Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate Sponsored by ABC News
Columbia, SC, May 3, 2003
BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS:
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO): It comes back to the most basic of human needs, health care.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): I want to be a champion for the regular people, to stand up for our values here at home.
MR. : We will -- (inaudible) -- the war on terrorism -- (inaudible) --
MR. : We would need to raise the minimum wage.
MR. : I'm here to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: (Inaudible) -- prosperity and progress.
MR. : We need a new (face ?) in America.
MR. : We're here to -- (inaudible) -- control of our country.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, tough questions and tough issues in South Carolina. First in the nation, the Democratic presidential candidates debate. Now, from the campus of the University of South Carolina, George Stephanopoulos.
MR. GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Good evening and welcome to Trenton Hall, where the nine Democratic candidates for president are meeting tonight in their first debate. The man they want to replace is enormously popular. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that 71 percent of Americans approve of the way President Bush is running the country despite the fact that nearly half say they are worse off financially than when he took office. A president with this kind of support will be tough to beat.
Here are the people who think they can do it: Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio;
Congressman Richard Gephardt of Missouri; the Reverend Al Sharpton of New York; Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut; former Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois; former Governor Howard Dean of Vermont; Senator John Edwards of North Carolina; Senator Bob Graham of Florida; and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. The debate is divided into four parts. First, 45 minutes of open discussion that I'll direct. Second, each candidate will ask one of the others a single question. In the third round, I'll question each candidate, followed by closing statements.
Now, we have only 90 minutes for all nine candidates, so I'd ask each of them to keep their answers short, and everyone here in the audience to hold their applause. I know it's not going to be easy, but we'll give it our best shot.
And Senator Kerry, the first question goes to you. On March 19th, President Bush ordered General Tommy Franks to execute the invasion of Iraq. Was that the right decision at the right time?
SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA): George, I said at the time I would have preferred if we had given diplomacy a greater opportunity, but I think it was the right decision to disarm Saddam Hussein. And when the president made the decision, I supported him, and I support the fact that we did disarm him.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Now Governor Dean, you've criticized Senator Kerry on the campaign trail, saying he's trying
to have it both ways on the issue of Iraq. Was that answer clear enough for you?
GOVERNOR HOWARD DEAN: Let me be very clear about what I believe. I'm delighted to see Saddam Hussein gone. I appreciate the fact that we have a strong military in this country and I'd keep a strong military in this country. But I think this is the wrong war at the wrong time, because we have set a new policy of preventive war in this country and I think that was the wrong thing to do, because sooner or later, we're going to see another country copy the United States, and sooner or later we're going to have to deal with the fact that there may well be a Shi'a fundamentalist regime set up in Iraq, which would be a greater danger to the United States than Iraq is.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But do you believe Senator Kerry is still trying to have it both ways?
GOV. DEAN: That's not up to me to judge that. That's up to the voters to judge that, and I'm sure they will.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Lieberman, something else that Governor Dean said just today to a voter—he said that Saddam was really not much of a threat to the United States and had never been one, so it may be that by getting rid of Saddam, we've actually made things more dangerous for America. Do you agree with that?
SENATOR JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT): Oh, I absolutely disagree. Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States and most particularly to his neighbors. Remember, this was a man who said he wanted to rule the Arab world, and he invaded two of his neighbors in pursuit of that goal using chemical and bio—chemical weapons against them. We have evidence also over the last several years that he was cooperating with terrorists and supporting them. We did the right thing, and we gave him 12 years, and tried everything short of war to get him to keep the promises he made to disarm at the end of the Gulf War. We did the right thing in fighting this fight, and the American people will be safer as a result of it. And incidentally, no Democrat will be elected president in 2004 who is not strong on defense, and this war was a test of that—
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So, Reverend Sharpton, who is right? Senator Lieberman or Governor Dean?
REVEREND AL SHARPTON: Well, I'm going to be right. I think that the real issue—
(laughter) -- is the security of Americans, and if we secure Americans, I think that's the priority. I'm convinced that we could have disarmed Hussein by working with the United Nations and going through the channels that we were embarked upon. We are still here now with no weapons of mass destruction having been revealed by this administration even though they said they knew where they were. I think we have spotted a precedent that can come back to haunt us. I think we have picked up a bill that we don't know how much it's going to cost to occupy Iraq—we're talking about millions of dollars to occupy Iraq when we don't have the money for the 50 states we already occupy. I think it was the wrong thing to do, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Gephardt, can this war be called a success if those weapons of mass destruction aren't found?
REPRESENTATIVE RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO): I think we're going to find weapons of mass destruction. I think this was about keeping our people safe. I told the president early on in this matter, when we were meeting with him every week with the other three leaders in the Congress, that we had to try to reach bipartisan agreement, we had to try to put politics aside on these issues, and do the right thing to keep our people safe. I urged him to go to the U.N. I helped write the resolution language that said that he should go to the U.N. I'm glad he went there. I wish he would have gotten the U.N. finally with us, but getting rid of these weapons of mass destruction, and we're going to find them—they have gotten rid of—tried to get rid of them the week before we went in—but I'm convinced, and I think everybody is convinced that these weapons were there and they could have found their way into the hands of terrorists and found their way to the United States, and that's what we had to stop. MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Kerry, let me come to you for a second, because earlier this week your campaign questioned whether or not Governor Dean was fit to be commander-inchief. Do you think he's fit?
SEN. KERRY: I think Governor Dean—excuse me—made a statement which I found quite extraordinary, and I still do. He said that he said that America has to prepare for the day when we will not be the strongest military in the world. I mean, that's his statement. I didn't make it up; he said it. I disagree. I believe that a president of the United States has a solemn responsibility—
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But does that mean he's not fit to serve? SEN. KERRY: I believe that anybody who think that they have to prepare for the day that we're not the strongest is preparing for a day when we have serious problems. And I think the world has proven, and we have proven, that there is a rationale for our containing the most—the most powerful military on the face of the planet. Hopefully, George, this is important, to be used more effectively to pursue the ideals of America in a more effective way through our diplomacy so we never have to use it. And if we continue to do what presidents Kennedy and President Clinton and others did, which is pursue proliferation and reduce the threat of weapons, we can create a world in which the threat of war begins to be minimized.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, let me get Governor Dean's response. GOV. DEAN: This is what Senator Kerry said in January in his Georgetown address—in a world growing more, not less, interdependent, unilateralism is a formula for isolation and shrinking influence. That is what I meant and I stick by that. No commander- in-chief would ever, and I am no exception, willingly allow our military influence to shrink. Unilateralism is a mistake, that's what I said for it. I think the senator made a mistake in criticizing me. (CROSS-TALK.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me give a follow-up here for a second, because early in the campaign and this week you questioned Senator Kerry's courage. Are you prepared to make that charge to his face?
GOV. DEAN: As I said at that time, and I am, everyone respects Senator Kerry's extraordinary, heroic Vietnam record, and I do as well. However, what I would have preferred—this is 30 years later—I would have preferred, if Senator Kerry had some concerns about my fitness to serve, that he speak to me directly about that rather than through his spokesman. MR.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay. Let me change subjects—
SEN. KERRY: Can I -- (inaudible) --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm going to come back to you in a second, Senator Kerry, but let me get Congressman Kucinich—
REPRESENTATIVE DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH): I don't think there's any question about whether the United States is going to have the strongest military. We already spend more than almost the rest of the world combined for the military. The question really facing the American people is going to be can we follow a military budget that's going from 400 billion to even 500 billion by 2013, tax cuts for the wealthy, and have health care for all, and jobs for all, and education for all, and retirement security for all? The bottom line is—and the real issue here, gentlemen, and—and Senator Braun—and that is that somebody here has to say it's time to cut the waste, the fat, the bloat out of the military. I'm the only candidate who is ready to say that tonight—that there's been misspending in the Pentagon, that there's a lot of money wasted— they can't reconcile a trillion dollars in accounts, and all this goes on and no one is addressing it. And I'm saying that until you address that issue, you can talk about being the strongest, but it's not getting to the point. The point is not wasting the taxpayers' dollars and making sure the American people are going to have their needs met instead of all the money going for the military.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: (Inaudible) -- Senator Kerry.
SEN. KERRY: Well, let me come back—what Governor Dean said in San Francisco, not to my face, was that I didn't have the courage to stand up for gays in America. Now, I led the fight—in 1985, I was the original author of the 1985 civil rights act. I testified before the Armed Services Committee to permit gays to serve in the military as they have with me, and in every war in this country. I have been a sponsor of the hate crimes legislation, a sponsor of the -- (inaudible) -- employment discrimination legislation, and I am for civil unions. My position in fact is stronger than Governor Dean's. In addition to that, when he questions my courage, I really think that anybody who has measured the tests that I think I have performed over the last years on any number of fights in the United States Congress, as well as my service in Vietnam, that I don't need any lectures in courage from Howard Dean.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get everybody speaking—I know -- (inaudible) -- attention here, but I first want to give Governor Dean a chance to respond, and then I'm going to go right down the row -- (inaudible) --
GOV. DEAN: To set the record straight, the reporter in the San Francisco Chronicle put a correction in the following day. I did not question Senator Kerry's record on gay rights. He has a very good one.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And you're not going to do it now.
GOV. DEAN: No, I have no reason to. He has a good record on gay rights.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay. Senator Graham.
SENATOR BOB GRAHAM (D-FL): Well, first, thank you very much, George, for giving us all the opportunity to be here. (Laughter). I might say that all the people around this table are good people, they've got good values, and an intelligent agenda for dealing with America's problems. We're not fighting each other. We're trying to select one of us to be the opponent of George Bush. And so the questions, in my judgment, should particularly focus on his judgment. And in that regard, the reason I voted against authorizing the president to use force against Iraq was I thought it was too weak because it did not contain a parallel authorization for the president to use force against Hezbollah, which has killed almost 300 Americans in the Middle East. It did not authorize us to use force against Islamic Jihad or Hamas, two other violent terrorist groups who have pledge that they want to kill Americans. And they have demonstrated on September the 11th the ability to kill Americans. I think those ought to be our first priorities. MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Edwards, do you think that the president should have that authority?
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC): Well, can I say something first—
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Sure.
SEN. EDWARDS: -- about the debate that's going on between the governor and Senator Kerry? First of all, I want to echo what Senator Graham said. I think it's very important for us to recognize, whatever personal differences exists, Governor Dean or Senator Kerry—either one would be a better president than the one we have. And they have -- (laughter) -- the right—(applause) -- (inaudible).
The president -- (inaudible) -- (a test ?) that we haven't talked about that the president still faces, which is what will he do in the post-Saddam Iraq? Will he in fact engage the international community in the reconstruction effort? Will he involve the United Nations? Will he involve the European Union? Will he involve NATO? Because there's an extraordinary opportunity, and—(inaudible) -- for the president, and he should be held -- (inaudible) -- we have an opportunity here to rehabilitate relationships that have been severely damaged. And we have a chance to show the world that we were in fact in Iraq for the right reasons, that we were there for the purpose of liberating the Iraqi people, that this was not about the expansion of American power, that this was not about oil. The president has that test going forward, and we ought lay this down marker down and we ought to hold him to that.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay. Now I want to get Ambassador Moseley Braun, Senator Lieberman, and Reverend Sharpton quick comments on this subject, and then we're going to switch.
AMBASSADOR CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: All right. Well, thank you very much. I think—
(inaudible) -- we ought to talk about the cost of this war and how we can rebuild America. If we can have job fairs in Iraq, we ought to be able to have job fairs in South Carolina. The unemployment rate is up at six percent under this president.
The budget deficits have exploded. They have ruined this economy. We are not creating new jobs or new wealth in this country. There's a health care crisis. We have all these issues, and what we—what we saw as a country was an unelected president, under a mandate that I believe shouldn't have been given by the Congress because I think the Constitution—I know the Constitution, in Article 1, says very clearly that it's Congress' responsibility to declare war—but under that authority went in, and now spent in excess of $200 billion the last time we looked, and the American people are hurting.
So, I think the question in this race is whether or not Democrats can steer a course for America that is more in keeping with America's interests and America's values, building our relations with others, working well with others in the world, building international issues, trying to address those problems that cause war in the first place and undermine our security in the first place.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Lieberman.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: George, the scrabble between Howard Dean and John Kerry may make interesting political theater, but it doesn't send the right message to the voters about our party. Our party and the American people have an important choice to make in the next year-and- ahalf or two years when we go up to November of 2004. And the fact is they're not going to choose anyone who sends the message that is other than strength on defense and homeland security. The Bible says that if the sound of the trumpet be uncertain, who will follow into battle? And I'm afraid this debate sends an uncertain message.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it the debate or is it Governor Dean's statement? What are you really saying here?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: I think that both have sent an uncertain message—one in principled opposition to the war, Governor Dean; the other an ambivalence about the war which does not— will not give the people confidence about our party's willingness to make the tough decisions to protect their security in a world after September 11th. I've worked in the Armed Services Committee for 10 years to make our military the best trained, best equipped in the world. I'm the only candidate here on the stage here tonight that supported both the Gulf War and the war against Saddam Hussein, and I wrote the bill on homeland security. So, I think I'll make the American people feel safe as their next president.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I promised Reverend Sharpton he could get in, then Governor Dean.
REV. SHARPTON: Well, the same Bible, Senator Lieberman, said there's a time and place for everything—a time for war, and a time for peace. We should not just quote going to war. There's also a time to build. And I think the question is how we have a president that believes in universal health care in Iraq but doesn't believe in it in South Carolina, how he believes in rebuilding Baghdad but he doesn't believe in rebuilding Greenville. And I don't think that we are sending the wrong signal to say that Americans ought to be concerned about that. I'm proposing a $250 billion infrastructure redevelopment plan. I think Americans have the right to know that we're going to rebuild America. And while we're seeing these closed bidding contracts given to his friends, I think it takes courage to raise those questions as well. I also join Senator Graham and Senator Edwards in appealing that we not be played against each other, that particularly in our first night. Republicans are watching. Let's not -- (laughter) -- start fighting and -- (inaudible). Even though I know George is good at instigating it, we should not have the -- (inaudible) -- be that George Bush won because we were taking cheap shots at each other.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: One quick word, and then we're switching subjects. Governor Dean. GOV. DEAN: First of all, let me just say, Al, if we weren't fighting with each other, you wouldn't be able to be as entertaining as you are, and I wouldn't either, so this is partly about entertainment, and there are legitimate differences.
I don't want anybody to mistake my opposition to this war because of its preventive nature for lack of toughness. I think the commander-in-chief has to be tough. I think this president is not executing the war on homeland security the way he should be. Ninety- eight percent of the containers that come into this country are uninspected. The president promised billions of dollars to states and local government which have not been delivered. We can be a lot tougher than this president is being on homeland security, and we will be.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And we have a lot of other issues to deal with tonight, and I am going to switch right now, and one of the biggest ones is health care. Everyone is concerned about the rising cost of health care and health insurance. A couple of weeks ago, Congressman Gephardt put out a plan that he says is going to cover 97 percent of the American people. He covers everyone by doubling the tax deduction to employers, requiring them to give health insurance, and says he's going to pay for it by repealing almost all of the Bush tax cuts. Reverend Sharpton, you've praised it. Senator Graham, just last week on my show you said it was going a little too far, a little too fast, you wanted something more incremental. Senator Edwards, what do you think?
SEN. EDWARDS: First of all, I applaud Congressman Gephardt -- (inaudible) -- really important issue -- (inaudible). I differ with him about how to do it. I think all of us are for universal health care. What I differ with him about is taking almost a trillion dollars out of the pocket of working families making $30,000 or $40,000 a year, giving it to the biggest corporations in America, who are already providing health insurance and not insuring another additional American. I think that's taking money that people desperately need and giving it to people—the very people that we've had trouble with. We've had an enormous problem with the corporate culture in America. Working people have been severely disadvantaged as a result of the greed and the corporate culture that exists. To me—to me, this is what it feels like, it feels like saying you're in good hands with Enron. We will trust you, we will trust corporate America to do what's right for its workers, to make sure they're taken care of, even though they're already covering people.
Now, I have a set of ideas that are different than Congressman Gephardt, things that I believe in, like making sure that all children are in fact covered, making sure that all Americans have more choices, providing tax cuts to small businesses that are in fact providing health care to their employees.
If I could say one last thing, George. And the other thing is Congressman Gephardt—and I've heard very little discussion about this—no one is talking about costs. We can't deal with the health care crisis in America unless we have the backbone and courage to do what I have been doing my entire life: fighting against big corporation, pharmaceutical companies, big insurance companies, big HMOs. There's a culture—and the president works for those people—there's a culture in Washington that stands against taking them on. We have to take them on. MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me say, a very, very tough charge against Congressman Gephardt. You said taking money from working people. Do you think his plan is a tax increase on working people?
SEN. EDWARDS: I think it takes money directly out of the pockets of working people.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And gives it to corporations.
SEN. EDWARDS: I know he gives it to corporations.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Gephardt?
REP. GEPHARDT: Well, I couldn't disagree with John more. I respect his views, but he's wrong on my plan. And I think if he would read it and look at it, he would—he may agree that it's a better plan that he said.
First of all let's talk about what we are trying to do. We have got to get everybody in this country covered with good health insurance. This plan can pass, and it will do it. Let's look at two of the things he brought up. He talked about cost. I will save 5 to 7 percent a year off of the premiums that people are paying now for health care, because we'll finally take care of this problem of uncompensated care, which has been a huge problem in this country. Secondly, he says that I'm raising taxes on ordinary Americans. That's the furthest thing from the truth. I'm ensuring people are not going to lose their health insurance. I've been all over this country. People say to me all the time, "I'm worried I'm going to lose my health care, even though I haven't." People also say to me, "I don't think I can continue to afford the family coverage, or even the individual coverage." I will solve that problem. Lastly, people get their health insurance from corporations. My plan requires everybody—every company who gets the 60 percent credit to pass it along to their employees and to offer their employees plans. This is not helping the corporations. This is helping corporations give people the thing they most need, which is health insurance.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Kucinich, are you willing to raise taxes to cover everyone with health care?
REP. KUCINICH: Well, I think what we can do, we can phase in a payroll tax of 7.7 percent on all employers, and have that be a mainstay of a national health care plan. I think what needs to be said here is that we have to get the profit out of health care. And that means get the private insurance companies out of health care. And any plan that is offered to the American people that fails to do that is not going to deliver the best quality universal health care. Now, I have a bill which I introduced, which is H.R. 676 -- with John Conyers—which is Medicare for all—guaranteed, single-payer, universal health care, get profit out of health care. It's time to have health insurance for the American people, not the insurance companies.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Lieberman. We just heard—Senator Lieberman, we just heard Congressman Kucinich is willing to raise taxes to pay for health care; Congressman Gephardt is willing to do the same thing. What's your reaction to that, and what's your plan?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: I am not willing to raise taxes to pay for health insurance in the way that certainly not that Dick Gephardt has recommended.
George, this campaign presents our party again with a choice about whether we want to go backward to deal with our nation's problems like the terrible gap in health insurance for 41 million Americans; or whether we want to go forward with new ideas. We are not going to solve these problems with the kind of big-spending Democratic ideas of the past. And we can't afford them.
With all respect to Dick Gephardt, if his plan were implemented, it would take as much money out of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds as the Bush tax cut. And in that sense it would create the same deficit that the Bush tax cut does. It has no cost containment, as has been said. It does cancel the better parts of the 2001 tax cut which gave tax breaks to working Americans and middle- class Americans, reduced the marital tax penalty, increased the child care tax credit. We are not going to solve all of our problems with George Bush's big irresponsible tax cut, and we are not going to solve them all with this kind of big spending. It doesn't leave any money to invest in education, to invest in finding cures for disease, to invest in homeland security or international security.
I think a good place to start—and I think this will only happen step by step. The Congress, with all respect, would not pass the Gephardt plan ever. Therefore no single American will get insurance under it that doesn't have it now. We ought to start where Al Gore and I proposed in 2000: expand the children's health insurance program, which would have covered every child in America with health insurance by 2005, and let their parents buy into Medicaid at a cheaper rate than they can get in the private market. And that step by step is the way to do it.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get to the others. But he said you're going to take money from Medicare and Social Security.
REP. GEPHARDT: Well, it's just not the case. My plan also stimulates the economy. And I argue very strongly that the Bush tax plan has not stimulated the economy. This will allow companies to hire new people. It will put money in people's pockets, because we are going to reduce the cost of their premiums for health care, potentially having all that 60 percent go across to every employee.
Finally, you know, I think if we are going to win this election we cannot be Bush-like. We can't come along and say, Well, I'll keep half the Bush tax cut, or I'll keep three quarters of the Bush tax cut. The Bush tax cuts have failed. They are not making this economy better, they are not helping people get jobs, they are not covering anybody with health insurance.
We've got to give the people a choice. I want to give the American people a choice. If you like George Bush's tax cuts, stick with him, vote for him. But if you want to finally solve this problem that's bedeviled our people for a hundred years, let's get it done. Let's get everybody in this country covered with good health insurance. My plan will do it, and I'd like to convince my colleagues that this is the plan we ought to go for.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Dean, are you convinced? You called it "pie in the sky" last week.
GOV. DEAN: Actually I don't think it's quite as bad as John Edwards. I was pretty shocked at some of that. It's not taking money out of working people.
Here's what we ought to do. I have two advantages here. First of all, I'm a governor. And, second of all, I'm a doctor. And, third of all, we have actually done this, a lot of this, in Vermont. In Vermont, everybody under 18 has health insurance.
What I want to do is this, and it costs about half, a little less than half of the Bush tax cut.
First, everybody under 25 gets Medicaid if they want it. It worked well for us under 18 in our state. It's not expensive. Second, prescription benefit for every senior. That makes Medicare into a pretty decent policy. Third, between 25 to 65, as
Dick wants to do—subsidize small businesses -- don't give the tax cuts to the big corporations—subsidize individuals who need help buying health insurance, and that will help individuals who work for companies that don't do it. The cost is half of the Bush tax cut. It will pass, because most of the interest groups that opposed the Clinton plan will support it, and it's affordable. And it will pass down to cover—
REP. GEPHARDT: I want to—I've got to get in here, because this is a very important point. It's a point that John made as well. Just think what we say to America's people and corporations if we now reward corporations that have not given health care, that were not willing to do anything for those who have done the right thing. It's just wrong. It sends the wrong message to America's businesses. We've got to—
GOV. DEAN: This doesn't do that.
REP. GEPHARDT: We've got to be even and fair. My plan also sends money to every state and local government in this country. I want to pick, up 60 percent of their costs for their employees. One thing I learned with the Clinton plan is we've got to be fair with everybody in this country. I could pass this plan.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Edwards, why not reward the corporations that are doing the right thing?
SEN. EDWARDS: Because, first of all, let me respond to a couple of things that the congressman said. First of all, if his plan was passed, a family of four making $40,000 a year would lose $800 -- even if they already had health care. That money comes right out of their pocket. Second, the idea that this somehow will stimulate the economy is dependent on, at least in a big chunk—almost a trillion dollars, giving that money to big corporate America and assuming they are going to do the right thing. I mean, that sounds like Reaganomics to me. Are we going to assume that big corporations who we give a trillion dollars of money that ought to be in the pockets of working people are in fact going to take care of their employees? We have a fundamental disagreement.
REP. GEPHARDT: John, John—
SEN. EDWARDS: We don't disagree about—excuse me, if I could just finish here. We don't disagree about the need to address this very serious problem. We absolutely don't disagree with that. And I applaud Congressman Gephardt for talking about it. It's an important issue. It's something we as Democrats definitely need to talk about, but this is not the best way to do it.
REP. GEPHARDT: But, John, I want to say it again: I require—my plan requires every corporation to pass the 60 percent on to the employees. This is not giving them money to do something else with it.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We obviously have differences here over health care—excuse me— and there also seems to be a difference over taxes. Some of you called for freezing the Bush tax cut where it is. Congressman Gephardt—he said he's willing to repeal almost all of it. Congressman Kucinich says raise the payroll tax. You know exactly if President Bush and the Republicans—on the employers—
SEN. GRAHAM: On the employers.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You know what President Bush and the Republicans are going to do. They are going to come out and say, There they go again—Democrats are raising taxes. And I just have one question: Is there anyone on the stage willing to say—going to rule out raising taxes as president of any kind?
SEN. EDWARDS: All I am going to do—wait a minute—all I am going to do is put the tax rate back to where it was when Bill Clinton was president, because we did a lot better under Bill Clinton than we are under George Bush.
REP. SHARPTON: I think you've got to really distinguish between raising taxes and canceling the tax breaks that Mr. Bush is giving.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But let me ask about that—How do you respond when they say that?
REP. SHARPTON: First of all, I call George Bush's tax breaks, even the small amounts that he gives working-class people—it's like Jim Jones giving Kool-Aid—it tastes good, but it will kill you. (Laughter.) In the long run—in the long run, it's got the entire nation in debt. It is mortgaging our grandchildren. It will bring us to a trillion dollar debt that we cannot pay. It is something—it gives us a tip to get in, and then we have devastation. And that is not to raise taxes. That is to stop a suicidal economic plan to this economy. Let's not get confused on what we are talking about.
SEN. KERRY: Well, George, I'd like to comment also if I may on the health care, because it's important to the overall debate about the taxes and how you approach it. I want to congratulate Dick also. I think he has done us all a favor. He's done the country a favor by putting a plan on the table. But I tend to agree with my friend John Edwards. I think that there really is a transfer here. First of all, 80 percent of the people in America today who are with coverage are covered by employers. So what you are really doing is taking almost $100 billion of the $200 billion that Dick transfers to corporations, and you are not getting any guarantee of cost control. You are rewarding the companies that are already doing what we want them to do to an enormous amount, by doubling their tax credit for it, without bringing enough people back into the system that we want to bring in.
Now, I think we can provide coverage. I believe that every American ought to be able to buy in and have access to affordable health care through the same plan that the president, Congress, senators, give themselves. I will lay out how you can do that, how you can buy into Medicare from 55 years old to 64, and also how we can cover children. But, you know, just in fairness—and this is not a squabble, this is just a legitimate debate about how you get somewhere. You know, Governor Dean, who prides himself as a doctor in approaching this—and I respect that—I completely do. He did good things for children in the state of Vermont. But when became governor 90.5 percent of the citizens of Vermont were already covered by Dick Snelling. When he left as governor, 90.4 percent of the people of the state of Vermont were covered. So if you are going to approach it incrementally, you have got this problem of bringing people into the system and getting to the percentage that America ought to get to.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, well, you just made a charge against Governor Dean, so I want to give him a chance to respond.
GOV. DEAN: I don't know what figures you're looking at, but it's probably the same figures that you may have been looking at when you voted for the president's $350 billion—or your own $350 billion tax cut last week. That is silliness.
When I came into office, Governor Madeleine Kunin, not Republican Governor Dick Snelling— not that we don't have to say some nice things about Republicans here, but we should avoid it when possible -- (laughter) -- Governor Madeleine Kunin had a program that insured everybody up to the age of 6 to 225 percent of poverty. I expanded that up to the age of 18 for 300 percent of the poverty. That means if you live in a family that makes $54,000 or less in our state, everybody under the age of 18 gets coverage. In fact, senator, about 96.4 percent of all our people are covered today, something which I intend to deliver to the United States of America when you all make me president.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: That's the last word on this subject. I do want to switch, and I want to get to a South Carolina issue. Here in the state of South Carolina it's a felony for two gay men to have sex in their own home. Senator Edwards, do you support the right of the people of South Carolina to keep that law on the books, or do you think that the Constitution, under the Constitution there's a fundamental right to privacy that protects that right?
SEN. EDWARDS: I believe there is a fundamental right to privacy. I do not believe the government belongs in people's bedrooms. I think that applies to both gay and lesbian couples and heterosexual couples. I mean, if one of the things that you see happening in America today— and it's not just, George, on this issue of the right to privacy—is we see people like John Ashcroft, in the name of protecting America, in the name of fighting a war on terrorism, eroding our rights to privacy, eroding our civil liberties, eroding the very heart and soul of what makes this country great. It's what ought to give us the moral authority to lead around the world. And this is—it all happens just like it's all around the edges. It's creeping. But we have to be so careful and so vigilant to make sure that America does not lose what makes America great. (Applause.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Ambassador Moseley Braun, do you agree with that?
MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: I absolutely agree that gay and lesbian, transgender and bisexual people are entitled to privacy as everybody else. I also, however, agree that we have to take very seriously the assault on our civil liberties, that this Ashcroft, this Bush administration has begun and that frankly Congress opened the door for with the Patriot Act. That act has—arguably violates the First, the Fourth, the Fifth, the Sixth, the Eighth and the Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution—has opened the door to e-mails being tapped and phones being tapped, and searches and people disappearing in this country for the first time. I really think we have a real crisis in America when it comes to our civil liberties. And I do hope that this act will be repealed, and I hope that we Americans, that we will all take very seriously rolling back some of the assault on privacy—
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So let me—
MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: -- that this administration has—
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me just go to the group. Does anyone on the panel disagree with Senator Edwards and Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun? Does anybody believe South Carolina should have the right to pass this law and keep it on the books?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: No, George. In fat, the law relates—I'm familiar with it—not only to gay couples, but to heterosexual couples as well. And it's a violation of the right of privacy. There is a case right now before the Supreme Court regarding a similar Texas law. I hope and believe it will be struck down, because Lord knows the prosecutors have more important things to do than prosecute cases like this. They ought to be prosecuting drug peddlers and criminals and all the rest.
REP. SHARPTON: Well, I—
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Excuse me, Reverend Sharpton, let me ask another South Carolina question to Senator Graham. He hasn't gotten in here in a little while. The senior senator from South Carolina, Ernest Hollings, has worked very hard against free trade agreements. He worked against NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, he worked hard against getting the president fast-track trading authority. He says these free trade agreements are job killers. You voted for them. Why is Senator Hollings wrong?
SEN. GRAHAM: Senator Hollings, whose judgment I respect in most issues, I think is wrong because America does not have the alternative of becoming an economically protectionist nation. We have got to participate and lead in the global economy, not attempt to avoid it. Now, that doesn't mean that we are going to engage in trade with the law of the jungle. We need to have some rules that are abided by, particularly in areas such as labor and environmental standards. We need to have a level playing field. And you know what will happen if we do that? I've worked with Americans over the last 25 years—almost 400 different jobs—and I found that consistently Americans are smart, they are hard working, they are creative. We can compete with anybody in the world, if we have a level playing field in trade.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Kucinich.
REP. KUCINICH: Well, you know, it's easy to talk about having a level playing field in trade. The problem is that we've lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs. Our manufacturing industry in Ohio, steel has been devastated. here in South Carolina textiles have been devastated. I think it's time not just to move around the edges of this issue. It's time to cancel NAFTA and the WTO and return to a trading system that is conditioned on workers' rights, human rights and the environment. Otherwise workers are undermined at the bargaining table, jobs are going south out of the country, and they are going further off this continent. And what's happening is we are losing control of our own destiny with a $500 billion trade deficit, and with rising unemployment. And I think that a core problem here is our trade policy. It's time to get rid of NAFTA and the WTO.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Gephardt, you voted against NAFTA. Would you try to cancel it?
REP. GEPHARDT: Well, when I'm president, I will try to adjust or change trade treaties around the globe to reflect the kinds of concerns that were brought up—labor, human rights, environmental concerns need to be in labor negotiations, I mean trade negotiations and trade treaties.
Now, let me—let me go to what's happened. What we've done, unfortunately, in the last years is that when we haven't been able to get those things reflected in treaties, whether it was NAFTA or China PNTR, we have backed off and allowed treaties to go through that do not take care of those problems.
And so what's happening today is a race to the bottom. We have jobs leaving South Carolina, North Carolina, Missouri, my home state, that originally went to Mexico. They're now going from Mexico to China because they can get the cheapest labor in the world in China. This has to end. It's good for no one. You know, Henry Ford had a statement. He was right when he said it and it's right today. "I've got to pay my workers enough so there's somebody to buy the cars they are making."
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Kerry, Senator Lieberman—
REP. GEPHARDT: It's not complicated. We need a trade policy that reflects that belief. MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: -- you both voted for these agreements. What's wrong with his argument?
SEN. KERRY: Well, I think what Dennis is saying is important and what Dick is saying is important.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But you voted for the agreement.
SEN. KERRY: Absolutely. And it would be a terrible mistake for the United States of America to suddenly try to button up and move away from the recognition that the world and globalization and technology are not of our capacity to move around and shift. It's happening no matter what.
We have to manage it more effectively. This is a debate where they're talking past each other.
What we need is not to cancel it. We need trade. And Fritz Hollings has a lot of common sense.
He had a great article in the paper today with a number of things that would make sense to do. What's missing is a president who's prepared to negotiate to keep it from being a rush to the bottom, to raise the standards for people. President Clinton, at the end of his term, negotiated a trade agreement with Jordan and began the process with Vietnam to put a labor
agreement on the side.
We can negotiate a raising of the standards of labor, of environment. The United States could be the marketer of sustainable development practices, of technology, of technology transfer, and still open markets for us. We need to export our capitalism and our democracy, and they go hand in hand. But we need a president who is prepared to negotiate the tough trade agreements that protect people. And here at home we need a president who doesn't abandon workers who do suffer some consequences as a result of—
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Last word on the subject from Joe Lieberman.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: George, there are two parts to this question. One is trade; the other is manufacturing. If we ever returned to a protectionist policy on trade, we would devastate the American economy. And President Clinton explained why in supporting the trade agreements he talked about. Americans are 4 percent of the world population. There's only so much we can make and sell to one another. We've got to break down the barriers around the world, to sell to the rest of the world products that are made here to create jobs for Americans. The other problem, which is serious, is the decline of manufacturing in America. And as president, I will lead a major renewal of the American manufacturing sector, which goes to using tax credits, some of the ideas that Senator Hollings had today. The American government, when it spends two and a quarter trillion dollars every year, ought to, to the extent it can, buy American-made goods. That's a place to begin.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We only have a couple of minutes left. And Senator Lieberman, I want to ask a question to you on another subject, because it relates to the last campaign. In the 2000 campaign, Vice President Al Gore had a proposal for the licensing of all new handguns bought by gun owners. Anyone who wanted to buy a new handgun had to get licensed. Will you support that proposal in this campaign?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: I do not support that proposal. I have never supported such a proposal. I believe that—
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You were part of the ticket.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, he came out with that position before I came on to it. It never really came up during the general election. Let me be very clear. Al Gore said to me, when I got on the ticket, "Don't change anything about yourself. That's why I chose you." The American citizens have a right to own firearms. It is no more unlimited than any other right that we have. The laws ought to concentrate that we pass on stopping criminals and children and others who shouldn't have guns from getting them. Licensing, registration, in my opinion, are bad ideas and violations of that fundamental right.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We've got 15 seconds left. Will anyone on this stage support licensing and registration in this campaign?
MR. : At the federal level?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: At the federal level.
REP. SHARPTON: I support it. I think that we must do whatever we can to regulate how guns are used. I've been a victim of a stabbing. Violence is something very serious in this country. I think that we must take it seriously.
It's interesting to me we have the right to bear arms. We don't have the right in the Constitution to vote. We don't have the right to health care. I think that we need to evaluate what we are as a country, and I think part of that is that we must regulate people's ability to get firearms.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Reverend Sharpton, that's the last word. You did agree with that as well. That's all we're going to have time for for this section. We'll be back with the candidates questioning each other right after this.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: In this round the candidates question each other; no restrictions on who can get the question or what can be asked except time -- 30 seconds for the question, a minute for the answer. And Senator Kerry, you're first.
SEN. KERRY: Dick, if I could ask you, Senator McCain and I made an effort on the floor last year to try to raise fuel efficiency standards in the country. And just yesterday they reported they're at a 22-year low. Now, the hydrogen fuel car may come in decades, they say. But between now and then, you're the one member of Congress here that doesn't support raising fuel efficiency standards. How do we get to energy independence when 50 percent or more of our fuel is in oil for transportation? How are we going to break that without raising fuel efficiency?
REP. GEPHARDT: Well, John, I agree that we need to do it. I think, however, we need strong presidential leadership, which I hope to provide, to put together an energy program that includes an increase in the CAFE standards, but also includes setting a 10-year goal of not only reducing our mileage requirements on automobiles and our pollution requirements, but also moves us to hybrid cars in the interim and to hydrogen fuel cells in the long term. I would put the auto companies, the oil companies and the environmental groups at a table, and I would work out a 10-year plan. I'd call it an Apollo program. And I believe we could pass it, have everybody committed to it and get this done for the country.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Congressman Gephardt. Senator Graham.
SEN. GRAHAM: This is for Senator Lieberman. Yesterday we saw the latest unemployment report, which hit 6 percent for the second time in six months. Among African-Americans, unemployment is almost 11 percent. In my opinion, these are tragedies for America. When I was governor of Florida, I managed a complex state, was able to facilitate the creation of over 1 million new jobs, support for diversity and for minority and other small businesses.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Question?
SEN. GRAHAM: Senator Lieberman, what would you do to solve the unemployment problem, and with it, the disparity that exists between the workforce and African-Americans?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thanks for that question, Bob. The question speaks to the fact that the Bush administration has been an abysmal failure in leading our economy. We've lost 500,000 jobs in the last three months, and disproportionately among African-Americans. And the problem is that this president has one answer to every problem, which is a tax cut, one that we can't afford, one that is unfair, and one we now know doesn't work. I think we've got to go back to the policies that worked during the Clinton-Gore years—fiscal discipline, smart tax cuts to help create jobs, and investments in education, health care and homeland security, and incidentally, sending some money back to the states so states like South Carolina doesn't have to cut their education budget, as I gather the legislature is considering here, by a quarter, which may mean the laying off of 5,000 or 6,000 teachers in this state.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Senator Lieberman.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: In other words, let's get the economy growing. A rising tide raises all boats.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And Senator Lieberman, you get the next question.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay. My question is to Ambassador Braun. As your last question, George, recalled, I had the honor of being the vice presidential candidate in 2000. When people ask me how was that experience, I say I loved every minute of it until the end. That wasn't so good. That was profoundly unfair, an election decided by five judges of the Supreme Court. But what we found was that African-Americans, senior Americans, new Americans were deprived of their right—
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: (Get to?) the question.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: -- to vote; African-Americans 10 times greater than other Americans in Florida. Ambassador Braun, what can we do to make sure that in 2004, every vote is counted?
MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, you know, Senator Lieberman, I was ambassador in New Zealand and watched that election from afar. And there was a joke around that it was the black vote that decided the 2000 election—Clarence Thomas's. (Laughter.) I think, in the first instance, we need to make absolutely certain that the barriers to access are removed, that voting is made easier, that people are given motor-voter, at-home registration. We need to pursue opportunities for individuals to vote instead of making it a high hurdle that they have to leap, and in all cases make certain that we never again allow for the stealing of an election, as happened with you and Senator Gore.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Ambassador. And the next question is yours. You still have the floor. Ambassador MOSELEY Braun, the next question is yours.
MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: Oh. Well, my next question is actually to Senator Edwards. And this is something—Ben Franklin once said, "They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
And I and many other people have real concerns that the Patriot Act vastly expanded government power of surveillance, wire taps, arbitrary detention, investigations, and arguably, again, violates all the amendments to the Constitution that I named—the First, the Fourth, the Fifth, the Sixth, the Eighth and the Fourteenth Amendment.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Question?
MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, will you vote to repeal—you voted for this bill. Will you vote to repeal it? Will you vote to restore the civil liberties guaranteed to Americans and privacy guaranteed to Americans by the Constitution?
SEN. EDWARDS: Well, first, Senator Braun, you and I, as you heard me say earlier tonight, share that concern. I think it's a very serious concern. It's something all of us should be worried about.
I think the problem with the Patriot Act is not the law itself. It's the way it's being administered, particularly the way it's being administered by the attorney general of the United States, General Ashcroft. And we have had consistent problems with this.
It is why I have proposed taking away from the FBI the responsibility of fighting terrorism here in this country and simultaneously setting up an independent watchdog group, Office of Civil Liberties and Civil Rights, to watch what's happening and to make sure that none of us are losing our civil liberties, our civil rights, the things that, as I said earlier, I believe make America great.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You all are making my job easy. Senator Edwards, you get the next question.
SEN. EDWARDS: Thank you, George. Senator Graham, you and I are both from the South. And you may have seen in recent days that I have been criticized for saying that I believe it's really important for people from the South to lead, not follow, on civil rights; that I think it's important for us to have judges that we know will enforce our civil rights laws; that I believe the president is wrong about the affirmative action program at the University of Michigan. What do you believe we as southerners can do to lift up and embrace people who today, not 40 years ago, today still suffer the effects of discrimination every minute of their lives?
SEN. GRAHAM: Well, one of the things that I would do, John, is to see that we put the Civil War behind us. (Applause.) Frankly, we southerners have allowed the most extreme groups within our society to steal the images of the confederacy and then use them as sources of division and hatred within our population.
We also need to see that every child is not left behind—the promise of President Bush but not the reality of President Bush, because he has failed to fund that legislation. I believe that the fundamental way in which we will bring our society together is through the improvement of our education for all of our children.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Senator Graham. Governor Dean, you're next.
GOV. DEAN: This is a question for Senator Graham also. I got into this race because I wanted health care for every American, I wanted a balanced budget, and I wanted to have a party that stood up to President Bush, because I think that's the only way we can beat him. You and Senator Hollings and I have something in common. We all are former governors. We've all balanced budgets. Fritz Hollings had an amendment a couple of weeks ago that would have zeroed out the president's tax cut. You voted for that amendment. Senator Edwards, Senator Kerry and Senator Lieberman did not vote.
They voted for an amendment that would add $350 billion of additional tax cuts.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Question?
GOV. DEAN: Why'd you make that choice?
SEN. GRAHAM: I made that choice because I think it's reckless and irresponsible, at a time of rising deficits, at a time that we are at war with uncertain costs of completing the war and then completing the occupation and renewal of Iraq, to be talking about cutting $1.2 billion -- $1.2 trillion. And that was what Senator Hollings' amendment eliminated from the federal budget. I believe that we need to return to the days of fiscal discipline, as we did under the administration of Bill Clinton.
When he left office, we had a $5 trillion surplus. Barely two years later we've got a $2 trillion deficit, a $7 trillion turn in the finances of America. And do you know who's going to be paying those bills? It's going to be our grandchildren, because we're going to give them a credit card that will be listed as overdrawn from our excessive behavior.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Senator Graham. Congressman Kucinich.
REP. KUCINICH: Senator Lieberman, you and Dick Gephardt were two of the biggest supporters of President Bush's war against Iraq. You both endorsed his proposal for a unilateral first strike. The president's ever-changing reasons for going to war have not been justified by the evidence.
Now, how can we, as Democrats, win this election if we simply rubber-stamp this president's destabilizing foreign policy of preemption and nuclear first strike without offering a serious alternative?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, Dennis, I'd say how can we win this election if we send a message of weakness on defense and security after September 11th, 2001 to the American people? Protecting their security, giving them a sense of safety, making sure people in this country are not worried when their loved ones go out to the mall or take a train, go to a movie theater, that is the first goal of our government. And that means being strong on defense and homeland security. The war against Saddam Hussein was right. You know, I never viewed it as part of the preemption policy of the Bush administration. I opposed that policy. I think it was foolish to declare such a policy. It outraged both our enemies and our allies around the world. A nation always preserves the right to take preemptive action in defense of our security and our freedom. But why declare it and offend and provoke everyone?
I viewed the war against Saddam Hussein as the last battle in the Gulf War of 1991. It was a battle to enforce the promises that Saddam made and never kept.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Senator Lieberman. Reverend Sharpton.
REP. SHARPTON: Senator Graham, as I travel around doing voter registration, one of the main concerns with people for 2004 is what happened in 2000. And it happened in your state. I also take note that when members of the Congressional Black Caucus came to the Senate, they would not even—not one Democrat would let them be heard on the floor about that. There's a proposal in the House to making voting a constitutional amendment. On the Senate level, would you support or even sponsor a complementary piece of legislation to make voting a constitutional amendment so it's not a states' rights and we end up with a repeat of what we had in the year 2000?
SEN. GRAHAM: Reverend, the answer to your question is probably no. I have not seen the amendment that's been offered in the House. But I believe in the principle of states having responsibility for the conduct of their election.
The Congress has just recently passed a national election reform bill which will set some general standards, but more importantly, will provide funds to the states in order to upgrade the quality of their election technology, the training of election personnel and the other things that we found to be deficient in our state of Florida.
We're not proud of what happened in our state. I think, however, had the election been as close in any other state, similar fractures would have been seen, and therefore the wisdom of not a national takeover but a national assistance for fair election reform.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Senator Graham. Congressman Gephardt, last question.
REP. GEPHARDT: Senator Graham, again, you were the governor of one of the largest states in the country. You did a great job. We now have a situation where most states are in horrible deficits. Many are laying off teachers and other things and Medicaid. My question to you is, my health care plan sends $172 billion over three years to the states for health care for their employees. That would mean $2.5 billion for South Carolina. What plan would you bring forward to help the states through these tough times that they're in now?
SEN. GRAHAM: Dick, you're absolutely right that this is a very difficult time for states. I was told yesterday that the South Carolina teacher of the year has been given a dismissal notice because of the cutbacks that will be required in her particular school district. I believe that what we ought to do is, one, recognize that a substantial amount of the problems that the states are experiencing is because of actions that we've taken at the federal level, such as not funding homeland security, not funding the No Child Left Behind legislation. What I would do is I would, for a two-year period, increase the federal share of Medicaid so that we could give relief to the states in one of the fastest-growing areas of their budget and thereby release funds that can be used to pay that teacher of the year in South Carolina.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Senator Graham. Thank you all. We'll be back with my questions for the candidates after this.
ANNOUNCER: Once again from the campus of the University of South Carolina, George Stephanopoulos.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Now it's time for me to ask each candidate a single question in their own variations on a theme.
If I had to sum up what democrats here in South Carolina across the country are looking for this year it's very simple: A winner. Everyone I talk to says they want to see someone who can beat President Bush. And I've talked to a lot of people from across the party to get a sense of their doubts about each one of you, about whether you all can do that, and I want to give each of you a chance to respond to what I'm hearing.
Senator Kerry, the rap on you is that you're just too aloof, that you don't have the common touch it takes to win.
SEN. KERRY: Well, probably I ought to just disappear and contemplate that by myself.
You know, I've heard that—I've heard that for a long time but I'm attracting support all across the country and it's because, George, I'm talking about things that matter to people. I'm the only person running for this job who's actually fought in a war.
I'm not ambivalent about the war, Joe. I believe that before you go to war it ought to really be the last resort and you should exhaust your diplomatic remedies. But I was in favor of disarming Saddam Hussein and I'm glad we did; there's no ambivalence. I believe I bring strength to this ticket, strength about how we maintain a military that is strong but make ourselves stronger in the world and I think I know what our vision is for this country at home: healthcare, really leaving no child behind, putting people back to work, and I have a proven record of fighting the tough fights that will give people trust that I will do that for America.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you. Senator Graham, Democrats like your resume but they worry about your charisma. And what they think is that you're really running for vice president.
SEN. GRAHAM: George, I am running not to be running but running to be the next president of the United States of America. I believe that the combination that Americans are looking for in the next president include, one, they want someone with executive experience. For eight years I was governor of the fourth largest state in this nation, which I think is the best preparation to be president and the American people think so too since four of the last five presidents elected had been governors of their state before they became president.
Second, I am a centrist. I believe that you don't set policy from the end zone and you set policy from the 50-yard line and build out until you have a majority. Third, John and I happen to be southerners. Who have been the last three democratically elected presidents? Lyndon Johnson from Texas, Jimmy Carter from Georgia and Bill Clinton from Arkansas. That says something about what it takes to be elected. And finally, I am—
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Time. Sorry. Thank you, Senator Graham. And Senator Edwards, for you really what I'm hearing is the flip side of what I hear about Senator Graham. People say, boy, you've got plenty of charisma but the Democrats I talk to feel that you don't have the policy depth and the policy experience it takes to become president.
SEN. EDWARDS: Well, I would say two things about that, George. First, what people are looking for in a president is someone who has the qualities of leadership: strength, character, conviction, good judgment. I'm happy to have people judge me on that basis. Second, they want somebody who understands their lives. I come from a family where my dad, who's here tonight, worked in a mill all his life; my mother's last job was working at the post office. I was the first in my family to go to college and I spent almost 20 years after I worked my way through college and then law school fighting for the same people that I had grown up with. This is what I have done my entire life, fight for working people, the people I've known all my life. I did it first over 20 years as a lawyer and an advocate and I've been doing it in the United States Senate and I will be a champion for those very same people in the White House. And the American people want somebody who will stand up for them and stand up to big corporate America.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you. Governor Dean, the issue is about national security. A lot of Democrats think that an anti-war governor with no national security experience simply cannot go toe-to-toe with President Bush.
GOV. DEAN: First of all, I do have national security experience. Every single governor since September 11 has had to deal with security issues, Homeland Security; that's why I don't think the president is doing a particularly good job.
I got into this race—and by the way, I absolutely agree with Bob Graham; the next president, democratic president of the United States is going to have executive experience. I got into this race because this is the most conservative president of my lifetime and because most of the people who are running up here either voted for or supported substantial tax cuts, voted for the No Child Left Behind Bill, which is a huge unfunded mandate on school boards all over this country, and raising property tax, arguing about the Patients Bill of Rights instead of putting forward plans early on to have national health and universal health insurance. I want to change the Democratic Party. I want to change this country. And I want to become the next president so we can have a balanced budget, so we can have a decent healthcare plan in this country and so we can have a secure nation not by engaging in preventive war but by regaining our strength, building a strong military and being the United States that we used to be where our military values are consistent with our American values.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Governor Dean. Ambassador Moseley Braun, here's what I keep hearing: You can't win and the real reason you're running is to siphon votes away from Reverend Sharpton. (Laughter.)
AMB. MOSELEY BRAUN: You know, I'm running to rebuild this country both physically and spiritually, to put the investment into building schools, building infrastructure, building new technologies and technology transfers, but also a spiritual renewal to bring us together as Americans so that we can be the country that we need to be for the rest of the world and to make this country live up to the promise of its democracy, which means that everybody gets included. I've always been a woman who had to run as a woman against the odds. When I was told I couldn't win for the United States Senate I went ahead and did it. And even though it was a tough row to hoe at times at the same time I showed strength through it, I was the only African American in the United States Senate, the only African American, one of the two when I was Assistant United States Attorney. I've been breaking barriers down all of my life. I have a record of productivity that I think is second to none.
And so I'm running not to take votes against Reverend Sharpton any more than Bob Kerry or Bob Graham or any of my friends up here. I mean, I hope to get votes from across the board. But I can tell you this, it's time for a woman to be considered seriously as a candidate for the highest office in this land. We can be followers but we can also be leaders. (Applause.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you. Senator Lieberman, people think you're too nice to be president and you're just not tough enough to take on President Bush.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: I'd like to come over there and strange you, George. (Laughter.) George, you know, you don't have to be a screamer to be tough. The reality is if you look at my career when I was Attorney General of Connecticut I sued the insurance companies, one of the big interest groups in my state. As a United States Senator I've taken on some of the big interest groups in my party. I'm the only one on the stage who has taken on Hollywood, the entertainment industry for peddling sex and violence to our kids. I went to the floor of the United States Senate and spoke out against the president, to whom I was devoted, because he did something that I thought was wrong. I supported the Gulf War. I supported the war against Saddam Hussein.
My career shows that I am ready to do the right thing for our country. That's what strength is all about.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Senator. Reverend Sharpton, two words; racial polarizer. And Democrats worry that every vote for you in the primaries and caucuses is going to coast the democratic nominee votes in November.
REV. SHARPTON: I think that's the same charge that they gave Jesse Jackson twenty years ago and Jesse Jackson proved that he registered so many voters that we were able to regain the Senate in '86. I think that anytime a person of color particularly comes out of a movement fighting for justice that we are falsely charged with that.
You have a sitting Supreme Court judge, the chief justice, that just went to a Fourth Circuit retreat humming Dixie. You have people that are waving the Confederate flag. They didn't wave it in Baghdad; they waved it in Columbia. And you will talk about I'm a racial polarizer because I say that we should treat people with equal protection under the law. I think the Republicans try to float that. We can defeat that when all of us come together and have one standard and that's why we're celebrating that 40 years later in Birmingham this weekend.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Reverend Sharpton. Congressman Gephardt, people fear you're this campaign's Bob Dole, a creature of Congress who's been around the national track one too many times.
REP. GEPHARDT: George, you know how to hurt a guy. (Laughter.) Let me say that if you're looking for the fresh face or the new face I'm probably not your candidate. If you're looking for somebody that has real experience over 27 years in the House, 13 years as Democratic leader on every domestic and foreign issue this country has faced, then I may be your candidate.
I'll say one other thing. The fight for working families is in my bones. My dad was a teamster and a milk truck driver in St. Louis; he didn't get through high school. My mother, who's 95 and still alive, was a secretary; she didn't get through high school either. But they fought hard to give me every opportunity a person could have. I feel like I'm the example of the American dream. So one thing you'll know is when I'm in that Oval Office I'm going to think and represent and try to do things for people like my parents who are the people that have made this country great. I think it's time we had a president like that again.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Congressman Gephardt. Congressman Kucinich, you get the last question. The one time you had executive responsibility as mayor of Cleveland the city went bankrupt. How do you respond to those who will say that you'll do for America what you did for Cleveland? (Laughter.) REP. KUCINICH: Well, first of all, George, I want to remind you that today a long shot won the Derby. I also want to remind you that in Cleveland that default ends up being a badge of honor for me because I stood up for the people of Cleveland against a takeover of our
municipal electric system by a utility monopoly.
Now, imagine a president who is willing to stand up to the Enrons of America. Imagine a president who's willing to stand up to the monopolies in energy and in healthcare and in transportation and communications. Imagine a president who comes from the city and will fight for working men and women and will fight for the poor. I think that I have every expectation that I'll be the next president of the United States because when the test came I put my career on the line to save a municipal electric system for the people of Cleveland and today people of Cleveland know that I did the right thing and soon America will know that as well. Thank you.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Congressman Kucinich. Thanks to all of you. We have one section left, closing statements from the candidates, and we'll be right back.
ANNOUNCER: The first in the nation democratic presidential debate will continue after this from our ABC stations.
ANNOUNCE: Once again George Stephanopoulos.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Time now for the closing statements. Each candidate gets just about a minute and Congressman Kucinich, you're first.
REP. KUCINICH: Thank you.
I began my career in public life in 1967. I've been a councilman, a mayor, a state senator and now a congressman. As a candidate for president I offer a different vision for America, one which separates me from the other candidates.
I'm the only candidate for president who will take this country away from fear, from war and tax giveaways and use America's peace dividend for guaranteed healthcare for all, take the profit out of healthcare. I'm the only one who will stop privatization of social security and bring the retirement age back to age 65.
As president I will cancel NAFTA and the WTO. I'll restore our manufacturing jobs, save our family farms, create full employment programs, create new jobs by rebuilding our cities and schools.
As president I will repeal the Patriot Act to regain for all Americans the sacred right of privacy in our homes, our libraries, our schools.
This is a grassroots campaign to take back America for the people. Join me for your cities, your towns, your farms and your campuses. Join me at Kucinich.us. I'm Dennis Kucinich. Join me and let's take back America. Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Congressman Kucinich.bassador Moseley Braun.
AMB. MOSELEY BRAUN: Oh, all right, well my late mother used to say that it didn't matter if you came to this country on the Mayflower or a slave ship, across the Rio Grande or through Ellis Island; we're all in the same boat now.
And I have to tell you I believe that the challenge for all of us is to work to make certain that Americans come together, that we transform this nation so that we can live up to the promise of our democracy, the promise of our Constitution and so that we can be the country that we want to believe that we are.
We have a sacred responsibility to leave the next generation no less than we inherited from the last. The last generation gave us all opportunity and they gave us liberty and they gave us a hopefulness about this country that I'm afraid is being lost.
And as Democrats I am proud to sit with these men to make the point to the American people that we have an opportunity to get it back, we have an opportunity to put our country on the right track.
This administration in place now has taken America down the wrong road, on a road that does not leave us with much promise and certainly does not leave young people with much optimism about this country. I want to bring hope back and I want to do it working with other Democrats. As they used to say, Democrats give the people peace and prosperity; Republicans get in and give them depression and war. We can turn this around again.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Ambassador. Senator Edward, you're next.
SEN. EDWARDS: Thank you, George. Almost 50 years ago not far from where we are tonight there's a little town called Seneca, South Carolina I was born. Most of my young life was spent moving from mill town to mill town until our family finally settled in a small town in North Carolina called Robbins. My dad worked in a mill his whole life. My mother's last job was working in the post office. Because of their hard work I was able to be the first person in my family to go to college. It opened the doors for everything for me. I'm running for president because I believe this president has betrayed people like my parents and the people I grew up with, people who work hard every day, try to do the right thing, act responsibly and build a better life for themselves and their families. Just because you speak the language of regular Americans does not mean your agenda is not the agenda of corporate America. Just because you walk around on a ranch in Texas with a big belt buckle doesn't mean you understand and stand up for rural America. I believe we can build a better life for our families, families like the family I grew up with and communities like Seneca and Robbins, North Carolina, but it has to be based on the values of hard work and responsibility, not accounting tricks and corporate greed. I want to bring your values, the values of main street America to Wall Street and then to Pennsylvania Avenue.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Senator Edwards.
SEN. EDWARDS: I want to give this White House back to the American people.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Senator Edwards. Senator Graham.
SEN. GRAHAM: Thank you, George.
Friends, America is at a critical turning point. More than two years into the term of President George Bush America is experiencing an unprecedented economic slowdown. Surpluses are gone, deficits are rising, unemployment is growing and the people are hurting. I am running for president because I believe America must take a new direction. That new direction must include experience and solid judgment.
As governor of Florida I helped create one million new jobs, built schools and balanced the budget. As a member of and for the last two years chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee I know how vulnerable we are and I know what it's going to take to secure America. And as an American I have spent almost 400 days working side-by-side with Americans.
My name is Bob Graham. I come from the electable wing of the Democratic Party. (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Senator Graham.
SEN. GRAHAM: Thank you and God bless America.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Senator Graham. Congressman Gephardt.
REP. GEPHARDT: As I said a moment ago, my parents were hardworking people. A lot of people like my parents tonight have lost faith in our politics, in our politicians and, in fact, they've lost faith in our country. Cynicism abounds. People don't vote. We've got to have a president in this country and I hope to be that president who restores faith and hope in people, that we can solve the major problems that this country faces and make life better for all of our Americans.
I want to get everybody covered with health insurance. My son Matt is here tonight. When he was two he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. We had good health insurance; he recovered. Many a night when we were in the hospital with him we met other parents of kids who had cancer and many of them did not have insurance. In the richest, most powerful country in the world it is wrong to have anybody in this country without health insurance who can't take care of their loved ones when they need help.
I want to have a teacher corps so that we can say to young people in this country if you'll be a teacher and teach where we need you for five years we'll pay your college loans. And I want an Apollo II program to make us independent of foreign oil in ten years. We can restore hope in America if we understand we're all tied together in a single garment of destiny. What affects one directly affects all of us indirectly. That's the kind of president I will be every day in that Oval Office.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Congressman Gephardt. Governor Dean. GOV. DEAN: We can't win this election if we worry so much about electability that the American people can't tell the difference between us and the Republicans. The great unspoken political lie, which comes from stages like this, is elect me and I'll solve all your problems. The great unspoken truth is the future of this country rests in your hands, not mine. You have the power to rise up and take this country back. You have the power to give the party the backbone to challenge this president and all the harm he's done to our country. You have the power to create jobs, to balance the budget and to bring us our dream, which Harry Truman put in our platform in 1948, health insurance for every American.
The reason people don't vote in this country is because we don't give them a reason to vote. This campaign is about giving all of you a reason to vote.
Abraham Lincoln said that, "a government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from this earth." President Bush has forgotten the ordinary people of this country. It's time to take our party back now and it's time to take our country back.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Governor Dean. Reverend Sharpton.
REV. SHARPTON: Next year we will elect a new president. I will hope that we elect a new president from the Democratic Party because it is mandatory that we save this nation from where it is and where it is headed under George Bush. We don't just need a new director; we need a new direction. And we need to deal with an America that is open and that is promising for all of its citizens.
I'm running for president to give basic guaranteed rights of every American, not just new programs but the constitutional right to vote, the constitutional right to healthcare, the constitutional right to quality education.
But the only way we can win this election is if we bring in the majority of Americans that are not even voting at all. I know those Americans. I've worked with them all my life, the disaffected, the seniors, the young people, the hip-hop generation. We can't beat George Bush with a traditional clubhouse strategy; we need a movement and I'm the candidate that can put that movement together and that's the only way we can get out of the bushes in 2004. (Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Reverend Sharpton. Senator Lieberman.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thank you. Thank you, George.
Forty years ago this year I marched with Dr. King in Washington and then I went to Mississippi to fight for the right of African Americans to vote. It is a thrill for that reason for me to be at this debate in this state of South Carolina, which will host an early presidential primary next year, which will give African American voters the greatest opportunity to influence the selection of a democratic presidential candidate that they have probably ever had. That thrills me. I'm proud of it.
These are tough times for the American people. They need a strong new leader to take this country forward. They deserve not an either/or choice in November of 2004 between a president who's strong in the world and a candidate for president who is strong here at home. They deserve strength in both and that's what I offer. I am the one Democrat who can match George Bush in the areas where many think he's strong, defense and moral values, and beat him where he is weak, on the economy and his divisive right-wing social agenda. I know I can beat George Bush. Why? Al Gore and I already did it. And with your help we'll do it again. (Laughter, applause.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Senator Lieberman. Senator Kerry.
SEN. KERRY: George, thank you very much.
Thirty-five years ago next month I was on a ship returning to the coast of California from my first tour of duty in Vietnam and the first crackling of the radio that I heard brought the news of Robert Kennedy's victory and then assassination. That moment was seared in me, as were the word of the poet that he quoted so often: Some men see things as they are and ask why; I dream things that never were and ask why not.
I'm running for president of the United States because I really believe it is time for this country to ask again why not. Why not in the richest country on the face of the planet healthcare for all of our citizens accessible and affordable? Why not early childhood education so that all of our children get the best start in life? Why not invest in our future and our jobs by creating energy independence for America? Why not have a military that is strong but at the same time advances our ideals around the globe? And why not have a president who understands the truth that the flag and patriotism do not belong to any one party; they belong to all Americans? I believe we can achieve these ideals and I ask you to join me in the effort to make America safer, stronger and more secure.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Senator Kerry.
Thank you all. That concludes our debate for tonight, the first debate of the presidential campaign. Thanks again to all the candidates for making the time to be with us and for agreeing to such a freewheeling format. Thanks to the University of South Carolina for lending us your campus and thanks to all of you for joining us. Hope you'll check in back with us for the rest of the campaign and tomorrow morning on This Week.
From all of us at ABC News, good night.
ANNOUNCER: This has been an ABC News special, the first in the nation democratic presidential debate. For continuing coverage of this story stay with ABC News and ABCNews.com.
Transcript from Federal News Service
Copyright 2003 Federal News Service, Inc.