Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 481
Here's the transcript of tonight's Democratic debate.
DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES PARTICIPATE IN A DEBATE
SEPTEMBER 26, 2007
SPEAKERS: SEN. CHRISTOPHER J. DODD, D-CONN.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.
FORMER SEN. JOHN EDWARDS, D-N.C.
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, D-N.M.
SEN. JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., D-DEL.
REP. DENNIS J. KUCINICH, D-OHIO
FORMER SEN. MIKE GRAVEL, D-ALASKA
SEN. BARACK OBAMA, D-ILL.
TIM RUSSERT, MODERATOR
RUSSERT: Good evening and welcome. We have some big issues to
talk about tonight, so let's start right now.
Senator Obama, I'd like to start with you. General Petraeus in
his testimony before Congress, later echoed by President Bush, gave
every indication that in January of 2009, when the next president
takes office, there will be 100,000 troops in Iraq.
You're the president. What do you do? You said you would end
the war. How do you do it in January of 2009?
OBAMA: Well, first of all, Tim, let me say thank you to
Dartmouth for hosting this event.
And let me also say that had my judgment prevailed back in 2002,
we wouldn't be in this predicament.
I was opposed to this war from the start; have been opposed to
this war consistently.
But I have also said that there are no good options now. There
are bad options and worse options.
I hope and will work diligently in the Senate to bring an end to
this war before I take office. And I think that it is very important
at this stage, understanding how badly the president's strategy has
failed, that we not vote for funding without a timetable for this war.
OBAMA: If there are still large troop presences in -- when I
take office, then the first thing I will do is call together the Joint
Chiefs of Staff and initiate a phased redeployment. We've got to be
as careful getting out as we were careless getting in, but military
personnel indicate we can get one brigade to two brigades out per
I would immediately begin that process. We would get combat
troops out of Iraq. The only troops that would remain would be those
that have to protect U.S. bases and U.S. civilians, as well as to
engage in counterterrorism activities in Iraq.
The important principle, though, is there are not going to be any
military solutions to the problem in Iraq. There has to be a
political accommodation, and the best way for us to support the troops
and to stabilize the situation in Iraq is to begin that phased
RUSSERT: Will you pledge that by January 2013, the end of your
first term, more than five years from now, there will be no U.S.
troops in Iraq?
OBAMA: I think it's hard to project four years from now, and I
think it would be irresponsible. We don't know what contingency will
be out there.
What I can promise is that if there are still troops in Iraq when
I take office -- which it appears there may be, unless we can get some
of our Republican colleagues to change their mind and cut off funding
without a timetable -- if there's no timetable -- then I will
drastically reduce our presence there to the mission of protecting our
embassy, protecting our civilians, and making sure that we're carrying
out counterterrorism activities there.
I believe that we should have all our troops out by 2013, but I
don't want to make promises, not knowing what the situation's going to
be three or four years out.
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, Democrats all across the country
believed in 2006 when the Democrats were elected to the majority in
the House and Senate that that was a signal to end the war, and the
war would end.
You have said that you will not pledge to have all troops out by
the end of your first term, 2013. Why not?
CLINTON: Well, Tim, it is my goal to have all troops out by the
end of my first term. But I agree with Barack; it is very difficult
to know what we are going to be inheriting. Now, we do not know,
walking into the White House in January of 2009 what we are going to
What is the state of planning for withdrawal? That's why last
spring I began pressing the Pentagon to be very clear about whether or
not they were planning to bring our troops out. What I found was that
they weren't doing the kind of planning that is necessary, and we've
been pushing them very hard to do so.
CLINTON: You know, with respect to the question, though, about
the Democrats taking control of the Congress, I think the Democrats
have pushed extremely hard to change this president's course in Iraq.
Today, I joined with many of my colleagues in voting for Senator
Biden's plan -- slightly different that he'd been presenting it, but
still the basic structure was to move toward what is a de facto
partition if the Iraqi people and government so choose.
The Democrats keep voting for what we believe would be a better
course. Unfortunately, as you know so well, the Democrats don't have
the majority in the Senate to be able to get past that 60-vote
blockade that the Republicans can still put up.
But I think every one of us who is still in the Senate -- Senator
Biden, Senator Dodd, Senator Obama and myself -- we are trying every
single day; and, of course, Congressman Kucinich is in the House.
CLINTON: But I think it is fair to say that the president has
made it clear: He intends to have about 100,000 or so troops when he
The height of irresponsibility, that he would leave this war to
his successor. I will immediately move to begin bringing our troops
home when I am inaugurated.
RUSSERT: Senator Edwards, will you commit that at the end of
your first term, in 2013, all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq?
EDWARDS: I cannot make that commitment. But I -- well, I can
tell you what i would do as president. When I'm sworn into office,
come January of 2009, if there are, in fact, as General Petraeus
suggests, 100,000 American troops on the ground in Iraq, I will
immediately draw down 40,000 to 50,000 troops; and over the course of
the next several months, continue to bring our combat out of Iraq
until all of our combat are, in fact, out of Iraq.
EDWARDS: I think the problem is -- and it's what you just heard
discussed -- is we will maintain an embassy in Baghdad. That embassy
has to be protected. We will probably have humanitarian workers in
Iraq. Those humanitarian workers have to be protected.
I think somewhere in the neighborhood of a brigade of troops will
be necessary to accomplish that, 3,500 to 5,000 troops.
But I do say, I want to add to things you just heard. I think it
is true that everyone up here wants to take a responsible course to
end the war in Iraq. There are, however, differences between us, and
those differences need to be made aware. Good people have differences
about this issue.
For example, I heard Senator Clinton say on Sunday that she wants
to continue combat missions in Iraq. To me, that's a continuation of
the war. I do not think we should continue combat missions in Iraq.
EDWARDS: And when I'm on a stage with the Republican nominee,
come the fall of 2008, I'm going to make it clear that I'm for ending
the war. And the debate will be between a Democrat who wants to bring
the war to an end, get all American combat troops out of Iraq, and a
Republican who wants to continue the war.
RUSSERT: Governor Richardson...
CLINTON: Well, Tim, could I just clarify that, you know, I said
there may be a continuing counterterrorism mission, which, if it still
exists, will be aimed at Al Qaida in Iraq. It may require combat,
special operations forces or some other form of that. But the vast
majority of our combat troops should be out.
EDWARDS: But, can I just say that my only point is -- I don't
have any doubt that Senator Clinton wants to take a responsible
course. There is a difference, however, in how we would go about
this. And I think Democratic primary voters are entitled to know that
And the difference is really very simple. I would have our
combat troops out of Iraq over a period of several months, and I would
not continue combat missions in Iraq.
Combat missions mean that the war is continuing.
EDWARDS: I believe this war needs to be brought to an end.
RUSSERT: Would you send combat troops back in if there was
EDWARDS: I believe that America, along with the rest of the
world, would have a responsibility to respond to genocide. It's not
something we should do alone. In fact, if we do it alone, it could be
In fact, if I can go one step further beyond what you just asked,
I think the president of the United States -- and I, as president --
would have a responsibility as we begin to bring our combat troops out
of Iraq to prepare for two possibilities.
One is the possibility that -- the worst possibility -- which is
that genocide breaks out. Shia try to systematically eliminate the
Sunni. I think we need to be preparing for that with the
international community now, not later.
And second, the possibility if this war starts to spill outside
the borders of Iraq, and that's a very difficult thing to contain
because we know historically that it's difficult to contain a civil
RUSSERT: Governor Richardson, you have said that you will bring
home all troops within a year. You've heard your three other
opponents say they can't do it in four years.
RUSSERT: How can you do it in one year?
RICHARDSON: Well, I have a fundamental difference with Senator
Obama, Senator Edwards and Senator Clinton. Here's my position:
Their position basically is changing the mission; my position in
bringing all troops out of Iraq is to end the war.
The American people want us to end this war. Our kids are dying
-- the bloodiest last three months.
And my position is this: that you cannot start the
reconciliation of Iraq, a political settlement, an all-Muslim
peacekeeping force to deal with security and boundaries and possibly
this issue of a separation, which is a plan that I do believe makes
sense, until we get all our troops out, because they have become
And I also disagree with Senator Clinton. I don't believe the
Congress has done enough to end this war.
RUSSERT: But, Governor, and then my question is: How are you
going to do this in one year?
RICHARDSON: We have been able to move our troops, within three
months, 240,000, in and out of Iraq, through Kuwait.
RICHARDSON: This is what I would do. I would bring them out
through roads, through Kuwait and through Turkey. It would take
persuading Turkey. The issue is light equipment. I would leave some
of the light equipment behind.
But I believe what is fundamental here is that leaving any troops
behind will prevent us from moving forward to secure some kind of
stability in the region. I would invite Iran. I would invite Syria.
And I would make sure that the entire issue is also tied to stability
in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. You cannot deal with the Iraq issue
alone. You have to deal with it with the entire region.
RUSSERT: Senator Dodd, you have heard this discussion. Where do
you come down?
DODD: Well, Tim, the question is not just how you bring the
troops out, but why are we there. As president of the United States,
your first responsibility is to guarantee the safety and security of
the American people.
DODD: And so the question you must ask yourself as president:
Is the continuation of our military presence enhancing that goal?
I happen to believe very strongly that this policy of ours,
military involvement in Iraq, is counterproductive. We're less safe,
less secure, more vulnerable and more isolated today as a result of
So I believe that we ought to begin that process of redeployment
here. I would simultaneously engage in the kind of robust diplomacy
that's been totally missing from this administration to enhance our
own interests in the region as well as to provide some additional
security for Iraq.
You can do this, Tim. Practically it can be done by -- military
planners can tell you you can move a brigade to a brigade and a half,
maybe even two, a month out of Iraq. So the timeframe we're talking
about is critical.
But Congress has an obligation here. It's not enough that we
just draft timetables. The Constitution gives the Congress of the
United States a unique power, and that is the power of the purse.
DODD: As long as we continue drafting these lengthy resolutions
and amendments here, talking about timelines and dates, we're not
getting to the fundamental power that exists in the Congress; and that
is to terminate the funding of this effort here -- give us a new
As everyone who has looked at this issue over the last two or
three years has concluded there is no military solution here. And we
need to do far more to protect our interests not only in that region,
but throughout the world. We're not doing it with this policy.
RUSSERT: I want to put you on the record. Will you pledge, as
commander in chief, that you'll have all troops out of Iraq by January
DODD: I will get that done.
RUSSERT: You'll get it done?
DODD: Yes, I will, sir.
RUSSERT: Senator Biden, would you get it done?
BIDEN: Tim, we're begging the question here. Everyone says
there's no political -- there's no military solution, only a political
solution. We offered a political solution today and it got 75 votes.
And it said -- it rejected, fundamentally, the president's
position that there's a possibility of establishing a strong, central
government in Iraq and said we're going to have a federal system,
bring in the rest of the world to support establishing a federal
BIDEN: That will end the civil war. That will allow us to bring
our troops home. That is the thing that will allow us to come home
without leaving chaos behind.
Now, here's the deal. The deal is to say that you are going to
bring all troops home from the region -- I assume that's what you
RUSSERT: From Iraq.
BIDEN: Just from Iraq. You're going to bring all troops home
from Iraq -- if in fact there is no political solution by the time I
am president, then I would bring them out, because all they are is
But if you go along with the Biden plan that got 75 votes today,
and you have a stable Iraq, like we have in Bosnia -- we've had 20,000
Western troops in Bosnia for 10 years. Not one has been killed. Not
one. The genocide has ended.
So it would depend on the circumstances when I became president.
RUSSERT: But you would not make a commitment to have them all
BIDEN: I would make a commitment to have them all out if there
is not a political reconciliation, because they're just fodder.
RUSSERT: Congressman Kucinich, please?
KUCINICH: And as the only one on this stage who actually voted
against the war, and voted 100 percent of the time against funding the
war, I have a rather unique perspective.
I've introduced legislation, H.R. 1234, which is the plan to end
the Iraq war. To me, it is fairly astonishing to have Democrats who
took back the power of the House and the Senate in 2006 to stand on
this stage and tell the American people that this war will continue to
2013 and perhaps past that.
I want everyone to know -- I want the American people to know --
that I've been on this from the beginning and I know that we can get
out of there three months after I take office or after the new
president takes office if one is determined to do that.
And I want to make it clear that the plan includes ending the
occupation; closing the bases; bringing the troops home; setting in
motion a program of reconciliation, not partition, between the Sunnis,
the Shiites and the Kurds; having an honest reconstruction program;
having a program of reparations; and giving the people of Iraq full
control over their oil, which currently most of the people on this
stage have said should be privatized in one way, shape or form.
KUCINICH: And so I believe that if we're really going to have
peace, no partition; let them unite. We remember what Lincoln said
years ago, it's true for Iraq as well: A house divided against itself
cannot stand. If we divide Iraq, essentially we're going to be
setting the stage for more war, and I stand for strength through
peace, a whole new approach.
RUSSERT: But you pledge -- excuse me. Excuse me. You'll pledge
to have all troops out by January of 2013.
KUCINICH: By April of 2007. And you can mark that on your
calendars, if you want to take a new direction...
RUSSERT: Well, it's September of '07 now. So we're going to
have a problem.
KUCINICH: Make that 2009. I'm ready to be president today.
RUSSERT: All right.
I want to give Senator Gravel a chance.
RUSSERT: Senator Gravel, I've listened to you very carefully in
this campaign. You were in the Senate.
GRAVEL: You're one of the few that have.
RUSSERT: You were in the Senate, and you take credit for
stopping the draft.
If you were a senator right now, what advice would you give your
colleagues still in Congress about how they can stop the war, even
though they don't have enough votes to stop a debate or to override a
veto? What should they do?
GRAVEL: Well, the first thing, you stop the debate by voting
every single day on cloture. Every day. Twenty days, and you'll
The president vetoes the law. It comes back to the Congress.
And in the House at noon every single day you vote to override the
president's veto. And in 40 days, the American people will have
weighed in, put the pressure on those.
You tell me that the votes aren't there -- you go get them by the
scruff of the neck, that's what you do. You make them vote.
RUSSERT: Senator, are you suggesting that these candidates
suspend their campaigns, go back to Washington, and for 40 consecutive
days vote on the war?
GRAVEL: If it stops the killing, my God, yes, do it.
And, Tim, you're really missing something. This is fantasy land.
We are talking about ending the war. My God, we're just starting a
war right today. There was a vote in the Senate today. Joe
Lieberman, who authored the Iraq resolution, has offered another
resolution and it is essentially a fig leaf to let George Bush go to
war with Iran.
I want to congratulate Biden for voting against it, Dodd for
voting against it.
And I am ashamed of you, Hillary, for voting for it. You're not
going to get another shot at this because what happens if this war
ensues, we invade, and they're looking for an excuse to do it. And
Obama was not even there to vote.
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I want to give you a chance to
CLINTON: I don't know where to start.
RUSSERT: Please take 30 seconds.
CLINTON: Yes. Let me respond.
My understanding of the Revolutionary Guard in Iran is that it is
promoting terrorism. It is manufacturing weapons that are used
against our troops in Iraq. It is certainly the main agent of support
for Hezbollah, Hamas and others.
And in what we voted for today, we will have an opportunity to
designate it as a terrorist organization which gives us the options to
be able to impose sanctions on the primary leaders to try to begin to
put some teeth into all this talk about dealing with Iran.
We wouldn't be where we are today if the Bush administration
hadn't outsourced our diplomacy with respect to Iran and ignored Iran
and called it part of the axis of evil. Now we've got to make up for
lost time and lost ground...
RUSSERT: I just want to pick up on Senator Gravel's point.
Senator Dodd, is it practical for you as a senator and others who
now serve in Congress to go back to Washington and for 40 consecutive
days try to cut off the funding for the war...
DODD: Well, I...
RUSSERT: ... suspend your campaigns if necessary and bring the
issue -- crystallize it in a way that the American people will
understand exactly what's going on?
DODD: Well, I think we're going to have that opportunity over
and over again in the coming days. There's going to be a request, I
think, for something in the neighborhood of $200 billion that the
administration is going to seek to continue to prosecute the war. So
we'll have our chances to do it.
I think it's a little unrealistic to assume every single day you
do that, Mike. But certainly you can do this when the opportunity
And that, Tim, is the point was trying to make to you a moment
We need to be take -- understanding what powers exist in the
institution of the Congress, those of us who serve there, and use that
opportunity to do what the Constitution has given us, and that is to
stop the funding. That's what we need to be doing.
Now, look, I realize you may not get 60 votes or even 51 votes
for this. But I think clarity and leadership are called for at this
hour, here. If you're going top seek the presidency of the United
States and you're in a position, today, to do something about this,
then, in my view, it's an opportunity to stand up and lead on this
issue to bring this war, which is doing great damage to our country,
to a halt.
DODD: It's hurting our nation terribly, and it needs to be
brought to a halt. And the power of the purse allows you to do that.
RUSSERT: We have so much to cover. I want to talk about Iran,
and this is...
BIDEN: Tim, can I...
RUSSERT: We have...
BIDEN: What we voted on was not partition. I don't want anybody
thinking it was partition. And it's the only time we got 26
Republicans to reject the president's policies.
KUCINICH: You're splitting...
RUSSERT: All right, fine.
KUCINICH: ... Iraq up.
RUSSERT: Fine. Fine.
KUCINICH: That's what it does.
RUSSERT: OK, all right -- all right, we've had that discussion.
Senator Clinton, in 1981, the Israelis took out a nuclear reactor
in Iraq. On September 6th, to the best of our information, Israel
attacked Syria because there was suspicion that perhaps North Korea
had put some nuclear materials in Syria. If Israel concluded that
Iran's nuclear capability threatened Israel's security, would Israel
be justified in launching an attack on Iran?
CLINTON: Tim, I think that's one of those hypotheticals, that
RUSSERT: It's not a hypothetical, Senator.
CLINTON: ... better not addressed at this time.
RUSSERT: It's real life. It's real...
CLINTON: What is real life is what apparently happened in Syria,
so let's take that one step at a time.
RUSSERT: But my question -- no, let me finish.
CLINTON: I know what the question is.
RUSSERT: My question is...
CLINTON: But I think it's important to lay out what we know
RUSSERT: What Israel -- my question is...
CLINTON: ... because we don't have as much information as I wish
we did. But what we think we know is that with North Korean help,
both financial and technical and material, the Syrians apparently were
putting together, and perhaps over some period of years, a nuclear
facility, and the Israelis took it out. I strongly support that.
We don't have any more information than what I have just
described. It is highly classified. It is not being shared. But I
don't want to go a step further and talk about what might or might not
happen down the road with Iran.
RUSSERT: My question was...
CLINTON: But I think it is fair to say what happened in Syria,
so far as we know, I support.
RUSSERT: My question is: Would the Israelis be justified if
they felt their security was being threatened by the presence of a
nuclear presence in Iran, and they decided to take military action?
Would they be justified?
CLINTON: Well, Tim, I'm not going to answer that, because what I
KUCINICH: I'll answer it.
CLINTON: ... that there was evidence...
CLINTON: Well, let me just finish and then Mike and Dennis can
CLINTON: But there was evidence of a North Korea freighter
coming in with supplies. There was intelligence and other kinds of
So I don't think it's a question of if they feel it. That is a
much higher standard of proof. Apparently it was met with respect to
RUSSERT: You will all be running against a Republican opponent,
perhaps Rudy Giuliani. This is what he said.
"Iran is not going to be allowed to build a nuclear power. If
they get to a point where they're going to become a nuclear power, we
will prevent them, we will set them back eight to 10 years. That is
not said as a threat. That should be said as a promise."
Would you make a promise as a potential commander in chief that
you will not allow Iran to become a nuclear power and will use any
means to stop it?
CLINTON: Well, what I have said is that I will do everything I
can to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, including the use
of diplomacy, the use of economic sanctions, opening up direct talks.
We haven't even tried. That's what is so discouraging about this.
So then you have the Republican candidates on the other side
jumping to the kind of statements that you just read to us.
We need a concerted, comprehensive strategy to deal with Iran.
We haven't had it; we need it -- and I will provide it.
RUSSERT: Senator Obama, would Israel be justified in launching
an attack on Iran if they felt their security was jeopardized?
OBAMA: I think it's important to back up for a second, Tim, and
just understand. Number one, Iran is in a stronger position now than
it was before the Iraq war because the Congress authorized the
president to go in.
And so, it indicates the degree to which we've got to make sure
before we launch attacks or make judgments of this sort, that we
actually understand the intelligence and we have done a good job in
sorting it through.
Now, we don't know exactly what happened with respect to Syria.
We've gotten general reports, but we don't know all the specifics.
OBAMA: We got general reports in the run-up to the Iraq war that
proved erroneous, and a lot of people voted for that war as a
Now, we are a stalwart ally of Israel and I think it is important
to understand that we will back them up in terms of their security.
But it is critical to understand that -- until we have taken the
diplomatic routes that are required to tighten economic sanctions -- I
have a plan right now to make sure that private pension funds in this
country can divest from their holdings in Iran. Until we have
gathered the international community to put the squeeze on Iran
economically, then we shouldn't be having conversations about attacks
I think what Mayor Giuliani said was irresponsible, because we
have not yet come to that point. We have not tried the other
RUSSERT: So you would not offer a promise to the American
people, like Giuliani, that Iran will not be able to develop and
become a nuclear power.
OBAMA: I make an absolute commitment that we will do everything
we need to do to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
OBAMA: One of the things we have to try, though, is to talk
directly to Iran; something that we have not been doing.
And one of the disagreements that we have on this stage is the
degree to which the next president is going to have to engage in the
sort of personal diplomacy that can bring about a new era in the
region. And that means talking to everybody. We've got to talk to
our enemies and not just our friends.
RUSSERT: Senator Edwards, would the Israelis be justified in
launching an attack if they felt their security was threatened by a
nuclear presence in Iran?
EDWARDS: Well, let me say, first of all, I think there's a clear
responsible course for America with respect to Iran. And that
responsible course is to recognize that Ahmadinejad is unpopular in
his own country.
EDWARDS: And if we work with our friends in Europe in the
European banking system, we can put a clear proposal on the table for
the Iranian people; sticks and carrots. Carrots being, we will help
you with your economy if, in fact, you give up your nuclear ambitions.
The flip side being, there will be severe economic sanctions if you
But I want to come back to a discussion that took place a few
minutes ago to make everyone understands what Senator Gravel is
talking and Senator Clinton was talking about. Because there was a
very important vote cast in the United States Senate today. And it
was, basically, in a resolution calling the Iranian Revolutionary
Guard a terrorist organization.
I voted for this war in Iraq, and I was wrong to vote for this
war. And I accept responsibility for that. Senator Clinton also
voted for this war.
EDWARDS: We learned a very different lesson from that. I have
no intention of giving George Bush the authority to take the first
step on a road to war with Iran.
And I think that vote today, which Senator Biden and Senator Dodd
voted against, and they were correct to vote against it, is a clear
indication of the approach that all of us would take with the
situation in Iran because what I learned in my vote on Iraq was you
cannot give this president the authority and you can't even give him
the first step in that authority because he cannot be trusted. And
that resolution that was voted on today was a very clear indication...
RUSSERT: Governor Richardson, would you make a solemn commitment
to the American people that Iran will not become a nuclear power?
RICHARDSON: Yes. And this is what I would do. I would approach
it through diplomacy.
RICHARDSON: A fundamental goal of our foreign policy should be
not to permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
Another cornerstone of our foreign policy should be the strength
and the security of Israel. So you cannot deny a nation the right to
legitimately defend itself.
Now, my approach is different. By the way, talking about
diplomacy, I've talked to a lot of these bad guys already, so I would
have a head start in personal diplomacy. You have to approach Iran --
first of all, you use diplomacy. Then you use sanctions.
The problem that we have with Iran is that we don't build the
international support that is needed to put economic pressure on Iran.
And by point here is that Iran is susceptible to economic pressure.
It can do so through -- they import half of their foodstuffs, half of
their gasoline. They've got domestic unrest.
I would not talk necessarily to Ahmadinejad. I would talk to
moderate clerics. I would talk to business leaders. But 40 percent
of the Iranian people vote for moderate candidates for president.
RICHARDSON: So you first use diplomacy.
The problem, Tim, is we can't build the international support
with the Europeans, with Russia, that has leverage on Iran, to
effectively pressure them not to build nuclear weapons and to stop
messing around in Iran.
But it's called diplomacy. It's called negotiation. It's called
talking to Iran and Syria and trying to work out differences.
RUSSERT: But the issue you may have to confront as president --
Israel took out a nuclear reactor in Iraq. They attacked Syria. They
may conclude they need to attack Iran. If they did and you were
president, would you support Israel?
RICHARDSON: A fundamental tenet of American foreign policy is to
support Israel. But Tim, you've got to bring diplomacy.
The problem in the Middle East is there is no Middle East peace
process. There is no Middle East peace envoy. We don't talk to
You've got Israel today less safe than it ever was. You've got
Hamas on one side, you've got Hezbollah, you've got Iran wanting to
build nuclear weapons.
But you do it through diplomacy. You do it through a Middle East
peace process. Get Lebanon involved. Get Syria involved.
RICHARDSON: The two-state solution. It's called diplomacy.
RUSSERT: Before we take a break, I want to go to Allison King of
New England Cable News, who has been sifting through thousands of
questions from across the country, in New England and here in New
Allison, a question, please.
KING: Thank you, Tim.
Dozens of cities around the country, including several here,
right here in New England, have been designated as sanctuary cities.
These are communities that provide a safe haven for illegal
immigrants, where police are told not to involve themselves in
Would you allow these cities to ignore the federal law regarding
the reporting of illegal immigrants and, in fact, provide sanctuary to
KING: Governor Richardson, let's start with you.
RICHARDSON: You asked me because I am the Hispanic here, but
The answer is yes. The problem we have is the lack of a
comprehensive immigration policy. This is a federal responsibility.
But what we have, because of the dysfunctional relationship between
the Congress and the president, there is no comprehensive immigration
bill. We need to fix the immigration system that is broken.
We need to find ways, number one, to increase security at the
border with more detection equipment, more border patrol -- not this
Secondly, those that knowingly hire illegal workers need to be
Third, a foreign policy relationship with Mexico where you say to
Mexico, "Start giving jobs to your people; at the very least, don't
give them maps on the easiest place to cross."
And, lastly, a legalization program -- earned legalization, not
amnesty, not citizenship, but a process where they can earn their way
RICHARDSON: They can do it by learning English, by paying back
taxes, by passing a background check, by paying a fine for having come
in here illegally. Then get behind those that are trying to get here
legally. And then increase the legal immigration quota, the H1B
But what you don't do is basically deport everybody. That makes
no sense. That's not America. That's not going to work.
Is the outline that I gave you messy? Yes. Is there going to be
more bureaucracy? Yes. But the problem is cities and communities are
being victimized by the failure of the Congress and the president...
KING: Time is up, Governor Richardson.
RICHARDSON: ... to reach a resolution.
KING: I'd like to hear from Senator Biden. Would you allow
these cities to ignore the federal law?
BIDEN: The reason the cities ignore the federal law is the fact
that there is no funding at the federal level to provide for the kind
of enforcement at the federal level you need.
Pick up the New York Times today. There is a city not far across
the river from my state that imposed similar sanctions.
BIDEN: And what they found out is, as a consequence of that,
their city went in the dumps -- in the dumpsters. Stores started
closing, everything started to happen and they changed the policy.
Part of the problem is: You have to have a federal government
that can enforce laws. This administration has been fundamentally
derelict in not funding any of the requirements of immunity -- even
enforce the existing law.
And last point I'll make is, Rudy Giuliani doesn't know what the
heck he's talking about. He's the most uninformed person in American
foreign policy and now running for president, number one.
And, number two, these guys, the -- anyway...
KING: So, yes or no...
BIDEN: I wish I'd get to talk about something I know about like
foreign policy. You ought to count me in on this debate a little bit.
KING: So, Senator Biden, yes or no, would you allow the cities
to ignore the federal law?
KING: OK. I'd like to hear from Senator Dodd -- New Haven,
Connecticut, is on that list of sanctuary cities.
DODD: I think in circumstances -- you have to here.
DODD: And, again, New Haven, Connecticut, was a good example
here, where there was a cooperative effort with the local police
departments and others to deal with health issues, crime problems and
The Immigration Service came in an raided basically homes in that
community, causing a great deal of disruption, disrupting the
relationship that was being developed with community leaders,
including the local police, and dealing with matters in that
We need to step back. What's been said by Bill Richardson and
Joe Biden is correct here. This was a failure of leadership again at
the national level. We had an opportunity to draft an immigration law
here that would have put us on the right track.
I certainly endorse everything Bill said here in terms of the
provision. I think all of us do here, the general provisions.
We're a nation of immigrants here. We have succeeded in no small
measure because we have been a welcoming people here. We also
understand we cannot tolerate 400,000 to 500,000 people coming to this
country as undocumented workers each year.
We need to have a far better system in place that stops that flow
coming in, to deal with the 12 million to 20 million who are here
If in the meantime here we're dealing with children, we're
dealing with crime problems, we're dealing with health issues at the
local community, then you need to allow these locals communities to do
DODD: If it means temporarily engaging in a sanctuary protection
here, then so be it if that protects our country.
In the meantime, we need to have national leadership, a president
who would be able to bring together the Congress and could pass the
kind of immigration laws that we, frankly, don't have on the books
KING: Thank you, Senator.
Tim, back to you.
RUSSERT: I'll get all the candidates on record. Just -- anyone
here who would close down these sanctuary cities, not allow them to
RUSSERT: You would allow these sanctuary cities to exist?
KUCINICH: I would like to say that we're forgetting who we are
as Americans, Tim. You have to remember the message of the Statue of
Liberty. That is who America is -- "give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses." We're forgetting that. We should be talking
about canceling NAFTA and WTO, giving workers' rights a premium in
negotiations with Mexico. It's a new direction.
RUSSERT: The question is: Would you allow these sanctuary
cities to disobey the federal law?
KUCINICH: You know what? The federal law -- there's a moral law
RUSSERT: All right.
KUCINICH: And the moral law says that the immigrants are being
used and mistreated.
RUSSERT: Senator Obama?
OBAMA: The federal law is not being enforced not because of
failures of local communities, because the federal government has not
done the job that it needs to do.
RUSSERT: But you would allow the sanctuary cities to exist?
OBAMA: What I would do as president is pass comprehensive
immigration reform, and the federal government should be doing what
it's supposed to be doing, which is controlling our borders, but also
providing a rational immigration system, which we currently don't
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, would you allow the sanctuary cities
CLINTON: Well, in addition to the general points that have been
made that I agree with, why do they have sanctuary cities? In large
measure because, if local law enforcement begins to act like
immigration enforcement officers, what that means is that you will
have people not reporting crimes, you will have people hiding from the
police. And I think that is a real, direct threat to the personal
safety and security of all the citizens.
So this is a result of the failure of the federal government, and
that's where it needs to be fixed.
RUSSERT: But you would allow the sanctuary cities to disobey the
CLINTON: Well, I don't think there is any choice. The ICE
groups come in and raid individuals, but if you are a local police
chief and you're trying to solve a crime that you know people from the
immigrant community have information about, they may not talk to you
if they think you're also going to be enforcing the immigration laws.
CLINTON: Local law enforcement has a different job than federal
immigration enforcement. The problem is the federal government has
totally abdicated its responsibility.
RUSSERT: Real fast.
GRAVEL: Real fast. This whole nation should be a sanctuary for
the war -- for the world, and bring the people in.
What's going on? Again, we're in fantasy land. We're talking
about a problem -- we're scapegoating the Latinos of our society
because we as a society are failing in education, we're failing in
health care, we're failing in our crumbling infrastructure, and we're
failing by invading countries and spending our treasure.
That's what's wrong. And so I'm ashamed as an American to be
building a fence on our southern border. That's not the America that
I fought for.
RUSSERT: Thank you, Senator Gravel.
We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk
about, and a lot more time.
We are at Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire. We'll be
right back with the Democrats.
RUSSERT: And we are back. Live from Dartmouth College --
Hanover, New Hampshire -- and we are resuming our debate.
Senator Dodd, let me start with you.
President Bush predicated that Hillary Clinton would be the
nominee for president for your party. You issued a statement that
said, quote, "I can understand why the president would want Senator
Clinton to be the nominee."
What does that mean?
DODD: Well, if I were Hillary Clinton, I'd be very worried.
This was the same guy who said, "Way to go, Brownie," here.
And I think, "Mission accomplished," was the other one I saw.
So, in terms of being a prognosticator of events, I'd say the
president has somewhat of a bad record when it comes to that.
But certainly, we all respect and admire Hillary and we
understand that, as well. But this race is going to won by voters
here in this state, in Iowa and other caucus and primary states.
Making predictions in September or August about who's going to win
later on, I think, has proven to be rather faulty over the years. So
I look very much forward to the kind of race that develops.
I said -- I walked in here this evening and a fella walked up to
me and he said, "Anderson Cooper, what's happened to you here with
this white hair?"
DODD: So I realized I have some gaining of ground to do here,
but nonetheless, I'm counting on the American people, Democrats, make
a good choice in the coming months, not the president of the United
States, predicting the winners of Democratic primaries.
RUSSERT: But your statement said, "I can understand why the
president would want Senator Clinton." Why does George Bush want
Senator Clinton to be the nominee of the party? That's what you said.
DODD: I was being somewhat facetious, Tim, obviously here, in
the question here of whether or not you're actually trying to in a
sense encourage a certain outcome here.
And we all believe we'd be the best candidates. I certainly do,
based on 26 years of working on every major domestic and foreign
policy issue of our country, having proven to get results for our
nation, having authored the Family and Medical Leave Act, child care
legislation, dealing with Latin America, dealing with financial
I think people want not only promises about what you'll do, but a
proven record of what you've been able to accomplish.
RUSSERT: Experience and judgment have been two issues that have
been raised in this campaign.
Senator Clinton, as first lady, your major initiative was health
RUSSERT: You acknowledged that you did some things wrong in
that. Democrats and Republicans both rejected your proposal. You
said that the most important vote you cast in the Senate was on the
Iraq war -- you voted for it.
If in fact you made fundamental misjudgements on health care as
first lady and the war as senator, why shouldn't Democratic voters
say, "She doesn't have the judgment to be president"?
CLINTON: Well, Tim, I'm proud that I tried to get universal
health care back in '93 and '94. It was a tough fight. It was kind
of a lonely fight, but it was worth trying.
And, of course, I've said many times that I made mistakes. But I
think the biggest mistake was that we didn't take the opportunity that
was offered back then to move toward quality affordable health care
for every single American.
But I've come back with a different plan that I believe is much
better reflective of what people want, namely an array of choices --
you can keep what you have.
CLINTON: But if you're uninsured or underinsured, you'll now
have access to the congressional plan. And I think it's a different
time. Many more people in business and labor, doctors, nurses,
hospitals, and especially American families, know that we have to
change what we do in health care.
And I think that my experience on both ends of Pennsylvania
Avenue, knowing how challenging it will be to take on the special
interests, which I've been taking on for a very long time, gives me a
special insight into what we must do.
And I intend to be the health care president. You see a lot of
people with those stickers that say, "I'm a health care voter." Well,
I want to be the health care president.
And I think that finally there will be a consensus behind us to
do that. And I look forward to going into the White House and getting
that done, because I think it's the highest domestic priority that we
have right now.
RUSSERT: Could the scaled bill -- scaled-down bill that you have
now, which is very similar to what Senator Chafee, a Republican, had
back in 1993 -- your bill today could have passed back then, but you
refused to compromise.
CLINTON: Well, I don't think that is a fair reading. If you
will remember, there was a decision made by the Republicans then that
they would not support extending health care to every American. I
regret that and so did the late Senator Chafee, because he and I had
many conversations about that.
But those arguments have been really discredited the last 15
years. People know that we can't sustain the course we're on without
doing more damage, more uninsured, more people denied the care that
their doctors say they need even though they have insurance, driving
more doctors to distraction, overworking our nurses.
There is so much that has happened that people can see with their
own eyes now that I believe that we finally have a consensus to do
what we should do.
RUSSERT: Senator Biden, you said the other day, quote, "Do you
really believe that Senator Clinton can get more than 15 percent of
Republicans to vote for health care?"
RUSSERT: What does that mean?
BIDEN: No, what it means is that in order to get health care
you're going to have to be able to persuade at least 15 percent of the
Republicans to vote for it.
RUSSERT: And she cannot?
BIDEN: No, I think it's going to be more difficult -- unfairly
-- but I think it's more difficult for Hillary. Hillary, because she
has battled the special interests, and she has.
But look at the special interests. The special interests with
regard to Hillary, the feed on this, you know, this Clinton-Bush
thing. It's not Hillary's fault. But the fact of the matter is, it's
much more difficult to go out and convince a group of Republicans, I
would argue, getting something done that is of a major consequence.
I have experience in doing that. I did it on the crime bill. I
did it on, today -- first time we rejected, fundamentally rejected,
the president's policy.
And I'm not suggesting it's Hillary's fault. I think it's a
reality that it's more difficult, because there's a lot of very good
things that come with all the great things that President Clinton did,
but there's also a lot of the old stuff that comes back. It's kind of
When I say old stuff, I'm referring to policy -- policy.
RUSSERT: Senator Edwards, you said, in effect, that Senator
Clinton's mismanagement of health care meant that 40 million Americans
have not had it since 1993. That's a very serious charge.
EDWARDS: I didn't use the word "mismanagement." I think Senator
Clinton actually worked -- as first lady at that time -- very hard for
But here's -- I listen to this discussion, and this is what I
hear: A bunch of people who've been in Washington a long time who
think that everything has to be done there. It's like the rest of
America doesn't exist.
They're going to have a bunch of Washington insiders who sit
around tables together, negotiate, compromise -- insurance companies,
drug companies, lobbyists. And they're going to figure out, together,
to the exclusion of the rest of America, what should be done about
I think we actually need a president who's willing to go to
America and make the case for the need for universal health care. And
the thing that I have committed to do is the first day that I am
president, I will say to the Congress, to myself, to the vice
president, to the members of the Cabinet, if you have not passed
universal health care by July of this year, July of 2009, you lose
your health care.
EDWARDS: Because there is no excuse for politicians in
Washington to have health care coverage when America has no health
RUSSERT: Senator, I want to ask you, because in 2004, when you
ran for president...
RUSSERT: ... you said we could not afford universal health care;
it was not achievable; and it was not responsible. You've changed,
dramatically, on this issue.
EDWARDS: That's true, and so has America. I've proposed
universal health care for children, at that point. And what is clear
from this presidential campaign is I was the first presidential
candidate -- others have followed me now, and that's a good thing --
good thing for America.
But I was the first presidential candidate to lay out a specific,
truly universal health care plan. And the one thing I can tell you is
anybody who knows me -- anybody who knows me knows I will never give
What happened in '93 and '94 is that we didn't get universal
health care, but we got NAFTA.
EDWARDS: And when I'm president of the United States, you have
my word, I will never pull the universal health care bill. I will put
everything I have behind making sure that it's enacted.
RUSSERT: Senator Obama, I asked Senator Clinton about experience
and judgment. You have served in the U.S. Senate about 33 months.
You have no landmark legislation as such that you have offered.
When you were elected back in 2004, you said, quote, "The notion
that somehow I am going to start running for higher office, it just
doesn't make sense." If it didn't make sense in 2004, why does it
make sense now?
OBAMA: Because I think that the country is at a crossroads right
now, and it needs three things. Number one, it needs somebody who can
bring the country together. And that's the kind of experience that I
bring to this office.
When I was in the state legislature, I was able to get people who
were polar opposites -- police officers and law enforcement working
with civil rights advocates to reform a death penalty system that was
broken; bringing people together, Republicans and Democrats, to
provide health insurance to people who didn't have it.
OBAMA: That's number one.
Number two, we need somebody who can take on the special
interests and win. And I have consistently done that on money and
politics. In the state legislature, I passed landmark ethics
legislation against not just Republicans but also some of the leaders
of my own party. I did the same thing working with Russ Feingold with
the ethics reform package that we passed last year.
And the third thing is telling the truth to the American people
even when it's tough, which I did in 2002, standing up against this
war at a time when it was very unpopular. And I was risking my
political career because I was in the middle of U.S. Senate race.
Now, those are, I think, the kinds of experiences that people are
looking for right now in this country and that's the kind of
experience I bring to bear to this race.
OBAMA: I just want to make one last comment. I think that
Hillary Clinton deserves credit for having worked on health care. I
think John deserves credit for his proposal. I know that he feels
that he put out his plan first. You know, Harry Truman put something
out 60 years ago for universal health care. I wrote about it in a
book that I wrote last year, a plan very similar to John's.
The issue is not going to be who has these particular plans. It
has to do with who can inspire and mobilize the American people to get
it done and open up the process.
If it was lonely for Hillary, part of the reason it was lonely,
Hillary, was because you closed the door to a lot of potential allies
in that process. At that time, 80 percent of Americans already wanted
universal health care, but they didn't feel like they were let into
RUSSERT: I wanted to ask Senator Gravel -- you talked about
running for president of the United States. In 1980, your condo
business went bankrupt.
RUSSERT: In 2004, you filed for personal bankruptcy...
RUSSERT: ... leaving $85,000 in credit bills unpaid.
RUSSERT: How can someone who did not take care of his business,
could not manage his own personal finances, say that he is capable of
managing the country?
GRAVEL: Well, first off, if you want to make a judgment of who
can be the greediest people in the world when they get to public
office, you can just look at the people up here. Many of them have
done very, very well in public office.
I left the Senate no better than when I went in. Now, you say
the condo business. I will tell you, Donald Trump has been bankrupt
100 times. So I went bankrupt once in business. And the other -- who
did I bankrupt? I stuck the credit card companies with $90,000 worth
of bills and they deserved it because I used the money...
They deserved it -- and I used the money to finance the
empowerment of the American people with a national initiative, so you
can make the laws.
Now, Tim, let me just point one thing out. You were asking about
RUSSERT: You've made your point.
GRAVEL: Well, I wanted to make a better point.
RUSSERT: We'll leave it at that, because I've got to give
everyone a chance.
RUSSERT: Congressman Kucinich, when you were mayor of Cleveland,
you let Cleveland go into bankruptcy, the first time that happened
since the Depression. The voters of Cleveland rewarded you by
throwing you out of office and electing a Republican mayor of
How can you claim that you have the ability to manage the United
States of America when you let Cleveland go bankrupt?
KUCINICH: You know, Tim, that was NBC's story. Now I want the
people to know what the real story was.
I took a stand on behalf of the people of Cleveland to save a
municipal electric system. The banks and the utilities in Cleveland,
the private utilities, were trying to force me to sell that system.
And so on December 15th, 1978, I told the head of the biggest
bank, when he told me I had to sell the system in order to get the
city's credit renewed, that I wasn't going to do it because, you know,
I remember where I came from. I remembered my parents counting
pennies to pay the utility bills in one of the many apartments we
And so I know why I went into public office. I went in to stand
up for the people. And the people in Cleveland in 1994 asked me to
come back to public life because at that point they expanded a
municipal electric system that the banks demanded that I sell.
KUCINICH: And I showed the ability to stand up for the people.
You know, my campaign in '94 was "Because he was right." And
people put me in the Ohio Senate for that reason. '96, it was "Light
up Congress," as a symbol of saving the municipal electric system.
And this year, it's going to be "Light up America," because I'm going
to challenge those interest groups.
I put my job on the line. How many people would be willing to
put their job on the line in the face of pressure from banks and
As this story gets told, people will want me to be their next
president, because they'll see in me not only the ability to take a
stand, but the ability to live with integrity.
RUSSERT: Governor Richardson, you talk about your experience.
And yet, when you were the secretary of energy, there were security
breaches at Los Alamos. You talked about Justice White being your
favorite Supreme Court justice, someone who voted against Roe v. Wade.
New Mexico ranks 48 in terms of people below the poverty line,
48th in children below the poverty line.
You said that being gay is a choice.
RUSSERT: Based on those kinds of comments, and that record of
performance, or questionable activities, how can you tell people you
have the experience to be president?
RICHARDSON: I've been in public life 25 years. And you know, I
may not be the perfect consultant, blow-dried candidate. I make
mistakes. I admit them.
But you know, Tim, the issue is: Do I deliver? I mean, your
network covered me five months ago when I brought back the remains of
five of our -- remains of Korean War soldiers. I also persuaded, with
others, the North Koreans to turn down their nuclear reactor.
As governor, today, New Mexico is the sixth fastest growing
economy. I've insured kids under 12. Those statistics were way
before me, but today, we have created a balanced budget. New Mexico
is the clean energy state.
RICHARDSON: No one ever questioned me that I deliver when I
brought back American hostages and servicemen from Iraq, from Saddam
Hussein, from the North Koreans, from Darfur -- I got a fragile
ceasefire. I've received four Nobel Peace Prize nominations.
You know -- sure, I've made mistakes. And I'm going to continue
making them, I can tell you right here. But I also want you to know
that the issue is: Can you deliver?
You asked Senator Clinton -- she is a candidate of experience --
Senator Obama, a fresh voice for change. With Bill Richardson, you
get both: change and experience.
That's what I am conveying to the American people. You got to be
able to deliver. To bring change, you have to have the experience to
deliver that change.
RICHARDSON: And my record in terms of foreign policy, energy
policy, what I've done for my state -- I'm the only one who has
negotiated with a foreign country here -- I believe I have the best of
both to be this president.
RUSSERT: I'd like to go to Allison King of New England Cable
News again for another question.
KING: Thanks, Tim.
The issues surrounding gay rights have been hotly debated here in
New England. For example, last year some parents of second-graders in
Lexington, Massachusetts, were outraged to learn their children's
teacher had read a story about same-sex marriage, about a prince who
marries another prince.
Same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts but most of you
oppose it. Would you be comfortable having this story read to your
children as part of their school curriculum?
I'm going to start with Senator Edwards.
EDWARDS: Yes, absolutely.
What I want is I want my children to understand everything about
the difficulties that gay and lesbian couples are faced with every
day, the discrimination that they're faced with every single day of
EDWARDS: And I suspect my two younger children, Emma Claire,
who's 9, and Jack, who's 7, will reach the same conclusion that my
daughter Cate, who's 25, has reached, which is she doesn't understand
why her dad is not in favor of same-sex marriage. And she says her
generation will be the generation that brings about the great change
in America on that issue.
So I don't want to make that decision on behalf of my children.
I want my children to be able to make that decision on behalf of
themselves, and I want them to be exposed to all the information, even
in -- did you say second grade? Second grade might be a little tough,
but even in second grade to be exposed to all...
KING: Well, that's the point. It is second grade.
EDWARDS: ... those possibilities, because I don't want to impose
my view. Nobody made me God. I don't get to decide on behalf of my
family or my children, as my wife Elizabeth has spoken her own mind on
this issue. I don't get to impose on them what it is that I believe
EDWARDS: But what I will do as president of the United States is
I will lead an effort to make sure that the same benefits that are
available to heterosexual couples -- 1,100 roughly benefits in the
federal government -- are available to same-sex couples; that we get
rid of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act; that we get rid of "don't
ask/don't tell," which is wrong today and was wrong when it was
enacted back in the 1990s.
I will be the president that leads a serious effort to deal with
the discrimination that exists today.
KING: Thank you.
Senator Obama, you have young children at home. How do you feel
OBAMA: You know, I feel very similar to John. You know, the
fact is my 9-year-old and my 6-year-old I think are already aware that
there are same-sex couples. My wife and I have talked about it. One
of the things I want to communicate to my children is not to be afraid
of people who are different, because there have been times in our
history where I was considered different, or Bill Richardson was
OBAMA: And one of the things I think the next president has to
do is to stop fanning people's fears. If we spend all our time
feeding the American people fear and conflict and division, then they
become fearful and conflicted and divided.
And if we feed them hope and we feed them reason and tolerance,
then they will become tolerant and reasonable and hopeful.
And that I think is one of the most important things that the
next president can do, is try to bring us together, and stop trying to
fan the flames of division that have become so standard in our
politics in Washington. That's the kind of experience, by the way,
that we need to put an end to.
KING: Quickly, have you sat down with your daughters to talk
about same-sex marriage?
OBAMA: My wife has.
KING: She has. OK.
I'd like to ask Senator Clinton the same question.
CLINTON: Well, I really respect what both John and Barack said.
CLINTON: I think that we've seen differences used for divisive
purposes, for political purposes in the last several elections. And I
think every one of us on this stage are really personally opposed to
that and we'll do everything we can to prevent it.
With respect to your individual children, that is such a mater of
parental discretion, I think that obviously it is better to try to
work with your children, to help your children understand the many
differences that are in the world and to really respect other people
and the choices that other people make. And that goes far beyond
So I think that this issue of gays and lesbians and their rights
will remain an important one in our country. And I hope that --
tomorrow we're going to vote on the hate crimes bill, and I'm sure
that those of us in the Senate will be there to vote for it.
CLINTON: We haven't been able to get it passed, and it is an
important measure to send a message that we stand against hatred and
And I think that, you know, that's what the Democratic Party
stands for in contrast, all too often, to the other side.
KING: Thank you, Senator.
Tim, back to you.
RUSSERT: Thank you, Allison.
We're going to take another quick break. We're going to come
back and talk about something that affects this generation and the
next generation -- Social Security, Medicare and a whole lot more.
We'll be right back with the Democrats' debate.
RUSSERT: And we're back at Dartmouth College talking to the
Democrats. I want to talk about Social Security and Medicare.
The chairman of the Federal Reserve, the head of the Government
Accountability Office have both said that the number of people in
America on Social Security and Medicare is going to double in the next
20 years -- there are now 40 million; it's going to go to 80 million
-- and that if nothing is done, we'll have to cut benefits in half or
double the taxes. That is their testimony.
Senator Biden, in order to prevent that, would you be willing to
consider certain steps? For example, back in 1983, Ronald Reagan and
Tip O'Neill, Patrick Moynihan and Bob Dole got together and changed
the retirement age. It's going to be going up to 67 in a gradual
Right now, you pay tax for Social Security on your first $97,500
worth of income.
RUSSERT: Why not tax the entire income of every American? And
if you do that, you'll guarantee the solvency of social security
farther than I can see.
BIDEN: The answer is yes. I'm probably the only one up here
who's going to say that, but the truth of the matter is, you stated
it. You're either going to cut benefits, or you're going to go ahead
and raise taxes above the first $97,000.
And, by the way, I was in that room with Pat Moynihan. It was
Joe Biden, Pat Moynihan, Bob Dole -- it was also George Mitchell --
when we made that deal. And I'll never forget Bob Dole turning to Pat
Moynihan and saying, "We all got to jump in this boat at the same
So the bottom line here is, you can't do it by growing the
economy alone. So I would raise the cap.
RUSSERT: Would you also, considering now life expectancy is 78,
considering -- consider gradually raising the retirement age?
BIDEN: We did that one -- I supported that; that's what got it
solvent to 2041. By simply going and taking -- raising the cap, you
can solve the problem.
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, would you be in favor of saying to the
American people, "I'm going to tax your income; I'm not going to cap
at $97,500. Everyone, even if you are a millionaire is going to pay
Social Security tax on every cent they make."
CLINTON: Well, Tim, let me tell you what I think about this,
because I know this is a particular concern of yours. But I want to
make three points very briefly.
First, I do think that it is important to talk about fiscal
responsibility. You know, when my husband left office after moving us
toward a balanced budget and a surplus, we had a plan to make Social
Security solvent until 2055.
Now, because of the return to deficits, we have lost 14 years of
solvency. It's now projected to be solvent until 2041. Getting back
on a path to fiscal responsibility is absolutely essential.
Number two, I think we do need another bipartisan process.
CLINTON: You described what happened in '83. It took
presidential leadership, and it took the relationships between the
White House and Capitol Hill, to reach the kind of resolution that was
discussed. And I think that has to be what happens again, but with a
president who is dedicated to Social Security, unlike our current
president, who has never liked Social Security. You can go back and
see when he first ran for Congress, he was dissing Social Security.
So when I'm president, I will do everything to protect and
preserve Social Security so we can have that kind of bipartisanship.
And, finally, then you can look in the context of fiscal
responsibility and of a bipartisan compromise -- what else might be
done. But I think if you don't put fiscal responsibility first,
you're going to really make a big mistake, because we demonstrated in
the '90s, it had a lot to do with moving us toward solvency.
RUSSERT: But you would not take lifting the cap at $97,500 off
CLINTON: Well, I'd take everything off the table until we move
toward fiscal responsibility and before we have a bipartisan process.
I don't think I should be negotiating about what I would do as
president. You know, I want to see what other people come to the
RUSSERT: But Senator Biden said you can't grow your way out of
this. And, for the record, when the Clinton administration left
office, Social Security was only guaranteed to 2038, not 2055.
CLINTON: There was a plan on the basis of the balanced budget
and the surplus to take it all the way to 2055. And we know what
happened: George Bush came in, went back to deficits, and has
basically used the Social Security trust fund and borrowing from China
and other countries to pay for the war.
RUSSERT: So, Senator, a simple question, a simple question:
What do you put on the table? What are you willing to look at to say,
"We're not going to double the taxes, we're not going to cut benefits
in half; I'm willing to put everything on the table, some things on
the table, nothing on the table"?
CLINTON: I'm not putting anything on the proverbial table until
we move toward fiscal responsibility. I think it's a mistake to do
RUSSERT: Senator Obama?
OBAMA: I think that lifting the cap is probably going to be the
OBAMA: Now, we've got to have a process that's already been
talked about. Joe participated back in 1983. We need another one.
And I think -- I've said before, everything should be on the table.
My personal view is that lifting the cap is much preferable than
the other options that are available. But what's critical is to
recognize that there is a potential problem.
As I travel around Iowa and New Hampshire I meet young people who
don't think Social Security is going to be there for them. They don't
believe it's going to be there for them.
And I think it's important for us, in addition to getting our
fiscal house in order, to acknowledge as Democrats that there may be a
problem that we've got to take on.
And we should be willing to do anything that will strengthen the
system to make sure that we are being true to the sake of trust of
those who are already retired as well as young people in the future.
And we should reject things that will weaken the system,
including privatization, which essentially is going to put people's
retirement at the whim of the stock market.
RUSSERT: Senator Dodd, tax all income?
DODD: I don't think you have to go that far. I understand what
Joe's point is here, but you could raise that tax far less than all
incomes here and achieve the same result by achieving solvency.
DODD: But beyond just the Social Security fix, Tim, there are a
host of other issues related to this. Pension security is critically
important for long-term security. Financial literacy is critically
important to people as well. Prescription drug issues are critically
important to that population. Preventive care.
We need to look at this in a wholistic way when it comes to our
Remember, it was only a few years ago, Tim, that the poorest
sector of our population in this country were our elderly.
Because of Medicare, because of Social Security, because of
leadership that stood up and fought for it here, we've been able to
take the older Americans out of poverty and give them a sense of
decency and a quality of life.
So, issues like privatization, as has been said here, have to be
off the table. And I believe you can achieve that solvency here by
doing simpler things, without the draconian measures that some have
But you need to also deal with these other issues on the table if
you're going to provide that kind of financial security and that
quality of life for our older Americans.
RUSSERT: Governor Richardson, would you lift the cap and have
taxes paid on income and not cap it at $97,500?
RICHARDSON: No, you don't need to do that. That's a 15 percent
tax on small businesses, on the middle class, on family farms.
RICHARDSON: You don't need to do that. This is what you do.
One, you take privatization off the table. You don't want Social
Security in the stock market. Two, you stop raiding the Social
Security Trust Fund, as the Congress and the president constantly do.
RUSSERT: You would then have a -- excuse me. Excuse me. You
would then have a deficit of over $300 billion...
RICHARDSON: No, no, Tim. No you don't.
RICHARDSON: No, no, wait. Wait, because I know...
RUSSERT: It's not funny money. It's real money.
RICHARDSON: No, no, but what you do -- I am the only candidate
here who's said I'm for a constitutional amendment to balance the
budget. You have to have fiscal discipline. You've also got to grow
the economy. You've have to have universal pensions. Here's -- you
know, this estimate that you just talked about is based on the growth
of the economy 1.3 percent. If it grows to 1.8, we don't have this.
And if we balance the budget, restore our fiscal house, there
will be economic growth -- if we invest in education and have a
stronger workforce, if we incentivize and have a pro-growth economy
where we say we're going to make America green, renewable energy,
we're going to bring new jobs.
RUSSERT: Governor, what you are saying that there is no pain in
this. You can double the number of people on Social Security and
Medicare and the life expectancy can go to 78. The reason Franklin
Roosevelt set the age of eligibility at 65 -- that was life
expectancy. You made it on the program for a month or two and that
You're going to have double the number of people on these
programs for 15 years, and you can do it by growing the economy.
RICHARDSON: Tim, I have said I am for a constitutional amendment
to balance the budget within five years. That is pain. You don't do
it in a recession. You don't do it in a war. But if you also
generate economic growth, this projection that you mentioned, by the
year 2041 is based on 1.3 percent economic growth. That is pathetic.
RUSSERT: Senator Edwards?
RICHARDSON: You grow the economy...
RUSSERT: Can you grow your way out of this?
EDWARDS: No, sir. You cannot. I would say it is the single
most important thing for anybody running for president is to be
willing to be honest with America.
EDWARDS: You cannot solve this problem just by setting up a
bipartisan commission -- all of us are for that. You cannot solve
this problem just by growing the economy -- all of us are for that.
But the American people deserve to hear the truth.
They have heard so much politician double-talk on this issue.
That's the reason young people don't believe Social Security is going
to be there for them. Why would you possibly trust a bunch of
politicians who say the same thing over and over and over?
"We're going to grow our way out of this," but nothing changes.
Nothing changes. The honest truth is: There are hard choices to make
be made here. The choice I would make as president of the United
States is on the very issue that you've asked about, which is the cap.
And I have to say, I have some difference with my friend, Chris
Dodd, who I agree with a lot. But I don't understand why somebody who
makes $50 million a year pays Social Security tax on the first $97,000
and somebody -- and not on the rest -- while somebody who makes
$85,000 a year pays Social Security tax on every dime of their income.
DODD: Well, John...
EDWARDS: I'm sorry, Chris, let me just finish. I'll let you
But I want to say one last thing about this. I do have some
difference with some of my colleagues who I've heard talk about this.
I think we have to be very careful to protect the middle class, so
specifically -- if I can be very specific -- what I would do as
president is I would create a protective zone between $97,000 up to
around $200,000, because there are a lot of firefighter couples, for
example, that make $100,000, $115,000 a year. We don't want to raise
taxes on them.
But I do believe that people who make $50, $75, $100 million a
year ought to be paying Social Security taxes on that income.
KUCINICH: I think...
RUSSERT: Real fast.
KUCINICH: ... of course, we ought to be raising the cap in order
to protect Social Security, which is solid to about 2040 without any
But what everyone should realize in this country is that Wall
Street is very interested in privatization. And unless we have a
president who states very clearly -- no privatization, believes in
economic growth -- and I'm talking about a new WPA, a Works Green
Administration, creating technologies for a green America.
KUCINICH: We have to believe in economic growth. We should
raise the ceiling. And in addition to that, Tim, we should be
thinking about lowering -- lowering -- the retirement age to 65.
People's bodies break down. There are people who are retiring early.
They don't have the kind of economic help they should get. We should
be thinking: Raise the cap, lower the retirement age to 65, stop
privatization, increase economic growth. That's what a Kucinich
presidency will mean.
RUSSERT: Senator Dodd, Senator Edwards invoked your name. You
have 30 seconds.
DODD: And I thank you.
What I was suggesting here -- Joe, I think, said tax everybody.
DODD: I think clearly that you don't have to do that.
DODD: But you can do this by basically readjusting that tax so
you don't have to -- doesn't have to affect everyone in society.
So, John, I'm not suggesting...
RUSSERT: But you'd raise it to $500,000?
DODD: But you've got to raise it up, clearly, to do this.
Now, let me also say something. Look, because all of this comes
down to one other issue, Tim, clearly.
Joe made the point earlier. We can all talk about this. No one
political party is going to do this. It's going to take people who
can bring people together to get the job done.
And you need to demonstrate not just the experience but the
proven ability to actually get results by bringing people together to
do things that were difficult to accomplish. That's what I've done
for 26 years. I know how to do this.
And I think the American people are looking for leadership that
not just makes promises about what they're going to do but the ability
to bring elements together, as you had happen with Ronald Reagan and
Tip O'Neill and Bob Dole and Pat Moynihan. That kind of leadership is
missing today. That's what the American people want back.
CLINTON: Tim, I just have to insert something here. You know,
the Democrats are against privatization. I fought against it. We all
did. But in the interest of, I think, facts, we were on a pathway at
the end of the Clinton administration, in the words of Alan Greenspan,
of "eliminating the debt."
CLINTON: That was one of the excuses he gave when he voted for
those horrible tax cuts in 2001, that he was so worried that he would
actually eliminate the debt. So I think it's important that you
cannot give away what you're going to be negotiating over when it
comes to Social Security until you make it clear that fiscal
responsibility has got to be the premise of the negotiation.
And if you don't lead with that, and if you don't point to the
fact that the Democrats are much better stewards of our country's
budget than the Republicans are -- because, once again, we're in a
mess after this President Bush leaves office -- then you're going to
be negotiating with yourself, and I think that's a mistake.
RUSSERT: But Senator Clinton...
CLINTON: But fiscal responsibility first.
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton -- Senator Clinton, you would
acknowledge that the programs, as they are now constructed, will not
exist unless significant changes are made in them for the next
CLINTON: Well, I think we have to make some significant changes.
And I've told you where I would start from and what I would do. And I
think it's a mistake to be negotiating over what you will give away
before you even get to the bipartisan process, because the fiscal
responsibility is key here.
RUSSERT: One second -- one second here.
I want to turn to another health issue, because this is
important, before I bring Allison in.
Four -- over 400,000 Americans have premature deaths due to
smoking or second-hand smoke.
Senator Clinton, would you be in favor of a national law to ban
smoking in all public places?
CLINTON: Well, we banned it in New York City, and people thought
it would be a terrible idea. And everyone was really upset about it.
And actually business at a lot of establishments, like restaurants and
other places, increased, because many people felt more comfortable
going when there was no smoking.
I think that we should be moving toward a bill that I have
supported to regulate tobacco through the FDA.
CLINTON: And once it has those health warnings and once the FDA
can regulate it, I think that will give a lot of support to local
communities to make these what are essentially zoning decisions. And
I fully support that.
RUSSERT: But you're not in favor of a national law to ban
smoking in public places?
CLINTON: Not at this point. I think we're making progress at
the local level.
RUSSERT: Senator Obama, a national law to ban smoking in all
OBAMA: I think that local communities are making enormous
strides and I think they're doing the right thing on this. If it
turns out that we're not seeing enough progress at the local level,
then I would favor a national law.
I don't think we've seen the local laws play themselves out
entirely because I think you're seeing enormous amount of progress in
Chicago, in New York in other major cities around the country because
I think we have been treating this as a public health problem and
educating the public on the dangers of second-hand smoke.
That pressure will continue. As I said, if we can't provide
these kinds of protections at the local level, which would be my
preference, I would be supportive of a national law.
RUSSERT: Have you been successful in...
OBAMA: I have. The best cure is my wife.
RUSSERT: Is there anybody here who's in favor of a national law?
RICHARDSON: I would...
BIDEN: One other point I want to make on this...
DODD: 3,000 kids start smoking every day in this country...
RUSSERT: OK. So Biden, Dodd, Richardson.
RICHARDSON: I did it in New Mexico.
RUSSERT: A national law. Kucinich and Gravel?
KUCINICH: Wait a minute. I've been breathing in a lot of
second-hand smoke here tonight. You bet I'll go for a national law.
RUSSERT: All right. So Biden, Dodd, Richardson, Gravel, and
Kucinich in favor of a national law.
Allison, you're up.
EDWARDS: Wait, wait, wait. And Edwards.
RUSSERT: And Edwards.
KING: Susan Remacle (ph) of Canaan, New Hampshire, the mother of
two young adult sons, believes that the legal drinking age of 21 is
counterproductive and unrealistic, especially, she says, because...
Especially because we trust people at this age to make life and
death decisions in our military.
KING: Would you as president remove the requirement that a state
have a legal drinking age of 21 in order to receive federal highway
funds, thereby returning the drinking age back to the states?
BIDEN: Absolutely, no. I would not. You've got to calculate
the costs here. The costs of alcoholism in America, the costs of
accidents that flow from drunkenness are astronomical. There are
300,000 babies born deformed every year in this country because of
women who are alcoholics while they're carrying those children to
Ladies and gentlemen, this is a gigantic problem, just like the
drug issue. And the idea that we're going to suggest that it makes
good sense to move the age down to 18 I find to be counterproductive.
I would not do that.
And the last point I'll make is, presidents are supposed to lead.
How do you go out and negotiate, use health care and the Social
Security system as a negotiating tool to deal with the federal
BIDEN: You're supposed to lead. You lay out what you want to
do. You're not negotiating with yourself. You're negotiating to
protect the system, and you can't use the system as a negotiating tool
to get to a balanced budget any more than you can turn around and
suggest that somehow lowering the drinking age to 18 is going to make
anything better in America -- anything.
KING: I'd like to hear from a few more of you on this, if you
could keep it to 30 seconds.
DODD: No, I agree with Joe on this. Look, the problems
associated with alcohol are significant in our country. The evidence
is overwhelming. And the idea that we're going to lower the drinking
age -- we know that -- and that age group here -- and, again, you can
-- we have significant statistics of the problem. Fifty-thousand
people lose their lives in automobiles every year in this country,
many of them because of the use of alcohol.
But let me also add here as well on that smoking issue -- because
it is important and it's related -- with 3,000 young people starting
to smoke every single day, one of the major causes of the health care
issue, Tim, that you were raising earlier and Medicare, is because of
chronic illnesses associated with things like smoking.
So the idea that we wouldn't draft a national law to stop this in
public places is one of the things you're going to have to do if
you're going to deal with rising health care costs.
KING: Thank you.
DODD: And the same is true of alcohol.
RICHARDSON: No, I wouldn't lower it. In fact, at this moment my
wife is hosting in New Mexico with the surgeon general a forum on
I think what you need, though, is a dual approach. Yes, we need
to have strong law enforcement against DWI, against so many other law-
related issues, but you also have to have treatment, you have to have
substance abuse treatment, you have to have education, you have to
And the federal government to the states is not providing the
resources and the leadership that we need.
So just as much as we don't lower the drinking age, you have to
have more of a national commitment to rehabilitation and to research.
We need to have more research for diabetes, for cancer, for stem
cell research, for heart disease.
RICHARDSON: We're a nation -- let me just make one final point
-- we spend $6 billion on cancer research. That is two weeks of the
Iraq war. That shows the mistaken priorities that we have in this
RUSSERT: In interest of time, is there anybody here, from Obama
down to Gravel, who thinks we should lower the drinking age back to
GRAVEL: I think we should lower it so anybody that could go
fight and die for this country should be able to drink.
RUSSERT: Kucinich -- Congressman Kucinich?
You said -- yes.
KUCINICH: You know, I think not only about service, but we have
to have confidence in young Americans. And a president who reaches
out to them and talks to them about drinking responsibly is much
better than a president who tells them "Thou shalt not," because young
people will do what they do.
But they're looking for leadership from a president. I'm ready
to provide that leadership.
Of course, they should be able to drink at age 18 and they should
be able to vote at age 16.
RUSSERT: Obama, Edwards, Clinton are all "no" on 18?
(UNKNOWN): What was the question?
RUSSERT: Lower the drinking age to 18?
(UNKNOWN): I would not.
RUSSERT: We're going to take a break and come back with our
lightning round. Thirty seconds to answer your question.
GRAVEL: It never got to the real round.
RUSSERT: We are back in New Hampshire.
RUSSERT: Politicians spend millions of dollars on TV commercials
which last 30 seconds. We want to demonstrate to the American voters
tonight that you can answer a question in 30 seconds.
Here we go.
Senator Obama, you go around the country saying it's time to turn
the page. Are you talking about the Bushs, the Clintons or both?
OBAMA: What I'm talking about is ending the divisive politics
that we have in this country. I think it is important for us as
Democrats to be clear about what we stand for, but I think we also
have to invite Republicans and Independents to join us in a
progressive agenda for universal health care, to make sure that they
are included in conversations about improving our education system and
properly funding our public schools.
I think turning the page means that we've got to get over the
special interest-driven politics that we have become accustomed to.
And most importantly, it is important for us to make sure that we're
telling the truth to the American people about the choices we face.
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, if you are the nominee, it will be 28
years, from 1980 to 2008, where there has been a Bush or a Clinton on
the national ticket. Is it healthy for a democracy to have a two-
family political dynasty?
CLINTON: I thought Bill was a pretty good president.
From my perspective, you know, the values that he acted on, on
behalf of our country, both at home and abroad, are ones that stand
the test of time.
CLINTON: But, look, I'm running on my own. I'm going to the
people on my own. I think I know how to find common ground and how to
stand my ground. And on all the issues that matter to America in the
21st century, I wish we could turn the clock back. But we can't, and
we need to start with leadership that can deliver results and get us
back to the values that make America great.
RUSSERT: Senator Biden, do you believe that Moveon.org has
changed politics for the better?
BIDEN: I don't think they've changed politics.
RUSSERT: Have they been a positive force in politics?
BIDEN: Well, on some things, yes. I mean, look, I don't think
you can castigate them for the ad. I think -- but the idea that I was
initially told -- I'm going to get in trouble for this -- but that
it's their party; they're part of the party.
BIDEN: It's not their party.
RUSSERT: Congressman Kucinich, Alan Greenspan in his book wrote
something that has not received any notice. He advocates raising
taxes on gasoline $3.00 a gallon over the next 10 years, because he
said there is no way we will wean ourself off of gasoline-driven
automobiles and convert to something else, like Brazil, which uses
Would you be in favor of a phase-in $3.00 a gallon gasoline tax?
KUCINICH: No. And he said something else that didn't receive
much notice. He said that the Iraq war was about oil, something that
I said on "Meet the Press," Tim, on February 23rd, 2003.
I think that we need to make sure that the next president was
right about Iraq, was right about the Patriot Act.
You can have a president like that, who was right about Iraq, who
voted against it from the beginning and against the funding. You can
have a president against -- who was for a single-payer, not-for-profit
health care system, one who will stop the Patriot Act...
KUCINICH: ... or you can have a president who's tall.
RUSSERT: Would anyone here -- would anyone here raise the
gasoline tax in order to wean America off of Middle Eastern oil?
GRAVEL: First off, let me qualify it. I would ask the Congress
-- they won't do it -- but then I would empower the American people to
do it, and that is to put a carbon tax on.
If we don't do something drastic -- you know, we can get off the
gasoline in five years and we can get off of carbon in 10 years. All
we got to do is want to do it. And to put a tax on gasoline permits
politicians and bureaucrats to play favorites. You do it right at the
lump of coal, and you do it at the gas, and you do it at the oil, and
then that filters through the system properly.
RUSSERT: Senator Dodd, you have...
DODD: I've advocated a...
RUSSERT: Yes, you have a carbon tax.
I have another question for you, however. You have two
daughters, 6 and 2. Christmas is coming. Would you favor a temporary
ban on the importation of all toys from China until we are convinced
that they're not coming into our country and harming our children?
DODD: If you promise not to tell my children, I will.
And, certainly, look, I advocated this some time ago here. We
would shut down a company in this country in 20 minutes if they were
using excessive lead paint, sending toothpaste and animal food to this
country that was contaminated, and causing great harm and danger to
The idea that the president would not suspend the importation of
those products to our country I think was terribly wrong-headed. And
certainly I would advocate that that be done until we have the
guarantees in security.
And beyond this issue, we ought to establish in this country,
given the amount of products we now bring into this country off shore,
that there is some sort of ability here to make some judgment about
the safety and security of these products coming in, certainly before
they leave their country.
DODD: So I would certainly do that.
RUSSERT: Senator Obama, you were criticized by Jesse Jackson and
others about your, in their words, tepid response about the situation
in Jena involving the civil rights difficulties in Louisiana.
Should you have gone to Jena, Louisiana, in order to try to bring
those communities together?
OBAMA: No, because I was in Washington at that time trying to
bring an end to the war in Iraq, and that was something that was
The fact is that I was -- before any of the other candidates on
this stage, spoke out with respect to Jena. I put out several strong
statements, including ones prepared with Jesse Jackson's son,
Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. And, subsequently, I think Reverend
Jackson acknowledged that.
This is an issue that's not black or white. It's an issue of
American justice. We've got to make sure the justice system works for
every single person.
RUSSERT: Governor Richardson, if you're president of the United
States you're automatically honorary chairman of the Boy Scouts of
America. In light of that organization's position on sexual
orientation, would you accept that position?
RICHARDSON: No, I wouldn't. Because I think, as president, I
would commit myself, number one, that I will be a leader that prevents
discrimination on the basis of race, gender and sexual orientation. I
will also be a president that follows the Constitution of the United
I will also be a president that will bring back habeas corpus and
the rule of law. I will also be a president that will shut down
Guantanamo. I will also be a president that will follow the
Constitution and not permit torture as a tool in our foreign policy.
I will not eavesdrop on American citizens. And I will not go to war,
unless I get the consent of Congress.
And there are still basic differences on the war. My plans ends
the war, getting the troops out, and with all due respect to Senator
Obama, Senator Edwards, Senator Clinton, what I heard tonight is that
even in their second terms, they will not get the troops out.
Therefore, the war will not end.
RUSSERT: Senator Obama?
OBAMA: You know, I'm happy to have this discussion again, Bill.
I think it is important to tell the American people the truth. Now,
military commanders indicate that they can safely get combat troops
out at the pace of one to two brigades a month. That is the quickest
pace that we can do it safely. I have said I will begin immediately
and we will do it as rapidly as we can.
It is the same issue with Social Security, where the pretense is
that somehow we can do this magically. We can't. I think it's
important for the next president to tell the American people not just
what they want to hear, or to tell our own base what they want to
hear, but what they need to hear. They need to hear...
RUSSERT: I've got to move on and give Senator Edwards a chance.
Senator Edwards, you heard Alan Greenspan recommending raising
gasoline tax. We do have a dependency on foreign oil which all across
America people say we must become energy independent.
RUSSERT: Would you be in favor of developing more nuclear power
here in the United States?
EDWARDS: No. So that was less than 30 seconds.
RUSSERT: Senator Obama, nuclear power?
OBAMA: I don't think that we can take nuclear power off the
table. What we have to make sure of is that we have the capacity to
store it properly and safely, and that we reduce whatever threats
might come from terrorism. And if we can do that in a technologically
sound way, then we should pursue it. If we can't, we should not.
But there is no magic bullet on energy. We're going to have to
look at all the various options to reduce greenhouse gases and to put
us on a path to energy independence.
KUCINICH: Well, first of all, you know, I know a little bit
about this because I actually blocked a nuclear dump in Ohio. And I
was one of the few up here who actually spoke against having a nuclear
dump in Nevada.
The truth of the matter is that nuclear power is very expensive,
KUCINICH: They never factored in the cost of storage, which
I want to keep utility rates low by having a Works Green
Administration, emphasis on solar and wind, drive down this energy
curve of hydrocarbon consumption.
And, finally, no more war as an instrument of policy. No more
resource wars. We've got to make the transition away from oil, and
that's what a Kucinich administration would do.
RUSSERT: Nuclear power?
GRAVEL: Not at all. The solution obviously is wind power. If
we manufactured 5 million of these 2.5 meg windmills across the
country, we could electrify the entire nation -- the entire nation.
I'm talking about our transportation system.
Why don't we do that? We know the -- this is technology off the
shelf. That's why I kept saying, we can get off of gasoline in five
years; we can get off of carbon in 10 years.
GRAVEL: All we've got to want is to do it. And it will take the
American people, because they can't get that through the Congress.
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, would you rule out expanding nuclear
CLINTON: No, but it would not be one of the options that I
favor, unless, number one, the cost can get down for the construction
and operation; number two, that we have a viable solution for the
I voted against Yucca Mountain. I've spoken out against Yucca
Mountain. I think that recently the discovery -- there's an
earthquake fault going under the proposed site at Yucca Mountain --
certainly validates my opposition.
So there are a lot of very difficult questions.
But we're going to have to look at the entire energy profile, in
order to determine how we're going to move away from our dependence
upon carbon-based fuels. And I will look at everything, but there are
some tough questions you'd have to answer with respect to nuclear.
RUSSERT: I want to move to another subject, and this involves a
comment that a guest on "Meet the Press" made, and I want to read it,
as follows: "Imagine the following scenario. We get lucky. We get
the number three guy in Al Qaida. We know there's a big bomb going
off in America in three days and we know this guy knows where it is.
RUSSERT: Don't we have the right and responsibility to beat it
out of him? You could set up a law where the president could make a
finding or could guarantee a pardon.
President (sic) Obama -- would you do that as president?
OBAMA: America cannot sanction torture. It's a very
straightforward principle, and one that we should abide by. Now, I
will do whatever it takes to keep America safe. And there are going
to be all sorts of hypotheticals and emergency situations and I will
make that judgment at that time.
But what we cannot do is have the president of the United States
state, as a matter of policy, that there is a loophole or an exception
where we would sanction torture. I think that diminishes us and it
sends the wrong message to the world.
RUSSERT: Senator Biden, would you allow this presidential
BIDEN: No, I would not. And I met, up here in New Hampshire,
with 17 three- and four-star generals who, after my making a speech at
Drake Law School, pointing out I would not under any circumstances
sanction torture, I thought they were about to read me the riot act.
BIDEN: Seventeen of our four-star, three-star generals said,
"Biden, will you make a commitment you will never use torture?" It
does not work.
It is part of the reason why we got the faulty information on
Iraq in the first place is because it was engaged in by one person who
gave whatever answer they thought they were going to give in order to
stop being tortured. It doesn't work. It should be no part of our
policy ever -- ever.
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, this is the number three man in Al
Qaida. We know there's a bomb about to go off, and we have three
days, and we know this guy knows where it is.
Should there be a presidential exception to allow torture in that
kind of situation?
CLINTON: You know, Tim, I agree with what Joe and Barack have
said. As a matter of policy it cannot be American policy period.
I met with those same three- and four-star retired generals, and
their principal point -- in addition to the values that are so
important for our country to exhibit -- is that there is very little
evidence that it works.
CLINTON: Now, there are a lot of other things that we need to be
doing that I wish we were: better intelligence; making, you know, our
country better respected around the world; working to have more
But these hypotheticals are very dangerous because they open a
great big hole in what should be an attitude that our country and our
president takes toward the appropriate treatment of everyone. And I
think it's dangerous to go down this path.
RUSSERT: The guest who laid out this scenario for me with that
proposed solution was William Jefferson Clinton last year. So he
disagrees with you.
CLINTON: Well, he's not standing here right now.
RUSSERT: So there is a disagreement?
CLINTON: Well, I'll talk to him later.
RUSSERT: Well, that raises a question: Which foreign policy
decisions of the Clinton administration were you involved in or did
CLINTON: Well, I have always said that my husband and I started
a conversation 36 years ago and it never stopped. So I was certainly
involved in talking about a lot of what went on in terms of the
president's decisions. But I know very well that the president makes
the decision. Everyone in the White House is there because of one
person -- the president -- including the spouse of the president.
Ultimately, the president has to sift through everything that is
recommended and make her decision. What I believe is that it is the
ultimate responsibility of a president to seek out a broad cross-
section of advisers who will have different points of view and provide
different perspectives, and that's what I intend to do, and that is
certainly what my husband did as well.
RUSSERT: Anyone else what to disagree with President Clinton on
DODD: Yes, I do.
RUSSERT: Go ahead, Senator Dodd.
DODD: Not that I disagree, but this was all part of the Military
Commissions Act which was adopted last fall.
DODD: There were only a handful of us that voted against it at
the time. And I've written legislation to overturn it. I'll offer no
better witness here than John McCain, who said that during those
terrible years he was incarcerated and tortured, he would say anything
to those interrogators in order to stop the physical pain. So we need
to reinforce the idea here; this is a dreadful way to collect
We need to do other things to make sure it happens. But walking
away from international conventions, as we did with the Geneva
Conventions to disallow the restrictions on torture, I think, is a
mistake, and also to walk away from habeas corpus.
But leadership requires you try and do something about it. And
I'm doing something about it by trying to get the Congress to overturn
RUSSERT: Governor Richardson, this is an exception to offer a
pardon to someone or to do a presidential finding because it's someone
who knows a bomb is going off...
RICHARDSON: No. I will do everything I can to fight terrorists.
That's the main obligation of the American people. But that doesn't
mean we become like terrorists and abridge our own freedoms. What the
Bush administration has been using is called waterboarding. That is
unacceptable not just with the Geneva Conventions, but in the spirit
of our nation being a nation that respects human rights. That's not
us. I would not permit it.
RICHARDSON: And, furthermore, I would not permit -- and here's
another issue that I would like the Senate to take back -- the
president of the United States has today unequaled authority to
eavesdrop on American citizens, without a court order. The Congress
needs to go back and rescind that.
RICHARDSON: That is another abridgement that needs to stop.
RUSSERT: Thank you, Governor.
Senator Edwards, the exception?
EDWARDS: The only thing I would -- I agree with what's been
said. The only thing I would add is the problem is much bigger than
this specific hypothetical illustrates. Because what's happened is,
what America is has been undermined over the last seven years. And
torture is a component of that, or the condoning of torture is a
component of it. But it is only one component.
In addition to the torture, we need to be ending this war in
Iraq. I will close Guantanamo, which I think is a national
embarrassment. The idea that the United States of America would hold
anybody without a right to a hearing undermines everything that we
No more secret prisons. Not when I'm president of the United
And not only no more secret prisons; I will, the first day that
I'm president, end the illegal spying on the American people.
BIDEN: Question, Tim, did you say pardon, as well?
I'd pardon the son of a gun, if I got an atom bomb.
RUSSERT: That was -- that was the scenario that President
Clinton laid out.
BIDEN: OK. Well, I would pardon -- I would not torture, but if
I thought I'd get the hydrogen bomb this guy had planted, I'd say,
"Man, you're out." And then I'd figure out how he got taken care of
later. But I would...
... I would pardon him.
RUSSERT: So you would be in favor of...
BIDEN: I'd pardon him, not torture. Not torture.
RUSSERT: No. It would be pardoning the person who...
BIDEN: Oh, did the torture. No, no, no.
RUSSERT: Fair enough. All right.
Real fast -- 30 seconds.
BIDEN: I thought you meant pardon the...
KUCINICH: Thirty seconds -- you're on my time.
The metaphor that we're using here is one that relates to,
really, 9/11 and the terror that followed, and the politicization of
fear which occurred in this society.
A Kucinich administration will be about strength through peace.
No unilateralism, no preemption, no first-strike, using -- and a
rejection of war as an instrument of policy.
So of course you'd use a pardon, but we have to remember, this
Constitution has to be redeemed and this administration has took us
down a -- really, a (inaudible).
I will not only restore the Constitution, but I want a new
national security doctrine, strength through peace, that will make us
safer, because the neo kind approach has made America less safe and
RUSSERT: I want to turn to politics and money. Senator Clinton,
as you all know, you had to turn back $850,000 in contributions from
Norman Hsu because of his rather checkered past.
Again, President Clinton said this, "Now, we don't have to
publish all our donors for the Clinton Foundation, but if Hillary
became president, I think there would questions about whether people
would try to win favor by giving money to me."
In light of that, do you believe that the Clinton Foundation and
the Clinton library should publish all the donors who give
contributions to those two entities?
CLINTON: Well, Tim, I actually co-sponsored legislation that
would have sitting presidents reveal any donation to their
presidential library, and I think that's a good policy.
RUSSERT: And the foundation?
CLINTON: Well, it would be the same, because that's where the
library comes from.
RUSSERT: Until such legislation, would they voluntarily, the
Clinton library and Clinton Foundation, make their donors public?
CLINTON: Well, you'll have to ask them.
RUSSERT: What's your recommendation?
CLINTON: Well, I don't talk about my private conversations with
my husband, but I'm sure he'd be happy to consider that.
RUSSERT: Is there anyone here who doesn't believe that
presidential libraries and presidential foundations should make public
all their donors?
OBAMA: I just want to amplify on this issue. Because I think
it's important not only that all this information is disclosed, but I
also think that we need to have a situation in which we are disclosing
the funneling of large donors.
And that is something that we were able to successfully do. I
pushed it with Russ Feingold to make sure that large funnelers who
were lobbyists were disclosed.
We are now in the process of presenting a bill where any large
bundler has to disclose who they're bundling money from and who are
they funneling it to. And I think that should be passed right away.
RUSSERT: Senator Edwards, you mentioned candor with the
candidate -- president with the American people. Your campaign has
hit some obstacles with revelations about $400 haircuts, $500,000 for
working for a hedge fund, $800,000 from Rupert Murdoch.
Do you wish you hadn't taken money in all those cases or hadn't
made that kind of expenditure for a haircut?
EDWARDS: Well, first of all, I think if you look at my entire
life, I am proud of what I've spent my life doing. I'm not perfect.
There's not a single person on this stage who's perfect, but I came
from a family.
I was born into nothing. I was brought home to a two-room house
in a mill village. I have spent my entire life fighting for the kind
of people that I grew up with. They worked in the mill with my
father. And I don't apologize for the fact that I have worked hard
and built a life which I hope will make life easier for my children.
I'm proud of that. I'm not ashamed of that.
And I am proud of having stood up for the people that I grew up
with. It's what I have done my entire life. I did it for 20 years as
lawyer. It's what I've done every minute that I've been in public
It is the reason that I've been going around the country helping
organize workers into unions. It is the reason we started a College
for Everyone program for low-income kids. It is the reason Elizabeth
and I started an after-school program for kids who otherwise would
have no chance to go to an after-school program, having access to
I'm proud of what I've done with my life, and I do not apologize
EDWARDS: And I do not apologize for it.
RUSSERT: But the hedge fund, as you know, had subprime
mortgages, many of which defaulted in the Katrina area. If you had to
do it all over again, would you not have taken that money?
EDWARDS: But look at what I've done. Look at what I've done.
EDWARDS: No, wait a second. You asked me the question.
RUSSERT: The specific example.
EDWARDS: Please let me respond.
RUSSERT: Specific example.
EDWARDS: Look at what I've done. When that issue came up in New
Orleans, what I did is went to ACORN, an organization I had worked
with in New Orleans, and we actually set up a fund to help people
whose homes were being foreclosed on in New Orleans.
I helped raise the money for that fund. Elizabeth and I made a
big contribution to it ourselves, because we feel -- I feel a personal
commitment to help families whose lives have been devastated. It's
why I have made central to my entire campaign the issue of poverty in
And I am perfectly happy to have anybody in America, any voter in
New Hampshire, any voter anywhere in this country judge me based on
what I've done in my life.
RUSSERT: Before we go, there's been a lot of discussion about
the Democrats and the issue of faith and values. I want to ask you a
Senator Obama, what is your favorite Bible verse?
OBAMA: Well, I think it would have to be the Sermon on the
Mount, because it expresses a basic principle that I think we've lost
over the last six years.
John talked about what we've lost. Part of what we've lost is a
sense of empathy towards each other. We have been governed in fear
and division, and you know, we talk about the federal deficit, but we
don't talk enough about the empathy deficit, a sense that I stand in
somebody else's shoes, I see through their eyes. People who are
struggling trying to figure out how to pay the gas bill, or try to
send their kids to college. We are not thinking about them at the
That's the reason I'm running for president, because I want to
RUSSERT: I want to give everyone a chance in this. You just
take 10 seconds.
Senator Clinton, favorite Bible verse?
CLINTON: The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them
do unto you. I think it's a good rule for politics, too.
RUSSERT: Senator Gravel?
GRAVEL: The most important thing in life is love. That's what
empowers courage, and courage implements the rest of our virtues.
RUSSERT: Congressman Kucinich?
KUCINICH: I carry that with me at every debate, this prayer from
St. Francis, which says, "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,"
and I believe very strongly that all of us can be instruments of
peace. And that's what I try to bring to public life.
RUSSERT: Senator Edwards?
EDWARDS: It appears many times in the Bible, "What you do onto
the least of those, you do onto me."
RUSSERT: Governor Richardson?
RICHARDSON: The Sermon on the Mount, because I believe it's an
issue of social justice, equality, brotherly issues reflecting a
nation that is deeply torn and needs to be heal and come together.
DODD: The Good Samaritan would be a worthwhile sort of
description of who we all ought to be in life.
RUSSERT: Senator Biden?
BIDEN: Christ's warning of the Pharisees. There are many
Pharisees, and it's part of what has bankrupted some people's view
about religion. And I worry about the Pharisees.
RUSSERT: I want to thank you all for your answers this evening.
I want to ask Allison King for one more question. This, after
all, is New Hampshire. She wants to ask you about baseball.
KING: For many here, in New England, the answer to this next
question may be the most important one you answer tonight.
Red Sox or Yankees?
DODD: What is it now, Bill? Come on.
RICHARDSON: Red Sox, because Manny Ramirez is back. The Red Sox
will win the penant and they will win the World Series.
KING: Senator Clinton?
KUCINICH: You know, I've got to take exception to this.
Cleveland Indians won the central division, 92 victories -- they're
going to the World Series.
KING: Senator Clinton, where are you on this? Red Sox or
CLINTON: Well, I hate to say it in front of this New Hampshire
crowd -- I'm a Yankees fan. Have been for a long, long time.
RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, what a bout a World Series -- Yankees
CLINTON: Well, you know, I've worried about that because I
think, given the Cubs' record, which of course, I hope it happens, but
it could very well be a sign of the coming apocalypse, were that to
It would be so out of history that you would have the Cubs versus
the Yanks. Then I'd be really in trouble.
RUSSERT: But who would you be for?
CLINTON: Well, I would probably have to alternate sides.
RUSSERT: Spoken like a true sports fan.
Senator Gravel, Yankees, Red Sox?
GRAVEL: I'm from New England. I was born in Massachusetts. Do
you have to ask that question?
EDWARDS: Red Sox.
OBAMA: Sox, but the wrong color. I'm a White Sox fan all the
DODD: Sox. And tomorrow night you're going to be hosting a
debate in Red Sox nation.
DODD: Who's going to be the president of Red Sox nation? We all
want to tune into that one.
BIDEN: I was raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, by a grandfather,
if you weren't a Yankees fan you didn't eat. Yankees.
RUSSERT: Thank you all.
Thank you voters of New Hampshire and all across the country for
watching the Democratic candidates tonight.
And thank you, Dartmouth.
Our thanks to New England Cable News, Dartmouth College. The
broadcast re-airs tonight, 1 a.m. Eastern on MSNBC.
If you want to see the Republican candidates in a similar
setting, NBC will bring you the debate from Dearborn, Michigan,
October 9th. I'll see you this Sunday on "Meet the Press."
From Hanover, New Hampshire, good night.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 481