January 11, 2004 Sunday
HEADLINE: BROWN-BLACK PRESIDENTIAL FORUM AND MSNBC DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE
PARTICIPATING CANDIDATES: CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN; HOWARD DEAN; SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS (NC); REPRESENTATIVE RICHARD GEPHARDT (MO); SENATOR JOHN KERRY (MA); SENATOR JOSE LIEBERMAN (CT); AND REVEREND AL SHARPTON
CO-HOSTS: LESTER HOLT, MSNBC AND MARIA CELESTE ARRARAS, TELEMUNDO
LOCATION: POLK COUNTY CONVENTION CENTER, DES MOINES, IOWA
MR. HOLT: And good evening, everyone. Welcome to this two-hour presidential candidates debate, organized by the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum. This is the fifth debate organized by the forum since it was founded in 1984, and we are honored to bring it to you again in the 2004 election campaign.
MS. ARRARAS: (Speaks in Spanish.) I'm sure that Lester didn't get much of that. I'm going to have to translate. (Laughter.)
MR. HOLT: You took the words right out of my mouth.
MS. ARRARAS: Well, okay, I'll go for it. Eight of the nine candidates competing for the Democratic Party are here. It is the last time they will debate before the voters in this state attend the caucuses and pick one of them as Iowa's choice for Democratic nominee.
Let me introduce them to you now, and please withhold your applause until the end. First, Representative Richard Gephardt, Governor Howard Dean, Senator Joe Lieberman, Reverend Al Sharpton, Representative Dennis Kucinich, Senator John Edwards, Senator John Kerry and Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun. (Applause.)
We would like to point out that General Wesley Clark did not accept an invitation to participate in this debate.
MR. HOLT: Now, a few words about our format tonight, agreed to by all the candidates. The position of the candidates on the stage was decided in a random draw. The candidates will have 60 seconds to answer questions, and 30 seconds for a rebuttal or a follow-up at the moderator's discretion. Also, each of the candidates will be invited to ask one question of a fellow candidate on any subject at some point during the debate.
MS. ARRARAS: And during the debate we will also take questions from a group of distinguished African American and Latino leaders, brought together by the organizers of tonight's debate, who we would like to acknowledge the co-chairs of the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum, Mary Campos and Wayne Ford. (Applause.)
Now, my colleague Mr. Holt will begin the questioning. Lester?
MR. HOLT: All right, Maria Celeste, thanks very much.
I'd like to begin the debate by posing a question to you, Governor Dean. There's been a lot of controversy here in Iowa, as you know, on your views regarding the caucus system. As reported by NBC News, you once said caucuses are dominated by special interests, who represent the extremes. In a caucus system-if I can quote, "You get a president who is beholden to either one extreme or the other." You spent a lot of money trying to win under the caucus system. If you succeed, do you believe you will be beholden to extremists within your party?
DR. DEAN: No, that was something that was said four years ago, and I frankly think people are a little tired of having debates about who said what four years ago or who said what six years ago, or eight years ago or ten years ago. I've more or less lived in Iowa for two years. I've been to all 99 counties. Candidates like me couldn't win without Iowa or New Hampshire, because it's the only place that someone without a lot of money-but with a good message-can look people in the eye and they can evaluate and decide what kind of president you want to be. And I'm looking forward to the caucus vote, as hard as I've worked, on January 19th, and I hope Iowans will support me when that time comes.
MR. HOLT: In that same line of questioning, Representative Gephardt, let me turn to you: Are there pitfalls in the caucus system? And, if so, could you tell us what they are?
REP. GEPHARDT: I think this is a wonderful place to start this process. This is my second tour of duty in Iowa, and I think the Iowans are the best equipped people that you could find to decide which one of us should be the eventual nominee. I trust their judgment, I trust their values. They personally evaluate all of us. They see us many times. And it's one of the two places in the country where that kind of personal evaluation can go on. So I think Iowans are well equipped to do this, and I think they are going to make a good choice on January 19th.
MR. HOLT: All right, let me address my next question, if I can, to Senator Edwards. The Des Moines Register has chosen to endorse you over your rivals in the Iowa caucuses because, among other reasons, the Register says you conducted a positive campaign. No matter who wins the nomination, do you think your party would have been better served against President Bush in November if the nominating contest had now been not so negative?
SEN. EDWARDS: Well, I don't think-here's what I believe-I think, first of all, let me say a word about the question you just asked Dick and Howard. You know, I have been in all 99 counties here in the state of Iowa. I've learned a lot of things. I've become a better candidate. I will make a better president because of the time I've spent here. I've been in people's homes, I've been on Main Streets, I've been in cafes, and I've heard what they have to say. One of the things that I've learned is that the people of Iowa are very blunt and very direct. (Laughter.) I mean, you can't go through this process with knowing what questions you need to answer.
And as to the negative versus positive, here's what I believe-I actually believe part of what was said just a minute ago. I think people are looking from something big to something bigger in a presidential campaign. They are looking for somebody that can make the American people proud to be Americans again, believe in what's possible, not cynicism, not negative, but what's possible in America. And that's what I've heard from the people of Iowa over and over and over again. We're past all this preliminary stuff, it's time to choose a president.
MR. HOLT: All right. Let me address my next question, if I can, to Senator Kerry. The United States just ended its fifth orange terror alert since the Homeland Security Alert System was put into place. During that time, several international flights, as you know, sir, were cancelled. The United States said they had pretty specific information regarding flights and dates, no plots were uncovered, as you know, no arrests were made. Do you support the government's threat warning system? Would you maintain it as president?
SEN. KERRY: No, I would change it. I think a lot of Americans are desperately trying to figure out what the codes mean, what the colors mean. Most Americans don't even know the colors. Last time they issued the alert, I think everybody thought they ought to start looking around for somebody suspicious, or somebody that they rarely find, like a compassionate conservative, and they're kind of struggling to figure out what it means.
I think Americans deserve something better. This president is actually playing for the culture of fear in our country. The war on terror is far less of a military operations, and far more of an intelligence gathering, law enforcement operation, and in order to fight an effective war on terror we need unprecedented cooperation with other countries, the very thing this administration is the worst at as they push other nations away from us.
I will go back to the United Nations, I will reenter the community of nations, I will lead America to those relationships that strengthen our ability to fight a real war on terror so we don't need these color schemes that wind up costing communities money they can't afford.
MR. HOLT: Your time is exhausted, Senator, thank you.
Let me address the same question to Ambassador Moseley Braun, regarding the color coded warning system, would you keep it or would you do something different as president?
MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: You know, duct tape, plastic sheeting, and orange, red, yellow and blue color codes are no substitute for diplomacy and for engaging our country in a global fight, a real fight against terrorism. I think Senator Kerry is exactly right. This administration has pandered to fear, and the color coded system is just part and parcel of that. I think we'd be much better served to have support for first responders, police, and fire, our hospital systems to protect our infrastructure, to give people a sense of security. That's what the American people want, they want to feel safe at home. And to the extent that there is a national concern about terrorists in our midst, we ought to turn toward the American people, and not against them.
MR. HOLT: All right. Let me turn to Senator Lieberman. Do you have a response, a 30-second response?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: I do. Look, my gripe is not with the color coded system. Maybe somebody could figure out a better way to do it. The fact is that there is something to fear, and that the something to fear is that there are people out there like those who attacked us on September 11th who hate us more than they love life. What I'm concerned about is what is behind the Bush administration color coded system. They have still not reformed our intelligence system as they should have. They have still not coordinated watch lists. They've still not-John McCain and I put in a commission to investigate how did September 11th happen so that we could make sure to the best of our ability it never happens again. The Bush administration blocked it for almost a year, and they've slow walked that commission in giving them the information they need to answer the questions that we raise. So, I'm the only one on this stage who drafted the original Homeland Security bill. I've been fighting to get the administration to implement it. We have something to fear, but if we pull together with tough leadership, we can give the American people a sense of confidence.
MR. HOLT: Senator, thank you.
Let me address the next question to Representative Kucinich. President Bush this week is expected to announce a rather ambitious set of goals for the U.S. space program, a return to the moon, eventually a trip to Mars. What priority would you give to the space program under your presidency?
REP. KUCINICH: First of all, I've been wondering why the president would, while we're still in Iraq, talk about going to the moon and going to Mars. Maybe he's looking for the weapons of mass destruction still. And so, I think thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven, and I think that our work has to be done here on Earth. But we also have to keep in mind that there's tremendous spin-off technologies. I have the National Aeronautics & Space Administration Glenn Research Center in my district, and they create a great number of jobs and spin-off technologies in propulsion, in environmental technologies, in medicine, in communications, in metallurgy. And this is where the jobs of the future will be.
But we need a president who's going to do first things first. First, cancel the tax cuts to the rich. Second, get out of Iraq-United Nations peacekeepers in, our troops home. Third, cut the bloated Pentagon budget. Fourth, no weapons in space. I mean, think about it. The administration wants to put weapons in space --
MR. HOLT: Representative Kucinich --
REP. KUCINICH: -- and they want to go to Mars. I don't think so.
MR. HOLT: -- your time has expired. Thank you. (Applause.)
But I want to address that same question, if I can, Representative Gephardt-with the president's space vision in mind, what would your priorities be in terms of space exploration?
REP. GEPHARDT: Well, I think we've got a program now with the space station, and I think we ought to see it through before we go on to something else. And, you know, we've got a big deficit. We've got a $450 billion deficit this year.
When I led the fight for the Clinton economic program in 1993, we had these kind of big deficits. Our first attention was paid to the economy and getting jobs back in this country. And that's what we ought to be doing now. As I travel Iowa, people talk to me about jobs that have been lost to other countries. They talk to me about health care that's been lost. They talk to me about the education problems we've got out here.
So rather than going off on some diversionary mission that may not even fit into our space program, we need to pay attention to what's going on here. We need to get rid of this president and bring in a Democratic president who will pay attention to the priorities of the middle class, the people of the United States here at home, not on Mars. (Applause.)
MR. HOLT: All right, Representative Gephardt, thank you very much.
I want to turn corners a bit now. Iowa caucus-goers, as you all know, will be casting their votes on the national holiday honoring the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. So let's turn now to the questions of race in America.
And my question is to you, Reverend Sharpton. Neither major party has ever nominated an African-American candidate for president. Your campaign is struggling in dollars. Ambassador Moseley Braun's campaign is in debt. Do you think race has in any way hindered your campaign?
REV. SHARPTON: Well, I'm glad you got to me. I was wondering -- (laughter) -- I was wondering if, at the Black & Brown forum, we were allowed to talk tonight. (Laughter.)
I think that race is still a factor in this country and a factor in this party. But I do think that we've made tremendous progress. And we only will continue in that progress if we pursue out-of-the- box, out of what is normal. And I've seen and felt around this country a response that even surprised me in Iowa and other places, where people said that we would not be heard.
We have been heard. And I think that, yes, I'm the first one to say that we still have racism in this country. But I'm also the first to say that there are a lot of people that will meet you halfway if you reach out.
I think this present president has tried to exploit racial fears with code words and code terms. And I think some in our party have succumbed to that. We must confront that and we must think that we cannot eradicate race by avoiding it.
MR. HOLT: Reverend Sharpton --
REV. SHARPTON: We must deal with it head on.
MR. HOLT: -- your time is up. But let me turn --
REV. SHARPTON: Well, it took so long to get to me. (Laughter.)
MR. HOLT: Let me turn to Governor Dean on the issue of race. What is the biggest challenge, in your view, that's facing America's minority communities right now?
DR. DEAN: I think the biggest challenge is to help white audiences understand the plight of minority audiences, minority populations, when it comes to race.
There was a Wall Street Journal study that showed that if you are white with a drug conviction, you have a better chance of being called back for a second job interview than if you're African-American or Latino with a clean record.
As long as that happens, we have to talk to the folks in this country who do the hiring, because there are unconscious biases. We tend to hire people like ourselves. That's how institutional racism develops.
We can do better than this, but it requires political leaders to talk not just to African-American and Latin audiences but to white audiences about the role of race in America and what we can do about it, not just in terms of civil rights but in terms of overcoming the unconscious bias that every single American has towards hiring people that are like themselves.
MR. HOLT: And Governor Dean, I'd like to follow up with another question on the issue of race to you. Speaking to the Democratic National Committee almost a year ago, you said, quote, "White folks in the South who drive pickup trucks with Confederate flag decals on the back ought to be voting with us."
My question to you: What common cause do you and your party share with someone who proudly displays the Confederate flag? And in your opinion, is the Confederate flag an acceptable symbol of anything to an American?
DR. DEAN: Well, there are about three questions there. The most important is the first one you asked. Let me just say, the Confederate flag is a painful symbol to African-Americans in this country because of what it represented. But what we have in common with people who drive pickup trucks and so-called NASCAR dads is that everybody needs a job.
The Republicans divide us by race. They've done so since 1968 in Richard Nixon's southern strategy. When we campaign, we've got to talk-they say "race" in the South or anyplace in America, we've got to say "jobs," because everybody needs a job. It doesn't matter what color they are or where they come from. When they talk about divisive issues, we need to talk about education, because everybody's child needs a good education, it doesn't matter who they are or where they come from. We need to talk about health insurance, because there are 102,000 kids with no health insurance in South Carolina-half of them are white, and half of them are black. These issues concern every single American, and we need to run on our agenda as Democrats not their divisive agenda. We need, instead of arguing about the things that they use to divide us, we need to talk about the things that everybody needs-jobs, education, and health care.
MR. HOLT: I think Reverend Sharpton, you'd like to weigh in a 30-second response, Reverend Sharpton.
REV. SHARPTON: I think that-I agree that we must seek common ground, but in order to get there we must be realistic. The problem is not just class, there is also the problem of race. Blacks in South Carolina are double unemployed to whites. We can't use a class formula to go around that issue. Secondly, just having conversations with whites without real legislation, without real executive action, is to trivialize our problem. We don't need people talking to whites, we need people to do something about racism and about discrimination. Don't reduce this to a coffee shop conversation. We need action and a president leads like Lyndon Johnson did-they just don't have a conversation.
MR. HOLT: Senator Edwards, would you like to weigh in with a 30- second response?
SEN. EDWARDS: I would, I'd like to say several things-number one, the Confederate Flag is not just a symbol of hatred and a divisive symbol to African Americans. It's exactly the same thing it should be-the same thing to all Americans. And I was about to say, before Reverend Sharpton said it, this is not just about talk. This is about doing something. I grew up with this. I've lived with it my entire life. The things I have seen growing up-segregation, discrimination-are a part of everything I am today. This is not conversation. This is about creating real equality. We still live in two Americas, and we should be willing to tell the American people that. We have two economies, we have two tax systems, we have two public school systems-one for those who live in affluent communities; one for those who don't. Until we have economic equality in America, educational equality in America, we're never going to be able to do the things we need to do for African Americans.
MR. HOLT: Ambassador Moseley Braun, your arms are folded. I sense you want to respond -- 30 seconds.
MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: The response is I have done things about this. I took on Jesse Helms on the Confederate flag and paid the price for six years thereafter. I sued my own party in the state of Illinois over reapportionment for African-American and Hispanic voters-happily, I survived that one. I have fought for 25 years in the legislative venue passing legislation providing for economic opportunity to help bring us together. We have to have an honest conversation about race in this country. I think Howard's right on that point. We have to have an honest conversation, because without that conversation, we will never get to the point where we can pass the laws, where we can have the orders, where we can do the work that's necessary to bring us together as one American family.
MR. HOLT: Senator Kerry, does any candidate on this stage have the moral high ground on the issue of race relations in this country?
SEN. KERRY: I think everybody, I'm proud to say, every person here believes very deeply that we have an obligation that's unfulfilled in this country. Joe and I became involved in that a long time ago in the Mississippi voter registration drive. But here is where we're talking around it-the problem is not just of black and brown, it's one of poor people, it's one of power in America. The powerful, the friends of George Bush, the people who did the Medicare bill, the people who did the Energy bill with $50 billion worth of oil and gas subsidies, have tilted the playing field against everybody. And the new common cause in America is for us to go out to the Latino community, to the African-American community, the poor white community, to the disenfranchised people of America who are working harder all across the board and getting less for it, while the boardroom folks walk away with the prize, and we need to make the workplace in America fair again. That's the key.
MR. HOLT: As you know, as part of tonight's debate, we asked each of you to prepare a single question to ask of another candidate. We're going to start off right now with a few of those questions. Senator Lieberman, this is your opportunity to ask a question of one of your opponents.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Lester, if I might, I'm going to ask all of them the same question that's going to take a one-word answer. So I want to take a moment before I ask the question simply to say that the question of racism in America that you addressed is very much on the ballot this November, and the reality is that a president shows his priorities by where he puts his money. This president has put hundreds of billions of dollars in the pockets of the wealthiest Americans who don't need it. And, as a result, he hasn't had the money to invest in our health care system and our education system, which are unequal.
MR. HOLT: And, Senator, your question is to --
SEN. LIEBERMAN: All right.
My question is to everybody about another form of unequality. As John said, in 1963, I went to Mississippi to fight for the right of African Americans to vote. A few years later the Voting Rights Act was adopted. In 2000 I never would have guessed that I would experience what I and so many others did in the state of Florida where Haitian Americans, African Americans, senior Americans were refused the right to vote.
Now, for the first time since that Florida vote --
MR. HOLT: Senator --
SEN. LIEBERMAN: -- we are about to start the process --
MR. HOLT: Senator, we would like to get to the question, if we could.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: It's going to be a short answer, so I want to take a little more time. (Laughter.) But it will be real quick-real quick-and here it is: We passed the Help Americans Vote Act, but the Republicans have slow-walked on it, and failed to fund it. I've drafted a letter to President Bush, which I am going to circulate to my colleagues. And as a show of unity, I ask you to join with me in sending that letter to the president to say work now, show some leadership as quickly and --
MR. HOLT: Is your question whether they will sign that?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: -- fully fund the Help Americans Vote Act, so we don't have-and here's the question --
MR. HOLT: Is it a show of hands?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Will you join me in this letter to make sure that in this year's voting in November there are no more Floridas? (Laughter.)
SEN. EDWARDS: Can I-thank you for the question, senator.
MR. HOLT: Well, wait a minute, the question is to who? To all?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: It's to all. And, look, I'm going to circulate the letter --
SEN. EDWARDS: Can we at least see the letter?
REV. SHARPTON: -- and I've got it in Washington, D.C. --
MR. HOLT: Senator Edwards, I'm going to give you 30 seconds to respond to that.
SEN. EDWARDS: I don't need to respond. It was a great speech by Joe. But what does the letter say? (Applause.)
MR. HOLT: We will circulate that question during the debate. But we do have to move on. I want to get one more question from a candidate.bassador Moseley Braun, do you have a question -- (laughter) -- for one of your opponents?
MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: I'm going to ask the question that was asked in the last debate, which is: Will everybody here support the Democratic nominee to get George Bush out of the White House? (Applause.)
MR. HOLT: All right, we will take a break here. When we come back we will look at the issues facing America's economy. We'll be back from Des Moines right after this.
MR. HOLT: An Iowa voter with one of the subjects we want to get into tonight, and that is the economy. And to lead that part of our discussion, here again here Maria Celeste. Maria?
MS. ARRARAS: Thank you. And this is a question that the little guys ask themselves. And this question is first for Senator Kerry. The president and many economists agree or say that the economy is in a recovery. Do you agree with that? Do you think it's moving forward, backward, or is it simply stagnant?
SEN. KERRY: I think it's a Bush League recovery. (Laughter.) It's a recovery for the people in the corporate boardroom. It's a recovery for corporations to some degree, by compacting, by increasing productivity. But as you go across America it's not a recovery.
They promised or had to try to create 250,000 jobs last month. They created 1,000. I mean, they only feel 249,000 short. And a whole bunch of Americans-maybe 200,000 -- even stopped looking for work.
This recovery is a recovery for those people who have stock. It's a recovery for those people who are able to walk away with the highest salaries. But workers have only seen a three cents an hour increase in their wages. They've actually seen $1,500 lost in their income.
As president, I'm going to roll back the tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, so that we can invest in education, in health care, in cities, our communities, and do the things that a president ought to do to build the strength of our country. And that is not only critical to our standing here at home. If we are not strong here in our economy at home, we are never going to be able to lead the free world and be strong in the war on terror abroad. It's all connected. And this president just doesn't seem to understand that.
MS. ARRARAS: Okay, I'd like to ask the same question to Senator (sic) Kucinich.
REP. KUCINICH: The economists who are talking about recovery are the same economists who believe that a certain amount of unemployment is necessary to the functioning of the economy. It's easy for them to say-they have jobs.
The truth of the matter is that we should have a full employment economy, with the government the employer of last resort. There ought to be jobs-enough jobs for all who want to work. And as president I will create a full-employment economy by sponsoring a WPA-type program, which will rebuild America's cities and rural communities-new bridges, water systems, sewer systems, new energy systems-put millions of people back to work. We need to create jobs.
We also have to save the jobs we have. Trade laws are permitting our manufacturing base to be absolutely devastated. We've lost steel, automotive, aerospace, shipping and textiles. As the next president, recognizing the destructive effect that NAFTA and the WTO have had, I will cancel NAFTA and the WTO and return to bilateral trade conditioned on workers rights, human rights and environmental quality principles. (Applause. Cheers.)
MS. ARRARAS: Thank you, Senator (sic) Kucinich. I'd now like to pass on my next question to Representative Gephardt. Even though all of you have talked about budget balance as a goal, I want to talk about jobs. And I'd like to know in your opinion what is the correct number of unemployment-an acceptable number of unemployment-please give me your target number-and what would you do, and how long would it take you to achieve it?
REP. GEPHARDT: Well, my target would be zero. That's what we need to work toward. And I would remind you that at the end of the Clinton administration we had unemployment in the country down to 3 percent.
MS. ARRARAS: Is zero possible?
REP. GEPHARDT: It is possible. I think we surprised everybody during the Clinton years as to what we achieved. There were a lot of economists who said, Oh, you can't get to 3 percent unemployment-you'll have inflation. We did things that really got people to be employed. We increased the minimum wage-and that's the first thing that I would do.
I'd also ask the World Trade Organization for an international minimum wage. It would be different in different countries. We've got to start getting the standard of living up for people all across the world. My health care plan would create 750,000 new jobs by getting everybody covered with health care insurance. And I've got an energy plan called Apollo 21, that would create two million new jobs in this country, creating renewable fuels. A lot of it could be here in the Midwest, with ethanol and wind and solar. It would be clean energy.
And my Teacher Corps idea would get young people to be teachers. If they teach for five years, I'd pay their college loans.
These are the kind of job-creating ideas that this country needs, that we did in the Clinton administration, but this administration has marched us in the opposite direction. This president must be defeated.
MS. ARRARAS: And it's an Apollo plan for Planet Earth, correct, not Mars?
REP. GEPHARDT: Yeah, right, Planet Earth, not Mars.
MS. ARRARAS: Thank you. My next question is for Reverend Al Sharpton. And the latest jobs statistics show almost no increase in employment across the country, and also show that hundreds of thousands of workers left the job market. They simply disappear. The challenge to find good jobs in the American-in the African American and Latino communities are even harder, as we all know. What would you do to reduce unemployment in these communities in particular?
REV. SHARPTON: you have to have a job creation program. I've proposed throughout this campaign a $250 billion five-year plan to create jobs that are necessary-infrastructure redevelopment, roadways, highways, bridges, tunnels, school buildings-and in the name of homeland security ports. We ought to be investing in creating jobs. That's what Roosevelt did with public works programs. I think that Congressman Kucinich is right: We must go after, A, what is necessary; and, B, what will create jobs.
The recovery is like if you went to a hospital and all the doctors and nurses had a cold-they got over the cold, and we say it was recovery. But the sick people are still sick. (Laughter.) So you've got some of the managers of America recovering, but those that are ill are just as sick as they ever was. Recovery is not for the staff. Recovery is for the patients. The patients, Mr. Bush, are still sick. (Applause.)
MS. ARRARAS: Okay, well, thank you, reverend. And, as we have been saying, we're also going to be taking questions from the distinguished panel of experts, and let's start right now with one of them and their questions. Go ahead.
MR. HOLT: Maria, thanks. And we're with Professor Greg Rocho (ph) of the University of Texas at El Paso. Dr. Rocho (ph), good evening to you. Thanks for taking part. Your question is to who?
MR. ROCHO (ph): I have a question for Senator Kerry, and also for you, Reverend Sharpton, and it concerns unemployment. Over the past decade we've seen that the unemployment rate for Latinos has been about 40 percent higher, and for African Americans it's been about 80 percent higher than the overall rate. Why do you think that condition has existed? And what would you do to start to close that gap?
SEN. KERRY: For me first? I think it exists-I think we're allowed to walk out here. I think it exists because-I don't know if the lights are working.
MR. HOLT: Unfortunately, the lights aren't working, so it's your choice. (Laughter.)
SEN. KERRY: So we can't move around. Well, I thought that we were able to move around.
Let me just say to you, look, the reason that exists is because we have an indifference, a casual indifference in the leadership of our country that ignores the fact that we have a separate and unequal school system in the United States of America, that we adults in the United States are literally abandoning millions of children every single day-that we have too much willingness to send people to prison rather than invest $10,000 a year in Head Start, Early Start, Smart Start, early childhood education. (Applause.)
There is a complete abdication of responsibility, and those people who run around this country talking about compassionate conservatism have shown compassion only for conservatives and for the wealthiest people in the country. We need a president who is going to fight against those special interests, have early education, zero to eight. We need a president who is going go fight to fund those schools.
No Child Left Behind he's walked away from. It hurts the urban communities the most and the rural communities the most. We've got to change our attitude about how you raise kids in America, how you provide opportunity, and it's always worse in the minority centers, because that's where the greatest level of poverty is, and the lack of voting power. And we need a president who stands up and fights for America.
MR. HOLT: And I believe you're also addressing the question to Reverend Sharpton.
REV. SHARPTON: I think that we definitely need all that Senator Kerry outlined, but on top of that we must be honest about discrimination, and have a president that will enforce anti- discrimination laws. It is not as a result of some magic that Latinos are at that rate, or blacks are at that rate, we still have institutional discrimination in this country, which is worse than blatant discrimination. What is hurting us is that 50 years ago we had to watch out for people with white sheets, now they have on pinstriped suits. And they discriminate against our advancement, they discriminate against our achievement, and we're called divisive if we bring it up. We're divisive if we don't bring it up. Our fathers had to fight Jim Crow, we've got to fight James Crow, Jr., Esquire, and we need to take on that fight.
MR. HOLT: Reverend Sharpton, thank you. Dr. Roach, thank you very much as well.
MS. ARRARAS: Yes, I have another economic question, this time for Governor Dean. Do you want to make a quick question, because I've seen you-go ahead.
MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: Could I please, thank you. One of the issues has to do with the private sector and creating jobs. And when you consider that Latino women make 53 cents on the dollar, African American women make 68 cents on the dollar, and white women make 73 cents for every dollar that a man makes, the disparities are very clear, both as to race and gender. I think the answer lies in providing capital for the development of jobs, and businesses in communities where people live, because if you give someone the ability to create a business, provide equity capital, give people the ability to begin to create those businesses that will help lift up communities, that will go a long way to solving the endemic problem of institutional racism, of discrimination, and of the lack of jobs in the African American and Hispanic community.
MS. ARRARAS: Thank you. I had to make that exception, because you're the other lady in the room, thank you.
Okay. Governor, despite your desire the roll back all the Bush tax cuts, you recently said you would roll out your own tax planning, putting some kind of payroll tax cut. When will your plan be ready, and will your middle class tax relief be immediate?
DR. DEAN: The first priority is to balance the budget. We've got to do that, no Republican has balanced the budget in 34 years in this country. You just can't trust Republicans with your money anymore. Secondly, in order to do that you've got to roll back the Bush tax cut.
Now, 60 percent of us got a $304 tax cut, if you make a million dollars you got a $112,000 tax cut, but people's college tuition has gone up more than $304, people's property taxes have gone up more than $304, because the president cut fire and police, wouldn't fund special education, wouldn't fund No Child Left Behind. People's healthcare payments have gone up, because this president cut a half a million children off healthcare in the last two years. Nearly a million adults off healthcare, so somebody has to pay for that, it's our insurance companies who then pass it along to us. There was no middle class tax cut in this country.
MS. ARRARAS: So let me interrupt you one second, would you wait then until you balance your budget to then go ahead with the middle class tax relief?
DR. DEAN: Right, the first priority is balancing the budget, and what we will do is lay out a plan to balance the budget, and then include some sort of plan to increase corporate taxes, just as Joe Lieberman has suggested, because corporate taxes are now at the lowest level since 1934, which means the rest of us are paying the rest of the tax burden, and that's not fair.
The truth is, we ought to go back to Bill Clinton's taxes, because most people in America would gladly pay the taxes we paid when Bill Clinton was president if only we could have the same economy we had when Bill Clinton was president. (Applause.)
MS. ARRARAS: Do you want to react to that?
REP. KUCINICH: I think the tax cuts that are going to the people in the top brackets are the ones that ought to be canceled. We need to remember the working families still need relief-earned income tax credit and other tax relief.
But the thing that I am wondering about is, how in the world can Governor Dean take the position that he's going to balance the budget but he's said repeatedly that he won't touch Pentagon spending?
You know, this is a chart here -- (applause). Half the discretionary budget of the United States goes for the Pentagon. Now, if you're going to balance the budget and you're not going to touch the Pentagon and you're going to keep the war in Iraq going for a few years, that means you're going to cut, as the president is doing, funds for veterans, housing, health care, education.
So I'm saying the solution is, get out of Iraq, cut the bloated Pentagon budget by 15 percent, and stop the tax cuts that are going for the wealthy. That will be the way that we can help our economy.
MS. ARRARAS: Governor Dean, you have a 30-second rebuttal.
DR. DEAN: Let me talk about the Pentagon budget and why I will not cut the Pentagon budget, should I become president of the United States. There are some things I won't do. We will not build tactical battlefield nuclear weapons because we don't need them and they're useless against terrorists. We will not build a national missile defense system until we do the research so it works.
But there are an enormous number of needs in defense that aren't getting met. Special Operations-that's an anti-terrorist task force-we need more of those; human intelligence, cyber- intelligence. Soldiers aren't paid properly. The president of the United States tried to cut combat pay for our troops in Iraq. Even the right-wing Congress wouldn't let him do that.
So in good conscience, at a time when this president is not making us safe-we're not inspecting the cargo containers that come into this country every day; we're not buying the enriched uranium stocks that we're allowed to buy from the former Soviet Union under cooperative threat reduction agreements. This president is not keeping us safe.
What I will do is leave the Pentagon budget alone. We don't have to have these enormous --
MS. ARRARAS: Governor Dean, that's over 30 seconds.
DR. DEAN: We don't need to have the enormous increases that he wants, but we do have to make America safe, and we can't do it by cutting the Pentagon budget.
MS. ARRARAS: Okay, Governor Dean, thank you. And obviously you didn't convince Representative Kucinich, because he's still holding his paper up. But that's part of the deal. (Laughter.)
I want to go now to the candidate-to-candidate questions. And this is your turn, Representative Gephardt, to ask any question to whoever you choose on the panel.
REP. GEPHARDT: Well, Howard, I heard your answer on the middle- class tax cut and on Social Security. Early in the year, you and I agreed that we ought to get rid of the Bush tax cuts, that they haven't worked. And I still agree with that. We both said that we shouldn't do anything that would hurt Social Security.
In the last few days, I understand-and maybe you're not-but you were talking about a payroll or a Social Security tax cut. And my worry about that is that it would undermine Social Security. Have you decided that that's what we ought to do?
DR. DEAN: I think cutting the payroll taxes is not a bad idea. It's certainly something we're going to look at. Under no circumstances will we take the money to cut payroll taxes out of the Social Security trust fund. That would be absurd.
I said so a year ago on Judy Woodruff's show, Inside Politics, that a payroll tax holiday is irresponsible for the same reason a payroll tax cut, should it cut the money going into Social Security, is irresponsible.
If we end up cutting payroll taxes, which is the most regressive tax there is for low- and moderate-income workers, it will come out of the general fund in the form of a tax credit. We will not touch Social Security.
MS. ARRARAS: Very well. Next question to another candidate. Reverend Al Sharpton --
REV. SHARPTON: You know, I have to ask this. I was going to ask Dennis something, but I have to ask you this, Governor Dean, because I was disappointed you weren't in Washington the other day.
You keep talking about race. In the state of Vermont, where you were governor, '97, '99, 2001, not one black or brown held a senior policy position-not one. You yourself said we must do something about it. Nothing was done.
Can you explain, since now you want to convene everyone and talk about race-it seems as though you've discovered blacks and browns during this campaign -- (laughter) -- how you can explain not one black or brown working for your administration as governor?
DR. DEAN: Well, actually, I beg to differ with your statistics.
REV. SHARPTON: This is according to your paper in Vermont, Associated Press, and the Center for Women in Government.
DR. DEAN: Well, perhaps you ought not to believe everything the Associated Press --
REV. SHARPTON: Oh, so you're saying they're incorrect?
DR. DEAN: We do have African-American and Latino workers in state government, including --
REV. SHARPTON: No, no, I said under your administration, did you have a senior member of your cabinet that was black or brown?
DR. DEAN: We had a senior member of my staff --
REV. SHARPTON: No, your cabinet.
DR. DEAN: No, we did not. Now, let's --
REV. SHARPTON: Then you need to let me talk to you about race in this country.
DR. DEAN: Well, let me just say one thing, which I have said before, but I'll say it again. If the percentage of African-Americans in your state was any indication of what your views on race were, then Trent Lott would be Martin Luther King.
REV. SHARPTON: But I don't think that that answers the question. I think if you're talking-if you want to lecture people on race, you ought to have the background and track record in order to do that. And I think that clearly governors import talent. Governors reach all over the country to make sure they have diversity.
And I think that while I respect the fact that you've brought race into this campaign, you ought to talk freely and openly about whether you went out of the box to try to do something about race in your home state and have experience working with blacks and browns at peer level, not as just friends you might have had in college. (Applause.)
MS. ARRARAS: Reverend Sharpton, let me pass on now-I'm going to pass on real quick to Senator Edwards, who's been very anxious to make a comment for a while. I know you must have something very important to say, so go for it.
SEN. EDWARDS: Thank you very much. First of all, one of the things that people are concerned about about politicians in general and people who are running for president is that they don't just talk the talk, as the reverend just talked about, but they've fought for these things and stood for these things and been consistent and been straight with people. And not change their position. How many times have the people of Iowa had people run for president, come into their house, promise them something, and never come back, and then they don't do what they're going to say.
Right? Have you heard that before? (Applause.) It happens over and over and over. And politicians change their position. When the elections coming. Here's the problem. Race is a defining issue in America today. It didn't start when this campaign began in January. It's been true forever. And we have enormous work to do on race.
The second thing is all these discussions about tax cuts, and which tax cuts, it ignores the bigger picture of what's happening in America today. We've had a sea change in this country in the last twenty years. Twenty years ago, most working families, middle class families were financially secure. They were saving money. They felt good about their future. That's all changed.
Today, these families are saving nothing. They are going into debt. They are one medical problem, or financial problems from going off the cliff. We have to help them with all these problems, Dick. We have to help them with their health care. We have to help them by giving them some financial security. Specifically helping them to save and be able to invest.
But, my point is, we can't put these things in boxes. Families out there who are struggling, they don't think about these things in boxes. They need help with all these things. They need health care, but they also need financial security.
MS. ARRARAS: Yes or no answer, real quick. Does that mean that if you were president you would come to Iowa many times after?
SEN. EDWARDS: Yes, ma'am. Absolutely.
MS. ARRARAS: And, I'd like to get a rebuttal from Representative Gephardt, real quick.
REP. GEPHARDT: I just wanted to say that on this question of access to capital, I think this is the key question in helping minorities be able to have the same opportunity as everyone else. And one of my proposals that I'm very interested in is changing the percentage of federal contracts that go to minority contracts from five to ten per cent. This would do more to get capital into minority contractors and give people the opportunity they need. We also had a new markets initiative from Bill Clinton, and it's gone by the wayside with this administration. It needs to be renewed and funded, so that minorities in this country can get access to capital, so they can start small business.
MS. ARRARAS: Very well. Talking about funding, we need to go to a commercial break real quick. When we come back, we're going to talk about foreign policy. So, stay with us. The battle for the White House.
MS. ARRARAS: After the previous segment, we're going to talk a little bit more about the economy, especially because there are still very important questions pending and very anxious candidates to answer them.
MR. HOLT: In fact, Maria, a couple of candidates we didn't get to in that segment, and I want to move as quickly as I can to Ambassador Moseley Braun. I know you've got that look like, "Where have I been," right?
MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: Thank you. I will be very brief, Lester.
MR. HOLT: My question to you is there has been a lot of debate-and we just heard in that last segment about the plight of working families in this country. As a working adult, have you ever gone through a month unsure whether you'd be able to pay all your bills?
MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: Of course, of course. I come from the working class, pulled myself up. But I have a specific mission in these seconds that you are giving me. The first is to clarify this last round, because I stood here about to lose, just, all focus on what was going on. In the first place, Dick Gephardt, I have-in all the time that you have served as the leader in the House, there has been precious little coming out in terms of minority entrepreneurship and equity capital. As a junior senator, I did more to create the community development financial institutions, to create equity capital opportunities for minorities and women, to try to fight for affirmative action in the Senate than the House has done in all of my memory. And so to hear you tonight talking about that is a little shocking to me.
And to Reverend Sharpton, the fact of the matter is, you can always blow up a racial debate and make people mad at each other, but I think it's time for us to talk about what are you going to do to bring people together? Because this country cannot afford a racial screaming match-we have to come together-we have to come together as one nation to get past these problems.
And, finally, to John, again, I don't mean to pick on you, and I know Howard Dean can take up for himself, but the fact of the matter is, the "Congressional Quarterly" says you voted with President Bush 53 percent of the time, you voted for the Patriot Act, you voted to deploy the missile defense system, and yet you stand up here and call Howard a hypocrite. This is not right.
SEN. EDWARDS: Well, what you said --
MR. HOLT: Senator, and I'll get to the other names you mentioned. Senator Edwards, a 30-second response to that.
SEN. EDWARDS: Well, Carol, that was a great speech, but what you just said is not right.
MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, that's --
SEN. EDWARDS: As a matter of fact --
MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: You didn't vote --
SEN. EDWARDS: Are you going to let me finish? What just happened, the "Congressional Quarterly" just in the last week put out its rankings for the 100 members of the United States Senate and who voted with Bush the least and who voted with Bush the most -- 1 through 100. I was number one in the United States Senate for having voted against George W. Bush the most, and I'm proud of that, and I want the people of Iowa who are participating in these conferences to know that. And you also know that I have said very clearly that I believe there are things that have to be changed in the Patriot Act. Allowing the sneak and seek-peek and sneak-sneak and peek, I'll say it right-searches that allow people to go in-that allow the government to go into people's homes and not even tell them that they've been there; that allow the government to go into libraries and bookstores-these things do, in fact, need to be changed --
MR. HOLT: I need to get the response of the other candidates you mentioned. Reverend Sharpton, 30 seconds to respond.