Transcript from WMUR-TV, FOX, The Union Leader and ABC News.
DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES DEBATE, GOFFSTOWN, NEW HAMPSHIRE
JANUARY 22, 2004
SPEAKERS: GENERAL WESLEY CLARK (RET.)
FORMER GOVERNOR HOWARD DEAN (VT)
U.S. SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS (NC)
U.S. SENATOR JOHN F. KERRY (MA)
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE DENNIS KUCINICH (OH)
U.S. SENATOR JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (CT)
THE REVEREND AL SHARPTON
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS
PETER JENNINGS, ABC NEWS
TOM GRIFFITH, WMUR
JOHN DISTASO, THE UNION LEADER
Part I Part II Part III
HUME: Good evening, and welcome to Koonz Auditorium here at St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.
The seven remaining Democratic presidential candidates are gathered here for their final debate before next Tuesday's New Hampshire primary.
Let's meet the candidates: former Governor Howard Dean of Vermont, retired General Wesley Clark of Arkansas, the Reverend Al Sharpton of New York, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.
Welcome to you all.
The candidates' positions on this stage, by the way, were determined
by a random drawing. The candidates, during this debate, will have one
minute each for each answer. Any rebuttal or follow-up will be 30 seconds.
The candidates will have lights that will help them keep track of their time. And if an answer should go over, the candidates, and indeed all of us, will hear this sound.
We do ask the audience to hold applause during the course of the questions and answers.
Now let's introduce my colleagues: Tom Griffith, the principal news
anchor of WMUR TV Channel 9 here in Manchester; John DiStaso, political
reporter of The Union Leader here in Manchester; and from ABC News, anchor
and senior editor of "World News Tonight" Peter Jennings, who has the first
JENNINGS: Thank you, Brit.
I hope we don't confuse you, gentlemen. Brit's going to moderate the first hour; I'm going to moderate the second. And by luck of the draw, I get the first flight of questions to Senator Lieberman, to Governor Dean and to John Kerry.
Governor Dean, I'll come to you in just a second, but I'm going to start, if I may, with Senator Kerry.
Senator, Democrats everywhere tell us that they want to nominate a man who will not be beaten by President Bush using the Republican weapon of taxes. You know that President Bush will be relentless on this subject. You know that it is the Republicans' argument of choice. It works for Republicans.
In your career, you voted to raise billions of dollars in taxes. You've advocated spending billions more in this particular campaign. So I would like you at the outset to put yourself in a moment, on a stage like this, if you're the nominee sometime during the fall. And if you are the nominee, what will you say exactly, precisely, if at that time President Bush says, "Senator Kerry is going to raise your taxes and I am not"?
KERRY: That's a fight I look forward to, because if George W. Bush wants to stand there beside me and defend raising taxes for people who earn more than $200,000 a year, which are the only people who might be argued will have a tax increase by rolling back the Bush tax cut that they rushed through, instead of giving all of America health care and education so we truly leave no child behind, that's a fight we deserve to have in this country. That's a fight we will win.
I am going to protect the middle class. And in the course of my career, Peter, I have voted for countless numbers of tax cuts.
When I arrived in the United States Senate, the highest marginal rate was 72 percent. We took it down to 28 percent under Ronald Reagan. It then went back up somewhat. I voted for cutting the capital gains tax, I voted for tax incentives for businesses.
But this president has created an economy that feeds the special interests and the powerful and the corporate power, and he is not helped the average worker in America to advance their cause. I will.
JENNINGS: Thank you, sir.
Governor Dean, I'm going to ask you the same question. It happened, of course, to Governor Dukakis, to Walter Mondale and to Al Gore. And you are supporting more tax increases than Senator Kerry.
But I do also, in fairness, want to give you a choice here, if you'd like to use some of the time to talk about -- or maybe all the time, your choice -- to talk about what some people think was your overly enthusiastic speech to you supporters the other night, which many people actually think has hurt your candidacy...
DEAN: Well, Peter, you may notice that my voice is a little hoarse. It's not because I was whooping and hollering at my third- place finish in Iowa; it's because I have cold.
We did have a little fun in Iowa. I thought I owed it to the 3,500 kids
that came out and worked for us.
And, sure, I would have liked to have been a little bit -- done a little better. But I congratulate John Kerry and John Edwards on great campaigns. I think they ran a great campaign.
Let me just take a second to talk about this tax stuff.
I'm going to take a different position than everybody. I think we ought to get rid of the whole Bush tax cut, and here's why: There was no middle-class tax cut.
Sixty percent of us got $304. Has your property tax gone up more than $304 because the president cut cops on the beat, refused to fund special education, refused to fund No Child Left Behind? How about your college tuition? Has that gone up more that $304 because the president cut 84,000 kids off Pell Grants in order to pay for the tax cuts for people like Ken Lay?
Your health care, has that gone up because the president cut 500,000 kids off health care?
There was no middle-class tax cut in this country. Somebody has to stand up and say, we cannot have everything. We can't have tax cuts, pay for health care, pay for No Child Left Behind and pay for an adequate defense.
I believe we ought to have balanced budgets. I've done it 12 times. That is the real issue in this campaign. The future health of this country depends on a balanced budget. And we've got to start telling the truth and stop making promises.
JENNINGS: Thank you, Governor.
Senator Lieberman, you've warned for years that this image of being the party of tax increases has hurt the party badly and helps Democrats lose elections. But you voted for increasing taxes yourself. And while you've argued for cutting some in this particular campaign, you've also advocated increasing others. Audition on taxes, if you wish.
But I'll also give you a choice, as I did Governor Dean, perhaps you'd also like to comment on the gentleman from Massachusetts. Would Senator Kerry's answer on taxes be effective if he is challenged by President Bush in debate this fall?
LIEBERMAN: Here is the way I'd like to start this, Peter. I saw a wonderful
article recently that said that in a private conversation, President Bush
said to someone that the Democrat he thought would give him the toughest
fight for reelection was Joe Lieberman. Incidentally, this is an opinion
on which I agree with President Bush.
And I think the reason is that the Republicans can't run their normal playbook on me that they try to run on Democratic candidates. They can't say I flip-flop because I don't. They can't say I'm weak on defense because I'm not. They can't say I'm weak on values because I'm not. They can't say I'm a big taxer and a big spender.
In this campaign, I am the only candidate up here on the stage that has come out for genuine tax reform, not only to protect the middle-class tax cuts that middle-class families did get in the last three years, that many of us fought for, but to apply, to carry out, to pass a tax cut for 98 percent of the income tax payers and to pay for it by raising taxes on the 2 percent.
That may make some of the higher-income people unhappy, but it's the right thing to do for the middle class and for our economy.
HUME: Tom, you're next.
GRIFFITH: I have two candidates, Congressman Kucinich and General Clark.
I'd like to start with you, General Clark, if I could.
Everybody in the campaign is talking about credentials, what they've done, as an indicator of what they'll do. And you make the case of the value of your military experience. But your Democratic Party credentials in this race do matter to many within the party.
The nominee, as Peter mentioned, will come under harsh criticism from the Bush administration on everything from where they stood yesterday about the war, today about the war, tomorrow about the war; yesterday about taxes, today about taxes and tomorrow about taxes.
So can you be an effective leader, with regard to the platform of this party?
CLARK: Well, Tom, I voted for Bill Clinton and Al Gore. When I got out
of the military, I looked at both parties. I'm pro-choice, pro-affirmative
action, pro-environment, pro-labor. I was either going to be the loneliest
Republican in America or I was going to be a happy Democrat.
And there are people who are worried about Democratic Party credentials. I've got to tell them that. But I'm a Democrat of conviction. My wife and I spent our entire time in the uniform taking care of people.
And that's what the Democratic Party does. And that's what I want to do as president.
And I'm in this party now, and I'll bring a lot of other people into this party, too. And that's what we need to do to win in November.
GRIFFITH: So, do you look -- as a quick follow-up -- do you look, then, at your lack of experience within the party itself as an asset?
CLARK: Well, I've got a lot of experience in leadership. I've never run for elective office before, and in the military, most of us were never members of a political party. But I think what matters in this party is the clarity of your ideas, the strength of your convictions and your ability to communicate.
The Democratic Party is a party of ideas. It's a party as broad as a Montana sky. We welcome everybody into this party, and we care about people. That's why I'm a Democrat. That's why I want to be president: to help people.
GRIFFITH: Thank you.
Congressman Kucinich, you are the candidate on the stage that has a time certain by which you want to withdraw troops from Iraq. You've said essentially that within 90 days, you'll remove American troops, seek a U.N. force to replace them.
What if there's no cooperation from the U.N.? Do you pack your bags and leave Iraq at this point?
KUCINICH: No. Actually, the plan that is predicated on the United Nations being presented with an entirely different direction. And that different direction would be that the United States would disavow any interest in the oil.
Ask the U.N. to handle the oil assets of Iraq on behalf of the Iraqi
people, until the Iraqi people are self-governing. Ask the U.N. to handle
the contracts until the Iraqi people are self-governing.
The United States should renounce any interest in privatization of the Iraq economy. And we should ask the U.N. to help construct a cause of governance in Iraq with a new constitution and elections.
That approach, plus to fund a U.N. peacekeeping mission; in addition to that, to provide repairs for what we destroyed in Iraq, plus reparations for the families of innocent civilian noncombatants -- all that constitutes a plan which would enable the United States to go to the U.N. and say, "Look, agree with this plan, send in U.N. peacekeepers," and 90 days later, we'll have our troops home.
I do stand here saying that I believe sincerely that we should bring in U.N. peacekeepers and bring our troops home. And I have the plan to do that.
GRIFFITH: Thank you.
HUME: John, you're next.
DISTASO: My questions are for Senator Edwards and Reverend Sharpton.
Senator Edwards, after voting to authorize the president to go to war in Iraq in 2002, you voted last fall against an $87 billion expenditure to support the troops there and aid the anti-terrorism effort.
These votes may appear to some to be inconsistent, and a reaction even perhaps to the political winds of the movement. Why aren't they inconsistent? How are they consistent?
EDWARDS: Because I said from the very beginning, before the first resolution was ever voted on in the Congress, that in order for this effort to be successful it was absolutely critical that when we reached this stage that it be international, that it not be an American operation, that it not be an American occupation. And so long as it was that, we'd see the problems we've seen right now.
Everyone on this stage has been critical of the way George Bush has conducted this phase of the operation. But at the point where we had to stand up and say yes or no, we had to stand up and vote and support that vote, I thought it would be a mistake for me to say to the president, "What you're doing is right, I support it, go forward, here's your blank check, come back next year and ask for more money."
He needed to change course. We needed to have the United Nations in charge of the civilian authority. We needed NATO present to help provide security there, at least along the Saudi Arabian and the Iranian border so we could concentrate on the Sunni triangle.
And actually, I have to say there are two of us on this stage, Senator Kerry and myself, who both voted against it. And I know that both of us felt we needed to say loud and clear to President Bush that what he was doing was wrong and we thought he needed to change course.
DISTASO: So was it a protest vote, or was it a vote of substance?
And had it failed, what do you believe the scene would be like in Iraq today?
EDWARDS: It was not a protest vote. I voted exactly the way I thought I should have voted.
And not only that, had I been the deciding vote, I would have voted exactly the same way. Because what would have happened, had that occurred, is the president would have immediately come back to the Congress with a plan, changing course, so that he could get the approval he needed.
And I thought it was critically important for us to say to this president, "What you're doing is wrong. You have to change course."
It's all well and good to criticize him. That's just words. We came to the point where we had to stand up and take responsibility. I took responsibility.
HUME: Just to follow up quickly there, how do you know the president would have come back? And how do you know that whatever he asked for would've passed had you voted no when your vote was decisive?
EDWARDS: Because I know -- Brit, because I know that the president, nor us, would have ever left the troops over there without the support that they needed. None of us would have allowed that to happen.
But it was critical that we say to the -- if we had said yes to this vote -- if I can just finish this -- if we had said yes to this, it would have been tantamount to saying, "Here's your blank check, go forward. Come back next year, we'll give you another blank check. You can continue this policy. And all of us will stand on stages and criticize you, but when it comes time for when we have to put our rear end on the line and take responsibility, we won't take that responsibility."
I took responsibility. I think it was the right thing to do.
DISTASO: Reverend Sharpton, your Iraq policy calls for immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. And as a human rights advocate, is there anywhere in the world today where you would send troops, or use military force, to combat government-sponsored killing, genocide or oppression? In effect, what is the Sharpton doctrine of foreign policy?
SHARPTON: The Sharpton doctrine of foreign policy would be to support emerging democratic nations, and those nations that are underdeveloped, with real trade and aid.
There are billions of people around the world that need clean water systems, clean sanitation systems. We don't need to only talk about a military presence. We need to talk about a humanitarian presence, a development presence. And I think that that would aid our country in developing the intelligence that would protect Americans.
What I've said is that we need to come out of Iraq and submit to the
United Nations and go forward in trying to project to the world that we're
their friends rather than their cop. And I think that that would be the
As I've traveled all over the world, from the Caribbean to Africa to Europe to the Middle East, people need our trade and aid. They know we're a superpower. The question is: Can we be a super-help in the time of need? If we prove to be, we would have those people as our allies as we go after bin Laden rather than try to go to Mars before we settle the problem on Earth.
HUME: That concludes round one.
Tom, you start round two.
GRIFFITH: Senator Kerry, in a speech at Drake University, you said, in your first 100 days you would move to increase our armed forces by as much as 40,000 troops. You said there was a dire need for two full divisions.
I'm the parent of two teenage sons. We're patriots. People are wondering right now about voluntary versus draft. And as president, how do you hope to lure and attract quality people into the military? And as a follow-up, where do you stand on the issue of the draft?
KERRY: We don't need a draft now and I wouldn't be in favor of it under the current circumstances.
But, look, the first place you start to attract people into the military is to have a president who can prove to America that that president will be responsible about how that president deploys the military.
All across this country there are families right now, all of us have talked to them, who are suffering greatly because the Guards and Reserves have been called up. They are overextended.
The troops of the United States of America are overextended. Their deployments are too long. The families are hurting at home because they lose money from the private sector when they're called up and they get paid less in the military and nobody makes it up to them.
The fact is that if we're going to maintain this level of commitment on a global basis, and for the moment we have to because of what's happened, we need an additional two divisions. One's a combat division and one is a support division. Now, that's the responsible thing to do.
I've also said responsibly, that's temporary, because I intend to be a president who goes back to the United Nations, rejoins the community of nations, brings other boots on the ground to help us in the world and reduces the overall need for deployment of American forces in the globe.
And I mean North Korea, Germany and the rest of the world, where we can begin to set up a new architecture of participation of other countries.
GRIFFITH: Thank you.
Senator Lieberman, I hope you'll allow me to take liberty with my overly stuffed e-mail box.
LIEBERMAN: Go right ahead.
LIEBERMAN: You have that right under the Constitution.
GRIFFITH: This one came to me and has repeated to come to me from rockthevote.com.
We hear about health care coverage issues involving older voters, particularly prescription drugs, but young people also have serious challenges getting adequate health coverage.
How would your plan improve health insurance coverage for this new generation?
LIEBERMAN: Yes, a very important question. Let me say that there is a scandalous fact -- really, a morally scandalous fact -- which is that 43 million Americans don't have health insurance, 2 million more than when George Bush became president.
I must say, as I go around New Hampshire, I've learned a lot. People tell me that their number-one concern -- middle-class families who have health insurance, how are they going to pay for it? And this goes for young, middle-aged and older.
I'm proposing to create a national health insurance pool from which
-- like the one that members of Congress get our insurance from. And we
would say this: If you don't have insurance now, you'll be able to get
it, probably free, if you're among the low-income working poor. If you're
a child, you will be covered by insurance at birth. If you are fired from
your work or lose your job, you will not lose your health insurance.
MediKids is part of my program. Every child born in America will become a member of MediKids, and it will cover them from birth through 25. Why 25? Because young adults have a hard time affording health insurance, and a lot of them think they're not going to get sick, but they do, and we need to cover them.
GRIFFITH: Congressman Kucinich, let me get very local with you for a minute, if I can. We here in New Hampshire, of course, some of our school districts are having trouble meeting the testing standards of No Child Left Behind, which apparently you did vote for, you were in favor of, I believe. Is that correct?
Our education commissioner recently said that we can't really settle on what is a very narrow and strict determination of the student's progress. What would you do, at this point, with No Child Left Behind? Would you throw it out? And if you would, what would you replace it with?
KUCINICH: The answer to your question is, yes, I would.
And what I would replace it with is a new educational structure where the focus would be on helping to bring forth the creativity of our children, in stressing arts and language, music; to invite the participation of educational philosophers and psychologists and administrators and teachers and parents and children; to take a new focus on our education, to stop this incessant direction of trying to make our nation of test-takers, of putting the pressure on teachers to teach to the test, and then school districts depending on the results of those tests for their funding.
No Child Left Behind has not worked out the way that anyone thought
it would. And what has happened is, it's become an unfunded mandate. It
has become a misdirection of the way education ought to be in America.
I would have a universal pre-kindergarten program where children can go to school beginning at age 3, a fully funded elementary and secondary education act, and free college tuition for all America's young people.
HUME: John, you're next.
DISTASO: Governor Dean, last December you were quoted as saying that you would not have hesitated to attack Iraq this year, quote, "had the United Nations given us permission and asked us to be part of a multilateral force."
Given President Bush's reference to "no permission slips" the other night in the State of the Union, do you now regret using that word?
DEAN: I would not have used the word "permission," nor is that what I meant. You know, my words are not always precise, but my meaning is very, very clear.
Iraq was not an imminent threat to the United States. I disagreed with Senator Lieberman, Senator Edwards and Senator Kerry.
We had successfully contained Iraq for 12 years with no-fly zones. They had virtually no air force to speak of. It turned out they did not have the weapons of mass destruction that people thought they did, myself included. It turned out that much of what the president told us was not so.
I believe that Saddam Hussein's removal from power is good. But I also believe that the way to have done it was to do it through the United Nations, which is why I opposed the president's war in Iraq from the beginning.
Which just brings me to one other point.
You know, I'm not a perfect person. I think a lot of people have had
a lot of fun at my expense over the Iowa hooting and hollering, and that's
justified. But one thing I can tell you is that I'm not kidding about what
The things that I do are things I believe in. I think it's important that the president of the United States be willing to stand up for what's right and not stand up for what's popular.
I did it with No Child Left Behind. That was a mistake a year ago, not
just now that everybody's suffering with it. I did it in Iraq. And I did
it when I stood up for civil unions for gay and lesbian people my home
state when it wasn't popular. And I'm willing to do it again as president.
DISTASO: General Clark, earlier this month you said that if elected, there will be no more 9/11s in the United States. Then you scaled back, saying no one can guarantee anything in life. Some might say that leaves a little bit of an air of inconsistency in your positions. What exactly at this point are you guaranteeing along those lines?
CLARK: What I'm saying is I believe President Bush must be held accountable.
Before 9/11, he did not do everything he could have done to keep this country safe. After 9/11, he took us to a war we didn't have to fight and Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida is still going strong. We were at terrorist condition orange.
As president of the United States, my top priority will be to keep America safe. We're going to go after the terrorist networks. We're going to go after Osama bin Laden. We are not going to live in fear in this country. And we'll use all the resources of the United States -- international law, diplomacy, allies, economics and military force, if necessary -- to keep this country safe.
DISTASO: General, a top priority -- sure, that's everyone's top priority. That's a far cry, some might say, from a guarantee. So...
CLARK: I never used the word "guarantee." I never said that, John.
DISTASO: What did you say?
CLARK: What I said was that the president had been saying that the attack at 9/11 could not have been prevented, and that further attacks were inevitable.
I consider the statement that the attack at 9/11 could not have been prevented as an excuse to cover the fact that this administration didn't do everything they could have done.
And I consider their statement that further attacks on the United States
are inevitable as an excuse to cover for the fact that they are today not
doing everything they could do to keep America safe. And that's wrong,
that's why I'm running and that's what I'll fix.
HUME: Peter, you're next.
JENNINGS: I'd like to continue in this vein a little, if I may.
Senator Edwards, many people, I think, believe that the greatest security threat to the United States in the 21st century is the possible confrontation between the West and Islam.
Now, I know and take for granted, having heard you before, that you respect Islam. But could you take a minute to tell us what you know about the practice of Islam that would reassure Muslims throughout the world who will be listening to you that President Edwards understands their religion and how you might use that knowledge to avoid a confrontation, which, as Tom alluded earlier, might indeed end up sending sons and daughters from New Hampshire to war.
EDWARDS: Well, I have been in these parts of the world. I have been in Pakistan, met with President Musharraf, been in Afghanistan, met with then interim chairman -- interim head of the government Karzai. I have met with other Islamic leaders around the world, discussed with them the problems that their country and their people face.
I would never claim to be an expert on Islam. I am not. But I do believe that Islam, as in a lot of other faiths that we as a nation embrace and lift up, that I have shown respect for faiths that are different than mine my entire life. I think I do understand the tragedy of the day-to-day lives of people who live in Arab countries, who live lives of hopelessness and despair.
I think that contributes to the animosity that they feel toward the United States.
And part of our ongoing vision -- my ongoing vision for America includes getting at the root causes of that animosity toward the United States, which means being able to communicate, not just with the leadership, for example, in Saudi Arabia, but being able to communicate directly with the people...
JENNINGS: Do you think, Senator...
EDWARDS: ... to express...
JENNINGS: Do you think that we suffer and will suffer at the policy level because we do not know enough about the practice of Islam?
EDWARDS: I think we have a responsibility when we deal with the leadership of these countries. Our relationships, Peter, have been at the leadership level. And we see the results of that. We have ongoing relationship with the Saudi royals, with President Musharraf, with Chairman Karzai. We have relationships with the leaders of these Islamic countries.
The problem is, we have no relationship with the people. And not only do we have no relationship with the people, it's absolutely clear that they feel great animosity toward the United States. We need to, first, be able to communicate directly with the people.
Second, find opportunities. For example, President Musharraf said to me when I met with him: They desperately needed a public school system as an alternative to the religious schools, where their kids are taught to hate Americans.
We need to take advantage of the opportunities available to us and our
allies, to reach out, not just to the leaders of these countries for our
own purposes, but also to develop a relationship for the people themselves
so that they understand what Americans care about and that we actually
care about the peace and prosperity of the entire world.
JENNINGS: Reverend Sharpton, I'd like to ask you a question about domestic
policy, if you don't mind.
If during your term as president, if you become the nominee, and you have the opportunity to nominate someone to be chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, what kind of person would you consider for the job? You can name someone in particular, if you have someone in mind.
And maybe just take a minute or so to give us a little bit about your views on monetary policy.
SHARPTON: Well, first of all, let me say this. I wanted to say to Governor
Dean, don't be hard on yourself about hooting and hollering. If I had spent
the money you did and got 18 percent, I'd still be in Iowa hooting and
SHARPTON: So, don't worry about it, Howard.
DEAN: Thanks, Reverend.
SHARPTON: I think, first of all, we must have a person at the Monetary Fund that is concerned about growth of all, not setting standards that would, in my judgment, protect some and not elevate those that cannot, in my view, expand and come to the levels of development and the levels of where we need to be.
I think part of my problem with how we're operating at this point is that the IMF and the policies that are emanating there do not lead to the expansion that is necessary for our country and our global village to rise to levels that underdeveloped countries and those businesses in this country can have the development policies necessary.
JENNINGS: Forgive me, Reverend Sharpton, but the question was actually about the Federal Reserve Board.
SHARPTON: I thought you said IMF, I'm sorry.
JENNINGS: No, I'm sorry, sir. And what you'd be looking for in a chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.
SHARPTON: Oh, in the Federal Reserve Board, I would be looking for someone that would set standards in this country, in terms of our banking, our -- in how government regulates the Federal Reserve as we see it under Greenspan, that we would not be protecting the big businesses; we would not be protecting banking interests in a way that would not, in my judgment, lead toward mass employment, mass development and mass production.
I think that -- would I replace Greenspan, probably. Do I have a name? No.
HUME: Thank you, Reverend Sharpton. Thanks very much.
We've got to take a brief break here, but we will be back with more
questions for the seven Democratic candidates. Stay tuned.
Part I Part II Part III