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Public Statements

Congressional Black Caucus Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate - Part 2

By:
Date:
Location: Baltimore, MD

Senator Edwards, Congressman Kucinich just mentioned the PATRIOT Act, and today, Attorney General John Ashcroft spoke in New York in support of the act. Now, it's a law which 160 communities have voted to condemn as invasive of privacy. Do you support revision or repeal of the PATRIOT Act? Or neither?

EDWARDS: I support dramatic revision of the PATRIOT Act. The last thing we should be doing is turning over our privacy, our liberties, our freedom, our constitutional rights to John Ashcroft.

(APPLAUSE)

Let me speak about this quickly. First, the very notion that this administration can arrest American citizens on American soil, label them an enemy combatant, put them in prison, keep them there indefinitely—they never see a lawyer, never see a judge, never even get an opportunity to prove that they're innocent and they did nothing wrong—this runs contrary to everything we believe in this country.

The notion that they are going to libraries to find out what books people are checking out, going to book stores to find out what books are being purchased.

What we have to remember—and I will when I am president of the United States—is what it is we are supposed to be fighting for, what it is we are supposed to be protecting.

These very liberties, this privacy, these constitutional rights—that's what's at stake in this fight. And we cannot let people like John Ashcroft take them away in an effort to protect ourselves.

CHIDEYA: Thank you.

HUME: Next set of questions from Juan Williams.

Juan?

WILLIAMS: Governor Dean, you recently said the United States should not, quote, "take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Do you really mean that after all of these years of alliance and friendship between the United States and Israel that the U.S. should maintain some sort of neutral stance? And does that include cutting foreign aid and military supplies to Israel?

DEAN: Of course I don't mean any such thing, that we're going to take a stance that belies our historic relationship with Israel. We've had a special relationship with Israel since 1948 when we were the first country to recognize Israel.

What I do mean is we need to be a credible negotiator, a facilitator for peace in the Middle East. And that means we have to be trusted by both sides.

If we want peace in the Middle East, we need, first, not to do what this president did, which is to give the whole matter an 18-month holiday and pay no attention at all for the first 18 months of his term. We need to focus intensely on it.

(APPLAUSE)

We need to focus intensely on it. And we also need, I might add, a renewable energy policy in this country, so we stop sending all our oil money to the Saudis and the Iranians and the Syrians, where they recycle it back into terror.

(APPLAUSE)

I'd like—if this president wants peace in the Middle East, he ought, first of all, to have a renewable energy policy. And second of all, he ought to stand up to the Saudis, who are teaching small children in the Islamic world to hate Americans.

(APPLAUSE)

WILLIAMS: Senator Lieberman, you criticized Dr. Dean for just saying that the U.S. shouldn't take sides. Are you suggesting that there is no need for any shift in the U.S. policy in the Middle East, even as we saw today that bombings continue? What's wrong with a new approach, new thinking, if we are to be, as Governor Dean suggested, impartial and able to act as a force for negotiation and peace.

LIEBERMAN: To be a constructive force for negotiation and peace, we have to be respected and trusted by both parties.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: (OFF-MIKE)

DEAN: I suspect he's in jail.

HUME: Senator, I think the protester will soon be out of the room so we'll give you the balance of your time when she's...

SHARPTON: Now, you're going to use our song to disrupt our debate. This is crazy.

HUME: Senator, please use the balance of your time.

(APPLAUSE)

SHARPTON: Brit, can we appeal to people. I mean, this is a historic night, the first time the Congressional Black Caucus had a debate. Would you all respect our right to be heard like we respected everybody else?

(APPLAUSE)

HUME: Reverend Sharpton, well said.

Senator Lieberman, please continue.

LIEBERMAN: Yes, I want to echo if I can briefly. The only good news for all of us is that John McCain told me that no one has been elected president since 1972 that Lyndon LaRouche and his people haven't protested. So this is good news for all of us.

(APPLAUSE)

All right...

SHARPTON: We'll do on your night, though, Joe, not our night.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Reverend.

All of us here on the stage have quite correctly criticized George W. Bush for not standing by our values in our foreign policy and for breaking our most critical alliances.

That, with all respect, is exactly what Howard Dean's comments over the last week about the Middle East have done.

We have had a unique relationship with Israel, strong support of Israel. Why? Based on values. This is the only democracy in the Middle East, that's the beginning.

Secondly, based on mutual military strategic interests. Israel is the one country in the region that we can rely on today, tomorrow, 10, 50 years from now to stand with America in a time of crisis.

We do not gain strength as a negotiator—and I've always supported a two-state solution, Israel and Palestine—we do not gain strength as a negotiator if we compromise our support of Israel.

Let me say to Governor Dean, he has said he wouldn't take sides, but then he has said Israel ought to get out of the West Bank and an enormous number of their settlements ought to be broken down. That's up to the parties in their negotiations, not for us to tell them.

HUME: Governor Dean, you were pretty specifically mentioned there. You have 30 seconds to respond to that.

DEAN: I am disappointed in Joe. My position on Israel is exactly the same as Bill Clinton's. I want to be an honest...

LIEBERMAN: Not right.

DEAN: Excuse me, Joe. I didn't interrupt you and I'd appreciate it...

LIEBERMAN: Not right.

DEAN: ... if you didn't interrupt me.

(APPLAUSE)

I think America needs to be an honest broker. We desperately need peace in the Middle East. I can tell you, the Israelis can't go to school without wondering if their kids—send their kids to school without wondering if they're coming back. The Palestinians now have 80 percent of the people living below the poverty line. We need peace.

It doesn't help, Joe, to demagogue this issue. We're all Democrats. We need to beat George Bush so we can have peace in the Middle East.

(APPLAUSE)

LIEBERMAN: I will say one sentence.

HUME: OK, Senator, please.

LIEBERMAN: I will simply say that Howard Dean's statements break a 50-year record in which presidents, Republican and Democrats, members of Congress of both parties have supported our relationship with Israel based on shared values and common strategic interests.

HUME: Senator, thank you.

Juan?

LIEBERMAN: And Bill Clinton always agreed with that and I agree with him.

WILLIAMS: Senator Kerry, you've been saying that you voted to authorize the president, President Bush, to threaten the use of force in Iraq.

In fact, as Senator Graham pointed out, you voted to authorize the use of force at President Bush's discretion. To some it may seem that you're trying to get out of a vote that's now unpopular with many in the Democratic Party. Is that the way we should perceive it?

KERRY: Absolutely not. The vote is the vote. I voted to authorize, it was the right vote. And the reason I mentioned the threat is that we gave—we had to give life to the threat. If there wasn't a legitimate threat, Saddam Hussein was not going to allow inspectors in.

Now, let me make two points, if I may. Ed questioned my answer.

The reason I can't tell you to a certainty whether the president misled us is because I don't have any clue what he really knew about it, or whether he was just reading what was put in front of him.

And I have no knowledge whether or not this president was in depth, I just don't know that, and that's an honest answer. And there are serious suspicions about the level to which this president really was involved in asking the questions that he should have.

With respect to the question of, you know, the vote, let's remember where we were. If there hadn't been a vote, we would never have had inspectors.

And if we hadn't voted the way we voted, we would not have been able to have a chance of going to the United Nations and stopping the president, in effect, who already had the votes and who was obviously asking serious questions about whether or not the Congress was going to be there to enforce the effort to create a threat.

So I think we did the right thing. I'm convinced we did.

HUME: Senator Kerry, thank you very much. That concludes this second round.

We will return with another full round and more for the nine candidates, this time shifting to domestic issues, in a moment. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HUME: And welcome back to Baltimore and the campus of Morgan State University for the Democratic presidential debate.

We're joined here by 2,000 invited guests here in the Gilliam Concert Center.

We're set now to begin round three of questions with the emphasis shifting to domestic issues.

The first question from Farai Chideya.

Farai?

CHIDEYA: Thank you, Brit.

Congressman Gephardt, you voted no on the multi-billion-dollar tax cuts bills. Will you alter or repeal these bills?

GEPHARDT: Well, first, I think we've got to ask a question and that is how many Americans have to lose their jobs before George Bush loses his?

(APPLAUSE)

This economic program is not working. The tax cuts, which is the only idea he's ever had for the economy, are not working. He only has one idea in his head: tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, followed by tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, followed by tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

And they haven't worked.

I have a different plan. I think it's a better plan. I think it'll fix the economy, it'll stimulate jobs, it'll get us moving in the right direction.

When I'm president, I'll ask the Congress to get rid of the Bush tax cuts, and in their place, see to it that every American has health insurance that can never be taken away from them, ever.

(APPLAUSE)

CHIDEYA: Thank you.

Congressman Kucinich, an employee of a teaching hospital in Oregon reports that 100 of her coworkers are being laid off. Now, a German company is taking over those positions, but outsourcing them to India.

How can you preserve the quality of service and American jobs at the same time?

KUCINICH: Well, when you're talking about health care in particular, look at what's happened with our system of health care for profit. And just the reports in today's news that premiums rose almost 14 percent over the past year.

What you have is a condition which is right for the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Americans can't afford to be well, and they don't have enough money to afford to be sick.

So we have a condition where nothing less than getting rid of this system of health care for profit will do. And that's what my proposal, Medicare for all, single-payer universal health care will achieve.

We have to understand that Americans are experiencing a condition where they're being deprived of quality health care. And the idea of outsourcing of jobs, until we get a handle on our health care expenses in this country by taking it to not-for-profit, we will continue to see American jobs be at risk because countries are looking to race to the bottom in wages and benefits, and we'll restore the strength of the American worker by having health care for all.

CHIDEYA: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Senator Graham, a technical writer in the Pacific Northwest wanted to know where you stood on the issue of federal benefits like joint tax filing and Social Security for gay and lesbian couples. Do you support this? And do you support gay marriage?

GRAHAM: I support nondiscrimination for all Americans. I have introduced legislation that would eliminate the current discrimination for domestic partners in relationship to spouses for federal tax policy and health care. That is one of hundreds of examples of discrimination which is in the current law.

I think that march towards the establishment of the concept of equality for all is the route that we should take.

I do not support marriages of homosexuals because I believe that marriage is an institution established by religion, culture and law for a man and a woman with a principle being the nurturing of children.

(APPLAUSE)

HUME: The next set of questions by Juan Williams.

Juan?

WILLIAMS: Reverend Sharpton, the saying goes that the Democrats take black voters for granted and the Republicans ignore black voters.

Recently, you said black voters are treated in the Democratic Party like a mistress. Do you think that it's time that black voters get ready for a date with the GOP or begin to flirt with the idea of a black American party?

SHARPTON: No. I think we need to take the Democratic Party home to our daddies and discuss marriage or a breakup. I think that it's time...

(APPLAUSE)

And I think it's time to do that based on issues.

When I look around this country and see where we see double unemployment in black communities, where we see that we're four times more likely to go to jail for the same crime, and we cannot get some Democrats to deal with it.

You know, the only thing I never got over in life is I took a young lady to a dance when I was in high school and she left with somebody else. And that's what the Democrats, some, have done to the black community.

We helped take you to the dance and you leave with right wingers, you leave with people that you say are swing voters, you leave with people that are antithetical to our history and antithetical to our interests.

(APPLAUSE)

I am saying in 2004, if we take you to the party, you going home with us or we're not taking you to the party.

(APPLAUSE)

WILLIAMS: Ambassador Braun, Governor Dean has suggested that states like Vermont, Montana and Wyoming with overwhelmingly white populations really don't need gun control, in part because of their rural character. But urban areas, such as Baltimore, Maryland, with large minority populations do need gun control. Do you agree?

MOSELEY BRAUN: I support one set of rules. I believe that responsible gun owners have nothing to fear from reasonable gun controls. I am from a law enforcement family. I know about and have grown up with guns in my family, as well as the terror that guns have wrecked in urban communities in which I have grown up.

I would like very much to see protection for children against gun violence. I would very much like to see some checks on the—just the free flow of guns and the gun sales out of the trunks of people's cars, the really pushing of guns and weapons of violence in communities where people are the most vulnerable.

I think the Congress has a responsibility—in light of Article 2 of the Constitution, we have a responsibility to see to it that the safety of the American people, whether they live in Vermont or in Virginia or in Chicago, Illinois, that the safety of the people, and particularly with regard to children, is paramount in our decision- making.

(APPLAUSE)

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

Senator Edwards, black and Hispanic children in America are less likely to get a quality education. I don't think there is much of an argument about that.

At the moment in the Congress there is a vote taking place about vouchers and a voucher program proposed by the Bush administration for the District of Columbia. Now, polls show that black parents are open to the idea of vouchers, but civil rights groups and teacher's unions are opposed. Where do you stand?

EDWARDS: I am opposed to vouchers, have always been opposed to vouchers.

(APPLAUSE)

By the way, this No Child Left Behind, this president is leaving millions of kids behind every single day. And he's not addressing...

(APPLAUSE)

... the fundamental problem in our public schools, which is that we still have two public school systems in America, one for the "haves" and one for the "have-nots." If you live in a fluent community, the odds are your child will get a good public school education. If you don't, the odds go down dramatically. The president is not going to do anything about it.

This is personal for me. I would not be standing here today without a great public school education.

(APPLAUSE)

Here's what I want to do as president. First, lead a national initiative to pay teachers better, so we get good teachers and keep the good teachers that we already have.

(APPLAUSE)

Second, give bonus pay to teachers who are willing to teach in schools in disadvantaged areas, give scholarships to young people who will teach in schools in disadvantaged areas.

And finally, we have thousands and thousands of young people who are deciding not to go to college because they can't afford it. We ought to make college available to any young person who is willing to work for it. College for everyone. That's what I believe in.

(APPLAUSE)

HUME: The final set of questions in this round will come from Ed Gordon.

Ed?

GORDON: Thank you, Brit.

Governor Dean, let me go to you. Frankly there's been some concern that because of the racial makeup of Vermont, about 0.5 percent black, that you will have a difficult time connecting and really understanding the concerns of minorities, in particular African Americans.

Is this valid? And if so, what are you doing to connect with this community?

DEAN: Well, if the percent of minorities that's in your state has anything to do with how you can connect with African American voters, then Trent Lott would be Martin Luther King.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

GORDON: I would suggest to you there was a day he thought he was, but go ahead.

(LAUGHTER)

LIEBERMAN: One day.

DEAN: First of all, let me just address Juan's question. I have never said that African American cities need gun control and white states don't. I have never said that. What I have said is that rural states—and this includes places like Tennessee, perhaps, that have low homicide rates—don't need the same gun laws that urban states do.

And if urban states want to have lots of gun control, let them have it, but just don't impose the same gun laws that you have in New York City or New Jersey or California on states like Vermont, which have a very low homicide rate.

Secondly, I'll tell you why I connect with African American audiences. I'm the only white politician that ever talks about race in front of white audiences. Black folks have heard lectures from white politicians for a long time. We always talk about race. White folks need to talk to white people in America about race.

(APPLAUSE)

GORDON: Many African Americans feel they still lack equal opportunities in this country.

Senator Kerry, if your child faced the same opportunities the average black child in this country faces, would you feel comfortable? And if not, what would your administration do to help level the playing field?

KERRY: I would not only not feel comfortable, I'd be outraged.

I think that we have a separate and unequal school system in the United States of America. And the great challenge that Thurgood Marshall fought so hard to take on in the 1960s is even more with us today.

We have communities all across America that simply don't have the ability to do what John Edwards talked about. They don't have the tax base. And we have a president who's walked away from them, broken his promise and refused to fund No Child Left Behind.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: (OFF-MIKE)

HUME: Senator, we'll let you have the rest of the time when you're—Governor Dean, while I have a moment, I can't see what's that on your lapel. What is it you've got there? What does it say?

DEAN: It says, "I support the union on campus."

HUME: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Glad to know that. I just couldn't see it. And I was looking at the TV monitor to see what I could tell about it, and I couldn't read it there either. So thank you very much.

DEAN: AFSCME's trying to organize here.

HUME: Got you.

Senator Kerry, you have more time to go. Please proceed.

KERRY: I believe that we deserve a president who recognizes that until you have equality of education in America, until the federal government is prepared to make up the difference in funding, we do not have a prayer of making real the full promise of our country.

That means 21st century learning centers have to be funded, after- school programs have to be funded. We have to fully fund special-needs education. We have to fully fund the capacity of teachers to teach in the most difficult areas. We have to raise the salaries and we have to fully fund Title 1.

And we have to guarantee that vouchers are not made into an argument that somehow there's a morality in taking care of kids, 50 of them, and abandoning 4,000 in the school behind them. I refuse to accept that.

(APPLAUSE)

GORDON: Senator Lieberman, I hear a lot about funding, funding, funding, frankly from all nine of you.

LIEBERMAN: Right.

GORDON: But when we talk about $60 billion already allocated with the military, another $87 billion asked for, we're already talking about deficit spending $147 billion, if that number stays there. Is it realistic to believe that many of the promised programs we will hear tonight will actually come to fruition?

LIEBERMAN: Well, it is if we have a Democratic president who will go back to the kind of fiscal responsibility.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: (OFF-MIKE)

LIEBERMAN: Come on.

HUME: I guess we just have to wait for the security people to do their job, and we'll be able to proceed.

Senator, you will have the full balance of your time, I promise.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: (OFF-MIKE)

(APPLAUSE)

HUME: Another supporter of Lyndon LaRouche makes his exit.

Please, proceed, Senator.

(UNKNOWN): Do they do that to the Republicans?

(UNKNOWN): No.

(UNKNOWN): Do they do that to the Republicans?

SHARPTON: She's right. I think that—listen, if people got something to do, they should do it now and let us have this debate.

LIEBERMAN: That's right.

SHARPTON: Because if you all can't secure this, we have some young brothers here from National Action, we will. We do not at all going to tolerate the continual breakup of what we're trying to say here tonight to the American people.

(APPLAUSE)

LIEBERMAN: That's right.

SHARPTON: You've not done it at any other debate.

(APPLAUSE)

You've not done it at any other debate. You're not going to do it now. You're playing this phony liberal game, and you wait until our night to start acting up. We don't appreciate it.

I don't care who's not on this stage. You're going to respect us on this stage because we've got something to say. Now if you've got some problems, say it now.

(APPLAUSE)

LIEBERMAN: Well, first, let me say to my dear friend Reverend Sharpton, amen.

(APPLAUSE)

You have spoken the truth.

SHARPTON: I'll take that as an endorsement, but go ahead.

(LAUGHTER)

LIEBERMAN: Well, it is a spiritual endorsement, that is for sure.

(LAUGHTER)

SHARPTON: Well, it may manifest politically, who knows?

(LAUGHTER)

LIEBERMAN: Amen, amen, brother. How good and wonderful is when brethren dwell together in harmony.

GORDON: All right, gentlemen, let's...

SHARPTON: As those that love the Lord, let's go.

GORDON: Let's see if we can bring them back.

LIEBERMAN: OK, Ed, it's hard for me to remember your question.

(LAUGHTER)

GORDON: I was wondering if it was feasible to assume that we'd be able to pay, facing perhaps deficit spending...

LIEBERMAN: Yes, indeed.

GORDON: ... these programs that were promised?

LIEBERMAN: Right. Absolutely.

Look, let me state it straight out. George Bush is the most fiscally irresponsible president in the history of the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

And the result of that fiscal irresponsibility, which is the tax cuts for the wealthy—and Dick, I agree with you. The only thing you left out is the corporate loopholes that cost us billions of dollars a year that George Bush hasn't worked to close. And as president, I will.

And what's the result of that, the squeezing of investments in Head Start, in the Pell Grants that help students go to college, in investments in health care.

No community has suffered more from the fiscal irresponsibility of George W. Bush than the African-American community.

(APPLAUSE)

Hey, it began before he was president in the denial his team carried out in Florida for African-American voters who were trying to go to the polls and help elect Al Gore and me.

(APPLAUSE)

It's time for new leadership. And we could do it by cutting back on those taxes for the wealthy and protecting the taxes for the middle class, investing in America's future together.

(APPLAUSE)

HUME: Senator, thank you.

That concludes the third round. We're going to take a brief break here. When we come back, the focus will again be on domestic issues and other further rounds to come.

Thank you. Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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