DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES DEBATE, GOFFSTOWN, NEW HAMPSHIRE
JANUARY 22, 2004
Part I Part II Part III
HUME: And welcome back to St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, where the seven Democratic candidates are debating for the last time before the New Hampshire primary.
We're on our third round of questions, and we begin with John DiStaso.
DISTASO: Senator Kerry, if you were in the Oval Office, how would you feel and how would you view a returning war veteran who tossed his medals away?
KERRY: It would depend on why he did it.
DISTASO: In protest.
KERRY: If I were Richard -- well, given what we now know about Richard Nixon and what he did think about it, he was deeply disturbed by the veterans' movement that was a movement of conscience.
And I could not be more proud of the fact that when I came back from
that war, having learned what I learned, that I led thousands of veterans
to Washington, we camped on the Mall underneath the Congress, underneath
Richard Nixon's visibility. He tried to take us to the Supreme Court of
the United States. He did. He tried to kick us off. And we stood our ground
and said to him, "Mr. President, you sent us 8,000 miles away to fight,
die and sleep in the jungles of Vietnam. We've earned the right to sleep
on this Mall and talk to our senators and congressmen."
I can pledge this to the American people: I will never conduct a war or start a war because we want to; the United States of America should only go to war because we have to. And if you live by that guidance, you'll never have veterans throwing away their medals or standing up in protest.
And while we're at it, this president is breaking faith with veterans all across the country. They've cut the VA budget by $1.8 billion. There are 40,000 veterans waiting months to see a doctor for the first time. Whole categories have been eliminated from application to the VA.
And I'm not going to listen to Tom DeLay or the president or anybody
else lecture the Democratic Party about patriotism when the first act of
patriotism is keeping faith with people who wore the uniform of our country.
DISTASO: Senator Lieberman, back to what Senator Edwards said earlier about the blank check and the $87 billion. You voted for it. Is this a blank check? At what point will you say no in the future?
LIEBERMAN: John, it is not a blank check. And I'll say with the withdrawal
from this race of our good friend, the great American, Dick Gephardt, I
am the only person on this stage who has unwaveringly supported the removal
of Saddam Hussein and our troops who are there carrying out that mission,
which, yes, has made us a lot safer than we would be with Saddam in power
instead of in prison.
I want to tell you a story, John. In Nashua, a few weeks ago, I met a gentleman in a hotel, came over to me, I think he worked there, big burly guy with a crewcut. And he said, "Senator Lieberman, I'm going to vote for you for president, and I want you to know why. I have a son. He is a Marine. He is going to be deployed to Iraq in a month. I trust my son's life with you as commander in chief."
Well, that stopped me in my tracks. I was honored by it. Told me the awesome responsibility that I have as commander in chief. I am ready for that responsibility.
But I think he understood that I would never send America's sons and
daughters into war unless it was the last resort. And once there, as I
did in this case, I would support them 100 percent until they came home
safely and in peace.
DISTASO: Senator, at some point I would presume there will be another
request for another appropriation.
LIEBERMAN: Well, we'll examine the request to make sure that it is necessary.
We'll certainly try to cut out any gifts to Halliburton again under the
But when it comes -- when it comes to supporting our troops in battle,
I will never say no. Period. They are our best and brightest. They are
our heroes. Generations have fought to protect the freedom that we all
are enjoying and exercising in this campaign for the presidency. We owe
them our lives and our liberties, and they deserve our unwavering support.
That's the kind of commander in chief I will be.
DISTASO: Congressman Kucinich, at what point in your administration will there be a closure on the deficit, given what appears to be an extraordinary spending program that you have in mind?
KUCINICH: Well, first of all, we have to acknowledge that this administration
has created the deficit with tax cuts to the rich; with a war that was
unnecessary, that will soon be $200 billion and could run over a half a
trillion dollars; with an expanded Pentagon budget. They're driving a deficit,
and they're driving a trade deficit.
Let me tell you one thing I intend to do. I intend to create a universal, single-payer, not-for-profit health care system. By the way, we're already paying for that; we're just not getting it.
I intend to create a universal pre-kindergarten program, not for profit, that would be run by the public schools, that would be funded by a 15 percent reduction in the Pentagon.
I intend to create universal college education, funded by putting the tax cuts, that Bush has given, back to college students so they could go to college tuition-free.
We need to take the trajectory of the deficit down slowly, but the one thing I won't do is cut domestic programs.
DISTASO: Do you have a target date?
KUCINICH: The target date is going to be judged by how much of a rut the president gets us into. I mean, the fact of the matter is, that we have to get out of Iraq, and we have to stop this massive Pentagon expansion. And the president, at the State of the Union address, just said he wants to lock in the tax cut.
He's going in the wrong way. And I dare say, that what the strategy
of his administration is, is just to wipe out government's purpose for
any social and economic justice at all. And I'm going to take the country
in an opposite direction than he's taking it.
HUME: Peter, you're next.
JENNINGS: I get General Clark and Senator Edwards this time.
General Clark, a lot of people say they don't you well, so this is really a simple question about knowing a man by his friends. The other day you had a rally here, and one of the men who stood up to endorse you is the controversial filmmaker Michael Moore. You said you were delighted with him.
At one point, Mr. Moore said, in front of you, that President Bush -- he's saying he'd like to see you, the general, and President Bush, who he called a "deserter."
Now, that's a reckless charge not supported by the facts. And I was curious to know why you didn't contradict him, and whether or not you think it would've been a better example of ethical behavior to have done so.
CLARK: Well, I think Michael Moore has the right to say whatever he feels about this.
I don't know whether this is supported by the facts or not. I've never looked at it. I've seen this charge bandied about a lot.
But to me it wasn't material. This election is going to be about the future, Peter. And what we have to do is pull this country together. And I am delighted to have the support of a man like Michael Moore, of a great American leader like Senator George McGovern, and of people from Texas like Charlie Stenholm and former Secretary of the Navy John Dalton.
We've got support from across the breadth of the Democratic Party, because I believe this party is united in wanting to change the leadership in Washington. We're going to run an election campaign that's about the future. We're going to hold the president accountable for what he did in office and failed to do, and we're going to compare who's got the best vision for America.
JENNINGS: Let me ask you something you mentioned, then, because since this question and answer in which you and Mr. Moore was involved in, you've had a chance to look at the facts.
Do you still feel comfortable with the fact that someone should be standing up in your presence and calling the president of the United States a deserter?
CLARK: To be honest with you, I did not look at the facts, Peter. You know, that's Michael Moore's opinion. He's entitled to say that. I've seen -- he's not the only person who's said that. I've not followed up on those facts. And frankly, it's not relevant to me and why I'm in this campaign.
JENNINGS: OK, thank you, sir.
Senator Edwards, President Bush, as you know, is worried. He said it again in the State of the Union address the other night that the Defense of Marriage Act is not strong enough, as he says, to protect the institution of marriage.
You were not in the Senate in 1996 when it passed overwhelmingly.
Senator Kerry was one of only 14 senators who voted against it. I'd like to know from you whether or not you think he was right or wrong, and why?
EDWARDS: I think he was right. I think he was right because what happened with the Defense of Marriage Act is it took away the power of states, like Vermont, to be able to do what they chose to do about civil unions, about these kinds of marriage issues.
These are issues that should be left -- Massachusetts, for example, has just made a decision, the supreme court at least has made a decision, that embraces the notion of gay marriage.
I think these are decisions that the states should have the power to make. And the Defense of Marriage Act, as I understand it -- you're right, I wasn't there when it was passed -- but as I understand it, it would have taken away that power. And I think that's wrong. That power should not be taken away from the states.
JENNINGS: Do you believe that other states, for example, should be obliged to honor and recognize the civil union which Governor Dean signed? Should other states be obliged to recognize what happens in another state?
EDWARDS: I think it's a decision that should be made on a state- by-state basis. I think each state should be able to make its own decision about what they embrace.
Now, if I can take just a minute -- since you've asked me a lot of process questions, can I talk about what I believe...
JENNINGS: Let's talk to our moderator.
EDWARDS: ... for just a moment, if you don't mind?
Here's what I believe: I believe it is the responsibility of the president of the United States to move this country forward on this important issue.
And there is so much work to be done to treat gays and lesbians and gay and lesbian couples with the respect that they're entitled to. They deserve, in my judgment, partnership benefits. They deserve to be treater fairly when it comes to adoption and immigration.
We should examine -- whoever the president of the United States is; I believe it will be me -- should examine with our military leadership the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that resulted in a number of linguists who we desperately needed being dismissed from the military.
EDWARDS: There are clearly steps that should be taken by the president, in some cases in conjunction with the Congress...
HUME: I just want to follow up with on the Defense of Marriage Act, which of course is the law of the land.
HUME: Does not the Defense of Marriage Act specifically say that the court rulings in one state, which might, for example, recognize a gay marriage, may not be imposed on anther state? In other words, doesn't the Defense of Marriage go to the very position which you yourself take?
EDWARDS: No, the Defense of Marriage -- first of all, I wasn't in the
Congress, I don't claim to be an expert on this. But as I understand the
Defense of Marriage Act, it would take away the power of some states to
choose whether they would recognize or not recognize gay marriages. That's
my understanding of it.
HUME: John, you're next.
Tom, I'm sorry. Forgive me, you're next.
GRIFFITH: It's an opportune time to -- I've got Governor Dean and Reverend Sharpton.
And, Governor Dean, I'm going to let you step in on this discussion here, if you'd like to.
But my real question for you is, and maybe you can hit this first: We took a recent survey indicated, of everything out there, New Hampshire voters most cite health care as the most important factor that they're looking at when they look at the seven of you and decide who they are going to vote for.
I'll give you an opportunity to talk just a minute about what your plan is and how it's different from everyone else's. Or if you'd like to step in on this Defense of Marriage Act first, you're...
DEAN: It's a complicated, complicated issue. We chose not to do gay marriage. We chose to do civil unions. I think that position, actually, is very similar to Dick Cheney's, who thinks every state ought to be able to do what they want.
Let me talk about health care.
The advantage I have in health care, besides being a doctor, is that I've actually done what a lot of the folks are talking about. We have health insurance for everybody under 18, 99 percent; everybody under 150 percent of poverty. All our working poor people have health insurance.
A third of our seniors and disabled people have prescription benefits. We didn't wait until George Bush got his bill passed, which gave $200 billion of our money to the drug companies and the insurance companies.
Now, what I want to do for this country is just expand what we did in Vermont. We can do that and balance budgets at the same time, but we can't do that and balance budgets at the same and promise everybody a middle-class tax cut and fund special education.
We can't play the game President Bush is. In the State of the Union, the president promised another $1 trillion tax cut. Where does he think he's going to get the money on top of the $500 billion deficit?
We can do these things, but we can't do them without repealing every
dime of the Bush tax cuts. Then we can put in health insurance. Then we
can fund special education. Then we can fund No Child Left Behind.
GRIFFITH: Thank you.
Reverend Sharpton, two weeks ago in Iowa, in the Black-Brown Debate, you questioned Governor Dean's lack of a black Cabinet member as governor of Vermont. Here in New Hampshire, we do not have a large amount of minorities either.
What would you do to -- beyond affirmative action, what would you do to get more minorities in leadership positions within government?
SHARPTON: Well, let me say something about the Defense of Marriage Act.
I am unilaterally opposed to any civil or human right being left to states'
rights. That is a dangerous precedent.
I think the federal government has the obligation to protect all citizens on a federal level.
And if we start going back to states' rights, we're going back to pre-Civil
War days, and I think that that, in its nature, is wrong.
In terms of my concern about minorities being placed in high positions, it must be a goal of inclusiveness. And I think the reason I questioned Governor Dean is he said that that's what he wanted to represent. I think that we must strive toward making sure -- government must make sure it is inclusive of everyone and it reflects a nation that is inclusive of everyone, even when there are small populations.
Because diversity is good for everyone, and people need to know that they can work at all levels of government and the private sector and not be limited because of race, because of sex or because of orientation.
That ought to be a goal. You ought to seek it. You ought not act like
it's going to just happen automatically or naturally.
HUME: Got a new round coming.
Peter, you start.
Actually, I think John starts, right?
HUME: This is round four. Peter, you're up.
JENNINGS: Either way. I apologize.
I then come, I think, to Governor Dean and to Senator Kerry and to Senator Lieberman again.
At the beginning, I asked some of you how you would defend yourselves against a Republican attack on taxes. The Democrats are the party of higher taxes.
They're also going to come at you in a big way on so-called "social values," not on economic values, but on social values. The president made these issues, as you well know, a big part of his State of the Union address the other night.
Governor Dean, let me ask you this: Republicans already characterize you as not sharing mainstream values. And some Democrats are, I'm sure you know, worried about this.
Show Democrats tonight how you would push back.
DEAN: Well, let's talk first about money.
The president of the United States can't balance a budget. We've not
had one Republican president in 34 years balance the budget. You can't
trust right-wing Republicans with your money. You ought to hire somebody
who has balanced a budget. I'm much more conservative with money than George
Secondly, let's look at issues like guns. Now, that gets me in trouble
among my own party. But I come from a very rural state. I probably don't
have as a pro-gun control position as some other folks in the Democratic
I believe we ought to have the assault weapons ban renewed. I believe we ought to have background checks, both for purchasing guns and also at gun shows. But after that, I think states ought to make their own laws, because what you need in New York City or what you may want in California is not the same thing that you may want in Montana.
Finally, I'd challenge this president on values any day. When a president
of the United States uses the word "quota," which is a race- coded word
designed to appeal to people's fears they're going to lose their job to
a member of a minority community, that president has played the race card,
and that president deserves a one-way bus ticket back to Crawford, Texas.
JENNINGS: Thank you, sir.
Senator Kerry, you're also from New England, from the state where the president believes that activist judges are threatening the basic sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.
The Republicans will certainly remind people or make them know that you were lieutenant governor to Michael Dukakis. The Republican National Committee chairman, I believe, will make a speech tomorrow in which he will say that you are more liberal than Teddy Kennedy.
Show Democrats how you push back.
KERRY: I look forward to that fight, and I particularly want to have that debate with this president.
I am a veteran. I fought in a war. I've been a prosecutor. I've sent people to jail for the rest of their life. I have, as a lieutenant governor, helped to fight to create a national plan on acid rain to protect our rivers and lakes and streams for the future.
As a senator, I've stood up for years and fought for fairness. I've also voted for welfare reform. I am a gun owner and a hunter since I was a young man. I think that my education reform -- the other significant efforts to try to make the workplace fair in America are as vital to people in the South and the Southwest and the West and the Midwest of this country as anywhere else.
I look forward to standing up and holding George Bush accountable for pushing seniors off of Medicare into HMOs, for prohibiting Medicare from even negotiating a bulk purchase price, from turning an energy bill into a bonanza for his friends in the oil industry to the tune of $50 billion.
The workplace of America, Peter, has never been as unfair for the average American as it is today. And there are more ways to describe that than I have in 60 seconds. But over the course of the next months, Americans will come to understand there's a way to make America fundamentally fair and live up to our promise to all of our citizens.
JENNINGS: Thank you, sir.
Senator Lieberman, as you've heard, the question was about social values, and you have expressed your concern in the past that your party is, in fact, too liberal to win the votes at the center in a general election. So I ask you for some assistance here.
Do you think that these two men have given answers on social values which will -- or which would successfully inoculate the party against such charges?
LIEBERMAN: Peter, I've spent too much time the last several weeks here in New Hampshire saying the choice is up to the voters. I'm going to let the voters cast that judgment on Howard Dean and John Kerry.
I will say for myself what I have said from the beginning: that for most Americans, including myself and I would guess all of us here on the stage, life is about trying to do the right thing. And often, for most Americans, our faith, our religions, the values that we get, the sense of right and wrong that we get from our faith are what helps us decide what to do in public life and in private life.
So long as Democrats are hesitant to talk the language of values and show respect for people of faith, we close ourselves off from a great majority of the American people.
So I'm pleased that we in this campaign have started to talk about values. Let's not let George Bush and the Republicans claim they have some kind of monopoly on values or faith-based values. They don't.
When they desecrate the environment, as this administration has, that is desecrating the Earth that God has created. When they give away our national treasury to people who don't need it in tax cuts because they're so wealthy, they don't have the money to help our children who are poor, our elderly with drug benefits. Those are bad values and we ought to speak to that.
JENNINGS: I want to try just one more time, Senator, forgive me. You've have said the party is hesitant. Do you believe that Governor Dean and Senator Kerry have been hesitant, or would be hesitant, to take on George Bush successfully on the question of social values?
LIEBERMAN: Peter, let me put it this way: This is a time to be affirmative.
I'd say, "Nice try." But this is a time...
LIEBERMAN: This is a time -- we're making our closing arguments to the people of New Hampshire who will have the say next Tuesday.
I'm going to talk about myself. I'm going to stand up and fight for values. I said earlier one of the reasons the Republicans don't want to run against me is because they can't say I'm soft on values. They can't say I don't respect people of faith. They can't say I don't want to support faith-based organizations when they help make this a better, more decent country.
JENNINGS: Thank you, sir.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you.
HUME: Tom, you're next.
GRIFFITH: General Clark, Patriot Act, come under an awful lot of criticism, as you well know. Many say it erodes our personal liberties, while, of course, it's clear that we all want a secure country. How would your administration revisit the Patriot Act and strike a balance between national security and personal liberties?
CLARK: Well, I'm very concerned about the Patriot Act. It was passed in haste. It's very long. It's got dozens and dozens and dozens of changes.
What we would do is suspend all the portions of the Patriot Act that have to do with search and seizure: sneak-and-peek searches; library records; and so on.
If they want to do a wiretap, they can do it the old-fashioned way, go to a judge with probable cause.
And then, bring the whole act back into the Congress. Lay it out. Ask
former Attorney General John Ashcroft to come and testify on his use and
abuse of the Patriot Act.
Just lay it out. What provisions were used, for what, for what good? Why couldn't it have been done another way?
And then we're going to put together the right kind of authorities for
law enforcement to keep us safe.
But, Tom, we cannot win the war on terror by giving up the very freedoms we're fighting to protect.
GRIFFITH: Congressman Kucinich, I have a question from Sheryl Zettner (ph). She's in New Hampshire. This is what she says.
She says, "Why did you cut a deal to send voters to the Edwards camp if you didn't meet the 15 percent threshold in Iowa?" She's angry. She says, "Edwards supported the war and the Patriot Act."
GRIFFITH: Before you continue...
GRIFFITH: ... is your party divided over the war?
KUCINICH: Of course it is. Of course it is. I mean, I took the position of organizing 126 Democrats who voted against the Iraq war resolution, and I happen to think it was the right position.
Today we're faced with over 500 casualties, a cost of over $200 billion. And it could rise -- the casualties could go into thousands and the cost could go over half a trillion -- if we stay there for years, as a number of people on this stage intend to see happen.
Well, let me tell you something. There is a difference of opinion in our party, and I stand strong and proud in saying that it's time that we get the U.N. peacekeepers in and bring our troops home. And I've offered a plan to do that, I mentioned earlier.
Now, with respect to what happened in Iowa, let me state this: that
if I was looking for someone to pair up with under the Iowa caucus system
based on who I agreed with, I wouldn't have had anyone to agree with...
... because the fact of the matter is, I've had a really great difference of opinion, having been the only one on this stage who voted against the war and the Patriot Act.
But John Edwards and I are friends. And one thing we agreed on in Iowa
is that we both wanted more delegates. That's what we agreed on.
GRIFFITH: I have no follow-up, to be honest. Thank you.
HUME: John, you're next.
DISTASO: Senator Edwards, checking the Internet, the pro-gun ownership group, such as the North Carolina Rifle and Pistol Association, don't have glowy words about you. That might be a popular position here in a Democratic primary, but you also want to carry the South if you were to get into a general election.
So, could you specify for us, please, exactly what additional federal gun control measures you will propose as president?
EDWARDS: What I believe is that -- and by the way, I would point out
to you at the outset of this question: Remember, I didn't get to the Senate
by accident. I actually defeated an incumbent Republican senator who was
part of the Jesse Helm's political machine in North Carolina, the result
of which is I'm now the senior senator from North Carolina instead of Jesse
Helms, which is a very good thing for this country. And that didn't happen
I grew up in the rural South. I know deep inside what people care about.
From the time I was growing up, everyone around me hunted, everyone had
guns. I respect and believe in people's Second Amendment rights.
That does not, however, mean that somebody needs an AK-47 to hunt. It does not mean that somebody who's been convicted of a violent crime should be able to walk out of prison, walk across the street and buy a gun. It does not mean that we shouldn't take every step that we can take to keep guns safe and keep guns out of the hands of kids.
So, my belief is, first, I defend people's Second Amendment rights,
but I don't think it's without limit.
I think there are limits on those rights, and particularly when the concerns and rights and interests of the American people are at stake.
DISTASO: Well, I'd ask you to keep going and tell us what federal gun control measures you would propose, in addition to what's on the...
EDWARDS: You mean in addition to what we have?
DISTASO: Yes, if any.
EDWARDS: I think we should extend the Brady Bill. I think the Brady Bill is, around now, set to expire. I think it should be extended.
I think that we need to close forever the gun-show loophole so that we don't have problems that I just described, of people who've been convicted of violent crimes walking out of prison, being able to walk across the street and buy a gun.
I think it does make sense to have trigger locks for the purpose of keeping guns safe so that we don't have 6-year-old children accidentally killing other 6-year-old children.
So I think there are reasonable things we can do. But I start from the
place that we have to begin -- we have to protect people's Second Amendment
rights. I have lived with this my entire life. And as I said earlier, I
believe I understand what people are concerned about.
DISTASO: Reverend Sharpton, we haven't seen too much of you here in New Hampshire. The state only has about 9,000 African-Americans in a population of 1.2 million.
I know you've said your constituencies go far beyond African- Americans. Why, then, haven't you campaigned more in New Hampshire, a state where Reverend Jackson did very well in the 1980s?
SHARPTON: Well, first of all, let me say something, I want to address a question Peter asked.
I don't agree that we need to start backing away, become more Republican to beat the Republicans. I think the problem is we need to start going forward and stop letting them establish the premise of the debate. That's what's wrong with the party.
Second of all...
... I'm very happy to hear my friend and brother, Congressman Kucinich,
helps people that won delegates.
I won delegates in South Carolina, Missouri and Delaware.
And I want you to give me the same courtesy you gave John in Iowa.
In terms of campaigning here, everyone campaigned based on their strategy and ability. I've come here several times. Reverend Jackson did do well here in the '80s, but he never made double digits here. So let's not overestimate what he did. Never got, I think, over 8 percent.
I think, though, that I wanted to come. I came. I will continue to come
even afterward, because I think it's important you campaign everywhere.
I wish everyone had campaigned in Washington D.C., where I did...
... because I think it's important we be inclusive of everyone even if we feel we're not going to get the kind of vote we would want.
HUME: Reverend Sharpton, thanks very much.
We've got to take another brief break here. And when we come back, Peter Jennings will assume the role of moderator. I'll join the questioners.
I might note that extended portions of this program, this debate, will be seen later tonight on the ABC News program "Nightline."
Stay with us. We'll be right back.
Part I Part II Part III