Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate
Sponsored by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Democratic National Committee
BILL RICHARDSON: Welcome to New Mexico.
Albuquerque, NM, September 4, 2003
It is fitting that the first ever bilingual presidential debate is happening in New Mexico. Our multicultural population truly represents the future of our nation and the Democratic Party. It is my hope that the rest of the country finds out tonight what we already know in New Mexico and in the West: that Hispanic voters care deeply about issues such as jobs and economic growth, health care, technology and national security, in addition to traditional concerns like immigration and civil rights.
(Speaking in Spanish)
There is nothing more important on any issue than education. And in New Mexico, we're investing in our classrooms, not administration. We cut taxes to stimulate economic growth. We pay for our tax cuts. We're only one of two states with a budget surplus. We're tied for first in the country for job growth. We're an example of what's possible with a right agenda and the right leadership—Democratic leadership.
And we can do the same in Washington. I challenge Hispanics across the country to mobilize and energize our communities for next year's election.
I want to thank the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and their great leader, Congressman Ciro Rodriguez, for helping to organize this event. I also want to thank the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe, for his outreach to the Hispanic community.
And on behalf of the citizens of New Mexico, a state we're all very proud of, welcome to the land of enchantment. Thank you.
RAY SUAREZ: Let me take a moment to explain some of our ground rules. There will be no opening or closing statements tonight. The candidates have been asked to keep their answers at or under a minute. At a minute, a warning light will go off. We will not interrupt an answer unless it goes more than one minute and 30 seconds.
However, we will be keeping close tabs on how much time each candidate has actually used so that if a candidate has a long answer in an early section of the debate, he or she will get less time to respond in the next segment. In this way, we can keep a close eye on the time and adjust for fairness throughout the debate, not just at the end.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: (Speaking in Spanish)
Now, let's meet the candidates. The order of the podiums was chosen through a random drawing. We'll begin from my left to the right.
Florida Senator Bob Graham.
Missouri Congressman Dick Gephardt.
Former ambassador and former Illinois senator, Carol Moseley Braun. The only woman in the group, I might add.
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry.
Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich.
North Carolina Senator John Edwards.
Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman.
And the former governor of Vermont, Howard Dean.
RAY SUAREZ: And I'll begin tonight's questioning with Governor Dean. The United States is now trying to get help from the United Nations in the form of a resolution to internationalize the mission in Iraq. How much decision-making power can the United States share, while at the same time urging other countries to share the cost and share the risk of being there?
HOWARD DEAN: Well, as you know, I believed from the beginning that we should not go into Iraq without the United Nations as our partner. And in this situation, fortunately the president is finally beginning to see the light. We cannot do this by ourselves, we cannot have an American occupation and reconstruction. We have to have a reconstruction of Iraq with the United Nations, with NATO, and preferably with Muslim troops, particularly Arabic-speaking troops from our allies such as Egypt and Morocco.
We cannot have American troops serving under United Nations command. We have never done that before. But we can have American troops serving under American command, and it's very clear to me that in order to get the United Nations and NATO into Iraq, this president is going to have to go back to the very people he humiliated, our allies, on the way into Iraq, and hope that they will now agree with us that we were wrong to go—excuse me—that they will now agree with us that we need their help there. We were wrong to go in without the United Nations, now we need their help, and that's not a surprise.
RAY SUAREZ: Congressman Gephardt, you were one of the early supporters of the Iraq intervention and voted to authorize the use of power there. Touch on those same points. How much authority, how much decision-making power can the United States cede in order to get the cooperation of its allies for the mission from here on out?
RICHARD GEPHARDT: I told President Bush a year and a half ago that if he wanted to deal with Iraq and weapons, he needed to go to the U.N., he needed to get their help, he needed to get NATO's help. He was not able to do it. He should have done it after we went in. I even told him at an early stage, "You're not going to need them going in, you're going to need them coming out." I said, "This is going to be complicated, difficult and long." He needs to be there now.
Let me tell you something, we have a president who has broken up the alliances that Democratic and Republican presidents have put together over 70 years. We need our friends. We need friends from all over the world in Iraq now. We can't afford a billion dollars a week. We can't be losing all the people that are lost over there. It would be a big difference in Iraq if we had an international force there and not just American and British troops. He is not doing his job.
When I am president, I will go back to the U.N., I will go to NATO, I will repair these alliances and we will again lead a world alliance against terrorism and the other problems that we face.
RAY SUAREZ: Congressman Kucinich, some of those allies that the two earlier speakers have referred to have already said that the current resolution that's circulating doesn't go far enough. Can we keep American civil administration and American military administration as it currently exists and expect the rest of the world to come to the aid of the United States?
DENNIS KUCINICH: I believe that it is time to bring the troops home, it is time to bring the U.N. in and get the U.S. out.
(Speaking in Spanish)
And what we need to do in order to accomplish that is to get the United Nations together in an agreement that provides for the following: first, that the U.N. will handle the collection and distribution of all oil revenues for the people of Iraq without privatization.
Second that the U.N. will handle all contracts. No more Halliburton sweetheart deals. And third...
And third, that the United Nations will proceed to work with the people of Iraq to construct a government that the people of Iraq can call their own. Under those conditions, the United States can move away from Bush's blunder, which Iraq will be known as because there was no reason to go into Iraq—at war with Iraq in the first place. And everyone who took the responsibility on this stage has to answer to the American people for voting for that war. I led the effort against it.
RAY SUAREZ: Maria Elena?
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Senator Kerry, who voted for and was a very strong supporter of going to war with Iraq: Now what does going back to the U.N., after we basically told the U.N.—or the U.S. basically told the United Nations that it was irrelevant, what does that do to our standing in the world?
JOHN KERRY: It will raise our standing in the world to behave as we ought to, according to the highest values and traditions of our country, which is to work with other nations.
What we know now is that being flown to an aircraft carrier and pronouncing the words, "mission accomplished," does not end a war. And the swagger of a president who says, "Bring them on," does not bring our troops peace or safety. And I intend—I will return...
I believe we need a president who understands how to get it right in the beginning. This is the third opportunity of the president to try to get it right. The first was when we originally gave the authority of force, when he told us and Colin Powell told us they would go to the U.N. and build a coalition. The president didn't do it. He failed in his diplomacy, he rushed to war against our warnings, and he has now inherited the wind, so to speak.
Secondly, he had another opportunity. When that statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled, that was the moment for a president of courage and leadership to say to the world: Now we've done what we had to do, but we want the world to come to the effort and join us.
This is the third opportunity, and it is critical that this president gives life to the notion that the United States of America never goes to war because we want to. We should only go to war because we have to. And we must hold the United Nations up for what it is. If you didn't have it, you'd have to invent it. And this president needs to understand that.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Let's go on to Senator Lieberman. Senator Lieberman, you said in the past that there is not an inch of difference between President Bush and yourself in the war against Iraq. But you have asked recently for more troops and more resources for Iraq—a very different point of view from the president's. Are you still that close to the president, an
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: That statement was made, Maria Elena, as we were about to go to war. And what I said I believe expressed the best traditions and values of the United States, which is when American men and women in uniform go into battle, there's not an inch of space between any of us on that question.
Look, long before George Bush became president, I reached a conclusion that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States of America and to the world, and particularly to his own people who he was brutally suppressing. I believe that the war against Saddam was right, and that the world is safer with him gone. I said last fall and then again in February, a month before the war, "Mr. President, here's what you have to do to get ready to secure post-Saddam Iraq."
No planning was done by this administration. I believe it's because this is an administration divided within itself, and the president as commander in chief has not brought it together.
As president, I would have listened to the American military when they said we need more troops to secure Iraq. I would have gotten off of pride and hurt feelings and gone to the NATO and the United Nations and asked them to join us in securing and rebuilding this country.
I would have brought the Iraqis into control of the country. Let me say this to the question asked earlier: I didn't support the war against Saddam Hussein so we could control Iraq. Quite the contrary. I supported it so we could get rid of Saddam and let the Iraqis control Iraq. So I would negotiate whatever resolution at the United Nations will draw our allies with us into keeping the peace, rebuilding the country and holding hope that the American soldiers can soon return to their families in peace.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: (Speaking in Spanish)
Before going on, I'd like to mention that Reverend Al Sharpton of New York had planned to join us tonight. But because of travel delays due to weather in the East Coast, he could not be here.
RAY SUAREZ: Let me continue with Senator Graham. Today, the president of France and the chancellor of Germany both expressed doubt about the resolution that's currently circulating in its current form at the U.N., the U.S. hoping to get international help in the Iraq mission.
How can the United States invite allies aboard and at the same time, share some of the duties if it will not share the authority.
BOB GRAHAM: It cannot, Ray. That is one of the fundamental problems with this administration. It will not recognize that there are consequences to your action.
I voted against the resolution to go to war in Iraq for a somewhat different reason than Governor Dean. I voted against it because I thought it was the wrong war against the wrong enemy, which represented the lesser threat to the people of the United States.
I have been chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee for the last two years. I came to the firm conclusion that the greatest threat to the people of the United States of America, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and the other international terrorists who have demonstrated the will and the capability to kill Americans. That was a matter of judgment as to which was the greater threat.
Today, the question is one of how do we extricate ourselves from Iraq, and I believe the first step in that extrication is going to be to rebuild relations with our key allies. It's not just Iraq. It's the Kyoto treaty. It's the ABM agreement. It is agreement after agreement, which were critical to the maintenance of the victory in the Cold War and now to environmental sanity that this president has rejected. No wonder we have so much trouble getting support when we need it.
RAY SUAREZ: Ambassador Moseley Braun, several of the earlier speakers mentioned that our traditions don't involve American troops ever serving under shared or foreign command.
Given the situation currently, and given the United States' effort to internationalize the load, carrying the load in Iraq, is it time to revisit that standard?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: Let me slightly answer your question a different way. Let me mention a name that probably nobody has heard in a long time. And that's Osama bin Laden—"bin missing."
We haven't been looking for him because we got off on the wrong track. And we got on the wrong track in large part because
the Constitution's guidance in this regard—Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution—calls on the Congress to declare war.
That didn't happen in this case. And the resolution allowed this president to go off hell-bent for leather on this what I've called a misadventure that has really—now is beginning to come back. The chickens are beginning to come home to roost.
The fact of the matter is, however, that we don't cut and run. Americans don't cut and run. We have to support our troops in the field. I think supporting them not only means giving the command on the ground what they need but even supplies. I spoke to the mother of a young man who's serving abroad, serving in Iraq now, and she was complaining about the fact that they don't even have the things they need in the field. So we are in a position now in which we have—this administration has frittered away the goodwill, failed to go after Al Qaeda and bin Laden, thumbed their nose at old Europe and the international community, left our troops in the field without the resources they need and put us in a situation in which they have no answer for the American people how we can get out with honor.
It seems to me that that is the challenge. And so I welcome the international community. I am grateful that they are considering some burden sharing here. I hope that it will allow us, within the tradition of U.S. command and control over our own forces, allow us to extricate ourselves with honor but continue a viable war on terrorism that gets bin Laden and his pals and all the people who would do harm to the American people.
RAY SUAREZ: To round out this first section, Senator Edwards, how would you view this effort to internationalize the war? What can we expect from our allies? And how do we share the burden?
JOHN EDWARDS: Well, unfortunately what we see happening on the ground in Iraq right now is part of a long-term pattern by this president. And it's not just his alienation of our allies in Europe. He's doing exactly the same thing to our friends in Latin America, in Mexico, his relationship with President Fox being a perfect example.
I actually believe that Saddam Hussein being gone is a very good thing, good for the Iraqi people, good for the security of that region of the world and good for the security and safety of the American people. But I said a year ago that it was crucial—almost a year ago—that it was crucial that in this effort we bring our friends and allies in and that we have a clear plan for what would happen now.
We have young men and women in a shooting gallery right now. And the primary reason for that is because this president had no plan. And now he stubbornly continues to fight an effort to bring others in, to relinquish some responsibility, some control in order to bring our friends and allies into this effort.
This started a long time ago. It didn't begin on September the 11th and it didn't begin in Iraq. It began with his unilateral disengagement from Kyoto, unilateral disengagement from the biological weapons convention, a whole series of nuclear nonproliferation agreements.
When I am president of the United States, I will lead in a way that shows that America is strong, but at the same time that we will solve the world's problems with the rest of the world in a multilateral, coalition-building way that brings the power and force of the entire planet to the effort to solve the world's problems, because that is the most effective way to create respect for America. And at the end of the day, the American people are safer and more secure in a world where America is looked up to and respected.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: (Speaking in Spanish)
No matter what your point of view was on the war, whether you voted for it or you were against it, the truth is—the fact is that now we are committed there in Iraq. And nearly every day we hear of one or two soldiers dying, one or two soldiers being hurt. So now what do you say to the parents of these soldiers that are there in Iraq? What is the next step for the U.S.? What do we do with the troops? Do we bring back the troops? Do we send more troops? Or do we keep the current levels that are there? Mr. Lieberman, you have already said that you would commit more troops. Congressman Gephardt, what would you do?
RICHARD GEPHARDT: We cannot cut and run. We've got to see that this situation is left in a better place. We have to form an international coalition to get it done. This president is a miserable failure. He is a miserable failure.
I, some days, just can't believe—it's incomprehensible to me, it is incomprehensible that we would wind up in this situation without a plan and without international cooperation to get this done. As others have said, we have worked with other nations in the world on the environmental problems that we face, on trade problems that we face, on economic problems, on terrorism, on drug trafficking. We've been the leader, we've been the one that has put the coalitions together. This president doesn't get it. He's a unilateralist. He thinks he knows all the answers. He doesn't respect others. Look, you got to respect other leaders. They didn't agree with us. You got to work with them, talk to them, put together the coalitions that we need.
That's what I would do. That's what he should be doing.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: But you said we can't pull out now. So do we send more troops, or do we keep the ones that we have there?
RICHARD GEPHARDT: No, we get help, we get the help that we should have gotten from the beginning. We go to the Turks, we go to the Indians, we go to the Chinese, we go to the Russians, the French, the Germans and we work out a resolution consistent with all the traditions of the American military. We're not going to turn our troops over to U.N. command. We've done this in Bosnia, we've done it in Afghanistan, we can do this. But this president has to lead, and he is not leading. He's a miserable failure on this issue, and he must be replaced in the election.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Senator Lieberman, you would send more troops?
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Excuse me?
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: You would send more troops, Senator Lieberman?
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: I would send more troops, because the troops that are there need that protection. And we need some of the specialized services that will help the Iraqis gain control of their country, and mean it sooner American troops could come home. Obviously, Americans have to control an international force. But a year ago I called for an international force. You know what I would say to the parents of Americans who are serving there? Your sons and daughters are serving in a heroic and historic cause. They have thrown over Saddam Hussein, liberated a people and protected America and the rest of the world from a dangerous dictator. They are now involved in a critical battle in the war on terrorism, because terrorists have come in there to strike at us and strike at the instruments of civilization—the Jordanian embassy, the United Nations headquarters and the Shi'a mosque and killing Ayatollah Hakim.
These are enemies of civilization, and if we don't get together and defeat them now, shame on us. This administration let down our troops—let me make that clear—in not having a plan to secure the country, in not having international help, in not bringing in the Iraqis quickly enough, and in doing so, they exposed American soldiers to more danger than they should have been exposed to. As president, I will never do that. I promise you that.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you, Senator.
(Speaking in Spanish)
We are spending more than $4 billion a month in Iraq. Do we send more troops?
HOWARD DEAN: Look, I think the most important aspect and the most important quality for any chief executive when they're executing foreign policy is judgment.
I supported the first war in Iraq because one of our allies was invaded, and I thought we had a responsibility to defend them.
I supported the war in Afghanistan; 3,000 of our people were murdered. They would have murdered more if they could have. I thought we had a right to defend the United States of America. But in the case of Iraq, the president told us that Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were about to make a deal or were making a deal. The truth is, there are more likely to be people from Al Qaeda bombing Iraqis and Americans today than there were before Saddam Hussein was kicked out.
Secondly, the president told us that Iraq was buying uranium from Africa. That wasn't true. The vice president told us that the Iraqis were about to get atomic weapons. That turned out not to be true. The secretary of defense told us he knew exactly where the weapons of mass destruction were, right around Tikrit and Baghdad. That turned out to be false as well.
As commander in chief of the United States military, I will never hesitate to send troops anywhere in the world to defend the United States of America. But as commander in chief of the United States military I will never send our sons and daughters and our brothers and sisters to a foreign country in harm's way without telling the truth to the American people about why they're going there. And that judgment needs to be made first, not afterwards.
We need more troops. They're going to be foreign troops, as they should have been in the first place, not American troops. Ours need to come home.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you, Governor.
RAY SUAREZ: Senator Edwards, the administration is expected to ask the Congress, and the figures vary, somewhere between $60 and $80 billion to continue the mission in Iraq. Will you support that spending?
JOHN EDWARDS: I think the president and the administration need to say to the Congress and to the American people what this war is going to cost over the long term; how long they think we're going to be there. How long—you asked earlier of some of the other candidates, what they would say to the mothers and fathers of men and women who are there now and those who have died.
Just a week ago, I spoke to the wife of a young soldier from North Carolina who had died who had young children. And what I would say to them is they have served courageously. They have done an extraordinary job for their country.
But the reason we are in this situation we are in now is because this president has not led. He has not addressed the problem of bringing in others. He has not brought our allies, our friends. He has not gone to the United Nations in the way that he should have. And the very least, it seems to me, that the American people are entitled to is to find out how long he believes we'll be there and what he believes it's going to cost. Because one of the great benefits of bringing in our friends and allies is to relieve some of the burden from the American people.
And this, by the way, is the same administration that while they won't tell us what Iraq is costing and they won't tell us how much they think it's going to cost say we can't afford a real prescription drug benefit. We can't afford health care for our people. We can't afford college for our kids. Well, the president needs to tell us the truth about the cost.
RAY SUAREZ: Senator Graham, you'll be one of the people asked to vote as well. Will you support that increased expenditure, because it looks like it's going to cost a lot of money one way or the other for the United States to finish and leave in Iraq.
BOB GRAHAM: The answer is yes. I believe that we have courageous men and women on the ground who are putting their lives at risk at the rate of one per day, 10 per day being wounded and maimed in Iraq during this time of occupation. We have an obligation to support those troops.
The president has an obligation to speak candidly to the American people, to answer the questions that have not been answered such as: What will be—with international cooperation—our long-term commitment in Iraq? What will we do about restarting the war against Osama bin Laden, which he effectively abandoned 12 months ago?
What will we do about those countries that pretend to be our friends, who in fact have been our enemies in the war on terrorism? What is our exit strategy? How will we leave Iraq? And finally, who is going to pay this $60 billion to $80 billion? Are we, this generation of Americans, going to pay our bills? Are we going to ask our children and grandchildren to
pay for this by adding to an already staggering national debt?
RAY SUAREZ: Senator Kerry, you'll also be asked about that expenditure. Will you vote to approve it?
JOHN KERRY: I think there are several levels of failure of leadership here. The first is that the president has failed
altogether to share with the American people the truth—the truth about the cost, the truth about the reasons and the way in which he is going to protect the troops and the interests of the United States of America.
You ask the question, what do you say to the parents? That's something I've thought about a lot, because I remember the lesson of Vietnam is that you need to be able to look a parent in the eye, if you send their kids to war, and be able to say to them, "We tried to do everything possible not to lose your son and daughter. We did everything available to us."
I think there's a failure of leadership because this president did not in fact pass that test in the way he rushed to the war.
And I and others warned him not to rush to war, to take the time to build the coalition to do what's necessary. Why?
Because not only do you gain more support for your country, but that's the way that you best protect the troops in the field.
The next level of failure of leadership is in actually not doing what's necessary now to protect the troops. I disagree with Joe Lieberman on this. We should not send more American troops. That would be the worst thing. We do not want to have more Americanization. We do not want a greater sense of American occupation. We need to minimize that. And the way to do that is do everything possible, including sharing the power, to bring other countries in to take the burden.
And the final failure of leadership is the failure of this president to understand the world today: the problems of North Korea before they're a crisis, where you need to negotiate; Africa and AIDS before it's a crisis, not a matter of a political stop; the issue of proliferation. This president wants to build a new generation of nuclear weapons. I don't want another generation of usable nuclear weapons. And we have to need the president to say no.
RAY SUAREZ: Maria Elena?
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Let's talk about the economy.
(Speaking in Spanish)
So the economy is growing slightly. The number of jobs is continuing to decline. And unemployment has risen faster for Hispanics than any other sector of the country. Right now, it stands at 8.2 percent. What would you do as president of the United States to remedy the situation? Let's begin with Congressman Kucinich.
DENNIS KUCINICH: The following steps need to be taken in order to begin to help the American economy recover. First of all, when you consider that we've lost 2.7 million manufacturing jobs since July of 2000, it's shocking but the United States does not have a manufacturing policy, an economic policy which states that the maintenance of steel, automotive, aerospace and shipping is vital to our national economy and our national security. We will have a policy when I'm president.
Secondly, we have to do everything we can to secure our manufacturing base, and that means giving a critical examination to those trade agreements that have caused a loss of hundreds of thousands, in some cases millions of jobs, in this economy. As president of the United States, my first act in office, therefore, will be to cancel NAFTA and the WTO and to return to bilateral trade, conditioned on workers' rights, human rights and the environment.
On Labor Day, I announced a new initiative, a new initiative which will enable the United States to rebuild its cities in the same way that Franklin Roosevelt rebuilt America during the Depression, called a new WPA-type program, rebuild our cities, our streets, our water systems, our sewer systems, new energy systems. It's time to rebuild America. We have the resources to do it, we have to have the will to do it.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you, Congressman. We'll get to NAFTA again a little later.
(Speaking in Spanish)
Senator Graham, you have said that you would create new jobs by using federal funds to rebuild infrastructure, to build bridges and highways that are much needed in the country. How do you create jobs in that way across the board in all sectors?
BOB GRAHAM: First, let me say I have done it. For eight years I was governor of one of the largest and most complicated and diverse states in the nation. While I was governor, 1.4 million new jobs were created. Those jobs had the effect for the first time in my state's history, raising the average per capita income above the national average. For three years, Florida was designated as the state that had the best climate for economic expansion and growth. So when I say what we should do, I am not speculating. I am bringing the experience of actually creating good jobs for our people.
What we should do? One, we should repeal all of the portions of the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which went primarily to the upper incomes.
Number two, we should use a portion of that money to give a tax break to middle-income Americans by reducing the tax on the payrolls. That's a place where money actually will be spent, used and energize the economy. Third, we should have an interstate-like program to rebuild America. We got a wake-up call a couple of weeks ago when our electric system went down. The same thing could have happened with the bridges falling into the Mississippi River, with schools tumbling in on children.
If we can spend the money to rebuild the electric system, the bridges and highways and schools of Iraq and Afghanistan, we can do it in the United States of America.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you, Senator. Ambassador Moseley Braun, he's saying to repeal the tax cuts in 2002, 2003. Do we ask people to give the money back?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: No. No, you'll never get it back. The point is—The point is, we are witnessing for the first time in recent history embedded wealth, entrenched poverty and a shrinking middle class in America. And the only way we can turn that around is to end the trickle-down economics that have given the wealthiest Americans more money than they can even reasonably use and give people opportunity to support themselves and their families. If you invest in the masses of the people, you can create jobs and create the kind of stimulus for the economy that will give prosperity to everybody.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Well, how do you create those jobs?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: You do it—well, when I was in the Senate, I proposed rebuilding our nation's crumbling schools. That's one way. A second way is to begin to rebuild traditional infrastructure—roads and bridges and the like.
Another way, which I find very exciting, is to invest in environmental technologies—technology transfer, creating incentives for people—for entrepreneurs to create whole new industries and environmental technologies that, frankly, will not only preserve our air and our water and our soil here, and deal with energy shortfalls and difficulties, but also give us product to sell to the rest of the world.
I want to finish up with one other point. I am also very concerned about the pay gap—what I call the sticky floor—on which many women, who are sole providers often for their families, are stuck.
Women—right now, you've heard 76 cents on the dollar. That's for Anglo women. African-American women, it's about 67 cents on the dollar. And Hispanic women, it's about 56 cents on the dollar. You can't use 56 cents to buy a dollar loaf of bread. You have to be able to support your families. And getting rid of this pay equity—of the pay inequities and leveling the playing field between men and women in terms of the amount of money that they earn, that they can—with which they can support their families is a real priority and will be a priority in my administration.
RAY SUAREZ: Governor Dean, people doing all kinds of work have lost jobs in the last couple of years. But people working in the manufacturing sector have done worst of all, losing between 2 and 3 million jobs. Now, Congressman Kucinich talked about preserving certain industrial capacities as a matter of national security. But given the way goods move around the world, can we really say to a laid-off American steel worker, textile worker or auto worker, with any assurance that they ever are going to get their jobs back?
HOWARD DEAN: We can say that we can have jobs again in America, manufacturing jobs in America. I agree with most of what was said here about the economy. The one piece I would add to it, however, is that we need to stop corporate welfare and start doing something for small businesses in this country.
Small businesses create more jobs than large businesses do and they don't move their jobs offshore because they're rooted in their community. If you want to invest in America, we ought to invest in America and stay in America with those jobs.
And I agree with the infrastructure and the... We also ought to invest in renewable energy because, Lord knows, we ought to stop sending our foreign oil money to the Middle East where it's used to fund terrorism.
Now, I do not agree with Dennis that we ought to get rid of NAFTA and the WTO. But we do need to understand what makes the European Union work. You can't get into the European Union unless you have exactly the same labor and environmental and human rights standards that you do in all those countries. We ought not to be in the business of having free and open borders with countries that don't have the same environmental, labor and human rights standards. And if you do that, we're going to be able to create manufacturing jobs in America again and they'll stay in America.
RAY SUAREZ: Senator Edwards, North Carolina has seen the loss of many of the jobs that we've been talking about. What's the role of the president in all of this?
JOHN EDWARDS: Well, you know, the president goes around the country speaking Spanish. The only Spanish he speaks when it comes to jobs is, "Hasta la vista."
Here's what I would do as president. First, I would stop these corporate—these tax loopholes that give American businesses a reason to go overseas. Instead, we ought to give tax breaks to companies that'll keep jobs right here in America.
I would also make sure in our trade agreements for some of the same reasons that Dennis just talked about, that we had real environmental protections, real labor protections, prohibitions against child labor and forced labor, so that we give our workers a better chance to compete.
But it's not enough to just protect the jobs that we have. We have to create jobs, and particularly in those communities where the job loss has been greatest. So what I would do is identify those places in America that have been hit the hardest, particularly by trade, and create a national venture capital fund for businesses that will locate there, give tax incentives to existing business and industry that will come there. The two other things we need to do, though, to get this economy going again is something this president is incapable of doing, which is cracking down on corporate cheating so that business actually works for employees.
And finally, finally, we need to stop President Bush's war on work. We need to stop these tax cuts for multi-millionaires who invest, and instead give tax cuts to working people to help them buy a house, to help them educate their kids, to help them get health care, to help them save.
That's the kind of tax cut that's going to actually help middle class working families.
RAY SUAREZ: Thank you, Senator Edwards. Maria Elena?
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: (Speaking in Spanish)
As many of you know, the U.S. and Latin America have been negotiating the FTAA—the Free Trade of the Americas—that would create a free trade zone in Latin America by 2005. Let's begin with Senator Lieberman. Do you support it?
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: I certainly support the goal. And let me talk about that. Let me describe the Bush policy toward Latin America in a Spanish phrase: (Speaking in Spanish).
"Many words and little action and a great opportunity lost."
Look, all of us on this stage agree that the Bush economic policy has been a powerful failure. It has stifled the American dream, has lost 3.2 million jobs, 2.5 million in manufacturing.
American manufacturing is bleeding. The president sent his secretary of the treasury—finally, after many of us have been calling for it to do so—to China to try to get them to stop linking their currency to the dollar, which is an unfair advantage they get over American manufacturing - came back empty-handed. We can't do that. We've got to be—I'm for trade, but for fair trade.
Let me say the same is true with regard to fair trade for the Americas and Latin America. We have turned our back on our allies to the south.
I want to say something about what Governor Dean said. He said here tonight, again, something that I read he said on an interview with The Washington Post, which I found to be stunning, which is that he would not have bilateral trade agreements with any country that did not observe fully American standards. Now that would mean we'd break our trade agreements with Mexico, with Latin America, with most of the rest of the world. That would cost us millions of jobs.
One out of every five jobs in America is tied up with trade. So if that ever happened, I'd say that the Bush recession would be followed by the Dean depression.
We cannot put a wall around America. We cannot put a wall around America, and we cannot leave our businesses and workers defenseless. We have to have trade, which is good for our economy and good for our relations with Latin America.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Governor Dean?
HOWARD DEAN: Thank you for the opportunity to respond. We do have to have trade relations which rely on equality and labor standards throughout the world. It doesn't have to be American labor standards; it could be the International Labor Organization. I believe Mexico will do that. I believe that Mexico wants open trade relationships with the United States.
And I believe, given the reform that's gone on in Mexico under Vicente Fox, that we will in fact be able to negotiate with Mexico the same labor standards, the same human rights and the same environmental standards over a period of time. And I think we need to do that. We cannot continue to ship our jobs to countries where they get paid 50 cents an hour with no occupational safety and health, no overtime, no labor protections and no right to organize. We're going to move every job out of this country.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Let's go to Senator Kerry.
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Maria Elena, may I say just briefly that Governor Dean, in his interview with The Washington Post, referred to American standards, not international standards.
HOWARD DEAN: Either is fine with me.
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Well, then that's a reassuring change of position. I totally support the application of international labor standards to all of our bilateral trade agreements, and I have fought for that on the floor of the Senate over and over again.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Senator Kerry, in Mexico the salaries for many workers is $1 a day. Can we ask Mexico to pay $5 to $10 an hour like we do in the United States?
JOHN KERRY: Well, we can ask them, but they'll say no. If I could just put this in a context a little bit. You know, it's interesting that the Standard & Poor's went up to 1,000, and the Dow went up to 9,400, which proves that good things happen when George Bush is on vacation, folks.
In fact, I think the only jobs created in the United States of America by George Bush are the nine of us running for president of the United States.
But I want to speak to the larger question because it's critical. I don't support the free trade agreement of America as it is today, I don't support the Central American free trade agreement as it is today because they do desperately need to have increased labor standards, environment standards, to bring other countries up. You can't have trade be a rush to the bottom, and you can't leave other nations with a one-way street, and you can't abuse people the way it has been.
But more importantly, we need to jump-start jobs here at home. We have an extraordinary ability, an entrepreneurial capacity second to no people on the planet.
This president isn't asking Americans or giving Americans the opportunity to do that. Education could be more invigorated, science could be more invigorated, the most anti-science administration in modern history. We need to push energy. Energy independence for the United States of America will create thousands of jobs in our country. We need to push the
And most importantly, we need to guarantee that our children are not made the abused of political slogans, Leave No Child Behind. You have to fund education, and you have to guarantee that we're not content to just spend $50,000 a year on prison. Head Start needs full funding, children need to be funded in this country.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: What do you tell the Latin American countries that are telling the United States, "You're only looking toward the Middle East, why don't you look south?"
JOHN KERRY: I think it would be wonderful to have a president of the United States who could find the rest of the countries in this hemisphere. And I will do that.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Ray?
RAY SUAREZ: Congressman Gephardt, we've heard mixed support for NAFTA, as it's been working for the last almost 10 years, and mixed levels of support for free trade in the Americas. Where do you stand on these two questions?
RICHARD GEPHARDT: Well, I'm surprised, frankly, to hear the outpouring of support for standards for the environment and labor in treaties like NAFTA and the China free trade treaty. Most of the candidates here voted for those treaties without proper standards. I was the one who took on my own president, and I agreed with Bill Clinton on most things. I was his majority leader, but I thought on this it was wrong, because we didn't have those standards in the provisions of the treaty. We had side agreements that didn't mean anything, but we needed in the treaty.
They're right. We do have a race to the bottom. Remember what Henry Ford said? "I got to pay my workers enough so there's somebody to buy the cars they are making." It never changes. It never changes.
So, we've go to do that. But let me go to another part of this question. I will be a president who will bring trade standards. I will lead the world to globalize the economy of the world, as we must, with standards on the environment and on labor. But
I'm going to do something else. In 1993, I was the majority leader who led with Bill Clinton to get this economy straightened out. Bill Richardson was my chief deputy. We were out on the floor. We didn't get a Republican vote in the House or a Republican vote in the Senate. We passed it by one vote in both houses. Dick Armey said it would create a depression in the country. He was the minority leader. Let me tell you something. He wasn't wrong; he was dead wrong. You remember?
Twenty-three million new jobs in seven years. Unemployment was in 3 percent. We took a $5 trillion deficit and turned it into a $5 trillion surplus. We know how to do this. I know how to do it. And when I'm president, we'll get this economy moving again. I'll get rid of the Bush tax cuts. I'll get everybody health insurance that can't be taken away from you. I'll have an energy program I call Apollo 2 (ph) that'll make us independent of Persian Gulf oil. I'll have a pension program so that you can move your pension credits from one job to the other. I'll accelerate spending in the highway trust fund.
RAY SUAREZ: Congressman, we'll touch on many of those subjects later in the conversation.
RICHARD GEPHARDT: These are important issues. This president is a miserable failure on foreign policy...
RAY SUAREZ: Congressman, we'll get to health care soon.
RICHARD GEPHARDT: ... and on the economy. And he's got to be replaced.
RAY SUAREZ: Congressman Kucinich, if we follow the advice and the assurances that you just gave and start to pull out of some of these treaties, if we start to demand these standards abroad in the places that America acquires the things it sells in its stores, won't the price of everything that you see when you walk into a Wal-Mart go up, everything that you see when you go into a Kmart or, indeed, even to the supermarket?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, the real question, Ray, is what kind of profits do the Kmarts and the Wal-Marts of the world make?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, Kmart, not too much.
DENNIS KUCINICH: But on the misery of those people in Third World countries who are working for pennies an hour and are finding themselves unable to support their own families. I mean, all this talk about trade here belies something that really needs to be looked at and that is NAFTA makes it impossible to be able to protect workers' rights. Now, those people say they're going to put conditions on NAFTA. If you put conditions on NAFTA, that's WTO illegal.
So what we need to do—the only way that we can go back to trade which will work for the American people and for people all over North America is to make sure that we have workers' rights, human rights and environmental quality principles in trade. And by workers' rights I mean this: the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike.
The right to join a union, the right to decent wages and benefits, the right to a safe workplace, the right to a secure retirement. Those have to be written specifically into our trade agreements and they were not. We had intellectual property written into the trade agreements. And we need specifically written into the trade agreements prohibitions on child labor, slave labor, prison labor. But you know what? Unless we cancel NAFTA and withdraw from the WTO, we aren't going to get there. So all of this is just talk. I'm the one, first day in office, cancel NAFTA, cancel the WTO, return to bilateral trade with all those conditions we've just spoken about.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, let me get your response on this, Senator Kerry, because I know that you've been a big supporter of free trade over the past years. Earlier today I went to the University of New Mexico bookstore, as I'm bound to do, and I bought T-shirts for all my children. None of them were made in the United States, though they were all made in this hemisphere.
JOHN KERRY: Correct.
RAY SUAREZ: Very clearly labeled in the collar. Is the answer making those things here or just making sure they're made there in a better way?
JOHN KERRY: No, I think Dennis—I admire what he is saying and I am as strongly committed as he is to those worker rights and to the efforts to raise the level, but it would be disastrous to just cancel it. You have to fix it. You have to have a president who understands how to use the power that we have as the world's biggest marketplace to properly leverage the kind of behavior that we want.
You also have to have a president who is prepared to have an enforcement structure, particularly an attorney general whose name is not John Ashcroft, who is prepared—who is prepared to enforce the laws. And the president himself, through the powers of the various sections of the trade agreement, has the ability to get tougher.
The fact is that Bill Clinton was absolutely correct. We not only were responsible fiscally, we not only created 23 million jobs in America—I mean, we created more jobs than ever before and we traded. What's happened is, in the last three or four years that relationship has gotten out of whack. And this president doesn't care about it.
We need a president of the United States who is prepared to enforce a new standard between our countries, and I intend to do that, but I also know that we have to trade. You can't shut yourself down and hope to grow your economy and expect to put the American people to work the way we need to.
RAY SUAREZ: Maria Elena?
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: (Speaking in Spanish)
I'm going to begin with you, Senator Graham.
(Speaking in Spanish)
Forty-one million Americans do not have access to medical care or health care.
(Speaking in Spanish)
One-third of Hispanics of the 38 million Hispanics in this country do not have health care. At a time of record federal government deficits, how can this country bring the number of uninsured down?
BOB GRAHAM: We can do it in this way. One, by practicing pragmatic common sense. Two very smart people, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, 10 years ago tried to pass a comprehensive health-care reform. They were unable to do so.
I think the lesson from that is that if we are going to get health care to those currently uninsured, we need to set the goal of all Americans having access to health care and then proceed in a step-by-step basis.
I would personally advocate that we provide first for children, then for the working poor, and third for the early retiree. If we did those three groups, we would cut by two-thirds the number of Americans who do not have health coverage. And we could do that at a cost of approximately $70 billion a year, a cost that I think is one the American people can afford and would support.
So I think that there is a way to get to the resolution of one of our most serious national concerns and that is how do we provide effective health care in this rich country to all Americans.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: (Speaking in Spanish)
You have said in the past that all Americans should have health insurance through the government. That's a national health insurance. How do you pay for it?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: The way that you get universal coverage is that you have a single-payer system.
And if you have a single-payer system, then you will be able to cover everybody. Everybody in this country already gets health care. If you fall out and you don't have insurance, somewhere you will be cared for. Probably in an emergency room.
It'll probably be the most expensive care you can get. And the cost will just get shifted throughout the system to other payers—many times, people who pay for insurance through their employer. What I've proposed is a single-payer system that will take advantage of the fact that we are already paying 15 percent of our gross domestic product on health care, de-couple it from employment so that it's not a burden on job creation, it's not a burden on small businesses, it doesn't come out of the payroll tax, which is the most regressive tax, to begin with. And with the revenue that we have from that, from that 15 percent, we can then afford a system much like the federal employees have under what's called FEHBP, a federal system in which you have a single payer but the administration takes place by the companies that individuals choose.
The most important part of this is that the physician or the provider and patient relationship has to be central to the health care system. Because if you do that, then you will have a dynamic in favor of quality of care and taking care of patients and people's illnesses—or wellness as well, frankly, because prevention is a big part of this. But you will have a dynamic in favor of quality that the current profit-driven system does not have.
We are wasting an awful lot of money on profit on the one hand and disconnects between the different public system on the one hand, private system on the other. We're wasting an awful lot of money that could be better put to provide us with a rationalized system, a single-payer system of health care for everybody.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Senator Edwards? The Bush administration just implemented new regulations for emergency rooms to limit the amount of services that they provide for people who go there. Now many Hispanics depend, or many minorities, and poor members of our society depend on emergency rooms as their only sources for medical care. What do you do?
JOHN EDWARDS: Well, all the candidates on this stage have a health-care plan. There's only one candidate in the election in 2004 who has no health-care plan, and that's George W. Bush.
We have differences about the approach to this issue. I, for example, do not believe that we should solve the health-care problem in America by raising taxes on working families—the very people that you're asking about and that we're trying to help. So I start with a very simple idea: children first. For the first time in American history, I will make sure that every child is covered, and I'll do it the only way you can, by making it the law of the land. And in order to get this accomplished,
I'm going to ask responsibility from everybody. Responsibility for the parents of these kids to make sure that they're covered. Second, responsibility from the government to make sure that in fact they can pay for it. And third, responsibility from big HMOs, big insurance companies, big drug companies, that if they won't accept—because if we don't bring the cost down, we're never going to get health care under control in this country. And if they won't accept responsibility, we will hold them responsible. I will do what I have done my entire life, first as a lawyer for 20 years, and since I've been in the Senate fighting, for example, with Senator McCain and Senator Kennedy for the Patients' Bill of Rights.
And the last thing I'll just mention is the plight of Hispanic families. My plan will cover 3 million Hispanic children. In addition to that, I'd double the investment in public health facilities, the safety net that takes all comers, that makes sure that all kids and all families have a place to go to get the health care they need. And then, finally, to deal with the language disparities that Hispanic families face every day, we should set up a national translation center, open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, so that we don't have children of Hispanic adults translating to doctors about the problems that their parents are facing.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you, Senator. Ray?
RAY SUAREZ: Governor Dean, how would you get more of the 41 million uninsured covered? And would you have to repeal all or part of the Bush tax cuts to do it?
HOWARD DEAN: (Speaking in Spanish).
Every child under 18, 99 percent eligible, 96 percent have it. Everybody under 150 percent of poverty has health insurance in my state. Every senior under 225 percent of poverty gets prescription help. Now, if we can do that in a small rural state and balance the budget, surely the United States of America can join with the Japanese and the French and the Germans and the Irish and the Italians, the Swedes and the Norwegians, the Israelis, the Canadians. Every other industrial country in the world has health insurance for all its people, and we can do that, too, if we can do that in a small state like Vermont.
Here's what we're going to do. We are going to repeal the Bush tax cuts. You can't pay for health insurance if you have those tax cuts, including the tax cuts for middle-class people. Most middle-class people never got a tax cut from George Bush, and I'm sure they'd rather have health insurance for everybody than the $100 they got from George Bush's tax cut.
Second thing, George Bush spent $3 trillion, if you include the interest, on tax cuts for people like Ken Lay, when these people out here had their tuitions go up, their property taxes go up and their state taxes go up because of George Bush's economy. For less than a third of George Bush's tax cuts, we can cover every man, woman and child in America, in many ways building on what we did in Vermont, and that's exactly what we should do, and we should not wait.
RAY SUAREZ: Congressman Kucinich? How do you get more of the uninsured covered, and do you have to repeal the Bush tax cuts to do it?
DENNIS KUCINICH: (Speaking in Spanish)
I've introduced a bill which states that health care is a right, not a privilege, and it's to get the profit out of health care, and here's a copy of it. It's H.R. 676, the sponsors are Mr. Conyers, Mr. McDermott, myself and a number of members of Congress.
Congress right now has in front of it a plan that would cover all medically necessary health services, all individuals. Individuals would not have to pay premiums, deductibles or co-pays. But what it would do is it would take the profit out of health care. And with the exception of Ms. Moseley Braun, all the others here will retain the role of private insurers. And we have to understand that the insurers—the insurance companies and the pharmaceuticals right now, they own us. We need to take our health care system back.
This is the plan that will do it. And, you know, you can talk about balancing the budget in Vermont, but Vermont doesn't have a military. And if you're not going to cut the military and you're talking about balancing the budget, then what are you going to do about social spending? Hello?
RAY SUAREZ: Senator Lieberman, how would you cover more of the uninsured? And would the Bush tax cuts have to go in order to do it?
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: You bet parts of the Bush tax cuts would have to go, and they ought to go. Leadership is about priorities and priorities are about values. You know, this president loves to talk about values, faith-based values, but is it really good faith-based values? Remember what the Bible says about don't harden your heart to the poor, open your hand to them? Is it really good faith-based values to give tax cuts of tens of thousands of dollars to millionaires in America and have 9 million children without health care in this richest of all countries in the world? The answer is, of course not. So we've got to take back some of those high-income tax cuts.
But I disagree with Governor Dean and others who would adopt so large a program that it would force an increase in middle-class taxes. That's not fair. The middle class is stressed today. They've got it up to here. And they've got more than $100, let's be honest about it. A lot of them got thousands of dollars. They got the end of the marital tax penalty, child care tax credits and so on. I want to protect those, and we can, with a systematic step-by-step proposal.
This is an outrage that particularly hits the Hispanic community--3 million Hispanic children uncovered. I want to create "Medikids." I think it's the best plan that's been offered. Every baby born in America will leave the hospital not just with a birth certificate but with a Medikids card that will guarantee them health insurance up until the age of 25. You won't have to go down to the welfare office to sign up. You won't be mandated if you don't want to buy plans to cover health insurance.
We can do this. And as president, I'm going to bring the right priorities and values to the Oval Office. And I will make every American currently uninsured eligible for a high-quality, affordable health insurance.
RAY SUAREZ: A quick response from Ambassador Braun.
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: I want to take issue. A single-payer system will not raise taxes on the middle class. And indeed, the plan I've proposed will free up middle-class incomes because it'll take some of the pressure off of the payroll tax.
We can fund this within current spending without raising taxes. And I think it's very important that people understand this is not new tax burden on anybody. This is universal health care in a way that makes sense.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: We're nearing the end of the debate so let's try to be brief with our answers. We're going on to the next subject.
It seems like politicians nowadays are afraid to use the A-word, amnesty, as if it were a contagious disease. So let's talk about legalization or regularization of undocumented workers.
Senator Kerry, would you support legalizing undocumented immigrants in this country?
JOHN KERRY: Absolutely. I supported—let me say I'm not afraid to say it, I supported and was prepared to vote for amnesty from 1986. And unfortunately, the events of 9/11 obviously changed the capacity to do that.
I believe we have to change it. It's a matter of human rights, a matter of civil rights, a matter of fairness to Americans. And it is essential to have immigration reform.
I want to say immediately that anyone who has been in this country for five or six years, who's paid their taxes, who has stayed out of trouble ought to be able to translate into an American citizen immediately, not waiting. In addition to that, we have about 37,000 people served in the armed forces of the United States who are legal residents. They should automatically become American citizens for having served their country in that way.
And thirdly, I believe we need to be sensible about the use of the matricula cards. We need to be able to negotiate with President Fox. We have to change the guest worker program.
We have to recognize that there are enormous challenges to fairness in this country. It still costs Latinos too much just to cash a check, to buy a home. There is rank discrimination and we need to apply the laws. And I am going to do that from everything including remittances so people aren't charged exorbitantly when they send money to their families abroad.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you. We need to go on. Congressman Gephardt, we know you introduced legislation in Congress for legalizing undocumented workers. Now, there are many voters in the U.S. who feel that legalizing undocumented workers would be giving them some type of an award for having broken the law. Do you fear that your
proposal would alienate those voters? And if so, are you willing to take that risk?
RICHARD GEPHARDT: I put the bill in. I wrote the bill with my friends in the Hispanic Caucus in the House. I am proud of that bill. I stand behind it fully. It's the right thing to do for this country.
We're all immigrants unless we're Native Americans, and we need to recognize the hard work...
We need to recognize the hard work and productivity and the loyalty and the military service of people that are in this country and are not in legal status. My bill is simple. It says, you've been here for five years, you worked for two years, you haven't broken laws, you can get into legal status. It'll bring power and productivity out of all these people.
But let me go back to health care for a minute, I didn't get a chance on it. Let me just say this...
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: A few seconds.
RICHARD GEPHARDT: Two seconds. This issue is a moral issue. There are over 400,000 New Mexicans who do not have health insurance. Thousands of others have anxiety every day they're going to lose their health insurance. I think the right thing to do is to get rid of the Bush tax cuts because my plan will put more money in the pockets of the average family than the Bush tax cuts.
Finally, why would we not want to go back to the Clinton tax plan? Why would we want to keep anything of the Bush tax plan? It's a miserable failure.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you. Let's go on to Senator Graham. Senator Graham, in your state, there are many, many immigrants. Of course, we have the Cuban-American immigrants who have a completely different situation. But for those that come from other countries, would you support legalizing them?
BOB GRAHAM: This has to be put in the larger context of our relations with Latin America. This president came to office claiming that he would build a new era of relationships within the hemisphere. He has. Unfortunately, he didn't tell us that they would all be policies of benign neglect and indifference.
In Mexico, President Fox has been rendered a political lame duck halfway through his terms, largely because George W. Bush did not fulfill the commitments that he made.
In a country, in a commonwealth in which we have had a long historic relationship, Puerto Rico, they have 50 percent higher unemployment, 50 percent higher children without health coverage. And we have not yet solved what kind of relationship that country wishes to have with the United States.
I believe that we should have a policy of earned amnesty for those people who came into the United States undocumented. And that would provide that if they, after receiving a work permit, then met the standards of that permit, after a period of time they would be eligible to get a permanent residence status in the United States.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you. Congressman Kucinich, is it realistic to think that, in the environment after 9/11, that we could have a legalization program to legalize undocumented immigrants in this country? Is it realistic? Could it possibly happen in Congress?
DENNIS KUCINICH: One of the tragedies of 9/11 is that we've forgotten who we are as a nation. In the fear that's covered this country, we've forgotten about the optimism and hope that led so many people to sail under that light of Lady Liberty. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. America must remember where we came from as a nation. And in doing that, we need to extend our arms once again to the world community and bring those, the tempest-tossed, to the United States.
Yes, I'm for amnesty. Yes, I'm for legalization of status. Yes, I'm for broadening citizenship possibilities. Yes, I'm for enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act and making sure that those workers who come from Mexico have all of the protections of federal law and including universal health care.
Yes, I'm for repealing NAFTA, because there are so many reasons why people left Mexico because of NAFTA. Yes, I am for lifting up the cause of human rights.
(Speaking in Spanish)
RAY SUAREZ: Governor Dean, many of the functions of the old Immigration and Naturalization Service are now included under the new Department of Homeland Security. How do you balance the needs of the United States to both protect itself, during a time of high overseas threat, and process people who want to be immigrants to this country during an era of very high immigration?
HOWARD DEAN: Let me make two observations. First of all, I think it's important not to use profiling. Profiling doesn't work. There's been a lot of studies about it. It doesn't work in Hispanic communities. It doesn't work in African-American communities. And it doesn't work against the Arab-Americans either.
Secondly, I think for 9/11 to have affected our immigration policy is ridiculous—with Latin America is ridiculous. The last time I looked, not one of those 19 hijackers was Latino.
So the problem here is that immigration is a hot topic because people, like the president, use code words like "quotas" to try to frighten people into thinking they're going to lose their jobs to somebody who is a member of the minority community. And for that reason alone, the president ought to go back to Crawford, Texas, with a one-way bus ticket.
I am tired of being divided by race. I'm tired of being divided by gender. I'm tired of being divided by sexual orientation, by income and by religion. I want a country that's based on a community again. Yes, we can have a decent immigration policy in this country. But the problem with this administration is they can only think about one problem at a time. They are bogged down in Iraq, they are not defending us from Osama bin Laden, and they are not paying any attention to Latin America, which is the most important hemisphere in American history.
RAY SUAREZ: Senator Edwards, there are communities in North Carolina that probably never imagined in 100 years that they'd have to hire an English-as-a-second-language teacher or have bilingual classes. So your state is being marked by this new immigration too. How do we both protect the country and make it possible for people who want to come here to come?
JOHN EDWARDS: Well, let me say a word about my personal experience with this issue. I grew up in a family where my father worked in a mill all of his life. And when I was young, we moved to a small town in rural North Carolina, which is where I grew up. That town is now half Hispanic.
My family moved to that town because my father, who has a high school education and is still living, believed that by working hard and doing the right thing that his kids would have the opportunity for a better life. These Hispanic families? They came to Robbins, North Carolina, for exactly the same reason.
And those who came and live there, who work hard and are responsible, they have earned the right to be American citizens. But I want to tell you, they've also earned the right to something else that we haven't talked about tonight. We still have two public school systems in this country: one for the "haves" and one for the "have nots." We have got...
These Hispanic children who live in areas of poverty, in poor communities—we have got to make a commitment as a nation that we're going to stop this idea of having two public school systems, that in fact we will make a commitment as a nation that every child in America, no matter where they live, what the color of their skin or the income of their family, will get exactly the same education as the richest parent in America can afford for their children. That's the commitment we need to make as a people.
RAY SUAREZ: Maria Elena?
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: (Speaking in Spanish) About 39 states have already discussed or debated giving undocumented immigrants access to driver's licenses. The California legislature just approved it and Governor Davis is about to sign it.
How do you stand on that?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: Let me say, the amnesty—I would agree with legalization. But the real issue is our relations with the rest of this hemisphere. And this administration has missed the boat altogether. They have turned their backs. We should be reaching out to the rest of this hemisphere. We should be welcoming people to this country. And instead of pandering to fear, as the Ashcroft and—the Bush-Ashcroft administration has done, they have pandered to fear since 9/11 and they use that as an excuse really to shut down opportunities for people to share in the American dream who want to, hardworking people who are willing to contribute—who are contributing to this country.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Well, what about for those who live here now?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: That's correct. Well, those who live ought to have their status—ought to be able to get driver's license, ought to be able to participate as citizens participate. We need to be normalize our relations with documented, as well as undocumented people who are here in the United States. And I think that really moving away from the kind of—again, the fear that has characterized this administration's approach to these issues is the first step that we have to take.
My late mother used to say, it doesn't matter if you came to this country on the Mayflower or a slave ship, across the Rio Grande or through Ellis Island, we are all in the same boat now. And this election—this election really does pit which direction our country is going to head. Are we going to put ourselves in a position to move forward, to reach out to others, to resolve these issues instead of having people locked up and their phones tapped and their e-mails tapped and locked up in secret arrests and the like?
Instead of doing that, can't we begin to reconcile our relations with others, to work well with others at the international community to begin to restore the kind of hope and optimism that has always characterized this country? Because I believe—if I can finish this—I believe the real issue here is our generation's responsibility to make sure that we leave no less for the next generation than we inherited from the last one. And working together is the only way we're going to be able to that.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you. Let's go to Senator Lieberman. And I want to ask you, Senator Lieberman, how do you separate the good guys from the bad guys? How do you separate the immigrants that come to this country with a legitimate interest in working and contributing and those potential terrorists that are here?
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Let me begin by saying this. Immigration for me is not just another issue. It's me, it's my family, it's my familia. My grandparents came here as immigrants seeking opportunity.
It pains me, it outrages me that every year hundreds of Mexicans coming to America for exactly the same reason that my grandparents did die in the desert because of our current immigration policy. That is no longer acceptable.
My wife's family survived the Holocaust, came here to escape communism in Czechoslovakia, they were welcomed. It pains me that refugees are subjected to a cap and to suspicion of being terrorists, refugees from tyranny around the world today, by the Bush administration.
This can't go on any longer. I've lived the American dream. I know what new Americans contribute to this country. I know the commitment to faith, familia i patria, faith, family and country, that new Americans have. George Bush has been terrible on this. He has used 9/11 as an excuse for not doing what he promised to do in reforming immigration laws. He has let down our neighbors to the south in Mexico and so much of the rest of the world. I have offered the most comprehensive, aggressive immigration reform plan. Yes, earned legalization. Yes, temporary worker visas for workers from other countries.
Yes, let's lift the cap on people coming here for family reunification or to seek refuge. And let's put some due process in our immigration laws, so the Justice Department under John Ashcroft can't again do what they did after 9/11, which is to arrest almost 800 undocumented immigrants, put them in jail without charges, without counsel, with notice to their families. That's not America at its best. And as president, I'll stop it.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: I think we have just 30 seconds, if you can please answer, what do you say to Americans about the contributions of Hispanics to this country?
RICHARD GEPHARDT: This country is a melting pot. It's a fabric. I often quote Martin Luther King, and I say that we're all tied together. I say we are one people. Hispanic population in this country has defended us. Many, many Hispanic citizens have died in our military without even being citizens of the United States. They've won the Congressional Medal of Honor. They work hard. Their families make an enormous contribution to this country. And as I said a moment ago, we're all immigrants unless we're Native Americans. And I'll say it again: We're all tied together. That's my philosophy that I'll bring to the presidency.
Martin Luther King said, "I can't be what I ought to be until you can be what you ought to be." That's what I really believe. And when I'm president, we'll have policies that'll make that come true.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you, Congressman. Ray?
RAY SUAREZ: Thanks to our candidates tonight.
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