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CNN/Los Angeles Times Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate - Part 3

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Date:
Location: Los Angeles, CA

KERRY: Let me just say that I think John has an interesting approach, and parts of it could be parts of a larger approach.

But here's what I would do. I want to give the middle class in America a tax break, and I want to make companies more competitive.

So my program is more ambitious, because what I do is I roll back George Bush's tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, and I take part of that money and I create a federal fund that takes all the catastrophic cases in America out of the private system, which means, effectively, every individual in every business in America will be capped at $50,000 of risk.

That will provide each American who has health care today with a $1,000 minimum reduction in their premium. That's cash in the pocket. That's a tax break. And it'll make American companies more competitive.

BROWNSTEIN: Senator Edwards, that is one of the major differences between your plan. Is that idea affordable? Do you think the federal government can take on the obligation of paying out three- quarters of the cost of all catastrophic health care claims?

EDWARDS: Well, I think the issue becomes this: Whether you believe health care is an isolated problem-it's a very serious problem for the American people-or whether you think it's part of a bigger frame that it needs to fit in.

I, myself, believe that there are two major problems in the economy in America today. One is 35 million Americans who live in poverty. When we lift Americans out of poverty, which I believe is a moral responsibility-and I've laid out new ideas about how we deal with that problem-we actually strengthen the economy because we put them in the middle class, which is the engine of this economy.

We also have a struggling middle class, an extraordinarily struggling middle class. Over the last 20 years, we've had a sea change. Twenty years ago, most of our families were saving money, they had financial security, it's all changed. Now they're saving nothing. In fact, they're going into debt.

And that means if one thing goes wrong-if they have a health care problem, which is what we're discussing now, if they have a financial problem or a layoff-they go right off the cliff.

My view is that health care is a very important component of this problem. But it's not the only component. You know, it's why I mandate health care for all kids and cover the most vulnerable adults and take on health care costs in a very serious way.

But we also have to find ways to not only lift these families out of poverty who are living in poverty, but in addition to that, help families save. Match what they are able to save, dollar-for-dollar. Help people to invest. Help the millions of families who want to buy a home, for example, by giving them a credit that allows them to make the down payment...

BROWNSTEIN: Senator Kerry, you're both starting with the same revenue stream, because you basically want to repeal the same elements of the tax cut by and large.

KERRY: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: Why do you make the choice that you make to shift more toward health care? Is he wrong in basically covering about 5 million fewer people by the estimates than you are, and shifting that money toward helping the middle class accumulate assets?

KERRY: Well, I also shift money towards the middle class, and I do it by closing the egregious loopholes that reward companies for taking jobs overseas. I mean, you mentioned earlier the people who have contributed to me were those companies that go overseas. They're in for a big surprise. I'm shutting those loopholes. We're going to end the notion that the American taxpayer is going to actually subsidize somebody to take jobs overseas.

(APPLAUSE)

There are about $40 billion worth of benefits, and there are about $150 billion of overall noneconomic (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

We have a tax code today that's gone form 14 pages to 17,000 pages. And most Americans don't have one of those pages.

What I'm going to do is shut those loopholes. And we're going to invest in education, health care, job creation, raising people out of poverty.

KING: Janet has a question. But Dennis wants to make one response, and then Janet. Dennis, then Janet.

KUCINICH: I agree with my friend John Edwards about we need to do something about poverty. And that's why I'd like you to join me in this proposal to have a universal single-payer, not-for-profit health care system, because that would lift tens of millions of Americans out of poverty. And, Larry...

KING: By the way, Harry Truman proposed that in 1948.

KUCINICH: Well, and you know what? John Conyers and I introduced the bill in this Congress. And that would provide all coverage for everyone, all medically necessary procedures, plus vision care, dental care, mental health care...

KING: In other words, socialism?

KUCINICH: ... long-term care.

(APPLAUSE)

Wait a minute. You know what? What we have now, Larry, what we have now, what we have now, Larry, is predatory capitalism which makes of the American people a cash crop for the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Well, said.

KUCINICH: And so I'm talking about a change. And I'd like them to join me.

CLAYTON: I want to talk in a broader way back to the economy and outsourcing, this idea of taking U.S. jobs overseas because they can be done more cheaply there.

Now, Senator Kerry, you supported free trade. Isn't the loss of good paying jobs to those who can do it faster and cheaper an unavoidable consequence of open international markets that you support?

And as a follow to that, how do you square your support, and I think this would be true of most of you, how do you square your support for affordable clothes and food and all of the things that you can kind of find at the Wal-Marts, cheap goods done overseas, with the fact that you also support unions who fight for higher wages, better working conditions and make consumer goods more expensive? It seems to me you're having it both ways here.

KERRY: No, not at all. I don't know you wanted to ask first.

CLAYTON: You first and...

KERRY: The answer is not at all. And, yes, some of those jobs are going to go overseas and I have been very honest with workers about it. I mean, I stood in a UAW hall in Dayton the other day and a fellow asked me-the shop steward said, "Can you promise me you're going to stop all the jobs from being outsourced?" I said, "No, I can't promise that."

What I can promise you is, first of all, there is a differential between the different kinds of jobs. Some jobs we can't compete with. I understand that. But most jobs we can.

And if we provide a lower cost of health care in America, a lot of companies will not feel compelled to leave, number one.

Number two, if we take away these loopholes in the tax code that actually encourage people to go overseas, we change that differential.

Number three, if we start enforcing trade law-look, I voted for some trade agreements. Yes, I did. I believe in trade, and I'm not going to run for president suggesting that America ought to bring a wall down on it.

But I believe in smart trade, fair trade, not this open-ended exploitation.

In NAFTA, we have signed agreements, three of which in labor are enforceable. They have not been enforced. We have signed agreements on environment; they haven't been enforced.

In the China trade agreement, we have anti-surge provisions. We have anti-dumping provisions. Notwithstanding the dumping and the surge, the administration did nothing.

I will fight for the American worker and guarantee that we enforce that.

And finally, I'd just say to you, China has been violating intellectual property laws, access to market, currency manipulation. Airbus undercut Boeing, hurt the workers there.

This administration does nothing.

I will fight for labor and environment standards in our trade agreements, and we'll enforce them. And it's that simple.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: And let's go around the horn, with an answer to Janet's question.

Go ahead, Senator.

EDWARDS: OK. If I could just say a word about this, you asked at the beginning of this debate about differences. This is a place where this difference really matters. This is not some academic trade policy Washington issue for me.

I have seen up close what happens when mills and factories close. I saw what happened in my own hometown when the mill that my father worked in closed. I saw the faces of the men and women who had worked there-and I'd worked there myself when I was young-had worked in that mill for decades, done the right thing, been responsible, and all of a sudden, they had nowhere left to go, nowhere left to go.

I take this very, very personally.

There is a difference here. There is a difference between Senator Kerry and myself. In fairness, we both voted for permanent normal trade relations for China.

But if you look at the remainder of our record, I voted against final fast track authority for this president. Senator Kerry voted for it. I voted against the Chilean trade agreement; he voted for it. I voted against the Singapore trade agreement; he voted for it. I voted against the African trade agreement; he voted for it. I voted against the Caribbean trade agreement; he voted for it.

I wasn't in the Congress when NAFTA was passed; he voted for it. But when I campaigned for the Senate, I campaigned against it.

And the reason is because these trade agreements do not have...

(LAUGHTER)

... do not have-what do-he's got response, I guess.

KING: No, he looks shocked.

(LAUGHTER)

Let...

EDWARDS: But the reason-if I can just finish this, I'm sorry, I'm almost finished.

The reason I make this point is that these agreements did not have the kind of labor and environmental protections that needed to be in the text of the agreement and be enforced.

BROWNSTEIN: So you're saying his commitment-the commitment he's making in this campaign is suspect because he hasn't lived in it the past? Is that what you're saying?

EDWARDS: I'm saying what he is saying now is different than some of the votes he's cast in the past. And, if I might finish, is different, more importantly, our records are different on this issue.

In fairness to him, I think what he's saying going forward is similar to what I'm saying going forward. But we have very different...

KING: All right. Al and Dennis want to comment...

SHARPTON: What I think...

KING: Senator Kerry wants to respond because he seems shocked.

SHARPTON: Fine.

KERRY: Well, I am surprised, because in his major speech on the economy in Georgetown this past June, John never even mentioned trade.

And the fact is that, just the other day in New York, in The New York Times, he is quoted as saying to The New York Times that he thought NAFTA was important for our prosperity. Now he's claiming that he was against it and these other agreements.

The fact is that the Chile trade agreement and the Singapore agreement have very strong enforcement mechanisms, because those countries actually have stronger enforcement, in some cases, than we do here in our country.

So I have said clearly for a number of years now, we have to have labor and environment standards in all of our trade agreements. That is exactly the same position as John Edwards.

BROWNSTEIN: Can I just clarify one point, Senator? Can I just clarify one point?

You said you were critical of NAFTA. Obviously, you were not here to cast a vote on it. If you became president, what would you do about it? Would you seek to change it? And how would you seek to change it?

EDWARDS: I would use, for example, the Free Trade of the Americas agreement as a vehicle for renegotiating NAFTA. I don't-Dennis and I don't agree about this. He wants to cancel NAFTA, and I can't remember...

SHARPTON: I want to cancel it.

EDWARDS: They want to cancel it. I'm not for that. I don't think Senator Kerry is for that either. But I think we do need to renegotiate it.

And the problem with NAFTA is these side agreements don't work. You have to put these labor/environmental protections in the text of the agreement in order for it-in order for the...

BROWNSTEIN: Will that be enough?

SHARPTON: No, I don't think so. But see, I think that's why we have to have a convention and delegates have to be able-we have to keep these guys honest. You can't say that, "I had to vote on Iraq despite some of the clause, but you shouldn't have voted on NAFTA with the clause." We've got to be straight and come with a platform that makes sense.

KING: It sounds like there's going to be a wild convention...

SHARPTON: This cost jobs for Americans. And it is unequivocal evidence that it costs Americans jobs. People were unemployed.

It also went below labor and human rights standards abroad.

We need to cancel NAFTA unequivocally. We need to have standards that we would not deal with nations that would put laborers in those kinds of situations.

We cannot protect American corporations and call that patriotic and not protect American workers and call that protections.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Dennis?

KUCINICH: Larry, throughout this campaign I have visited city after city where I've seen grass growing in parking lots where they used to make steel, they used to make cars, they used to make ships. And let me tell you something: NAFTA and the WTO must be canceled. Let me tell you why. The WTO, for example, it doesn't permit any alterations.

When we, as members of Congress, sought from the administration a Section 201 procedure to stop the dumping of steel into our markets so we could stop our American steel jobs from being crushed, the World Trade Organization ruled against the United States and said we had no right to do that.

Now, the World Trade Organization, as long as we belong to it, will not let us protect the jobs. This is the reason why we have outsourcing going on right now. We can't tax it. We can't put tariffs on it.

And that's why I say, in order to protect jobs in this country and to be able to create a enforceable structure for trade, we need to get out of NAFTA, get out of the WTO, stop the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, stop the Central American Free Trade...

KING: And you can do that by edict?

(APPLAUSE)

KUCINICH: Well, the president has the power to withdraw from both NAFTA and the WTO upon a six-months notice. And I would exercise that authority to help save American jobs.

KING: Janet has a question on immigration.

CLAYTON: Yes, gentlemen, you are here in California, where one of every eight people living in the United States live. The biggest growth in California in the last decade has been because of immigration. California has to pay for the education, health and environmental costs of both illegal and legal immigration.

Since immigration is considered a net plus for the country, why shouldn't the federal government share in the cost of immigration for California and for New York and for the other states that bear those costs?

KING: Senator Kerry first.

KERRY: Well, we do share, in some cases, for obviously Medicaid, and we share with respect to some of the health reimbursements that take place in the system. But not enough, and I understand that.

This is why my health care plan-and I think all of the Democrats have a health care plan. George Bush has no-let's stay focused here. George Bush has no health care plan at all for most Americans, other than those who can save money. And that's not most Americans today.

So that's the beginning.

Secondly, we need immigration reform in this country. I think everybody understands that. But we ought to be paying for a health care plan that helps to cover-if we funded education, the president kept the promise of No Child Left Behind, if we fully funded Title I, if we funded Head Start, if we did the things that the federal government has promised to do, a mandate on special needs education, and we're not funding it.

When I'm president, we are going to fully fund special needs education, and that will come out of the closing of those loopholes and the rollback of the tax cuts.

CLAYTON: But that does not address the question of the states bearing the cost for illegal-particularly illegal immigration.

KERRY: Look, one of the things we need to do is obviously have a level of immigration reform that's not a patchwork, not a Band-Aid. The president's plan is really a plan to exploit workers in America. It's not a real immigration reform plan.

What I want to do is have a full immigration reform plan that involves earned legalization, involves the technology and support we need on the border, work with President Fox in order to have a legitimate guest worker program. And finally, we need to crack down on those people in America who hire people illegally and exploit workers in the United States.

BROWNSTEIN: Senator Kerry, can I follow on that...

KERRY: If we did all of those together, we can begin to cope with the problem...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: You talk about earned legalization, and that is basically a process by which people who came here illegally could work toward legal status.

KERRY: Sure. Absolutely.

BROWNSTEIN: Why would that be fair to all of the people who came legally and are waiting in line to become citizens? How would you create equity for those who play by the rules?

CLAYTON: And further, why is that fair to native-born Americans who are competing for those same jobs?

KERRY: Because so many of those people have children in America and because of our constitution, those people were born in America, they are American citizens. And I don't think it is a good thing if they are working, if they've paid their taxes, if they've stayed out of trouble to start separating families and destroy the good work they've done through those years to be part of our country.

KING: Senator Edwards?

KERRY: I think it makes more sense to bring them out of the shadows and start working them toward citizenship.

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS: Excuse me, I'm sorry.

KERRY: Go ahead.

EDWARDS: No, no, I was just going to say, it's interesting you talk about the experience here in California. I grew up in a small, rural community in North Carolina that's now half Latino.

And the families who came to my hometown came there for the same reason my family came there, because they wanted to build a better life for their kids and their families. They are making an enormous contribution to that small town and that community.

And the right thing to do for these families who are working hard, being responsible, raising their kids-it's really a pretty basic thing-the right thing to do is to let them become American citizens, to have the right to earn citizenship. It's just that simple.

(APPLAUSE)

It is the difference between what is right and what is wrong.

BROWNSTEIN: And do you worry that will encourage more people to cross illegally...

EDWARDS: No, I think...

BROWNSTEIN: ... knowing that, later down the line, there may be an opportunity to become citizens?

EDWARDS: I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you.

All I was going to say is, no, I think this needs to be combined not only with better security on our border, which Senator Kerry talked about, but I think we also should expand legal immigration to release some of the pressure that exists for folks coming across our borders.

KING: I see. Should foreign-born-be a change of Constitution and become president?

(LAUGHTER)

KERRY: Do you have a California interest?

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Just asking. I have no particular...

SHARPTON: As long as they don't have a record of being terminators.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

KING: What you favor that?

KERRY: I've never really thought about it that much.

KING: Never thought about it?

KERRY: I haven't thought about it, no, I don't...

KING: Think about it.

(LAUGHTER)

KERRY: It's worth thinking about. At the right time, I might think about it. But that would entitle my wife to be a president, so it's a good idea.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: That's right.

What about you, Senator Edwards?

EDWARDS: I'm in the same place he is. It's not-to be honest with you, it's not something I've thought about, with respect to our Constitution.

KING: Al?

SHARPTON: I would support Mrs. Kerry coming behind me in as president.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Dennis, foreign-born president?

KUCINICH: You know, we are a nation of, beginning with Native Americans, but also we're a nation of immigrants as well.

KING: We are.

KUCINICH: And I think that, being a nation of immigrants, we should have an approach where someone who has lived here a long time and has participated in this system should have the rights and aspirations that any American would have.

I want to say something about this immigration issue, though. What the immigration and the migrant workers who come up from Mexico-what this is all about is corporations seeking cheap labor, which, by the way, is what NAFTA and the WTO are about.

And what we need to do...

(APPLAUSE)

... we need to make sure that any immigrant workers are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act so they can have at least the minimum wage, time-and-a-half for overtime; that they're protected by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, so they can have a safe workplace.

When you take away the incentives...

KING: We only have about...

KUCINICH: ... Larry, take away the incentives for cheap labor from these corporations, and then you give people who are here some dignity, and then they'll pay-and then there's some taxes that will cover the cost for the states.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: We have about 15 minutes left. We'll take a break and be back with those minutes, cover some more bases, right after this. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KERRY: I have to tell you that the only place in which I have taken a different position is where George Bush is not implementing something the way he said he would.

In Iraq, there was a right way to do it and a wrong way. He chose the wrong way.

On No Child Left Behind, he abandoned his promise. He's not funding it.

BROWNSTEIN: What was the right way?

KERRY: He's not funding it.

(LAUGHTER)

With respect to-with respect-trade, he doesn't enforce it.

Look, he has broken every-this man is a walking contradiction. This is the biggest say one thing, do another administration in the history of our country. And he has broken almost every promise he made, about Social Security, about children, about the environment, about deficits, about creating jobs. And I think those are the real issues of this campaign.

BROWNSTEIN: Can I ask you about one of those areas...

KERRY: Sure.

BROWNSTEIN: ... where you say he has not fulfilled his obligation? No Child Left Behind. You voted for No Child Left Behind in 2001, now you say he hasn't funded it enough. But you're also saying the accountability provisions, the provisions that are designed to see whether kids are advancing in reading and math...

KERRY: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: ... need to be changed as well. Right now we measure schools by whether they improve student performance in reading and math.

KERRY: Correct.

BROWNSTEIN: You say now they should also be judged by things like teacher attendance, student attendance. Isn't the point of accountability to measure not these inputs, but the output, whether students are actually learning?

KERRY: Absolutely. The most important...

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: So why change it?

KERRY: ... is the result.

Because what's happening under the Bush administration is that they are disrespecting teachers across the country, they're making it punitive. The way they're applying the adequate yearly progress standard, it's being done in such a broad, sweeping, uniform way, that you can have a few kids who enter the school and may have language difficulties that year of entry, and they could drag the whole school into a status of failure as a result, which negates all the good efforts of every teacher there.

It's so arbitrary, Ron, that it's destroying morale of the school systems of our country.

Now, I'm for...

(APPLAUSE)

I fought to help pass it. I want standards. I want accountability. But you cannot do it without the resources, and you also can't do it in a way where you turn schools into testing factories that are pushing social studies aside, and everybody's focused on being on page 260 on day 53, and that's the wrong way to teach.

BROWNSTEIN: Do you agree, or is he watering it down?

EDWARDS: Well, I think, first of all, there are multiple problems with No Child Left Behind. Let me go through them quickly.

KING: You voted for it, too, though?

EDWARDS: I did vote for it. Both of us voted for it. And I think Dennis may have voted for it.

KUCINICH: I voted for it, as well.

SHARPTON: I was against it, by the way.

(LAUGHTER)

EDWARDS: I think the problem, if we can just sort of pinpoint the most serious problem with No Child Left Behind, is not just the accountability provisions. I also believe in accountability. We need accountability in order to improve our public schools.

But the problem is when they find the school that is struggling, instead of doing the things that-this thing is supposed to be patterned on North Carolina, at least in part. Instead of doing the things we did in North Carolina, which is to bring expertise, resources to the school, to improve the quality of the school that's struggling, that's not what's happening with No Child Left Behind.

And if I can just step away...

BROWNSTEIN: Well, when a school is struggling, they give the parents the option to transfer their kids to another public school. They give them afterschool tutoring. How are parents worse off if you identify this school as struggling?

EDWARDS: Well, what about the-but Ron, what about the other kids in the school? If you'll let me finish.

BROWNSTEIN: Sure.

EDWARDS: If we can step away from this, we've spent so much time tonight talking about what George Bush is doing wrong. And George Bush-this No Child Left Behind clearly has to be changed. It's not being funded. I believe that.

But what about our alternative vision for America? What about what we believe needs to be done about public education?

I mean, Al referred to this earlier. I think we not only have two Americas because of the people who are doing very well financially and the rest of America, I think we've got two public school systems in this country. We've got one for the most affluent communities and one for everybody else. It's wrong.

(APPLAUSE)

And the answer to this is not to just stop what George Bush is doing and not to use the same old, tired Washington solutions. The answer is, in my judgment, to give incentive pay to our best teachers to get them to teach in schools in less affluent areas, to give scholarships to young people who are willing to do the same thing, to seriously strengthen and expand our earlier childhood programs so that they will go in much younger than 4 years of age, which is what Head Start is aimed at. Doing the same thing with our afterschool and making afterschool available.

And the one thing we haven't talked about tonight are the hundreds of thousands of young people who want to go to college, they're qualified to go, and they're not going because they can't pay for it. We ought to let every young person in America...

(APPLAUSE)

... who wants to go to college and are willing to work there have their first year of tuition...

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Al?

SHARPTON: I think we also have to deal with the issue of college debt forgiveness for many that did go, that find themselves a decade later trying to pay their way out.

I think that this is again why we need to have a convention where we're strong. We keep hearing, "I'm against what Bush did, but I voted for it."

(LAUGHTER)

And I think that is what has hurt our party, is that we switch and bait. We vote here, but it's wrong there.

We need to unequivocally say where we want to bring America. We want to save public schools, we want to give teachers pay, we want to give people incentives to become teachers.

We need to talk about more of an urban agenda tonight. We're dealing on Super Tuesday with urban areas where we have not really dealt with in these early primaries.

What's going on with our child care? What is going on with foster care?

(APPLAUSE)

What is going on with afterschool programs?

What is going on with police conduct? We've had problems in Ohio, in Cincinnati, in LA, Donovan Jackson, Timothy Stansbury in New York.

I want to know our positions on what we're going to do in the urban centers.

That's why I'm going to be in Boston with delegates, because I don't want people just telling me who looks nice. I want us to have an America that treats everybody right.

(APPLAUSE)

KUCINICH: I think we can-we're coming close to a consensus here. And the proposal that I introduced into the Congress is something that I would hope that we could all agree on, and that is we can close the achievement gaps by having a universal kindergarten program for children ages 3, 4 and 5, where they can learn reading skills, social and education skills, and have a nutrition component. That would be funded by a 15 percent reduction in that bloated Pentagon budget.

Secondly, we can achieve...

(APPLAUSE)

We can achieve, John Edwards, universal college education for all, fully paid at all public colleges and universities, by taking the Bush tax cuts that are going to people in the top brackets and put that right into a fund so our young people can go to college tuition- free.

This is how...

(APPLAUSE)

This is how, Larry, this is how we address the issues of poverty, because in each case we lift people out of poverty by giving them a chance to have day care covered. We lift people out of poverty by giving them the opportunity to go to college tuition-free.

KING: We're running close on time. Do you want to add something quickly...

(APPLAUSE)

CLAYTON: This is all well and good. But everything you guys are talking about costs a lot of money.

KUCINICH: I just said how you pay for it.

CLAYTON: Where are you going to get it?

KUCINICH: Janet, I just said...

SHARPTON: The bloated Pentagon budget, canceling Bush's tax cuts, dealing with re-regulating big business, where you have trillions of dollars lost with offshore corporations paying no taxes. All you have to do is have a system where the rich are not given a bye and the poor have to pay all the taxes.

(APPLAUSE)

CLAYTON: We're in a war that's expensive. How are you going to pay for it?

KING: One at a time. Quick.

EDWARDS: The way to pay for it is to stop Bush's tax cuts for people who make over $200,000 a year. We cannot raise taxes on the middle class and people who are struggling every single day. That's a huge mistake.

CLAYTON: That's not nearly enough.

EDWARDS: That alone is not enough. Let me finish.

Second thing is we need to raise the capital gains rate for people who make over $300,000 a year. The very idea that in our country, people who make their money from investments are paying a lower tax rate than people who work for a living is wrong, and we need to put a stop to it.

(APPLAUSE)

And that's what Bush is for.

And then we also need-and I'll let you speak-they also need to close some corporate loopholes.

KING: Only got two minutes here.

KERRY: Under no circumstances should we allow George Bush or others to pay for his tax cut by cutting Social Security benefits. We don't need to do that. That is not fair.

(APPLAUSE)

And there are other alternatives, if you need to try to do something.

But here's what's important. If you look at the closing of those loopholes, and you look at the rollback of the tax cut, you can afford the health care plan I've laid out, the education plan.

And there's one other piece. I want to excite national service again in our country. And I think we can take young people...

(APPLAUSE)

... we can take young people who graduate from high school, and if they will serve in their communities locally, helping other kids-helping kids who are at risk-tutoring, mentoring-helping seniors who are shut-in-if they will do that, we're going to pay for their full in-state four-year college public education.

(APPLAUSE)

That's something we can achieve in this country.

BROWNSTEIN: Can I ask sort of a summary question for the two of you? As you've listened to the differences between each other tonight and through these dozen or so earlier debates, have you heard anything that either one has said that would make it impossible for you to run together as a ticket if it came to that?

(LAUGHTER)

Do you have any fundamental, philosophical objection...

KING: Would you run with John Kerry?

BROWNSTEIN: ... that would make it impossible for you to run together in either order?

EDWARDS: I think an Edwards-Kerry ticket would be powerful.

(LAUGHTER)

And that's the ticket that I think we should have.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Wait a minute.

BROWNSTEIN: Senator Kerry? Senator Kerry?

KING: All right, hold it. Are you saying-hold it-are you saying now that if you get this nomination, you will ask him to join you?

(LAUGHTER)

EDWARDS: He certainly should be considered. He's a very, very good friend.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWNSTEIN: And?

KING: And where does Edwards stand in your thinking?

KERRY: I want...

KING: You have to be thinking about him. If you say you're not thinking about it, you're kidding me.

KERRY: I want to thank him for the consideration. I appreciate it.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Is he on your list? Is he on your list?

KERRY: I don't have a list. I'm running...

KING: You don't have a list?

KERRY: I'm running for the nomination.

BROWNSTEIN: But do you see any view that would make it impossible?

KERRY: I take nothing for granted in this effort. I'm campaigning in every state. I'm working as hard as I can.

And when I win the nomination, if I do, then I'll sit down and think about who I ought to run with.

SHARPTON: And that's why we all (UNINTELLIGIBLE) delegates, so whoever's there, we're going to have influence on whatever list.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

CLAYTON: So, Senator Kerry, I have a question for you, then. What quality-and his hair and smile don't count-what quality does Senator Edwards possess...

(LAUGHTER)

... that you wish you had...

SHARPTON: I thought you were talking about my hair and smile.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Thirty seconds. What quality does he have you'd like?

KERRY: I think he's a great communicator. He's a charming guy. I like him very much. He's a good friend of mine.

CLAYTON: Are you saying that's something you don't have?

KERRY: What?

KING: Charming.

CLAYTON: Is that a quality you don't have?

KERRY: I haven't thought about what quality he has that I would like, but I do admire him. I respect him. And he's run a terrific campaign.

KING: And, Al, do you expect to speak at the convention?

SHARPTON: I expect to accept my nomination...

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Thank you all very much.

Senator John Kerry, Senator John Edwards, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Ron Brownstein and Janet Clayton. I'm Larry King.

And if you joined us late, this will repeated tonight at midnight Eastern, 9 Pacific. You can see the whole debate repeated tonight at midnight Eastern, 9 Pacific. And following us will be a special edition of "NewsNight," recapping the debate.

Thanks for joining us from Southern Cal. Good night.

Content and programming Copyright 2004 Cable News Network Transcribed under license by FDCH e-Media, Inc.

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