The Commonwealth of Blogistan

Formerly known as "The People's Republic of Blogistan," we are under "New Management," so to speak. (cough). The "Real Westerners" pledge a democratic and clean government based on the virtues of honesty, decency, and hard work. We accept all major credit cards but are sometimes closed on weekends. No vaccinations are required, but a current passport and a visa are necessary. Inquire before traveling.

My Photo
Name: Ed Waldo
Location: of The West

I am a fictional construct originally conceived as a pen name for articles in the Los Angeles FREE PRESS at the 2000 Democratic Convention. The plume relating to the nom in question rests in the left hand of Hart Williams, about whom, the less said, the better. Officially "SMEARED" by the Howie Rich Gang. And now, smeared by Fox News and Sean Hannity, as well! Plus, FEARED by Ted Nugent! AND Hated by the Freepers!

01 February 2008

Presidential Debate: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama

[Begin Voice of Blogistan transmission.]


from CNN:

This is the transcript from Thursday night's Democratic presidential debate between Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama sponsored by CNN, The Los Angles Times and Politico.

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Let's begin with Senator Obama.



Thank you. Thank you.

First of all, first of all, I want to acknowledge a candidate who left the race this week, John Edwards, who did such an outstanding job...


... elevating the issues of poverty and the plight of working families all across the country. And we wish him and Elizabeth well. He's going to be a voice for this party and for this country for many years to come.

I also want to note something that you noted at the beginning, which is that, when we started off, we had eight candidates on this stage. We now are down to two after 17 debates.

And, you know, it is a testimony to the Democratic Party and it is a testimony to this country that we have the opportunity to make history, because I think one of us two will end up being the next president of the United States of America.


And I also want to note that I was friends with Hillary Clinton before we started this campaign; I will be friends with Hillary Clinton after this campaign is over.


She has done -- she's run a -- we're running a competitive race, but it's because we both love this country, and we believe deeply in the issues that are at stake.

I believe we're at a defining moment in our history. Our nation is at war; our planet is in peril. Families all across the country are struggling with everything from back-breaking health care costs to trying to stay in their homes.

And at this moment, the question is: How do we take the country in a new direction? How do we get past the divisions that have prevented us from solving these problems year after year after year?

I don't think the choice is between black and white or it's about gender or religion. I don't think it's about young or old. I think what is at stake right now is whether we are looking backwards or we are looking forwards. I think it is the past versus the future.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

OBAMA: And just to finish up, Wolf. And I think that, as we move forward in this debate, understand we are both Democrats and we understand the issues at stake. We want change from George Bush.

But we also have to have change that brings the country together, pushes back against the special interests in Washington, and levels with the American people about the difficult changes that we make. If we do that, I am confident that we can solve any problem and we can fulfill the destiny that America wants to see, not just next year, but in many years to come.


BLITZER: Senator Clinton?

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, D-NEW YORK: Well, on January 20, 2009, the next president of the United States will be sworn in on the steps of the Capitol. I, as a Democrat, fervently hope you are looking at that next president. Either Barack or I will raise our hand and swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

CLINTON: And then, when the celebrations are over, the next president will walk into the Oval Office, and waiting there will be a stack of problems, problems inherited from a failed administration: a war to end in Iraq and a war to resolve in Afghanistan; an economy that is not working for the vast majority of Americans, but well for the wealthy and the well-connected; tens of millions of people either without health insurance at all or with insurance that doesn't amount to much, because it won't pay what your doctor or your hospital need...


... an energy crisis that we fail to act on at our peril; global warming, which the United States must lead in trying to contend with and reverse; and then all of the problems that we know about and the ones we can't yet predict.

It is imperative that we have a president, starting on day one, who can begin to solve our problems, tackle these challenges, and seize the opportunities that I think await.

I'm very grateful for the extraordinary service of John and Elizabeth Edwards.

CLINTON: And among the many contributions that they have made, both by their personal example of courage and leadership, is their reminder that in this land of such plenty and blessings, there are still 37 million Americans who are living below the poverty line and many others barely hanging on above.

So what we have to do tonight is to have a discussion about what each of us believes are the priorities and the goals for America. I think it's imperative we have a problem-solver, that we roll up our sleeves.

I'm offering that kind of approach, because I think that Americans are ready once again to know that there isn't anything we can't do if we put our minds to it.

So let's have that conversation.


BLITZER: Thank you. Thank you, Senator.

The first question will go to Doyle.

DOYLE MCMANUS, L.A. TIMES: Senator Clinton, your two campaigns have been going on for more than a year now and it's clear that the two of you have had different experiences in your lives. You have different styles.

But when most voters look at the two of you, they don't see a lot of daylight between you on policy.

So what I'd like to ask is: what do you consider the most important policy distinction between the two of you?

CLINTON: Well, I want to start by saying that whatever differences there are among us, between us now, it's hard to forget between -- we keep talking about all those who aren't here.

But the differences between Barack and I pale in comparison to the differences that we have with Republicans, and I want to say that first and foremost, because it's really...


... a stark difference. But we do have differences and let me mention a couple. First, on health care. I believe absolutely passionately that we must have universal health care. It is a moral responsibility and a right for our country, and...


... and I have put forth a plan similar to what Senator Edwards had before he left the race that would move us to universal health care.

Secondly, I think it's imperative that we approach this mortgage crisis with the seriousness that it is presenting. There are 95,000 homes in foreclosure in California right now. I want a moratorium on foreclosures for 90 days so we can try to work out keeping people in their homes instead of having them lose their homes, and I want to freeze interest rates for five years.

I think when it comes to how we approach foreign affairs, in particular, I believe that we've got to be realistic and optimistic, but we start with realism in the sense that we do have serious threats, we do have those who are, unfortunately and tragically, plotting against us, posing dangers to us and our friends and our allies.

And I think that we've got to have a full diplomatic effort, but I don't think the president should put the prestige of the presidency on the line in the first year to have meetings with out preconditions with five of the worst dictators in the world.

So we have differences both at home and around the world, but, again, I would emphasize that what really is important here, because the Republicans were in California debating yesterday, they are more of the same.

Neither of us, just by looking at us, you can tell, we are not more of the same. We will change our country.


BLITZER: We heard Senator Clinton, Senator Obama, define some of the differences on policy issues she sees between the two of you.

What do you see as the most significant policy differences between the two of you?

OBAMA: Well, I actually think that a couple of the ones that Hillary mentioned are genuine policy differences that are worthy of debate.

Let's take health care. About 95 percent of our plans are similar. We both set up a government plan that would allow people who otherwise don't have health insurance because of a preexisting condition, like my mother had, or at least what the insurance said was a preexisting condition, let them get health insurance.

We both want to emphasize prevention, because we've got to do something about ever escalating costs and we don't want children, who I meet all the time, going to emergency rooms for treatable illnesses like asthma.

It is true we've got a policy difference, because my view is that the reason people don't have health care, and I meet them all the time, in South Carolina, a mother whose child has cerebral palsy and could not get insurance for and started crying during a town hall meeting, and Hillary, I'm sure, has had the same experiences.

What they're struggling with is they can't afford the health care. And so I emphasize reducing costs. My belief is that if we make it affordable, if we provide subsidies to those who can't afford it, they will buy it.

Senator Clinton has a different approach. She believes that we have to force people who don't have health insurance to buy it. Otherwise, there will be a lot of people who don't get it.

OBAMA: I don't see those folks. And I think that it is important for us to recognize that if, in fact, you are going to mandate the purchase of insurance and it's not affordable, then there's going to have to be some enforcement mechanism that the government uses. And they may charge people who already don't have health care fines, or have to take it out of their paychecks. And that, I don't think, is helping those without health insurance. That is a genuine difference.

On the mortgage crisis...


On the mortgage crisis, again, we both believe that this is a critical problem. It's a huge problem in California and all across the country. And we agree that we have to keep people in their homes.

I have put forward a $10 billion home foreclosure prevention fund that would help to bridge the lender and the borrower so that people can stay in their homes.

I have not signed on to the notion of an interest rates freeze, and the reason is not because we need to protect the banks. The problem is, is that if we have such a freeze, mortgage interest rates will go up across the board and you will have a lot of people who are currently trying to get mortgages who will actually have more of a difficult time.

So, some of the people that we want to protect could end up being hurt by such a plan.

Now, keep in mind, the one thing I suspect that Senator Clinton and I agree on. Part of the reason we are in this mortgage mess is because there's been complete lack of oversight on the part of the Bush administration.


The mortgage lending industry spent $185 billion -- $185 million lobbying to prevent provisions that go against predatory lending, for example, that I introduced.

Which brings me to another difference. I believe that it is very important for us to reduce the influence of lobbyists and special interests in Washington.


I think that a lot of issues that both Senator Clinton and I care about will not move forward unless we have increased the kinds of ethics proposal that I passed just last year -- some of the toughest since Watergate -- and that's something that John Edwards and I both talked about repeatedly in this campaign. That's why I don't take federal PAC and federal lobbyist money. That is a difference.

And the last point I'll make is on Iraq. Senator Clinton brought this up.

I was opposed to Iraq from the start.


And that -- and I say that not just to look backwards, but also to look forwards, because I think what the next president has to show is the kind of judgment that will ensure that we are using our military power wisely.

It is true that I want to elevate diplomacy so that it is part of our arsenal to serve the American people's interests and to keep us safe.

And I have disagreed with Senator Clinton on, for example, meeting with Iran. I think, and the national intelligence estimate, the last report suggested that if we are meeting with them, talking to them, and offering them both carrots and sticks, they are more likely to change their behavior. And we can do so in a way that does not ultimately cost billions of dollars, thousands of lives, and hurt our reputation around the world.

BLITZER: Those are three important issues...


... that you both have defined where there are some differences -- health care, the housing crisis, national security, Iraq, Iran. We're going to go through all of those issues over the course of this debate.

But let's start with health care, because this is a critical issue affecting millions and millions of Americans. And, Jeanne, you have a question on that.

JEANNE CUMMINGS, POLITICO: You both mentioned that health care is a priority for your party, but the truth is that most Democrats really do want full coverage, everybody covered.

Now, Senator Obama, this is a question for you. Under your plan, which is voluntary, it creates incentives for people to buy, but still is voluntary. There would be around -- about 15 million people who would still not be covered.

Now, why is your plan superior to hers?

OBAMA: Well, understand who we're talking about here. Every expert who looks at it says anybody who wants health care will be able to get health care under my plan. There won't be anybody out there who wants health care who will not be able to get it. That's point number one.

So the estimate is -- this is where the 15 million figure comes in -- is that there are 15 million people who don't want health care. That's the argument.

Now, first of all, I dispute that there are 15 million people out there who don't want it. I believe that there are people who can't afford it, and if we provide them enough subsidies, they will purchase it. Number one.

Number two, I mandate coverage for all children.

Number three, I say that young people, who are the most likely to be healthy but think they are invulnerable -- and decide I don't need health care -- what I'm saying is that insurance companies and my plan as well will allow people up to 25 years old to be covered under their parents' plan.

So, as a consequence, I don't believe that there will be 15 million out there.

OBAMA: Now, under any mandate, you are going to have problems with people who don't end up having health coverage. Massachusetts right now embarked on an experiment where they mandated coverage.

And, by the way, I want to congratulate Governor Schwarzenegger and the speaker and others who have been trying to do this in California, but I know that those who have looked at it understand, you can mandate it, but there's still going to be people who can't afford it. And if they cannot afford it, then the question is, what are you going to do about it?

Are you going to fine them? Are you going to garnish their wages?

You know, those are questions that Senator Clinton has not answered with respect to her plan, but I think we can anticipate that there would also be people potentially who are not covered and are actually hurt if they have a mandate imposed on them.

BLITZER: All right.

Senator Clinton, this is a substantive difference on health care between the two of you. Go ahead and respond.

CLINTON: Well, let me start by saying that this is the passionate cause of my public service.

I started trying to expand health care many years ago, first to children, then to rural areas in Arkansas, and obviously tackled it during my husband's administration. And the reason why I have designed a plan that, number one, tells people, if you have health insurance and you are happy with it, nothing changes, is because we want to maximize choice for people.

So, if you are satisfied, you're not one of the people who will necessarily, at this time, take advantage of what I'm offering. But if you are uninsured or underinsured, we will open the congressional health plan to you.

And contrary to...


Contrary to the description that Barack just gave, we actually will make it affordable for everyone, because my plan lowers costs aggressively, which is important for us all; improves quality for everyone, which is essential. And the way it covers all of those who wish to participate in the congressional plan is that it will provide subsidies, and it will also cap premiums, something that is really important, because we want to make sure that it is affordable for all.

So, when you draw the distinction that, "Well, it's not affordable, therefore people will have to be made to get it," well, the fact is, it has been designed to be affordable with health care tax credits.

And it's also important to recognize that right now, there are people who could afford health care, and they are not all young, they're people who just don't feel they have to accept that responsibility. There are many states which give families the option of keeping children up until 25 on their policies, but their rates of uninsurance are still very high.

We cannot get to universal health care, which I believe is both a core Democratic value and imperative for our country, if we don't do one of three things. Either you can have a single payer system, or -- which, I know, a lot of people favor, but for many reasons, is difficult to achieve. Or, you can mandate employers. Well, that's also very controversial. Or, you can do what I am proposing, which is to have shared responsibility.

Now, in Barack's plan, he very clearly says he will mandate that parents get health insurance for their children. So it's not that he is against mandatory provisions, it's that he doesn't think it would be politically acceptable to require that for everyone.

I just disagree with that. I think we as Democrats have to be willing to fight for universal health care.


And what I've concluded, when I was looking at this -- because I got the same kind of advice, which was, it's controversial, you'll run into all of this buzz saw, and I said, been there, done that. But if you don't start by saying, you're going to achieve universal health care, you will be nibbled to death.

And I think it's imperative that, as we move forward in this debate and into the campaign, that we recognize what both John Edwards and I did, that you have to bite this bullet. You have to say, yes, we are going to try to get universal health care. What I have designed makes it affordable, provides premium caps so it's never


BLITZER: Senator Obama, let me just fine-tune the question, because I know you want to respond.

On this issue of mandates, those who don't, whether it's 10 million or 15 million, those who could afford it but don't wind up buying health insurance for one reason or another, they wind up getting sick, they go to an emergency room, all of us wind up paying for their health care. That's the biggest criticism that's been leveled at your plan.

OBAMA: If people are gaming the system, there are ways we can address that. By, for example, making them pay some of the back premiums for not having gotten it in the first place.

But understand that, number one, Hillary says that she's got enough subsidies. Well, we priced out both our plan and Senator Clinton's plan, and some of the subsidies are not going to be sufficient. Point number one.

OBAMA: Point number two is that I am actually not interested in just capping premiums. I want to lower premiums by about an average of $2,500 per family per year, because people right now cannot afford it.

I can't tell you how many folks I meet who have premiums that are so high that essentially they don't have health insurance, they have house insurance. What they do is...


... they have a $10,000 deductible, or what have you, to try to reduce costs. They never go to a doctor. And that ends up something that we pay for, so I'm trying to reduce premiums for all families.

But the last point I want to make has to do with how we're going to actually get this plan done. You know, Ted Kennedy said that he is confident that we will get universal health care with me as president, and he's been working on it longer than I think about than anybody.

But he's gone through 12 of these plans, and each time they have failed. And part of the reason, I think, that they have failed is we have not been able to bring Democrats, Republicans together to get it done.


That's what I did in Illinois, to provide insurance for people who did not have it. That's what I will do in bringing all parties together, not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are.


Because part of what we have to do is enlist the American people in this process. And overcoming the special interests and the lobbyists who -- Senator Clinton is right. They will resist anything that we try to do. My plan, her plan, they will try to resist.

And the antidote to that is making sure that the American people understand what is at stake. I am absolutely committed to making sure that anybody in America who needs health care is going to get it.

BLITZER: I just want to be precise, and I'll let Senator Clinton respond. But you say broadcast on C-SPAN these deliberations. Is that a swipe at Senator Clinton because...

OBAMA: No, it's not a swipe. This is something that I've been talking about consistently. What I want to do is increase transparency and accountability to offset the power of the special interests and the lobbyists.


If a drug company -- if the drug companies or a member of Congress who's carrying water for the drug companies wants to argue that we should not negotiate for the cheapest available price on drugs, then I want them to make that argument in front of the American people.

And I will have experts who explain that, in fact, it is legitimate for drug companies to make profits, but they are making outsized profits on the backs of senior citizens who need those prescription drugs. And that is an argument that the American people have to be involved with, otherwise we're not going to get any plan through.


BLITZER: Senator Clinton, we remember in '93, when you were formulating your health care plan, it was done in secret.

CLINTON: Well, it was an effort to try to begin this conversation, which we're now continuing. It has been a difficult conversation. There have been a lot of efforts.

And I'm proud that one of the efforts I was involved in 10 years ago resulted in the Children's Health Insurance Program. We now have a million children in California...


... who every month get health insurance because of that bipartisan effort. We obviously are running into the presidential veto and not being able to expand it.

But this issue is so important, and I just want to underscore three really critical points.

First of all, I have said in my plan that we have to regulate the health insurance industry differently. We have to say to them that they can no longer deny coverage to anyone and they have to cover everyone, including every pre-existing condition.


And they have to compete on cost and quality, instead of the way they compete now, which is to try to cherry-pick people, and only insure the healthy, and make it so costly for people with diabetes or cancer or some other chronic condition.

Secondly, we've got to make it clear to the drug companies that they do deserve to be part of the solution, because we all benefit from the life-saving remedies they come up with, but we pay for it many times over.

It is American taxpayers who pay for the research. It is American taxpayers who pay for a lot of the clinical studies. That's why, while we're looking at getting to universal health care, we also have to give Medicare the right to negotiate with drug companies to get the price down, to begin to rein in those costs across the board.


And, finally, it is so important that, as Democrats, we carry the banner of universal health care. The health insurance industry is very clever and extremely well-funded.

I know this. I had $300 million of incoming advertising and attacks during our efforts back in '93 and '94. And one of the reasons why I've designed the plan that I have put forward now is because I learned a lot about what people want, what people are willing to accept, and how we get the political process to work.

CLINTON: And, certainly, it is important that the president come up with the plan, but we'll have to persuade Congress to put all of those deliberations on C-SPAN. Now, I think we might be able to do that, but that's a little heavier lift than what the president is going to propose, because what happens is we have to have a coalition.

And I think the plan that I have proposed is if you take business, which pays the costs and wants to get those costs down, take labor that has to negotiate over health care instead of wages, take doctors, nurses, hospitals who want to get back into the business of taking care of people instead of working for insurance companies, I think we will have a coalition that can withstand the health insurance...

BLITZER: Thank you.

CLINTON: ... and the drug companies.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

CLINTON: And that's what I intend to do.


BLITZER: All right. The next question, a related question, from Doyle.

MCMANUS: Senator Obama, one other thing both of your health insurance proposals have in common is they would cost billions of dollars in new spending and both of you have proposed raising taxes on a lot on Americans to pay for that and for other proposals.

Well, now, you know what's going to happen this fall in the general election campaign. The Republicans are going to call you "tax-and-spend" liberal Democrats, and that's a charge that's been effective in the past.

How are you going to counter that charge?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I don't think the Republicans are going to be in a real strong position to argue fiscal responsibility, when they have added $4 trillion or $5 trillion...


... worth of national debt. I am happy to have that argument.

If John McCain, for example, is the nominee, I respect that John McCain, in the first two rounds of Bush tax cuts, said it is irresponsible that we have never before cut taxes at the same time as we're going into war.

And somewhere along the line, the straight talk express lost some wheels and now he is in favor of extending Bush tax cuts that went to some of the wealthiest Americans who don't need them and we're not even asking for them.

So I've already said a sizeable portion of my health care plan will be paid for because we emphasize savings. We invest in prevention.

So that as I said before, the chronically ill that account for 20 percent -- or the 20 percent of chronically ill patients that account for 80 percent of the costs, that they're getting better treatment. We are actually paying for a dietitian for people to lose weight as opposed to paying for the $30,000 foot amputation. That will save us money.

We can conservatively save...


... $100 billion to $150 billion a year under my plan. That pays for part of it.

Part of it is paid for by rolling back the Bush tax cuts on the top one percent.



So my plan is paid for. But one thing that I think we're going to have to do as Democrats when we go after the Republicans is -- the question is not tax cuts, tax hikes. The question is who are the tax cuts for, who are the tax hikes imposed upon.

What we have had right now is a situation where we've cut taxes for people who don't need them. Warren Buffett has said, "You know, I made $46 million last year. It was a bad year for me. But I can still afford to pay more than my secretary, who has a higher tax rate than I do."

That is not fair and I want to change that.

We've got $1 trillion worth of corporate tax loopholes and tax havens and I've said I will close those and I will give tax cuts to people making $75,000 or less by offsetting their payroll tax. Senior citizens making less than $50,000 a year, we want to eliminate taxes for them.

So the question is can we restore a sense of balance to our economy and make sure that those of us who are blessed and fortunate and have thrived in this economy, in this global economy, that we can afford to pay a little bit more so that that child in east Los Angeles who is in a crumbling school, with teachers that are having to dig into their own pockets for school supplies, that they are having a chance at the American dream, as well.


I'm happy to have that argument.

BLITZER: Senator Clinton, your health care plan, it is estimated, will cost $110 billion annually. You want to tax the rich to pay for that, is that what you're saying?

CLINTON: Well, let me say that the way I would pay for this is to take the Bush tax cuts that are set to expire on people making more than $250,000 a year. That would raise about $55 billion and I would put that into the subsidies for the health care tax credit, so that people would be able to afford the health care that we are offering.

The other $55 billion would come from the modernization and the efficiencies that I believe we can obtain. We spend more money than anybody in the world on health care and there is no end in sight.

CLINTON: Yet, we don't get the best results. We don't have the longest life span. We don't have the best infant mortality rates.

We could do so much better. And here are some of the ideas that I have put on the table.

Number one, the Bush administration has given enormous tax giveaways to HMOs and drug companies under the Medicare prescription Part D program, under the HMO program in Medicare. I would rein those in. They are not being earned. They do not produce the results that are supposedly being touted by the Bush administration.

I would also move for electronic medical records, something that I have worked on for nearly five years on a bipartisan basis. Started with Newt Gingrich and Bill Frist. We passed my legislation through the Senate a year ago. Didn't get it through the Republican House. Now we're going to try again in the Democratic Congress.

If we had electronic medical records, according to RAND Corporation -- hardly a bastion of liberal thinking...


... they have said we would save $77 billion a year. That money can be put into prevention. It could be put into chronic care management. It can be put into making sure that our health care system has enough access so that if you are in a rural community somewhere in California or somewhere in Tennessee or somewhere in Georgia, you'll have access to health care. If you are in an inner- city area and you see your hospital, like the Drew Medical Center, closed on you, then you are going to have a place once again where you can get health care in the immediate area.

So we can begin to be more effective and more sensible about how we cover everybody, and use the money from the top-end tax cults and from modernizing the system.

BLITZER: Jeanne has a question on a different subject...


... but I just want to be precise. When you let -- if you become president, either one of you -- let the Bush tax cuts lapse, there will be effectively tax increases on millions of Americans.

OBAMA: On wealthy Americans.

CLINTON: That's right.

OBAMA: And look...

BLITZER: And you are willing to go into...


OBAMA: I'm not bashful about it.

CLINTON: Absolutely. Absolutely.

OBAMA: I suspect a lot of this crowd -- it looks like a pretty well-dressed crowd -- potentially will pay a little bit more. I will pay a little bit more.

But as I said, you know, we have, I believe, a moral obligation to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to get health care in this country.

And one last point I want to make. We will have to make some upfront costs. That's why in either of our plans, you know, if we want to invest in electronic medical records, then we have got to go to rural hospitals who might not be able to afford it and say, we're going to help you buy the computer software and the machinery to make sure that this works.

But that investment will pay huge dividends over the long term, and the place where it will pay the biggest dividends is in Medicare and Medicaid. Because if we can get a healthier population, that is the only way over the long term that we can actually control that spending that is going to break the federal budget.

CLINTON: But Wolf, it's just really important to underscore here that we will go back to the tax rates we had before George Bush became president. And my memory is, people did really well during that time period.


And they will keep doing really well.

BLITZER: All right, Jeanne?

CUMMINGS: On immigration. The Republicans have had a pretty fierce debate over immigration. And it's now pretty clear that that's going to be an issue for you all, as well, not just in the general, but it's bubbled up in some of the primaries. And it's a divisive issue for you all, as it is for the Republicans. And that was pretty evident when we got a question through Politico.

This is from Kim Millman (ph) from Burnsville, Minnesota. And she says, "there's been no acknowledgement by any of the presidential candidates of the negative economic impact of immigration on the African-American community. How do you propose to address the high unemployment rates and the declining wages in the African-American community that are related to the flood of immigrant labor?"

Senator Obama, you want to go first on that? And it's for both of you.

OBAMA: Well, let me first of all say that I have worked on the streets of Chicago as an organizer with people who have been laid off from steel plants, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, and, you know, all of them are feeling economically insecure right now, and they have been for many years. Before the latest round of immigrants showed up, you had huge unemployment rates among African-American youth.

And, so, I think to suggest somehow that the problem that we're seeing in inner-city unemployment, for example, is attributable to immigrants, I think, is a case of scapegoating that I do not believe in, I do not subscribe to.


And this is where we do have a very real difference with the other party.

OBAMA: I believe that we can be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

Now, there is no doubt that we have to get control of our borders. We can't have hundreds of thousands of people coming over to the United States without us having any idea who they are.

I also believe that we do have to crack down on those employers that are taking advantage of the situation, hiring folks who cannot complain about worker conditions, who aren't getting the minimum wage sometimes, or aren't getting overtime. We have to crack down on them. I also believe we have to give a pathway to citizenship after they have paid a fine and learned English, to those who are already here, because if we don't, they will continue to undermine U.S. wages.

But let's understand more broadly that the economic problems that African-Americans are experiencing, whites are experiences, blacks and Latinos are experiencing in this country are all rooted in the fact that we have had an economy out of balance. We've had tax cuts that went up instead of down. We have had a lack of investment in basic infrastructure in this country. Our education system is chronically underfunded.


And so, there are a whole host of reasons why we have not been generating the kinds of jobs that we are generating. We should not use immigration as a tactic to divide. Instead, we should pull the country together to get this economy back on track.

That's what I intend to do as president of the United States of America.


BLITZER: All right.

Senator Clinton, we're going to stay on this subject, but Doyle has a follow-up.

MCMANUS: Senator Clinton, Senator Obama has said that he favors allowing illegal immigrants to obtain drivers' licenses, and you oppose that idea.


CLINTON: Well, let me start with the original question from Kim, because I think it deserves an answer.

I believe that in many parts of our country, because of employers who exploit undocumented workers and drive down wages, there are job losses. And I think we should be honest about that.


There are people who have been pushed out of jobs and factories and meat processing plants, and all kinds of settings. And I meet them.

You know, I was in Atlanta last night, and an African-American man said to me, "I used to have a lot of construction jobs, and now it just seems like the only people who get them anymore are people who are here without documentation." So, I know that what we have to do is to bring our country together to have a comprehensive immigration reform solution.


That is the answer. And it is important that we make clear to Kim and people who are worried about this that that is actually in the best interests of those who are concerned about losing their jobs or already have.

Because if we can tighten our borders, if we can crack down on employer who exploit workers, both those who are undocumented and those who are here as citizens, or legal, if we can do more to help local communities cope with the cost that they often have to contend with, if we do more to help our friends to the south create more jobs for their own people, and if we take what we know to be the realities that we confront -- 12 to 14 million people here, what will we do with them?

Well, I hear the voices from the other side of the aisle. I hear voices on TV and radio. And they are living in some other universe, talking about deporting people, rounding them up.

I don't agree with that, and I don't think it's practical. And therefore, what we've got to do is to say, come out of the shadows. We will register everyone. We will check, because if you have committed a crime in this country or the country you came from, then you will not be able to stay, you will have to be deported.

But for the vast majority of people who are here, we will give you a path to legalization if you meet the following condition: pay a fine because you entered illegally, be willing to pay back taxes over time, try to learn English -- and we have to help you do that, because we've cut back on so many of those services -- and then you wait in line.

That not only is, I think, the best way to approach the problem of our 12 million to 14 million who are here, but that also says to Kim, Kim, this is the best answer, as well, because once we have those conditions met, and people agree, then, they will not be in a labor market that undercuts anybody else's wages.

BLITZER: Senator...


CLINTON: And therefore, it's imperative we approach it this way, only after people have agreed to these conditions, Doyle, and that they have been willing to say, yes, they will meet those conditions, do I think we ought to talk about privileges like drives' licenses? Because otherwise, I think you will further undermine the labor market for people like the ones Kim is referring to.

CLINTON: We need to solve this problem, not exacerbate it. And that's what intend to do as president.


BLITZER: All right. All right, we have a follow-up.

Senator Obama, in an interview with CNN this week, you said this. You said, quote, "I stood up for a humane and intelligent immigration policy in a way that, frankly, none of my other opponents did." What did you mean by that?

OBAMA: Well, what I meant was that, when this issue came up -- not driver's licenses, but comprehensive immigration reform generally -- I worked with Ted Kennedy. I worked with Dick Durbin. I worked with John McCain, although he may not admit it now...


... to move this issue forward aggressively. And it's a hard political issue. Let's be honest. This is not an issue that polls well. But I think it is the right thing to do.


And I think we have to show leadership on the issue. And it is important for us, I believe, to recognize that the problems that workers are experiencing generally are not primarily caused by immigration. There is...

BLITZER: Are you suggesting that Senator Clinton's policy was not, in your words, "humane"?

OBAMA: That is -- what I said was that we have to stand up for these issues when it's tough, and that's what I've done.

I did it when I was in the state legislature, sponsoring the Illinois version of the DREAM Act, so that children who were brought here through no fault of their own are able to go to college, because we actually want well-educated kids in our country...


... who are able to -- who are able to succeed and become part of this economy and part of the American dream.

BLITZER: Was she lacking on that front?

OBAMA: Wolf, you keep on trying to push on this issue.

BLITZER: I'm just trying to find out what you mean.

OBAMA: There are those who were opposed to this issue, and there have been those who have flipped on the issue and have run away from the issue. This wasn't directed particularly at Senator Clinton. But the fact of the matter is I have stood up consistently on this issue.

On the driver's license issue, I don't actually want -- I don't believe that we're going to have to deal with this if we have comprehensive immigration reform, because, as I said before, people don't come here to drive. They come here to work.


And if we have signed up them -- if we have registered them, if they have paid a fine, if they are learning English, if they are going to the back of the line, if we fix our legal immigration system, then I believe we will not have this problem of undocumented workers in this country, because people will be able to actually go on a pathway to citizenship.

That, I think, is the right approach for African-Americans; I think it's the right approach for Latinos; I think it's a right approach for white workers here in the United States.

BLITZER: I want to let Senator Clinton respond. But were you missing in action when Senator Obama and Senator McCain and Senator Kennedy started formulating comprehensive immigration reform?

CLINTON: Well, actually, I co-sponsored comprehensive immigration reform in 2004 before Barack came to the Senate.


So I've been on record on behalf of this for quite some time.

And representing New York, the homeland with the Statue of Liberty, bringing all of our immigrants to our shores, has been not only an extraordinary privilege, but given me the opportunity to speak out on these issues.

When the House of Representatives passed the most mean-spirited provision that said, if you were to give any help whatsoever to someone here illegally, you would commit a crime, I stood up and said that would have criminalized the Good Samaritan and Jesus Christ himself.

I have been on record on this against this kind of demagoguery, this mean-spiritedness.

And, you know, it is something that I take very personally, because I have not only worked on behalf of immigrants; I have been working to make conditions better for many years.


I was so honored to get the farm workers endorsement last week, because for so many years I have stood with farm workers who do some of the hardest work there is anywhere in our country.

So we may be looking at the immigration reform issue as a political issue, and it certainly has been turned into one by those who I think are undermining the values of America.

It is a serious question. We have to fix this broken system. But let's do it in a practical, realistic approach. Let's bring people together. And I think, as president, I can.

You know, I've been going to town halls all over America, and I see the people out there, thousands of them who come to hear me, and they're nervous about immigration, and for the reasons that the economy isn't working for people.

The average American family has lost $1,000 in income. They're looking for some explanation as to why this is happening. And they edge or a real amount of anxiety in their voice.

And then I ask them, well, what would you do?

CLINTON: If you want to round up into four people, how many tens of thousands of federal law enforcement officials would that take?"

BLITZER: All right.

CLINTON: And how much authority would they have to be given to knock on every door of every business and every home? I don't think Americans would stand for that.

BLITZER: Senator, Senator...

CLINTON: So we have to get realistic and practical about this.

BLITZER: Very quickly, Senator, why not, then, if you're that passionate about it, let them get driver's licenses?

CLINTON: Well, we disagree on this. I do not think that it is either appropriate to give a driver's license to someone who is here undocumented, putting them, frankly, at risk, because that is clear evidence that they are not here legally, and I believe it is a diversion from what should be the focus at creating a political coalition with the courage to stand up and change the immigration system.


OBAMA: The only point I would make is Senator Clinton gave a number of different answers over the course of six weeks on this issue, and that did appear political.

Now, at this point, she's got a clearer position, but it took a whole and...


CLINTON: Well...

OBAMA: I'm just being -- just in fairness. Initially, in a debate, you said you were for it. Then you said you were against it. And the only reason I bring that up is to underscore the fact that this is a difficult political issue.

From my perspective, I agree with Bill Richardson that there is a public safety concern here and that we're better off, because I don't want a bunch of hit-and-run drivers, because they're worried about being deported and so they don't report an accident. That is a judgment all.


But I do think it is important to recognize that this can be tough and the question is who is going to tackle this problem and solve it.

Many of the solutions that Senator Clinton just talked about are solutions that I agree with, that I've been working on for many years, and my suspicion is whatever our differences, we're going to have big differences with the Republicans, but I think a practical, common sense solution to the problem is what the American people are looking for.

CLINTON: Well, I just have to correct the record for one second, because, obviously, we do agree about the need to have comprehensive immigration reform.

And if I recall, about a week after I said that I would try to support my governor, although I didn't agree with it personally, you

So this is a difficult issue and both of us have to recognize...


... that it is not something that we easily come to, because we share a lot of the same values.

OBAMA: I agree.

CLINTON: We want to -- we want to be fair to people. We want to respect the dignity of every human being, every person who is here. But we are trying to work our way through to get to where we need to be and that is to have a united Democratic Party, with fair-minded Republicans who will join us to fix this broken immigration system.


BLITZER: All right. We're going to talk a lot more about this. We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about. You can follow all of the action, by the way, on and there's a lively dialogue going on there right now,

We'll take a quick break. We'll pick up with two issues, experience and character, and then move on to a lot more right after.


OBAMA: ... Americans disagree.


And think that we need to move forward with new leadership. So that's why we are having this contest.

You know, I have spent my entire adult life trying to bring about change in this country. I started off as a community organizer, working on the streets of Chicago, providing job training and after- school programs and economic development for neighborhoods that have been devastated by steel plants that had closed.

I worked as a civil rights attorney, turning down lucrative corporate jobs to provide justice for those who had been denied on the job on at the ballot box.


I worked as a state legislator for years, providing health care to people who did not have it, reforming a death penalty system that was broken, providing tax relief to those who needed it.

And in the United States Senate, I worked on everything from nuclear proliferation to issues of alternative energy.

And in each instance, what I found is that the leadership that's needed is the ability to bring people together, who otherwise don't see anything in common. The ability to overcome the special interests. And I passed both in Washington in Illinois comprehensive ethics reform that opened up government so that the American people could be involved. And talking straight to the American people about how we're going to solve these problems, and putting in the hard work of negotiations to get stuff done.

So I respect Senator Clinton's record. I think it's a terrific record. But I also believe that the skills that I have are the ones that are needed right now to move the country forward.

CLINTON: And I really spent a great deal of my early adulthood, you know, bringing people together to help solve the problems of those who were without a voice and were certainly powerless.

I was honored to be appointed by President Carter to the Legal Services Corporation, which I chaired, and we grew that corporation from 100 million to 300 million. It is the primary vehicle by which people are given access to our courts when they have civil problems that need to be taken care of.

You know, I've run projects that provided aid for prisoners in prisons. I helped to reform the education system in Arkansas and expand rural health care. And I've had a lot of varied experiences, both in the private sector, as well as the public, and the not-for- profit sector.

And certainly during the eight years that I was privileged to be in the White House, I had a great deal of responsibility that was given to me to not only work on domestic issues, like health care -- and when we weren't successful on universal health care, I just turned around and said, well, we're going to get the Children's Health Insurance Program. And I'm so proud we do, because now six million children around the country every month get health care. And I took on the drug companies to make sure that they would test drugs to see if they were safe and effective for our kids.

And began to change the adoption and foster care system. Here in California, because of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, we have three times more children being adopted out of foster care.


And certainly the work that I was able to do around the world, going to more than 82 countries, negotiating with governments like Macedonia to open their border again, to let Kosovar refugees in. Speaking on behalf of women's rights as human rights in Beijing, to send a message across the world that this is critical of who we are as Americans.


And to go to the Senate and to begin to work across the party lines with people who honestly never thought they would work with me. But I believe public service is a trust. And I get up every day trying to make change in people's lives.

And today we have 20,000 National Guard and Reserve members in California who have access to health care because I teamed up with Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to get that done. Really positive change in people's lives, in real ways, that I am very proud of.


BLITZER: Jeanne Cummings of Politico, go ahead.

CUMMINGS: Well, we've got a question on this that's come in on, and it echoes, I think, a message that you all might be fighting up against if Mitt Romney turns out to be your opponent come the fall. We've talked about McCain, now we have Romney's strengths to address.

Now, Howard Meyerson (ph) of Pasadena, California, says he views the country as a very large business, and neither one of you have ever run a business. So, why should either of you be elected to be CEO of the country?

CLINTON: Well, I would, with all due respect, say that the United States government is much more than a business. It is a trust.


It is the most complicated organization. But it is not out to make a profit. It is out to help the American people. It is about to stand up for our values and to do what we should at home and around the world to keep faith with who we are as a country.

And with all due respect, we have a president who basically ran as the CEO, MBA president, and look what we got. I am not too happy about the results.


OBAMA: Let me -- let me just also point out that, you know, Mitt Romney hasn't gotten a very good return on his investment during this presidential campaign.


And so, I'm happy to take a look at my management style during the course of this last year and his. I think they compare fairly well.


BLITZER: Go ahead, Doyle.

MCMANUS: I want to switch to a different theme.

Senator Clinton, this week, as you know, Senator Obama was endorsed by Senator Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy. And they both argued that the country is ready for a new generation of leaders, and they said Barack Obama, like John F. Kennedy in 1960, is that kind of leader.

How do you respond to that?

CLINTON: Well, I have the greatest respect for Senator Kennedy and the Kennedy family. And I'm proud to have three of Senator Robert Kennedy's children, Bobby and Kathleen and Kerry, supporting me. But what I this is...


What I think is exciting is that the way we are looking at the Democratic field, now down to the two of us is, is we're going to get big change. We're going to have change. I think having the first woman president would be a huge change for America and the world.


CLINTON: But, of course, despite the enthusiasm of our supporters or our endorsers -- and we're both proud of everyone who has come to be part of our campaign -- this is about the two of us.

You have to, as voters, determine who you think can be the best president, to tackle all those problems on day one, waiting in the Oval Office, who can be the best nominee for the Democratic Party to be able to withstand whatever they decide to do on the other side of the aisle, and come out victorious.

But, ultimately, this is really about the American people. It's about your lives. It's about your jobs, your health care, whether you can afford to send your children to college, whether you'll be able to withstand the pressure of the rising interest rates on a home foreclosure that might come your way, and whether we're going to once again be proud of our country, and our leadership, and our moral authority in the world.

And so I think that, as we look at these upcoming contests -- 22 of them now on Tuesday -- really, every voter should be looking and examining what they want out of the next president.

What are the criteria that you have for determining who you will vote for, what you think our country needs, what you and your family are really looking for? And then you evaluate the two of us, because no one else will be on the ballot.

This is a very exciting and humbling experience, I think I can say for both of us.

BLITZER: All right. Senator...

CLINTON: Neither one of us would have either predicted -- you know, not very long ago -- we would be sitting here. And it is a great tribute to the Democratic Party and to America.


But now we have to decide who would be the best president.


BLITZER: Senator Obama, I want you to respond, but also in the context of this. A lot of Democrats remember the eight years of the Clinton administration, a period of relative peace and prosperity, and they remember it fondly.

Are they right? Should they be remembering those eight years with pleasure?

OBAMA: Well, I think there's no doubt that there were good things that happened during those eight years of the Clinton administration. I think that's undeniable.

Look, we're all Democrats. And, particularly, when looked through the lens of the last eight years with George Bush, they look even better.


So I don't want to diminish some of the accomplishments that occurred during those eight years. And I absolutely agree with Senator Clinton, that ultimately each of us have to be judged on our own merits.

All of us have endorsers, and ultimately you've got to take a look and see: Who do you want in that White House?

I do think that there was something that happened, and we've been seeing it all across the country. We saw it at the event with Senator Kennedy. We are bringing in a whole generation of new voters...


... which I think is exciting. And part of the task, I believe, of leadership is the hard nuts-and-bolts of getting legislation passed and managing the bureaucracy, but part of it is also being able to call on the American people to reach higher, to say we shouldn't settle for an economy that does very well for some, but leaves millions of people behind.

We should not accept a school in South Carolina that was built in the 1800s, where kids are having to learn in trailers, and every time the railroad goes by the tracks, the building shakes and the teacher has to stop teaching.

We should not accept a foreign policy that has seen our respect diminish around the world and has not made us more safe.


So the question is -- part of the question is: Who can work the levers of power more effectively? Part of the question is also: Who can inspire the American people to get re-engaged in their government again, push back the special interests, reduce the influence of lobbyists?

And that is something that I have worked on all my life and we are seeing in this campaign. And one of the things I'm thrilled with -- and this is good news for Democrats...

BLITZER: All right.

OBAMA: ... every single election that we've had so far in this contest you've seen the number of people participating in the Democratic primary double.


Now, that's not all due to me. Senator Clinton is attracting enthusiasm and support, as well. But I can say, for example, in Iowa, about 60 percent of those new voters voted for me.

And that, I think, changes the electoral map in such a way where we're going to have more people ready to move forward on the agendas that we all agree with. That's part of the leadership I want to provide as president.

BLITZER: We have a follow-up question from Jeanne.

Go ahead, Jeanne.

CUMMINGS: Well, Senator Obama mentioned the generational issue. And when we look at returns and exit polls, there is something going on there. And we've got a question along those lines from Karen Roper (ph) from Pickens, South Carolina.

CUMMINGS: She asks to you: "Senator Clinton, that you have claimed that your presidency would bring change to America. I'm 38 years old and I have never had an opportunity to vote in a presidential election in which a Bush or a Clinton wasn't on the ticket.

"How can you be an agent of change when we have had the same two families in the White House for the last 30 years?"


CLINTON: Well, as I have often said, I regret deeply that there is a Bush in the White House at the time.

But I think that what's great about our political system is that we are all judged on our own merits. We come forward to the American public and it's the most grueling political process one can imagine.

We start from the same place. Nobody has an advantage no matter who you are or where you came from. You have to raise the money. You have to make the case for yourself.

And I want to be judged on my own merits. I don't want to be advantaged or disadvantaged. I'm very proud of my husband's administration. I think that there were a lot of good things that happened and those good things really changed people's lives.

The trajectory of change during those eight years went from deficits and debt to a balanced budget and a surplus, all those 22 million new jobs and the...


... and the hopefulness that people brought with them. And, you know, it did take a Clinton to clean after the first Bush and I think it might take another one to clean up after the second Bush.


BLITZER: All right, Senators, stand by. We're going to take another quick break. We have a lot more to go through. Remember, you can go to and you can monitor what's going on. There's a lively discussion going on at right now.

We'll take a short break. Much more of this Democratic presidential debate right after this.


BLITZER: We're at the Kodak Theatre here in Los Angeles. Thousands of people are outside, Hillary Clinton supporters, Barack Obama supporters. We're continuing this presidential debate right now.

The next question goes to Doyle McManus.

MCMANUS: A question about the issue of Iraq.

Senator Clinton, you've both called for a gradual withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, but Senator Obama says he wants all combat troops out within 16 months of his inauguration and you haven't offered a specific end date.

Why shouldn't voters worry that your position could turn into an open-ended commitment?

CLINTON: Well, because, Doyle, I've been very clear in saying that I will begin to withdraw troops in 60 days. I believe that it will take me one to two brigades a month, depending on how many troops we have there, and that nearly all of them should be out within a year.

It is imperative, though, that we actually plan and execute this right. And you may remember last spring, I got into quite a back-and- forth with the Pentagon, because I was concerned they were not planning for withdrawal, because that was contrary to their strategy, or their stated position.

And I began to press them to let us know, and they were very resistant, and gave only cursory information to us.

So I've said that I will ask the Joint Chiefs and the secretary of defense and my security advisers the very first day I'm president, to begin to draw up such a plan so that we can withdraw.

But I just want to be very clear with people, that it's not only bringing our young men and women and our equipment out, which is dangerous. They have got to go down those same roads where they have been subjected to bombing and so much loss of life and injury. We have to think about what we're going to do with the more than 100,000 Americans civilians who are there, working for the embassy, working for businesses, working for charities.

And I also believe we've got to figure out what to do with the Iraqis who sided with us. You know, a lot of the drivers and translators saved so many of your young men and women's lives, and I don't think we can walk out on them without having some plan as to how to take care of those who are targeted.

At the same time, we have got to tell the Iraqi government there is no -- there is no more time. They are out of time. They have got to make the tough decisions they have avoided making. They have got to take responsibility for their own country.


And, you know, I think both Barack and I have tried in these debates -- and sometimes been pushed by some of our opponents -- to be as responsible as we can be, because we know that this president, based on what he said in the State of the Union, intends to leave at least 130,000, if not more, troops in Iraq as he exits. It's the most irresponsible abdication of what should be a presidential commitment to end what he started.

So, we will inherit it. And therefore, I will do everything I can to get as many of our troops out as quickly as possible, taking into account all of these contingencies that we're going to have to contend with once we are in charge and once we can get into the Pentagon to figure out what's really there and what's going on.

BLITZER: But you can't make a commitment, though, that 16 months after your inauguration will be enough time?

CLINTON: I certainly hope it will be. And I've said I hope to have nearly all of them out within a year.

BLITZER: Go ahead.

OBAMA: Well, you know, I think it is important for us to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in.



So I have said very clearly: I will end this war. We will not have a permanent occupation and we will not have permanent bases in Iraq.


When John McCain suggests that we might be there 100 years, that, I think, indicates a profound lack of understanding that we've got a whole host of global threats out there, including Iraq, but we've got a big problem right now in Afghanistan. Pakistan is of great concern. We are neglecting potentially our foreign policy with respect to Latin America. China is strengthening.

OBAMA: And if we neglect our economy by spending $200 billion every year in this war that has not made us more safe, that is undermining our long-term security.


BLITZER: All right.

OBAMA: But the -- but I do think it is important for us to set a date. And the reason I think it is important is because if we are going to send a signal to the Iraqis that we are serious, and prompt the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurds to actually come together and negotiate, they have to have clarity about how serious we are.

It can't be muddy, it can't be fuzzy. They've got to know that we are serious about this process. And I also think we've got to be very clear about what our mission is. And there may be a difference here between Senator Clinton and myself in terms of the four structures that we would leave behind.

Both of us have said that we would make sure that our embassies and our civilians are protected. Both of us have said that we've got to care for Iraqi civilians, including the four million who have been displaced already. We already have a humanitarian crisis, and we have not taken those responsibilities seriously.

We both have said that we need to have a strike force that can take out potential terrorist bases that get set up in Iraq. But the one thing that I think is very important is that we not get mission creep, and we not start suggesting that we should have troops in Iraq to blunt Iranian influence.

If we were concerned about Iranian influence, we should not have had this government installed in the first place.


We shouldn't have invaded in the first place. It was part of the reason that I think it was such a profound strategic error for us to go into this war in the first place.


And that's one of the reasons why I think I will be -- just to finish up this point, I think I will be the Democrat who will be most effective in going up against a John McCain, or any other Republican -- because they all want basically a continuation of George Bush's policies -- because I will offer a clear contrast as somebody who never supported this war, thought it was a bad idea. I don't want to just end the war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place.

That's the kind of leadership I'm going to provide as president of the United States.


CLINTON: And of course...

BLITZER: Senator Clinton, that's a clear swipe at you.

CLINTON: Really?


CLINTON: We're having -- we're having such a good time.

OBAMA: I wouldn't call it a swipe.

CLINTON: We're having such a good time. We are. We are. We're having a wonderful time.

OBAMA: Yes, absolutely.

CLINTON: And I am so -- I am so proud to have the support of leaders like Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who is here with us tonight, who was one of the -- who was one of the original conveners of the Out of Iraq Caucus. Because it is imperative that as we move forward, with what will be a very difficult process -- there are no good options here.

We have to untangle ourselves and navigate through some very treacherous terrain. And as we do so, it is absolutely clear to me that we have to send several messages at once.

Yes, we are withdrawing, and I personally believe that is the best message to send to the Iraqis. That they need to know that they have to get serious, because so far they have been under the illusion that the Bush administration and the Republicans who have more of the same will be there indefinitely.

And I also think it's important to send that message to the region, because I think that Iran, Syria, the other countries in the neighborhood, are going to find themselves in a very difficult position as we withdraw. You know, be careful what you wish for.

They will be dragged into what is sectarian divisiveness with many different factions among the three main groups. Therefore, we need to start diplomatic efforts immediately, getting the Iranians, the Syrians, and others to the table. It's in their interest, it's in our interest, and it certainly is in the Iraqis' interest. few debates ago -- we've had so many of them -- to join with me on legislation which he has agreed to do that's very important to prevent President Bush from committing our country to an ongoing presence in Iraq. That is something he is trying to push.


And we are pushing legislation to prevent him from doing that.

He has taken the view that I find absolutely indefensible, that he doesn't have to bring any such agreement about permanent bases, about ongoing occupation. And if Senator McCain is the nominee, 100 years as stretching forward, he doesn't have to bring that to the United States Congress. He only has to get the approval of the Iraqi parliament.

CLINTON: Well, we are saying absolutely no. And we're going to do everything we can to prevent him from binding any of us, going into the future, in a way that will undermine America's interests. So that's a critical issue.


BLITZER: We have a follow-up question on this subject from Jeanne Cummings.

Go ahead, Jeanne.

CUMMINGS: Senator Clinton, this one is for you. Judgment has been an issue that's been raised as part of this debate about Iraq. It's been raised by Senator Obama on a number of occasions.

And as this debate has gone on, more than half of the Politico readers have voted for this question, and it is, in effect, a judgment question. It comes from Howard Schumann (ph) from Phippsburg, Maine.

And he asks, "Before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, you could have voted for the Levin amendment which required President Bush to report to Congress about the U.N. inspection before taking military action. Why did you vote against that amendment?"

CLINTON: Well, Howard, that's an important question. And the reason is because, although I believe strongly that we needed to put inspectors in, that was the underlying reason why I at least voted to give President Bush the authority, put those inspectors in, let them do their work, figure out what is there and what isn't there.

And I have the greatest respect for my friend and colleague, Senator Levin. He's my chairman on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The way that amendment was drafted suggested that the United States would subordinate whatever our judgment might be going forward to the United Nations Security Council. I don't think that was a good precedent. Therefore, I voted against it.

I did vote with Senator Byrd to limit the authority that was being given to President Bush to one year, and that also was not approved.

You know, I've said many times if I had known then what I know now, I never would have given President Bush the authority. It was a sincere vote based on my assessment at the time and what I believed he would do with the authority he was given.

He abused that authority; he misused that authority. I warned at the time it was not authority for a preemptive war. Nevertheless, he went ahead and waged one, which has led to the position we find ourselves in today.

But I think now we have to look at how we go forward. There will be a great debate between us and the Republicans, because the Republicans are still committed to George Bush's policy, and some are more committed than others, with Senator McCain's recent comments.

He's now accusing me of surrendering because I believe we should withdraw starting within 60 days of my becoming president. Well, that is a debate I welcome, because I think the Democrats have a much better grasp of the reality of the situation that we are confronting. And we have to continue to press that case.

It will be important, however, that our nominee be able to present both a reasoned argument against continuing our presence in Iraq and the necessary credentials and gravitas for commander-in- chief. That has to cross that threshold in the mind of every American voter.

The Republicans will try to put either one of us into the same box that, if we oppose this president's Iraq policy, somehow we cannot fully represent the interests of the United States, be commander-in- chief. I reject that out of hand, and I actually welcome that debate with whomever they nominate.


BLITZER: Senator? Look, I want you to respond, Senator, but also in the context of what we've heard from General David Petraeus, that there has been some progress made lately.

The number of U.S. casualties has gone down. There has been some stability in parts of Iraq where there was turmoil before and that any quick, overly quick withdrawal could undermine all of that and all of that progress would be for naught.

What do you say when you'll hear that argument?

OBAMA: I welcome the progress. This notion that Democrats don't want to see progress in Iraq is ridiculous.

I have to hug mothers in rope lines during town hall meetings as they weep over their fallen sons and daughters. I want to get our troops home safely, and I want us as a country to have this mission completed honorably.

But the notion that somehow we have succeeded as a consequence of the recent reductions in violence means that we have set the bar so low it's buried in the sand at this point.


And I've said this before. We went from intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional government to spikes and horrific levels of violence and a dysfunctional government. And now, two years later, we're back to intolerable levels of violence and a dysfunctional government.

And in the meantime, we have spent billions of dollars, lost thousands of lives.

OBAMA: Thousands more have been maimed and injured as a consequence and are going to have difficulty putting their lives back together again.

So understand that this has undermined our security. In the meantime, Afghanistan has slid into more chaos than existed before we went into Iraq.

I am happy to have that argument. I also think it is going to be important, though, for the Democrat -- you know, Senator Clinton mentioned the issue of gravitas and judgment. I think it is much easier for us to have the argument, when we have a nominee who says, I always thought this was a bad idea, this was a bad strategy.


It was not just a problem of execution. It was not just a problem of execution.

I mean, they screwed up the execution of it in all sorts of ways. And I think even Senator McCain has acknowledged that.

The question is: Can we make an argument that this was a conceptually flawed mission, from the start?

And we need better judgment when we decide to send our young men and women into war, that we are making absolutely certain that it is because there is an imminent threat, that American interests are going to be protected, that we have a plan to succeed and to exit, that we are going to train our troops properly and equip them properly and put them on proper rotations and treat them properly when they come home.

And that is an argument that I think we are going to have an easer time making if they can't turn around and say: But hold on a second; you supported this.

And that's part of the reason why I think that I would be the strongest nominee on this argument of national security.


BLITZER: I'm going to let Senator Clinton respond. Senator Clinton, you always say, if you knew then what you know now, you wouldn't have voted like that. But why can't you just say right now that that vote was a mistake?

CLINTON: Well, Wolf, I think that if you look at what was going on at the time -- and certainly, I did an enormous amount of investigation and due diligence to try to determine what if any threat could flow from the history of Saddam Hussein being both an owner of and a seeker of weapons of mass destruction.

The idea of putting inspectors back in -- that was a credible idea. I believe in coercive diplomacy. I think that you try to figure out how to move bad actors in a direction that you prefer in order to avoid more dire consequences.

And if you took it on the face of it and if you took it on the basis of what we hoped would happen with the inspectors going in, that in and of itself was a policy that we've used before. We have used the threat of force to try to make somebody change their behavior.

I think what no one could have fully appreciated is how obsessed this president was with this particular mission. And unfortunately, I and others who warned at the time, who said, let the inspectors finish their work, you know, do not wage a preemptive war, use diplomacy, were just talking to a brick wall.

But you know, it's clear that if I had been president, we would have never diverted our attention from Afghanistan. When I went to Afghanistan the first time and was met by a young soldier from New York, in the 10th Mountain Division who told me that I was being welcomed to the forgotten frontlines in the war against terror, that just, you know, just struck me so forcefully.

We have so many problems that we are going to have to untangle. And it will take everyone -- it will take a tremendous amount of effort.

But the one thing I'm convinced of is that, if we go into our campaign against the Republicans with the idea that we are as strong as they are and we are better than they are on national security, that we can put together an effective strategy to go after the terrorists -- because that is real, that is something that we cannot ignore at our peril -- then we will be able to join the issues of the future.

And I think that's what Americans are focused on. What are we going to do going forward? Because day after day, what I spend my time working on is trying to help pick up the pieces for families and for injured soldiers, you know, trying to make sure that they get the help that they need, trying to give the resources that are required.

We had to fight to get body armor. You know, George Bush sent people to war without body armor.

BLITZER: So what I -- what I...

CLINTON: We need a president who will be sensitive to the implications of the use of force and understand that force should be a last resort, not a first resort.

BLITZER: So, what I hear you saying -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- is that you were naive in trusting President Bush?

CLINTON: No, that's not what you heard me say.


Good try, Wolf. Good try. You know...

BLITZER: Was she naive, Senator Obama? deserve to answer.

BLITZER: I thought you weren't going to answer.

CLINTON: You know, I think that, you know, that is a good try, Wolf.


You know, the point is that I certainly respect Senator Obama making his speech in 2002 against the war. And then when it came to the Senate, we've had the same policy because we were both confronting the same reality of trying to deal with the consequences of George Bush's action.

I believe that it is abundantly clear that the case that was outlined on behalf of going to the resolution -- not going to war, but going to the resolution -- was a credible case. I was told personally by the White House that they would use the resolution to put the inspectors in. I worked with Senator Levin to make sure we gave them all the intelligence so we would know what's there.

Some people now think that this was a very clear open and shut case. We bombed them for days in 1998 because Saddam Hussein threw out inspectors. We had evidence that they had a lot of bad stuff for a very long time which we discovered after the first Gulf War.

Knowing that he was a megalomaniac, knowing he would not want to compete for attention with Osama bin Laden, there were legitimate concerns about what he might do. So, I think I made a reasoned judgment. Unfortunately, the person who actually got to execute the policy did not.


BLITZER: Senator?

OBAMA: I don't want to -- I don't want to belabor this, because I know we're running out of time and I'm sure you guys want to move on to some other stuff, but I do just have to say this -- the legislation, the authorization had the title, an authorization to use U.S. military force, U.S. military force, in Iraq. I think everybody, the day after that vote was taken, understood this was a vote potentially to go to war.


I think were very clear about that. That's the -- if you look at the headlines.

The reason that this is important, again, is that Senator Clinton, I think, fairly, has claimed that she's got the experience on day one. And part of the argument that I'm making in this campaign is that, it is important to be right on day one.


And that the judgment that I've presented on this issue, and some other issues is relevant to how we're going to make decisions in the future. You know, it's not a function just of looking backwards, it's a function of looking forwards and how are we going to be making a series of decisions in a very dangerous world.

I mean, the terrorist threat is real. And precisely because it's real -- and we've got finite resources. We don't have the capacity to just send our troops in anywhere we decide, without good intelligence, without a clear rationale.

That's the kind of leadership that I think we need from the next president of the United States. That's what I intend to provide.


BLITZER: All right.

We're going to take a quick break and we're going to continue this. We have one more break to go through.

A lot more coming up, including questions involving character.

And remember, you can go to and watch this online discussion that's being waged right now.

We'll be right back.


OBAMA: ... and, as a parent, yes, I am concerned about what's coming over the airwaves. Now, right now, my daughters mostly are on Nickelodeon, but they know how to work that remote.


And, you know, the primary responsibility is for parents. And I reject the notion of censorship as an approach to dealing with this problem.


I do think that it is important for us to make sure that we are giving parents the tools that they need in order to monitor what their children are watching. And, obviously, the problem we have now is not just what's coming over the airwaves, but what's coming over the Internet.

And so for us to develop technologies and tools and invest in those technologies and tools, to make sure that we are, in fact, giving parents power -- empowering parents I think is important.

The one other thing I will say is -- I don't mean to be insulting here -- but I do think that it is important for those in the industry to show some thought about who they are marketing some of these programs that are being produced to.


And I'm concerned about sex, but I'm also concerned, you know, some of the violent, slasher, horror films that come out, you see a trailer, and I'm thinking, "I don't want my 6-year-old or 9-year-old seeing that trailer while she's watching 'American Idol.'"

And sometimes you see that kind of stuff coming up. I think it is appropriate, in a cooperative way, to work with the industry to try to deal with that problem. And I intend to work in that fashion when I'm president of the United States of America.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.


All right, we've got another question from Jeanne.

Go ahead, Jeanne.

CUMMINGS: Well, since we've dealt with the kids, let's deal with the spouses for a second.

Senator Clinton...

CLINTON: He has a spouse, too.


OBAMA: Thankfully Michelle is not on stage. I'm sure she could tell some stories, as well.

CUMMINGS: Senator Clinton, your husband has set off several firestorms in the last few weeks in early primary states with the way that he has criticized Senator Obama.

CUMMINGS: Greg Craig, who was one of your husband's top lawyers campaign can't control the former president now, what will it be like when you're in the White House?


CLINTON: Well, one thing I think is fair to say, both Barack and I have very passionate spouses...

OBAMA: We do, no doubt.

CLINTON: ... who promote and defend us at every turn.

You know, but the fact is that I'm running for president, and this is my campaign.


And I have made it very clear that I want the campaign to stay focused on the issues that I'm concerned about, the kind of future that I want for our country, the work that I have done for all of these years. And that is what the campaign is about.

And of course, I'm thrilled to have my husband and my daughter, who is here tonight, you know, representing me and traveling around the country...


... speaking with people, but at the end of the day, it's my name that is on the ballot, and it will be my responsibility as president and commander in chief, after consulting broadly with a lot of people who have something to contribute to difficult decisions, I will have to make the call. And I am fully prepared to do that.

And I know that as we go forward in this campaign, it's a choice between the two of us. And we are proud of our spouses, we're proud of our families, we're proud of everybody supporting us. But at the end of the day, it's a lonely job in the White House, and it is the president of the United States who has to make the decisions. And that is what I'm asking to be entrusted to do.


BLITZER: This will be the last question. It will go to both of you, to Senator Obama first.

The more I speak to Democrats out there -- not only the Democrats here at the Kodak Theatre, but all over the country -- they take a look at the two of you and they see potentially a dream ticket. A dream ticket for the White House.


There may have been some nasty words exchanged or angry words or whatever, but the question is this: Would you consider an Obama/Clinton or Clinton/Obama ticket going down the road?

OBAMA: Well, obviously there's a big difference between those two.



But, look, let me say this. And I said this at the top. I respect Senator Clinton. I think her service to this country has been extraordinary. And I'm glad that we've been walking on this road together and that we are still on that road.

We've got a lot more road to travel. And so I think it's premature for either of us to start speculating about vice presidents, et cetera. I think it would be premature and presumptuous.

I can say this about -- about who I want not just as vice president but as a cabinet member. Part of what I would like to do is restore a sense of what is possible in government.


And that means having people of the greatest excellence and competence. It means people with integrity. It means people with independence, who are willing to say no to me so, so that, you know, no more yes-men or women in the White House.


Because I'm not going to be right on every single issue.

But you know, it is really important, I think, for us also to give the American people this sense, as they are struggling with their mortgages and struggling with their health care and trying to figure out how to get their kids in a school that will teach them and prepare them and equip them for this century, that they get a sense that government's on their side, that government is listening to them, that it's carrying their voices into the White House.

And that's not what's happened over the last seven years. And whether it's my cabinet or it is the lowest federal civil servant out there, I want them to understand they are working for the American people, to help the American people achieve their dreams.

That's the reason I'm running for president of the United States of America.


BLITZER: So, is the answer yes -- it sounds like a yes, that she would be on your short list.

OBAMA: I -- you know, I'm sure Hillary would be on anybody's short list. So.

BLITZER: All right. What about, Senator Clinton, what do you think about a Clinton/Obama, Obama/Clinton ticket?

CLINTON: Well, I have to agree with everything Barack just said.



BLITZER: That means it's a yes, right?

CLINTON: This has been an extraordinary campaign, and I think both of us have been overwhelmed by the response that we have engendered, the kind of enthusiasm and intensity that people feel about each of us. And so, clearly, we are both dedicated to doing the best we can to win the nomination, but there is no doubt we will have a unified Democratic Party.


We will go into the November election prepared to win. And -- and I want to just add that, you know, on Monday night, I'm going to have a national town hall, an interactive town hall. It will be carried on the Hallmark Channel and on my Web site,, because I know you had tens of thousands of questions.

OBAMA: What about my Web site?


CLINTON: Yes. I want your folks to participate, too.

OBAMA: I'm just kidding.

CLINTON: And it's going to be across the country.

Monday night at 9:00 Eastern, 6:00 here on the West Coast.

BLITZER: All right. answered, please, log on, turn on, and continue to be part of this really, really exciting election for both of us.

BLITZER: Here is the bottom line -- we do the plugs here. You guys can do the plugs out on the campaign trail.

That has to end our conversation this evening.

I want to thank both of you for coming very much.

OBAMA: Thank you.

CLINTON: Thank you.


BLITZER: Senator Barack Obama, Senator Hillary Clinton.


[Begin Voice of Blogistan transmission.]

31 January 2008

GOP Debate Ronald Ray-Gun Lie-berry (sic)

[Begin Voice of Blogistan Transmission]

This is the transcript of the GOP debate at the Reagan Library Wednesday January 30.

The candidates debate Wednesday at The Reagan Library in California.

(CNN) -- ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: The first question is actually a question that will go to all of you, but I'll start with Governor Romney. During a 1980 debate, he suggested Americans determine who to vote for by asking themselves, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

So tonight, in terms of the economy, are Americans better off than they were eight years ago?

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY: Well, if you're voting for George Bush, you'd be very interested in knowing the answer to that. If you're voting for Mitt Romney, you'd like to know, "Are you better off in Massachusetts after four years of my term in office?" And the answer would be decidedly yes.

I came into a state which was very much in a deep ditch. It was losing money every month. We had a $3 billion budget gap. We had people losing jobs every single month. During my predecessor's term, we'd lost 160,000 jobs.

We kept losing jobs for a couple of years. We got it turned around, began adding jobs back. We won some huge contracts to bring in some new employers into the state. Some of them haven't even built their facilities yet.

We solved our budget problem, $3 billion budget gap, without raising taxes. We were able to do that in a way that I think surprised folks.

COOPER: Let me just interrupt. The question was: Are Americans better off than they were eight years ago? And as you know, there are a lot of Americans out right now who are very interested in the answer. They're not feeling particularly good about their home sales -- the value of their homes dropping down or the unemployment rate rising.

How do you feel America is doing?

ROMNEY: Well, again, I'm pleased with what I do while I was -- as governor and happy to talk about that record.

COOPER: Are you running for governor or are you running for president, though?

ROMNEY: But I'm not running on President Bush's record. President Bush can talk about his record.

Washington is badly broken. I think we recognize that. Washington has not dealt with the problems that we have in this nation. It hasn't reduced our burdens on our middle class, hasn't solved the Social Security problems, hasn't dealt with the health care crisis that we have in this country, hasn't improved our schools as much as we'd like to get them improved.

Nevertheless, this president did pull us out of a deep recession. He put in place two tax cuts which did get the country out of a recession and helped rebuild the country. Now we see ourselves headed apparently towards one again. We hope not.

ROMNEY: Whether there's a recession technically or not, one thing we know -- middle-income families are feeling squeezed and people are losing homes and people are having a hard time paying for their gasoline and they're having a hard time paying for heating oil in places that that's a big part of their life.

And as a result, we've got people that feel there needs to be a change in Washington and that's something I represent.

COOPER: Senator McCain, are Americans better off than they were eight years ago?

FORMER SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: I think you could argue that Americans overall are better off, because we have had a pretty good prosperous time, with low unemployment and low inflation and a lot of good things have happened. A lot of jobs have been created.

But let's have some straight talk. Things are tough right now. Americans are uncertain about this housing crisis. Americans are uncertain about the economy, as we see the stock market bounce up and down, but more importantly, the economy particularly in some parts of the country, state of Michigan, Governor Romney and I campaigned, not to my success, I might add, and other parts of the country are probably better off.

But I think what we're trying to do to fix this economy is important. We've got to address the housing, subprime housing problem. We need to, obviously, have this package go through the Congress as quickly as possible.

We need to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which I voted for twice to do so. I think we need to eliminate the alternate minimum tax that sits out there and challenges 25 million American families.

COOPER: It sounds like that we're not better off is what you're saying.

MCCAIN: Pardon me?

COOPER: It sounds like you're saying we're not better off.

MCCAIN: I think we are better off overall if you look at the entire eight-year period, when you look at the millions of jobs that have been created, the improvement in the economy, et cetera.

What I'm trying to emphasize, Anderson, that we are in a very serious challenge right now, with a lot of Americans very uncertain about their future, and we've got to give them some comfort.

We've got to give them some stimulus. We've got to give them some tax relief. We've got to stop this outrageous squandering spending that causes us to have to borrow money from China, and we've got to get our fiscal house in order.

I think we went on a spending spree that, frankly, betrayed Ronald Reagan's principles about tax cuts and restraint of spending.

COOPER: Let me just give the question now to Senator -- I'm going to ask everyone.

So, Governor Huckabee, if you can, briefly: Are we better off than we were eight years ago?

FORMER ARKANSAS GOV. HUCKABEE: I don't think we are. And the real issue, though, let's not blame President Bush for all of this. We've got a Congress who sat around on their hands and done nothing but spend a lot of money and they're spending, leaving us $9 trillion in debt that we're passing on to our grandchildren.

I don't blame the president solely for that. So I think if we're asking is George Bush responsible for all this, no. But are we better off? Well, let's look at some factors.

Right now, home sales are -- new home starts, anyway, are down 40 percent. That's going to have a cascading impact on everybody who sells lumber, who is in the building trades.

If you talk to people who are driving trucks across America today, their fuel prices are significantly higher than they were a year ago. They're hurting because they're not making a lot more money to haul something, but they're spending a lot more money to get it done.

And all over our economy, with unemployment up to five percent across the nation, that means there are a lot of families today that don't have a paycheck and if you don't have a paycheck, then it's hard to put groceries on the table and it's hard to pay the rent.

And I think what Americans are looking for is somebody to just honest with them and straight with them and tell them that, no, it's not better and it's not going to get better unless we have some serious leadership in Washington that says that we're going to have to start having policies that touch the people not just at the top, but the people at the bottom.

And they feel like they're invisible to a lot of people in government today.

COOPER: Congressman Paul, 61 percent of Americans think there is a recession already -- 61 percent of Americans say there's already a recession.

Are we better off than we were eight years ago?

TEXAS REP. RON PAUL: No, no, we're not better off. We're worse off, but it's partially this administration's fault and it's the Congress. But it also involves an economic system that we've had for a long time and a monetary system that we've had and a foreign policy that's coming to an end and we have to admit this.

The Republicans were elected in 1994 to change direction of the country, because people sensed there was something wrong, we were going the wrong direction, but we didn't do anything.

In the year 2000, we did, also. We were elected in the year 2000 to have a humble foreign policy and not police the world, and yet what are we doing now? We're bogged down in another war. We're bankrupting our country and we have an empire that we're trying to defend which costs us $1 trillion a year.

And the standard of living is going down today. It's going down and the middle class is hurting because of the monetary policy.

PAUL: When you destroy a currency, the middle class gets wiped out. Poor countries don't even have middle classes. We used to have one, and they're on the ropes right now.

But it has to do with a fiscal policy, monetary policy, and foreign policy of way too much spending, but it took a lot of years for us to get here. The people in this country have been begging for a change in direction, and they haven't had it. It's time we gave it to them.

COOPER: We've got a lot to get to on the economy. To begin with, let's go to Janet Hook of the L.A. Times.

JANET HOOK, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Governor Romney, you've spent the last several days warning voters that John McCain as president would follow, quote, "a liberal, Democratic course." But, by most measures, doesn't he have a pretty mainstream conservative record?

ROMNEY: I'm sure on many issues he does, and he's a good Republican. I wouldn't question those credentials at all. But there are a number of pieces of legislation where his views are out of the mainstream, at least in my view, of conservative Republican thought.

So, for instance, he's opposed to drilling in ANWR, I believe. If I'm correct -- correct me, Senator. He voted twice against the Bush tax cuts. Only two Republicans did that.

He is a co-author of McCain-Feingold, which I think took a whack at the First Amendment and I do believe, as well, hurt our party pretty significantly. And I think it's made money have an even greater influence in politics today, not less influence.

He also was one of the co-authors of McCain-Kennedy, the first bill, by the way, not that bad. About 5 percent or 10 percent of the people, by our calculation, got a form of amnesty. Most people went home.

Under the final version of McCain-Kennedy, everybody who was here illegally, other than those who committed crimes, was eligible to receive a Z-visa. For $3,000, they got to stay here for the rest of their life. That's not a Republican thought.

And then now McCain-Lieberman, which is a unilateral -- meaning U.S.-only imposed -- cap-and-trade program, which puts a burden, as much as 50 cents a gallon, on gasoline in this country. It basically says Americans are going to pay for the cost of global warming, not the Chinese and Indians and forth.

So those views are outside the mainstream of Republican conservative thought. And I guess I'd also note that, if you get endorsed by the New York Times, you're probably not a conservative.

COOPER: Senator McCain?

MCCAIN: Let me note that I was endorsed by your two hometown newspapers who know you best, including the very conservative Boston Herald...

ROMNEY: I'd say the same thing.

MCCAIN: ... who know you well better than anybody. So I'll guarantee the Arizona Republic will be endorsing me, my friend.

Let me just say I'm proud of my conservative record. It's one of reaching across the aisle to get things done for Americans, obviously, whether it be McCain-Lieberman that established the 9/11 commission, and then the legislation that implemented that, or whether it be working across the aisle in the Armed Services Committee to provide the men and women with what they need to defend this nation.

And I'm proud of that record. And I heard Governor Romney describe his record. As I understand it, his record was that he raised taxes by $730 million. He called them "fees." I'm sure the people that had to pay it, whether they called them bananas, they still had to pay $730 million extra.

His job creation was the third worst in the country, as far as people of Massachusetts with a $245 million debt because of the big government-mandated health care system.

And while the rest of the country was losing 7 percent of the manufacturing jobs while he was governor, 14 percent of the manufacturing jobs left the state of Massachusetts.

So I am proud of my record, and I am proud of reaching across the aisle and getting things done. That's what the American people want us to do.

And the legislation and the activities I've done, particularly in this America's defense, particularly in the fact that I've been involved in every major national security challenge this nation has faced.

And, by the way, I think it would be hard for people like Jack Kemp, and Tom Ridge, former head of the Department of Homeland Security, and Phil Gramm, and all of the long list of conservatives that support me, both governors, conservative governors, and, in fact, your former lieutenant governor, who is spending a lot of time on the campaign trail with us.

But the point is that I'm proud of the people that have surrounded me and are supporting me. And whether they come from one part of the spectrum or the other, strong conservatives are ones who are supporting me, and I'm proud of their support. And I'll rely on people to judge me by the company that I keep.

COOPER: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: OK, I got a little work to do here. Let me help you with the facts here, Senator.

First of all, my lieutenant governor, Kerry Healey, endorsed me, and is supporting me, and is working all over the state for me. My predecessor in office, Governor Swift, Governor Swift is supporting you.

ROMNEY: When you say that our state ranked number three in job creation, the study you're relying upon is a study that included her term in office. And during her term in office, 141,000 jobs were lost.

During my term in office, we added jobs. And from the lowest point we added 60,000 new jobs. So that study, unfortunately, included the wrong data.

With regards to fees, we raised fees $240 million. Not $730 million. Facts are stubborn things. We audited our fee increase, because, of course, we cared.

Now, why did we raise fees $240 million? We had a $3 billion budget shortfall, we decided we were not going to raise taxes, and we found that some fees hadn't been raised in as many as 20 years. These were not broad-based fees for things like getting your driver's license or your license plate for your car, but instead something like the cost of a sign on the interstate and how much it was going to cost to publish a McDonald's or a Burger King sign on the interstate. We went from, like, $200 a sign to $2,000 a sign to raise money for our state in a way that was consistent with the what the market had done over the ensuing years.

And let's see -- with regards to my health care plan, you know, a lot of people talk about health care. I'm the only one that got the job done.

I got health insurance for all our citizens. We had 460,000 people without insurance. We got 300 of them -- 300,000 of them signed up for insurance now. I'm proud of what we accomplished.

The bill that I submitted to the legislature didn't cost $1 more than what we were already spending. However, the legislature and now the new Democratic governor have added some bells and whistles, and they're willing to pay for them.

I wouldn't do that if I were governor. I would veto the items they put in place there, but they're entitled to make changes if they want to.

They're still running a balanced budget. I wouldn't have added the money they did. And by the way, no debt was left. I left a rainy day fund of over $2 billion.

Facts are stubborn things. I'm proud of my record.

COOPER: Governor Huckabee, Rush Limbaugh says if you or Senator McCain were nominated, would be the nominee, you would "destroy the Republican Party."

Your reaction?

HUCKABEE: You know, I wish Rush loved me as much as I love Rush. I think he's a great voice for conservatism. It doesn't mean he's infallible. And on this he's very wrong.

And I want to make sure everybody understands, this isn't a two- man race. There's another guy who would like to stay down here on the far right of the stage.

You want to talk conservative credentials? Let me get in on that.

I created the first-ever broad-based tax cuts in the 160-year history of my state when I became governor with a 90 percent Democrat legislature. I also balanced the budget every one of the 10 and a half years. I'm the only person that's sitting here today that has consistently supported a human life amendment that's been part of our Republican platform since 1980, and also supports the marriage amendment to our Constitution, two conservative hallmarks.

I believe in less government. I believe in lower taxes, not higher.

I think it's important to streamline the federal government like we streamlined some services in Arkansas. Simple things like getting a driver's car tag, because it used to take a couple of days and about seven pieces of paper. We streamlined it so it could be done on the Internet in 4 and a half minutes.

We consolidated state agencies. We cut 11 percent out of the budget.

One of the things that Rush Limbaugh once praised me for was creating what I called the No -- Tax Me More Fund. And the way that worked was that we had a lot of people in our legislature that wanted us to raise taxes. And I said we don't need to raise taxes, we need to cut our spending.

And so I created a fund called the Tax Me More Fund and said there's nothing in the law that says that you can't just pay more if you want to. And I had envelopes printed, and I said, anybody who wants to pay more taxes, just fill it up with whatever will make you feel better and send it right in. And it proved that a whole lot of people didn't really want to pay more taxes after all, because after about a year and a half, there was only about $1,200 in the account, $1,000 of which had been given by a liberal legislator.

So if we're going to talk conservatism, I'd like to be in on the discussion.

COOPER: Let's talk more about that.

Jim VandeHei from Politico.

jJIM VANDEHEI, POLITICO: The first question from the readers, Governor Romney, is from Jonathan Rubin (ph) in Fairfax, Virginia.

"As governor of Massachusetts, Senator McCain just pointed out you raised hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue through so-called fees and loophole closings. You passed a health care bill forcing individuals to buy insurance on the threat of a fine. How do you reconcile that policy with your claim to be the authentic conservative?"

ROMNEY: Well, let's talk about each.

I mentioned fees, and I think it's appropriate if the state is providing a service to someone that's not a requirement to have a car or a driver's license, but instead, let's say, we're going to be taking out an oil tank from your back yard because it's leaking into the ground and the state's going to provide that service. But to charge a fee sufficient to do so makes a lot of sense.

And so the fees ought to be adjusted from time to time to compose the amount of what the cost is of providing that service. And if there hasn't been a fee raised in a couple of decades, you probably have some inflation in there you ought to adjust for.

ROMNEY: But then, secondly, with regards to my health care plan, let me describe what I think is the ultimate conservative approach.

In this country, you have today about 47 million people that don't have health insurance. We went out and tried to find out why they don't. We found out that about half of them could afford to buy insurance if it were reasonably priced. They could afford to buy it, but they weren't buying it. it? If we get sick, we can go to the hospital and get care for free."

And we said: You know what? If somebody could afford insurance, they should either buy the insurance or pay their own way. They don't have to buy insurance if they don't want to, but pay their own way. But they shouldn't be allowed to just show up at the hospital and say, somebody else should pay for me.

And so we said: No more free riders. It was like bringing "workfare" to welfare. We said: If you can afford insurance, then either have the insurance or get a health savings account. Pay your own way, but no more free ride.

And that was what the mandate did. It said, you have got to come with either the insurance or a health savings account or the like.

I think it's the conservative approach, to make sure that people who can afford care are getting it at their expense, not at the expense of the taxpayers and government. That I consider to be a step towards socialism.

COOPER: Our next question is from Janet Hook of the L.A. Times.

HOOK: This is for Senator McCain.

Senator McCain, Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed that California be allowed to implement much tougher environmental regulations on emission requirements than apply to the rest of the country. This is an initiative that conservatives generally oppose, and the Bush administration rejected California's request.

Do you side with the governor or with the Bush administration?

MCCAIN: Well, there's some physical danger. I have to agree...


... with the governor.

Look, I'm a federalist. And I believe the states should decide to enormous degrees what happens within those states, including off their coasts. The people of California have decided they don't want oil drilling off their coasts. The people of Louisiana have decided that they do.

I applaud the governor's efforts and that of other states in this region and other states across America to try to eliminate the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change.

Now, suppose that the governor and I are wrong, and there's no such thing as climate change. And we adopt these green technologies, of which America and the innovative skills we have and the entrepreneurship and the free market which is embodied by Senator Lieberman's and mine cap-and-trade proposal is enacted, and there's no such thing as climate change. Then all we've done is give our kids a cleaner world.

But suppose we do nothing. Suppose we do nothing, and we don't eliminate this $400 billion dependence we have on foreign oil. Some of that money goes to terrorist organizations and also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Then what kind of a world have we given our children?

The state of California and the state of Arizona, we Westerners care very much about our environment and we want to act. And it's no secret that I have disagreed with the Bush administration in not being more active in addressing the issue of climate change, whether it be through cap-and-trade, through tax incentives for R&D for green technologies and many other measures that I think need to be taken.

We are feeling here in California pollution from China. It is a global issue, and we have to address it globally. And I would not agree to any global agreement without India and China being part of it.

But I want to assure you that we have an obligation to try to stem these greenhouse gas emissions. And one of the ways is through the use of nuclear power. The French generate 80 percent of their electricity with nuclear power.

I think that -- by the way, we now have a pro-American president in France, which shows if you live long enough, anything is possible in this world.

But the point is, young Americans care. Californians care. People all over this country care. And we have to address this issue.

We can do it. The greatness and strength of America is in our innovative capability and our ability to develop these green technologies.

General Electric, the world's largest corporation, is committed to green technologies. We can do it.

And to somehow believe that it will cost more money if we unleash the innovative and entrepreneurship of America I think does not have confidence in the ability of Americans to address this issue.

COOPER: Governor Romney, what did you think of Senator McCain's response? And just to remind you, the original question is do you side with Governor Schwarzenegger or with the Bush administration on this issue?

ROMNEY: Well, I side with states to be able to make their own regulations with regards to emissions within their own states.

ROMNEY: But let's talk about our policies with regards to greenhouse gases and global warming.

I think we all agree that America should become energy independent. The consequences of us continuing to buy over $1 billion of oil a day from people who oftentimes use this money against us is bad for our economy; it's bad for our foreign policy; and all that energy being used is probably bad for our environment.

It's probably warming our environment. And we want that to stop. So a unilateral action to get ourselves off of foreign oil makes all the sense in the world.

Nuclear power, biodiesel, biofuel, all the renewables, liquefied coal, where you sequester the carbon dioxide, those things make all the sense in the world.

But when you put in place a new cap or a mandate, and particularly if you don't have any safety valve as to how much the cost of that cap might be, you would impose on the American people, if you do it unilaterally, without involving all the world, you'd impose on the American people a huge new effective tax: 20 percent on utilities, 50 cents a gallon for gasoline -- that's according to the energy information agency -- would be imposed on us.

And here's what happens. I've lived in the business world. I've lived in the real economy for 25 years of my life. What happens if you do that? You put a big burden on energy in this country as the energy-intensive industries say, "We're going to move our new facilities from America to China, where they don't have those agreements."

And you end up polluting and putting just as much CO-2 in the air because the big energy users go there. That's why these ideas make sense, but only on a global basis.

They don't call it "America warming." They call it "global warming." That's why you've got to have a president that understands the real economy.

COOPER: Just so I'm clear, you said you side with the states. That means you side with Governor Schwarzenegger on this one?

ROMNEY: I side with states being able to make their own decisions, even if I don't always agree with the decisions they make.

COOPER: Governor Huckabee?

HUCKABEE: Well, I was a governor 10 1/2 years. I was chairman of the National Governors Association, which means that my fellow governors selected me to chair the organization of all 50 governors.

Let me tell you why I believe that Governor Schwarzenegger ought to be able to carry out the plan, because, if he's right, every other state is going to copy him. And if he's wrong, every other state is going to recruit the jobs that he lost in California to their own states.

The genius of our system has always been that, if you have states acting as laboratories of good government, rather than mess it up for all 50 states, you get the chance to find out, does it work? And if it does, we all copy it, and then we make a little change, and we claim it for our own.

If it doesn't work, we do everything we can to make sure that the jobs that maybe he loses we get in our own state. It's the genius of our founding fathers when they had the idea of federalism. Thomas Jefferson was right, and Alexander Hamilton was wrong. That debate we thought was settled.

But we've got a federal government that wants to give us unfunded mandates at the state level and doesn't want us to experiment with ideas in good government that might solve a lot of the problems that our country faces.

COOPER: Congressman Paul, do you agree with Governor Schwarzenegger on this one?

PAUL: Yes, I think California should do what they want, and we all recognize that. But one thing that hasn't been emphasized here that should be emphasized when we're dealing with the environment and gas house -- you know, greenhouse gases is property rights.

We neglected during the industrial revolution property rights, and governments and big corporations got together and colluded. And that's what has to be reversed. You have to emphasize the property rights.

But I would like to take one minute, since I didn't get a chance to answer this discussion on conservative versus liberal.

COOPER: We're going to have -- I promise you we're going to have -- you're going to have another opportunity to do that. I promise you, coming up in like two minutes or two questions.

I just want to go right now to Janet Hook for a question to Governor Huckabee.

HOOK: Let's turn for a minute to the troubled economy we're trying to deal with. Governor Huckabee, President Bush and some of your opponents on the stage here believe that giving income tax rebates is the best way to stimulate the economy.

You've disagreed and suggested that spending federal highway money to widen I-95 from Bangor to Miami would do more to help the nation's economy. Now, how is that idea different from the big- government projects that we usually associate with Democrats?

HUCKABEE: Well, if we end up with the rebates, we're going to borrow the $150 billion from China. And when we turn it into rebates, most people are going to go out and buy some consumables like a pair of shoes that they probably don't even need, but they're going to buy them, and they're most likely an import from China. My point is, whose economy are we stimulating when we do that?

The Heritage Foundation did a pretty interesting study on past rebates and found that it does not really stimulate the economy in the way that we hope that it will.

My point was that if you really want an economic stimulus package, look at what infrastructure investment does. And we've got a crumbling infrastructure. I don't have to tell the people of California that their traffic is clogged. And the reason that we have a problem is that because we're not addressing it.

Every billion dollars we spend on highway construction results in 47,500 jobs. But the fact is the average American is sitting in traffic 38 hours a year.

HUCKABEE: That's a full work week, not on vacation, not spent with their kids, stuck in traffic, just sitting there behind the wheel, pointing fingers, usually one at a time, at other motorists and very upset with what's going on around them in this traffic.

The point is we are burning a lot of fuel up in the air, polluting the environment. We're wasting time. Parents never get home to their kids' soccer games and recitals. And the real said thing is we have bridges falling down on people in the United States of America.

Now, my point is, and it's not necessarily just I-95 from Bangor to Miami, I said that when I was in Florida. Today we might look at a western highway that would go down the California coast.

But my point is that infrastructure in this country has been neglected, whether it's our airports, our bridges, our roads, and I don't think there's a governor in this state that wouldn't tell you that you'll create more jobs and you'll build it with American workers, American concrete and American steel.

That's stimulus.

COOPER: Let's ask the other governor on the stage. Governor Romney, what do you think about that?

ROMNEY: There's no question but that investment in infrastructure makes enormous sense for our country. It's good for business, it's good for the economy, and as the governor that watched the completion -- well, almost the completion of the big dig, I think that was -- I don't know how many governors watched that $15 billion project.

They do create a lot of good jobs and they help our economy. They're great things. But, unfortunately, a road project isn't going to stimulate the economy to the timeframe we have right now at the tipping point. And that's...

COOPER: Was the big dig good, by the way?

ROMNEY: As someone once said, at least badly, of course. So someone has remarked that it's the biggest car was in America and most expensive, too.

It's solved a problem, but it cost way too much money to do. It was very badly managed.

But that being said, an economic stimulus plan has to put money in the hands of consumers and businesses and homeowners now and the reason we're asking Congress to move within 30 days is we want to get that out there now so the economy doesn't tip down.

Building a road project, you have to get designs, you have eminent domain, you get the engineers to approve it. It takes years and years and years to get a road project. So it's a wonderful idea, but it's not related to the short-term economic stimulus.

COOPER: Congressman Paul?

PAUL: Well, you know, the governor says that you have to borrow for a handout of a check from the Chinese. Where are you going to get the money to build the highway?

Same old thing. We have a foreign policy where we blow up bridges overseas and then we tax the people to go over and rebuild the bridges overseas and our bridges are falling down and our infrastructure is falling down.

So, yes, this money should be spent back here at home. We have a $1 trillion foreign operation to operate our empire. That's where the money is. You can't keep borrowing from China. You can't keep printing the money.

We have to cut some spending. That's what nobody here talks about. Where do you cut spending if you want to spend some money? We need lower taxes, less regulations, and we need to free up the market.

We can't expect the government to do everything. We have to faith and confidence that the market works, but you can't do any of that unless you look at the monetary system.

COOPER: Next question to Senator McCain from Jim Vandehei.

VANDEHEI: We're staying on the economy here. As you well know, foreclosures last year were up 75 percent. A lot of people are losing homes. A lot of people who have adjustable rate mortgages are about to have them adjust up.

Amanda Oro (ph) from Casey, Illinois wants to know if you have a plan to help people with bad credit get lower interest rates so they can keep those homes and avoid foreclosure.

MCCAIN: Yes, and it's tough and it's tough here in California, it's tough in Arizona, it's tough particularly all over, but it's very tough particularly in the high growth states.

And I think the efforts that have been made so far are laudable. We may have to go further, but the fact that the FHA and the other organizations of government under Secretary Paulson's direction, and I think he is doing a good job of sitting down and fixing at least a significant number of these problems.

I think that we've got to return to the principal that you don't lend money that can't pay it back. I think that there's some greedy people on Wall Street that perhaps need to be punished. I think there's got to be a huge amount more of transparency as to how this whole thing came about so we can prevent it from happening again.

When a town on Norway is somehow affected by the housing situation in the United States of America, we've gotten ourselves into a very interesting dilemma.

If necessary, we're going to have to take additional actions and particularly in cleaning up a mortgage. A mortgage should be one page and there should be big letters at the bottom that says, "I understand this document."

We ought to adjust the mortgages so people who were eligible for better terms, but were somehow convinced to accept the mortgages which were more onerous on them. We need to fix the rating systems, which clearly were erroneous in their ratings, which led people to believe that there were these institutions which were stable, which clearly were not.

MCCAIN: So I think what we've done so far is good. I think we may have to take further steps if this subprime lending situation continues to be serious.

And finally, could I just mention on the issue of rebates, fine, because part of this is psychological. Part of the problem we have, of course, in any recession is psychological. And I'm still optimistic that nothing is inevitable.

I still rely on the innovation and the talent of the United States of America. But we've got to make the tax cuts permanent. We need to get rid of the Alternative Minimum Tax.

We need to give people a depreciation in one year for their business and investment. We need to encourage research and development and tax credits that are associated with it.

And we've got to stop spending. We've got to stop -- one place where Ron Paul and I are in total agreement, spending is out of control. And I'm tired of borrowing money from China.

COOPER: Let's pick up on that with Janet Hook from the Los Angeles Times.


HOOK: Senator McCain, you're talking about making the tax cuts permanent. And as Governor Romney pointed out before, you opposed the Bush tax cuts the first time around.

Now, more recently you've been saying that the reason why you opposed the tax cuts at first was because they weren't offset by spending cuts. But back when you actually voted against the tax cuts in Congress, you said you opposed them because they favored the wealthy too much.

So which is it? And if they were too skewed to the wealthy at first, are they still too skewed to the wealthy?

MCCAIN: Actually, I think lower and middle income Americans need more help. Obviously, I think that's the case today. That's one reason why we're giving them rebates.

I was part of the Reagan revolution. I was there with Jack Kemp and Phil Gramm and Warren Rudman and all these other fighters that wanted to change a terrible economic situation in America with 10 percent unemployment and 20 percent interest rates. I was proud to be a foot soldier, support those tax cuts, and they had spending restraints associated with it.

I made it very clear when I ran in 2000 that I had a package of tax cuts which were very important and very impactful, but I also had restraints in spending. And I disagreed when spending got out of control. And I disagreed when we had tax cuts without spending restraint.

And guess what? Spending got out of control. Republicans lost the 2006 election not over the war in Iraq, over spending. Our base became disenchanted.

If we had done what I wanted to do, we would not only have had the spending restraint, but we'd be talking about additional tax cuts today. I'm proud of my record. I'm proud of my record as a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution, and now I'm prepared to lead in restraining spending.

COOPER: Governor Romney, what do you think of Senator McCain's response?

ROMNEY: I appreciate his response and appreciate the fact he was part of the Reagan revolution. I think that the Bush revolution and the downturn that we faced when he came in office suggested that we needed a tax cut.

There's no question in my mind that Ronald Reagan would have said sign it and vote for it. And Senator McCain was one of two that did not. And again, the justification at the time was because it represents a tax cut for the rich.

I believe in getting rates down. I think that builds our economy.

When we talk about spending, however, I hope people in the country understand that most people in Washington, most politicians, generally want to talk about the $2 and $3 and $4 relative items. And they want to talk about the big one.

Right now, federal spending is about 60 percent for entitlements -- Social security, Medicare and Medicaid. And that's growing like crazy. It will be 70 percent entitlements, plus interest, by the time of the next president's second term.

And then the military is about 20 percent today. No one is talking about cutting the military, we ought to grow it.

So people talk about the 20 percent and how we have to go after that 20 percent. There's not enough in the 20 percent to go after if we don't go after the entitlement problem.

And you listen to all the folks running for president, no one wants to talk about it. But we have to talk about it.

We have to put together a plan that says we're going to rein in the excessive growth in those areas, promising to meet the obligations we made to seniors. We're not going to change the deal on seniors, but we're going to have to change the deal for 20 and 30 and 40-year- olds, or we're going to bankrupt our country.

COOPER: Let's talk about another issue which a lot of Americans watching tonight, immigration.

And Jim VandeHei has a question.

VANDEHEI: Obviously, we're here in California, where one-third of the population is Hispanic, Latino. Immigration has been a huge issue in this campaign from the beginning.

Governor Huckabee, Brian Berry (ph) of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, wants to know, "In order to curb illegal immigration, do you support making changes in the law that would give citizenship only to children who are born to parents who are legally in this country at the time the child is born?"

HUCKABEE: I think the Supreme Court has already ruled on that. The real issue is, that doesn't fix the problem.

HUCKABEE: What we've got to do is to have a secure border fence, something I have proposed that we do within 18 months of taking office.

If we don't have a secure fence and have just this open door that people can come in and out at will, we're never going to deal with this issue effectively and responsibly.

And today, many Americans are angry not that people want to come here -- and I've repeatedly said and I'm going to say it again -- people in this country I think are grateful to God they're in a land that people are trying to break into and not one they're trying to break out of.

So it's not that we're building a fence so we can keep our people in or keep people out, but that people who do come here would have to come legally.

And touching the issue of those born here is not the challenge. It's two things. It's first making sure that that fence is built, I think within 18 months. And the second thing is that we have a process where the people who are here would have to go to the back of the line and start over.

And it's not to be cruel. I want to make sure you understand. It's to make that everybody who is living in our boundaries has their head up and lives in the light, not the darkness, and doesn't run and hide every time they see a police car.

We owe it not just to the people who have waited in line a long time. We owe it to the people who do want to live here and work here, but create a system that is legal, that makes sense, and that actually protects our borders but protects the dignity and worth of every person.

VANDEHEI: Governor Romney, I interviewed you in New Hampshire a couple of weeks ago and we talked a little bit about illegal immigration. You've taken a very hard stance against illegal immigration. You said at the time that you felt that there's, for a lot of illegal immigrants who are here, under your plan, we could deport many of them within 90 days. How could that happen? How could we do it that quickly?

ROMNEY: I think you may be confusing me with somebody else, but perhaps not. Let me tell you what my plan is.

VANDEHEI: At the time -- I can just give you the quote if you like. You said that "many of those could be deported immediately," but that would allow slower deportation process for those with thought as quickly as 90 days.

ROMNEY: My plan is this, which is for those that have come here illegally and are here illegally today, no amnesty.

Now, how do people return home? Under the ideal setting, at least in my view, you say to those who have just come in recently, we're going to send you back home immediately, we're not going to let you stay here. You just go back home.

For those that have been here, let's say, five years, and have kids in school, you allow kids to complete the school year, you allow people to make their arrangements, and allow them to return back home.

Those that have been here a long time, with kids that have responsibilities here and so forth, you let stay enough time to organize their affairs and go home.

But the key is this: These individuals are free to get in line with everyone else that wants to become a permanent resident or citizen. But no special pathway, no special deal that says because you're here illegally, you get to stay here for the rest of your life.

And that's what I found to be so offensive with the Z visa, which was in the McCain-Kennedy bill. It said to all illegal aliens, unless you're a criminal, you're all allowed to stay here for $3,000 for the rest of your life. And that's a mistake.

In my view, let us have a fixed period of time -- 90 days for some, depending on their circumstances, others longer, to the end of the school year -- even longer potentially. Do it in a humane and compassionate way, but say to those who have come here legally, you must return home, you must get in line with everybody else that wants to come here.

There are millions throughout the world who want to come to this country legally. It's a wonderful privilege. But those that have come here illegally should not be given a better deal.

I was just at the swearing in of some 700 citizens just a day or two ago in Tampa, Florida, and it was a thrilling thing to see these folks coming out, shaking their hands. People who come here legally are a great source of vitality and strength for our country.

COOPER: Let's follow up...

ROMNEY: But illegal immigration, that's got to end.

COOPER: Janet Hook with the L.A. Times with a follow-up question.


HOOK: Senator McCain, let me just take the issue to you, because you obviously have been very involved in it. During this campaign, you, like your rivals, have been putting the first priority, heaviest emphasis on border security. But your original immigration proposal back in 2006 was much broader and included a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who were already here.

What I'm wondering is -- and you seem to be downplaying that part. At this point, if your original proposal came to a vote on the Senate floor, would you vote for it?

MCCAIN: It won't. It won't. That's why we went through the debate...

HOOK: But if it did?

MCCAIN: No, it would not, because we know what the situation is today. The people want the border secured first. And so to say that that would come to the floor of the Senate -- it won't. We went through various amendments which prevented that ever -- that proposal.

But, look, we're all in agreement as to what we need to do. Everybody knows it. We can fight some more about it, about who wanted this or who wanted that. But the fact is, we all know the American people want the border secured first.

MCCAIN: We will secure the borders first when I am president of the United States. I know how to do that. I come from a border state, where we know about building walls, and vehicle barriers, and sensors, and all of the things necessary.

I will have the border state governors certify the borders are secured. And then we will move onto the other aspects of this issue, probably as importantly as tamper-proof biometric documents, which then, unless an employer hires someone with those documents, that employer will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And that will cause a lot of people to leave voluntarily.

There's 2 million people who are here who have committed crimes. They have to be rounded up and deported.

And we're all basically in agreement there are humanitarian situations. It varies with how long they've been here, et cetera, et cetera.

We are all committed to carrying out the mandate of the American people, which is a national security issue, which is securing the borders. That was part of the original proposal, but the American people didn't trust or have confidence in us that we would do it.

So we now know we have to secure the borders first, and that is what needs to be done. That's what I'll do as president of the United States.

COOPER: So I just want to confirm that you would not vote for your bill as it originally was?

MCCAIN: My bill will not be voted on; it will not be voted on. I will sit and work with Democrats and Republicans and with all people. And we will have the principals securing the borders first.

And then, if you want me to go through the description all over again, I would be glad to. We will secure the borders first. That's the responsibility and the priority of the American people.

COOPER: Actually, we're going to be taking a short break. But before we do, one other question.

This one goes to Governor Huckabee. On July 6, 1981, which is actually Nancy Reagan's birthday, Ronald Reagan wrote in his diary about Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. And the Reagan Library has graciously allowed us to actually have the original Reagan diary right here on the desk. I'm a little too nervous to actually even touch it, but that is the Ronald Reagan's original diary.

And in it, he wrote by his hand, he said, "Called Judge O'Connor in Arizona and told her she was my nominee for Supreme Court. Already the flak is starting, and from my own supporters. Right-to-life people say she's pro-abortion. She declares abortion is personally repugnant to her. I think she'll make a good justice."

That's Ronald Reagan's words from his own book. Governor Huckabee, was she the right choice?

HUCKABEE: History will have to determine that, and I'm not going to come to the Reagan Library and say anything about Ronald Reagan's decisions. I'm not that stupid. If I was, I'd have no business being president.

I think we need to talk about why the issue of right-to-life is important. For many of us, this is not a political issue; this is an issue of principle and conviction. And it goes to the heart of who we are as a country.

If we value each other as human beings and believe that everybody has equal worth, and that that intrinsic value is not affected by net worth, or ancestry, or last name, or job description, or ability, or disability, then the issue of the sanctity of human life is far bigger than just being anti-abortion.

It's about being pro-life and exercising that deep conviction held by our founding fathers that all of us are equal and no one is more equal than another, recognizing that once we ever decide that some people are more equal or less equal than others, then we start moving that line, and it may include us some day.

And that's why for many of us -- and me included. Let me be very clear: I'm pro-life. I value every human being. And I would always make every decision always on the side of life every time I could, without equivocation.

COOPER: Yes or no, Congressman Paul, was Sandra Day O'Connor the right choice?

PAUL: I wouldn't have appointed her, because I would have looked for somebody that I would have seen as a much stricter constitutionalist.

COOPER: Senator McCain?

MCCAIN: I'm proud of Sandra Day O'Connor as a fellow Arizonan. And my heart goes out to her family in that situation that they have today. And I'm proud of her.

The judges I would appoint are along the lines of Justices Roberts and Alito, who have a proven record of strict interpretation of the Constitution of the United States of America. I'm not going to second-guess President Reagan.

COOPER: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: I would approve justices -- I would have favored justices like Roberts and Alito, Scalia and Thomas. I like justices that follow the Constitution, do not make law from the bench. I would have much rather had a justice of that nature.

COOPER: We're going to pause for a quick commercial break. The debate continues when we return.


COOPER: And welcome back to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, our continuing debate.

We have about a little bit more than 30 minutes left to go. A lot of questions to get to, so let's get started.

This first one to Governor Romney.

Peggy Noonan, President Bush's former -- excuse me, President Reagan's former speechwriter, recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal, and I quote, "George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party, by which I mean he sundered it, broke its constituent pieces apart, and set them against each other. He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration, and other issues."

Is the Republican Party better off than it was eight years ago?

ROMNEY: I don't think we would say it's better off than it was eight years ago, to be truthful. I think the eight years that you've seen -- and I don't blame that on President Bush. I blame that on Washington.

I look at what he tried to do. He took on some tough issues. He took on Social Security, for instance, put forward a plan to reform Social Security, and the other side of the aisle said, "What, me, worry? "We've got no problem." And they were unwilling to become engaged and take that on.

He was hit by something which completely took his agenda off course, and that was the Iraq conflict and the attack of 9/11, and Afghanistan. All these things came together.

He did something for our party that was important to do, which is to show that when someone attacks America, there will be consequences. And he kept us safe these last six years. And...


And that's a very important legacy that he left for the Republican Party in a positive way. And I watched with horror as I watched the Democratic candidates for president all having a competition. get out?" It was very clear in the answer of all three candidates getting out was more important than winning, and they're wrong. And I'm pleased that this president has stood for strength.

There are places, however, that I think you look and say we have weakened ourselves. One is with regards to spending.

We have overspent in Washington. Even discretionary funds have gone up well above inflation. I count the inflation less 1 percent, but that was a problem.

We did not deal with entitlements. He tried. He did not get the support he needed.

He did fight for better schools. I think No Child Left Behind takes the ball forward, not backward.


ROMNEY: So we made some progress. But we're in the house that Reagan built. It's important that we, as Republicans, stay in the house that Reagan built. If we want to take the White House again, social, economic and foreign policy conservatives have to come together.

COOPER: Let's talk about foreign policy. You're all going to be able to weigh in on the question of Iraq.


Let's go right now to Janet for the first question.

HOOK: Yes. I'd like to start with Governor Romney.

Obviously, Iraq is still a major issue in this campaign, and over the last few days there's been a real back-and-forth going on here. Senator McCain has said over and over again that you supported a timetable for a phased withdrawal from Iraq.

Is that true?

ROMNEY: Absolutely, unequivocal -- if I can get that word out -- unequivocably, absolutely no. I have never, ever supported a specific timetable for exit from Iraq.

ROMNEY: And it's offensive to me that someone would suggest that I have.

And I have noted that everyone from Time magazine to Bill Bennett over there to actually CNN's own analysts, he said it was a lie and it's absolutely wrong.

I do not support that, never have. We've had -- we've -- and Senator McCain pointed to an interview I had back in April with ABC, when I said that our president and their prime minister should have timetables and milestones.

We have timetables and milestones for progress that we're making together. But I never suggested a date specific to withdraw and, were to give you a date specific for withdrawal, would you, Senator, veto it?" I said I'd veto it.

I'm opposed to setting a specific date for withdrawal. By the way, we've had, since that time, 10-12 debates. Senator McCain never raised that question in any of those debates.

If he ever wondered what my position was, he could have raised it. I instead have pointed out time and time again, and let me make it absolutely clear again tonight, I will not pull our troops out until we have brought success in Iraq, and that means, for me, that we do not have safe havens for al Qaeda or Hezbollah or anyone else, that our troops have secured the population from that kind of threat, that they will not have safe havens from which they could launch attacks against us.

And if there's any misunderstanding, those words should make it perfectly clear, as have every single debate that I've attended...

COOPER: Senator...

ROMNEY: ... 15 debates. I do not propose nor have I ever proposed a public or secret date for withdrawal. It's just simply wrong.

And by the way, raising it a few days before the Florida primary, when there was very little time for me to correct the record, when the date of withdrawal," sort of falls in the kind of dirty tricks that I think Ronald Reagan would have found to be reprehensible.


COOPER: Senator McCain, tough words.

MCCAIN: Well, of course, he said he wanted a timetable. Before that, we have to understand that we lost the 2006 election and the Democrats thought that they had a mandate. They thought they had a mandate to get us out of Iraq.

And I was prepared to sacrifice whatever was necessary in order to stand up for what I believed in.

Now, in December of 2006, after the election, Governor Romney was won't weigh in. I'm a governor."

At the time, he didn't want to weigh in because he was a governor, I was out there on the front lines with my friends saying, "We not only can't withdraw, but we've got to have additional troops over there in order for us to have a chance to succeed."

Then in April, April was a very interesting year (sic) in 2007. That's when Harry Reid said the war is lost and we've got to get out. And the buzzword was "timetables, timetables."

Governor, the right answer to that question was "no," not what you said, and that was we don't want to have them lay in the weeds until we leave and Maliki and the president should enter into some kind of agreement for, quote, "timetables."

"Timetables" was the buzzword for the...

ROMNEY: Why don't you use the whole quote, Senator?

MCCAIN: ... withdrawal. That...

ROMNEY: Why don't you use the whole quote? Why do you insist on...

MCCAIN: I'm using the whole quote, where you said "I won't"...

ROMNEY: ... not using the actual quote? That's not what I said.

MCCAIN: The actual quote is, "We don't want them to lay in the weeds until we leave." That is the actual quote and I'm sure...

ROMNEY: What does that mean?

MCCAIN: ... fact-checkers --

ROMNEY: What is the meaning?

MCCAIN: It means a timetable until we leave.

ROMNEY: Listen, Senator, let's...

COOPER: Let me jump in, because the quote that I have...

ROMNEY: Is it not fair -- is it not fair to have the person who's being accused of having a position he doesn't have be the expert on what his position is?

How is it that you're the expert on my position, when my position has been very clear?


I'll tell you, this is...

MCCAIN: I'm the expert. I'm the expert on this. When you said...

ROMNEY: This is the kind -- this is the kind -- this is...

MCCAIN: ... "I won't weigh in. I'm a governor." You couldn't weigh in because you were a governor...

ROMNEY: That's a separate point.

MCCAIN: ... back when we were having the fight over it.

ROMNEY: That's a separate point.

MCCAIN: The fact is...

ROMNEY: That's a separate point.

MCCAIN: ... that I have fought for this surge. I have said we need to have this succeed. I know the situation in Iraq and I am proud to have supported this president and supported the fact that we are succeeding in Iraq today.

ROMNEY: There's...

MCCAIN: If we had done -- if we had waited and laid in the weeds until we leave, then al Qaeda would have won and we would be facing a disastrous situation in the...

COOPER: There's two separate issues being discussed...

MCCAIN: ... today.

COOPER: ... and I just want to clarify both of them. First of all...

MCCAIN: These are...

COOPER: ... Senator McCain...

MCCAIN: ... quotes that I am giving you that are direct quotes.

COOPER: So, Senator McCain, the quote is from Governor Romney on GMA that you've been quoting. The actual quote is, "Well, there's no question that the president and Prime Minister al-Maliki have to have a series of timetables and milestones"...

MCCAIN: Timetables and milestones.

COOPER: ... "that they speak about, but those shouldn't be for public pronouncement. You don't want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you're going to be gone."

MCCAIN: You don't have to...

COOPER: He does not say he is supporting a withdrawal.

MCCAIN: ... wait until the enemy lays in the weeds until we leave. That means that we were leaving.

COOPER: It's open to interpretation.

MCCAIN: If we weren't leaving, how could the enemy lay in the weeds?


ROMNEY: Senator, if you have question on this, if you have a question on this, you can just ask it.

MCCAIN: I'm sorry you did not have -- could not weigh in as governor on the surge when it was the critical issue. And I'm sorry...


COOPER: ... so let me just allow you to respond to the issue of the going to be gone, laying in the weeds question.

MCCAIN: Timetables was the buzzword for those that wanted to get out.



COOPER: And you're saying, point blank, you did not want to get out then. What did you mean by that statement?

ROMNEY: That we have a series of timetables and milestones for working on the progress that they're making, the progress we're making, the rule of law, what their soldiers are doing, what our soldiers are doing.


ROMNEY: How many troops they're able to recruit, how well the following question, "do you have a specific time, would you support Congress if they gave you a specific time?" I said "absolutely not."

COOPER: Let me -- OK, on the...

ROMNEY: By the way, this has been around. If this was a question, it could have been raised in April or May.

COOPER: On the second issue...

ROMNEY: But it was raised...


COOPER: I want to give you an opportunity...

MCCAIN: It was raised many times. I raised it many times, as to whether you have the experience and the judgment to lead this country in the war against radical Islamic extremism. I've raised that many times.

ROMNEY: Senator McCain...

MCCAIN: And I will continue to raise it.

COOPER: I want to give you, Governor Romney...


COOPER: ... a chance to respond to the other accusation.


COOPER: All right. Let's just focus on this, the second one, which is the issue that Senator McCain raised, which was actually back in the surge, when you were a governor, and you did say you would not take a position.

This was in January -- excuse me -- December of 2006. Two months later, you announced you were running for president.

Why two months before you were running for president were you not willing to take a position on supporting or not supporting a surge?

ROMNEY: Look, as governor of the state, there are a lot of issues of a federal nature that I didn't take a position on. I was running a state. My responsibility was for running a state. When I became a governor, I took a whole series of positions on national issues. That's normal and natural.

With regard to the surge, the briefing that I received -- I received an early briefing from Fred Kagan on the size of our military. After I received that, I said I support increasing our military by at least 100,000. And then just prior to the president's announcement of the surge, I spoke again with Fred Kagan, and he laid out the philosophy of the surge, his vision for it. As you know, many consider him one of the authors of the surge idea. And when he gave me that report, I met with my staff and announced that day that I supported a surge. The president announced later that day the entire program.

So I supported it as a candidate for president, No. 1.

No. 2, with regards to this idea that I favor a specific date for withdrawal -- I do not. We've had, I believe since that interview that the senator quotes, we've had 10 or 12 debates. He's never raised that issue with me. He's never said, "are you for a date specific?" had, I said I will not leave Iraq until we have secured Iraq, make sure it will never become a safe haven.

And what's interesting here is it's an attempt to do the Washington-style old politics, which is lay a charge out there, regardless of whether it's true or not, don't check it, don't talk to the other candidate, just throw it out there, get it in the media and the stream.

There's not a single media source that I've seen that hasn't said it wasn't reprehensible. Even the New York Times said it was wrong. The Washington Post -- they endorsed you -- The Washington Post gave you three Pinocchios for it. It's simply -- it's simply wrong, and the senator knows it.

COOPER: I want to give, Senator, final comment on this subject, and then we have a lot more about Iraq that we are going to talk to the other candidates about as well.


MCCAIN: ... in the debate. It wasn't -- it wasn't -- and when he said what he said in December, it was after the election. President Bush fired Rumsfeld, and we announced that we are going to have a new strategy. That was the critical time.

Timetables was the buzzwords. Timetables were the ones.

And as far as Washington politics is concerned, I think my friend Governor Huckabee, sir, will attest the millions of dollars of attack ads and negative ads you leveled against him in Iowa, the millions of dollars of attack ads you have attacked against me in New Hampshire, and have ever since.

A lot of it is your own money. You're free to do with it what you want to. You can spend it all. But the fact is that...


... your negative ads, my friend, have set the tone, unfortunately, in this campaign.

I say to you again: The debate after the election of 2006 was whether we were going to have timetables for withdrawal or not. Timetables were the buzzword. That was the Iraq Study Group. That was what the Democrats said we wanted to do.

Your answer should have been no.

COOPER: I want to go to Jim VandeHei with a question for, I believe, Congressman Paul.

VANDEHEI: Congressman Paul, this comes from Jay Majumdar (ph) from Roswell, Georgia. And he wants to know if you agree with Senator McCain's statement that the United States might need to have U.S. troops in Iraq for as long as even 100 years?

PAUL: I don't even think they should have gone, so keeping them for 100 years, where's the money going to come from?


You know, the country is in bankruptcy. And when I listen to this argument, I mean, I find it rather silly, because they're arguing technicalities of a policy they both agree with.

They agreed with going in; they agreed for staying, agreed for staying how many years? And these are technicalities. We should be debating foreign policy, whether we should have interventionism or non-interventionism, whether we should be defending this country or whether we should be the policemen of the world, whether we should be running our empire or not, and how are going to have guns and butter?

You know, the '70s were horrible because we paid for the guns and butters of the '60s. Now we're doing the same thing. And nobody even seems to care. The dollar is crashing, and you're talking about these technicalities about who said what when?

I mean, in 1952, we Republicans were elected to stop the war in Korea. In 1968, we were elected to stop the war in Vietnam. And, tragically, we didn't stop it very fast: 30,000 more men died.

So when I talk about these long-term stays, I think, "How many men are you willing to let die for this, for something that has nothing to do with our national security?"

There were no al Qaeda there. It had nothing do with 9/11. And there was no threat to our national security. They never committed aggression. It's unconstitutional. It's an undeclared war.

And we have these silly arguments going on about who said what when. I think it's time to debate foreign policy and why we don't follow the Constitution and only go to war with a declaration of war.


COOPER: Governor Huckabee, the idea of a 100-year involvement of the U.S. -- the idea of a 100-year involvement by the U.S. in Iraq?

HUCKABEE: Well, first of all, I didn't come here to umpire a ballgame between these two. I came here to get a chance to swing at a few myself. So I'd appreciate maybe a question that we could talk about that would involve some of us down here at the end who've been left out of the discussion for the last few minutes.

COOPER: The question right now is John McCain had at one point talked about a 100-year involvement by the U.S. in Iraq as being OK. If it does...

HUCKABEE: Let's hope it doesn't take that long, but the one thing I do agree with is that we need to leave with victory, and we need to leave with honor.

And the reason we need to is because, if we leave a bigger mess in Iraq than is there now, it is not just going to affect Iraq. It's going to affect the rest of the Middle East. It will erupt in a completely destabilized environment into which that vacuum is exactly the kind of situation that al Qaeda can build a strong base.

Iran would love to be able to see a destabilized Iraq, because they've been fighting in Iraq and for Iraq for a long time. If we leave it vulnerable, all we've done is create a situation that the rest of the world is going to have to be back into sooner or later for all of our interests.

And with all due respect, Congressman Paul -- and I do think you're right, we don't want to be there for 100 years -- but however long it takes to get out of there with victory and with honor, we owe it to those who have gone to make sure that they did not go in vain.

And we need to make sure that future sons and daughters of America don't have to go back and do it over.

COOPER: Also, for accuracy's sake, I just want to point out Senator McCain was talking about 100-year involvement in the same way as the U.S. being involved in South Korea, not at the current situation that it is now.

Janet Hook, you have another question on foreign policy for Governor Huckabee.

HOOK: I have another one for you, Governor Huckabee.

MCCAIN: You're not going to let me address the quote that you attributed to me?

COOPER: All right, fine, if you could briefly.

MCCAIN: Thank you. It's a false argument. It's a false argument. We are going to be there for some period of time, but it's American casualties, not American presence.

We've got troops right next door in Kuwait. We'll probably have them there for a long time. We have troops in Bosnia. We've had troops in South Korea for some 50 years. By the way, President Eisenhower didn't bail us out of Korea.

But the point is that we need to protect America's national security interest. It's not a matter of presence. It's a matter of casualties.

We are succeeding. We are succeeding. And I unequivocally put my career and my political fortunes on the line and unequivocally said we're going to support this surge. We're not going to talk about timetables or anything else; we're going to talk about winning and what's necessary to win.

And I'm the only one that said that Rumsfeld had to go and the Petraeus strategy is the one that can succeed. That's because I have the experience, the knowledge, and the judgment.

And I believe that Americans will come home with honor. And the fact is -- and the fact is that it's not American presence, because America, as the world's superpower, is going to have to be a lot of places in the world. It's how they come home.

And as president, I will follow in this tradition of sticking to my principles no matter what and bring our troops home with honor.

COOPER: Janet Hook from the Los Angeles Times.


HOOK: OK. Governor Huckabee, we're going to shower you with questions now, OK?

HUCKABEE: Well, good. I'd like to be here tonight. Thank you.


HOOK: President Bush once said he looked into the eyes of Russian President Vladimir Putin and found him to be, "very straightforward and trustworthy," and that he "got a sense of his soul." Senator McCain says he looks into Putin's eyes and he sees three letters -- KGB.

When you look at President Putin, what do you see?

HUCKABEE: Well, I don't know that I can read people's souls that well, and I've spent a lot of my life looking at people and talking to them. But I look at people's actions, because you can look into their eyes and their eyes can lie, but their actions don't.

And when people take actions that cause us to give concern to human rights violations, to oppression -- and I don't care what their eyes are saying -- their actions are speaking a whole lot louder than their eyes ever will. And we need to be looking at what people are doing, not just what they're saying, and recognizing that our foreign policy needs to reflect an extraordinary strength.

We need to make sure that the rest of the world knows that we're going to have a military that they're not wanting to engage for any purpose. And I do believe that President Reagan was right, you have peace through strength, not vulnerability.

We've got to an Army that is well-staffed, well-trained, well- financed, and that is prepared for anything. And hopefully because it is so well-prepared, it never has to be used.

We can't continue to have one that is stretched and pulled, and particularly -- and I'm very sensitive to this having been a governor and watched some of our National Guard troops spend three out of five years in active duty -- if we're going to engage them, we have to make sure we've got enough troop strength of regular Army and our Air Force and Navy that we don't have to have extended deployments out of our guard and reserve units.

COOPER: Governor Huckabee -- excuse me -- Governor Romney, your thoughts on Vladimir Putin?

ROMNEY: Well, Putin is heading down the same road that we've seen authoritarian leaders in Russia and the former Soviet Union head down before, and it's very troubling. You see a leader who wants to reestablish Russia as one of the great powers of the world, potentially a superpower, potentially the superpower.

And he has -- the evidence of that, of course, is his elimination of the free press, his terrorizing and imprisoning political prisoners, and unexplained murders that are occurring. It's a -- it's another repressive regime, which he is overseeing. And the question is what do you in a circumstance like that and what it portends for the future of the world.

What we have today in the world is four major, if you will, strategies at play. One, they're the nations with the energy, like Russia. They're trying to use energy as a way to take over the world.

Then there's China, which is saying we're going to use communism, plus sort of a Wild West form of a free enterprise. We're going to give nuclear weapons -- or nuclear technology to the Iranians, we're going to buy oil from the Sudanese. You've got China.

Then you've got al Qaeda, which says we want to bring everybody down.

And then finally there's us, the only major power in the world that says we believe in free enterprise and freedom for the individual. And this great battle is going on right now, and it's essential for us to strengthen other friends like ourselves, and to confront one by one these other strategies and help turn them towards modernity so that the world our kids inherent does not have to know war.

Will there be war? Of course there will always be terrible events in the world. But let's do everything in our power to keep war from occurring. Move these voices of moderation and having such strength in our own military that people never question our ability to respond.

COOPER: Some questions about leadership now -- Janet Hook.

HOOK: I want to start with Senator McCain.

There's been a lot of discussion lately about the importance of leadership and management experience. What makes you more qualified than Mitt Romney, a successful CEO and businessman, to manage our economy?

MCCAIN: Because I know how to lead. I know how to lead.

I led the largest squadron in the United States Navy. And I did it out of patriotism, not for profit.

And I can hire lots of managers, but leadership is a quality that people look for.

And I have the vision and the knowledge and the background to take on the transcendent issue of the 21st century, which is radical Islamic extremism. I've been involved in every single major national security crisis since -- in the last 20 years. I'm proud to have played a role in those, and I'm proud to have played a role in making sure that we didn't raise the white flag and surrender in Iraq, as the Democrats wanted us to do and we would have done if we had set timetables for a withdrawal.

So, the fact is -- so the fact is that I have the qualifications and the knowledge and the background and the judgment. I don't need any on-the-job training.

MCCAIN: I had the great honor of serving this country in uniform for 22 years.

I had the great honor of being inspired while I was in the prison camps of North Vietnam by the news of a governor and his wife who cared very much about those of us who were in captivity.

And when I came home, I was inspired by him, and I voted for him, and I supported him, and I was proud to be a leader in the Reagan revolution -- I mean, a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution, as we fought these wars together with unshakable courage and principle. And I'm prepared to follow in his tradition and in his footsteps.

COOPER: Governor Romney, I've got to let you in on this. Is Senator McCain a better leader in terms of the economy?

ROMNEY: No. He's a fine man and a man I respect, and I particularly respect his service in the military and his integrity and courage for our nation.

I do believe that as people over the centuries have considered who ought to lead our country, they don't look to senators. They look to governors. And they look to governors because they have the experience of being executive leaders.

They're actually leading something. They're making something happening. They're running something. They're leading an organization.

Senators and congressmen are fine people, but they're legislators. They sit in committees. They're committee chairs. And they call that leadership.

In my view, the key leadership of my life was 25 years in the private sector, helping build business, turn a business around, start a business successfully, then going off to the Olympics, helping turn the Olympics around.

You don't do that as a manager; you do that as a leader. We shouldn't demean the people who are starting up small businesses, or middle-sized businesses, or people who run volunteer organizations. They're leaders. You can't go out and hire managers to run these things. These are people who are leading our economy. They help lift our country.

I think in order to have somebody fix our economy and strengthen it -- and it's our economy that's the root of our strength to provide for our military, for our families -- we have to have a strong economy -- you've got to have somebody who's actually done some work in the private economy, who understands how it works.

COOPER: Congressman...

ROMNEY: Then I went on to...


I went on to become a governor. I went on to become a governor. And as a governor, you're also a leader. You're the commander-in- chief of your National Guard. You're in charge of the state police. You're in charge, in my case, of tens of thousands of employees. You work together with the legislature to get the job done.

I'm proud of my experience as a leader, and I will use that leadership skill, which has honed my sense of judgment, temperament, wisdom, decision making capacity, and ability to deliberate on tough issues to make sure you get them right, to make sure that we have the right kind of leadership in the White House.

COOPER: Jim VandeHei has a follow-up question. We'll get to all of you, I promise.

VANDEHEI: Let's turn that around. Even today, Rudy Giuliani endorsed John McCain and said that there would be no better commander- in-chief. What makes you more qualified than John McCain to run the military as commander-in-chief?

ROMNEY: You know, I'm sure that are those who'd say, you know, to be the commander-in-chief you have to serve in the military. And one of the two great regrets I have in life is I didn't serve in the military. I'd love to have.

But I don't believe that you have to have served in the military to be a great commander-in-chief or to be a great foreign policy expert. I think you're going to see in our foreign policy and in the military, we're going to face challenges not like the challenges of old, where I'd liken it to playing checkers with the red side and the black side.

It's more like three-dimensional chess. And you're going to have to have people of unusual capacity in bringing in the perspectives of the entire world and thinking about how you move your pieces and how you make changes that can strengthen America's position.

You see, my objective is to keep America the strongest nation on Earth, economically, militarily, and, if you will, from the spirit of our people. I believe I can do that by virtue of a lifetime of experience leading, making decisions.

But, you know, some of our great leaders -- look at Abraham Lincoln, was not a military expert, but turned out to be one of the best in the history of this country.

COOPER: I'm going to ask you all for follow-ups on this, but, Senator McCain, I just want to give you an opportunity to follow up on that. Is Governor Romney ready to be a military commander?

MCCAIN: Oh, I'm sure that, as I say, he's a fine man. And I think he managed companies, and he bought, and he sold, and sometimes people lost their jobs. That's the nature of that business.

But the fact is -- but the fact is we're at a time in our history -- we're in a time in our history where you can't afford any on-the- job training. And I believe that my experience and background qualifies me to lead.

And that's why I've gotten the support of four former secretaries of state, two of them in the Reagan administration. That's why I've gotten the support of General Norman Schwarzkopf.

That's why I've gotten the support of over 100 retired Army generals and admirals. Literally every national security expert from the Reagan and other administrations are supporting my candidacy, including the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, my friend, Governor Tom Ridge, who believe that I have the qualities necessary to lead.

COOPER: Congressman Paul...

MCCAIN: I hope that some people judge me by those that are supporting me.

COOPER: Congressman Paul, what makes you capable of being a leader both on the economy and the military?

PAUL: OK. The Constitution is very clear that the president is commander in chief of the military, but the president is not the commander in chief of the economy or of the people. And when we get reflection of conventional wisdom, but of a lot of lack of understanding of how the economy works.

The president is not supposed to manage and run the economy. The people are supposed to do this. The government is supposed to give them sound money, low taxes, less regulation. The people are supposed to run it.

But here, we're assuming that the president is supposed to run the economy. We're not supposed to manage. We're not supposed to manage the people's...

COOPER: What role do you think the federal government should have -- I mean, does the federal government in your opinion have a role in stimulating the economy?

PAUL: Yes, by lower taxes and less regulation. They could do a whole lot by having sound money, where we don't print the money out of thin air. That causes the business cycle. That causes your bubbles.

We're always dealing with the symptoms of the disease and never saying, "how did this come about?" You know, it comes about because we have a Federal Reserve that creates money and prints it out of thin air. There is a lot of malinvestment.

That's the most important thing to understand about the inflation of the monetary system, is the malinvestment. Then, later on, people suffer. You wipe out the middle class. But the evil of it all is the vehicle for financing wars that we shouldn't be in and a welfare state that we shouldn't be doing.

So, yes, we have a role to play, but it's a negative role. We want the people to be free. We don't want to manage the people and tell them how to live. And we need a commander in chief.

But the most important thing as a commander in chief is not moving troops around, as much as it is having a wise foreign policy that doesn't get us involved in so many things that we get trapped in and we linger year after year. We've been doing this for so long.

And I like President Bush's argument that we have a humble foreign policy when he ran in 2000, and that we not be the policemen of the world.

COOPER: Governor Huckabee, what makes you qualified on economic issues, on the military?

HUCKABEE: Well, first of all, let me say -- a while ago, you said you were going to shower me with questions, and I think then you turned the spigot off, so I want to make sure I get a little time in here to get some time.

I want to just say that I agree with something that Governor Romney said. He talked about that governors are well prepared to be presidents. And I think he's right about that. And if that's the case, then I appreciate his endorsement, because I've been a governor and led a state longer than anybody running for president, Democrat or Republican. I've actually managed a government for 10 and a half years.

There's something a lot of people don't think about. When you're a governor, you actually manage a microcosm of the federal government. Every agency that you have at the federal level, you have at the state level. You are familiar with the whole game board. You understand what those agencies do, because you interrelate with them as a governor every single day.

But you know what the biggest frustration is? Washington doesn't understand how states operate, but states understand how Washington operates, and that's the fundamental difference. We understand, because unfunded mandates come stomping down on top of us, wrecking our state budgets, creating a complete imbalance of power, ignoring the 10th Amendment.

And that's one reason that a lot of us are ready to say it's time for a new type of leadership that respects the 10th Amendment, that respects the fact that governors are out there fighting to try to build a decent education system, create jobs, make sure that we can give families a chance to have a decent way of living. And that we get governments off the backs of mothers and fathers who ought to be raising kids without a whole lot of government interference.

Those are the reasons that I think when a governor gets to the White House, he does understand that leadership is about looking at all of those issues and realizing that there is no such thing as an isolated issue. Education, health care, economic development -- they're all tied together, Anderson. And this is something that I don't hear coming often from people, who, with all due respect, in the legislative branch, have the luxury of picking out particular issues that they can specialize in.

Governors don't get to specialize. They have to be able to handle on any given day several dozen different issues and see how they integrate together for a strong economy, a strong sense of security. And that's how it works.

COOPER: You've said repeatedly you want a presidential candidate -- or you think voters want a presidential candidate, quote, "who looks more like the guy they work with than the guy who laid them off." What exactly do you mean by that? I mean, what about leadership, ability, experience?

HUCKABEE: That's exactly -- real leadership recognizes what your decisions do to people at the bottom. That's what I mean by it, Anderson.

You can't have a president who sees a whole bunch of America as invisible. If you make a decision at the top and you don't understand how it affects the person all the way at the bottom, then you're not ready to lead. Leadership is about seeing the whole field.

HUCKABEE: And that's what I'm talking about. And that's why -- listen, our Republican Party is going to be in trouble if we creating policies and acting like we don't understand what those folks are feeling out there waiting the tables, handling bags, driving the trucks, and moving the freight around.

COOPER: We only have about four minutes left. And this is a time restriction that all the campaigns put on us. We would be happy to have this debate go on all night long, but I know everyone has a lot ahead and a lot on their plates.

So this is a question that will go to each of you. Each of you has about a minute to answer.

We'll start with Governor Romney.

Would, and if so, why -- why would Ronald Reagan endorse you? Would Ronald Reagan endorse you? And if so, why?

ROMNEY: Absolutely. Ronald Reagan would look at the issues that are being debated right here and say, one, we're going to win in Iraq, and I'm not going to walk out of Iraq until we win in Iraq.

Ronald Reagan would say lower taxes. Ronald Reagan would say lower spending.

Ronald Reagan would -- is pro-life. He would also say I want to have an amendment to protect marriage.

Ronald Reagan would say, as I do, that Washington is broken. And like Ronald Reagan, I'd go to Washington as an outsider -- not owing favors, not lobbyists on every elbow. I would be able to be the independent outsider that Ronald Reagan was, and he brought change to Washington.

Ronald Reagan would say, yes, let's drill in ANWR. Ronald Reagan would say, no way are we going to have amnesty again. Ronald Reagan saw it, it didn't work. Let's not do it again.

Ronald Reagan would say no to a 50-cent-per-gallon charge on Americans for energy that the rest of the world doesn't have to pay.

Ronald Reagan would have said absolutely no way to McCain- Feingold.

I would be with Ronald Reagan. And this party, it has a choice, what the heart and soul of this party is going to be, and it's going to have to be in the house that Ronald Reagan built.

COOPER: Your campaigns wanted this tight, so let's keep it tight.

Senator McCain, would Ronald Reagan endorse you?


MCCAIN: Ronald Reagan would not approve of someone who changes their positions depending on what the year is.

Ronald Reagan -- Ronald Reagan came with an unshakable set of principles, and there were many times, like when he had to deploy the (INAUDIBLE) cruise missile to Europe and there were hundreds of thousands of demonstrators against it, he stood with it. Ronald Reagan had a deal in Reykjavik that everybody wanted him to take, but he stuck with his principles.

I think he knows that I stick with my principles. I put my political career on the line because I knew what would happen if we failed in Iraq.

I hope that the experience I had serving as a foot soldier in his revolution would make him proud for me to continue that legacy of sticking to principle and doing what you believe in, no matter what.

COOPER: Congressman Paul?


PAUL: I supported Ronald Reagan in 1976, and there were only four members of Congress that did. And also in 1980. Ronald Reagan came and campaigned for me in 1978.

I'm not sure exactly what he would do right now, but I do know that he was very sympathetic to the gold standard, and he told me personally that no great nation that went off the gold standard ever remained great. And he was very, very serious about that.

So he had a sound understanding about monetary policy. And for that reason, I would say look to Ronald Reagan's ideas on money because he, too, was concerned about runaway inflation and what it does to a country when you ruin the currency. And that's what's happening today. The dollar is going down and our country is going to be on the ropes if we don't reverse that trend.

COOPER: Governor Huckabee?


HUCKABEE: I think it would be incredibly presumptuous and even arrogant for me to try to suggest what Ronald Reagan would do, that he would endorse any of us against the others.

Let me just say this, I'm not going to pretend he would endorse me. I wish he would. I would love that, but I endorse him, and I'm going to tell you why.

It wasn't just his specific policies, but Ronald Reagan was something more than just a policy wonk. He was a man who loved this country, and he inspired this country to believe in itself again.

What made Ronald Reagan a great president was not just the intricacies of his policies, though they were good policies. It was that he loved America and saw it as a good nation and a great nation because of the greatness of its people.

And if we can recapture that, that's when we recapture the Reagan spirit. It's that spirit that has a can-do attitude about America's futures and that makes us love our country whether we're Democrats or Republicans. And that's what I believe Ronald Reagan did -- he brought this country back together and made us believe in ourselves.

And whether he believes in us, I hope we still believe in those things which made him a great leader and a great American.


COOPER: Gentleman, good luck to you all. Thank you very much for attending this debate tonight.

And that concludes this debate.


[End Voice of Blogistan Transmission]

28 January 2008

Caroline & Ted Kennedy Endorse Barack Obama

[Begin Voice of Blogistan Transmission]

Caroline Kennedy, Senator Ted Kennedy, Senator Barack Obama

Text of Caroline Kennedy's remarks as prepared for delivery...

Good Afternoon Everyone, and thank you, Patrick, for that introduction and for continuing our family’s proud tradition of public service.

It’s a special privilege to come to American University where President Kennedy made his immortal call for a peaceful world - a world made safe for diversity—a world that cherishes our children’s future.

Over the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wish they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This longing is even more profound today. Fortunately, there is one candidate who offers that same sense of hope and inspiration and I am proud to endorse Senator Barack Obama for President.

I am happy that two of my own children are here with me, because they were the first people who made me realize that Barack Obama is the President we need. He is already inspiring all Americans, young and old, to believe in ourselves, tying that belief to our highest ideals - ideals of hope, justice, opportunity and peace – and urging us to imagine that together we can do great things.

My Uncle Teddy feels the same way, and I am proud to stand with him today. For more than four decades in the Senate, Teddy has led the fight on the most important issues of our time: civil rights, social justice, and economic opportunity. Workers, families, the elderly, the disabled, immigrants, and men and women in uniform – all have no stronger champion. He has stood with teachers, students and parents to improve our public schools and help with the high price of a college education. When it comes to fighting for quality, affordable health care, Teddy is in a league of his own.

I know his brothers would be so proud of him. He is an inspiration to all the members of our family – always looking to the future, never the past, always hopeful, always believing that we are capable of our very best. You know him well but I’m honored to introduce him now – Senator Edward Kennedy.

Here are the remarks of Senator Ted Kennedy...

Here's the text of Senator Kennedy's remarks as prepared for delivery...

Thank you, Caroline. Thank you for that wonderful introduction and for your courage and bold vision, for your insight and understanding, and for the power and reach of your words. Like you, we too “want a president who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again.” Thank you, Caroline. Your mother and father would be so proud today.

Thank you, Patrick, for your leadership in Congress and for being here to celebrate and support a leader who truly has the power to inspire and make America good again, “from sea to shining sea.”

Thank you, American University.

I feel change in the air.

Every time I’ve been asked over the past year who I would support in the Democratic Primary, my answer has always been the same: I’ll support the candidate who inspires me, who inspires all of us, who can lift our vision and summon our hopes and renew our belief that our country’s best days are still to come.

I’ve found that candidate. And it looks to me like you have too.

But first, let me say how much I respect the strength, the work and dedication of two other Democrats still in the race, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. They are my friends; they have been my colleagues in the Senate. John Edwards has been a powerful advocate for economic and social justice. And Hillary Clinton has been in the forefront on issues ranging from health care to the rights of women around the world. Whoever is our nominee will have my enthusiastic support.

Let there be no doubt: We are all committed to seeing a Democratic President in 2008.

But I believe there is one candidate who has extraordinary gifts of leadership and character, matched to the extraordinary demands of this moment in history.

He understands what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the “fierce urgency of now.”

He will be a president who refuses to be trapped in the patterns of the past. He is a leader who sees the world clearly without being cynical. He is a fighter who cares passionately about the causes he believes in, without demonizing those who hold a different view.

He is tough-minded, but he also has an uncommon capacity to appeal to “the better angels of our nature.”

I am proud to stand here today and offer my help, my voice, my energy and my commitment to make Barack Obama the next President of the United States.

Like most of the nation, I was moved four years ago as he told us a profound truth—that we are not, we must not be, just red states and blue states, but one United States. And since that time I have marveled at his grit and his grace as he traveled this country and inspired record turnouts of people of all ages, of all races, of all genders, of all parties and faiths to get “fired up” and “ready to go.”

I’ve seen him connect with people from every walk of life and with Senators on both sides of the aisle. With every person he meets, every crowd he inspires, and everyone he touches, he generates new hope that our greatest days as a nation are still ahead, and this generation of Americans, like others before us, can unite to meet our own rendezvous with destiny.

We know the true record of Barack Obama. There is the courage he showed when so many others were silent or simply went along. From the beginning, he opposed the war in Iraq.

And let no one deny that truth.

There is the great intelligence of someone who could have had a glittering career in corporate law, but chose instead to serve his community and then enter public life.

There is the tireless skill of a Senator who was there in the early mornings to help us hammer out a needed compromise on immigration reform— who always saw a way to protect both national security and the dignity of people who do not have a vote. For them, he was a voice for justice.

And there is the clear effectiveness of Barack Obama in fashioning legislation to put high quality teachers in our classrooms—and in pushing and prodding the Senate to pass the most far-reaching ethics reform in its history.

Now, with Barack Obama, there is a new national leader who has given America a different kind of campaign—a campaign not just about himself, but about all of us. A campaign about the country we will become, if we can rise above the old politics that parses us into separate groups and puts us at odds with one another.

I remember another such time, in the 1960s, when I came to the Senate at the age of 30. We had a new president who inspired the nation, especially the young, to seek a new frontier. Those inspired young people marched, sat in at lunch counters, protested the war in Vietnam and served honorably in that war even when they opposed it.

They realized that when they asked what they could do for their country, they could change the world.

It was the young who led the first Earth Day and issued a clarion call to protect the environment; the young who enlisted in the cause of civil rights and equality for women; the young who joined the Peace Corps and showed the world the hopeful face of America.

At the fifth anniversary celebration of the Peace Corps, I asked one of those young Americans why they had volunteered.

And I will never forget the answer: “It was the first time someone asked me to do something for my country.”

This is another such time.

I sense the same kind of yearning today, the same kind of hunger to move on and move America forward. I see it not just in young people, but in all our people.

And in Barack Obama, I see not just the audacity, but the possibility of hope for the America that is yet to be.

What counts in our leadership is not the length of years in Washington, but the reach of our vision, the strength of our beliefs, and that rare quality of mind and spirit that can call forth the best in our country and our people.

With Barack Obama, we will turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion.

With Barack Obama, we will close the book on the old politics of race against race, gender against gender, ethnic group against ethnic group, and straight against gay.

With Barack Obama, we will close the door on the old economics that has written off the poor and left the middle class poorer and less secure.

He offers a strategy for prosperity—so that America will once again lead the world in better standards of life.

With Barack Obama, we will break the old gridlock and finally make health care what it should be in America—a fundamental right for all, not just an expensive privilege for the few.

We will make the United States the great leader and not the great roadblock in the fateful fight against global warming.

And with Barack Obama, we will end a war in Iraq that he has always stood against, that has cost us the lives of thousands of our sons and daughters, and that America never should have fought.

I have seen him in the Senate. He will keep us strong and defend the nation against real threats of terrorism and proliferation.

So let us reject the counsels of doubt and calculation.

Let us remember that when Franklin Roosevelt envisioned Social Security, he didn’t decide—no, it was too ambitious, too big a dream, too hard.

When John Kennedy thought of going to the moon, he didn’t say no, it was too far, maybe we couldn’t get there and shouldn’t even try.

I am convinced we can reach our goals only if we are “not petty when our cause is so great”-- only if we find a way past the stale ideas and stalemate of our times – only if we replace the politics of fear with the politics of hope – and only if we have the courage to choose change.

Barack Obama is the one person running for President who can bring us that change.

Barack Obama is the one person running for President who can be that change.

I love this country. I believe in the bright light of hope and possibility. I always have, even in the darkest hours. I know what America can achieve. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it—and with Barack Obama, we can do it again.

I know that he’s ready to be President on day one. And when he raises his hand on Inauguration Day, at that very moment, we will lift the spirits of our nation and begin to restore America’s standing in the world.

There was another time, when another young candidate was running for President and challenging America to cross a New Frontier. He faced public criticism from the preceding Democratic President, who was widely respected in the party. Harry Truman said we needed “someone with greater experience”—and added: “May I urge you to be patient.” And John Kennedy replied: “The world is changing. The old ways will not do…It is time for a new generation of leadership.”

So it is with Barack Obama. He has lit a spark of hope amid the fierce urgency of now.

I believe that a wave of change is moving across America. If we do not turn aside, if we dare to set our course for the shores of hope, we together will go beyond the divisions of the past and find our place to build the America of the future.

My friends, I ask you to join in this historic journey -- to have the courage to choose change.

It is time again for a new generation of leadership.

It is time now for Barack Obama.

Here are the remarks of Senator Obama...

Text of Senator Obama's remarks as prepared for delivery...

Thank you Congressman Kennedy and Caroline and Senator Kennedy for your words, your support, and the service you’ve rendered to this country.

I stand here today with a great deal of humility. I know what your support means. I know the cherished place the Kennedy family holds in the hearts of the American people. And that is as it should be. Because the Kennedy family, more than any other, has always stood for what’s best about the Democratic Party, and about America. That each of us can make a difference and all of us ought to try. That no frontier is beyond our reach when we’re united, and not divided. And that those of us who are not content to settle for the world as it is, can remake the world as it should be – that together, we “can seek a newer world.”

No one embodies this proud legacy more than the people we’ve just heard from. For a woman who was introduced to America in the spotlight, Caroline has worked out of public view to bring about change in our communities. Whether it’s her work with New York City’s public schools or the Profile in Courage Award or through books on politics, civil rights and history, Caroline has been a quiet force for change in this country. And it’s an honor to have her support.

It’s also an honor to have Congressman Kennedy’s support. He’s been a real leader in the fight to make sure every American has equal access to the quality mental health care they need. It’s one of the great civil rights issues of our time, and it’s an issue I’m proud to have worked on with him. He’s not just part of the next generation of Kennedy leaders, he’s part of the next generation of Democratic and American leaders, and I look forward to fighting by his side in the months and years to come.

And it is a special honor and privilege to have the support of the Congressman’s father, Senator Kennedy. In the year I was born, President Kennedy let out word that the torch had been passed to a new generation of Americans. He was right. It had. It was passed to his youngest brother.

From the battles of the 1960s to the battles of today, he has carried that torch, lighting the way for all who share his American ideals.

It’s a torch he’s carried as a champion for working Americans, a fierce proponent of universal health care, and a tireless advocate for giving every child in this country a quality education.

It’s a torch he’s carried as the lion of the Senate, a man whose mastery of the issues and command of the levers of government – whose determined leadership and deft political skills – are matched only by his ability to tell a good story.

Ted Kennedy stands apart from the prevailing wisdom in Washington that has reduced politics to a game of tactics and transactions, in which no principle is beyond sacrifice. And his public life is a testimony to what can be achieved when you focus on lifting our country up, rather than tearing political opponents down.

Few public servants in our nation’s history have had such a profound influence on the course of our nation. Few leaders in this country have more experience in how to bring about real change. And few have better judgment about where we’re headed as a party and a people.

Today isn’t just about politics for me. It’s personal. I was too young to remember John Kennedy and I was just a child when Robert Kennedy ran for President. But in the stories I heard growing up, I saw how my grandparents and mother spoke about them, and about that period in our nation’s life – as a time of great hope and achievement. And I think my own sense of what’s possible in this country comes in part from what they said America was like in the days of John and Robert Kennedy.

I believe that’s true for millions of Americans. I’ve seen it in offices in this city where portraits of John and Robert hang on office walls or collections of their speeches sit on bookshelves. And I’ve seen it in my travels all across this country. Because no matter where I go, or who I talk to, one thing I can say for certain is that the dream has never died.

The dream lives on in the older folks I meet who remember what America once was, and know what America can be once again. It lives on in the young people who’ve only seen John or Robert Kennedy on TV, but are ready to answer their call.

It lives on in those Americans who refuse to be deterred by the scale of the challenges we face, who know, as President Kennedy said at this university, that “no problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.”

And it lives on in those Americans – young and old, rich and poor, black and white, Latino and Asian – who are tired of a politics that divides us and want to recapture the sense of common purpose that we had when John Kennedy was President.

That is the dream we hold in our hearts. That is the kind of leadership we need in this country. And that is the kind of leadership I intend to offer as President.

So make no mistake: the choice in this election is not between regions or religions or genders. It’s not about rich versus poor; young versus old; and it is not about black versus white. It’s about the past versus the future.

It’s about whether we’re going to seize this moment to write the next great American story. So someday we can tell our children that this was the time when we healed our nation. This was the time when we repaired our world. And this was the time when we renewed the America that has led generations of weary travelers from all over the world to find opportunity, and liberty, and hope on our doorstep.

One of these travelers was my father. I barely knew him, but when, after his death, I finally took my first trip to his tiny village in Kenya and asked my grandmother if there was anything left from him, she opened a trunk and took out a stack of letters, which she handed to me.

There were more than thirty of them, all handwritten by my father, all addressed to colleges and universities across America, all filled with the hope of a young man who dreamed of more for his life. And his prayer was answered when he was brought over to study in this country.

But what I learned much later is that part of what made it possible for him to come here was an effort by the young Senator from Massachusetts at the time, John F. Kennedy, and by a grant from the Kennedy Foundation to help Kenyan students pay for travel. So it is partly because of their generosity that my father came to this country, and because he did, I stand before you today – inspired by America’s past, filled with hope for America’s future, and determined to do my part in writing our next great chapter.

So I’m asking for your hands. I’m asking for your help. And I’m asking for your hearts. And if you will stand with me in the days to come - if you will stand for change so that our children have the same chance that somebody gave us; if you’ll stand to keep the American dream alive for those who still hunger for opportunity and thirst for justice; if you're ready to stop settling for what the cynics tell you you must accept, and finally reach for what you know is possible, then we will win these primaries, we will win this election, we will change the course of history, and light a new torch for change in this country – and “the glow from that fire can truly light the world."

[End Voice of Blogistan Transmission]