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Public Statements

CBS "Face the Nation" Transcript

Interview

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CBS "Face the Nation" Transcript; with Governors Bill Richardson (D-NM) and Jennifer Granholm (D-MI), State Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), and Dan Balz from the Washington Post

MR. SCHIEFFER: Today on Face The Nation from Boston, the 2004 Democratic Convention and the Kerry-Edwards Campaign. The Democratic ticket of John Edwards and John Kerry is headed here to kick off the fall race. In a country almost evenly divided, what issues do the Democrats believe could turn the election? We'll talk with three leaders of the party, keynote speaker Barack Obama, candidate for the Senate from Illinois; Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, a key state in the election; and Convention Chairman Bill Richardson of New Mexico. Dan Balz of the Washington Post joins in the questioning. And, we'll have a 50th Anniversary Flashback on religion and politics. Then I'll have a final word on terrorism. But first, the Democratic Convention on Face The Nation.

ANNOUNCER: Face The Nation with CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer. And now, from the site of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Bob Schieffer.

MR. SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. From the floor of Fleet Center, where this convention will get underway on Monday, joining us here the Convention's keynote speaker Barack Obama, Michigan's Governor Jennifer Granholm, and Convention Chairman Governor Bill Richardson. Joining in the questioning this morning Dan Balz, our friend from the Washington Post.

Well, John Kerry says he wants to tame the rhetoric here. He wants to accentuate the positive, and eliminate the negative. But how do you do that in the campaign? What will the Democrats say? Well, Dan Rather interviewed Vice Presidential Candidate John Edwards yesterday. Here's the way that Edwards put it.

SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS (from videotape): What they want to know from us is, what are we going to do to make the country better, stronger, safer, create an America where people get a chance to do what their capable of doing, tomorrow is better than today, and not just in rhetoric, Dan. They want to hear the substantive ideas, specific ideas. What are you going to do to help us with our healthcare? How much is it going to cost? How are you going to pay for it? You know, what are you going to do to help us with our childcare? Where is that money going to come from? We're already going into deficit. These are practical issues that people face, and we have a responsibility to tell them what we're going to do, and how we're going to do it.

MR. SCHIEFFER: So, we'll ask our guests, Senator Obama, and we must say Senator Obama is now being talked about as being kind of a rock star of Democratic politics. He's run a sensational race for the Democratic nomination for the Senate out here. And he has been chosen to give the keynote address. Do you feel any pressure?

MR. OBAMA: Absolutely. First thing my wife said was, don't screw it up. But it's a huge honor, a great privilege, and particularly because I think that the Kerry campaign and the Edwards ticket is one that is hopeful and is really going to be able to project a sense of optimism.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let's talk a little bit about what Senator Edwards was talking about there. He wants, and Kerry has made it clear he does not want this to be a lot of venom toward George Bush. How are you going to do that because the Bush campaign is going to be cutting on your campaign. They've been calling John Kerry flipflopper, liberal from Massachusetts, how do you overcome that? How do you resist it?

MR. OBAMA: I think slash and burn politics hasn't been effective. I think that the public is tired of it. When I travel across the state, as I've been doing for the last 18 months, what I'm struck by is how much people just want practical, commonsense solutions to the concrete problems that they're experiencing, economic security, figuring out how they can send their kids to college, making sure that healthcare is affordable. And if you provide them with meaningful, detailed solutions to those problems, people respond. What they don't want to hear is a bunch of partisan bickering, and those who practice those dark arts I don't think are going to do particularly well come November.

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MR. BALZ: Let me follow-up on that with a question for Senator Obama. Senator Kerry has proposed a $900 billion healthcare plan, he has proposed new spending on energy, education, and a variety of other areas. He's proposed some new tax cuts. He also says he wants to reduce the deficit significantly. At this point, it's not clear how he adds all that up. How is he going to do that?

MR. OBAMA: I don't think anybody expects at this stage that we've figured it out to the nickel. I think that what you see from Senator Kerry, and what you're going to see in this convention is laying out a broad set of priorities that contrast with the current administration, an emphasis on making sure as the governors stated, that we invest and incentivize jobs here at home as opposed to abroad, that we make sure that we expand healthcare so that it's more affordable particularly to children and people who are vulnerable, making certain that we can provide college educations at a time when the global economy is going to demand that kind of competitiveness. I think that Senator Kerry has been very clear that an overarching theme of that whole process is making sure that we get our fiscal house back in order. And he has suggested that although I'm painting broad outlines in terms of the direction that this country needs to move, I'm going to be dictating my policies on the basis of how I can make sure that we have stability in our fiscal system, and we are not loading up debts for future generations. And so I'm confident that the voters, as they watch this convention, are going to get a sense of the broad outline of what the Kerry platform is going to be. But, Senator Kerry is going to recognize once he is President Kerry that he is going to have to make choices, and prioritize, and I think fiscal responsibility is going to be one of those priorities.

MR. BALZ: But, it's part of the campaign laying out what those choices are, and so far it's not clear that he's doing anything other than telling a variety of audiences things they want to hear. People who want to see more on education, he tells them that, people who are concerned about the deficit, he tells them that.

MR. OBAMA: My sense is, if you look at what's happening during the course of the campaign, and what's going to be happening coming out of this convention, that the battle is going to be joint. At this point each campaign is laying out its broad priorities. People back in Illinois are just starting to focus on this campaign, and this convention really is the point of demarcation for the serious business of deciding who the next president is going to be. There's going to be an opportunity, I think for both sides, to examine in detail what their contrasting policies are, what their contrasting priorities are.

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MR. SCHIEFFER: Senator Obama, I want to ask you about something that President Bush said the other day. He said that the Democratic party is taking the African American vote for granted, is there a grain of truth in that?

MR. OBAMA: I think first of all I'm glad that the president addressed the Urban League. I think he made a mistake in not addressing the NAACP. My attitude is, if you're the president, you're the president of all people, including people who are your critics, that's part of the job. And I think that the fact that he squarely talked about the problems the Republican Party is having with the African American community is a healthy thing.

I want the Republican Party to compete in the African American community, but let's be clear, the reason that they have not done well is not because the African American community is ideologically predisposed to one party or the other. It's a very assessment of which party has looked out for civil rights, which party is focused on the issues that working people face, who is providing grants to kids to go to college, who is thinking about the uninsured, and the fact of the matter is, that the Democratic Party consistently has built its platform on the idea that we're going to bring people up, and provide opportunity to all.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Why do you suppose, if all that is true, that African Americans are not more enthusiastic about Senator Kerry?

MR. OBAMA: I think they are extraordinarily enthusiastic, but like most voters they haven't started paying attention and expressing that enthusiasm. Right now what we have is, up until this point, until the convention, we've got a lot of insider baseball. When you go out and you talk to people, they are impressed with Senator Kerry's commitment and devotion to this country. They understand, as they learn his story, that this is somebody who doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk. And as they get more familiar with that record I think they're going to warm up to him.

People have to recall, Bill Clinton was not the favorite of the African American community in his initial campaign. It took a while for people to become familiar with his record. And when they realized that this is somebody who is going to fight for them, they embraced him and stayed extremely loyal to him. I think the same thing is going to happen to John Kerry.

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