REV. SHARPTON: I think the fact of the matter is that I've heard throughout this campaign, this is about our 29th or 30th appearance-the governor lectured us on race. To ask him his own record is not a racial screaming match. It is to make one accountable to what they say. Had he not introduced the subject, then it would have been hysterical for me to ask him about it. But to say that he can raise it and, in fact, attack others-not let me finish. I didn't interrupt you.
MR. HOLT: Let him have his response.
REV. SHARPTON: The last thing we need is to be fighting each other. I have not tried to engage you. I'm answering your question.
MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: All right.
REV. SHARPTON: For me not to hold him accountable to what he raised is insulting to people. I've fought all my life for civil rights. I have stood up, I have made racial profiles of police brutality, race discrimination of private sector a priority. Just access to capital, bringing capital in without fighting discrimination and our ability to achieve level jobs will not solve this. Giving money people that will not have to protect that money with families doesn't work. And that's why I want him to be accountable because he brought up race. That's not racial hysteria, that's -- (inaudible).
MR. HOLT: Representative Gephardt, your response -- 30-second response, if you can, to what Ambassador Braun said.
REP. GEPHARDT: I honor what Ambassador Braun has done in the Senate. She is a leader, and she has done great things. We've tried in the House. One of our problems is the last few years we've had people like Tom DeLay and Newt Gingrich to deal with, and we were trying to fend off efforts to end affirmative action forever, which we succeeded in doing. Jim Cliburn (sp) is here tonight. We fought together to fight off Newt Gingrich in doing that. But I agree with you totally-we need to do a lot more to get access to capital to minority businesses.
MR. HOLT: Let's move on to foreign policy and, Senator Lieberman, thank you for your patience. I want to ask you, General Wesley Clark, as we've noted, declined to appear here tonight, was quoted in "The Concord Monitor" as saying there would be no terror attacks under his administration. I think the exact quote was, "We aren't going to have one of these incidents." Can you say with fair certainty the U.S. would be safer under your leadership and how long should we give you to the point that you could declare we are safer under your administration?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thanks very much for asking me a question. I was beginning to hope that somebody would attack me so I'd be able to respond.
MR. HOLT: I'm sure someone will oblige.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yeah, I remember having said that. I thought that Wes Clark's statement was odd and troubling, because the reality is that we've got to level with the American people, and to say that the two biggest lies are that September 11th couldn't have been prevented and that we can stop all terrorist acts. Let's level with the American people-we've got to pull together and do what's tough and right to protect the American people. I spoke to this briefly before about it.
I'm the one who, together with a few other members of the Senate, wrote the Homeland Security bill because we were disorganized before September 11th, and the terrorists took advantage of it. George Bush still hasn't adequately implemented that bill; still hasn't brought together a terrorism watch list so all the federal agencies know where the terrorists are. He still hasn't adequately funded the local fire fighters and police officers.
As president I'm going to do that. I'm going to do my best to make sure that the American people are safe and secure. I have the toughness and the experience to do that. And one of the ways you do it is not only to use American military to capture and/or kill al Qaeda; you win the larger battle for the hearts and minds of the great majority in the Muslim world who are living desperately poor lives in despotic countries. I want to lead as president an international Marshall Plan for the Muslim world-reach out-use the sword when necessary, but also use the plowshare and the pruning hook to achieve --
MR. HOLT: Senator Lieberman, thank you. My next question is to Senator Kerry. Governor Dean has said that you were wrong to vote for the Iraq resolution. Now, Governor Dean was not in a position to vote on that. However, was he wrong in your view to oppose the war?
SEN. KERRY: Certainly not in his current status. But I think Governor Dean has had it both ways. On October 6th, five days before we voted in the Senate, Governor Dean took a public position supporting the Biden-Lugar resolution, which gave authority for the president of the United States to go to war, if he found that the diplomatic effort had been exhausted, and all he had to do was write a letter. The point is he had authority-didn't have to come back to Congress-he had the same kind of authority that we did. We gave him an authority based on his promises: One, he would build an international coalition; two, that he would in fact use the inspections thoroughly and honor the United Nations; three, that he would go to war as a last resort. And his secretary of State made the same statements, including that the only reason to go to war was weapons of mass destruction.
We voted to do it the right way. This president chose to do it the wrong way-every step of the way. And I happen to know personally what the obligation of a president of the United States is to families in this country, that you have to look a family in the eye, and be able to say if they lose their son and daughter, that you never, ever meant it to happen unless you exhausted every remedy available. He didn't do that. I think he broke faith with the American people.
MR. HOLT: Senator Kerry, your time is expired. (Applause.) But let's give Governor Dean 30 seconds to respond to that.
DR. DEAN: Sure. I'm first going to respond and thank Carol for defending me. But, as you pointed out, I like to defend myself. I have here Representative Luis Gutierrez, Congressman Sheila Jackson Lee, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus. I believe I have more endorsements from both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus than any other candidate on this stage, and I will take a back seat to no one in my commitment to civil rights in the United States of America. (Applause.)
Now, let me, regarding the war, this is what's important: 12 Iowans hurt in an attack in Iraq. It's not who voted for what resolution. I disagreed with John Kerry and John Edwards and Joe Lieberman and Dick Gephardt and Wes Clark, who supported the war at the time. The spot-and I stood up when nobody else was willing to stand up, except for Dennis Kucinich-and of course we know that Al and Carol did not support that either. But I stood up and said so on September 21st, 2002, that this was a mistake, because I did not believe at the time that the president was being candid.
Two days ago, Secretary of State Powell publicly said that there was no evidence that there was any link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Fifty percent of Americans believe that there is one. Why? Because the president of the United States has misled the American public, and he has been misleading us for two years. (Applause.)
MR. HOLT: Governor Dean, thank you. Let me turn if I can to Representative Kucinich. I know you want to respond to that, but I'd like to ask you another question, if I can, Representative Kucinich.
REP. KUCINICH: May I also respond?
MR. HOLT: Let me just ask you. A lot of people have argued that the U.S. was better off-many in your party have argued the U.S. would have been better off with an explicit U.N. approval before going to war with Iraq. As a president, would you ever reject broad international consensus, if you thought it was in the best long-term interests of the United States?
REP. KUCINICH: First of all, we have a right to defend our country. But surely a president must know the difference between defense and offense. I was a third-string varsity quarterback, and I knew the difference between defense and offense. (Laughter.) We went on the offense against Iraq. And now we find from Secretary O'Neill that the president was planning on attacking Iraq before 9/11! And that the American people in effect have been mislead about this! Everybody ought to be talking about this. (Applause.)
And, furthermore-and, furthermore, in response to Governor Dean, it's okay to hold up a headline and to commiserate with the people of Iraq, who have valiant sons and daughters who have been injured in combat. But you know if it was gone to go, and it's wrong to stay in! That's what I'm saying. Governor Dean, you have said that we are going to be there for a few years. You have said we are there, we're stuck. And I'm saying we need to go to the U.N., bring in U.N. peacekeepers-U.N. in, U.S. out of Iraq. It is time that we recognize that we are there because of lies. We have to challenge those lies. And we have to bring our troops home! (Applause.)
MR. HOLT: We're at another point here in our debate where we are going to offer the candidates a chance to ask a question of another candidate. And I think-Representative Kucinich, I'm sorry.
REP. KUCINICH: I would like to direct my question to Ambassador Moseley Braun. I have sponsored a legislation for universal single- payer health care. Are you familiar with it, and do you support it?
MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: I am. Thank you for the question, Congressman Kucinich. I am familiar with your legislation, and I do support it. The only answer for our health care system in this country is single payer. It's the only answer. And if we go to a single-payer system, we will create jobs, we will end health security, we will give a boost to our economy. In fact, based on the numbers for other countries that have single payer, they are right now spending about $4,000 a year per capita, per person, on health care. We spend much, much more than that, and we get a lot less back, because of all the waste in the system. I think Americans deserve a single-payer system. Americans deserve comprehensive, universal health care from prevention and wellness through long-term care, that can never be taken away. And we can't tinker with this and expect it to get fixed. It has to be fixed from top to bottom with a single- payer system such as Congressman Kucinich has proposed.
MR. HOLT: Ambassador Braun, thank you very much. (Applause.)
Next, we would like to give Governor Dean an opportunity to ask a question of one of your opponents.
DR. DEAN: Well, I'm going to break the mold a little bit, as Joe did, but we won't have quite as long speech. I'd like to ask my question to a community activist in the audience. His name is Ako Abdul-Samad. He's on the school board. And the question is: I have spent two years listening to Iowans, here in their caucuses, and hearing their concerns and their needs. Can you tell us, Ako, what we ought to be doing to help your community?
MR. HOLT: Well, hold on a second, Governor Dean. We are not formatted to take questions from the candidate to a member of the audience. The questions are to be to members, other opponents. (Boos.) That's a format agreed by the candidates.
DR. DEAN: Well-I understand, I understand.
MR. HOLT: So do you have a question to one of your opponents?
DR. DEAN: Well --
REV. SHARPTON: Pick me-I'll (let Ako answer a little bit ?) (Laughter.)
DR. DEAN: I-you know, part of this campaign is about change, and it's about letting ordinary people have something to say about what goes on.
MR. HOLT: Well, I don't want to argue the point with you, but there was a format agreed to by the opponents. So do you have a question for another opponent, or should we move on?
DR. DEAN: No, I think we'll move on.
MR. HOLT: Okay.
DR. DEAN: Thank you.
MR. HOLT: Thank you very much. We will take a break. We will continue with more of the battle for the White House from Des Moines after this.
MR. HOLT: And welcome back, everyone. Our questioning now continues with Maria.
MS. ARRARAS: Thank you, Lester.
And we're going to start addressing Reverend Al Sharpton, who was apparently very upset at the fact that he didn't get to answer or have a rebuttal for something that Governor Dean said before, and during the commercial break he expressed. So, here is your chance.
REV. SHARPTON: What I wanted to say is that the Governor talks about his endorsements. I think all of us will endorse whoever wins. The question, though, is that as we pursue that, we must be open with our record. I don't question your commitment. I asked you to account for your record. And you and, as you say, your defenders can say what they want, I have a right to do that as anyone else. And to talk about just endorsements rather than as to our record I don't think answers the question. I could bring all kind of endorsements here from Congressman Town to Johnny Cochran. I think you only need co- signers if your credit is bad.
MS. ARRARAS: Okay. All right. Now, if you allow me we're going to change the subject now to immigration, and you are all going to be very happy, because this is a question to all of you, and you're all going to be very happy because it's one of those questions that you get to answer raising your hands if it's an affirmative answer.
As you know, many illegal immigrants come into this country and they get started in America as domestic workers or day laborers. Have you or any member of your family hired an illegal immigrant, and would you raise your hand if it's possible? If it's yes, raise your hand. No one has. Okay. You all seem pretty shocked. It's more common than you all think.
Okay, let's go on to the next question. Governor Dean, thousands of Hispanic soldiers risk their lives for this country and they're not U.S. citizens. As president, would you automatically grant citizenship to any immigrant who serves in combat on behalf of the United States?
DR. DEAN: You have to be a little bit careful about how you do that, because otherwise you'll have a disproportionate number of people who are Hispanic joining the Army simply to do that. But the basic answer, the direction of your question is the right one, the answer is going to end up being yes one way or the other.
MS. ARRARAS: Let me interrupt you one second. There are a lot of Hispanics that join the Army regardless because Puerto Ricans are naturally born citizens and they still join.
DR. DEAN: One of the most unfortunate things, I think, that happened in the Iraq war was a young man who was Hispanic who was an immigrant who got killed who then got his citizenship given to him after he had arrived home in a casket. That is the wrong thing to do. My attitude is, if you join the Army, yes, it should give you an absolutely path to earn legalization or to citizenship. But the answer is basically yes, but here's why I'm sort of jumping around a little bit. If you simply say that, then my concern is that the Army becomes the haven for people who are struggling to get by because they happen to be Hispanic as the only way of becoming a United States citizen. We don't want to force Hispanic citizens into that position. So the answer is, if you serve America, yes, you ought to get citizenship, but we have to be very careful just exactly how we offer that so that we don't have an unfair, disproportionate effect on the Hispanics in this county who are not citizens.
MS. ARRARAS: Representative Kucinich, could you please answer?
REP. KUCINICH: I'm glad that Governor Dean clarified that, because I don't think that, first of all, that we all agree that people ought to have citizenship if they serve this country. We also ought to agree that there ought to be amnesty for anyone who has been working in this country and would otherwise be denied rights. The first thing we ought to talk about is how the Bush administration's program that they just announced is really a program for indentured servitude because what they're talking about is locking people into control by corporations, and then if they don't go along with the program, which is generally anti-union, low wages, they can get deported. We need to be better than that as an American country. We need to remember that we are a nation of immigrants, and as a nation of immigrants, we must always hold the promise of people coming into this country and pursuing their dream.
You know, the Statue of Liberty, the poem at the base didn't say, give me your tired, your poor, and we will fingerprint them, we will take their picture, and then we will deport them after we're finished getting their work.
MS. ARRARAS: Thank you very much.
We're going to go now, we have less than an hour, on the floor with another question from our distinguished guests.
MR. HOLT: Maria, thank you.
I'm with Rebecca Vigil Geron, the Secretary of State of New Mexico. Madam Secretary, thank you for being here. Your question is to who regarding immigration?
MS. VIGIL-GERON: Thank you. Actually, Lester, I have two questions. My first has to do with immigration, and my second one has to do with obviously the issue that Senator Lieberman brought up with the Help America Vote Act.
MR. HOLT: Who are you addressing this one to?
MS. VIGIL-GERON: The first question will go to Congressman Gephardt, and Senator Lieberman. While immigration experts estimate that there are between six and eight million legal permanent residents eligible to become citizens of the United States, they also estimate that less than half of them will seek to become citizens. When asked why they have not begun the naturalization process, a majority of immigrants said they had heard too many horror stories about the bureaucratic process as well as the skyrocketing application fees. If elected president, what will you do to encourage those who are eligible to apply for citizenship, and ensure that those who seek to apply for citizenship are receiving quality customer service, and being treated fairly? Congressman Gephardt, you first, and then Senator.
REP. GEPHARDT: This is a very, very important issue. A number, about eight years ago, a lot of us in the House in the Hispanic Caucus, the Black Caucus, tried to address this question and we tried to get reform in the Immigration Service. And when the Republicans came back in, they took out all the reforms.
The Immigration Service has been a mess. They do not process these applications quickly. It's a long, long process that takes far too long than it should. And it needs to be reformed.
And we need to make people welcome in this country. If people are applying to be citizens, they need to be treated as customers and it needs to be an expedited process. There are people that wait three years to go through the process. It's a disaster. And when I'm president, we will reform it and we will change it.
MR. HOLT: Senator Lieberman.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thank you very much. This question of immigration is more than an issue to me. I consider it a very personal matter. My grandparents were immigrants. I grew up with my grandmother, who was an immigrant. My wife herself is an immigrant. So immigration to me is what America is all about. And the immigration system in our country today is broken.
George W. Bush has pulled a bait-and-switch with this latest proposal. It is an election-year conversion. He did it in 2000; didn't do anything for three years, and in 2004 comes in with a proposal that basically says to undocumented immigrants, "Come on, we'll give you a temporary work permit. Then we're going to send you back to the country you came from, and you've got to try to get back in."
Well, who's going to come out of the shadows for that reason? I went to Nogales in Arizona earlier in the year. That day four immigrants from Mexico died in the desert trying to come to America for the same reason my grandparents did, for a better way of life.
So I am for earned right of legalization for undocumented immigrants. I'm for temporary worker permits for people coming over. I'm for lifting the cap on family reunification, which keeps immigrant families apart. And I'm for lifting the cap on political refugees.
We're one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. And that means making sure that our immigrants, new Americans, are treated fairly.
MR. HOLT: And Madam Secretary, you have one more question; if you could go just to one member of our panel.
MS. VIGIL Geron: Well, actually, these are directed to two people, if you don't mind, because this is very crucial. Senator Edwards and Senator Kerry, on the Help America Vote Act-Congress last year passed the Help America Vote Act, a bill designed to address the electoral problems that arose from the 2000 presidential election.
While the states have the responsibility of implementing many of the provisions of the bill, the federal government has the key oversight and financial role to play in 2005 and beyond. Secretaries of states, state legislators and elections officials across the country have already complained that many of the provisions of HAVA are unfunded mandates.
What will you do as president to assure elections officials that the federal government is committed to making the Help America Vote Act work as Congress intended? Senator Edwards and then Senator Kerry.
SEN. EDWARDS: What I will do as president is, first of all, fund the legislation, and second, make sure that every single person in America gets a chance to be on a voter registration role, and if they get a chance to vote, no matter what the level of the community that they live in, because we know what's happening here.
President Bush has figured out-you know, he had to go along with election reform; he didn't have any choice about that, because he got dragged kicking and screaming to that. But he knows, if this bill is funded, we're going to have people, particularly in poorer areas, poorer voting districts, all over America who actually get a chance to exercise their right in this democracy.
And I think you've got a pretty good idea of who they're going to vote for, don't you? So it is critically important that we make the changes that need to be made to make sure everybody gets an opportunity to both register and vote and we don't have happen what happened in Florida in 2000.
MR. HOLT: Senator Kerry, your response to that question?
SEN. KERRY: Thank you, Madam Secretary. I should thank you for letting me get back in the debate; I appreciate it. (Laughter.)
I will not only do what John has said, but I'm not going to wait until I'm president. When I'm the nominee of the party, I intend to put together a legal team across this country, and we are going to pre-challenge some of these automatic machines, the Dibold machines, where there have already been problems.
And we're going to pre-challenge and have a team across this country who are focused on those particular areas of the country where they are notorious about switching addresses, telling people they're not registered, intimidating people. And we will have the strongest democracy poll-watching effort in the history of this country so that every vote is counted so I can become president of the United States. (Applause.)
Q Thank you, Senator.
MR. HOLT: Senator Kerry, thank you. Secretary of State Vigil Geron, thank you very much for your questions. (Applause.)
SEN. KERRY: I had a little time left; I want to just finish. I disagree completely with what Howard Dean has said about the military. I said at the debate that we had in Arizona, there are 37,000 people serving in the services today who are legal immigrants-legal. They go into the military already to do better and to gain a foothold on citizenship in America.
And I think, because it's a volunteer army and there are already standards about who gets in and who doesn't, that anybody who serves the United States of America who is a legal immigrant ought to get automatic citizenship immediately-period, end of issue. (Applause.)
MS. ARRARAS: Okay, thank you very much. We're going to let Governor Dean respond briefly.
DR. DEAN: I think that's a fine idea. I just want to make sure that it's fair when it happens. Look, I think that people who have already proved that they can be good citizens ought to be good citizens. The concern I have, John, is not a fundamental philosophical concern. The concern I have is I don't want Hispanic kids choosing to go to Iraq in order simply to gain citizenship, and that's what we have to be careful of when we do it. I think there is not a fundamental, philosophical difference between us. I just want to be very careful about how we do this so we don't get a flood of desperate kids coming into the military and ending up in Iraq simply to get American citizenship.
MS. ARRARAS: Could I say something, excuse me, I want to make a comment about this as a Puerto Rican, because there are a lot of Puerto Ricans that are naturally born citizens of the United States, and they join the Army because they want to. I just want to make that clarification. Anyway, I'm going to continue with the next question-in the United States illegal immigrants are forbidden to obtain driver's license, yet they do drive, millions of them every day, that is a reality, and because they don't have a license, they are unable to get car insurance, for example. But that's not just it-they also have all kinds of things and problems that ordinary citizens, American citizens, take for granted, and they cannot do it-like, for example, cash a check. As president-I'm going to address this question to you, Senator Lieberman-would you definitely remove this? Would you allow driver's license for immigrants?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yeah, I absolutely would, and I would because it is obviously better for those immigrants and for the rest of America that they be driving with a license instead of without a license. And if they have a license, they are more likely to be driving with insurance. So it makes no sense to me to punitively deprive them of that opportunity.
I would just say to Governor Dean, it raises an important question, but the dilemma is solved with a very easy step, and it is to make sure that, at the same time we grant citizenship to immigrants who serve in the military, we grant the earned right of legalization to all undocumented immigrants who have no trouble with the law and have paid their taxes, working hard, filling jobs that have not been filled by Americans-so if we do them all at once, everybody will enjoy the benefits of American citizenship, and we will enjoy the benefits of their service and loyalty to our country. New Americans have an appreciation of America that is often greater than those who have been here a long time. We force them to live in the shadows. Let's bring them out and strengthen our country.
MS. ARRARAS: That is correct. I want to pass now with Ambassador Moseley Braun, because this is definitely an issue that goes beyond just having car insurance or not. The lack of proper identification documents let them live like the rest of us in America.
MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: I think, in the first instance, as president I would work closely with the government-other governments, particularly with Mexico, President Fox now, to work out treaty arrangements, to work out protocols, work out the kind of arrangements that would give some semblance of order to this process so that when people come back and forth across the border, they are not dying in the desert, they are not driving cars without insurance, without licenses, so there is some sense that they'll know what the rules are. We want to encourage people to obey the rules, but when the rules don't make any sense, and when the process, as Dick Gephardt rightly points out, is so convoluted and messed up, it's very difficult to expect compliance with the law. I think we need to reform immigration policy; we need to work with our neighbors; we need to give people a sense of being welcome in this land of immigrants.
MS. ARRARAS: Thank you. This question is for Senator Edwards-you have said several times that your immigration policy is a simple one. You propose, "A warm welcome to immigrants and visitors and exhaustive barriers against terrorists." Since, of course, we all know that terrorists don't arrive wearing a label, how would you distinguish or differentiate one from the others?
SEN. EDWARDS: Well, first of all, let me say that the whole notion of earned citizenship is something that I strongly support. The second thing, and this is a response to the question that you are asking, is we have to do a much better job. I would first-I should add to what I just said-I would expand the number of legal immigrants that can get into the country, which helps relieve some of this pressure that we have right now and, third, and this was mentioned in passing by someone just a minute ago-but what's happened with this president is he-our relationship with Mexico and President Fox is in the worst shape that we can imagine, and the result of that is we don't have the kind of security along our Southern border that we need. First of all, we don't have the resources or technology that we ourselves need to provide on our side of the border, and we don't have the cooperation of the Mexican government. In order to provide a real and meaningful, secure border, we need to do that.
So earned citizenship; second, do a better job of protecting our Southern border with a better relationship with Mexico; and, third, expand the number of legal immigrants who are able to get into this country.
MS. ARRARAS: Okay, well, my next question is to Representative Gephardt-in some communities, large numbers of illegal immigrants have created burdens at the local level and, you know, they are definitely creating burdens on local taxpayers as well as overburden in schools and social services. Everything is strained. Since immigration, it's a national policy, and illegal immigration, a national concern, why should it be a local burden? As president, how would you correct that problem?
REP. GEPHARDT: I think the federal government needs to help state and local government in dealing with these needs. If people are here, if children are here, they have to be educated, they have to get basic health care immunizations, and the federal government needs to fill some of that need. My health care plan would give billions of dollars to state and local governments for health care for their employees, and much of that money could be used for purposes like this.
I also want to say I agree entirely with what's been said about earned legalization. If people have been here, obeyed the laws, paid their taxes, worked hard, they deserve the right to be able to get into legal status. I wrote a bill with the Hispanic caucus that achieves precisely that.
One other thought-my international minimum wage proposal is also an attempt to begin getting people treated fairly around the globe. We have let our trade policy be written by the big corporations who want cheap labor, who don't want a minimum wage in these countries -- 3.5 billion people in the world today live on less than a dollar a day. It's immoral. These people are being exploited for the quick profits of a few corporations. We need a trade policy that says, "Anybody in the world who works gets to be treated like a human being and not exploited."
MS. ARRARAS: Thank you for your response. We're going to take a break and come back from Des Moines and Battle for the White House in a second.
MS. ARRARAS: Welcome back to the Iowa Brown-Black Forum. And we are going to continue with the questions for the candidates. And now Mr. Holt once again.
MR. HOLT: Maria Celeste, thank you very much. Senator Kerry, this is your opportunity now to ask a question of one of your opponents.
SEN. KERRY: I was going to ask Joe Lieberman a question, but given his long question, I was afraid his answer might be -- (laughter) -- might be longer than Britney Spears' --
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Ask me a long question, I'll give you --
SEN. KERRY: I thought his answer would be longer than Britney Spears' marriage. So I was -- (boos) --
SEN. LIEBERMAN: You've been saving that one up, haven't you? (Laughter.)
SEN. KERRY: Well, Joe, I listened to you-I'll listen, but you're my friend. You're my friend, and I want to ask you a truly important, and I think friendly question. You and I were privileged to be at university at the same time, to become excited by the civil rights movement. In fact, you went South for a period of time during that. But we both lived in communities where there's just extraordinary poverty-New Haven, Bridgeport, parts of Boston-communities in Massachusetts-all across our country. What is the single most important thing in your judgment that we need to do-we-president, Congress, this country-to make-and it builds on the question that was asked earlier by the panelist-to make a real difference with respect to the prison rates, the drop-out rates, the drug abuse, the sort of abandonment of young people in America?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thanks for the question, John. You know, poverty in America is a scandal. There are 35 million people in poverty. In the years of the Bush administration, three years, three million more people have fallen out of the middle class into poverty. Nine million children don't have health insurance. So it's hard to choose exactly what-the one thing to do. But I would say education. Let me give you a stunningly painful number that the average African American or Hispanic American student graduating from high school is four years behind, grade level, of the other students. And that's the failure of our system. You know, this year we are going to celebrate the 50th anniversary, May 17th, of Brown v. the Board of Education, the end of racial segregation formally, but truly not the end of racial desegregation in our schools. So I would make it a top priority-fully fund special education, invest in the so-called "No Child Left Behind"-fully fund it. Start school-have a universal pre-kindergarten program for all of America's children, and then take it right through not K-12, but pre-K to 16 to graduate to college. We are all for affirmative action. We all oppose the Bush administration in this terrible position they took on the University of Michigan. But what happens after African Americans and Hispanic Americans get into college? Too many fall out. We have to have a program that gives them the financial aid and the personal assistance to make it through college and become full-fledged citizens.
MR. HOLT: Senator Lieberman, thank you very much.
Senator Edwards, this is your opportunity now to ask one of your opponents a question.
SEN. EDWARDS: Thank you. My question is to Governor Dean. Governor, one of the things that I've talked about tonight, and throughout this campaign, is the plight of the middle class and the working poor who are trying to enter the middle class. And one of the great problems that they face are the abusive practices of pay-day lenders, predatory lenders, and to some extent the credit card companies that are absolutely taking advantage of them every single day. And it probably costs them about $9 billion last year alone. And I've laid out a whole group of ideas about how to crack down on the credit card companies, making them fully disclose when they are changing the interest rate on people. In fact, ending some of the most abusive practices by pay-day lenders and predatory lenders, so that they can't continue to take advantage of it, prey on all of these middle-class families and these poor families that are trying to just build a better life for themselves.
I guess my first question is: Do you agree with what I'm proposing? And, second, do you have other ideas, specific ideas yourself?
DR. DEAN: I do agree, John. That was an excellent proposal that you've laid out, and I appreciate it very much, and I don't know there's a lot I can do to improve it, except to say this: that in corporate America today this president has turned a blind eye to morality. We have lost our moral compass in this country because of what business is doing to ordinary people in America. Most business people are honest and decent people. But this president sent a signal when he hired Harvey Pitt to run the SEC that regulations didn't matter anymore, and what you get is the respectable banks owning finance companies, subsidiaries, that go into African American or Latino neighborhoods-and they also do this, I might add, with Native Americans, whom we haven't talked about at all tonight, a minority group that is in serious trouble in this country because of the way our structure is. Those companies need to be brought to heel by a president who has a moral sense of what is good for ordinary people.
This president has run this country for the benefit for corporations. He did it with the Medicare prescription bill, by having a bill that was much better for drug companies and insurance companies than it was for ordinary people. He did it with the energy bill, which had $16 to $25 billion going to gas and oil companies in the first year. We can do better than that, and regulation --
MR. HOLT: Governor Dean --
DR. DEAN: -- of those finance companies that you're talking about is exactly the right track --
MR. HOLT: Thank you for your response. Thank you for your question. Actually, we need to go right now to our distinguished panelists. And Maria Celeste is with one of them, and their question.
MS. ARRARAS: And that is correct. And here I am with Will Gary (ph), who is the CEO and chairman of a major broadcasting television network. And his first question I believe is precisely for Senator Edwards.
Q That's correct. I want to change the tone a little bit. Senator Edwards, the Bush administration, doctors, insurance companies, and even some states, have taken the position that they want to put a cap on damages for personal injuries, such as pain and suffering and mental anguish, for poor people. The flip side of that is that many injured people feel that it's unconstitutional, number one; and then, number two, that it's totally unfair. As president, how would you address that issue?
SEN. EDWARDS: Well, the first thing I would do is do what I have done my whole life. I mean, I've spent 20 years before I went to the Senate in courtrooms fighting against the very people that we have heard talked about tonight-big insurance companies, big drug companies, big HMOs, big corporate America. I fought those battles, I've won those battles. I'm very proud of that. The truth of the matter is what President Bush is proposing about this and what happens in our courtrooms shows his philosophy about everything. He doesn't believe in democracy. He hates the idea that 6 or 12 ordinary Americans sitting in a jury box are going to be able to decide a case between one party and another. He hates the idea that his friends and his supporters are going to walk into a courtroom and be treated exactly the same way as a child or family who have been the victims of fraud or abuse. He hates that notion. That's what this is all about. And everything he is proposing that you just listed-these are all ideas to take away the very rights of women who are stay-at-home moms, of seniors, of kids who don't yet have employment. I mean, this thing, it is aimed as specifically as it could possibly be at the very people who are being hurt. And if you took away their damages for economic loss-I mean, you protect their damages for economic loss, but take away what you're describing-the damages for loss of life, the other things if they've been disabled for life-I mean, this could not be more discriminatory than it is. It's aimed like a laser-like a laser --
MS. ARRARAS: Senator Edwards, I'm going to have to cut you like a laser, because there is another question, and very little time. And I believe your next question is for Reverend Al Sharpton.
Q Yes, that's correct. Reverend Sharpton, in this last election I noticed from some statistics that 65 percent of young African Americans didn't vote. A lot of you all up there marched-in some cases we had people who died just to get African Americans the right to vote. And then we have some young people that will not exercise that right. Through your campaign across this nation, and even from the White House, what would you do to address this issue?
REV. SHARPTON: Well, first of all, let me say I want to agree with John on the last question, because I know some of the media will say John is a lawyer, you're a lawyer, and you all have a vested interest. I think it's important victims be able to be compensated, and people know they cannot have a cap on what they are exposed to if they do wrong. So I join John and you on that really.
I think that I've spent a lot of time trying to address the issue of youth voter registration. We've spent time on campuses in this campaign of all races trying to register young people. And I've said to them, You need to vote not for the candidate-you need to vote for yourself. The things that you face-student loans, lack of student loans, student debt forgiveness, where you will work, where you will live, how you will be treated are all political. I think that we engaged in a massive voter registration drive with Russell Simmons and others in the hip-hop community, or Bob Johnson with our organization National Action Network.
I think if we bring young people out, it not only is good for them, it's good for the country. It makes them understand that they have a part. You can't just lay down and accept being marginalized. Even if you're knocked down, that's somebody else's fault. You have to get up. That's your obligation. And we must tell young Americans to rise up and take this vote in their hands and express themselves. (Applause.)
MS. ARRARAS: I'm here with another one of our distinguished panelists, and his name is Joshua Fahym Ratcliffe. He is the cultural editor of Resource Magazine. And he has a question for one of our panelists.
MR. RATCLIFF: Yes. This question is for Senator Lieberman. Some time ago, Representative John Conyers introduced the bill to study the feasibility of reparations for the descendants of African- American slaves. This issue has been gaining momentum, has again been gaining momentum in the black community, and more specifically amongst the hip hop generation. If elected, would you support-would you propose or back legislation in support of reparations and, if so, what would it look like?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Here's what I've said. When Congressman Conyers introduced that legislation, I said I thought it was a good idea, and that I would support it. And the legislation was really intended to go beyond the specific question of reparations, and to go back to the history of slavery. The greatest indictment, the greatest breech of the American promise that we find in the Declaration that all of us were endowed by our creator with those rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We ought to bring that out again and talk about it, and then talk about what we can do about it. My own guess is that this is going to be more future oriented in terms of response. And by that I mean, to turn around some of the abandonment of people that has gone on under this Bush administration, as I said before, fully fund education, raise people up in that way, be more aggressive about enforcing civil rights laws, support housing support for people, health insurance, a program that all Americans can afford to have health insurance, and in that way we will begin to come step closer to the promise of America that slavery ruined for so long a period of time and that we're still paying the price for.
MR. HOLT: Senator Lieberman, unfortunately our time is slipping away very quickly. We want to get to closing statements. We'll do that right after this break. You're watching the battle for the White House from Des Moines. We'll be right back.
MR. HOLT: Welcome back. So many questions, so little time. We're at that point of our debate, after a very spirited discussion, a lot of important topics, to give the candidates each 45 seconds for their closing remarks. As agreed to earlier, we'll start from my left, Representative Gephardt, you have 45 seconds for your closing remarks.
REP. GEPHARDT: We must win this election and defeat George Bush, because George Bush has declared war on the middle class, and good, decent people are losing ground every day. We Democrats know how to do this. I led the fight for the Clinton economic program in the '90s. It created jobs, 22 million new jobs, and lifted thousands out of poverty. As president, I will get healthcare for every American that can never be taken away. And I'll promote trade policies that will stand up for the rights of American workers again. And I'll never forget the fight for the interests of our senior citizens, the fight for middle class families is in my bones.
MR. HOLT: All right, Representative Gephardt --
REP. GEPHARDT: If you'll stand with me on caucus night, I'll fight to beat George Bush and return the White House to the interests of the middle class.
MR. HOLT: We're going to turn to Governor Dean now, you have 45 seconds, please.
DR. DEAN: January 19th is the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday, it's also Iowa Caucus night. Dr. King said our lives begin to end the day that we become silent about things that matter. I got into this race because people wouldn't stand up to George Bush. I think we need new leadership in this party, and new leadership in this country. I need your help. I ask for your vote so that we can begin to change America in ways that matter to get special interests out of Washington, and get ordinary people back in control of our country and our party.
MR. HOLT: Senator Lieberman, you have 45 seconds now for your closing remarks, sir.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Lester. Thank you, Maria. Forty years ago last summer, I was honored to be at the March on Washington, to stand at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial and hear Dr. King give that magnificent American Dream speech. I want to say tonight as we approach Dr. King's Day, that under George W. Bush too many Americans have seen the American Dream of Dr. King slip away from them. That's why we must and will unite to deny him a second term, and give the American people a fresh start. And the best way to do it, of course, is to unite within the party, and then to run a candidate who can attract more independent votes, to go forward, to replace the vision with unity, to take fear and replace it with hope, to take hurt and replace it with confidence. The middle class is hurting, and those working to get into the middle class are hurting. So, I would say, yes, Howard, there was a middle class tax cut. Ask any family, median family of four here in Iowa that got $1,800 more a year, this is the best way to move America forward, and the only way to defeat George W. Bush.
MR. HOLT: You'll have to conclude your remarks with that.
Reverend Sharpton, 45 seconds for your closing remarks.
REV. SHARPTON: Martin Luther King's mission was to change America. He never held political office, he never served in a public office. He changed America because he confronted what was wrong. He didn't unite people in some nebulous nice way. He united people for the specific purpose of confronting evil, and he changed America. When you go to the caucus, you must do that. One of the issues that we must deal with is real democracy in this country, that is why I'm for D.C. statehood, that's why I've regarded their primary on Tuesday, and I think that we cannot have a nation that defends the right of voters in the capital of Iraq, in Baghdad, and ignores the people in the capital of our nation, in Washington, D.C. To honor Dr. King is not to take silence, and not to tell those who dissent in our party to be quiet. What makes this party great dissenters can be heard, then we can come together. I will support anyone up here, if they win. But I will not be silent because it would be a disservice to the memory of Dr. King.
MR. HOLT: Reverend Sharpton, thank you.
REP. KUCINICH: The Reverend is right on D.C., by the way. I want to say that I grew up in the City of Cleveland, the oldest of seven, and my parents never owned a home. As the family grew, by the time I was 17 we lived in 21 different places, including a couple cars. The house I live in right now I purchased for $20,000 in 1971. This will explain to you why I'm passionate about universal single payor healthcare, why I want to see a full employment economy with a living wage, why I want to make sure every young person has the opportunity to go to college tuition free, why I want to make sure all housing is affordable, and why I'm passionately committed to getting U.N. peacekeepers in, and getting the United States troops out of Iraq. The people of Iowa have the opportunity to take a new direction, to take a direction for peace and prosperity, please caucus for me, Dennis Kucinich. Thank you very much.
MR. HOLT: Dennis Kucinich, thank you.
Senator Edwards, you have 45 seconds or thereabouts for your closing remarks.
SEN. EDWARDS: Thereabouts?
MR. HOLT: Well -- (laughs) -- 45 if you can.
SEN. EDWARDS: Thank you very much.
I came here tonight to ask you to join our campaign, our movement, our cause, to change America. You and I can do this together. I can't do it alone, but you and I can do it together.
And my campaign is not about the politics of cynicism. It's about the politics of hope. It's about what's possible. It's about making Americans proud to be Americans again. It's about making Americans believe that something good and positive is in their future.
We've been here before. Franklin Roosevelt led this country at one of the worst times in our country's history. We got Social Security because he believed in this country. John Kennedy led this country at a time of great racial division. We got civil rights laws. We got voting rights laws.
It is time for us to lift up the American people. This is not about this petty sniping that we see going on in this campaign.
MR. HOLT: All right, Senator, we're --
SEN. EDWARDS: It's about a positive, uplifting vision for America. You and I can change America together.
MR. HOLT: We passed thereabouts.
SEN. EDWARDS: Join this cause. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MR. HOLT: Senator Kerry, your closing remarks, please, sir.
SEN. KERRY: Well, first, I want to thank all the people of this state for letting me be part of the Iowa caucuses. It is democracy at its best.
The civil rights movement inspired a great unfinished march towards the fullness of freedom in our nation. But now we have to take the next step. We have to take on powerful interests that prevent us from advancing. We have to pass health care, education. We have to challenge the drug companies, stand up to the lobbyists. We have to empower Arkao Samad's (ph) creative visions, Wayne Ford's urban systems. We have to do these things.
But before we can do these things, we have to prove to America that we can keep this country safe, because George Bush plans to run on national security. I know something about aircraft carriers for real, my friends. And if he wants national security to be the centerpiece of this campaign, I have three words for him that I know he understands: Bring it on.
MR. HOLT: And Senator Kerry, we'll have to conclude your remarks there.
SEN. KERRY: That's the debate I want to have. (Applause.)
MR. HOLT: And Ambassador Moseley Braun, due to your position here, you get the last word.
MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: Thank you very much. When the Constitution of the United States was written, I was not included. Poor people couldn't vote. Women couldn't vote. Blacks were counted as three- fifths of a person.
I am able to run for president of the United States because of the sacrifice of people who made progress in this country possible and who made our democracy better.
I want our generation to continue that progress so that all Americans can see what our daughters can contribute. I have the experience at the international, national, state and local levels to do the job of president, to give this country health care, to give us jobs, to give us education, so that America will move forward a stronger and better country than we found it.
The challenge for our generation is to see to it that we leave our children no less liberty, no less privacy, no less opportunity, no less optimism and hope than we inherited from our parents.
Please, when you go to the caucus, stand for progress. Stand for Carol Moseley Braun. Help us take the "Men Only" sign off the White House door. Help us make our country better. (Applause.)
MS. ARRARAS: Thank you, Ambassador. And thank you, all the candidates who have participated in this debate. We hope that this event helped throw light to the people of Iowa and to everybody that is going to vote in the United States so that they can make the best showing for the time they have to cast their votes because they got to know you a little bit better.
MR. HOLT: And we certainly want to thank the folks of the Iowa Brown-Black Forum for organizing this event tonight, and our wonderful audience as well. Thank you so much for being part of this tonight. (Applause.) And Maria Celeste Arraras, not only can I pronounce your name, but it's been a real pleasure working with you as well.
MS. ARRARAS: Thank you, Lester Holt. I hope we (meet?) again.
MR. HOLT: Okay. And we will see you again. The next debate on MSNBC, January 29th from South Carolina, anchored by NBC's Tom Brokow (sic) -- Brokaw.
For Maria Celeste Arraras, I'm Lester Holt. So long, everyone.
MS. ARRARAS: You know how to say my last name, but not his?
MR. HOLT: I can't say Brokaw, but I can say Maria Celeste Arraras. (Laughs.) So long, everybody. (Applause.)
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