight hearings on Afghanistan.

I have been very clear in talking to the American people about
what I would do with respect to Afghanistan. I think we have to have
more troops there to bolster the NATO effort. I think we have to show
that we are not maintaining permanent bases in Iraq because Secretary
Gates, our current defense secretary, indicated that we are getting
resistance from our allies to put more troops into Afghanistan because
they continue to believe that we made a blunder in Iraq. And I think
even this administration acknowledges now that they are hampered now
in doing what we need to do in Afghanistan in part because of what's
happened in Iraq.

Now, I always reserve the right for the president -- as commander
in chief, I will always reserve the right to make sure that we are
looking out for American interests. And if al Qaeda is forming a base
in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American
homeland and our interests abroad. So that is true, I think, not just
in Iraq, but that's true in other places. That's part of my argument
with respect to Pakistan.

I think we should always cooperate with our allies and sovereign
nations in making sure that we are rooting out terrorist
organizations. But if they are planning attacks on Americans like
what happened on 9/11, it is my job, it will be my job as president to
make sure that we are hunting them down.

WILLIAMS: And Senator, I need to reserve...

CLINTON: No, but I have -- I just have...

WILLIAMS: I'm sorry, Senator.

CLINTON: No, wait a minute. I have to...

WILLIAMS: I've get to get us to a break.

CLINTON: The question was about invading.

WILLIAMS: Television doesn't stop.

CLINTON: Invading Iraq.

WILLIAMS: Can you hold that thought until we come back from a
break? We have limited commercial interruptions tonight, and we have
to get to one of them now. Despite the snowstorm swirling outside
here in Cleveland, we're having a warm night in the arena.

We'll return to it right after this.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: And because our first segment went long and we are in
a large arena...

(APPLAUSE)

... we are just now welcoming back both of our candidates to the
stage and asking our cooperation of the audience. We're back live
tonight in Cleveland, Ohio.

Senator Obama, we started tonight talking about what could be
construed as a little hyperbole. It happens from time to time on the
campaign trail.

You have recently been called out on some yourself. I urge you
to look at your monitor. We'll take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Now, I could stand up here and say let's just get
everybody together. Let's get unified. The sky will open. The light
will come down. Celestial choirs will be singing and everyone will
know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Sounds good.

WILLIAMS: Of all the charges...

(LAUGHTER)

... of all the charges and counter-charges made tonight, we can
confirm that is not you, Senator Obama. That was Senator Clinton.

But since we played that tape, albeit in error for this segment,
how did you take that? How did you take those remarks when you heard
them?

OBAMA: Well, I thought Senator Clinton showed some good humor
there. I would give her points for delivery.

(LAUGHTER)

And, look, I understand the broader point that Senator Clinton's
been trying to make over the last several weeks. She characterizes it
typically as speeches, not solutions, or talk versus action.

And as I said in the last debate, I've spent 20 years devoted to
working on behalf of families who are having a tough time and are
seeking out the American dream.

That's how I started my career in public service. That's how I
brought Democrats and Republicans together to provide health care to
people who needed it. That's how I helped to reform a welfare system
that wasn't working in Illinois.

That's how I've provided tax breaks to people who really needed
them as opposed to just the wealthy. And so I'm very proud of that
track record and if Senator Clinton thinks that it's all talk, you
know, you've got to tell that to the wounded warriors at Walter Reed
who had to pay for their food and pay for their phone calls before I
got to the Senate, and I changed that law, or talk to those folks who
I think have recognized that special interests are dominating
Washington and pushing aside the agenda of ordinary families here in
Ohio.


OBAMA: And so when I pass an ethics reform bill that makes sure
that lobbyists can't get gifts or meals or provide corporate jets to
members of Congress and they have to disclose who they're getting
money from and who they're bundling it for, that moves us in the
direction of making sure that we have a government that is more
responsive to families.

Just one point I'll make. I was in Cincinnati, met with four
women at a table like this one. And these were middle-aged women who,
as one woman put it, had done everything right and never expected to
find themselves in a situation where they don't have health care.

One of them doesn't have a job; one of them is looking after an
aging parent; two of them were looking after disabled children; one of
them was dipping into their retirement accounts, because she had been
put on disability on the job.

And you hear these stories, and what you realize is nobody has
been listening to them. That is not who George Bush or Dick Cheney
has been advocating for over the last seven years.

And so I am not interested in talk. I'm not interested in
speeches. I would not be running if I wasn't absolutely convinced
that I can put an economic agenda forward that is going to provide
them with health care, is going to make college more affordable, and
is going to get them the kinds of help that they need not to solve all
of their problems, but at least to be able to achieve the American
dream.

WILLIAMS: And let me ask you, Senator Clinton. What did you
mean by that piece of videotape we saw from the campaign?

CLINTON: Well, I was having a little fun. You know, it's hard
to find time to have fun on the campaign trail, but occasionally you
can sneak that in.

But the larger point is that I know trying to get health
insurance for every American that's affordable will not be easy. It's
not going to come about just because we hope it will or we tell
everybody it's the right thing to do.

You know, 15 years ago, I tangled with the health insurance
industry and the drug companies. And I know it takes a fighter. It
takes somebody who will go toe-to-toe with the special interests.

You know, I have put forth very specific ideas about how we can
get back $55 billion from the special interests, the giveaways to the
oil companies, the credit card companies, the student loan companies,
the health insurance companies.

These have all been basically pushed onto these special interests
not just because of what the White House did, but because members of
Congress went along.

And I want to get that money back and invest it in the American
middle class -- health care, college affordability, the kinds of needs
that people talk to me about throughout Ohio -- because what I hear,
as I go from Toledo to Parma, to Cleveland to Dayton, is the same
litany, that people are working harder than ever, but they're not
getting ahead. They feel like they're invisible to their government.

So when it came time to vote on Dick Cheney's energy bill, I
voted no, and Senator Obama voted yes. When it came time to try to
cap interest rates for credit cards at 30 percent -- which I think is
way too high, but it was the best we could present -- I voted yes, and
Senator Obama voted no.

WILLIAMS: And, Senator Clinton...

CLINTON: So part of what we have to do here is recognize that
the special interests are not going to give up without a fight. And I
believe that I am a fighter, and I will fight for the people of Ohio
and the people of America.

WILLIAMS: What I was attempting to do here is show something
Senator Obama said about you, and I'm told it's ready...

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: But, Brian...

WILLIAMS: Let's try it. Hang on. Watch your monitor.

OBAMA: I think I'm going to have to respond to this.

WILLIAMS: Let's try it. We're going to come back to you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: ... herself as co-president during the Clinton years.
Every good thing that happened she says she was a part of. And so the
notion that you can selectively pick what you take credit for and then
run away from what isn't politically convenient, that doesn't make
sense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Now, Senator Obama, you can react to whatever you
wanted to react to from earlier, but I've been wanting to ask you
about this assertion that Senator Clinton has somehow cast herself as
co-president.

OBAMA: Well, I think what is absolutely true is that when
Senator Clinton continually talks about her experience, she's
including the eight years that she served as first lady and often
says, "You know, here's what I did, here's what we did, here's what we
accomplished," which is fine.

And I have not in any way said that that experience is not
relevant, and I don't begrudge her claiming that as experience.

What I've said -- and what I would continue to maintain -- is you
can't take credit for all the good things that happen but then, when
it comes to issues like NAFTA, you say, "Well, behind the scenes, I
was disagreeing."

That doesn't work. So you have to, I think, take both
responsibility, as well as credit.

Now, there are several points that I think Senator Clinton made
that we need to discuss here.


OBAMA: First of all, she talked about me objecting to caps on
credit cards. Keep in mind, I objected to the entire bill, a bill
that Senator Clinton, in its previous version in 2001, had voted for
and at one of the debates with you guys said, well, I voted for it,
but I hoped it wouldn't pass. Which, as a general rule, doesn't work.
If you don't want it to pass, you vote against it.

You know, she mentioned that she is a fighter on health care,
and, look, I do not in any way doubt that Senator Clinton genuinely
wants to provide health care to all Americans. What I have said is
that the way she approached it back in '93, I think, was wrong in part
because she had had the view that what's required is simply to fight.
And Senator Clinton ended up fighting not just the insurance companies
and the drug companies, but also members of her own party.

And as a consequence, there were a number of people like Jim
Cooper of Tennessee and Bill Bradley and Pat Moynihan, who were not
included in the negotiations. And we had the potential of bringing
people together to actually get something done.

I am absolutely clear that hope is not enough. And it is not
going to be easy to pass health care. If it was, it would have
already gotten done.

It's not going to be easy to have a sensible energy policy in
this country. Exxon Mobil made $11 billion last quarter. They are
not going to give up those profits easily.

But what I also believe is that the only way we are going to
actually get this stuff done is, number one, we are going to have to
mobilize and inspire the American people so that they're paying
attention to what their government is doing. And that's what I've
been doing in this campaign, and that's what I will do as president.

And there's nothing romantic or silly about that. If the
American people are activated, that's how change is going to happen.

The second thing we're going to have to do is we're actually
going to have to go after the special interests. Senator Clinton, in
one of these speeches -- it may have been the same speech where you
showed the clip -- said, you can't just wave a magic wand and expect
special interests to go away.

That is absolutely true, but it doesn't help if you're taking
millions of dollars of contributions from those special interests.
They are less likely to go away.
So it is important for us to crack down on how these special
interests are able to influence Congress. And, yes, it is important
for us to inspire and mobilize and motivate the American people to get
involved and pay attention.

RUSSERT: Senator Obama, let me ask you about motivating,
inspiring, keeping your word. Nothing more important.

Last year you said if you were the nominee you would opt for
public financing in the general election of the campaign, try to get
some of the money out. You checked "yes" on a questionnaire.

And now Senator McCain has said, calling your bluff, let's do it.
You seem to be waffling, saying, well, if we can work on an
arrangement here.

Why won't you keep your word in writing that you made to abide by
public financing of the fall election?

OBAMA: Tim, I am not yet the nominee. And what I have said is,
when I am the nominee, if I am the nominee -- because we've still got
a bunch of contests left, and Senator Clinton is a pretty tough
opponent -- if I am the nominee, then I will sit down with John McCain
and make sure that we have a system that is fair for both sides.
Because, Tim, as you know, there are all sorts of ways of getting
around these loopholes.

Senator McCain is trying to explain some of the things that he
has done so far, where he accepted public financing money but people
aren't exactly clear whether all of the t's were crossed and the i's
were dotted. Now, what I want to point out, though, more broadly is
how we have approached this campaign.

I said very early on I would not take PAC money, I would not take
money from federal registered lobbyists. That was a multi-million-
dollar decision, but it was the right thing to do. And the reason we
were able to do that was because I had confidence that the American
people, if they were motivated, would, in fact, finance the campaign.

We have now raised 90 percent of our donations from small donors,
$25, $50. We average -- our average donation is $109. So we have
built the kind of organization that is funded by the American people
that is exactly the goal and the aim of everybody who's interested in
good government and politics that works.

RUSSERT: So you may opt out of public financing. You may break
your word.

OBAMA: What I've said is, at the point where I'm the nominee, at
the point where it's appropriate, I will sit down with John McCain and
make sure that we have a system that woks for everybody.

RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, an issue of accountability and
credibility.

You have loaned your campaign $5 million. You and your husband
file a joint return. You refuse to relation that joint return, even
though former President Clinton has had significantly overseas
business dealings.


RUSSERT: Your chief supporter here in Ohio, Governor Strickland,
made releasing his opponent's tax return one of the primary issues of
the campaign, saying repeatedly, "accountability," "transparency."
"If he's not releasing," his campaign said, "his tax return, what is
he hiding? We should question what's going on."

Why won't you release your tax return so the voters of Ohio,
Texas, Vermont, Rhode Island know exactly where you and your husband
got your money, who might be in part bankrolling your campaign?

CLINTON: Well, the American people who support me are
bankrolling my campaign. That's obvious. You can look and see the
hundreds of thousands of contributions that I've gotten.

And ever since I lent my campaign money, people have responded
just so generously. I'm thrilled at so many people getting involved.
And we're raising on average about a million dollars a day on the
Internet.

And if anybody's out there who wants to contribute, to be part of
this campaign, just go to HillaryClinton.com, because that's who's
funding my campaign.

And I will release my tax runs. I have consistently said that.

RUSSERT: Why not now?

CLINTON: Well, I will do it as others have done it, upon
becoming the nominee or even earlier, Tim, because I have been as open
as I can be. The public has 20 years of records from me. And I have
very extensive filings with the Senate where you can see...

RUSSERT: So before next Tuesday's primary?

CLINTON: Well, I can't get it together by then, but I will
certainly work to get it together. I'm a little busy right now; I
hardly have time to sleep. But I will certainly, you know, work
toward releasing, and we will get that done and in the public domain.

RUSSERT: One other issue. You talk about releasing documents.
On January 30th, the National Archives released 10,000 pages of your
public schedule as first lady. It's now in the custody of former
President Clinton.

Will you release that, again, during this primary season -- you
claim that eight years as experience -- let the public know what you
did, who you met with those eight years?

CLINTON: Absolutely, I've urged that the process be as quick as
possible. It's a cumbersome process set up by law. It doesn't just
apply to us. It applies to everyone in our position. And I have
urged that our end of it move as expeditiously as we can.

Now, also, President Bush claims the right to look at anything
that is released, and I would urge the Bush White House to move as
quickly as possible.

RUSSERT: But you had it for more than a month. Will you get it
to him -- will you get it to the White House immediately?

CLINTON: As soon as we can, Tim. I've urged that, and I hope it
will happen.

RUSSERT: Senator Obama, one of the things in the campaign is
that you have to react to unexpected developments. On Sunday, the
headline in your hometown paper, Chicago Tribune, "Louis Farrakhan
Backs Obama for President at Nation of Islam Convention in Chicago."
Do you accept the support of Louis Farrakhan?

OBAMA: You know, I have been very clear in my denunciation of
Minister Farrakhan's anti-Semitic comments. I think they are
unacceptable and reprehensible.

I did not solicit this support. He expressed pride in an
African-American who seems to be bringing the country together.

I obviously can't censor him, but it is not support that I
sought. And we're not doing anything, I assure you, formally or
informally with Minister Farrakhan.

RUSSERT: Do you reject his support?

OBAMA: Well, Tim, I can't say to somebody that he can't say that
he thinks I'm a good guy.

(LAUGHTER)

You know, I have been very clear in my denunciations of him and
his past statements. And I think that indicates to the American
people what my stance is on those comments.

RUSSERT: The problem some voters may have is, as you know, the
Reverend Farrakhan called Judaism "gutter religion."

OBAMA: Tim, I think -- I am very familiar with his record, as
are the American people. That's why I have consistently denounced it.

This is not something new. This is something that -- I live in
Chicago. He lives in Chicago. I've been very clear, in terms of me
believing that what he has said is reprehensible and inappropriate.
And I have consistently distanced myself from him.

RUSSERT: The title of one of your books, "Audacity of Hope," you
acknowledge you got from a sermon from Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the
head of the Trinity United Church. He said that Louis Farrakhan
"epitomizes greatness."

He said that he went to Libya in 1984 with Louis Farrakhan to
visit with Moammar Gadhafi and that, when your political opponents
found out about that, quote, "your Jewish support would dry up quicker
than a snowball in Hell."


RUSSERT: What do you do to assure Jewish-Americans that, whether
it's Farrakhan's support or the activities of Reverend Jeremiah
Wright, your pastor, you are consistent with issues regarding Israel
and not in any way suggesting that Farrakhan epitomizes greatness?

OBAMA: Tim, I have some of the strongest support from the Jewish
community in my hometown of Chicago and in this presidential campaign.
And the reason is because I have been a stalwart friend of Israel's.
I think they are one of our most important allies in the region, and I
think that their security is sacrosanct, and that the United States is
in a special relationship with them, as is true with my relationship
with the Jewish community.

And the reason that I have such strong support is because they
know that not only would I not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form, but
also because of the fact that what I want to do is rebuild what I
consider to be a historic relationship between the African-American
community and the Jewish community.

You know, I would not be sitting here were it not for a whole
host of Jewish Americans, who supported the civil rights movement and
helped to ensure that justice was served in the South. And that
coalition has frayed over time around a whole host of issues, and part
of my task in this process is making sure that those lines of
communication and understanding are reopened.

But, you know, the reason that I have such strong support in the
Jewish community and have historically -- it was true in my U.S.
Senate campaign and it's true in this presidency -- is because the
people who know me best know that I consistently have not only
befriended the Jewish community, not only have I been strong on
Israel, but, more importantly, I've been willing to speak out even
when it is not comfortable.

When I was -- just last point I would make -- when I was giving
-- had the honor of giving a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in
conjunction with Martin Luther King's birthday in front of a large
African-American audience, I specifically spoke out against anti-
Semitism within the African-American community. And that's what gives
people confidence that I will continue to do that when I'm president
of the United States.

WILLIAMS: Senator...

CLINTON: I just want to add something here, because I faced a
similar situation when I ran for the Senate in 2000 in New York. And
in New York, there are more than the two parties, Democratic and
Republican. And one of the parties at that time, the Independence
Patty, was under the control of people who were anti-Semitic, anti-
Israel. And I made it very clear that I did not want their support.
I rejected it. I said that it would not be anything I would be
comfortable with. And it looked as though I might pay a price for
that. But I would not be associated with people who said such
inflammatory and untrue charges against either Israel or Jewish people
in our country.

And, you know, I was willing to take that stand, and, you know,
fortunately the people of New York supported me and I won. But at the
time, I thought it was more important to stand on principle and to
reject the kind of conditions that went with support like that.

RUSSERT: Are you suggesting Senator Obama is not standing on
principle?

CLINTON: No. I'm just saying that you asked specifically if he
would reject it. And there's a difference between denouncing and
rejecting. And I think when it comes to this sort of, you know,
inflammatory -- I have no doubt that everything that Barack just said
is absolutely sincere. But I just think, we've got to be even
stronger. We cannot let anyone in any way say these things because of
the implications that they have, which can be so far reaching.

OBAMA: Tim, I have to say I don't see a difference between
denouncing and rejecting. There's no formal offer of help from
Minister Farrakhan that would involve me rejecting it. But if the
word "reject" Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word
"denounce," then I'm happy to concede the point, and I would reject
and denounce.

CLINTON: Good. Good. Excellent.

(APPLAUSE)

WILLIAMS: Rare audience outburst on the agreement over rejecting
and renouncing.

We're going to take advantage of this opportunity to take the
second of our limited breaks. We'll be back live from Cleveland right
after this.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: We are back from Cleveland State University. We
continue with our debate.

The question beginning this segment is for you, Senator Obama.

The National Journal rates your voting record as more liberal
than that of Ted Kennedy.

In a general election, going up against a Republican Party,
looking for converts, Republicans, independents, how can you run with
a more liberal voting record than Ted Kennedy?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, let's take a look at what the
National Journal rated us on.

It turned out that Senator Clinton and I had differences on two
votes. The first was on an immigration issue, where the question was
whether guest workers could come here, work for two years, go back for
a year, and then come back and work for another two years, which meant
essentially that you were going to have illegal immigrants for a year,
because they wouldn't go back, and I thought it was bad policy.

The second -- and this, I think, is telling in terms of how silly
these ratings are -- I supported an office of public integrity, an
independent office that would be able to monitor ethics investigations
in the Senate, because I thought it was important for the public to
know that if there were any ethical violations in the Senate, that
they weren't being investigated by the Senators themselves, but there
was somebody independent who would do it.

This is something that I've tried to push as part of my ethics
package.


OBAMA: It was rejected. And according to the National Journal,
that position is a liberal position.

Now, I don't think that's a liberal position. I think there are
a lot of Republicans and a lot of Independents who would like to make
sure that ethic investigations are not conducted by the people who are
potentially being investigated. So the categories don't make sense.

And part of the reason I think a lot of people have been puzzled,
why is it that Senator Obama's campaign, the supposed liberal, is
attracting more Independent votes than any other candidate in the
Democratic primary, and Republican votes as well, and then people are
scratching their head? It's because people don't want to go back to
those old categories of what's liberal and what's conservative.

They want to see who is making sense, who's fighting for them,
who's going to go after the special interests, who is going to
champion the issues of health care and making college affordable, and
making sure that we have a foreign policy that makes sense? That's
what I've been doing, and that's why, you know, the proof is in the
pudding. We've been attracting more Independent and Republican
support than anybody else, and that's why every poll shows that right
now I beat John McCain in a match-up in the general election.

WILLIAMS: Let's go from domestic to foreign affairs and Tim
Russert.

RUSSERT: Before the primary on Tuesday, on Sunday, March 2,
there's an election in Russia for the successor to President Putin.
What can you tell me about the man who's going to be Mr. Putin's
successor?

CLINTON: Well, I can tell you that he's a hand-picked successor,
that he is someone who is obviously being installed by Putin, who
Putin can control, who has very little independence, the best we know.
You know, there's a lot of information still to be acquired. That the
so-called opposition was basically run out of the political
opportunity to wage a campaign against Putin's hand-picked successor,
and the so-called leading opposition figure spends most of his time
praising Putin. So this is a clever but transparent way for Putin to
hold on to power, and it raises serious issues about how we're going
to deal with Russia going forward.

I have been very critical of the Bush administration for what I
believe to have been an incoherent policy toward Russia. And with the
reassertion of Russia's role in Europe, with some of the mischief that
they seem to be causing in supporting Iran's nuclear ambitions, for
example, it's imperative that we begin to have a more realistic and
effective strategy toward Russia. But I have no doubt, as president,
even though technically the meetings may be with the man who is
labeled as president, the decisions will be made by Putin.

RUSSERT: Who will it be? Do you know his name?

CLINTON: Medvedev -- whatever.

RUSSERT: Yes.

CLINTON: Yes.

RUSSERT: Senator Obama, do you know anything about him?

OBAMA: Well, I think Senator Clinton speaks accurately about
him. He is somebody who was hand-picked by Putin. Putin has been
very clear that he will continue to have the strongest hand in Russia
in terms of running the government. And, you know, it looks -- just
think back to the beginning of President Bush's administration when he
said -- you know, he met with Putin, looked into his eyes and saw his
soul, and figured he could do business with him.

He then proceeded to neglect our relationship with Russia at a
time when Putin was strangling any opposition in the country when he
was consolidating power, rattling sabers against his European
neighbors, as well as satellites of the former Soviet Union. And so
we did not send a signal to Mr. Putin that, in fact, we were going to
be serious about issues like human rights, issues like international
cooperation that were critical to us. That is something that we have
to change.

RUSSERT: He's 42 years old, he's a former law professor. He is
Mr. Putin's campaign manager. He is going to be the new president of
Russia. And if he says to the Russian troops, you know what, why
don't you go help Serbia retake Kosovo, what does President Obama do?

OBAMA: Well, I think that we work with the international
community that has also recognized Kosovo, and state that that's
unacceptable. But, fortunately, we have a strong international
structure anchored in NATO to deal with this issue.

We don't have to work in isolation. And this is an area where I
think that the Clinton administration deserves a lot of credit, is,
you know, the way in which they put together a coalition that has
functioned.


OBAMA: It has not been perfect, but it saved lives. And we
created a situation in which not only Kosovo, but other parts of the
former Yugoslavia at least have the potential to over time build
democracies and enter into the broader European community.

OBAMA: But, you know, be very clear: We have recognized the
country of Kosovo as an independent, sovereign nation, as has Great
Britain and many other countries in the region. And I think that that
carries with it, then, certain obligations to ensure that they are not
invaded.

RUSSERT: Before you go, each of you have talked about your
careers in public service. Looking back through them, is there any
words or vote that you'd like to take back?

Senator Clinton?

CLINTON: Well, obviously, I've said many times that, although my
vote on the 2002 authorization regarding Iraq was a sincere vote, I
would not have voted that way again.

I would certainly, as president, never have taken us to war in
Iraq. And I regret deeply that President Bush waged a preemptive war,
which I warned against and said I disagreed with.

But I think that this election has to be about the future. It
has to be about what we will do now, how we will deal with what we're
going to inherit.

You know, we've just been talking about Russia. We could have
gone around the world. We could have gone to Latin America and talked
about, you know, the retreat from democracy. We could have talked
about Africa and the failure to end the genocide in Darfur.

We could have gone on to talk about the challenge that China
faces and the Middle East, which is deteriorating under the pressures
of Hamas, Hezbollah, and the interference that is putting Israel's
security at stake.

We could have done an entire program, Tim, on what we will
inherit from George Bush.

And what I believe is that my experience and my unique
qualifications on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue equip me to handle
with the problems of today and tomorrow and to be prepared to make
those tough decisions in dealing with Putin and others, because we
have so much work to do, and we don't have much time to try to make up
for our losses.

RUSSERT: But to be clear, you'd like to have your vote back?

CLINTON: Absolutely. I've said that many times.

RUSSERT: Senator Obama, any statements or vote you'd like to
take back?

OBAMA: Well, you know, when I first arrived in the Senate that
first year, we had a situation surrounding Terri Schiavo. And I
remember how we adjourned with a unanimous agreement that eventually
allowed Congress to interject itself into that decisionmaking process
of the families.

It wasn't something I was comfortable with, but it was not
something that I stood on the floor and stopped. And I think that was
a mistake, and I think the American people understood that that was a
mistake. And as a constitutional law professor, I knew better.

And so that's an example I think of where inaction...

RUSSERT: This is the young woman with the feeding tube...

OBAMA: That's exactly right.

RUSSERT: ... and the family disagreed as to whether it should be
removed or not.

OBAMA: And I think that's an example of inaction, and sometimes
that can be as costly as action.

But let me say this, since we're wrapping up this debate. We
have gone through 20 debates now. And, you know, there is still a lot
of fight going on in this contest, and we've got four coming up, and
maybe more after that.

But the one thing I'm absolutely clear about is Senator Clinton
has campaigned magnificently. She is an outstanding public servant.
And I'm very proud to have been campaigning with her.

And part of what I think both of us are interested in, regardless
of who wins the nomination, is actually delivering for the American
people.

You know, there is a vanity aspect and ambition aspect to
politics. But when you spend as much time as Senator Clinton and I
have spent around the country, and you hear heartbreaking story after
heartbreaking story, and you realize that people's expectations are so
modest.

You know, they're not looking for government to solve all of
their problems. They just want a little bit of a hand-up to keep them
in their homes if they're about to be foreclosed upon, or to make sure
their kids can go to college to live out the American dream.

You know, it is absolutely critical that we change how business
is done in Washington and we remind ourselves of what government is
supposed to be about.

And, you know, I have a lot of confidence that whoever ends up
being the nominee that the Democratic standard-bearer will try to
restore that sense of public service to our government. That's why I
think we're both running, and I'm very pleased that I've had this
opportunity to run with Senator Clinton.

RUSSERT: But the voters can only choose one, Brian.


RUSSERT: And I think you have a question.

WILLIAMS: Well, we don't have such thing in our format as a
closing statement, but I am going to ask a closing and fundamental
question of you both. And I'll ask it of you fist, Senator Obama.

What is the fundamental question you believe Senator Clinton must
answer along the way to the voters here in Ohio and in Texas, and for
that matter across the country, in order to prove her worthiness as
the nominee? And then we will ask the same question of Senator
Clinton.

OBAMA: I have to say, Brian, I think she is -- she would be
worthy as a nominee. Now, I think I'd be better. Otherwise, I
wouldn't be running. But there's no doubt that Senator Clinton is
qualified and capable and would be a much better president than John
McCain, who I respect and I honor his service to this country, but
essentially has tethered himself to the failed policies of George Bush
over the last seven years.

On economics, he wants to continue tax cuts to the wealthy that
we can't afford, and on foreign policy he wants to continue a war that
not only can we not afford in terms of money, but we can't afford in
terms of lives and is not making us more safe. We can't afford it in
terms of strategy.

So I don't think that Senator Clinton has to answer a question as
to whether she's capable of being president or our standard bearer.

I will say this, that the reason I think I'm better as the
nominee is that I can bring this country together I think in a unique
way, across divisions of race, religion, region. And that is what's
going to be required in order for us to actually deliver on the issues
that both Senator Clinton and I care so much about.

And I also think I have a track record, starting from the days I
moved to Chicago as a community organizer, when I was in my 20s, on
through my work in state government, on through my work as a United
States senator, I think I bring a unique bias in favor of opening up
government, pushing back special interests, making government more
accountable so that the American people can have confidence that their
voice is being heard.

Those are things -- those are qualities that I bring to this
race, and I hope that the people of Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and
Vermont decide that those are qualities that they need in the next
president of the United States.

WILLIAMS: Senator Clinton, same question, and that is again --
is there a fundamental question Senator Obama must answer to the
voters in this state and others as to his worthiness?

CLINTON: Well, Brian, there isn't any doubt that, you know, both
of us feel strongly about our country, that we bring enormous energy
and commitment to this race and would bring that to the general
election and to the White House.

As I said last week, you know, it's been an honor to campaign. I
still intend to do everything I can to win, but it has been an honor,
because it has been a campaign that is history making.

You know, obviously I am thrilled to be running, to be the first
woman president, which I think would be a sea change in our country
and around the world, and would give enormous...

(APPLAUSE)

... you know, enormous hope and, you know, a real challenge to
the way things have been done, and who gets to do them, and what the
rules are.

So I feel that either one of us will make history.

The question that I have been posing is, who can actually change
the country? And I do believe that my experience over 35 years in the
private sector as well as the public and the not-for-profit sector,
gives me an understanding and an insight into how best to make the
changes that we all know we have to see.

You know, when I wasn't successful about getting universal health
care, I didn't give up. I just got to work and helped to create the
Children's Health Insurance Program. And, you know, today in Ohio
140,000 kids have health insurance. And yet this morning in Lorain, a
mother said that she spent with the insurance and everything over $3
million taking care of her daughter, who had a serious accident. And
she just looked at me, as so many mothers and fathers have over so
many years, and said, "will you help us?"

That's what my public life has been about. I want to help the
people of this country get the chances they deserve to have. And I
will do whatever I can here in Ohio, in Texas, Rhode Island, in the
states to come making that case. Because I think we do need a fighter
back in the White House.

You know, the wealthy and the well-connected have had a
president. It's time we had a president for the middle class and
working people, the people who get up every day and do the very best
they can. And they deserve somebody who gets up in that White House
and goes to bat for them.

And that's what I will do.

WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.
END




3 Comments

The point that Senator Clinton makes about Senator Obama's failure to hold hearings as chairman of a subcommittee is an interesting one. I found an article about this on salon.com. http://www.salon.com/opinion/conason/2007/12/29/obama_europe/

It would be interesting to find out if the subcommittee remains inactive.

did I miss something, not one questions about immigration? What are their postions?

Clinton said, "It's time we had a president for the middle class and working people, the people who get up every day and do the very best they can."

That phrase 'do the very best they can' is usually used when those doing the best they can come up short, fail.
She lost points with me because I understood her to call the middle class and working people, the bulk of Americans, failures.

While I feel this is probably not true, is not what she thinks, it is what I got from those words she uttered.

Leave a comment

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets

Video

Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Stay in touch

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 26, 2008 11:47 PM.

Sweet Cleveland Dem debate blog 2: Groans from the press room when Clinton moans about getting first question. was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet column: Clinton makes mighty try at Cleveland debate, but unlikely to knock Obama off course. is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.