Democratic Candidate for President
Wednesday, November 5, 2003; 11:00 AM
washingtonpost.com: Last night you sharply attacked former Vermont governor Howard Dean for recently saying he wanted "to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks." You called the remarks "insensitive" and demanded an apology. Dean's defense of his statement appears to be unyielding. Do you see a new rift in the Democratic party? If so, in your opinion, what needs to be done to heal the rift so that Democrats can unite behind one nominee in 2004, even if the nominee is Dean?
Rivals Demand a Dean Apology (Post, Nov. 5)
Transcript: Rock the Vote Democratic Presidential Debate
Al Sharpton: I tried to propose that he just apologize for what was clearly an insensitive statement. You must remember, it was raised by one of the young people in the audience. I was frankly surprised that the governor didn't say that he was sorry if he offended someone. I thought he had an opportunity to at least make people understand that he regarded their sensitivity. When blacks see that flag we are looking at a flag that represented murder, lynching and rape. That is no casual thing. For him to say in any way that that could be tolerated is extremely offensive to a lot of people. I think in reaching out to other constituencies you don't do it at the expense of those that have been loyal to you. It is not a big tent strategy if you offend those who are already under it. That is the point I was trying to make.
Washington, D.C.: From a picture on the front page of today's Washington Post, it looks like you and Howard Dean are having a very animated (at least on his part) post-debate conversation? Can you give us any details of what was said?
Al Sharpton: He and I were saying what I just said and he was explaining to me that he was not condoning the flag, but reaching out to them. I was explaining that you cannot reach out to people waving a racist flag and say that you want to be their candidate. Imagine if I said that I wanted to be the candidate of people with helmets and swastikas. That is not a big tent strategy.
Statesboro, Ga.: How do you feel about abortion?
Al Sharpton: I think women should have the right to choose what happens to their own life, body and choices.
Greenbelt, Md.: Dear Mr. Sharpton,
How "safe" would you say the touch screen voting machines are for the upcoming presidential election and would you favor a hard copy (paper) backup to each vote as a safeguard?
Al Sharpton: I do not know how safe it is. We intend to really monitor that. A hard copy backup sounds like a step in the right direction. What the Sharpton campaign ultimately will propose we have not finalized.
Lyons, Colo.: What is your Iraq exit strategy?
Al Sharpton: I think that we must go back to the United Nations. I would say that my predecessor was wrong and that we are willing to submit to Kofi Annan for a multi-lateral redevelopment plan. I think that will set the tone for the world community to come in. I think the reluctance of the world community is that we insist they come in under our directives and under our coordination with our sweetheart deals in place. If we took a different attitude we would get a different result and take our troops out of harms way.
Santa Monica, Calif.: With your history of social activism, how would you translate your personal views into a single viewpoint that would unite this country?
Al Sharpton: I think that my history of activism makes it easier for me to do so than anyone. I am fighting for equal opportunity and protection under the law. That has been the sum total of my activism and I think that is what unites everyone. A candidate and president that has proveneven with self sacrificethat he is committed to that can unite everyone.
Melbourne, Fla.: Rev. Sharpton,
As a minister, how will you reconcile the Constitutionally-mandated separation of church and state with your spiritual duties should you be elected, and how will you avoid the appearance of promoting any one religion over others?
Al Sharpton: The same way those who are practicing Christians, Jews and Muslims who hold office do now. I will practice my religion personally and practice the law of governing publicly.
Friars Hill, W.Va.: Rev. SharptonWhen you receive the nomination for president on the Democratic Party ticket, what criteria will you use to select the Vice President who will run with you? Thank you.
Al Sharpton: First it would have to be someone who shares my vision and agrees with my policies generally, both foreign and domestic. A Vice President must be prepared to take over if the President cannot continue in office for whatever reason.
If that is the case, under my presidency I want to make sure that he or she can move government in a direction I believe in and can continue my work.
Washington, D.C.: Rev. Sharpton,
You have been an outspoken supporter of D.C. statehood and voting rights for District residents, and you are campaigning to win the D.C. primary, January 13, 2004. What would a win in D.C. do for your campaign, and what do you say to some of your opponents who are ignoring the D.C. primary?
Al Sharpton: I think it would say that we start with a momentum and it would also be a statement to the nation that D.C. residents have a statement that they would like to make, that it would be clear and cannot be ignored. Those that want D.C. to vote like everyone else in a way which would not clearly distinguish the issues with other early primary states. A Sharpton victory would not only define my campaign, but would define how may D.C. residents see the country differently than other early primary states. Other candidates that ignore D.C.I think are being contradictory. In words, they say they are for statehood, but ignore the state. You can't say you want D.C. to be treated equally as a state but treat them unequally in the primary. I was surprised when I was the only presidential candidate to appear and speak at the D.C. Democratic dinner. I think it sends a bad signal to the country and to the party as to whether we are serious about D.C. being treated equally, as any other state, and their achievement of the Constitutional right to statehood.
New York: If you were to be named the party's nominee, how would you stand up to criticism from the GOP regarding the Tawana Brawley affair? Thank you.
Al Sharpton: Very easily. I stood up for a 15 year-old girl who said to me and others that she had been violated. I joined a wide array of people from Bill Cosby to elected officials who came to her defense. A jury didn't believe her, many of us did and do. I stood up about the same timeabout a year or two laterfor several young men who were accused of raping a woman in Central Park in New York. A jury found them guilty and sent them to jailsome of them for 8 years. 13 years later a completely different person came forward and admitted to the crime and their convictions were overturned. Sometimes you have to stand up for what is right and you will be vindicated.
I would say to the GOP that it is very strange if they were to attack me for standing up to a young woman who said she is violated. I suppose if I were accused of fondling her and her friends the GOP might have considered me for governor of California.
Do you believe enough is being done to increase turnout among urban voters, especially in swing states?
If not, what more could be done?
Al Sharpton: I do not. I think we have not had a concerted effort on the ground to mobilize and register urban voters. I have been launching voter registration crusades to remedy that. For example in South Carolina alone the Republicans won the governor's race by 40,000 votes, and there are 208,000 unregistered blacks alone according to the census. That is why, I say, instead of chasing a few bigots with confederate flags we ought to be registering and galvanizing our natural base. That is where our victory lies.
Thank you for the questions. I encourage everyone to go to www.al2004.org to learn more.