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!

17 April 2008

Philly Cheesy Snakes

[Begin Transmission, Voice of Blogistan]

Last Night's Democratic Presidential Debate in Philadelphia

(courtesy of the NY Times)

April 16, 2008
Democratic Debate in Philadelphia

The following is a transcript of the Democratic debate in Philadelphia, as provided by the Federal News Service.




MR. GIBSON: So we're going to begin with opening statements, and we had a flip of the coin, and the brief opening statement first from Senator Obama.

SENATOR OBAMA: Thank you very much, Charlie and George, and thanks to all in the audience and who are out there.

You know, Senator Clinton and I have been running for 15 months now. We've been traveling across Pennsylvania for at least the last five weeks. And everywhere I go, what I've been struck by is the core decency and generosity of people of Pennsylvania and the American people.

But what I've also been struck by is the frustration. You know, I met a gentleman in Latrobe who had lost his job and was trying to figure out how he could find the gas money to travel to find a job. And that story, I think, is typical of what we're seeing all across the country. People are frustrated not only with jobs moving and incomes being flat, health care being too expensive, but also that special interests have come to dominate Washington, and they don't feel like they're being listened to.

I think this election offers us an opportunity to change that, to transform that frustration into something more hopeful, to bring about real change. And I'm running for president to ensure that the American people are heard in the White House. That's my commitment, if the people of Pennsylvania vote for me and the people of America vote for me.

MR. GIBSON: Senator Clinton?

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, we meet tonight here in Philadelphia where our founders determined that the promise of America would be available for future generations if we were willing and able to make it happen.

You know, I am here, as is Senator Obama. Neither of us were included in those original documents. But in a very real sense, we demonstrate that that promise of America is alive and well. But it is at risk.

There is a lot of concern across Pennsylvania and America. People do feel as though their government is not solving problems, that it is not standing up for them, that we've got to do more to actually provide the good jobs that will support families, deal once and for all with health care for every American, make our education system the true passport to opportunity, restore our standing in the world.

I am running for president because I know we can meet the challenges of today, that we can continue to fulfill that promise that was offered to successive generations of Americans starting here so long ago.

And I hope that this evening, voters in Pennsylvania and others across the country will listen carefully to what we have to say, will look at our records, will look at the plans we have.

And I offer those on my website,, for more detail. Because I believe with all my heart that we the people can have the kind of future that our children and grandchildren so richly deserve.

MR. GIBSON: Thank you both.

And with that as preamble, we will take a very short commercial break. And we will come back and begin 90 minutes of debate. The Pennsylvania Democratic Debate continues after just one minute.


MR. GIBSON: We'll begin each of the segments of this debate with short quotes from the Constitution that are apropos to what we're going to talk about. And it is good to be back here at the National Constitution Center.

So let's start. And I'm going to give a general question, before we get to the issues, to both of you on politics.

There have already been many votes in many states, and you have each, as you analyze the vote, appealed disproportionately to different constituencies in the party, and that dismays many in the party. Governor Cuomo, an elder statesman in your party, has come forward with a suggestion. He has said, look, fight it to the end.

Let every vote be counted. You contest every delegate. Go at each other to the -- right till the end. Don't give an inch to one another. But pledge now that whichever one of you wins this contest, you'll take the other as your running mate, and that the other will agree if they lose, to take second place on the ticket.

So I put the question to both of you: Why not?

(Pause, laughter.)

Don't all speak at once. (Laughter.)

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, I'm happy to start with a response. Look, this has been an extraordinary journey that both Senator Clinton and I have been on and a number of other able candidates. And I think very highly of Senator Clinton's record. But as I've said before, I think it's premature at this point for us to talk about who vice presidential candidates will be because we're still trying to determine who the nominee will be.

But one thing I'm absolutely certain of is that come August, when we're in Denver, the Democratic Party will come together, because we have no choice if we want to deliver on the promises that not only we've made but the founders made. We are seeing peoples' economic status slipping further and further behind. We've seen people who have not only lost their jobs but now are at risk of losing their homes.

We have a sharp contrast in terms of economic policies. John McCain wants to continue four more years of George Bush policies and, on the foreign policy front, wants to continue George Bush's foreign policy.

So I'm confident that both Senator Clinton's supporters and Senator Obama's supporters will be supporting the Democratic nominee when we start engaging in that general election.

MR. GIBSON: But Senator Clinton, Governor Cuomo made that suggestion because he's not so sure. And other Democrats are not so sure.

Just to quote from the Constitution again, "In every case," Article Two, Section One, "after the choice of the president, the person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be the vice president."

If it was good enough in colonial times, why not in these times.

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, Charlie, I'm going to do everything I possibly can to make sure that one of us takes the oath of office next January. I think that has to be the overriding goal, whatever we have to do.

Obviously we are still contesting to determine who will be the nominee. But once that is resolved, I think it is absolutely imperative that our entire party close ranks, that we become unified.

I will do everything to make sure that the people who supported me support our nominee.

I will go anywhere in the country to make the case. And I know that Barack feels the same way, because both of us have spent 15 months traveling our country. I have seen the damage of the Bush years. I've seen the extraordinary pain that people have suffered from because of the failed policies; you know, those who have held my hands who have lost sons or daughters in Iraq, and those who have lost sons or daughters because they didn't have health insurance.

And so, regardless of the differences there may be between us, and they are differences, they pale in comparison to the differences between us and Senator McCain.

So we will certainly do whatever is necessary to make sure that a Democrat is in the White House next January.

MR. GIBSON: All right. I will let this go. I don't think Governor Cuomo has any takers yet.

Let me start with a question to you, Senator Obama.


MR. GIBSON: Talking to a closed-door fundraiser in San Francisco 10 days ago, you got talking in California about small-town Pennsylvanians who have had tough economic times in recent years. And you said they get bitter, and they cling to guns or they cling to their religion or they cling to antipathy toward people who are not like them.

Now, you've said you misspoke; you said you mangled what it was you wanted to say. But we've talked to a lot of voters. Do you understand that some people in this state find that patronizing and think that you said actually what you meant?

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, I think there's no doubt that I can see how people were offended. It's not the first time that I've made, you know, a statement that was mangled up. It's not going to be the last.

But let me be very clear about what I meant, because it's something that I've said in public, it's something that I've said in television, which is that people are going through very difficult times right now and we are seeing it all across the country. And that was true even before the current economic hardships that are stemming from the housing crisis. This is the first economic expansion that we just completed in which ordinary people's incomes actually went down, when adjusted for inflation, at the same time as their costs of everything from health care to gas at the pump have skyrocketed.

And so the point I was making was that when people feel like Washington's not listening to them, when they're promised year after year, decade after decade, that their economic situation is going to change, and it doesn't, then politically they end up focusing on those things that are constant, like religion.

They end up feeling "This is a place where I can find some refugee. This is something that I can count on." They end up being much more concerned about votes around things like guns, where traditions have been passed on from generation to generation. And those are incredibly important to them.

And yes, what is also true is that wedge issues, hot-button issues, end up taking prominence in our -- in our politics. And part of the problem is that when those issues are exploited, we never get to solve the issues that people really have to get some relief on, whether it's health care or education or jobs.

So this i something that I've said before. It is something that I will repeat again. And yes, people are frustrated and angry about it, but what we're seeing in this election is the opportunity to break through that frustration. And that's what our campaign has been about, saying that if the American people get involved and engaged, then we are going to start seeing change. And that's what makes this election unique.

MR. GIBSON: Senator Clinton?

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, I am the granddaughter of a factory worker from Scranton who went to work in the Scranton lace mills when he was 11 years old, worked his entire life there, mostly six-day weeks.

He was also very active in the Court Street Methodist Church. And he raised three sons and was very proud that he sent all of them to college.

I don't believe that my grandfather or my father, or the many people whom I have had the privilege of knowing and meeting across Pennsylvania over many years, cling to religion when Washington is not listening to them. I think that is a fundamental, sort of, misunderstanding of the role of religion and faith in times that are good and times that are bad.

And I similarly don't think that people cling to their traditions, like hunting and guns, either when they are frustrated with the government. I just don't believe that's how people live their lives.

Now, that doesn't mean that people are not frustrated with the government. We have every reason to be frustrated, particularly with this administration.

But I can see why people would be taken aback and offended by the remarks. And I think what's important is that we all listen to one another and we respect one another and we understand the different decisions that people make in life, because we're a stronger country because of that.

And certainly the weeks that I have spent criss-crossing Pennsylvania, from Erie to Lancaster County, and meeting a lot of wonderful people, says to me that despite whatever frustration anyone has with our government, people are resilient, they are positive, and they're ready for leadership again that will summon them to something greater than themselves, and that we will deliver on that if given a chance.

MR. GIBSON: We're going to have some other questions on the same theme, so you'll be able to get back that.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me pick up on this. When these comments from Senator Obama broke on Friday, Senator McCain's campaign immediately said that it was going to be a killer issue in November.

Senator Clinton, when Bill Richardson called you to say he was endorsing Barack Obama, you told him that Senator Obama can't win. I'm not going to ask you about that conversation. I know you don't want to talk about it. But a simple yes-or-no question: Do you think Senator Obama can beat John McCain or not?

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, I think we have to beat John McCain, and I have every reason to believe we're going to have a Democratic president and it's going to be either Barack or me. And we're going to make that happen.

And what is important is that we understand exactly the challenges facing us in order to defeat Senator McCain.

He will be a formidable candidate. There isn't any doubt about that. He has a great American story to tell. He's a man who has served our country with distinction over many years, but he has the wrong ideas about America. And those ideas will be tested in the cauldron of this campaign.

But I also know, having now gone through 16 years of being on the receiving end of what the Republican Party dishes out, how important it is that we try to go after every single vote everywhere we possibly can to get to those electoral votes that we're going to need to have the next president elected.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But the question is, do you think Senator Obama can do that? Can he win?


Now, I think that I can do a better job. (Laughter.) I mean, obviously, that's why I'm here. I think I am better able and better prepared in large measure because of what I've been through and the work that I've done and the results that I've produced for people and the coalition that I have put together in this campaign, that Charlie referred to earlier.

Obviously, I believe I would be the best president, or I would not still be here, standing on this stage, and I believe I'm the better and stronger candidate against Senator McCain, to go toe to toe with him on national security and on how we turn the economy around.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Obama, do yo think Senator Clinton can win?

SENATOR OBAMA: Absolutely, and I've said so before. But I too think that I'm the better candidate. (Laughter.) And I don't think that surprises anybody.

Let me just pick up on a couple of things that Senator Clinton said, though, because during the course of the last few days, you know, she's said I'm elitist, out of touch, condescending. Let me be absolutely clear. It would be pretty hard for me to be condescending towards people of faith, since I'm a person of faith and have done more than most other campaigns in reaching out specifically to people of faith, and have written about how Democrats make an error when they don't show up and speak directly to people's faith, because I think we can get those votes, and I have in the past.

The same is true with respect to gun owners. I have large numbers of sportsmen and gun owners in my home state, and they have supported me precisely because I have listened to them, and I know them well.

So the problem that we have in our politics, which is fairly typical, is that you take one person's statement, if it's not properly phrased, and you just beat it to death. And that's what Senator Clinton's been doing over the last four days. And I understand that.

That's politics, and I expect to have to go through this -- this process.

But I do think it's important to recognize that it's not helping that person who's sitting at the kitchen table who is trying to figure out how to pay the bills at the end of the month.

And Senator Clinton's right. She has gone through this. You know, I recall when back in 1992, when she made a statement about how, what do you expect, should I be at home baking cookies?

And people attacked her for being elitist and this and that. And I remember watching that on TV and saying, well, that's not who she is; that's not what she believes; that's not what she meant. And I'm sure that that's how she felt as well.

But the problem is that that's the kind of politics that we've been accustomed to. And I think Senator Clinton learned the wrong lesson from it, because she's adopting the same tactics.

What the American people want are not distractions. They want to figure out, how are we actually going to deliver on health care; how are we going to deliver better jobs for people; how are we going to improve their incomes; how are we going to send them to college?

That's what we have to focus on. And yes, they are in part frustrated and angry, because this is what passes for our politics in terms -- instead of figuring out, how do we build coalitions to actually move things forward?

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, could I --

MR. GIBSON: Senator Clinton, before I move on, do you want to do a brief response?


Well, first of all, I want to be very clear. My comments were about your remarks.

And I think that's important, because it wasn't just me responding to them, it was people who heard them, people who felt as though they were aimed at their values, their quality of life, the decisions that they have made.

Now, obviously, what we have to do as Democrats is make sure we get enough votes to win in November. And as George just said, you know, the Republicans, who are pretty shrewd about what it takes to win, certainly did jump on the comments.

But what's important here is what we each stand for and what our records are and what we have done over the course of our lives to try to improve the circumstances of those who deserve to live up to their own potential, to make the decisions that are right for them and their families. And I think year after year for now 35 years, I have a proven record of results.

And what I'm taking into this campaign is my passion for empowering people, for giving people the feeling that they can make a better future for themselves. And I think it's important that that starts from a base of respect and connection in order to be able to get people to follow you and believe that you will lead them in the better direction.

MR. GIBSON: Senator Obama, since you last debated, you made a significant speech in this building on the subject of race and your former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. And you said subsequent to giving that speech that you never heard him say from the pulpit the kinds of things that so have offended people.

But more than a year ago, you rescinded the invitation to him to attend the event when you announced your candidacy. He was to give the invocation. And according to the reverend, I'm quoting him, you said to him, "You can get kind of rough in sermons. So what we've decided is that it's best for you not to be out there in public." I'm quoting the reverend. But what did you know about his statements that caused you to rescind that invitation?


MR. GIBSON: And if you knew he got rough in sermons, why did it take you more than a year to publicly disassociate yourself from his remarks?

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, understand that I hadn't seen the remarks that ended up playing on youTube repeatedly. This was a set of remarks that had been quoted in Rolling Stone Magazine and we looked at them and I thought that they would be a distraction since he had just put them forward.

But, Charlie, I've discussed this extensively. Reverend Wright is somebody who made controversial statements but they were not of the sort that we saw that offended so many Americans. And that's why I specifically said that these comments were objectionable; they're not comments that I believe in.

And I disassociated myself with them.

What I also said was, the church and the body of Reverend Wright's work, over the course of 30 years, were not represented in those snippets that were shown on television, and that the church has done outstanding work in ministries on HIV/AIDS, prison ministries, providing people with the kind of comfort that we expect in our churches.

And so what I think I tried to do in the speech here at the Constitution Center was speak to a broader context, which is that there is anger in the African American community that sometimes gets expressed, whether in the barbershop or in the church.

That's true not just in the African American community. That's true in other communities as well. But what we have the opportunity to do is to move beyond it. And that's what I think my candidacy represents.

And Senator Clinton mentioned earlier that we have to connect with people. That's exactly what we've done throughout this campaign.

The reason we've attracted new people into the process, the reason we've generated so much excitement, the reason that we have been so successful in so many states across the country, bridging racial lines, bridging some of the old divisions, is because people recognize that unless we do, then we're not going to be able to deliver on the promises that people hear every 4 years, every 8 years, every 12 years.

And it's my job in this campaign to try to move beyond some of those divisions, because when we are unified, there is nothing that we cannot tackle.

MR. GIBSON: Senator Clinton, let me -- I'm sorry, go ahead. Senator Clinton, let me follow up, and let me add to that. You have said that he would not have been my pastor, and you said that you have to speak out against those kinds of remarks, and implicitly by getting up and moving, and I presume you mean out of the church.

There are 8,000 members of Senator Obama's church. And we have heard the inflammatory remarks of Reverend Wright, but so too have we heard testament to many great things that he did. Do you honestly believe that 8,000 people should have gotten up and walked out of that church?

SENATOR CLINTON: I was asked a personal question, Charlie, and I gave a personal answer. Obviously, one's choice of church and pastor is rooted in what one believes is what you're seeking in church and what kind of, you know, fellowship you find in church. But I have to say that, you know, for Pastor Wright to have given his first sermon after 9/11 and to have blamed the United States for the attack, which happened in my city of New York, would have been intolerable for me. And therefore I would have not been able to stay in the church, and maybe it's, you know, just, again, a personal reflection that regardless of whatever good is going on -- and I have no reason to doubt that a lot of good things were happening in that church -- you get to choose your pastor. You don't choose your family, but you get to choose your pastor. And when asked a direct question, I said I would not have stayed in the church.

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, let me just respond to -- to two things. Absolutely many of these remarks were objectionable. I've already said that I didn't hear them, because I wasn't in church that day. I didn't learn about those statements until much later.

But --

MR. GIBSON: But you did rescind the invitation to him --

SENATOR OBAMA: But that was on -- that was on something entirely different, Charlie. That -- that was on a different statement. And I think that what Senator Clinton referred to was extremely offensive, to me and a lot of people.

But what I should also point out is that Senator Clinton's former pastor, I think, publicly talked about how Reverend Wright was being caricatured and that in fact this is somebody who had maintained an extraordinary ministry for many years.

And so there are two important points: Number one, I wasn't aware of all these statements, and I can understand how people would take offense; but number two, the church is a community that extends beyond the pastor and that church has done outstanding work for many, many years.

The third point I guess I would make is once again that unless we can bridge some of these divides we're not going to solve problems in this country. And what my entire body of work over the last 20 years has been devoted to is getting blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, young, old to work together, starting when I was a community organizer. And my own life embodies that diversity. That's what America's about and that's what this campaign has been about.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator, two questions. Number one, do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do? And number two, if you get the nomination, what will you do when those sermons are played on television again and again and again?

SENATOR OBAMA: You know, George, look, if it's not this, then it would be something else. I promise you, if Senator Clinton got the nomination, there will be a whole bunch of video clips about other things. In a general election, we know that there are going to be all kinds of attacks launched and leveled. There have been quite a few leveled in this primary campaign.

And I have confidence in the American people that when you talk to the American people honestly and directly about what I believe in, what my plans are on health care, on energy, when they see my track record of the work that I've done on behalf of people who really need help, I have absolute confidence that they can rally behind my campaign.

And, you know, the notion that somehow that the American people are going to be distracted once again by comments not made by me but by somebody who is associated with me, that I have disowned, I think doesn't give the American people enough credit.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You've disowned him?

SENATOR OBAMA: The comments, comments that I've disowned. Then that is not something that I think --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But you do believe he's as patriotic as you are?

SENATOR OBAMA: This is somebody who's a former Marine. And so I have -- I believe that he loves this country, but I also believe that he's somebody who, because of the experiences he's had over the course of a lifetime, is also angry about the injustices that he's seen.

MR. GIBSON: I'm getting a little out of balance here. Do you want to take a few seconds, or do you want to go to the next question?

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, I think, in addition to the questions about Reverend Wright and what he said and when he said it, and for whatever reason he might have said these things, there were so many different variations on the explanations that we heard. And it is something that I think deserves further exploration, because clearly what we've got to figure out is how we're going to bring people together in a way that overcomes the anger, overcomes the divisiveness and whatever bitterness there may be out there.

It is clear that, as leaders, we have a choice who we associate with and who we apparently give some kind of seal of approval to. And I think that it wasn't only the specific remarks, but some of the relationships with Reverend Farrakhan, with giving the church bulletin over to the leader of Hamas to put a message in. You know, these are problems, and they raise questions in people's minds.

And so this is a legitimate area, as everything is when we run for office, for people to be exploring and trying to find answers.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Clinton, we also did a poll today, and there are also questions about you raised in this poll. About six in 10 voters that we talked to say they don't believe you're honest and trustworthy. And we also asked a lot of Pennsylvania voters for questions they had. A lot of them raised this honesty issue and your comments about being under sniper fire in Bosnia.

Here's Tom Rooney from Pittsburgh.

Q Senator, I was in your court until a couple of weeks ago. How do you reconcile the campaign of credibility that you have when you've made those comments about what happened getting off the plane in Bosnia, which totally misrepresented what really happened on that day? You really lost my vote. And what can you tell me to get that vote back?

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, Tom, I can tell you that I may be a lot of things, but I'm not dumb. And I wrote about going to Bosnia in my book in 2004. I laid it all out there. And you're right. On a couple of occasions in the last weeks I just said some things that weren't in keeping with what I knew to be the case and what I had written about in my book. And, you know, I'm embarrassed by it. I have apologized for it. I've said it was a mistake. And it is, I hope, something that you can look over, because clearly I am proud that I went to Bosnia. It was a war zone.

General Wesley Clark is here in the audience with me as one of my major supporters. He and I were talking about it before I came out. You know, our soldiers were there to try to police and keep the peace in a very dangerous area. They were totally in battle gear. There were concerns about the potential dangers. The former president of Bosnia has said that he was worried about the safety of the situation.

So I know that it is something that some people have said, "Wait a minute. What happened here?" But I have talked about this and written about it. And then, unfortunately, on a few occasions I was not as accurate as I have been in the past.

But I know too that, you know, being able to rely on my experience of having gone to Bosnia, gone to more than 80 countries, having represented the United States in so many different settings gives me a tremendous advantage going into this campaign, particularly against Senator McCain.

So I will either try to get more sleep, Tom, or, you know, have somebody who, you know, is there as a reminder to me. You know, you can go back for the past 15 months. We both have said things that, you know, turned out not to be accurate. You know, that happens when you're talking as much as we have talked.

But you know, I'm very sorry that I said it. And I have said that, you know, it just didn't jibe with what I had written about and knew to be the truth.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Obama, your campaign has sent out a cascade of e-mails, just about every day, questioning Senator Clinton's credibility. And you yourself have said she hasn't been fully truthful about what she would do as president.

Do you believe that Senator Clinton has been fully truthful about her past?

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, look, I think that Senator Clinton has a strong record to run on. She wouldn't be here if she didn't. And you know, I haven't commented on the issue of Bosnia. You know, I --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Your campaign has.

SENATOR OBAMA: Of course, but --


SENATOR OBAMA: Because we're asked about it.

But look, the fact of the matter is, is that both of us are working as hard as we can to make sure that we're delivering a message to the American people about what we would do as president.

Sometimes that message is going to be imperfectly delivered, because we are recorded every minute of every day. And I think Senator Clinton deserves, you know, the right to make some errors once in a while. I'm -- obviously, I make some as well.

I think what's important is to make sure that we don't get so obsessed with gaffes that we lose sight of the fact that this is a defining moment in our history. We are going to be tackling some of the biggest issues that any president has dealt with in the last 40 years. Our economy is teetering not just on the edge of recession, but potentially worse. Our foreign policy is in a shambles. We are involved in two wars. People's incomes have not gone up, and their costs have. And we're seeing greater income inequality now than any time since the 1920s.

In those circumstances, for us to be obsessed with this -- these kinds of errors I think is a mistake. And that's not what our campaign has been about.

What our campaign has been about is offering some specific solutions to how we move these issues forward and identifying the need to change the culture in Washington, which we haven't talked at all about, but that has blocked real reform decade after decade after decade. That, I think, is the job of the next president of the United States.

That's what I intend to do. That's why I'm running.

MR. GIBSON: And Senator Obama, I want to do one more question, which goes to the basic issue of electability. And it is a question raised by a voter in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, a woman by the name of Nash McCabe. Take a look.

NASH MCCABE (Latrobe, Pennsylvania): (From videotape.) Senator Obama, I have a question, and I want to know if you believe in the American flag. I am not questioning your patriotism, but all our servicemen, policemen and EMS wear the flag. I want to know why you don't.

MR. GIBSON: Just to add to that, I noticed you put one on yesterday. But -- you've talked about this before, but it comes up again and again when we talk to voters. And as you may know, it is all over the Internet. And it's something of a theme that Senators Clinton and McCain's advisers agree could give you a major vulnerability if you're the candidate in November. How do you convince Democrats that this would not be a vulnerability?

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, look, I revere the American flag, and I would not be running for president if I did not revere this country. This is -- I would not be standing here if it wasn't for this country.

And I've said this -- again, there's no other country in which my story is even possible; somebody who was born to a teenage mom, raised by a single mother and grandparents from small towns in Kansas, you know, who was able to get an education and rise to the point where I can run for the highest office in the land. I could not help but love this country for all that it's given me.

And so what I've tried to do is to show my patriotism by how I treat veterans when I'm working in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee; by making sure that I'm speaking forcefully about how we need to bring this war in Iraq to a close, because I think it is not serving our national security well and it's not serving our military families and our troops well; talking about how we need to restore a sense of economic fairness to this country because that's what this country has always been about, is providing upward mobility and ladders to opportunity for all Americans. That's what I love about this country. And so I will continue to fight for those issues.

And I am absolutely confident that during the general election that when I'm in a debate with John McCain, people are not going to be questioning my patriotism, they are going to be questioning how can you make people's lives a little bit better.

And let me just make one last point on this issue of the flag pin. As you noted, I wore one yesterday when a veteran handed it to me, who himself was disabled and works on behalf of disabled veterans. I have never said that I don't wear flag pins or refuse to wear flag pins. This is the kind of manufactured issue that our politics has become obsessed with and, once again, distracts us from what should be my job when I'm commander in chief, which is going to be figuring out how we get our troops out of Iraq and how we actually make our economy better for the American people.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator, if you get the nomination, you'll have to -- (applause) -- (inaudible).

I want to give Senator Clinton a chance to respond, but first a follow-up on this issue, the general theme of patriotism in your relationships. A gentleman named William Ayers, he was part of the Weather Underground in the 1970s. They bombed the Pentagon, the Capitol and other buildings. He's never apologized for that. And in fact, on 9/11 he was quoted in The New York Times saying, "I don't regret setting bombs; I feel we didn't do enough."

An early organizing meeting for your state senate campaign was held at his house, and your campaign has said you are friendly. Can you explain that relationship for the voters, and explain to Democrats why it won't be a problem?

SEN. OBAMA: George, but this is an example of what I'm talking about.

This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English in Chicago, who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis.

And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn't make much sense, George.

The fact is, is that I'm also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, who during his campaign once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions.

Do I need to apologize for Mr. Coburn's statements? Because I certainly don't agree with those either.

So this kind of game, in which anybody who I know, regardless of how flimsy the relationship is, is somehow -- somehow their ideas could be attributed to me -- I think the American people are smarter than that. They're not going to suggest somehow that that is reflective of my views, because it obviously isn't.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think that is a fair general statement, but I also believe that Senator Obama served on a board with Mr. Ayers for a period of time, the Woods Foundation, which was a paid directorship position.

And if I'm not mistaken, that relationship with Mr. Ayers on this board continued after 9/11 and after his reported comments, which were deeply hurtful to people in New York, and I would hope to every American, because they were published on 9/11 and he said that he was just sorry they hadn't done more. And what they did was set bombs and in some instances people died. So it is -- you know, I think it is, again, an issue that people will be asking about. And I have no doubt -- I know Senator Obama's a good man and I respect him greatly but I think that this is an issue that certainly the Republicans will be raising.

And it goes to this larger set of concerns about, you know, how we are going to run against John McCain. You know, I wish the Republicans would apologize for the disaster of the Bush-Cheney years and not run anybody, just say that it's time for the Democrats to go back into the White House. (Laughter, applause.)

Unfortunately, they don't seem to be willing to do that. So we know that they're going to be out there, full force. And you know, I've been in this arena for a long time. I have a lot of baggage, and everybody has rummaged through it for years. (Laughter.) And so therefore, I have, you know, an opportunity to come to this campaign with a very strong conviction and feeling that I will be able to withstand whatever the Republican sends our way.

SENATOR OBAMA: I'm going to have to respond to this just really quickly, but by Senator Clinton's own vetting standards, I don't think she would make it, since President Clinton pardoned or commuted the sentences of two members of the Weather Underground, which I think is a slightly more significant act than me --


MR. GIBSON: Please.

SENATOR OBAMA: -- than me serving on a board with somebody for actions that he did 40 years ago.

Look, there is no doubt that the Republicans will attack either of us. What I've been able to display during the course of this primary is that I can take a punch. I've taken some pretty good ones from Senator Clinton. And I don't begrudge her that. That's part of what the political contest is about.

I am looking forward to having a debate with John McCain, and I think every poll indicates that I am doing just as well, if not better, in pulling together the coalition that will defeat John McCain.

And when it comes to November, and people are going into the polling place, they're going to be asking, are we going to go through four more years of George Bush economic policies; are we going to go through four more years of George Bush foreign policy?

And if we as Democrats and if I as the nominee have put forward a clear vision for how we're going to move the country forward, deal with issues like energy dependence, lower gas prices, provide health care, get our troops out of Iraq, that is a debate that I'm happy to have and a debate that I'm confident I can win.

MR. GIBSON: And Senator Clinton, I'm getting out of balance in terms of time.

SENATOR CLINTON: I've noticed. (Laughs.)

MR. GIBSON: And you're getting shortchanged here. And so if you want to reply here, fine. If you want to wait, we'll do it in the next half hour.


MR. GIBSON: All right.

We will take a commercial break. We will come back. And the Democratic debate, from the city of Philadelphia before the Pennsylvania primary, will continue. Stay with us. (Applause.)


MR. GIBSON: Another quote from the Constitution, apropos because we are here, as you heard just a moment ago, at the Constitution Center.

Senator Clinton, a question for you. We talked about the military applications from the Constitution and this is a question that involves the war in Iraq. It comes from Mandy Garber of Pittsburgh. Take a look.

MANDY GARBER (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania): So, the real question is, I mean, do the candidates have a real plan to get us out of Iraq or is it just real campaign propaganda? And you know, it's really unclear. They keep saying we want to bring the troops back, but considering what's happening on the ground, how is that going to happen?

MR. GIBSON: Let me just add a little bit to that question, because your communications director in your campaign, Howard Wolfson on a conference call recently was asked, "Is Senator Clinton going to stick to her announced plan of bringing one or two brigades out of Iraq every month whatever the realities on the ground?" And Wolfson said, "I'm giving you a one-word answer so we can be clear about it, the answer is yes."

So if the military commanders in Iraq came to you on day one and said this kind of withdrawal would destabilize Iraq, it would set back all of the gains that we have made, no matter what, you're going to order those troops to come home?

SENATOR CLINTON: Yes, I am, Charlie. And here's why: You know, thankfully we have a system in our country of civilian control of the military. And our professional military are the best in the world. They give their best advice and then they execute the policies of the president. I have watched this president as he has continued to change the rationale and move the goalposts when it comes to Iraq.

And I am convinced that it is in America's best interest, it is in the best interest of our military, and I even believe it is in the best interest of Iraq, that upon taking office, I will ask the secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and my security advisers to immediately put together for me a plan so that I can begin to withdraw within 60 days. I will make it very clear that we will do so in a responsible and careful manner, because obviously, withdrawing troops and equipment is dangerous.

I will also make it clear to the Iraqis that they no longer have a blank check from the president of the United States, because I believe that it will be only through our commitment to withdraw that the Iraqis will begin to do what they have failed to do for all of these years.

I will also begin an intensive diplomatic effort, both within the region and internationally, to begin to try to get other countries to understand the stakes that we all face when it comes to the future of Iraq.

But I have been convinced and very clear that I will begin to withdraw troops within 60 days. And we've had other instances in our history where some military commanders have been very publicly opposed to what a president was proposing to do.

But I think it's important that this decision be made, and I intend to make it.

MR. GIBSON: But Senator Clinton, aren't you saying -- I mean, General Petraeus was in Washington. You both were there when he testified, saying that the gains in Iraq are fragile and are reversible. Are you essentially saying, "I know better than the military commanders here"?

SENATOR CLINTON: No, what I'm saying, Charlie, is that no one can predict what will happen. There are many different scenarios. But one thing I am sure of is that our staying in Iraq, our continuing to lose our men and women in uniform, having many injured, the Iraqi casualties that we are seeing as well, is -- is no way for us to maintain a strong position in the world.

It's not only about Iraq. It is about ending the war in Iraq, so that we can begin paying attention to all of the other problems we have. There isn't any doubt that Afghanistan has been neglected. It has not gotten the resources that it needs. We hear that from our military commanders responsible for that region of the world. And there are other problems that we have failed to address.

So the bottom line for me is, we don't know what will happen as we withdraw. We do know what will happen if we stay mired in Iraq. The Iraqi government will not accept responsibility for its own future.

Our military will continue to be stretched thin, and our soldiers will be on their second, third, even their fourth deployment. And we will not be able to reassert our leadership and our moral authority in the world.

And I think those are the kind of broad issues that a president has to take into account.

MR. GIBSON: And Senator Obama, your campaign manager, David Plouffe, said, when he is -- this is talking about you -- when he is elected president, we will be out of Iraq in 16 months at the most; there should be no confusion about that.

So you'd give the same rock-hard pledge, that no matter what the military commanders said, you would give the order: Bring them home.

SENATOR OBAMA: Because the commander in chief sets the mission, Charlie. That's not the role of the generals. And one of the things that's been interesting about the president's approach lately has been to say, well, I'm just taking cues from General Petraeus.

Well, the president sets the mission. The general and our troops carry out that mission. And unfortunately we have had a bad mission, set by our civilian leadership, which our military has performed brilliantly. But it is time for us to set a strategy that is going to make the American people safer.

Now, I will always listen to our commanders on the ground with respect to tactics. Once I've given them a new mission, that we are going to proceed deliberately in an orderly fashion out of Iraq and we are going to have our combat troops out, we will not have permanent bases there, once I've provided that mission, if they come to me and want to adjust tactics, then I will certainly take their recommendations into consideration; but ultimately the buck stops with me as the commander in chief.

And what I have to look at is not just the situation in Iraq, but the fact that we continue to see al Qaeda getting stronger in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, we continue to see anti-American sentiment fanned all cross the Middle East, we are overstretched in a way -- we do not have a strategic reserve at this point. If there was another crisis that was taking place, we would not have a brigade that we could send to deal with that crisis that isn't already scheduled to be deployed in Iraq. That is not sustainable. That's not smart national security policy, and it's going to change when I'm president.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Obama, let's stay in the region. Iran continues to pursue a nuclear option. Those weapons, if they got them, would probably pose the greatest threat to Israel. During the Cold War, it was the United States policy to extend deterrence to our NATO allies. An attack on Great Britain would be treated as if it were an attack on the United States. Should it be U.S. policy now to treat an Iranian attack on Israel as if it were an attack on the United States?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, our first step should be to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the Iranians, and that has to be one of our top priorities. And I will make it one of our top priorities when I'm president of the United States.

I have said I will do whatever is required to prevent the Iranians from obtaining nuclear weapons. I believe that that includes direct talks with the Iranians where we are laying out very clearly for them, here are the issues that we find unacceptable, not only development of nuclear weapons but also funding terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as their anti-Israel rhetoric and threats towards Israel. I believe that we can offer them carrots and sticks, but we've got to directly engage and make absolutely clear to them what our posture is.

Now, my belief is that they should also know that I will take no options off the table when it comes to preventing them from using nuclear weapons or obtaining nuclear weapons, and that would include any threats directed at Israel or any of our allies in the region.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So you would extend our deterrent to Israel?

SENATOR OBAMA: As I've said before, I think it is very important that Iran understands that an attack on Israel is an attack on our strongest ally in the region, one that we -- one whose security we consider paramount, and that -- that would be an act of aggression that we -- that I would -- that I would consider an attack that is unacceptable, and the United States would take appropriate action.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Clinton, would you?

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, in fact, George, I think that we should be looking to create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much further than just Israel. Of course I would make it clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the United States, but I would do the same with other countries in the region.

You know, we are at a very dangerous point with Iran. The Bush policy has failed. Iran has not been deterred. They continue to try to not only obtain the fissile material for nuclear weapons but they are intent upon and using their efforts to intimidate the region and to have their way when it comes to the support of terrorism in Lebanon and elsewhere.

And I think that this is an opportunity, with skillful diplomacy, for the United States to go to the region and enlist the region in a security agreement vis-a-vis Iran. It would give us three tools we don't now have.

Number one, we've got to begin diplomatic engagement with Iran, and we want the region and the world to understand how serious we are about it. And I would begin those discussions at a low level. I certainly would not meet with Ahmadinejad, because even again today he made light of 9/11 and said he's not even sure it happened and that people actually died. He's not someone who would have an opportunity to meet with me in the White House. But I would have a diplomatic process that would engage him.

And secondly, we've got to deter other countries from feeling that they have to acquire nuclear weapons. You can't go to the Saudis or the Kuwaitis or UAE and others who have a legitimate concern about Iran and say: Well, don't acquire these weapons to defend yourself unless you're also willing to say we will provide a deterrent backup and we will let the Iranians know that, yes, an attack on Israel would trigger massive retaliation, but so would an attack on those countries that are willing to go under this security umbrella and forswear their own nuclear ambitions.

And finally we cannot permit Iran to become a nuclear weapons power. And this administration has failed in our efforts to convince the rest of the world that that is a danger, not only to us and not just to Israel but to the region and beyond.

Therefore we have got to have this process that reaches out, beyond even who we would put under the security umbrella, to get the rest of the world on our side to try to impose the kind of sanctions and diplomatic efforts that might prevent this from occurring.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me turn to the economy. That is the number one issue on Americans' minds right now.

Yesterday, Senator McCain singled that the number one issue, in the general election campaign on the economy, is going to be taxes. And he says that both of you are going to raise taxes, not just on the wealthy but on everyone. Here's what he said in his speech yesterday.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): (Pre-recorded remarks.) All these tax increases are under the fine print of the slogan: hope. They're going to raise your taxes by thousands of dollars a year. And they have the audacity to hope you don't mind.


MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Clinton, two-part question.

Two-part question: Can you make an absolute, read-my-lips pledge that there will be no tax increases of any kind for anyone earning under $200,000 a year?

And if the economy is as weak a year from now as it is today, will you -- will you persist in your plans to roll back President Bush's tax cuts for wealthier Americans?

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, George, I have made a commitment that I will let the taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year go back to the rates that they were paying in the 1990s.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if the economy is weak?

SENATOR CLINTON: Yes. And here's why: Number one, I do not believe that it will detrimentally affect the economy by doing that. As I recall, you know, we used that tool during the 1990s to very good effect and I think we can do so again.

I am absolutely committed to not raising a single tax on middle class Americans, people making less than $250,000 a year. In fact, I have a very specific plan of $100 billion in tax cuts that would go to help people afford health care, security retirement plans, you know, make it possible for people to get long-term care insurance and care for their parents and grandparents who they are trying to support, making college affordable and so much else.

Well, if you look at how we'd have to sequence that, we might not be able to do all of that at once. But if you go to my website,, it is laid out there how I will pay for everything, because everything I have proposed, I have put in how I would pay for it.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: An absolute commitment, no middle-class tax increases of any kind.

SENATOR CLINTON: No, that's right. That is my commitment.

MR. GIBSON: Senator Obama?

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Would you take the same pledge?

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, I not only have pledged not to raise their taxes, I've been the first candidate in this race to specifically say I would cut their taxes.

And one of the centerpieces of my economic plan would be to say that we are going to offset the payroll tax, the most regressive of our taxes, so that families who are earning -- who are middle-income individuals making $75,000 a year or less, that they would get a tax break so that families would see up to a thousand dollars worth of relief.

Senior citizens who have earnings of less than $50,000 wouldn't have to pay income tax on their Social Security. And middle-class homeowners who currently don't itemize on their tax filings, they would be able to get a deduction the same way that wealthy individuals do.

Now, here's the reason why that's important. We have seen wages and incomes flat or declining at a time when costs have gone up. And one of the things that we've learned from George Bush's economic policies, which John McCain now wants to follow, is that pain trickles up. And so, partly because people have been strapped and have had a tough time making ends meet, we're now seeing a deteriorating housing market.

That's also as a consequence of the lack of oversight and regulation of these banks and financial institutions that gave loans that they shouldn't have. And part of it has to do with the fact that you had $185 million by mortgage lenders spent on lobbyists and special interests who were writing these laws.

So the rules in Washington -- the tax code has been written on behalf of the well connected. Our trade laws have -- same thing has happened. And part of how we're going to be able to deliver on middle-class tax relief is to change how business is done in Washington. And that's been a central focus of our campaign.

MR. GIBSON: Senator Obama, you both have now just taken this pledge on people under $250,000 and 200-and-what, 250,000.

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, it depends on how you calculate it. But it would be between 200 and 250,000.

MR. GIBSON: All right.

You have however said you would favor an increase in the capital gains tax. As a matter of fact, you said on CNBC, and I quote, "I certainly would not go above what existed under Bill Clinton, which was 28 percent."

It's now 15 percent. That's almost a doubling if you went to 28 percent. But actually Bill Clinton in 1997 signed legislation that dropped the capital gains tax to 20 percent.


MR. GIBSON: And George Bush has taken it down to 15 percent.


MR. GIBSON: And in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased. The government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down. So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, Charlie, what I've said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness. We saw an article today which showed that the top 50 hedge fund managers made $29 billion last year -- $29 billion for 50 individuals. And part of what has happened is that those who are able to work the stock market and amass huge fortunes on capital gains are paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries. That's not fair.

And what I want is not oppressive taxation. I want businesses to thrive and I want people to be rewarded for their success. But what I also want to make sure is that our tax system is fair and that we are able to finance health care for Americans who currently don't have it and that we're able to invest in our infrastructure and invest in our schools.

And you can't do that for free, and you can't take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children and our grandchildren and then say that you're cutting taxes, which is essentially what John McCain has been talking about. And that is irresponsible.

You know, I believe in the principle that you pay as you go, and you don't propose tax cuts unless you are closing other tax breaks for individuals. And you don't increase spending unless you're eliminating some spending or you're finding some new revenue. That's how we got an additional $4 trillion worth of debt under George Bush. That is helping to undermine our economy, and it's going to change when I'm president of the United States.

MR. GIBSON: But history shows that when you drop the capital gains tax, the revenues go up.

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, that might happen or it might not. It depends on what's happening on Wall Street and how business is going. I think the biggest problem that we've got on Wall Street right now is the fact that we've got a housing crisis that this president has not been attentive to and that it took John McCain three tries before he got it right.

And if we can stabilize that market and we can get credit flowing again, then I think we'll see stocks do well, and once again I think we can generate the revenue that we need to run this government and hopefully to pay down some of this debt.

MR. GIBSON: Senator Clinton.

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, let me start by saying that I think we know that we've got to get back to an economy that works for everyone. The president has been very good for people who are doing well, and that's great. But it was better for our country when we had an economy that lifted everyone up at the same time, and we had that during the 1990s; you know, 22.7 million new jobs, more people lifted out of poverty than any time in our recent history. A typical family saw a $7,000 increase in income.

And we have lost that. You know, now the typical family has lost at least $1,000. And the fact is that, you know, I don't want to take one more penny of tax money from anybody. But what I want to do is make some smart investments. And I was the first to come out with a strategic energy fund, where we need to be investing in clean renewable energy. And I think we could put 5 million Americans to work.

I think we have to invest in our infrastructure. That also will get the economy moving again, and I believe we could put about 3 million people to work in good union jobs where people get a good wage with a good set of benefits that can support a middle-class family with a rising standard of living.

I want to see us actually tackle the housing crisis, something I've been talking about for over a year. If I had been president a year ago, I believe we would have begun to avoid some of the worst of the mortgage and credit crisis, because we would have started much earlier than we have -- in fact, I don't think we've really done very much at all yet -- in dealing with a way of freezing home foreclosures, of freezing interest rates, getting money into communities to be able to withstand the problems that are caused by foreclosures.

Governor Rendell has done a great job in Pennsylvania. He saw this coming. And unlike our current president, who either didn't know it or didn't care about it, he has really held the line, and Pennsylvania has been much less affected by home foreclosures. But the president hasn't done that, and what I have proposed would do that.

So you've got to look at the entire economy. And from my perspective, yes, taxes is a piece of it. But you've got to figure out what is it we would invest in that would make us richer and safer and stronger tomorrow, which would be helping everybody.

MR. GIBSON: I'm going to go to a commercial break. But I just want to come back to one thing you said, and I want to be clear. The question was about capital gains tax. Would you say, "No, I'm not going to raise capital gains taxes"?

SENATOR CLINTON: I wouldn't raise it above the 20 percent if I raised it at all. I would not raise it above what it was during the Clinton administration.

MR. GIBSON: "If I raised it at all." Would you propose an increase in the capital gains tax?

SENATOR CLINTON: You know, Charlie, I'm going to have to look and see what the revenue situation is. You know, we now have the largest budget deficit we've ever had, $311 billion. We went from a $5.6 trillion projected surplus to what we have today, which is a $9 trillion debt.

I don't want to raise taxes on anybody. I'm certainly against one of Senator Obama's ideas, which is to lift the cap on the payroll tax, because that would impose additional taxes on people who are, you know, educators here in the Philadelphia area or in the suburbs, police officers, firefighters and the like.

So I think we have to be very careful about how we navigate this.

So the $250,000 mark is where I am sure we're going. But beyond that, we're going to have to look and see where we are.

MR. GIBSON: Very quickly, because I owe Senator Clinton time, but, yeah, you wanted to respond.

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, Charlie, I just have to respond real quickly to Senator Clinton's last comment. What I have proposed is that we raise the cap on the payroll tax, because right now millionaires and billionaires don't have to pay beyond $97,000 a year.

That's where it's kept. Now most firefighters, most teachers, you know, they're not making over $100,000 a year. In fact, only 6 percent of the population does. And I've also said that I'd be willing to look at exempting people who are making slightly above that.

But understand the alternative is that because we're going to have fewer workers to more retirees, if we don't do anything on Social Security, then those benefits will effectively be cut, because we'll be running out of money.

MR. GIBSON: But Senator, that's a tax. That's a tax on people under $250,000.

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, no, look, let me -- let me finish my point here, Charlie. Senator Clinton just said she certainly wouldn't do this; this was a bad idea. In Iowa she, when she was outside of camera range, said to an individual there she'd certainly consider the idea. And then that was recorded, and she apparently wasn't aware that it was being recorded.

So this is an option that I would strongly consider, because the alternatives, like raising the retirement age, or cutting benefits, or raising the payroll tax on everybody, including people who make less than $97,000 a year --

MR. GIBSON: But there's a heck of a lot of --

SENATOR OBAMA: -- those are not good policy options.

MR. GIBSON: Those are a heck of a lot of people between $97,000 and $200(,000) and $250,000. If you raise the payroll taxes, that's going to raise taxes on them.

SENATOR OBAMA: And that's -- and that's -- and that's why I've said, Charlie, that I would look at potentially exempting those who are in between.

But the point is, we're going to have to capture some revenue in order to stabilize the Social Security system. You can't -- you can't get something for nothing. And if we care about Social Security, which I do, and if we are firm in our commitment to make sure that it's going to be there for the next generation, and not just for our generation, then we have an obligation to figure out how to stabilize the system.

And I think we should be honest in presenting our ideas in terms of how we're going to do that and not just say that we're going to form a commission and try to solve the problem some other way.

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, in fact, I am totally committed to making sure Social Security is solvent. If we had stayed on the path we were on at the end of my husband's administration, we sure would be in a lot better position because we had a plan to extend the life of the Social Security Trust Fund and again, President Bush decided that that wasn't a priority, that the war in Iraq and tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans were his priorities, neither of which he's ever paid for. I think it's the first time we've ever been taken to war and had a president who wouldn't pay for it.

But when it comes to Social Security, fiscal responsibility is the first and most important step. You've got to begin to reign in the budget, pay as you go, to try to replenish our Social Security Trust Fund.

And with all due respect, the last time we had a crisis in Social Security was 1983. President Reagan and Speaker Tip O'Neill came up with a commission. That was the best and smartest way, because you've got to get Republicans and Democrats together.

That's what I will do. And I will say, number one, don't cut benefits on current beneficiaries; they're already having a hard enough time. And number two, do not impose additional tax burdens on middle-class families.

There are lots of ways we can fix Social Security that don't impose those burdens, and I will do that.

SENATOR OBAMA: That commission raised the retirement age, Charlie, and also raised the payroll tax. And so Senator Clinton, if she -- she can't have it both ways. You can't come at me for proposing a solution that will save Social Security without burdening middle- income Americans, and then suggest that somehow she's got a magic solution.

SENATOR CLINTON: But there are more progressive ways of doing it than, you know, lifting the cap. And I think we'll work it out. I have every confidence we're going to work it out. I know that we can make this happen.

MR. GIBSON: On that point, we're going to take a break, a commercial break. The Democratic debate from here in Philadelphia before the Pennsylvania primary will continue. Stay with us. We'll be back. (Applause.)


MR. GIBSON: Back to the Philadelphia Debate, the Democratic Debate, just less than a week now before the Pennsylvania primary.

And I would be remiss tonight if I didn't take note of the fact that today is the one-year anniversary of Virginia Tech. And I think it's fair to say that probably every American during this day, at one point or another, said a small prayer for the great people at that university and for those who died.

It also, I suspect, makes this an appropriate time to talk about guns. And it has not been talked about much in this campaign and it's an important issue in the state of Pennsylvania.

Both of you, in the past, have supported strong gun control measures. But now when I listen to you on the campaign, I hear you emphasizing that you believe in an individual's right to bear arms.

Both of you were strong advocates for licensing of guns. Both of you were strong advocates for the registration of guns.

Why don't you emphasize that now, Senator Clinton?

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, Charlie, on Friday, I was with Mayor Nutter, who's here, in West Philadelphia at the YMCA there, to talk about what we could do together to bring down the crime rate that has ravaged Philadelphia.

You know, more than one person, on average, a day is murdered in Philadelphia. And Mayor Nutter is very committed, as the mayor of this great city, to try to do what he can to stem the violence.

And what I said then is what I have been saying, that I will be a good partner, for cities like Philadelphia, as president. Because I will bring back the COPS program, the so-called COPS program, where we had 100,000 police on the street, which really helped drive down the crime rate and also helped create better community relations.

I will also work to reinstate the assault weapons ban. We had it during the 1990s. It really was an aid to our police officers, who are now once again, because it has lapsed -- the Republicans will not reinstate it -- are being outgunned on our streets by these military- style weapons.

I will also work to make sure that police departments in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, across America get access to the federal information that will enable them to track illegal guns, because the numbers are astounding. Probably 80 percent of the guns used in gun crimes are in the hands of that criminal, that gang member -- unfortunately, people who are sometimes, you know, mentally challenged -- because it got there illegally. And under the Republicans, that information was kept from local law enforcement.

So I believe that we can balance what I think is the right equation. I respect the Second Amendment. I respect the rights of lawful gun owners to own guns, to use their guns, but I also believe that most lawful gun owners whom I have spoken with for many years across our country also want to be sure that we keep those guns out of the wrong hands.

And as president, I will work to try to bridge this divide, which I think has been polarizing and, frankly, doesn't reflect the common sense of the American people.

So we will strike the right balance to protect the constitutional right but to give people the feeling and the reality that they will be protected from guns in the wrong hands.

MR. GIBSON: Senator Obama, the District of Columbia has a law, it's had a law since 1976, it's now before the United States Supreme Court, that prohibits ownership of handguns, a sawed-off shotgun, a machine gun or a short-barreled rifle. Is that law consistent with an individual's right to bear arms?

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, Charlie, I confess I obviously haven't listened to the briefs and looked at all the evidence.

As a general principle, I believe that the Constitution confers an individual right to bear arms. But just because you have an individual right does not mean that the state or local government can't constrain the exercise of that right, and, you know, in the same way that we have a right to private property but local governments can establish zoning ordinances that determine how you can use it.

And I think that it is going to be important for us to reconcile what are two realities in this country.

There's the reality of gun ownership and the tradition of gun ownership that's passed on from generation to generation. You know, when you listen to people who have hunted, and they talk about the fact that they went hunting with their fathers or their mothers, then that is something that is deeply important to them and, culturally, they care about deeply.

But you also have the reality of what's happening here in Philadelphia and what's happening in Chicago.


Mr. GIBSON: But do you still favor the registration of guns? Do you still favor the licensing of guns?

And in 1996, your campaign issued a questionnaire, and your writing was on the questionnaire that said you favored a ban on handguns.

SENATOR OBAMA: No, my writing wasn't on that particular questionnaire, Charlie. As I said, I have never favored an all-out ban on handguns.

What I think we can provide is common-sense approaches to the issue of illegal guns that are ending up on the streets. We can make sure that criminals don't have guns in their hands. We can make certain that those who are mentally deranged are not getting a hold of handguns. We can trace guns that have been used in crimes to unscrupulous gun dealers that may be selling to straw purchasers and dumping them on the streets.

The point is, is that what we have to do is get beyond the politics of this issue and figure out what, in fact, is working.

Look, in my hometown of Chicago, on the south side of Chicago, we've had 34 gun deaths last year of Chicago public school children.

And I think that most law-abiding gun owners all across America would recognize that it is perfectly appropriate for local communities and states and the federal government to try to figure out, how do we stop that kind of killing?

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Clinton, you have a home in D.C.

Do you support the D.C. ban?

SENATOR CLINTON: You know, George, I want to give local communities the opportunity to have some authority over determining how to keep their citizens safe.

This case you're referring to, before the Supreme Court, is apparently dividing the Bush administration. You know, the Bush administration basically said, we don't have enough facts to know whether or not it is appropriate.

And Vice President Cheney who, you know, is a fourth special branch of government all unto himself -- (laughter) -- has actually filed a brief saying, oh, no, we have to, you know, we have to prevent D.C. from doing this.

So --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But what do you think? Do you support it or not?

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, what I support is sensible regulation that is consistent with the constitutional right to own and bear arms.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Is the D.C. ban consistent with that right?

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, I think a total ban, with no exceptions under any circumstances, might be found by the court not to be. But I don't know the facts.

But I don't think that should blow open a hole that says that D.C. or Philadelphia or anybody else cannot come up with sensible regulations to protect their people and keep, you know, machine guns and assault weapons out of the hands of folks who shouldn't have them.

MR. GIBSON: Well, with all due respect, and I'm not sure I got an answer from Senator Obama. But do you still favor licensing and registration of handguns?

SENATOR CLINTON: What I favor is what works in New York. You know, we have a set of rules in New York City and we have a totally different set of rules in the rest of the state. What might work in New York City is certainly not going to work in Montana. So, for the federal government to be having any kind of, you know, blanket rules that they're going to try to impose, I think doesn't make sense.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But Senator, you were for that when you ran for Senate in New York.

SENATOR CLINTON: I was for -- I was for the New York rules, that's right. I was for the New York rules because they have worked over time. And there isn't a lot of uproar in New York about changing them, because I go to upstate New York, where we have a lot of hunters and people who are collectors and people who are sport shooters; they have every reason to believe that their rights are being respected. You walk down the street with a police officer in Manhattan; he wants to be sure that there is some way of protecting him and protecting the people that are in his charge.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Obama, last May we talked about affirmative action, ad you said at the time that affluent African Americans like your daughters should probably be treated as pretty advantaged when they apply to college, and that poor white children -- kids -- should get special consideration, affirmative action.

So, as president, how specifically would you recommend changing affirmative action policies so that affluent African Americans are not given advantages, and poor, less affluent whites are?

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, I think that the basic principle that should guide discussions not just on affirmative action but how we are admitting young people to college generally is, how do we make sure that we're providing ladders of opportunity for people? How do we make sure that every child in America has a decent shot in pursuing their dreams?

And race is still a factor in our society. And I think that for universities and other institutions to say, you know, we're going to take into account the hardships that somebody has experienced because they're black or Latino or because they're women --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if they're wealthy?

SENATOR OBAMA: I think that's something that they can take into account, but it can only be in the context of looking at the whole situation of the young person. So if they look at my child and they say, you know, Malia and Sasha, they've had a pretty good deal, then that shouldn't be factored in. On the other hand, if there's a young white person who has been working hard, struggling, and has overcome great odds, that's something that should be taken into account.

So I still believe in affirmative action as a means of overcoming both historic and potentially current discrimination, but I think that it can't be a quota system and it can't be something that is simply applied without looking at the whole person, whether that person is black or white or Hispanic, male or female.

What we want to do is make sure that people who have been locked out of opportunity are going to be able to walk through those doors of opportunity in the future.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Clinton, would you agree to that kind of change?

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, here's the way I'd prefer to think about it.

I think we've got to have affirmative action generally to try to give more opportunities to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds -- whoever they are. That's why I'm a strong supporter of early childhood education and universal pre-kindergarten.

That's why I'm against No Child Left Behind as it is currently operating. And I would end it, because we can do so much better to have an education system that really focuses in on kids who need extra help.

That's why I'm in favor of much more college aid, not these outrageous predatory student loan rates that are charging people I've met, across Pennsylvania, 20, 25, 28 percent interest rates. Let's make college affordable again.

See, I think we have to look at what we're trying to achieve here somewhat differently. We do have a real gap. We have a gap in achievement. We have a gap in income. But we don't have a potential gap.

I think our job should be to try to create the conditions that enable people to live up to their God-given potential. And that means health care for everyone -- no exceptions, nobody left out. And it means taking a hard look at what we need to do to compete and win in the global economy.

So that's how I prefer to think about it. You know, let's affirmatively invest in our young people and make it possible for them to have a good middle-class life in today's much more competitive economy.

MR. GIBSON: We're running short on time. Let me just give some quick questions here, and let me give you a minute each to answer. What are you going to do about gas prices? It's getting to $4 a gallon. It is killing truckers.

SENATOR CLINTON: That's right.

MR. GIBSON: People are in trouble. And yet the whole world pays a whole lot more for gas than we do. What are you going to do about it?

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, I met with a group of truckers in Harrisburg about a week and a half ago, and here's what I told them. Number one, we are going to investigate these gas prices. The federal government has certain tools that this administration will not use, in the Federal Trade Commission and other ways, through the Justice Department, because I believe there is market manipulation going on, particularly among energy traders. We've seen this movie before, in Enron, and we've got to get to the bottom to make sure we're not being taken advantage of.

Number two, I would quit putting oil into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and I would release some to help drive the price down globally.

And thirdly, if there is any kind of gas tax moratorium, as some people are now proposing --

MR. GIBSON: Like John McCain.

SENATOR CLINTON: -- like John McCain, and some Democrats, frankly -- I think Senator Menendez and others have said that we may have to do something, because when you get to $4-a-gallon gas, people are not going to be able to afford to drive to work. And what I would like to see us do is to say if we have that, then we should have a windfall profits tax on these outrageous profits of the oil companies, and put that money back into the highway trust fund, so that we don't lose out on repair and construction and rebuilding.

But ultimately, Charlie, we've got to have a long-term energy strategy. We are so much more dependent on foreign oil today than we were on 9/11, and that is a real indictment of our leadership. And I've laid out a comprehensive plan to move us toward energy independence that I hope I will have the opportunity to implement as president.

MR. GIBSON: Very quickly, Senator Obama, I -- the same thing. But we've heard from politicians for a long time we're going to end dependence on foreign oil. I just have a quote: "The generation-long growth in our dependence on foreign oil will be stopped dead in its tracks right now." That was Jimmy Carter in 1979. And it's gotten a whole lot worse since then.

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, you're right. And that's why people are cynical, because decade after decade, we talk about energy policy or we talk about health care policy, and through Democratic and Republican administrations, nothing gets done.

Now, I think many of the steps that Senator Clinton outlined are similar to the plans that we talked about. It is absolutely true that we've got to investigate potential price gouging or market manipulation. I have strongly called for a windfall profits tax that can provide both consumers relief and also invest in renewable energies.

I think that long term, we're going to have to raise fuel efficiency standards on cars, because the only way that we're going to be able to reduce gas prices is if we reduce demand. You've still got a billion people in China, and maybe 700 million in India, who still want cars. And so the long-term trajectory is that we're going to have to get serious about increasing our fuel efficiency standards and investing in new technologies.

That's something I'm committed to doing. I've talked about spending $150 billion over 10 years in an Apollo Project, a Manhattan Project to create the alternative energy strategies that will work not only for this generation but for the next.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're running out of time for this segment. Very quickly, for each of you, 30 seconds. Senator Clinton, you've said that you believe in using former presidents. How would you use George W. Bush if you were president? (Laughter.)

SENATOR CLINTON: I'm going to have to give some serious thought to that. (Laughter.) You know, I do believe that it's a way to unify our country. I thought that President Bush was right when he asked his father and Bill to represent us during the aftermath of the tsunami. I thought it sent a great message here at home and around the world. And I'm sure that there will be opportunities to ask all the former presidents to work on behalf of our nation.

You know, we've got to come together. And the former presidents really exemplify that, whether one agrees with them politically or not. When they're all together, representing our country, that sends a strong message. And I would look for a way to use all our former presidents, but that'll take some careful thought on my part. (Laughter.)


SENATOR OBAMA: Well, you know, I think that having the advice and counsel of all former presidents is important. I'm probably more likely to ask advice of the current president's father than president himself because I think that when you look back at George H.W. Bush's foreign policy, it was a wise foreign policy.

And how we executed the Gulf War, how we managed the transition out of the Cold War, I think, is an example of how we can get bipartisan agreement. I don't think the Democrats have a monopoly on good ideas. I think that there are a lot of thoughtful Republicans out there.

The problem is, we've been locked in a divided politics for so long that we've stopped listening to each other. And I think that this president in particular has fed those divisions. That's something that we've tried to end in this campaign, and I think we're being successful.

MR. GIBSON: All right.

We're going to take one more commercial break, come back with a final question for both of you in just a moment.


MR. GIBSON: Final question, now, to finish what I think has been a fascinating debate, and I appreciate both of you being here -- thanking you in advance.

I -- it is hard to see how either one of you win this nomination on the basis of pledged delegates in primaries. And it could well come down to superdelegates. And I know you've been talking to them all along. But let's say you're at the convention in Denver, and you're talking to a group of 20 undecided superdelegates. How are you going to make the case to them why you're the better candidate and more electable in November?

What do you say to them -- minute-and-a-half each. And by a flip of the coin, Senator Clinton goes first.

SENATOR CLINTON: Well, I say to them what I've said to voters across America -- that we need a fighter back in the White House. We need someone who's going to take on the special interests.

And I have a plan to take away $55 billion of the giveaways and the subsidies that the president and Congress have lavished on the drug companies and the oil companies and the insurance companies and Wall Street. And I have a plan to give that money back -- give it back in tax cuts to the middle class -- people who deserve it, who have been struggling under this president, who feel invisible, who feel like, you know, they're not even seen anymore.

And we're going to make everybody feel like they're part of the American family again. And we're going to tackle the problems that have been waiting for a champion back in the White House.

Now, obviously, I can't do this alone. I can only do it if I get people who believe in me and support me and who look at my track record and know that, you know, I've spent a lifetime trying to empower people, trying to fight for them.

And I think it's going to be challenging, but it is absolutely what we must do in order to keep faith with our country and to give our children the future that they deserve.

So I will tell everyone who listens that I'm ready to be the commander in chief. I've 35 generals and admirals, including two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Wesley Clark and others, who believe that I am the person to lead us out of Iraq, to take on al Qaeda, to rebuild our military.

And I will turn this economy around. We will get back to shared prosperity and we will see once again that we can do this the right way so it's not just a government of the few, by the few and for the few. And I need your help. I need the help of the voters here in Pennsylvania, first and foremost, in order to be able to get to those conversations.

And I hope that I have demonstrated not just over the last weeks or even over the last hour and half but over a lifetime that you can count on me. You know where I stand. You know that I will fight for you and that together we're going to take back our country.

MR. GIBSON: Senator Obama.

SENATOR OBAMA: Well, when we started this campaign 15 months ago, it was based on a couple of simple principles: number one, that we were in a defining moment in our history. Our nation's at war. Our planet's in peril. Our economy is in a shambles. And most importantly, the American people have lost trust in their government, not just Democrats but independents and Republicans who've been disillusioned about promises that have been made election after election, decade after decade.

And the bet I was making was a bet on the American people; that they were tired of a politics that was about tearing about each other down, but wanted a politics that was about lifting the country up; that they didn't want spin and PR out of their elected officials, they wanted an honest conversation.

And most importantly, I believe that change does not happen from the top down, it happens from the bottom up. And that's why we decided we weren't going to take PAC money or money from federal registered lobbyists, that we were not going to be subject to special- interest influence, but instead were going to enlist the American people in a project of changing this country.

And during the course of these last 15 months, my bet's paid off because the American people have responded in record numbers, and not just people who are accustomed to participating, but people who haven't participated in years. I talked to a woman here in Pennsylvania, 70 years old, she whispered to me, "I've never voted before, but I'm going to vote in this election."

And so my point to the super delegates would be that if we're going to deliver on health care for every American, improve our schools, deliver on jobs, then it's going to be absolutely vital we form a new political coalition in this country. That's what we've been doing in this campaign, and that's what I'm going to do when I'm president of the United States of America.

MR. GIBSON: The audience has been very good in restraining themselves. I think a round of applause for Senators Obama and Clinton. (Applause.)

And that concludes tonight's Pennsylvania debate. We appreciate both of you and wish you both the best.

Thank you very much. (Applause continues.)


[POSTSCRIPT: this 'review' from Editor and Publisher, the newspaper industry's trade publication, is worth reading in its entirety:

Clinton-Obama Debate: ABC Decides Top Issues Facing Americans Are Gaffes, Flag Pins and '60s Radicals

By Greg Mitchell

Published: April 16, 2008 10:15 PM ET

NEW YORK In perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years, ABC News hosts Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous focused mainly on trivial issues as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama faced off in Philadelphia.

Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the health care and mortgage crises, the overall state of the economy and dozens of other pressing issues had to wait for their few moments in the sun as Obama was pressed to explain his recent "bitter" gaffe and relationship with Rev. Wright (seemingly a dead issue) and not wearing a flag pin while Clinton had to answer again for her Bosnia trip exaggerations.

Then it was back to Obama to defend his slim association with a former '60s radical -- a question that came out of rightwing talk radio and Sean Hannity on TV, but delivered by former Bill Clinton aide Stephanopolous. This approach led to a claim that Clinton's husband pardoned two other '60s radicals. And so on.

More time was spent on all of this than segments on getting out of Iraq and keeping people from losing their homes and other key issues. Gibson only got excited when he complained about anyone daring to raise taxes on his capital gains.

Yet neither candidate had the courage to ask the moderators to turn to those far more important issues. But some in the crowd did -- booing Gibson near the end.

Yet David Brooks' [NOTE: Right wing, Republican columnist whose hands in this matter can not possibly be clean. — HW] review at The New York Times concluded: "I thought the questions were excellent." He gave ABC an "A."

But Tom Shales of The Washington Post had an opposite view: "Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, turned in shoddy, despicable performances." Walter Shapiro, the former USA Today political writer, declared in Salon, "Broadcast to a prime-time network audience on ABC and devoid of a single policy question during its opening 50 minutes, the debate easily could have convinced the uninitiated that American politics has all the substance of a Beavis and Butt-Head marathon."

[End Transmission, Voice of Blogistan]

12 April 2008

Obama's Actual Remarks in San Francisco

[Begin Voice of Blogistan Transmission]

The entire blogosphere seems to have its panties in a bunch over the obligatory mischaracterization of a sound bite. Before you jump in your hatemobile and rev up the engine, it might behoove you to read what Senator Obama ACTUALLY said.

From Mark Halperin's page at TIME magazine:

Transcript of Obama’s Remarks at San Francisco Fundraiser Sunday

OBAMA: So, it depends on where you are, but I think it’s fair to say that the places where we are going to have to do the most work are the places where people are most cynical about government. The people are mis-appre…they’re misunderstanding why the demographics in our, in this contest have broken out as they are. Because everybody just ascribes it to ‘white working-class don’t wanna work — don’t wanna vote for the black guy.’ That’s…there were intimations of that in an article in the Sunday New York Times today - kind of implies that it’s sort of a race thing.

Here’s how it is: in a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long. They feel so betrayed by government that when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, then a part of them just doesn’t buy it. And when it’s delivered by — it’s true that when it’s delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama, then that adds another layer of skepticism.

But — so the questions you’re most likely to get about me, ‘Well, what is this guy going to do for me? What is the concrete thing?’ What they wanna hear is so we’ll give you talking points about what we’re proposing — to close tax loopholes, uh you know uh roll back the tax cuts for the top 1%, Obama’s gonna give tax breaks to uh middle-class folks and we’re gonna provide healthcare for every American.

But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Um, now these are in some communities, you know. I think what you’ll find is, is that people of every background — there are gonna be a mix of people, you can go in the toughest neighborhoods, you know working-class lunch-pail folks, you’ll find Obama enthusiasts. And you can go into places where you think I’d be very strong and people will just be skeptical. The important thing is that you show up and you’re doing what you’re doing.

[End Voice of Blogistan Transmission]

18 March 2008


Tuesday, March 18th, 2008/ 10:17:53 ET
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.” We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.


27 February 2008

Clinton Attacks On All Fronts (debate)

[Begin Transmission Voice of Blogistan]

Title borrowed from The Boston Globe headline, this AM.

from The New York Times

February 26, 2008

The Democratic Debate in Cleveland

The following is a transcript of the Democratic presidential debate on MSNBC in Cleveland, Ohio, as provided by the Federal News Service and CQ Transcriptions via The Associated Press.



MR. WILLIAMS: A lot has been said since we last gathered in this forum, certainly since -- in the few days since you two last debated. Senator Clinton, in your comments especially, the difference has been striking. And let's begin by taking a look.

SEN. CLINTON: (From videotape.) You know, no matter what happens in this contest -- and I am honored, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored. (Cheers, applause.)

(From videotape.) So shame on you, Barack Obama. It is time you ran a campaign consistent with your messages in public. That's what I expect from you. Meet me in Ohio. Let's have a debate about your tactics and your -- (cheers, applause).

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Clinton, we're here in Ohio. Senator Obama is here. This is the debate. You would agree the difference in tone over just those 48 hours was striking.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, this is a contested campaign. And as I have said many times, I have a great deal of respect for Senator Obama, but we have differences. And in the last several days, some of those differences in tactics and the choices that Senator Obama's campaign has made regarding flyers and mailers and other information that has been put out about my health care plan and my position on NAFTA have been very disturbing to me.

And therefore, I think it's important that you stand up for yourself and you point out these differences so that voters can have the information they need to make a decision.

You know, for example, it's been unfortunate that Senator Obama has consistently said that I would force people to have health care whether they could afford it or not. You know, health care reform and achieving universal health care is a passion of mine. It is something I believe in with all my heart. And every day that I'm campaigning, and certainly here throughout Ohio, I've met so many families -- happened again this morning in Lorain -- who are just devastated because they don't get the health care they deserve to have. And unfortunately it's a debate we should have that is accurate and is based in facts about my plan and Senator Obama's plan, because my plan will cover everyone and it will be affordable. And on many occasions, independent experts have concluded exactly that.

And Senator Obama's plan does not cover everyone. It would leave, give or take, 15 million people out. So we should have a good debate that uses accurate information, not false, misleading, and discredited information, especially on something as important as whether or not we will achieve quality, affordable health care for everyone. That's my goal. That's what I'm fighting for, and I'm going to stand up for that.

MR. WILLIAMS: On the topic of accurate information, and to that end, one of the things that has happened over the past 36 hours -- a photo went out the website The Drudge Report, showing Senator Obama in the native garb of a nation he was visiting, as you have done in a host country on a trip overseas.

Matt Drudge on his website said it came from a source inside the Clinton campaign. Can you say unequivocally here tonight it did not?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, so far as I know, it did not. And I certainly know nothing about it and have made clear that that's not the kind of behavior that I condone or expect from the people working in my campaign. But we have no evidence where it came from.

So I think that it's clear what I would do if it were someone in my campaign, as I have in the past: asking people to leave my campaign if they do things that I disagree with.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, your response.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, first of all, I take Senator Clinton at her word that she knew nothing about the photo. So I think that's something that we can set aside.

I do want to focus on the issue of health care because Senator Clinton has suggested that the flyer that we put out, the mailing that we put out, was inaccurate. Now, keep in mind that I have consistently said that Senator Clinton's got a good health care plan. I think I have a good health care plan. I think mine is better, but I have said that 95 percent of our health care plan is similar.

I have endured over the course of this campaign repeatedly negative mailing from Senator Clinton in Iowa, in Nevada and other places suggesting that I want to leave 15 million people out.

According to Senator Clinton, that is accurate. I dispute it, and I think it is inaccurate. On the other hand, I don't fault Senator Clinton for wanting to point out what she thinks is an advantage to her plan.

The reason she thinks that there are more people covered under her plan than mine is because of a mandate. That is not a mandate for the government to provide coverage to everybody; it is a mandate that every individual purchase health care.

And the mailing that we put out accurately indicates that the main difference between Senator Clinton's plan and mine is the fact that she would force in some fashion individuals to purchase health care.

If it was not affordable, she would still presumably force them to have it, unless there is a hardship exemption as they've done in Massachusetts, which leaves 20 percent of the uninsured out. And if that's the case, then, in fact, her claim that she covers everybody is not accurate.

Now, Senator Clinton has not indicated how she would enforce this mandate. She hasn't indicated what level of subsidy she would provide to assure that it was, in fact, affordable. And so it is entirely legitimate for us to point out these differences.

But I think it's very important to understand the context of this, and that is that Senator Clinton has -- her campaign, at least -- has constantly sent out negative attacks on us, e-mail, robocalls, flyers, television ads, radio calls.

And, you know, we haven't whined about it because I understand that's the nature of these campaigns, but to suggest somehow that our mailing is somehow different from the kinds of approaches that Senator Clinton has taken throughout this campaign I think is simply not accurate.

MR. WILLIAMS: And Senator Clinton, on this subject --

SEN. CLINTON: But I have to -- I have to respond to that because this is not just any issue, and certainly we've had a vigorous back and forth on both sides of our campaign. But this is an issue that goes to the heart of whether or not this country will finally do what is right, and that is to provide quality affordable health care to every single person.

Senator Obama has a mandate in his plan. It's a mandate on parents to provide health insurance for their children. That's about 150 million people who would be required to do that. The difference between Senator Obama and myself is that I know, from the work I've done on health care for many years, that if everyone's not in the system we will continue to let the insurance companies do what's called cherry picking -- pick those who get insurance and leave others out.

We will continue to have a hidden tax, so that when someone goes to the emergency room without insurance -- 15 million or however many -- that amount of money that will be used to take care of that person will be then spread among all the rest of us.

And most importantly, you know, the kind of attack on my health care plan, which the University of Pennsylvania and others have said is misleading -- that attack goes right to the heart of whether or not we will be able to achieve universal health care. That's a core Democratic Party value. It's something that ever since Harry Truman we have stood for.

And what I find regrettable is that in Senator Obama's mailing that he has sent out across Ohio, it is almost as though the health insurance companies and the Republicans wrote it, because in my plan there is enough money, according to the independent experts who've evaluated it, to provide the kind of subsidies so that everyone would be able to afford it. It is not the same as a single state trying to do this, because the federal government has many more resources at its disposal.

SEN. OBAMA (?): (Inaudible.)

SEN. CLINTON: So I think it's imperative that we stand as Democrats for universal health care. I've staked out a claim for that. Senator Edwards did. Others have. But Senator Obama has not.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, a quick response.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, look, I believe in universal health care, as does Senator Clinton. And this is -- this is, I think, the point of the debate, is that Senator Clinton repeatedly claims that I don't stand for universal health care. And, you know, for Senator Clinton to say that, I think, is simply not accurate.

Every expert has said that anybody who wants health care under my plan will be able to obtain it. President Clinton's own secretary of Labor has said that my plan does more to reduce costs and as a consequence makes sure that the people who need health care right now all across Ohio, all across Texas, Rhode Island, Vermont, all across America, will be able to obtain it. And we do more to reduce costs than any other plan that's been out there.

Now, I have no objection to Senator Clinton thinking that her approach is superior, but the fact of the matter is, is that if, as we've heard tonight, we still don't know how Senator Clinton intends to enforce a mandate, and if we don't know the level of subsidies that she's going to provide, then you can have a situation, which we are seeing right now in the state of Massachusetts, where people are being fined for not having purchased health care but choose to accept the fine because they still can't afford it, even with the subsidies.

And they are then worse off. They then have no health care and are paying a fine above and beyond that.

MR. WILLIAMS: Thank you.

SEN. OBAMA: That is a genuine difference between myself and Senator Clinton.

And the last point I would make is, the insurance companies actually are happy to have a mandate. The insurance companies don't mind making sure that everybody has to purchase their product. That's not something they're objecting to. The question is, are we going to make sure that it is affordable for everybody? And that's my goal when I'm president of the United States.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator, as you two --

SEN. CLINTON: You know, Brian -- Brian, wait a minute. I've got -- this is too important.

You know, Senator Obama has a mandate. He would enforce the mandate by requiring parents to buy insurance for their children.

SEN. OBAMA: This is true.

SEN. CLINTON: That is the case.

If you have a mandate, it has to be enforceable. So there's no difference here.

SEN. OBAMA: No, there is a difference.

SEN. CLINTON: It's just that I know that parents who get sick have terrible consequences for their children. So you can insure the children, and then you've got the bread-winner who can't afford health insurance or doesn't have it for him or herself.

And in fact, it would be as though Franklin Roosevelt said let's make Social Security voluntary -- that's -- you know, that's -- let's let everybody get in it if they can afford it -- or if President Johnson said let's make Medicare voluntary.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, let me --

SEN. CLINTON: What we have said is that at the point of employment, at the point of contact with various government agencies, we would have people signed up. It's like when you get a 401(k), it's your employer. The employer automatically enrolls you. You would be enrolled.

And under my plan, it is affordable because, number one, we have enough money in our plan. A comparison of the plans like the ones we're proposing found that actually I would cover nearly everybody at a much lower cost than Senator Obama's plan because we would not only provide these health care tax credits, but I would limit the amount of money that anyone ever has to pay for a premium to a low percentage of your income. So it will be affordable.

Now, if you want to say that we shouldn't try to get everyone into health insurance, that's a big difference, because I believe if we don't have universal health care, we will never provide prevention.

I have the most aggressive measures to reduce costs and improve quality. And time and time again, people who have compared our two approaches have concluded that.

SEN. OBAMA: Brian, I'm sorry.

SEN. CLINTON: So let's -- let's have a debate about the facts.

SEN. OBAMA: I'm going to get filibuttered -- I'm getting filibustered a little bit here.

MR. WILLIAMS: The last answer on this topic.

SEN. OBAMA: I mean, it is just not accurate to say that Senator Clinton does more to control costs than mine. That is not the case. There are many experts who have concluded that she does not.

I do provide a mandate for children, because, number one, we have created a number of programs in which we can have greater assurance that those children will be covered at an affordable price. On the -- on the point of many adults, we don't want to put in a situation in which, on the front end, we are mandating them, we are forcing them to purchase insurance, and if the subsidies are inadequate, the burden is on them, and they will be penalized. And that is what Senator Clinton's plan does.

Now, I am -- I am happy to have a discussion with Senator Clinton about how we can both achieve the goal of universal health care. What I do not accept -- and which is what Senator Clinton has consistently done and in fact the same experts she cites basically say there's no real difference between our plans, that are -- that they are not substantial.

But it has to do with how we are going to achieve universal health care. That is an area where I believe that if we make it affordable, people will purchase it. In fact, Medicare Part B is not mandated, it is voluntary. And yet people over 65 choose to purchase it, Hillary, and the reason they choose to purchase it is because it's a good deal. And if people in Cleveland or anywhere in Ohio end up seeing a plan that is affordable for them, I promise you they are snatching it up because they are desperate to get health care. And that's what I intend to provide as president of the United States.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator, I'm going to change the subject.

SEN. CLINTON: About 20 percent of -- about 20 percent of the people who are uninsured have the means to buy insurance. They're often young people --

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator --

SEN. CLINTON: -- who think they're immortal --

SEN. OBAMA: Which is why I cover them.

SEN. CLINTON: -- except when the illness or the accident strikes. And what Senator Obama has said, that then, once you get to the hospital, you'll be forced to buy insurance, I don't think that's a good idea. We ought to plan for it --

SEN. OBAMA: With respect --

SEN. CLINTON: -- and we ought to make sure we cover everyone.

That is the only way to get to universal health care coverage.

SEN. OBAMA: With respect --

SEN. CLINTON: That is what I've worked for for 15 years --

SEN. OBAMA: With respect --

SEN. CLINTON: -- and I believe that we can achieve it. But if we don't even have a plan to get there, and we start out by leaving people, you'll never ever control costs, improve quality, and cover everyone.

SEN. OBAMA: With respect to the young people, my plan specifically says that up until the age of 25 you will be able to be covered under your parents' insurance plan, so that cohort that

Senator Clinton is talking about will, in fact, have coverage.

MR. WILLIAMS: Well, a 16-minute discussion on health care is certainly a start. (Laughter.) I'd like to change up --

SEN. CLINTON: Well, there's hardly anything be more important? I think it would be good to talk about health care and how we're we going get to universal health care.

MR. WILLIAMS: I -- well, here's another important topic, and that's NAFTA, especially where we're sitting here tonight. And this is a tough one depending on who you ask. The Houston Chronicle has called it a big win for Texas, but Ohio Democratic Senator Brown, your colleague in the Senate, has called it a job-killing trade agreement. Senator Clinton, you've campaigned in south Texas. You've campaigned here in Ohio. Who's right?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, can I just point out that in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time. And I don't mind. I -- you know, I'll be happy to field them, but I do find it curious, and if anybody saw "Saturday Night Live," you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow. (Laughter, boos.) I just find it kind of curious that I keep getting the first question on all of these issues. But I'm happy to answer it.

You know, I have been a critic of NAFTA from the very beginning. I didn't have a public position on it, because I was part of the administration, but when I started running for the Senate, I have been a critic. I've said it was flawed. I said that it worked in some parts of our country, and I've seen the results in Texas. I was in Laredo in the last couple of days. It's the largest inland port in America now. So clearly, some parts of our country have been benefited.

But what I have seen, where I represent up-state New York, I've seen the factories closed and moved. I've talked to so many people whose children have left because they don't have a good shot. I've had to negotiate to try to keep factories open, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, because the companies got tax benefits to actually move to another country.

So what I have said is that we need to have a plan to fix NAFTA. I would immediately have a trade timeout, and I would take that time to try to fix NAFTA by making it clear that we'll have core labor and environmental standards in the agreement.

We will do everything we can to make it enforceable, which it is not now. We will stop the kind of constant sniping at our protections for our workers that can come from foreign companies because they have the authority to try to sue to overturn what we do to keep our workers safe.

This is rightly a big issue in Ohio. And I have laid out my criticism, but in addition my plan, for actually fixing NAFTA. Again, I have received a lot of incoming criticism from Senator Obama. And the Cleveland Plain Dealer examined Senator Obama's attacks on me regarding NAFTA and said they were erroneous. So I would hope that, again, we can get to a debate about what the real issues are and where we stand because we do need to fix NAFTA. It is not working. It was, unfortunately, heavily disadvantaging many of our industries, particularly manufacturing. I have a record of standing up for that, of chairing the Manufacturing Caucus in the Senate, and I will take a tough position on these trade agreements.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.

Before we turn the questioning over to Tim Russert, Senator Obama.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, I think that it is inaccurate for Senator Clinton to say that she's always opposed NAFTA. In her campaign for Senate, she said that NAFTA, on balance, had been good for New York and good for America. I disagree with that. I think that it did not have the labor standards and environmental standards that were required in order to not just be good for Wall Street but also be good for Main Street. And if you travel through Youngstown and you travel through communities in my home state of Illinois, you will see entire cities that have been devastated as a consequence of trade agreements that were not adequately structured to make sure that U.S. workers had a fair deal.

Now, I think that Senator Clinton has shifted positions on this and believes that we should have strong environmental standards and labor standards, and I think that's a good thing. But you know, when I first moved to Chicago in the early '80s and I saw steelworkers who had been laid off of their plants -- black, white, and Hispanic -- and I worked on the streets of Chicago to try to help them find jobs, I saw then that the net costs of many of these trade agreements, if they're not properly structured, can be devastating.

And as president of the United States, I intend to make certain that every agreement that we sign has the labor standards, the environmental standards and the safety standards that are going to protect not just workers, but also consumers. We can't have toys with lead paint in them that our children are playing with. We can't have medicines that are actually making people more sick instead of better because they're produced overseas. We have to stop providing tax breaks for companies that are shipping jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that are investing here in the United States of America.

And if we do those things, then I believe that we can actually get Ohio back on the path of growth and jobs and prosperity. If we don't, then we're going to continue to see the kind of deterioration that we've seen economically here in this state.

MR. RUSSERT: I want to ask you both about NAFTA because the record, I think, is clear. And I want to -- Senator Clinton. Senator Obama said that you did say in 2004 that on balance NAFTA has been good for New York and America. You did say that. When President Clinton signed this bill -- and this was after he negotiated two new side agreements, for labor and environment -- President Clinton said it would be a force for economic growth and social progress. You said in '96 it was proving its worth as free and fair trade. You said that -- in 2000 -- it was a good idea that took political courage. So your record is pretty clear.

Based on that, and which you're now expressing your discomfort with it, in the debate that Al Gore had with Ross Perot, Al Gore said the following: "If you don't like NAFTA and what it's done, we can get out of it in six months.

The president can say to Canada and Mexico, we are out. This has not been a good agreement." Will U.S. president say we are out of NAFTA in six months?

SEN. CLINTON: I have said that I will renegotiate NAFTA, so obviously, you'd have to say to Canada and Mexico that that's exactly what we're going to do. But you know, in fairness --

MR. RUSSERT: Just because -- maybe Clinton --

SEN. CLINTON: Yes, I am serious.

MR. RUSSERT: You will get out. You will notify Mexico and Canada, NAFTA is gone in six months.

SEN. CLINTON: No, I will say we will opt out of NAFTA unless we renegotiate it, and we renegotiate on terms that are favorable to all of America.

But let's be fair here, Tim. There are lots of parts of New York that have benefitted, just like there are lots of parts of Texas that have benefitted. The problem is in places like upstate New York, places like Youngstown, Toledo, and others throughout Ohio that have not benefitted. And if you look at what I have been saying, it has been consistent.

You know, Senator Obama told the farmers of Illinois a couple of years ago that he wanted more trade agreements. I -- right now --

MR. RUSSERT: We're going to get -- we're going to get to Senator Obama, but I want to stay on your terms --

SEN. CLINTON: Well, but that -- but that is important --

MR. RUSSERT: -- because this was something that you wrote about as a real success for your husband. You said it was good on balance for New York and America in 2004, and now you're in Ohio and your words are much different, Senator. The record is very clear.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I -- I -- you don't have all the record because you can go back and look at what I've said consistently. And I haven't just said things; I have actually voted to toughen trade agreements, to try to put more teeth into our enforcement mechanisms. And I will continue to do so.

But you know, Tim, when you look at what the Cleveland Plain Dealer said when they examined the kind of criticism that Senator Obama was making of me -- it's not me saying it -- they said it was erroneous. And it was erroneous because it didn't look at the entire picture, both at what I've said and what I've done.

But let's talk about what we're going to do. It is not enough just to criticize NAFTA, which I have, and for some years now. I have put forward a very specific plan about what I would do, and it does include telling Canada and Mexico that we will opt out unless we renegotiate the core labor and environmental standards -- not side agreements, but core agreements; that we will enhance the enforcement mechanism; and that we will have a very clear view of how we're going to review NAFTA going forward to make sure it works, and we're going to take out the ability of foreign companies to sue us because of what we do to protect our workers.

I would also say that you can go back and look at from the very beginning -- I think David Gergen was on TV today remembering that I was very skeptical about it.

It has worked in some parts of America. It has not worked in Ohio. It has not worked in upstate New York. And since I've been in the Senate -- neither of us voted on this. That wasn't something either of us got to cast an independent vote on. Since I have been in the Senate, I have worked to try to ameliorate the impact of these trade agreements.

MR. RUSSERT: But let me button this up. Absent the change that you're suggesting, you are willing to opt out of NAFTA in six months?

SEN. CLINTON: I'm confident that as president, when I say we will opt out unless we renegotiate, we will be able to renegotiate.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Obama, you did in 2004 talk to farmers and suggest that NAFTA had been helpful. The Associated Press today ran a story about NAFTA, saying that you have been consistently ambivalent towards the issue. Simple question: Will you, as president, say to Canada and Mexico, "This has not worked for us; we are out"?

SEN. OBAMA: I will make sure that we renegotiate, in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about. And I think actually Senator Clinton's answer on this one is right. I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labor and environmental standards that are enforced. And that is not what has been happening so far.

That is something that I have been consistent about. I have to say, Tim, with respect to my position on this, when I ran for the United States Senate, the Chicago Tribune, which was adamantly pro-NAFTA, noted that, in their endorsement of me, they were endorsing me despite my strong opposition to NAFTA.

And that conversation that I had with the Farm Bureau, I was not ambivalent at all. What I said was that NAFTA and other trade deals can be beneficial to the United States because I believe every U.S. worker is as productive as any worker around the world, and we can compete with anybody. And we can't shy away from globalization. We can't draw a moat around us. But what I did say, in that same quote, if you look at it, was that the problem is we've been negotiating just looking at corporate profits and what's good for multinationals, and we haven't been looking at what's good for communities here in Ohio, in my home state of Illinois, and across the country.

And as president, what I want to be is an advocate on behalf of workers. Look, you know, when I go to these plants, I meet people who are proud of their jobs. They are proud of the products that they've created. They have built brands and profits for their companies. And when they see jobs shipped overseas and suddenly they are left not just without a job, but without health care, without a pension, and are having to look for seven-buck-an-hour jobs at the local fast-food joint, that is devastating on them, but it's also devastating on the community. That's not the way that we're going to prosper as we move forward.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator, two journalists here in Ohio wrote a piece called "Business as Usual," which is very well known, suggesting it wasn't trade or manufacturing jobs that were being lost because of it, but rather business as usual: lack of patents, lack of innovation, lack of investment, 70 percent of the Ph.D.s in biology, chemistry, engineering leaving the state.

The fact is, exports now have the highest share of our national income ever. Ohio ranks fourth in terms of exports to Canada and Mexico. Are you sure this has not been better for Ohio than you're suggesting?

SEN. OBAMA: I'm positive it hasn't been better for Ohio. But you are making a very legitimate point, which is, is that this trade (can/can't ?) be the only part of our economic agenda. But we've seen seven years in which we have a president who has been looking out for the well-heeled and people who are doing very well in the global economy, in the financial industries, in the telecommunications industries, and has not been looking out for ordinary workers.

What do we have to do? We're going to have to invest in infrastructure to make sure that we're competitive. And I've got a plan to do that. We're going to have to invest in science and technology. We've got to vastly improve our education system. We have to look at energy and the potential for creating green jobs that can not just save on our energy costs but, more importantly, can create jobs in building windmills that will produce manufacturing jobs here in Ohio, can put rural communities back on their feet by working on alternative fuels, making buildings more energy efficient.

We can hire young people who are out of work and put them to work in the trade. So there are all sorts of things that we're going to have to do to make the United States economy much more competitive, and those are plans that I have put forward in this campaign and I expect to pursue as president of the United States of America.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, on the issue of jobs, I watched you the other day with your economic blueprint in Wisconsin saying, this is my plan; hold me accountable. And I've had a chance to read it very carefully. It does say that you pledge to create 5 million new jobs over 10 years.

And I was reminded of your campaign in 2000 in Buffalo, my hometown, just three hours down Route 90, where you pledged 200,000 new jobs for upstate New York. There's been a net loss of 30,000 jobs. And when you were asked about your pledge, your commitment, you told The Buffalo News, "I might have been a little exuberant." Tonight will you say that the pledge of 5 million jobs might be a little exuberant?

SEN. CLINTON: No, Tim, because what happened in 2000 is that I thought Al Gore was going to be president. And when I made the pledge I was counting on having a Democratic White House, a Democratic president who shared my values about what we needed to do to make the economy work for everyone and to create shared prosperity.

And as you know, despite the difficulties of the Bush administration and a Republican Congress for six years of my first term I have worked very hard to create jobs but obviously as president I will have a lot more tools at my disposal. And the reason why we can create at least 5 million new jobs -- I mean, this is not a big leap. Twenty-two point seven million new jobs were created during the eight years of the Clinton administration under my husband. We can create at least 5 million new jobs.

I'm not just talking about it. I helped to pass legislation to begin a training program for green collar jobs. I want to see people throughout Ohio being trained to do the work that will put solar panels on roofs, install wind turbines, do geothermal, take advantage of biofuels, and I know that if we had put $5 billion into the stimulus package to really invest in the training and the tax incentives that would have created those jobs as the Democrats wanted, as I originally proposed, we would be on the way to creating those.

You know, take a country like Germany. They made a big bet on solar power. They have a smaller economy and population than ours.

They've created several hundred thousand new jobs, and these are jobs that can't be outsourced. These are jobs that have to be done in Youngstown, in Dayton, in Cincinnati. These are jobs that we can create here with the right combination of tax incentives, training, and a commitment to following through. So I do think that at least 5 million jobs are fully capable of being produced within the next 10 years.


MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, yesterday Senator Clinton gave a speech on foreign policy and I'm going to read you a quote from it. Quote, "We've seen the tragic result of having a president who had neither the experience nor the wisdom to manage our foreign policy and safeguard our national security. We cannot let that happen again. America has already taken that chance one time too many." Some of the comments in the speech were more pointed. The senator has compared your foreign policy expertise to that of George W. Bush at the same period. Provided you could be going into a general election against a Republican with vast foreign policy expertise and credibility on national security, how were her comments about you unfair?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, Senator Clinton I think equates experience with longevity in Washington. I don't think the American people do and I don't think that if you look at the judgments that we've made over the last several years that that's the accurate measure. On the most important foreign policy decision that we face in a generation -- whether or not to go into Iraq -- I was very clear as to why we should not -- that it would fan the flames of anti-American sentiment -- that it would distract us from Afghanistan -- that it would cost us billions of dollars, thousands of lives, and would not make us more safe, and I do not believe it has made us more safe.

Al Qaeda is stronger than anytime since 2001 according to our own intelligence estimates, and we are bogged down in a war that John McCain now suggests might go on for another 100 years, spending $12 billion a month that could be invested in the kinds of programs that both Senator Clinton and I are talking about. So on Pakistan, during the summer I suggested that not only do we have to take a new approach towards Musharraf but we have to get much more serious about hunting down terrorists that are currently in northwestern Pakistan.

And many people said at the time well, you can't target those terrorists because Musharraf is our ally and we don't want to offend him. In fact, what we had was neither stability in Pakistan nor democracy in Pakistan, and had we pursued a policy that was looking at democratic reforms in Pakistan we would be much further along now than we are. So on the critical issues that actually matter I believe that my judgment has been sound and it has been judgment that I think has been superior to Senator Clinton's as well as Senator McCain's.

MR. WILLIAMS: Well, Senator Clinton, in the last debate you seemed to take a pass on the question of whether or not Senator Obama was qualified to be commander in chief. Is your contention in this latest speech that America would somehow be taking a chance on Senator Obama as commander in chief?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I have put forth my extensive experience in foreign policy, you know, helping to support the peace process in Northern Ireland, negotiating to open borders so that refugees fleeing ethnic cleansing would be safe, going to Beijing and standing up for women's rights as human rights and so much else. And every time the question about qualifications and credentials for commander in chief are raised, Senator Obama rightly points to the speech he gave in 2002. He's to be commended for having given the speech. Many people gave speeches against the war then, and the fair comparison is he didn't have responsibility, he didn't have to vote; by 2004 he was saying that he basically agreed with the way George Bush was conducting the war. And when he came to the Senate, he and I have voted exactly the same. We have voted for the money to fund the war until relatively recently. So the fair comparison was when we both had responsibility, when it wasn't just a speech but it was actually action, where is the difference? Where is the comparison that would in some way give a real credibility to the speech that he gave against the war?

And on a number of other issues, I just believe that, you know, as Senator Obama said, yes, last summer he basically threatened to bomb Pakistan, which I don't think was a particularly wise position to take. I have long advocated a much tougher approach to Musharraf and to Pakistan, and have pushed the White House to do that.

And I disagree with his continuing to say that he would meet with some of the worst dictators in the world without preconditions and without the real, you know, understanding of what we would get from it.

So I think you've got to look at, you know, what I have done over a number of years, traveling on behalf of our country to more than 80 countries, meeting and working out a lot of different issues that are important to our national security and our foreign policy and our values, serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee for now five years. And I think that, you know, standing on that stage with Senator McCain, if he is, as appears to be, the nominee, I will have a much better case to make on a range of the issues that really America must confront going forward, and will be able to hold my own and make the case for a change in policy that will be better for our country.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, a quick response.

SEN. OBAMA: Let me just follow up. My objections to the war in Iraq were simply -- not simply a speech. I was in the midst of a U.S. Senate campaign. It was a high-stakes campaign. I was one of the most vocal opponents of the war, and I was very specific as to why.

And so when I bring this up, it is not simply to say "I told you so," but it is to give you an insight in terms of how I would make decisions.

And the fact was, this was a big strategic blunder. It was not a matter of, well, here is the initial decision, but since then we've voted the same way. Once we had driven the bus into the ditch, there were only so many ways we could get out. The question is, who's making the decision initially to drive the bus into the ditch? And the fact is that Senator Clinton often says that she is ready on day one, but in fact she was ready to give in to George Bush on day one on this critical issue. So the same person that she criticizes for having terrible judgment, and we can't afford to have another one of those, in fact she facilitated and enabled this individual to make a decision that has been strategically damaging to the United States of America.

With respect to Pakistan, I never said I would bomb Pakistan. What I said was that if we have actionable intelligence against bin Laden or other key al Qaeda officials, and we -- and Pakistan is unwilling or unable to strike against them, we should. And just several days ago, in fact, this administration did exactly that and took out the third-ranking al Qaeda official.

That is the position that we should have taken in the first place. And President Musharraf is now indicating that he would generally be more cooperative in some of these efforts, we don't know how the new legislature in Pakistan will respond, but the fact is it was the right strategy.

And so my claim is not simply based on a speech. It is based on the judgments that I've displayed during the course of my service on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while I've been in the United States Senate, and as somebody who, during the course of this campaign, I think has put forward a plan that will provide a clean break against Bush and Cheney. And that is how we're going to be able to debate John McCain. Having a debate with John McCain where your positions were essentially similar until you started running for president, I think, does not put you in a strong position.

Tim Russert.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I guess that --

MR. RUSSERT: Let me talk about the future -- let me talk the future about Iraq, because this is important, I think, to Democratic voters particularly. You both have pledged the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. You both have said you'd keep a residual force there to protect our embassy, to seek out al Qaeda, to neutralize Iran. If the Iraqi government said, President Clinton or President Obama, you're pulling out your troops this quickly?

You're going to be gone in a year, but you're going to leave a residual force behind? No. Get out. Get out now. If you don't want to stay and protect us, we're a sovereign nation. Go home now." Will you leave?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, if the Iraqi government says that we should be there, then we cannot be there. This is a sovereign government, as George Bush continually reminds us.

Now, I think that we can be in a partnership with Iraq to ensure the stability and the safety of the region, to ensure the safety of Iraqis and to meet our national security interests.

But in order to do that, we have to send a clear signal to the Iraqi government that we are not going to be there permanently, which is why I have said that as soon as I take office, I will call in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we will initiate a phased withdrawal, we will be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. We will give ample time for them to stand up, to negotiate the kinds of agreements that will arrive at the political accommodations that are needed. We will provide them continued support. But it is important for us not to be held hostage by the Iraqi government in a policy that has not made us more safe, that's distracting us from Afghanistan, and is costing us dearly, not only and most importantly in the lost lives of our troops, but also the amount of money that we are spending that is unsustainable and will prevent us from engaging in the kinds of investments in America that will make us more competitive and more safe.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, if the Iraqis said I'm sorry, we're not happy with this arrangement; if you're not going to stay in total and defend us, get out completely; they are a sovereign nation, you would listen?

SEN. CLINTON: Absolutely. And I believe that there is no military solution that the Americans who have been valiant in doing everything they were asked to do can really achieve in the absence of full cooperation from the Iraqi government. And --

MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask -- let me ask you this, Senator. I want to ask you --

SEN. CLINTON: And they need to take responsibility for themselves. And --

MR. RUSSERT: I want to ask both of you this question, then. If we -- if this scenario plays out and the Americans get out in total and al Qaeda resurges and Iraq goes to hell, do you hold the right, in your mind as American president, to re-invade, to go back into Iraq to stabilize it?

SEN. CLINTON: You know, Tim, you ask a lot of hypotheticals. And I believe that what's --

MR. RUSSERT: But this is reality.

SEN. CLINTON: No -- well, it isn't reality. You're -- you're -- you're making lots of different hypothetical assessments.

I believe that it is in America's interests and in the interests of the Iraqis for us to have an orderly withdrawal. I've been saying for many months that the administration has to do more to plan, and I've been pushing them to actually do it. I've also said that I would begin to withdraw within 60 days based on a plan that I asked begun to be put together as soon as I became president.

And I think we can take out one to two brigades a month. I've also been a leader in trying to prevent President Bush from getting us committed to staying in Iraq regardless for as long as Senator McCain and others have said it might be, 50 to a hundred years.

So, when you talk about what we need to do in Iraq, we have to make judgments about what is in the best interest of America. And I believe this is in the best interest.

But I also have heard Senator Obama refer continually to Afghanistan, and he references being on the Foreign Relations Committee. He chairs the Subcommittee on Europe. It has jurisdiction over NATO. NATO is critical to our mission in Afghanistan. He's held not one substantive hearing to do oversight, to figure out what we can do to actually have a stronger presence with NATO in Afghanistan.

You have to look at the entire situation to try to figure out how we can stabilize Afghanistan and begin to put more in there to try to get some kind of success out of it, and you have to work with the Iraqi government so that they take responsibility for their own future.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Obama, I want you to respond to not holding oversight for your subcommittee. But also, do you reserve a right as American president to go back into Iraq, once you have withdrawn, with sizable troops in order to quell any kind of insurrection or civil war?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, first of all, I became chairman of this committee at the beginning of this campaign, at the beginning of 2007. So it is true that we haven't had oversight hearings on Afghanistan.

I have been very clear in talking to the American people about what I would do with respect to Afghanistan.

I think we have to have more troops there to bolster the NATO effort. I think we have to show that we are not maintaining permanent bases in Iraq because Secretary Gates, our current Defense secretary, indicated that we are getting resistance from our allies to put more troops into Afghanistan because they continue to believe that we made a blunder in Iraq and I think even this administration acknowledges now that they are hampered now in doing what we need to do in Afghanistan in part because of what's happened in Iraq.

Now, I always reserve the right for the president -- as commander in chief, I will always reserve the right to make sure that we are looking out for American interests. And if al Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad. So that is true, I think, not just in Iraq, but that's true in other places. That's part of my argument with respect to Pakistan.

I think we should always cooperate with our allies and sovereign nations in making sure that we are rooting out terrorist organizations, but if they are planning attacks on Americans, like what happened in 9/11, it is my job -- it will be my job as president to make sure that we are hunting them down.

MR. WILLIAMS: And Senator, I need to reserve --

SEN. CLINTON: Well, but I have -- I just have to add --

MR. WILLIAMS: I'm sorry, Senator, I've got to --

SEN. CLINTON: Now wait a minute, I have to add --

MR. WILLIAMS: I've got to get us to a break because television doesn't stop.

SEN. CLINTON: -- because the question -- the question was about invading -- invading -- Iraq.

MR. WILLIAMS: Can you hold that thought until we come back from a break? We have limited commercial interruptions tonight, and we have to get to one of them now. Despite the snowstorm swirling outside here in Cleveland, we're having a warm night in the arena. We'll return to it right after this. (Laughter, applause.)


(Cheers, applause.)

MR. WILLIAMS: We are back, and because our first segment went long and we are in a large arena -- (cheers, applause) --

AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Off mike) -- for Hillary!

MR. WILLIAMS: -- we are just now welcoming back both of our candidates to the stage and asking our cooperation of the audience.

We're back live tonight in Cleveland, Ohio.

Senator Obama, we started tonight talking about what could be construed as a little hyperbole. Happens from time to time on the campaign trail. You have recently been called out on some yourself. I urge you to look at your monitor and we'll take a look.

SEN. CLINTON: (From videotape.) Now I could stand up here and say: Let's just get everybody together. Let's get unified. The sky will open -- (laughter) -- the light will come down -- (laughter) -- celestial choirs will be singing -- (laughter) -- and everyone will know we should do the right thing, and the world will be perfect!

SEN. OBAMA: Sounds good! (Laughter.)

MR. WILLIAMS: Of all the charges -- (laughter, applause) -- of all the charges and countercharges made tonight, we can confirm that is not you, Senator Obama.

SEN. OBAMA: (Chuckles.)

MR. WILLIAMS: That was Senator Clinton. But since we played that tape, albeit in error, for this segment, how did you take that?

SEN. CLINTON: (Laughs.)


MR. WILLIAMS: How did you take those remarks when you heard them?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, I thought Senator Clinton showed some good humor there. I would give her points for delivery.

SEN. CLINTON: (Laughs.)


SEN. OBAMA: Look, I understand the broader point that Senator Clinton's been trying to make over the last several weeks. You know, she characterizes it typically as speeches, not solutions, or talk versus action. And as I said in the last debate, I've spent 20 years devoted to working on behalf of families who are having a tough time and they're seeking out the American dream. That's how I started my career in public service, that's how I brought Democrats and Republicans together to provide health care to people who needed it, that's how I helped to reform a welfare system that wasn't working in Illinois, that's how I've provided tax breaks to people who really needed them as opposed to just the wealthy, and so I'm very proud of that track record.

And if Senator Clinton thinks that it's all talk, you know, you got to tell that to the wounded warriors at Walter Reed who had to pay for their food and pay for their phone calls before I got to the Senate. And I changed that law. Or talk to those folks who I think have recognized that special interests are dominating Washington and pushing aside the agenda of ordinary families here in Ohio.

And so when I pass an ethics reform bill that makes sure that lobbyists can't get gifts or meals or provide corporate jets to members of Congress and they have to disclose who they're getting money from and who they're bundling it for, that moves us in the direction of making sure that we have a government that is more responsive to families.

Just one point I'll make, I was in Cincinnati, met with four women at a table like this one. And these were middle-aged women who, as one woman put it, had done everything right and never expected to find themselves in the situation where they don't have health care. One of them doesn't have a job. One of them is looking after an aging parent. Two of them were looking after disabled children. One of them was dipping into their retirement accounts because she had been put on disability on the job. And you hear these stories and what you realize is nobody has been listening to them. That is not who George Bush or Dick Cheney has been advocating for over the last seven years.

And so I am not interested in talk. I am not interested in speeches. I would not be running if I wasn't absolutely convinced that I can put an economic agenda forward that is going to provide them with health care, is going to make college more affordable, and is going to get them the kinds of help that they need not to solve all their problems, but at least to be able to achieve the American dream.

MR. WILLIAMS: Well, let me ask you, Senator Clinton: What did you mean by that piece of videotape we saw from the campaign?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I was having a little fun. You know, it's hard to find time to have fun on the campaign trail, but occasionally you can sneak that in.

But the larger point is that I know trying to get health insurance for every American that's affordable will not be easy. It's not going to come about just because we hope it will or we tell everybody it's the right thing to do. You know, 15 years ago I tangled with the health insurance industry and the drug companies, and I know it takes a fighter. It takes somebody who will go toe-to-toe with the special interests.

You know, I have put forth very specific ideas about how we can get back $55 billion from the special interests -- the giveaways to the oil companies, the credit card companies, the student loan companies, the health insurance companies. These have all been basically pushed on to these special interests not just because of what the White House did, but because members of Congress went along. And I want to get that money back and invest it in the American middle class -- health care, college affordability, the kinds of needs that people talk to me about throughout Ohio, because what I hear as I go from Toledo to Parma to Cleveland to, you know, Dayton is the same litany that people are working harder than ever, but they're not getting ahead. They feel like they're invisible to their government. So when it came time to vote on Dick Cheney's energy bill, I voted no, and Senator Obama voted yes. When it came time to try to cap interest rates for credit cards at 30 percent -- which I think is way too high, but it was the best we could present -- I voted yes and Senator Obama voted no.

MR. WILLIAMS: And Senator -- Senator --

SEN. CLINTON: So part of what we have to do here is recognize that the special interests are not going to give up without a fight. And I believe that I am a fighter, and I will fight for the people of Ohio and the people of America.

MR. WILLIAMS: What I was attempting to do here is to show something Senator Obama said about you, and I'm told it's ready.

MR. RUSSERT: Let's try it.

MR. WILLIAMS: Let's try it. Hang on. Watch your monitor.

Let's try it. We're going to come back to you.

SEN. OBAMA: But I'm going to have an opportunity to respond to this.

SEN. OBAMA: (From videotape.) -- herself as co-president during the Clinton years. Every good thing that happened she says she was a part of. And so the notion that you can selectively pick what you take credit for and then run away from what isn't politically convenient, that doesn't make sense.

MR. WILLIAMS: Now, Senator Obama, you can react to it and whatever you wanted to react to from earlier, but I've been wanting to ask you about this assertion that Senator Clinton has somehow cast herself as co-president.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, I think what is absolutely true is, is that when Senator Clinton continually talks about her experience, she is including the eight years that she served as first lady, and you know, often says, you know, "Here's what I did."

"Here's what we did." "Here's what we accomplished" -- which is fine.

And I have not -- I have not in any way said that that experience is not relevant, and I don't begrudge her claiming that as experience. What I've said, and what I would continue to maintain, is you can't take credit for all the good things that happened but then, when it comes to issues like NAFTA, you say, well, I -- behind the scenes, I was disagreeing. That doesn't work. So you have to, I think, take both responsibility as well as credit.

Now there are several points that I think Senator Clinton made that I -- we need to discuss here. First of all, she talked about me objecting to caps on credit cards. Keep in mind, I objected to the entire bill -- a bill that Senator Clinton, in its previous version, in 2001 had voted for. And in one of the debates with you guys said, well, I voted for it, but I hoped it wouldn't pass -- which, as a general rule, doesn't work. If you don't want it to pass, you vote against it. (Laughter.)

You know, she mentioned that she is a fighter on health care. And look -- I do not in any way doubt that Senator Clinton genuinely wants to provide health care to all Americans.

What I have said is that the way she approached it back in '93, I think, was wrong in part because she had the view that what's required is simply to fight. And Senator Clinton ended up fighting not just the insurance companies and the drug companies, but also members of her own party. And as a consequence, there were a number of people, like Jim Cooper of Tennessee and Bill Bradley and Pat Moynihan, who were not included in the negotiations. And we had the potential of bringing people together to actually get something done.

I am absolutely clear that hope is not enough. And it is not going to be easy to pass health care. If it was, it would have already gotten done. It's not going to be easy to have a sensible energy policy in this country. ExxonMobil made $11 billion last quarter. They are not going to give up those profits easily.

But what I also believe is that the only way we are going to actually get this stuff done is, number one, we're going to have to mobilize and inspire the American people so that they're paying attention to what their government is doing. And that's what I've been doing in this campaign, and that's what I will do as president.

And there's nothing romantic or silly about that. If the American people are activated, that's how change is going to happen.

The second thing we've going to have to do is we're actually going to have to go after the special interests.

Senator Clinton in one of these speeches -- it may have been the same speech where you showed the clip -- said you can't just wave a magic wand and expect special interests to go away. That is absolutely true, but it doesn't help if you're taking millions of dollars in contributions from those special interests. They are less likely to go away.

So it is important for us to crack down on how these special interests are able to influence Congress. And yes, it is important for us to inspire and mobilize and motivate the American people to get involved and pay attention.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Obama, let me ask you about motivating, inspiring, keeping your word. Nothing more important. Last year you said if you were the nominee you would opt for public financing in the general election of the campaign; try to get some of the money out. You checked "Yes" on a questionnaire. And now Senator McCain has said, calling your bluff, let's do it. You seem to be waffling, saying, well, if we can work on an arrangement here.

Why won't you keep your word in writing that you made to abide by public financing of the fall election?

SEN. OBAMA: Tim, I am not yet the nominee. Now, what I've said is, is that when I am the nominee, if I am the nominee -- because we've still got a bunch of contests left and Senator Clinton's a pretty tough opponent. If I am the nominee, then I will sit down with John McCain and make sure that we have a system that is fair for both sides, because Tim, as you know, there are all sorts of ways of getting around these loopholes.

Senator McCain is trying to explain some of the things that he has done so far where he accepted public financing money, but people aren't exactly clear whether all the T's were crossed and the I's were dotted.

Now what I want to point out, though, more broadly is how we have approached this campaign. I said very early on I would not take PAC money. I would not take money from federal-registered lobbyists. That -- that was a multimillion-dollar decision but it was the right thing to do and the reason we were able to do that was because I had confidence that the American people, if they were motivated, would in fact finance the campaign.

We have now raised 90 percent of our donations from small donors, $25, $50. We average -- our average donation is $109 so we have built the kind of organization that is funded by the American people that is exactly the goal and the aim of everybody who's interested in good government and politics supports.

MR. RUSSERT: So you may opt out of public financing. You may break your word.

SEN. OBAMA: What I -- what I have said is, at the point where I'm the nominee, at the point where it's appropriate, I will sit down with John McCain and make sure that we have a system that works for everybody.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, an issue of accountability and credibility. You have loaned your campaign $5 million. You and your husband file a joint return. You refuse to release that joint return, even though former President Clinton has had significant overseas business dealings.

Your chief supporter here in Ohio, Governor Strickland, made releasing his opponent's tax return one of the primary issues of the campaign, saying repeatedly, "Accountability, transparency." If he's not releasing, his campaign said, his tax return, what is he hiding? We should question what's going on.

Why won't you release your tax return, so the voters of Ohio, Texas, Vermont, Rhode Island know exactly where you and your husband got your money, who might be in part bankrolling your campaign?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, the American people who support me are bankrolling my campaign. That's -- that's obvious. You can look and see the hundreds of thousands of contributions that I've gotten. And ever since I lent my campaign money, people have responded just so generously. I'm thrilled at so many people getting involved. And we're raising, on average, about a million dollars a day on the Internet. And if anybody's out there, wants to contribute, to be part of this campaign, just go to, because that's who's funding my campaign.

And I will release my tax returns. I have consistently said that. And I will --

MR. RUSSERT: Why not now?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I will do it as others have done it: upon becoming the nominee, or even earlier, Tim, because I have been as open as I can be.

You have -- the public has 20 years of records for me, and I have very extensive filings with the Senate where --

MR. RUSSERT: So, before next Tuesday's primary?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I can't get it together by then, but I will certainly work to get it together. I'm a little busy right now; I hardly have time to sleep. But I will certainly work toward releasing, and we will get that done and in the public domain.

MR. RUSSERT: One other issue. You talked about releasing documents. On January 30th, the National Archives released 10,000 pages of your public schedule as first lady. It's now in the custody of former President Clinton. Will you release that -- again, during this primary season that you claim that eight years of experience, let the public know what you did, who you met with those eight years?

SEN. CLINTON: Absolutely. I've urged that the process be as quick as possible. It's a cumbersome process, set up by law. It doesn't just apply to us, it applies to everyone in our position. And I have urged that our end of it move as expeditiously as we can. Now, also, President Bush claims the right to look at anything that is released, and I would urge the Bush White House to move as quickly as possible.

MR. RUSSERT: But you've had it for more than a month. Will you get to him -- will you get it to the White House immediately?

SEN. CLINTON: As soon as we can, Tim. I've urged that, and I hope it will happen.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Obama, one of the things in a campaign is that you have to react to unexpected developments.

On Sunday, the headline in your hometown paper, Chicago Tribune: "Louis Farrakhan Backs Obama for President at Nation of Islam Convention in Chicago." Do you accept the support of Louis Farrakhan?

SEN. OBAMA: You know, I have been very clear in my denunciation of Minister Farrakhan's anti-Semitic comments. I think that they are unacceptable and reprehensible. I did not solicit this support. He expressed pride in an African-American who seems to be bringing the country together. I obviously can't censor him, but it is not support that I sought. And we're not doing anything, I assure you, formally or informally with Minister Farrakhan.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you reject his support?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, Tim, you know, I can't say to somebody that he can't say that he thinks I'm a good guy. (Laughter.) You know, I -- you know, I -- I have been very clear in my denunciations of him and his past statements, and I think that indicates to the American people what my stance is on those comments.

MR. RUSSERT: The problem some voters may have is, as you know, Reverend Farrakhan called Judaism "gutter religion."

OBAMA: Tim, I think -- I am very familiar with his record, as are the American people. That's why I have consistently denounced it.

This is not something new. This is something that -- I live in Chicago. He lives in Chicago. I've been very clear, in terms of me believing that what he has said is reprehensible and inappropriate. And I have consistently distanced myself from him.

RUSSERT: The title of one of your books, "Audacity of Hope," you acknowledge you got from a sermon from Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the head of the Trinity United Church. He said that Louis Farrakhan "epitomizes greatness."

He said that he went to Libya in 1984 with Louis Farrakhan to visit with Moammar Gadhafi and that, when your political opponents found out about that, quote, "your Jewish support would dry up quicker than a snowball in Hell."

RUSSERT: What do you do to assure Jewish-Americans that, whether it's Farrakhan's support or the activities of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, your pastor, you are consistent with issues regarding Israel and not in any way suggesting that Farrakhan epitomizes greatness?

OBAMA: Tim, I have some of the strongest support from the Jewish community in my hometown of Chicago and in this presidential campaign. And the reason is because I have been a stalwart friend of Israel's. I think they are one of our most important allies in the region, and I think that their security is sacrosanct, and that the United States is in a special relationship with them, as is true with my relationship with the Jewish community.

And the reason that I have such strong support is because they know that not only would I not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form, but also because of the fact that what I want to do is rebuild what I consider to be a historic relationship between the African-American community and the Jewish community.

You know, I would not be sitting here were it not for a whole host of Jewish Americans, who supported the civil rights movement and helped to ensure that justice was served in the South. And that coalition has frayed over time around a whole host of issues, and part of my task in this process is making sure that those lines of communication and understanding are reopened.

But, you know, the reason that I have such strong support in the Jewish community and have historically -- it was true in my U.S. Senate campaign and it's true in this presidency -- is because the people who know me best know that I consistently have not only befriended the Jewish community, not only have I been strong on Israel, but, more importantly, I've been willing to speak out even when it is not comfortable.

When I was -- just last point I would make -- when I was giving -- had the honor of giving a sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in conjunction with Martin Luther King's birthday in front of a large African-American audience, I specifically spoke out against anti- Semitism within the African-American community. And that's what gives people confidence that I will continue to do that when I'm president of the United States.

WILLIAMS: Senator...

CLINTON: I just want to add something here, because I faced a similar situation when I ran for the Senate in 2000 in New York. And in New York, there are more than the two parties, Democratic and Republican. And one of the parties at that time, the Independence Patty, was under the control of people who were anti-Semitic, anti- Israel. And I made it very clear that I did not want their support. I rejected it. I said that it would not be anything I would be comfortable with. And it looked as though I might pay a price for that. But I would not be associated with people who said such inflammatory and untrue charges against either Israel or Jewish people in our country.

And, you know, I was willing to take that stand, and, you know, fortunately the people of New York supported me and I won. But at the time, I thought it was more important to stand on principle and to reject the kind of conditions that went with support like that.

RUSSERT: Are you suggesting Senator Obama is not standing on principle?

CLINTON: No. I'm just saying that you asked specifically if he would reject it. And there's a difference between denouncing and rejecting. And I think when it comes to this sort of, you know, inflammatory -- I have no doubt that everything that Barack just said is absolutely sincere. But I just think, we've got to be even stronger. We cannot let anyone in any way say these things because of the implications that they have, which can be so far reaching.

OBAMA: Tim, I have to say I don't see a difference between denouncing and rejecting. There's no formal offer of help from Minister Farrakhan that would involve me rejecting it. But if the word "reject" Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word "denounce," then I'm happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce.

CLINTON: Good. Good. Excellent.


WILLIAMS: Rare audience outburst on the agreement over rejecting and renouncing.

We're going to take advantage of this opportunity to take the second of our limited breaks. We'll be back live from Cleveland right after this.


WILLIAMS: We are back from Cleveland State University. We continue with our debate.

The question beginning this segment is for you, Senator Obama.

The National Journal rates your voting record as more liberal than that of Ted Kennedy.

In a general election, going up against a Republican Party, looking for converts, Republicans, independents, how can you run with a more liberal voting record than Ted Kennedy?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, let's take a look at what the National Journal rated us on.

It turned out that Senator Clinton and I had differences on two votes. The first was on an immigration issue, where the question was whether guest workers could come here, work for two years, go back for a year, and then come back and work for another two years, which meant essentially that you were going to have illegal immigrants for a year, because they wouldn't go back, and I thought it was bad policy.

The second -- and this, I think, is telling in terms of how silly these ratings are -- I supported an office of public integrity, an independent office that would be able to monitor ethics investigations in the Senate, because I thought it was important for the public to know that if there were any ethical violations in the Senate, that they weren't being investigated by the Senators themselves, but there was somebody independent who would do it.

This is something that I've tried to push as part of my ethics package.

OBAMA: It was rejected. And according to the National Journal, that position is a liberal position.

Now, I don't think that's a liberal position. I think there are a lot of Republicans and a lot of Independents who would like to make sure that ethic investigations are not conducted by the people who are potentially being investigated. So the categories don't make sense.

And part of the reason I think a lot of people have been puzzled, why is it that Senator Obama's campaign, the supposed liberal, is attracting more Independent votes than any other candidate in the Democratic primary, and Republican votes as well, and then people are scratching their head? It's because people don't want to go back to those old categories of what's liberal and what's conservative.

They want to see who is making sense, who's fighting for them, who's going to go after the special interests, who is going to champion the issues of health care and making college affordable, and making sure that we have a foreign policy that makes sense? That's what I've been doing, and that's why, you know, the proof is in the pudding. We've been attracting more Independent and Republican support than anybody else, and that's why every poll shows that right now I beat John McCain in a match-up in the general election.

WILLIAMS: Let's go from domestic to foreign affairs and Tim Russert.

RUSSERT: Before the primary on Tuesday, on Sunday, March 2, there's an election in Russia for the successor to President Putin. What can you tell me about the man who's going to be Mr. Putin's successor?

CLINTON: Well, I can tell you that he's a hand-picked successor, that he is someone who is obviously being installed by Putin, who Putin can control, who has very little independence, the best we know. You know, there's a lot of information still to be acquired. That the so-called opposition was basically run out of the political opportunity to wage a campaign against Putin's hand-picked successor, and the so-called leading opposition figure spends most of his time praising Putin. So this is a clever but transparent way for Putin to hold on to power, and it raises serious issues about how we're going to deal with Russia going forward.

I have been very critical of the Bush administration for what I believe to have been an incoherent policy toward Russia. And with the reassertion of Russia's role in Europe, with some of the mischief that they seem to be causing in supporting Iran's nuclear ambitions, for example, it's imperative that we begin to have a more realistic and effective strategy toward Russia. But I have no doubt, as president, even though technically the meetings may be with the man who is labeled as president, the decisions will be made by Putin.

RUSSERT: Who will it be? Do you know his name?

CLINTON: Medvedev -- whatever.



RUSSERT: Senator Obama, do you know anything about him?

OBAMA: Well, I think Senator Clinton speaks accurately about him. He is somebody who was hand-picked by Putin. Putin has been very clear that he will continue to have the strongest hand in Russia in terms of running the government. And, you know, it looks -- just think back to the beginning of President Bush's administration when he said -- you know, he met with Putin, looked into his eyes and saw his soul, and figured he could do business with him.

He then proceeded to neglect our relationship with Russia at a time when Putin was strangling any opposition in the country when he was consolidating power, rattling sabers against his European neighbors, as well as satellites of the former Soviet Union. And so we did not send a signal to Mr. Putin that, in fact, we were going to be serious about issues like human rights, issues like international cooperation that were critical to us. That is something that we have to change.

RUSSERT: He's 42 years old, he's a former law professor. He is Mr. Putin's campaign manager. He is going to be the new president of Russia. And if he says to the Russian troops, you know what, why don't you go help Serbia retake Kosovo, what does President Obama do?

OBAMA: Well, I think that we work with the international community that has also recognized Kosovo, and state that that's unacceptable. But, fortunately, we have a strong international structure anchored in NATO to deal with this issue.

We don't have to work in isolation. And this is an area where I think that the Clinton administration deserves a lot of credit, is, you know, the way in which they put together a coalition that has functioned.

OBAMA: It has not been perfect, but it saved lives. And we created a situation in which not only Kosovo, but other parts of the former Yugoslavia at least have the potential to over time build democracies and enter into the broader European community.

But, you know, be very clear: We have recognized the country of Kosovo as an independent, sovereign nation, as has Great Britain and many other countries in the region. And I think that that carries with it, then, certain obligations to ensure that they are not invaded.

RUSSERT: Before you go, each of you have talked about your careers in public service. Looking back through them, is there any words or vote that you'd like to take back?

Senator Clinton?

CLINTON: Well, obviously, I've said many times that, although my vote on the 2002 authorization regarding Iraq was a sincere vote, I would not have voted that way again.

I would certainly, as president, never have taken us to war in Iraq. And I regret deeply that President Bush waged a preemptive war, which I warned against and said I disagreed with.

But I think that this election has to be about the future. It has to be about what we will do now, how we will deal with what we're going to inherit.

You know, we've just been talking about Russia. We could have gone around the world. We could have gone to Latin America and talked about, you know, the retreat from democracy. We could have talked about Africa and the failure to end the genocide in Darfur.

We could have gone on to talk about the challenge that China faces and the Middle East, which is deteriorating under the pressures of Hamas, Hezbollah, and the interference that is putting Israel's security at stake.

We could have done an entire program, Tim, on what we will inherit from George Bush.

And what I believe is that my experience and my unique qualifications on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue equip me to handle with the problems of today and tomorrow and to be prepared to make those tough decisions in dealing with Putin and others, because we have so much work to do, and we don't have much time to try to make up for our losses.

RUSSERT: But to be clear, you'd like to have your vote back?

CLINTON: Absolutely. I've said that many times.

RUSSERT: Senator Obama, any statements or vote you'd like to take back?

OBAMA: Well, you know, when I first arrived in the Senate that first year, we had a situation surrounding Terri Schiavo. And I remember how we adjourned with a unanimous agreement that eventually allowed Congress to interject itself into that decisionmaking process of the families.

It wasn't something I was comfortable with, but it was not something that I stood on the floor and stopped. And I think that was a mistake, and I think the American people understood that that was a mistake. And as a constitutional law professor, I knew better.

And so that's an example I think of where inaction...

RUSSERT: This is the young woman with the feeding tube...

OBAMA: That's exactly right.

RUSSERT: ... and the family disagreed as to whether it should be removed or not.

OBAMA: And I think that's an example of inaction, and sometimes that can be as costly as action.

But let me say this, since we're wrapping up this debate. We have gone through 20 debates now. And, you know, there is still a lot of fight going on in this contest, and we've got four coming up, and maybe more after that.

But the one thing I'm absolutely clear about is Senator Clinton has campaigned magnificently. She is an outstanding public servant. And I'm very proud to have been campaigning with her.

And part of what I think both of us are interested in, regardless of who wins the nomination, is actually delivering for the American people.

You know, there is a vanity aspect and ambition aspect to politics. But when you spend as much time as Senator Clinton and I have spent around the country, and you hear heartbreaking story after heartbreaking story, and you realize that people's expectations are so modest.

You know, they're not looking for government to solve all of their problems. They just want a little bit of a hand-up to keep them in their homes if they're about to be foreclosed upon, or to make sure their kids can go to college to live out the American dream.

You know, it is absolutely critical that we change how business is done in Washington and we remind ourselves of what government is supposed to be about.

And, you know, I have a lot of confidence that whoever ends up being the nominee that the Democratic standard-bearer will try to restore that sense of public service to our government. That's why I think we're both running, and I'm very pleased that I've had this opportunity to run with Senator Clinton.

RUSSERT: But the voters can only choose one, Brian.

RUSSERT: And I think you have a question.

WILLIAMS: Well, we don't have such thing in our format as a closing statement, but I am going to ask a closing and fundamental question of you both. And I'll ask it of you fist, Senator Obama.

What is the fundamental question you believe Senator Clinton must answer along the way to the voters here in Ohio and in Texas, and for that matter across the country, in order to prove her worthiness as the nominee? And then we will ask the same question of Senator Clinton.

OBAMA: I have to say, Brian, I think she is -- she would be worthy as a nominee. Now, I think I'd be better. Otherwise, I wouldn't be running. But there's no doubt that Senator Clinton is qualified and capable and would be a much better president than John McCain, who I respect and I honor his service to this country, but essentially has tethered himself to the failed policies of George Bush over the last seven years.

On economics, he wants to continue tax cuts to the wealthy that we can't afford, and on foreign policy he wants to continue a war that not only can we not afford in terms of money, but we can't afford in terms of lives and is not making us more safe. We can't afford it in terms of strategy.

So I don't think that Senator Clinton has to answer a question as to whether she's capable of being president or our standard bearer.

I will say this, that the reason I think I'm better as the nominee is that I can bring this country together I think in a unique way, across divisions of race, religion, region. And that is what's going to be required in order for us to actually deliver on the issues that both Senator Clinton and I care so much about.

And I also think I have a track record, starting from the days I moved to Chicago as a community organizer, when I was in my 20s, on through my work in state government, on through my work as a United States senator, I think I bring a unique bias in favor of opening up government, pushing back special interests, making government more accountable so that the American people can have confidence that their voice is being heard.

Those are things -- those are qualities that I bring to this race, and I hope that the people of Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont decide that those are qualities that they need in the next president of the United States.

WILLIAMS: Senator Clinton, same question, and that is again -- is there a fundamental question Senator Obama must answer to the voters in this state and others as to his worthiness?

CLINTON: Well, Brian, there isn't any doubt that, you know, both of us feel strongly about our country, that we bring enormous energy and commitment to this race and would bring that to the general election and to the White House.

As I said last week, you know, it's been an honor to campaign. I still intend to do everything I can to win, but it has been an honor, because it has been a campaign that is history making.

You know, obviously I am thrilled to be running, to be the first woman president, which I think would be a sea change in our country and around the world, and would give enormous...


... you know, enormous hope and, you know, a real challenge to the way things have been done, and who gets to do them, and what the rules are.

So I feel that either one of us will make history.

The question that I have been posing is, who can actually change the country? And I do believe that my experience over 35 years in the private sector as well as the public and the not-for-profit sector, gives me an understanding and an insight into how best to make the changes that we all know we have to see.

You know, when I wasn't successful about getting universal health care, I didn't give up. I just got to work and helped to create the Children's Health Insurance Program. And, you know, today in Ohio 140,000 kids have health insurance. And yet this morning in Lorain, a mother said that she spent with the insurance and everything over $3 million taking care of her daughter, who had a serious accident. And she just looked at me, as so many mothers and fathers have over so many years, and said, "will you help us?"

That's what my public life has been about. I want to help the people of this country get the chances they deserve to have. And I will do whatever I can here in Ohio, in Texas, Rhode Island, in the states to come making that case. Because I think we do need a fighter back in the White House.

You know, the wealthy and the well-connected have had a president. It's time we had a president for the middle class and working people, the people who get up every day and do the very best they can. And they deserve somebody who gets up in that White House and goes to bat for them.

And that's what I will do.

WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you.

[End Transmission Voice of Blogistan]

26 February 2008

The Texas Showdown

[Begin Transmission Voice of Blogistan]

transcript from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Feb. 20: Austin Debate - Clinton vs. Obama

The following is a transcript of the Feb. 20 Democratic debate in Austin, Texas, sponsored by CNN and Univision, as provided by Federal News Service.


MS. BROWN: And we have given the candidates the opportunity to make opening statements. The order was determined by a draw. Senator Obama won the draw and elected to go second, so please go ahead, Senator Clinton.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, thank you.

And I am just delighted to be back here in Austin. You know, nearly 36 years ago I came to Austin for my very first political job, and that was registering voters in south Texas. And I had the great privilege of living for a while in Austin and in San Antonio, and meeting people and making friends that have stayed with me for a lifetime. And I found that we had a lot in common, a lot of shared values -- a belief that hard work is important, that self-reliance and individual responsibility count for a lot.

And among the people whom I got to know who became not only friends, but heroes, were Barbara Jordan, who taught me a lot about courage. And today -- (applause) -- today would actually be her birthday. And I remember all the time about how she got up every single morning facing almost insurmountable odds to do what she did. And another was my great friend Ann Richards, who taught me so much -- (cheers, applause) -- about determination.

You know, Ann was a great champion for the people of Texas. She also reminded us that every so often, it's good to have a laugh about what it is we're engaged in.

And as I think back on those years, and the work that I've done ever since, you know, for me, politics is about making real differences in people's lives. And I'm very, very proud that over these years, I have been able to make a difference in the lives of people in Texas, Ohio and elsewhere.

You know, 350,000 children in Texas get health care every month, because I helped to start the Children's Health Insurance Program. (Applause.) And 21,000 National Guard and Reserve members get access to health care, because I went across the party line and joined up with a Republican senator to make that happen.

So there's a lot that we've already done, but there's so much more to do. I want to take on the tough issues that face us now. I want to stop the health insurance companies from discriminating against people because they're sick. You know, it's unconstitutional to discriminate on the basis of race or gender or ethnic origin or religion, but it's okay to discriminate against sick people. And we're going to end that, because it's time we said, "No more." (Applause.)

And I want to continue the work that I've done in the Senate to take care of our veterans. It was shocking and shameful what happened, that we discovered about a year ago at Walter Reed. We can do so much better to take care of the people who have taken care of us.

And there is a lot of work ahead. I offer a lifetime of experience and proven results. And I know that if we work together, we can take on the special interests, transfer $55 billion of all those giveaways and subsidies that President Bush has given them back to the middle class to create jobs and provide health care and make college affordable -- (applause) -- and I ask you -- I ask you to join in my campaign.

It's now up to the people of Texas, Ohio and the other states ahead. So if you'll be part of this campaign, which is really your campaign about your futures, your families, your jobs and your health care, we'll continue to make a difference for America.

Thank you all very much. (Cheers, applause.)

MS. BROWN: Senator Clinton, thank you.

Senator Obama.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, first of all, thank you so much to the University of Texas for hosting us, and it's a great honor to share the stage once again with Senator Clinton. I've said before that we've been friends before this campaign started; we will be friends afterwards -- unified to bring about changes in this country.

You know, we are at a defining moment in our history. Our nation is at war, and our economy is increasingly in shambles. And the families of Texas and all across America are feeling the brunt of that failing economy.

This week I met a couple in San Antonio who have, as a consequence of entering into a predatory loan, are on the brink of foreclosure, and are actually seeing them having to cut back on their medical expenses because their mortgage doubled in two weeks.

I've met a young woman who gets three hours of sleep a night because she has to work the night shift even as she's going to school full time, and still can't afford to provide the health care for her sister, who's ill.

In Youngstown, Ohio, I've talked to workers who have seen their plant shipped overseas as a consequence of bad trade deals like NAFTA, literally seeing equipment unbolted from the floors of factories and shipped to China, resulting in devastating job losses and communities completely falling apart.

And all across America I'm meeting not just veterans, but also the parents of those who have fallen. One mother in Green Bay gave me this bracelet in memory of a 20-year-old son who had been killed in a roadside bomb as a consequence of a war that I believe should have never been authorized and should have never been waged, and that has cost us billions of dollars that could have been invested here in the United States, in roads and bridges and infrastructure and making sure that young people can go to college, and that those who need health care actually get it.

Now, Senator Clinton -- (applause) -- and I have been talking about these issues for the last 13 months. And we both offer detailed proposals to try to deal with them. Some of them are the same; some, we have differences of opinion on. But I think we both recognize that these problems have to be dealt with, and that we've seen an administration, over the last seven years, that has failed to address them, in many ways has made them worse.

But understand that what's lacking right now is not good ideas. The problem we have is that Washington has become a place where good ideas go to die. (Applause.) They go to die, because lobbyists and special interests have a stranglehold on the agenda in Washington. They go to die in Washington, because too many politicians are interested in scoring political points rather than bridging differences in order to get things done.

And so the central premise of this campaign is that we can bring this country together, that we can push against the special interests that have come to dominate the agenda in Washington, that we can be straight with the American people about how we're going to solve these problems, and enlist them in taking back their government.

You know, Senator Clinton mentioned Barbara Jordan, somebody who was an inspiration to me and so many people throughout the country, and she said that what the American people want is very simple. They want an America that is as good as its promise. I'm running for president because I want to help America be as good as its promise.

Thank you very much. (Cheers, applause.)

MS. BROWN: All right, Senator Obama, thank you. And let's begin with questions.

Jorge Ramos.

MR. RAMOS: Thank you very much. (Speaks in Spanish.) Thank you so much for being with us, and let me start with a little news.

After nearly half a century in office Fidel Castro resigned as the head of the Cuban government. Ninety miles off the coast of the United States we might have a new opportunity.

A question for you, Senator Clinton. Would you be willing to sit down with Raul Castro or whoever leads the Cuban dictatorship when you take office at least just once to get a measure of the man?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, Jorge, I hope we have an opportunity. The people of Cuba deserve to have a democracy, and this gives the Cuban government under Raul Castro a chance to change direction from the one that was set for 50 years by his brother.

I'm going to be looking for some of those changes -- releasing political prisoners, ending some of the oppressive practices on the press, opening up the economy. Of course the United States stands ready, and as president I would be ready, to reach out and work with a new Cuban government once it demonstrated that it truly was going to change that direction. I want to bring the region together, our European allies who have influence with Cuba, to try to push for some of those changes, and to make it very clear that if Cuba moves toward democracy and freedom for its people the United States will welcome that. And as president, I would look for opportunities to try to make that happen and to create the momentum that might eventually lead to a presidential visit. But there has to be evidence that, indeed, the changes are real, that they're taking place, and that the Cuban people will finally be given an opportunity to have their future determined by themselves.

MR. RAMOS: Very simply, would you meet with him or not, with Raul Castro?

SEN. CLINTON: I -- I would not meet with him until there was evidence that change was happening because I think it's important that they demonstrate clearly that they are committed to change the direction.

Then I think, you know, something like diplomatic encounters and negotiations over specifics could take place.

But we've had this conversation before, Senator Obama and myself, and I believe that we should have full diplomatic engagement, where appropriate. But a presidential visit should not be offered and given without some evidence that it will demonstrate the kind of progress that is in our interest and, in this case, in the interest of the Cuban people. (Applause.)

MS. BROWN: Senator Obama, just to follow up, you had said in a previous CNN debate that you would meet with the leaders of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, among others. So presumably you would be willing to meet with the new leader of Cuba.

SEN. OBAMA: That's correct. Now, keep in mind that the starting point for our policy in -- in Cuba should be the liberty of the Cuban people. And I think we recognize that that liberty has not existed throughout the Castro regime. And we now have an opportunity to potentially change the relationship between the United States and Cuba, after over half a century.

I would meet without preconditions, although Senator Clinton is right that there has to be preparation. It is very important for us to make sure that there was an agenda and on that agenda was human rights, releasing of political prisoners, opening up the press. And that preparation might take some time.

But I do think that it is important for the United States not just to talk to its friends but also to talk to its enemies.

In fact, that's where diplomacy makes the biggest difference. (Applause.)

One other thing that I've said as a show of good faith, that we're interested in pursuing potentially a new relationship, what I've called for is a loosening of the restrictions on remittances from family members to the people of Cuba as well as travel restrictions for family members who want to visit their family members in Cuba. And I think that initiating that change in policy as a start and then suggesting that an agenda get set up is something that could be useful, but I would not normalize relations until we started seeing some of the progress that Senator Clinton talked about.

MS. BROWN: But that's different from your position back in 2003. You called U.S. policy towards Cuba a miserable failure, and you supported normalizing relations. So you've back-tracked now.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, the -- I support the eventual normalization, and it's absolutely true that I think our policy has been a failure.

I mean, the fact is is that during my entire lifetime -- and Senator Clinton's entire lifetime you essentially have seen a Cuba that has been isolated but has not made progress when it comes to the issues of political rights and personal freedoms that are so important to the people of Cuba.

So I think that we have to shift policy. I think our goal has to be ultimately normalization, but that's going to happen in steps.

And the first step, as I said, is changing our rules with respect to remittances and with respect to travel. And then I think it is important for us to have the direct contact not just in Cuba, but I think this principle applies generally. I'm -- I recall what John F. Kennedy once said, that we should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate. And this moment, this opportunity when Fidel Castro has finally stepped down I think is one that we should try to take advantage of. (Applause.)

MS. BROWN: Senator Clinton, do you want a quick response?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I agree absolutely that we should be willing to have diplomatic negotiations and processes with anyone. I've been a strong advocate of opening up such a diplomatic process with Iran for a number of years because I think we should look for ways that we can possibly move countries that are adversarial to us, you know, toward the world community. It's in our interest. It's in the interests of the people in countries that, frankly, are oppressed, like Cuba, like Iran.

But there has been this difference between us over when and whether the president should offer a meeting without preconditions with those with whom we do not have diplomatic relations, and it should be part of a process. But I don't think it should be offered in the beginning because I think that undermines the capacity for us to actually take the measure of somebody like Raul Castro or Ahmadinejad and others.

And as President Kennedy said, he wouldn't be afraid to negotiate but he would expect there to be a lot of preparatory work done, to find out exactly what we would get out of it.

And therefore I do think we should be eliminating the policy of the Bush administration, which has been very narrowly defined and frankly against our interests, because we have failed to reach out to countries. We have alienated our friends and we have emboldened our enemies.

So I would get back to very vigorous diplomacy and I would use bipartisan diplomacy. I would ask emissaries from both political parties to represent me and our country. Because I want to send a very clear message, to the rest of the world, that the era of unilateralism, preemption and arrogance, of the Bush administration, is over. And we're going to start working together. (Cheers, applause.)

MS. BROWN: Okay. Very briefly, and then we're going to move on.

SEN. OBAMA: I think, as I've said before, preparation is actually absolutely critical in any meeting. And I think it is absolutely true that either of us would step back from some of the Bush unilateralism that's caused so much damage.

But I do think it is important, precisely because the Bush administration has done so much damage to American foreign relations, that the president take a more active role in diplomacy than might have been true 20 or 30 years ago.

Because the problem isn't -- is if we think that meeting with the president is a privilege that has to be earned, I think that reinforces the sense that we stand above the rest of the world at this point in time, and I think that it's important for us, in undoing the damage that has been done over the last seven years, for the president to be willing to take that extra step. That's the kind of step that I would like to take as president of the United States. (Cheers, applause.)

MS. BROWN: A question now on the economy. John King.

MR. KING: Campbell noted -- Senators, good evening, first. I want to bring the conversation back home.

You know from your travels, you don't need to look at the polls or anything else, that the economy is by far now the dominant issue that voters want to hear about from the candidates, and for some that's a question about what should we do about an economy that is at the edge or perhaps in the early stages of a recession. For some, it's more focused; maybe it's will you raise the minimum wage, maybe it is about trade deals that they think leave them on the raw end, as you mentioned in your opening statement, Senator Obama. But when we asked Democrats how are these two candidates different, many of them say they don't know.

So Senator Obama, beginning with you, tell us as specifically as you can how would a President Obama be different than a President Clinton in managing the nation's economy.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, first of all, let me emphasize the point that you just made, which is you don't need an economist or the Federal Reserve to tell the American people that the economy's in trouble because they've been experiencing it for years now.

Everywhere you go, you meet people who are working harder for less.

Wages and incomes have flatlined. People are seeing escalating costs from -- of everything from health care to gas at the pump. And so people have been struggling for a long time, and in some communities they have been struggling for decades now. So this has to be a priority of the next president.

Now, what I've said is that we have to restore a sense of fairness and balance to our economy, and that means a couple of things.

Number one, with our tax code, we've got to stop giving tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas and invest those tax breaks in companies that are investing here in the United States of America. (Applause.) We have to end the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy -- (cheers, applause) -- and to provide tax breaks to middle- class Americans and working Americans who need them. So I've said that if you are making $75,000 a year or less, I want to give a(n) offset to your payroll tax that will mean a thousand extra dollars in the pockets of ordinary Americans. Senior citizens making less than 50,000 (dollars), you shouldn't have to pay income tax on your Social Security. We pay for these by closing tax loopholes and tax havens that are being manipulated.

On our trade deals, I think it is absolutely critical that we engage in trade, but it has to be viewed not just through the lens of Wall Street, but also Main Street, which means we've got strong labor standards and strong environmental standards, and safety standards so we don't have toys being shipped into the United States with lead paint on them. (Applause.)

Now -- so that's -- these are all issues that I've -- I've talked about repeatedly.

And I think there are also opportunities in our economy around creating a green economy. We send a billion dollars to foreign countries every day because of our addition to foreign oil. And for us to move rapidly to cap greenhouse gases, generate billions of dollars that we can reinvest in solar and wind and biodiesel -- that can put people back to work. (Applause.)

So the -- now, I don't want to take too much time, and I'm sure we'll be able to spend more time discussing this.

Senator Clinton and I, I think, both agree on many of these issues. And I think it's a credit to the Democratic Party as a whole that the other candidates who were involved earlier on agreed with us on many of these issues. I think that there is a -- a real, solid agenda for moving change forward in the next presidency. The question people are going to have to ask is, how do we get it done? And it is my strong belief that the changes are only going to come about if we're able to form a working coalition for change, because people who are benefiting from the current code are going to resist, the special interests and lobbyists are going to resist. And I think it has to be a priority for whoever the next president is to be able to overcome the dominance of the special interests in Washington, to bring about the kinds of economic changes that I'm talking about, and that's an area where Senator Clinton and I may have a slight difference.

But I'm happy to let her speak first, and then can pick up on anything that's been left out. (Applause.)

MR. KING: Let's give Senator Clinton that opportunity then.

As you have campaigned, Senator, on this issue and others but specifically on this issue, you have said, I am ready on day one to take charge of the economy. The clear implication, since you have one opponent at the moment, is that you're ready; he's not.

What would you do differently on day one than a President Obama would when it comes to managing the nation's economy?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I would agree with a lot that Senator Obama just said, because it is the Democratic agenda.

We are going to rid the tax code of these loopholes and giveaways. We're going to stop giving a penny of your money to anybody who ships a job out of Texas, Ohio or anywhere else to another country. We're certainly going to begin to get the tax code to reflect what the needs of middle class families are, so we can rebuild a strong and prosperous middle class.

The wealthy and the well-connected have had a president for the last seven years. And I think it's time that the rest of America had a president who works for you every single day. (Cheers, applause.)

We will also have a different approach toward trade. We're going to start having trade agreements that not only have strong environmental and labor standards, but I want to have a trade timeout.

We're going to look and see what's working, what's not working. And I'd like to have a trade prosecutor to actually enforce the trade agreements that we have before we enter into any others.

We're also going to put much tougher standards in place so that people cannot import toys with lead paint, contaminated pet food, contaminated drugs into our market. We're going to have a much more vigorous enforcement of safety standards.

Now, in addition, there are steps I would take immediately. One is on this foreclosure crisis. I have been saying for nearly a year we had to crack down on the abusive practices of the lenders. But we also need a moratorium on home foreclosures. Everywhere I go, I meet people who either have been or are about to lose their home -- 85,000 homes in foreclosure in Texas, 90,000 in Ohio. I've met the families: the hairdresser, the single mom who's going to lose her home; the postal worker who got really hoodwinked into an agreement that wasn't fair to him. So I would put a moratorium for 90 days to give us time to work out a way for people to stay in their homes, and I would freeze interest rates for five years because these adjustable-rate mortgages, if they keep going up, millions of Americans are going to be homeless -- (applause) -- and vacant homes will be across the neighborhoods of Texas and America.

Now, in addition, there are three ways we need to jumpstart the economy. Clean green jobs -- I've been promoting this. I wanted it to be part of the stimulus package.

I thought a $5 billion investment in clean green jobs would put hundreds of thousands of Americans to work helping to create our future. We also need to invest in our infrastructure. We don't have enough roads to take care of the congestion. We have crumbling bridges and tunnels. We need to rebuild America, and that will also put people to work.

And finally, we need to end George Bush's war on science, which has been waged -- (cheers, applause) -- (off mike).

MS. BROWN: Thank you, Senator.

And we've got a lot of ground to cover --

SEN. CLINTON: So I want to think about how we fund the future. We've got to get back to being the innovation nation. Think of everything that goes on at this great university to create the new economy -- (cheers, applause).

MS. BROWN: All right, Senator Clinton, thank you very much.

As I was saying, we've got a lot to get through, so I do want to shift gears and go on to another topic especially important here in Texas, which is immigration.

And Jorge, you have a question.

MR. RAMOS: (Speaks in Spanish.) Federal raids by immigration enforcement officials on homes and businesses have generated a great deal of fear and anxiety in the Hispanic community and have divided the family of some of the 3 million U.S.-born children who have at least one undocumented parent.

Would you consider stopping these raids once you take office until comprehensive immigration reform can be passed?

SEN. CLINTON: I would consider that, except in egregious situations where it would be appropriate to take the actions you're referring to. But when we see what's been happening with literally babies being left with no one to take care of them, children coming home from school, no responsible adult left -- that is not the America that I know.

That is against American values. (Applause.) And it is -- it is a stark admission of failure by the federal government.

We need comprehensive immigration reform. I have been for this. I signed on to the first comprehensive bill back in 2004. I've been advocating for it. Tougher, more secure borders -- of course. But let's do it the right way: cracking down on employers, especially once we get to comprehensive immigration reform, who exploit undocumented workers and drive down wages for everyone else. I'd like to see more federal help for communities like Austin and others, like Laredo where I was this morning, that absorb the health care, education and law enforcement costs. And I personally, as president, would work with our neighbors to the south to help them create more jobs for their own people.

And finally, we need a path to legalization to bring the immigrants out of the shadows, give them the conditions that we expect them to meet: paying a fine for coming here illegally, trying to pay back taxes over time, and learning English. If they had committed a crime in our country or the country they came from, then they should be deported. But for everyone else, there must be a path to legalization. I would introduce that in the first 100 days of my presidency. (Cheers, applause.)

MS. BROWN: Senator Obama, is your position the same as Hillary Clinton's?

SEN. OBAMA: You know, there are a couple of things I would add. Comprehensive immigration reform is something that I've worked on extensively. Two years ago we were able to get a bill out of the Senate. I was one of a group of senators that helped to move it through, but it died in the House this year. Because it was used as a political football instead of a way of solving a problem, nothing happened.

And so there are a couple of things that I would just add to what Senator Clinton said. Number one, it is absolutely critical that we tone down the rhetoric when it comes to the immigration debate, because there has been an undertone that has been ugly. Oftentimes it has been directed at the Hispanic community. We have seen hate crimes skyrocket in the wake of the immigration debate, as it's been conducted in Washington, and that is unacceptable.

We are a nation of laws and we are a nation of immigrants, and we can reconcile those two things.

So we need comprehensive reform -- (applause) -- we need comprehensive reform, and that means stronger border security. It means that we are cracking down on employers that are taking advantage of undocumented workers because they can't complain if they're not paid a minimum wage, they can't complain if they're not getting overtime, worker safety laws are not being observed. We have to crack down on those employers, although we also have to make sure that we do it in a way that doesn't lead to people with Spanish surnames being discriminated against. So there's got to be a -- a -- a safeguard there.

We have to require that undocumented workers, who are provided a pathway to citizenship, not only learn English, pay back taxes and pay a significant fine, but also that they're going to the back of the line, so that they're not getting citizenship before those who have applied legally, which raises two last points.

Number one, it is important that we fix the legal immigration system, because right now we've got a backlog that means years for people to apply legally. (Applause.) And what's worse is, we keep on increasing the fees, so that if you've got a hard-working immigrant family, they've got to hire a lawyer; they've got to pay thousands of dollars in fees. They just can't afford it, and it's discriminatory against people, who have good character, we should want in this country, but don't have the money. So we've got to fix that.

The second thing is, we have to improve our relationship with Mexico and work with the Mexican government, so that their economy is producing jobs on that side of the border. (Applause.)

And the problem that we have, the problem that we have, is that we have had an administration that came in promising all sorts of leadership on creating a U.S.-Mexican relationship. And frankly President Bush dropped the ball. He has been so obsessed with Iraq that we have not seen the kinds of outreach and cooperative work that would ensure that the Mexican economy is working, not just for the very wealthy in Mexico but for all people.

And that's a policy that I'm going to change when I'm president of the United States. (Cheers, applause.)

MS. BROWN: All right, Senator Obama.

We're going to stay with this topic. I want to have John King ask another question. Go ahead, John.

MR. KING: I want to stay on the issue, but move to a controversial item that was not held up when the immigration debate collapsed in Washington, and that is the border fence. To many Americans, it is a simple question of sovereignty and security:

America should be able to keep people out that it doesn't want in. But as you know, in this state, especially if you go to the south of here along the border, and in other border states, to many people it's a much more personal question. It could be a question of their livelihood. It could be a question of cross-border trade. It might be an issue to a rancher of property rights. It might be a simple question of whether someone can take a walk or a short drive to see their family members.

Senator, back in 2006 you voted for the construction of that fence. As you know, progress has been slow. As president of the United States, would you commit tonight that you will finish the fence and speed up the construction, or do you think it's time for a president of the United States to raise his or her hand and say, you know what, wait a minute, let's think about this again; do we really want to do this?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think both Senator Obama and I voted for that as part of the immigration debate.

And having been along the border for the last week or so -- in fact, last night I was at the University of Texas at Brownsville, and this is how absurd this has become under the Bush administration because, you know, there is a smart way to protect our borders and there is a dumb way to protect our borders. (Laughter, applause.)

And what I learned last night, when I was there with Congressman Ortiz, is that the University of Texas at Brownsville would have part of its campus cut off.

This is the kind of absurdity that we're getting from this administration. I know it because I've been fighting with them about the northern border. Their imposition of passports and other kinds of burdens are separating people from families, interfering with business and commerce and movement of goods and people.

So what I've said is that I would say, wait a minute. We need to review this. There may be places where a physical barrier is appropriate. I think when both of us voted for this we were voting for the possibility that where it was appropriate and made sense it would be considered, but as with so much, the Bush administration has gone off the deep end, and they are unfortunately coming up with a plan that I think is counterproductive.

So I would have a review. I would listen to the people who live along the border, who understand what it is we need to be doing to protect our country. (Cheers, applause.)

MS. BROWN: Let me go on and --

Sorry, John.

MR. KING: But does that mean that you think your vote was wrong or the implementation of it was wrong, because, as you know, when they first built the fence in the San Diego area it only went so far, and what it did was it stopped the people coming straight up the path of where that was built and they simply moved, and California's problem became Arizona's problem.

SEN. CLINTON: But you know, John, there is -- there's a lot we've learned about technology and smart fencing. You know, there is technology that can be used instead of a physical barrier. It requires us having enough personnel along the border, so that people can be supervising a certain limited amount of space and will be able to be responsive in the event of, you know, people attempting to cross illegally.

And -- and I think that the way that the Bush administration is going about this, filing eminent domain actions against landowners and municipalities, makes no sense.

So what I have said is, yes, there are places when, after a careful review -- again, listening to the people who live along the border -- there may be limited places where it would work.

But let's deploy more technology and personnel instead of the physical barrier. I frankly think that will work better, and it will give us an opportunity to secure our borders without interfering with family relations, business relations, recreation and so much else that makes living along the border, you know, wonderful.

MS. BROWN: All right --

SEN. CLINTON: And the people who live there need to have a president who understands it, will listen to them and be responsive.

MS. BROWN: All right, Senator Clinton.

Senator Obama, go ahead, please. (Applause.)

SEN. OBAMA: Well, this is an area where Senator Clinton and I almost entirely agree. I think that the key is to consult with local communities, whether it's on the commercial interests or the environmental stakes of creating any kind of barrier.

And the Bush administration is not real good at listening. That's not what they do well. (Laughter.) And so I will reverse that policy.

As Senator Clinton indicated, there may be areas where it makes sense to have some fencing. But for the most part, having Border Patrol, surveillance, deploying effective technology, that's going to be the better approach.

The one thing I do have to say, though, about this issue is it is very important for us, I think, to deal with this problem in terms of thousands of -- hundreds of thousands of people coming over the borders on a regular basis if we want to also provide opportunity for the 12 million undocumented workers who are here. Senator Clinton and I have both campaigned in places like Iowa and Ohio and my home state of Illinois, and I think that the American people want fairness, want justice. I think they recognize that the idea that you're going to deport 12 million people is ridiculous, that we're not going to be -- (applause) -- devoting all our law enforcement resources to sending people back. But what they do also want is some order to the process.

And so we're not going to be able to do these things in isolation. We're not going to be able to deal with the 12 million people who are living in the shadows and give them a way of getting out of the shadows if we don't also deal with the problem of this constant influx of undocumented workers. And that's why I think comprehensive reform is so important. That's the kind of leadership that I've shown in the past. That's the kind of leadership that I'll show in the future.

One last point I want to make on the immigration issue, because we may be moving to different topics. Something that we can do immediately that I think is very important is to pass the DREAM Act, which allows children who -- (applause) -- through no fault of their own are here but have essentially grown up as Americans -- allow them the opportunity for higher education.

I do not want two classes of citizens in this country. I want everybody to prosper. That's going to be a top priority. (Cheers, applause.)

MS. BROWN: Okay. Let's -- we've got one last question on immigration.

Jorge, go ahead.

MR. RAMOS: (Remarks in Spanish.)

Right now there are more than 30 million people in this country who speak Spanish. (Applause.) Many of them are right here. By the year 2050, there will be 120 million Hispanics in the United States.

Now, is there any downside, Senator Clinton, to the United States becoming -- (remarks in Spanish) -- becoming a bilingual nation? Is there a limit?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think it's important for as many Americans as possible to do what I've never been able to do. And that is learn another language and try to be bilingual, because that connects us to the rest of the world.

I think it is important though that English remain our common, unifying language -- (applause) -- because that brings our country together in a way that we've seen generations of immigrants, coming to our shores, be able to be part of the American experience and pursue the American dream.

You know, I have been adamantly against the efforts by some to make English the official language.

That I do not believe is appropriate, and I have voted against it and spoken against it. I represent New York. We have a hundred and seventy languages in New York City alone, and I do not think that we should be in any way discriminating against people who do not speak English, who use facilities like hospitals or have to go to court to enforce their rights.

But I do think that English does remain an important part of the American experience, so I encourage people to become bilingual, but I also want to see English remain the common unifying language of our country. (Applause.)

MR. RAMOS: Senator Obama, is there any downside to the United States becoming a bilingual nation?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, I think it is important that everyone learns English and that we have that process of binding ourselves together as a country. I think that's very important.

I also think that every student should be learning a second language because -- (interrupted by applause) -- you know -- so when you start getting into a debate about bilingual education, for example, now I want to make sure that children who are coming out of Spanish-speaking households have the opportunity to learn and are not falling behind. And if bilingual education helps them do that, I want to give them the opportunity. But I also want to make sure that English-speaking children are getting foreign languages because this world is becoming more interdependent, and part of the process of America's continued leadership in the world is going to be our capacity to communicate across boundaries, across borders.

And that's something, frankly, that's fallen very -- where we've fallen behind. And one of the failures of No Child Left Behind, a law that I think a lot of local and state officials have been troubled by, is that it is so narrowly focused on standardized tests that it has pushed out a lot of important learning that needs to take place. (Cheers, applause.)

And foreign languages is one of those areas that I think has been neglected. I want to put more resources into it.

MS. BROWN: All right.

We're going to take a quick break. We've got to go to a commercial. We'll be back with a lot more.

There's also a debate, we should mention, raging online right now, so go to our website,, to join in.

The debate here at the University of Texas in Austin continues right after this. (Cheers, applause.)


MS. BROWN: And we are back. We're here in Austin, Texas, the capital city. Welcome back to the Texas Democratic debate at the University of Texas-Austin.

The first question now goes to John King.

MR. KING: Senators, as I'm sitting here, we're about 45 minutes into the discussion tonight, and I'm having what I like to call one of those parallel universe moments. I've been watching each of you give speeches in arenas not unlike this one, individually, and the tone is often quite different than the very polite, substantive discourse -- (laughter, applause) -- we've had tonight.

And so I want to ask you about that. There are times when each of you seems to call into question the other one's credibility or truthfulness. And Senator Clinton, I want to talk specifically about some words you've spoken here in the state of Texas over the past couple of days. You've said, quote, "My opponent gives speeches; I offer solutions." You said the choice for Democrats in this campaign is, quote, "talk versus action."

Now, in a campaign that some of us are old enough to remember -- maybe not many of the students here -- this would be called the "Where's the beef?" question. (Laughter.) But since we're in Texas, I'd like to borrow a phrase that they often use here, and you've used yourself in the context of President Bush. Are you saying that your opponent is all hat and no cattle? And can you say that after the last 45 minutes? (Laughter, applause.)

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I have said that about President Bush, and I think our next president needs to be a lot less hat and a lot more cattle. (Cheers, applause.)

You know, I think you can tell from the first 45 minutes, you know, Senator Obama and I have a lot in common. We both care passionately about our country. We are devoted to public service. We care deeply about the future. And we have run a very vigorous and contested primary campaign, which has been by most standards, I think, very positive and extremely civil.

But there are differences between us, and I think in our efforts to draw those contrasts and comparisons we obviously try to let voters know how we see the world differently. And I do offer solutions. That's what I believe in and what I have done, and it's what I offer to voters because it's part of my life over the last 35 years:

working to get kids health care, working to expand legal services for the poor, working to register voters, working to make a difference, because I think that this country has given me so much. And there are differences between our records and our accomplishments. I have to confess I was somewhat amused the other night when on one of the TV shows, one of Senator Obama's supporters was asked to name one accomplishment of Senator Obama, and he couldn't. So I know that there are comparisons and contrasts to be drawn between us, and it's important that voters get that information.

So yes, I do think that words are important and words matter, but actions speak louder than words, and I offer -- (by cheers, applause) -- (off mike).

MS. BROWN: Senator Obama, go ahead. Senator Obama, do you want to respond?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, I think actions do speak louder than words, which is why over the 20 years of my public service I have acted a lot to provide health care to people who didn't have it, to provide tax breaks to families that needed it, to reform a criminal justice system that had resulted in wrongful convictions, to open up our government, and to pass the toughest ethics reform legislation since Watergate -- (applause) -- to make sure that we create transparency -- to make sure that we create transparency in our government so that we know where federal spending is going and it's not going to a bunch of boondoggles and earmarks that are wasting taxpayer money that could be spent on things like early childhood education.

You know, I think if you talk to those wounded warriors at Walter Reed who, prior to me getting to the Senate, were having to pay for their meals and have to pay for their phone calls to their family while they're recovering from amputations, I think they'd say that I've engaged not just in talk, but in action. (Cheers, applause.)

Now -- now, I think Senator Clinton has a fine record, and I don't to denigrate that record. I do think there is a fundamental difference between us in terms of how change comes about. Senator Clinton of late has said "let's get real." And the implication is, is that, you know, the people who have been voting for me or involved in my campaign are somehow delusional -- (laughter) -- and that -- (chuckles) -- that, you know, the -- (laughter) -- you know, the 20 million people who have been paying attention to 19 debates, and the editorial boards all across the country at newspapers who have given me endorsements including every major newspaper here in the state of Texas -- (cheers, applause) -- you know, the thinking is that somehow they're being duped and that eventually they're going to see the reality of things.

Well, I think they perceive reality of what's going on in Washington very clearly. And what they see is that if we don't bring the country together, stop the endless bickering, actually focus on solutions and reduce the special interests that have dominated Washington, then we will not get anything done. And the reason that this campaign has done so well -- (applause) -- the reason that this campaign has done so well is because people understand that it is not just a matter of putting forward policy positions.

Senator Clinton and I share a lot of policy positions. But if we can't inspire the American people to get involved in their government, and if we can't inspire them to go beyond the racial divisions and the religious divisions and the regional divisions, that have plagued our politics for so long, then we will continue to see the kind of gridlock and non-performance in Washington that is resulting in families suffering in very real ways.

I'm running for president to start doing something about that suffering and so are the people who are behind my campaign. (Cheers, applause.)

MS. BROWN: I think -- I think one of the points -- (interrupted by continued cheers, applause). I think one of the points that John King was alluding to in talking about some of Senator Clinton's comments is there has been a lot of attention lately on some of your speeches, that they're very similar to some of the speeches by your friend and supporter, Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts. And Senator Clinton's campaign has made a big issue of this. To be blunt, they've accused you of plagiarism.

SEN. OBAMA: Right.

MS. BROWN: How do you respond?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, look, the -- first of all, it's not a lot of speeches. There are two lines in speeches that I've been giving over the last couple of weeks. I've been campaigning now for the last two years. Deval is a national co-chairman of my campaign and suggested an argument that I share, that words are important, words matter, and the implication that they don't, I think, diminishes how important it is to speak to the American people directly about making America as good as its promise. And Barbara Jordan understood this as well as anybody.

Now, the notion that I had plagiarized from somebody who's one of my national co-chairs -- (laughter) -- who gave me the line and suggested that I use it, I think is silly. (Cheers, applause.)

And -- you know, but -- but -- but this is where we start getting into silly season in politics, and I think people start getting discouraged about it. (Cheers, applause.) They don't want -- what they want is, how are we going to create good jobs at good wages? How are we going to provide health care to the American people? How are we going to make sure that college is affordable?

So what I have been talking about in these speeches -- and I got to admit, some of them are pretty good -- (laughter, cheers, applause) -- what I've been talking about is not just hope and not just inspiration; it's a $4,000 tuition credit for every student every year -- (cheers, applause) -- in exchange for national service so that college becomes more affordable. I've been talking about making sure that we change our tax code so that working families actually get relief. I have been talking about making sure that we bring an end to this war in Iraq so that we can start bringing our troops home and invest money here in the United States. (Applause.)

And so just to finish up, these are very specific, concrete, detailed proposals, many of them which I've been working on for years now. Senator Clinton has a fine record.

So do I. And I'm happy to have a debate on the issues, but what we shouldn't be spending time doing is tearing each other down. We should be spending time lifting the country up. (Cheers, applause.)

MS. BROWN: Senator Clinton, is it the silly season?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think that if your candidacy is going to be about words, then they should be your own words. That's, I think, a very simple proposition. (Applause.) And you know -- you know, lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in; it's change you can Xerox. And I just don't think --

SEN. OBAMA: Oh, but that -- that's not what happened there --

SEN. CLINTON: No, but -- you know, but Barack, it is, because if -- you know, if you look -- (jeers from the audience) -- if you look -- if you look -- if you look at the YouTube of these videos, it does raise questions.

Now, there is no doubt that you are a passionate, eloquent speaker, and I applaud you for that. But when you look at what we face in this country, we do need to unite the country, but we have to unite it for a purpose around very specific goals. It is not enough to say, "Let's come together." We know we're going to have to work hard to overcome the opposition of those who do not want the changes to get to universal health care.

You know, when I proposed a universal health care plan, as did Senator Edwards, we took a big risk, because we know it's politically controversial to say we're going to cover everyone.

And you chose not to do that. You chose to put forth a health care plant that will leave out at least 15 million people. That's a big difference.

When I said we should put a moratorium on home foreclosures, basically your response was, well, that wouldn't work, and you know, in the last week even President Bush said we have to do something like that.

I just believe that we've got to look hard at the difficult challenges we face, especially after George Bush leaves the White House. The world will breathe a sigh of relief once he is gone. (Applause.) We all know that. But then we've got to do the hard work of not just bringing the country together, but overcoming a lot of the entrenched opposition to the very ideas that both of us believe in and for some of us have been fighting for a very long time.

You know, when I took on -- (interrupted by cheers, applause).

When I took on universal health care back in '93 and '94, it was against a fire storm of special interest opposition. I was more than happy to do that because I believe passionately in getting quality affordable health care to every American. I don't want to leave anybody out. I see the results of leaving people out. I am tired of health insurance companies deciding who will live or die in America.

That has to end. (Applause.)

MS. BROWN: All right. Senator Clinton, thank you.

Senator Obama, please respond.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, I think that Senator Clinton mentioned two specific issue areas where we've got some differences. And I'm happy to debate those, which is what I think should be the focus of this campaign.

We both want universal health care. When I released my plan, a few months later, we were in a debate, and Senator Clinton said, we all want universal health care. And of course, I was down 20 points in the polls at the time, and so my plan was pretty good. It's not as good now, but my plan hasn't changed. The politics have changed a little bit.

We do -- we both -- 95 percent of our plans are similar. We both want to set up a system in which any person is going to be able to get coverage that is as good as we have as members of Congress. And we are going to subsidize those who can't afford it. We're going to make sure that we reduce costs by emphasizing prevention, and I want to make sure that we're applying technology to improve quality, cut bureaucracy.

Now, I also want to make sure that we're reducing costs for those who already have health insurance. So we put in place a catastrophic reinsurance plan that would reduce costs by $2,500 per family per year.

So we've got a lot of similarities in our plan.

We've got a philosophical difference which we've debated repeatedly, and that is that Senator Clinton believes the only way to achieve universal health care is to force everybody to purchase it, and my belief is the reason that people don't have it is not because they don't want it, but because they can't afford it. And so I emphasize -- (applause) -- reducing costs. And as has been noted by many observers, including Bill Clinton's former secretary of Labor, my plan does more than anybody to reduce costs, and there is nobody out there who wants health insurance who can't have it.

Now, there are legitimate arguments for why Senator Clinton and others have called for a mandate, and I'm happy to have that debate. But the notion that I am leaving 15 -- 15 million people out somehow implies that we are different in our goals of providing coverage to all Americans, and that is simply not true. We think that there's going to be a different way of getting there.

One last point I want to make on the health care front. I admire the fact that Senator Clinton tried to bring about health care reform back in 1993. She deserves credit for that. (Applause.) But I -- I've said before I think she did it in the wrong way because it wasn't just the fact that the insurance companies and the drug companies were battling her -- and no doubt they were -- it was also that Senator Clinton and the administration went behind closed doors, excluded the participation even of Democratic members of Congress who had slightly different ideas than the ones that Senator Clinton had put forward.

And as a consequence, it was much more difficult to get Congress to cooperate.

And I've said that I'm going to do things differently. I think we have to open up the process, everybody has to have a seat the table, and most importantly, the American people have to be involved and educated about how this change is going to be brought about.

The point is this: We can have great plans, but if we don't change how the politics is working in Washington, then neither of our plans are going to happen and we're going to be four years from now debating once again how we're going to bring universal health care to this country. (Applause.)

MS. BROWN: All right --

SEN. OBAMA: That's not something I want to do.

MS. BROWN: -- I've got -- we've got some time constraints here.

Now, we've got to take to another real quick break. Stay with us. We've got a lot more ahead. You can compare the candidates on the issues any time, just go to our website, A lot more ahead here at the University of Texas. We'll be right back. (Cheers, applause.)


(Cheers, applause.)

MS. BROWN: An enthusiastic crowd here at the University of Texas. Welcome back to the Texas Democratic debate. Let's get right to it. Jorge Ramos with the next question.

MR. RAMOS: (Thank you ?), Campbell.

Senator Clinton, yesterday you said -- and I'm quoting -- "one of us is ready to be commander in chief." Are you saying that Senator Obama is not ready and not qualified to be commander in chief?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I believe that I am ready, and I am prepared. And I will leave that to voters to decide.

But I want to get back to health care because I didn't get a chance to respond --

MS. BROWN: All right --

MR. RAMOS: Oh, but --

SEN. CLINTON: -- after Senator Obama. No, let -- let me finish,

Jorge --

MR. RAMOS: But I would like you also to come back to this after --

SEN. CLINTON: -- because this is a significant difference. You know, Senator Obama has said it's a philosophical difference. I think it's a substantive difference. He has a mandate for parents to be sure to insure their children. I agree with that. I just know that if we don't go and require everyone to have health insurance, the health insurance industry will still game the system, every one of us with insurance will pay the hidden tax of approximately $900 a year -- (applause) -- to make up for the lack of insurance.

And you know, in one of our earlier debates John Edwards made a great point. It would be as though Social Security were voluntary; Medicare, one of the great accomplishments of President Johnson, was voluntary. (Applause.) I do not believe that is going to work.

So it's not just a philosophical difference. You look at what will work and what will not work. If you do not have a plan that starts out attempting to achieve universal health care, you will be nibbled to death, and we will be back here, with more and more people uninsured and rising costs. (Applause.)

MS. BROWN: All right. We appreciate that you want to make a point.

Senator Obama, we have limited time --


MS. BROWN: -- so I would like Jorge to move on to another subject, or we're going to be out of time.

SEN. OBAMA: But I -- well, I -- I understand, but I think that Senator Clinton made a -- (laughter) -- you know, she's making a point, and I -- and I think I should have the opportunity to respond very briefly, and I'll -- I'll try to make it as quickly as possible.

MS. BROWN: Very briefly, absolutely.

SEN. OBAMA: Number one, understand that when Senator Clinton says a mandate, it's not a mandate on government to provide health insurance; it's a mandate on individuals to purchase it. And Senator Clinton is right; we have to find out what works.

Now, Massachusetts has a mandate right now. They have exempted 20 percent of the uninsured because they've concluded that that 20 percent can't afford it. In some cases, there are people who are paying fines and still can't afford it, so now they're worse off than they were. They don't have health insurance and they're paying a fine. (Applause.) And in order for you to force people to get health insurance, you've got to have a very harsh, stiff penalty. And Senator Clinton has said that we will go after their wages.

Now, this is a substantive difference. But understand that both of us seek to get universal health care. I have a substantive difference with Senator Clinton on how to get there, okay.


MS. BROWN: All right. All right, Senator Clinton --

SEN. CLINTON: Wait a minute. No, this is too important. (Laughter.) This is the number one issue that people talk to me about. You know, when a mother grabs my arm and says "I can't get the operation my son needs because I don't have health insurance," it is personal for me. And I just fundamentally disagree.

You know, Senator Obama's plan has a mandate on parents and a fine if parents --

SEN. OBAMA: That's right.

SEN. CLINTON: -- do not insure their children.

SEN. OBAMA: That's right.

SEN. CLINTON: Because he recognizes that unless we have some kind of restriction, we will not get there. He's also said that if people show up at the hospital sick without health insurance, well, maybe at that point, you can fine them.

We would not have a social compact with Social Security and Medicare if everyone did not have to participate. I want a universal health care plan. (Cheers, applause.)

SEN. OBAMA: That mother, who is desperate to get health care for her child, will be able to get that health care under my plan, point number one.

Point number two, the reason a mandate for children can be effective is, we've got a ability to make affordable health care available to that child right now. There are no excuses. If a parent is not providing health care for that child, it's because the parent's not being responsible under my plan, and those children don't have a choice.

But I think that adults are going to be able to see that they can afford it under my plan; they will get it under my plan. And it is true that if it turns out that some are gaming the system, then we can impose potentially some penalties on them for gaming the system. But the notion that somehow I am interested in leaving out 15 million people, without health insurance, is simply not true.


MS. BROWN: (Off mike) -- (applause).

SEN. CLINTON: We disagree on that.

MS. BROWN: Okay.

Let's let Jorge re-ask his question because I don't think anyone remembers. (Laughter.)

MR. RAMOS: Let me try again and not in Spanish, okay? (Laughter.) Here we go again -- because we also believe the war in Iraq is very important, and here's the question.

Are you suggesting that Senator Obama is not ready, he doesn't have the experience to be commander in chief? That's a question.

What did you mean by that phrase?

SEN. CLINTON: What I mean is that, you know, for more than 15 years I've been honored to represent our country in more than 80 countries to negotiate on matters such opening borders for refugees during the war in Kosovo, to stand up for women's rights and human rights around the world. I've served on the Senate -- (interrupted by cheers, applause). I've served on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and I have worked as one of the leaders in the Congress on behalf of homeland security and the very difficult challenges we face. You know, just this week -- it's a good example -- we had elections in Pakistan; we had a change in government in Cuba or at least the leadership; we've had the elections that, you know, should have happened, that haven't happened, and just change the leader the way they do in Cuba; we've had Kosovo declaring independence; and we have had our embassy set on fire in Serbia.

x x x Serbia.

So we have serious problems that pose a real question about presidential leadership, and also some great opportunities. You know, we now have opportunities, perhaps, with Cuba, I hope with President Musharraf for him to do the right thing. I've supported the independence of Kosovo because I think it is imperative that in the heart of Europe we continue to promote independence and democracy.

And I would be moving very aggressively to hold the Serbian government responsible with their security forces to protect our embassy. Under international law they should be doing that.

So when you think about everything that is going to happen, what we can predict and what we cannot predict, I believe that I am prepared and ready on day one to be commander in chief, to be the president, to turn our economy around, and to begin making a lot of these very difficult decisions that we will inherit from George Bush. And that is what I am putting forth to the voters. (Cheers, applause.)

MS. BROWN: Senator Obama. Go ahead, Senator Obama.

SEN. OBAMA: I wouldn't be running if I didn't think I was prepared to be commander in chief. (Cheers, applause.) And my -- my number one job as president will be to keep the American people safe. And I will do whatever is required to accomplish that, and I will not hesitate to act against those that would do America harm.

Now, that involves maintaining the strongest military on earth, which means that we are training our troops properly and equipping them properly and putting them on proper rotations. And there are an awful lot of families, here in Texas, who have been burdened under two and three and four tours, because of the poor planning of the current commander in chief. And that will end when I'm president.


But it also means using our military wisely. And on what I believe was the single most important foreign policy decision of this generation -- whether or not to go to war in Iraq -- I believe I showed the judgment of a commander in chief. I think that Senator Clinton was wrong in her judgments on that. (Applause.)

Now, that has consequences. That has significant consequences because it has diverted attention from Afghanistan, where al Qaeda, that killed 3,000 Americans, are stronger now than at any time since 2001.

I heard from a Army captain, who was the head of a rifle platoon, supposed to have 39 men in a rifle platoon. Ended up being sent to Afghanistan with 24, because 15 of those soldiers had been sent to Iraq. And as a consequence, they didn't have enough ammunition; they didn't have enough humvees.

They were actually capturing Taliban weapons because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief. Now that's a consequence of bad judgment, and you know, the question is on the critical issues that we face right now who's going to show the judgment to lead. And I think that on every critical issue that we've seen in foreign policy over the last several years -- going into Iraq originally, I didn't just oppose it for the sake of opposing it. I said this is going to distract us from Afghanistan; this is going to fan the flames of anti- American sentiment; this is going to cost us billions of dollars and thousands of lives and overstretch our military, and I was right.

On the question of Pakistan, which Senator Clinton just raised, we just had an election there, but I've said very clearly that we have put all our eggs in the Musharraf basket. That was a mistake. We should be going after al Qaeda and making sure that Pakistan is serious about hunting down terrorists as well as expanding democracy, and I was right about that.

On the issues that have come up, that a commander in chief is going to have to make decisions on, I have shown the judgment to lead. That is the leadership that I want to show when I'm president of the United States. (Cheers, applause.)

MS. BROWN: All right, Senator Clinton, we're going to stay with this and stay on Iraq.

John King.

MR. KING: I want to continue in this vein and hone in on the very point you just made because one of you, unless this remarkable campaign here takes another wacky, unpredictable turn, is going to be running against a decorated war hero who is going to say that you don't have the experience to be commander in chief.

And you have both said it's not about that type of experience; it's about judgment.

You both had to make a judgment a short time ago in your job in the United States Senate about whether to support the surge. And as that was going on, Senator Clinton, you had the commanding general in Iraq before you, and you said, "I think that the reports you provide to us really require the willing suspension of disbelief," your words to General Petreaus.

I want you to look at Iraq now and listen to those who say the security situation is better. Ideal? No, but better, some say significantly. In recent days, even some steps toward the political reconciliation. Is Iraq today better off than it was six months or a year ago because of the surge?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, John, I think you forget a very important premise of the surge. The rationale of the surge was to create the space and time for the Iraqi government to make the decisions that only it can make. Now, there is no doubt, given the skill and the commitment of our young men and women in uniform, that putting more of them in will give us a tactical advantage and will provide security in some places. And that has occurred.

But the fact is that the purpose of it has not been fulfilled.

The Iraqi government has slowly inched toward making a few of the decisions in a less than complete way.

It was one of the reasons why the economy was booming. I've got that, you know, clearly in my economic blueprint, which is something that I've published the last few days, because it's part of what we have to do again, and I think that I will be very comfortable and effective in taking on Senator McCain over the fiscal irresponsibility of the Republican Party that he's been a part of. (Applause.)

MS. BROWN: All right. An issue relating to the current election. Jorge.

MR. RAMOS: As we can see, this has been an extremely close nomination battle that will come down to superdelegates. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking Democrat in government, said recently -- and I'm quoting -- "It would be a problem" -- and this is a question for you, Senator Clinton -- "It would be a problem for the party if the verdict would be something different than the public has decided." Do you agree?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, you know, these are the rules that are followed, and I -- you know, I think that it'll sort itself out. I'm not worried about that. We will have a nominee, and we will a unified Democratic Party, and we will go on to victory in November. (Cheers, applause.)

MS. BROWN: Senator Obama, go ahead. Do you have a response to Senator Clinton?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, I think it is important, given how hard Senator Clinton and I have been working, that these primaries and caucuses count for something. (Applause.) And so my belief is that -- that the will of the voters, expressed in this long election process, is what ultimately determine who our next nominee is going to be.

But understand what I think is most important to the voters, and that is that we have a government that is listening to them again. They feel as if they've been shut out.

You know, when I meet mothers who are trying to figure out how to get health care for their kids, it's not just the desperation of that single mom. It's also that when they try to find some help, oftentimes they're hitting a brick wall. And they don't get a sense that the debates that are happening in Washington right now relate to them at all. What they believe is that people are trying to get on TV, and they're trying to score points, and they're trying to win elections, and that they're not interested in knocking down the barriers that stand between the American people and their dreams.

And I have no doubt that the Democratic Party, at its best, can summon a sense of common purpose again, and higher purpose, for the American people. And I think that the next nominee, going into the November election, is going to have a lot to talk about, because the American people are tired of a politics that's dominated by the powerful, by the connected. They want their government back, and that's what I intend to provide them when I'm nominated for president of the United States.

MS. BROWN: We have time for just one final question and we thought we'd sort of end on a more philosophical question.

You've both spent a lot of time talking about leadership, about who's ready and who has the right judgment to lead if elected president.

And a leader's judgment is -- is most tested at times of crisis. And I'm wondering if both of you will describe what was a moment -- what was THE moment that tested you the most, that moment of crisis?

Senator Obama.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, you know, I -- I wouldn't point to a single moment, and what I look at is the trajectory of my life, because I was raised by a single mom. My father left when I was two, and I was raised by my mother and my grandparents. And there were rocky periods during my youth when I made mistakes and was off course. And what was most important in my life was learning to take responsibility for my own -- my own actions -- learning to take responsibility for not only my own actions, but how I can bring people together to actually have an impact on the world. And so working as a community organizer on the streets of Chicago with ordinary people, bringing them together and organizing them to provide jobs and health care and economic security to people who didn't have it, then working as a civil rights attorney and rejecting the jobs on Wall Street to fight for those who were being discriminated against on the job, that cumulative experience I think is the judgment that I now bring. It's the reason that I have the capacity to bring people together, and it's the reason why I am determined to make sure that the American people get a government that is worthy of their decency and their generosity. (Applause.)

MS. BROWN: Senator Clinton.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think everybody here knows I have lived through some crises and some challenging -- (laughter) -- moments in my life, and -- (interrupted by cheers, applause).

And I am grateful for the support and the prayers of countless Americans. But people often ask me, how do you do it, you know, how do you keep going, and I just have to shake my head in wonderment because with all of the challenges that I've had, they are nothing compared to what I see happening in the lives of Americans every single day.

You know, a few months ago I was honored to be asked, along with Senator McCain, as the only two elected officials to speak at the opening of the Intrepid Center at Brooke Medical Center in San Antonio, a center designed to take care of and provide rehabilitation for our brave young men and women who have been injured in war. And I remember sitting up there and watching them come in: those who could walk were walking; those who had lost limbs were trying with great courage to get themselves in without the help of others; some were in wheelchairs and some were on gurneys. And the speaker representing these wounded warriors had had most of his face disfigured by the results of fire from a roadside bomb.

You know, the hits I've taken in life are nothing compared to what goes on every single day in the lives of people across our country. And I resolved at a very young age that I'd been blessed, and that I was called by my faith and by my upbringing to do what I could to give others the same opportunities and blessings that I took for granted. That's what gets me up in the morning. That's what motivates me in this campaign. (Cheers, applause.) And -- and you know, no matter what happens in this contest -- and I am honored. I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored. (Cheers, applause.)

SEN. OBAMA: (Off mike.)

SEN. CLINTON: And you know, whatever happens, we're going to be fine. You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends. I just hope that we'll be able to say the same thing about the American people, and that's what this election should be about. Thanks. (Cheers, applause.)

MS. BROWN: All right. A standing ovation here in Austin, Texas. Our thanks to Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton. Appreciate your time tonight -- (cheers, applause) -- and to John and Jorge as well.

(Applause continues.) We also want to thank our debate partners, the university, the University of Texas at Austin, and the Texas Democratic Party and the LBJ Library, as well as the city of Austin.

Stay with CNN on March 4th for complete coverage of the primary results in Texas, Ohio, Vermont, Rhode Island. I'm Campbell Brown in Austin. This debate will be broadcast in Spanish later tonight on the Univision television network. It'll air at 11:30 p.m. Eastern and 10:30 p.m. Central.

[End Transmission Voice of Blogistan]

20 February 2008

Hillary Clinton’s Feb. 19 Speech Ignoring Election

[Begin Transmission Voice of Blogistan]

from The New York Times

February 19, 2008
Hillary Clinton’s Feb. 19 Speech
The following is a transcript of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s speech to supporters after the Feb. 19 primary in Wisconsin, as provided by CQ Transcriptions via The Associated Press.
SENATOR HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Well, hello, Youngstown. How are you tonight?


I am thrilled to be here with all of you. And it is great to see this enthusiasm and this energy. And tonight I want to talk to you about the choice you have in this election and why that choice matters. It is about picking a president who relies not just on words, but on work, on hard work to get America back to work. That's our goal.


You know, when I think about what we're really comparing in this election, you know, we can't just have speeches. We've got to have solutions. And we need those solutions for America.

We've got to get America back in the solutions business, because while words matter, the best words in the world aren't enough unless you match them with action.


But this election is not about me or my opponent. It is about you. It's about your lives and your dreams and your future. And I can't do this without all of you here in Youngstown and across Ohio. It is going to take an effort from all of us.

Now, you may have heard that I actually loaned my campaign some money. And I was honored and humbled by the support that I have received since, from people like the young mom who sent me $10 and wrote that, "My two daughters are 2 and 4, and I want them to know anything is possible"...


... or the gentleman who described himself as an independent voter, a veteran, and a "generally cranky conservatives" who decided to support me.

If we pull together, I know we can do this. So I hope you'll go to and support this campaign because it is your campaign. I hope you will go to my Web site, because if you do, you'll find at all of my positions, everything that I have been working on, because I know what's happening in America.

People are struggling. They're working the day shift, the night shift. They're trying to get by without health care. They're just one paycheck away from losing their homes. They cannot afford four more years of a president who just doesn't see or hear them at all.


They need a president ready on day one to be commander-in-chief, ready to manage our economy, and ready to beat the Republicans in November.


With your help, I will be that president.

(APPLAUSE) This is the choice we face. One of us is ready to be commander- in-chief in a dangerous world. Every day, around the world, situations arise that present new threats and new opportunities, situations like the change of leadership in Cuba today.

I have served on the Armed Services Committee. I've been to more than 80 countries, worked with world leaders, stood up to the Chinese government to declare that women's rights are human rights.


And I am ready to end this war in Iraq and this era of cowboy diplomacy.


I will restore our leadership and moral authority in the world without delays, without on-the-job training, from day one.

One of us has a plan to provide health care for every single American, no one left out. And I believe -- I believe health care is a right, not a privilege. And I will not rest until every American is covered. That is my solemn promise to you.


My opponent leaves out at least 15 million Americans. The question is: Who would we leave out? Would we leave out the mother I met who grabbed my arm and said the insurance company wouldn't pay for the treatment that her son needed? Will we leave that family out?

And who will pay for those we leave out? I don't want to leave anyone out. I am not running to put Band-Aids on our problems; I'm running to solve our problems.


One of us has a plan to actually address the growing foreclosure crisis, which is so terrible here in Ohio. I've called for a freeze on subprime foreclosures and interest rates to ensure that millions of families across the country won't be receiving that grim letter from the bank.

I proposed $30 billion in assistance to help families avoid foreclosures and to help communities rebound from this housing crisis, because no one should foreclose on the American dream. And we're going to stop it. (END AUDIO FEED)

[End Transmission Voice of Blogistan]

John McCain’s Feb. 19 Speech Attacking Obama

[Begin Transmission Voice of Blogistan]

from The New York Times

February 19, 2008
John McCain’s Feb. 19 Speech
The following is the text as prepared for delivery of Senator John McCain’s speech to supporters after the Feb. 19 Wisconsin primary, as provided his presidential campaign.
Thank you, my friends, for your support and dedication to our campaign. And thank you, Wisconsin, for bringing us to the point when even a superstitious naval aviator can claim with confidence and humility that I will be our party's nominee for President. I promise you, I will wage a campaign with determination, passion and the right ideas for strengthening our country that prove worthy of the honor and responsibility you have given me.

I, again, want to commend Governor Huckabee, who has shown impressive grit and passion himself, and whom, though he remains my opponent, I have come to admire very much. And, of course, I want to thank my wife, Cindy, and my daughter, Meghan, who are here tonight, and the rest of my family for their indispensable love and encouragement.

My friends, we have traveled a great distance together already in this campaign, and overcome more than a few obstacles. But as I said last week, now comes the hard part and, for America, the bigger decision. Will we make the right changes to restore the people's trust in their government and meet the great challenges of our time with wisdom, and with faith in the values and ability of Americans for whom no challenge is greater than their resolve, courage and patriotism? Or will we heed appeals for change that ignore the lessons of history, and lack confidence in the intelligence and ideals of free people?

I will fight every moment of every day in this campaign to make sure Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change that promises no more than a holiday from history and a return to the false promises and failed policies of a tired philosophy that trusts in government more than people. Our purpose is to keep this blessed country free, safe, prosperous and proud. And the changes we offer to the institutions and policies of government will reflect and rely upon the strength, industry, aspirations and decency of the people we serve.

We live in a world of change, some of which holds great promise for us and all mankind and some of which poses great peril. Today, political change in Pakistan is occurring that might affect our relationship with a nuclear armed nation that is indispensable to our success in combating al Qaeda in Afghanistan and elsewhere. An old enemy of American interests and ideals is leaving the world stage, and we can glimpse the hope that freedom might someday come to the people of Cuba. A self-important bully in Venezuela threatens to cut off oil shipments to our country at a time of sky-rocketing gas prices. Each event poses a challenge and an opportunity. Will the next President have the experience, the judgment experience informs, and the strength of purpose to respond to each of these developments in ways that strengthen our security and advance the global progress of our ideals? Or will we risk the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate who once suggested invading our ally, Pakistan, and sitting down without pre-conditions or clear purpose with enemies who support terrorists and are intent on destabilizing the world by acquiring nuclear weapons?

The most important obligation of the next President is to protect Americans from the threat posed by violent extremists who despise us, our values and modernity itself. They are moral monsters, but they are also a disciplined, dedicated movement driven by an apocalyptic zeal, which celebrates murder, has access to science, technology and mass communications, and is determined to acquire and use against us weapons of mass destruction. The institutions and doctrines we relied on in the Cold War are no longer adequate to protect us in a struggle where suicide bombers might obtain the world's most terrifying weapons.

If we are to succeed, we must rethink and rebuild the structure and mission of our military; the capabilities of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies; the purposes of our alliances; the reach and scope of our diplomacy; the capacity of all branches of government to defend us. We need to marshal all elements of American power: our military, economy, investment, trade and technology and our moral credibility to win the war against Islamic extremists and help the majority of Muslims, who believe in progress and peace, win the struggle for the soul of Islam.

The challenges and opportunities of the global economy require us to change some old habits of our government as well. But we will fight for the right changes; changes that understand our strengths and rely on the common sense and values of the American people. We will campaign:

to balance the federal budget not with smoke and mirrors, but by encouraging economic growth and preventing government from spending your money on things it shouldn't; to hold it accountable for the money it does spend on services that only government can provide in ways that don't fail and embarrass you;

to save Social Security and Medicare on our watch without the tricks, lies and posturing that have failed us for too long while the problem became harder to solve;

to make our tax code simpler, fairer, flatter, more pro-growth and pro-jobs;

to reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil with an energy policy that encourages American industry and technology to make our country safer, cleaner and more prosperous by leading the world in the use, development and discovery of alternative sources of energy;

to open new markets to American goods and services, create more and better jobs for the American worker and overhaul unemployment insurance and our redundant and outmoded programs for assisting workers who have lost a job that's not coming back to find a job that won't go away;

to help Americans without health insurance acquire it without bankrupting the country, and ruining the quality of American health care that is the envy of the world;

to make our public schools more accountable to parents and better able to meet the critical responsibility they have to prepare our children for the challenges they'll face in the world they'll lead.

I'm not the youngest candidate. But I am the most experienced. I know what our military can do, what it can do better, and what it should not do. I know how Congress works, and how to make it work for the country and not just the re-election of its members. I know how the world works. I know the good and the evil in it. I know how to work with leaders who share our dreams of a freer, safer and more prosperous world, and how to stand up to those who don't. And I know who I am and what I want to do.

I don't seek the office out of a sense of entitlement. I owe America more than she has ever owed me. I have been an imperfect servant of my country for many years. I have never lived a day, in good times or bad, that I haven't been proud of the privilege. Don't tell me what we can't do. Don't tell me we can't make our country stronger and the world safer. We can. We must. And when I'm President we will.

Thank you, and God bless you.

[End Transmission Voice of Blogistan]