CNN/Los Angeles Times Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate - Part 1

By:  Alfred Sharpton, Jr.
Date: Feb. 26, 2004
Location: Los Angeles, CA

CNN
SHOW: CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL 21:00
February 26, 2004 Thursday 9:00 PM Eastern Time

HEADLINE: Democratic Presidential Debate

BYLINE: Larry King

HIGHLIGHT: Democratic presidential debate.

BODY:
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much. Good evening, everybody, from this beautiful university, the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, before a wonderful crowd of folks. There are four Democratic candidates, myself and two questioners from the Los Angeles Times. This is a combined presentation of CNN and the Los Angeles Times. It'll run 90 minutes.

As you can tell by the setting, this is going to be very informal. There are no strict rules of debate, no opening speeches, no closing comments. We'll question them. They can question each other. And we hope that you benefit from this by learning better who's going to lead this country in the next four years.

With us tonight is Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, the Reverend Al Sharpton and Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.

With me to question the candidates are Janet Clayton, the editorial page editor of the Los Angeles Times, and the Los Angeles Times national political correspondent, Ron Brownstein.

I'll start the go-round. We can jump in at any time. And we'll start with Senator Edwards.

The other day, you said that you can inspire this nation. Do you mean then Senator Kerry cannot?

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. What I mean is that somebody who comes from the same place that most Americans come from, I grew up the son of a mill worker, in a family like most families in this country. I've seen the problems that people face every day in their lives...

KING: And now you're saying Senator Kerry doesn't see that?

EDWARDS: I'm saying he comes from a different background. I mean, he's a good man. He's a good candidate. He'd make a good president. And I'd be the first to say that. But we come from different places, and we present different choices.

And throughout the course of this campaign, I have talked about issues that are in here: poverty, race, civil rights, things that I care about deeply, things I think go to the core of what the Democratic Party's about.

KING: So you didn't mean to imply that you and the others can't?

EDWARDS: No, I know that I can, is what I'm saying.

KING: It's just that you can?

Did you take any offense to that?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: None whatsoever. I think John has a run a terrific campaign. He and I are friends, and I don't take offense at that.

And I respect completely where John comes from and the story of his life. It's an American story. But there are many other American stories, Larry. I've had experiences that John hasn't had and others here haven't had. And we all bring to the table our life.

I believe that my 35 years of experience fighting against powerful forces in this country that don't want to do things for the very people John is talking about, and leading and fighting in international affairs, national security, military affairs, is critical to what this country needs today in terms of leadership.

KING: You're saying you're just different?

KERRY: Well, of course we're different. But I think what's important is, all my life, all my life, from the time that I fought in a war alongside many of the people who had a very different life experience from me-I mean, the kids I fought with were kids out of the barrios of Los Angeles, and the kids from South Central of Los Angeles, and from the south side of Chicago and South Boston and a lot of other places, because they couldn't get out of the draft. They didn't know how to make those phone calls. They didn't have the ability to have a choice.

And when I came back from Vietnam, I spent a lot of my years fighting for those people to be able to get ahead. And I've spent all my life doing that, and I intend to do that as president of the United States.

RON BROWNSTEIN, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Senator Edwards, can I jump in?

Are you saying that biography is the central difference in the choice that you represent versus Senator Kerry? Or is there a broader difference in the direction you would offer the party as the nominee and the country as the president?

EDWARDS: There's a fundamental question here, Ron, that has to be decided by voters in this country-Democratic primary voters-which is, first, do we need real change in America and real change in Washington, D.C.? If people believe we do, I do.

Then the second question is: Do you believe that change is more likely to be brought about by someone who has spent 20 years in Washington, or by someone who's more of outsider to this process-somebody who comes from the same place that most Americans come from?

That is a fundamental choice.

If I can go back for a brief second to...

KING: Well, I want to clue the other two, too.

EDWARDS: Absolutely. Well, I don't want to interrupt. Let...

KING: Reverend Sharpton, why are you in this race?

REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, let me say this. First of all, I do not think that it is fair to say that there are two Americas. There are many Americas. Our only problem in America is not just class. Many of us have problems that have succumbed to class barriers but still have the race barriers, or the barriers of language if you are Latino, or the barriers of sexual discrimination if you are, one, a woman or gay and lesbian.

So I think it's very simplistic to just say that it's two Americas, one for the wealthy, one for the poor.

Earl Graves, who supports my campaign, very wealthy man, but still faces discrimination. Gays and lesbians, they may make a lot of money, they still face discrimination. Latinos that have problems because of language discrimination. So I don't think that it's as simple as class.

I also think if we're talking about experience-I was talking with Bishop Brookings (ph) who is here with me tonight. I don't see how anyone that supports civil rights could support the Patriot Act.

You talk about a difference of direction, Senator Edwards, the Patriot Act...

(APPLAUSE)

The Patriot Act that you supported is J. Edgar Hoover's dream. It's John Ashcroft's dream. We have police misconduct problems in California, Ohio, Georgia, New York, right now.

KING: The question...

SHARPTON: And your legislation helps police get more power.

So I think that we've got to really be honest if we're talking about change. Change how, and for who? That's why I am in this race.

(APPLAUSE)

BROWNSTEIN: Reverend Sharpton, earlier in this race, you've also said, in response to something from Senator Edwards, that where you come from doesn't really guarantee where you'll end up. There are plenty of wealthy people who are good, and there are plenty of less affluent people who haven't been as good.

Now you're saying the two Americas doesn't add up either.

SHARPTON: No, no, I didn't say that. I didn't say that at all.

BROWNSTEIN: Is it two Americas-you say the two Americas is not the total picture.

When you add up both of these things, what are you saying about Senator Edwards...

SHARPTON: No, no, no, I say that...

BROWNSTEIN: ... and his message? Are you saying that there is something inauthentic about what he is saying?

SHARPTON: I defended-no, I defended Senator Edwards, saying, when he was attacked for raising class, I think that it is good that he does that. But I don't think we should stop at class.

If we're going to talk about the differences of background in America, he is right to say there is a difference in America. But we can't limit it to just class. We've also got to deal with race, we've got to deal with gender, we've got to deal with sexuality.

KING: Are you...

SHARPTON: And we've got to deal with discrimination based on language. That's what I'm saying.

KING: But this was only the first question.

(LAUGHTER)

SHARPTON: But he's got two answers to one. I'm trying to get mine. I believe in affirmative action.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

KING: I'm following you around, Al.

(LAUGHTER)

Congressman Kucinich, why are you here?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm here to provide the people of this country with a real choice in this election. Some of the differences that are here are stylistic. I'm offering some substantive change in this country.

KING: But logically, it appears like you're up against it. Why stay in?

KUCINICH: Well, because I'm the voice for getting out of Iraq, for universal single-payer health care, for getting out of NAFTA and the WTO...

(APPLAUSE)

... for having our children go to college tuition-free, for saving Social Security from privatization.

KING: But you can have that voice as a congressman. You can have that voice as...

KUCINICH: And I have that voice as a congressman. In this race, though, there are real differences of opinion, Larry. And this is what this debate is about today.

I led the effort in the House of Representatives in challenging the Bush administration's march toward war. Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards both voted for that war.

I led the effort against the Patriot Act. Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards both voted for it.

I mean, there are differences.

KING: You're here to make statements then?

KUCINICH: Oh, no, no. I'm here to be the next president of the United States...

KING: But, logically, that doesn't appear to be happening.

KUCINICH: But you know what? That's a conclusion that the people watching tonight will be able to make, not the media.

KING: All right. I want to...

(APPLAUSE)

Janet may have a question, then I want to open up another area and start it with Ron.

JANET CLAYTON, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": Yes. Senator Kerry, I wanted to ask you, this country's deeply divided, and some of the things we've been talking about tonight already indicate that.

If you win, Republicans are going to be expected to work to undermine you. And if you lose, the Democrats are going to do everything they can to further tarnish President Bush so that a Democrat can win in 2008.

I wanted to ask you, is this all that Americans have to look forward to: perpetually polarized administrations, loved by half of the country and loathed by the other half?

KERRY: Well, Janet, let me say to you that I don't think John or any of us here are offering a polarizing campaign. What I'm proud of is that in Iowa, in New Hampshire, in Missouri, all the states that followed, I've offered a positive vision of what we ought to be doing in America.

CLAYTON: Right, but that's not what I was asking.

KING: Her question was, the country is polarized.

CLAYTON: The country is polarized.

KERRY: Well, the country is polarized because we have a president who is polarizing. I mean, look at what he did the other day with a constitutional amendment. He's trying to divide America. He's trying to divide America...

(APPLAUSE)

You know, this is a president who always tries to create a cultural war and seek the lowest common denominator of American politics, because he can't come to America and talk about jobs.

He can't talk to America about health care; he doesn't have a plan. He can't talk to America about the environment, our legacy to our children, because he's going backwards. He can't talk to America about keeping a promise of No Child Left Behind, because he's leaving millions of children behind every day.

He can't even keep his promise about the deficit. It's the largest in history. He is digging into Social Security. He has squandered the good will toward America after September 11th.

And so, Americans don't yet have a choice. I mean, we're vying for the nomination.

KING: But that's what you're running...

KERRY: Once we have a nominee, this country will have an opportunity to hear a positive vision of how we can offer hope to Americans, optimism about the possibilities of the future, not divide America but bring it together to find real solutions. And that's what I'm offering: real solutions.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: You mentioned the constitutional amendment. Rosie O'Donnell today got married in San Francisco. I think Ron Brownstein has a question in that regard.

BROWNSTEIN: Let me ask you, Senator. I want to sort of burrow in a little bit and understand your views of exactly what the role of Washington is, Senator Kerry.

You say you oppose gay marriage. You also oppose the constitutional amendment to ban-federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Do you think Georgia and Ohio, or any other state, should have to recognize a gay marriage performed in California or Massachusetts? And if not, why did you vote against the Defense of Marriage Act, designed to prevent that, in 1996?

KERRY: I said very clearly-I could not have been more clear on the floor of the United States Senate. My speech starts out expressing my personal opinion, that I do not believe-you know, I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.

But notwithstanding that belief, there was no issue in front of the country when that was put before the United States Senate.

And I went to the floor of the Senate and said-even though I was up for reelection, "I will not take part in gay bashing on the floor of the United States Senate. I will not allow the Senate to be used...

(APPLAUSE)

... for that kind of rhetoric."

BROWNSTEIN: But you also said in that statement...

KERRY: But let me just finish.

BROWNSTEIN: You also said in that statement that you believe the Defense of Marriage Act was fundamentally unconstitutional. And if the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, isn't President Bush right, that the only way to guarantee that no state has to recognize a gay marriage performed in any other state is a federal constitutional amendment?

KERRY: In fact, I think the interpretation-I think, under the full faith and credit laws, that I was incorrect in that statement. I think, in fact, that no state has to recognize something that is against their public policy.

And for 200 years, we have left marriage up to the states. There is no showing whatsoever today that any state in the country, including my own-which is now dealing with its own constitutional amendment-is incapable of dealing with what they would like to do.

And I believe George Bush is doing this-he's even reversed his own position. He's reversed Dick Cheney's position. He is doing this because he's in trouble. He's trying to reach out to his base. He's playing politics with the Constitution of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

BROWNSTEIN: But let me just nail down one thing very quickly.

So are you saying that, now that gay marriage is on the table in a place like California or Massachusetts, that you would support the Defense of Marriage Act?

KERRY: No, because...

BROWNSTEIN: That it's not...

KERRY: ... the Defense of Marriage Act is the law of the land today.

KING: And you would support it today?

BROWNSTEIN: And you would leave it...

KERRY: ... no votes to take it back. And I think it's more important right now to pass the employment nondiscrimination act, hate crimes legislation, and begin to move us forward so we have on the books those laws that will allow us to protect people in this country.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Janet, you have a question for Senator Edwards.

CLAYTON: Senator Edwards, you also oppose gay marriage?

EDWARDS: I do. I do. But can I...

CLAYTON: So why would you have opposed Rosie O'Donnell getting married today? Why does that make a difference? Why is that a threat?

EDWARDS: Here is my belief. I believe that this is an issue that ought to be decided in the states. I think the federal government should honor whatever decision is made by the states.

I want to say a word in answer to the question you asked very directly. I would not support the Defense of Marriage Act today, if there were a vote today, which is the question you just asked Senator Kerry. I'm not sure what he said about that. But I would not vote for it.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: You would not vote for it?

EDWARDS: I would not. I would not for a very simple reason. There's a part of it-there's a part of it that I agree with, and there's a part of it I disagree with.

The Defense of Marriage Act specifically said that the federal government is not required to recognize gay marriage even if a state chooses to do so. I disagree with that.

I think states should be allowed to make that decision. And the federal government shouldn't do it.

And can I say just one other word about...

BROWNSTEIN: The part that you agree with is what?

EDWARDS: Well, the part I agree with is the states should not be required to recognize marriages from other states. That's already in the law, by the way, without DOMA.

Can I just say one other thing, because the other people have talked about this? On the constitutional question, it is really important for us to step back from this.

Senator Kerry just talked about the political use of the Constitution. What's happening here is this president is talking about first amending the United States Constitution for a problem that does not exist. The law today does not require one state to recognize the marriage of another state.

That's number one. And that's been the law for many, many years.

Number two, we have amended the United States Constitution to end slavery, to give women the right to vote. This is clearly nothing but politics. It's a problem that does not exist today. And we need to stand up very strongly on that.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Al?

SHARPTON: I think is not an issue any more of just marriage. This is an issue of human rights. And I think it is dangerous to give states the right to deal with human rights questions. That's how we ended up with slavery and segregation going forward a long time.

(APPLAUSE)

I, under no circumstances, believe we ought to give states rights to gay and lesbians' human rights. Whatever my personal feelings may be about gay and lesbian marriages, unless you are prepared to say gays and lesbians are not human beings, they should have the same constitutional right of any other human being. And I think that that should be...

(APPLAUSE)

BROWNSTEIN: How would you effectuate that? How would you do that?

SHARPTON: I would say that they have the constitutional right to do whatever any...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: So you would have another amendment?

(CROSSTALK)

BROWNSTEIN: You would have a constitutional amendment?

SHARPTON: No, I wouldn't-first of all, I think we've got to deal with a lot of constitutional amendments. If Bush wants to deal with it, let's get to ERA. Let's deal with a lot.

You know, it's funny they want to leapfrog over a lot of movements for constitutional amendments and do this.

This is where I agree with Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards. Bush is trying to go from race baiting with quotas in 2000 to gay baiting in 2004. And all of us ought to be united that he does not scapegoat the gay and lesbian community like he did minorities four years ago.

KING: Dennis. Dennis Kucinich...

(APPLAUSE)

SHARPTON: The issue in 2004...

KING: Al?

SHARPTON: The issue in 2004 is not if gays marry. The issue is not who you go to bed with. The issue is whether either of you have a job when you get up in the morning.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Isn't marriage inherently a man and a woman, inherently?

KUCINICH: No. And I think that...

KING: Not inherently a man and a woman?

KUCINICH: I think that's what we're talking about here. There's a question of civil marriage, and there's a question of marriage as performed by the church. We're talking about civil law here.

And Janet raised a question earlier about polarity. What we have here is an example of what happens when you have a president who looks at the world with polarized thinking, of us versus them.

The same kind of thinking that led to a war in Iraq, an unnecessary war, is leading to an unnecessary cultural war here, because it should be widely assumed by all Americans that equal protection of the law ought to made available, regardless of race, color, creed or sexual orientation.

KING: Is the determination here which of the four of you would make the best president, rather than running tonight against President Bush? Aren't you running against each other?

KERRY: Larry, can I come back to a point?

KING: Because aren't you running...

KERRY: This discussion we've just had is exactly where the Republicans want us to spend our time.

I just came from Ohio, from Youngstown and from Cleveland, where I met the steelworkers who are out of work. They don't have health care. They don't have jobs.

This president has gone from a promise of creating 4 million jobs to about 3 million jobs net lost. That's a 7 million swing. I mean, there's one basic rule: When you're digging yourself a hole, stop digging.

(APPLAUSE)

This guy wants to make his tax cuts permanent now.

I think the real-no, the real issue in front of this country-this is not the biggest issue in front of the country, that we were just talking about. The biggest issue...

KING: It's the biggest story today.

KERRY: It's not even the biggest story. The biggest story today, Larry, are 43 million Americans who have no health care. The biggest story today is the people...

(APPLAUSE)

The biggest story are the workers that I met with out in front of Vons supermarket, the UFCW workers who have been out there walking for five months. A husband and a wife who haven't worked in five months because they can't get health care.

And you've got companies like Wal-Mart that are stripping underneath them, that hire part-time people, that have actually advertised to come and work, so they won't do their health care.

(APPLAUSE)

That's what this race is about.

BROWNSTEIN: The economic issues are very real...

KING: We're going to get to them.

BROWNSTEIN: ... in a great deal of depth. But I want to ask Senator Edwards a question.

Do you think that answer is sufficient for a general election, especially in your part of the country? Can you tell people in the South that values issues are secondary and that we should be talking about health care and the economy, education? Or do you have to convince them that, whether the issue is the death penalty or gay marriage or whatever, that you do share their values?

EDWARDS: Of course you've got to do both. You don't get to tell people what to think in any part of the country. You don't get to say to voters, "This is what you can consider and this is what you should not consider." They're going to consider everything.

Now, it is absolutely true that the economy is a huge issue. I think jobs is actually the most important component of that. Health care is a huge issue. What's happening overseas and our image around the world is a huge issue. No doubt about any of that.

But people are going to consider these other things. And for us to assume that that's not true is just a fantasy. It's not true.

We need a candidate at the top of this ticket who can connect with voters everywhere in America. And if we don't have that, we're going to be in trouble.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, let me ask you directly, given the views that Senator Kerry has expressed over the years and the votes he's cast on issues like the death penalty, the Defense of Marriage Act, his argument that he would have, in effect, a litmus test for Supreme Court justices, they would have to be pro-choice, given that record, do you think he can meet your test and connect with voters in the South and in the border states in the general election?

EDWARDS: I think that's his test to meet, that's his...

KING: Well, do you think he can?

BROWNSTEIN: Do you think he can?

EDWARDS: I think it depends on what's happening in the country at the moment. What I know is that I can.

I mean, if you step back from this for just a minute. I mean, in order for us to win this election, number one, we're going to have to have a candidate who can appeal outside the Democratic Party. We have to motivate our party and our party base. And all of us believe in the core Democratic values, everybody sitting at this table. But the question becomes: What do we do to attract independent voters? Because we have to get these people.

KING: And you're saying you could do that better?

EDWARDS: I know I can do it. If you look at the primaries that have been conducted so far, I mean, I've got a significant lead...

KING: But he's won most of them.

EDWARDS: Yes, but if you look at the independent...

(LAUGHTER)

He has. He has. That's a fair statement. But remember, it's Democrats who are voting in these primaries largely, but there are also independents voting in these primaries. And the independents have been voting for me.

Some of them vote for Senator Kerry, but I have a lead among these people between the two of us. And the other...

KERRY: Can I speak to that?

EDWARDS: You need to let me finish first. But the point I'm trying to make here is I have actually won one. This is not something we have to guess about. I've won in a part of the country that's a very difficult place for a Democrat to win.

I won against the Jesse Helms political machine in North Carolina. I mean, it's a powerful, powerful presence. Actually I saw a poll today that shows in North Carolina, my state, admittedly, I'm leading President Bush, Senator Kerry's behind me.

But we have to be able to compete in all these parts of the country. If you step back from this for just a minute and you think about the states where we have to be able to be successful, places like Arkansas, Louisiana, West Virginia, Ohio, which Senator Kerry just made reference to, New Hampshire, which will probably be a swing state this fall, when I go through those states one-by-one, all states that we need to win and we need to do well with, I would concede that Senator Kerry may have an advantage in New Hampshire.

I would not believe he has an advantage over me any place else. I think I have the advantage in these other places.

KING: I want to...

KERRY: Can I to speak to that?

BROWNSTEIN: Please.

KERRY: Because there's nothing, nothing in the returns in 18 out of 20 primaries and caucuses so far that documents what John Edwards has just said. I won Independents and Republicans in Iowa.

KING: You mean he's not telling the truth?

KERRY: There's nothing that documents what he just said. I'm just telling you that I won Independents, and many Republicans crossed over and registered as Democrats for the first time to say, "I'm voting for you in this race."

BROWNSTEIN: It is also true, though, that your vote share among Independents...

KERRY: Let me just finish.

BROWNSTEIN: ... was lower than among Democrats in virtually every state there's been an exist poll.

KERRY: Let me just finish.

I won in Tennessee, and I won in Virginia.

And the test of this-I've heard John Edwards himself say this. John has said many times, "We got to stop stereotyping the people in the South." The people in the South believe the same things as people in the rest of the country.

Now, I believe that's true.

EDWARDS: It is true.

KERRY: And I also know that I have been-when I went to the United States Senate in 1985, I was one of the first people to fight for deficit reduction. They care about balancing the budget in the South.

I've been a prosecutor. I've sent people to jail for the rest of their life. They care about law and order in the South.

I'm a gun owner and a hunter, though I've never contemplated going hunting with an AK-47. And I believe I can speak to that culture.

I'm a veteran. I've served in a war. They care about that.

And I believe when it comes to jobs, health care, education, protection the environment, breathing clean air, drinking clean water, the people of the South care about the same things. And we can win in the South.

KING: We're going to get to that area. One quick question before we do, though...

(APPLAUSE)

... before Janet asks a question.

You are against capital punishment, except in the case of terrorism.

KERRY: Correct.

KING: I've done a lot of shows recently dealing with the death of little children. A person who kills a 5-year-old should live?

KERRY: Larry, my instinct is to want to strangle that person with my own hands. I understand the instincts, I really do. I prosecuted people. I know what the feeling of the families is and everybody else.

But we have 111 people who have been now released from death row-death row, let alone the rest of the prison system-because of DNA evidence that showed they didn't commit the crime of which they were convicted.

After spending-I myself worked to get a person out of jail who had been there for 15 years for a murder that person did not commit.

Now, our system has made mistakes, and it's been applied in a way that I think is wrong.

Secondly, I don't believe that, in the end, you advance the, sort of, level of your justice and the system of your civility as a nation-and many other nations in the world, most of the other nations in the world, have adopted that idea, that the state should not engage in killing.

(APPLAUSE)

Because they have very bad memories of what happens when the state engages in killing.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Before Janet asks a question, Senator Edwards, I know you agree with capital punishment.

EDWARDS: Yes.

KING: What about this case of-that means the United States nearly executed over 100 people who didn't do it.

EDWARDS: Right. Very serious issue, and it means we need to take lots of serious steps to deal with it, which means using DNA testing, which John just spoke about.

It means making all of the most modern technologies available.

It means making the court system work, not just for those who can hire the best lawyers money can buy, but for folks who have to have indigent counsel. I mean, I've seen what happens in court rooms. I know how important it is to have a lawyer representing an indigent defendant who...

KING: Why do you favor...

EDWARDS: ... knows what they're doing.

KING: ... why do you favor capital?

EDWARDS: Because I think there are some crimes-those men who dragged James Byrd behind that truck in Texas, they deserve the death penalty. And I think there...

(APPLAUSE)

... are some crimes that deserve the ultimate punishment.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Janet?

CLAYTON: I actually had a question for Reverend Sharpton and Congressman Kucinich.

(APPLAUSE)

Both of these two guys here have raised millions of dollars in special interests-from special-interest people. How, then, would you say they're able to counter Ralph Nader's argument that both parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, are beholden to what he calls "corporate paymasters"?

SHARPTON: Let me say this before I answer that...

(APPLAUSE)

... because a lot of my career is on the criminal justice system.

Senator Edwards, are you saying, since you agree that there's a lot of problems in the death penalty-and no one has mentioned the racial disparity about those on death row-that therefore, you would suspend your support of capital punishment until we dealt with those problems?

EDWARDS: No, I would not.

SHARPTON: So you would proceed even with the flaws?

EDWARDS: I think those changes need to be made in the system. We need to make those changes. I've been fighting for those changes in the United States Senate. But that does not...

SHARPTON: But you would let them continue?

EDWARDS: But that does not mean-and I think states can-for example, North Carolina can evaluate whether its own system is working. I think they vary from state-to-state. The state of Illinois did that and came to a conclusion that their system was not working. I think we should support that if they make that determination.

SHARPTON: That sounds like states' rights again. I don't agree with that.

EDWARDS: No, it is not.

SHARPTON: But anyway, I think that in terms of Ralph Nader, the best way to answer Ralph Nader is how we've done tonight. We're all on stage. Many of us have said what Nader said in 2000, some of it had validity. But all of that is being said now in the primaries. There's nothing that I know of that Nader is saying that Kucinich and I are not saying in the primaries. So what does he need to say it in November for if it's being debated now?

(APPLAUSE)

And we'll deal with it in the convention. And we'll come out of the convention-and we'll come out of the convention with a nominee.

That's why I give credit to Senator Kerry, that the debates are not limited, everyone is being heard.

We are saying many of the things he said he wanted said. He should have endorsed one of us. Let's come out with a winner and beat George Bush and not have...

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman Kucinich, would you address Janet's question? Then we'll have a question from Ron.

KUCINICH: I think the American people tonight will be well- served if we can describe, for example, why we all aren't for a universal, single-payer, not-for-profit health care system.

I think the American people will be well-served if we can describe why, for example, Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards are not for canceling NAFTA and the WTO, as I would do, because that is how you save the manufacturing jobs.

And I think they'd be well-served if they would be able to see the connection, as I will just explain, between the cost of the war in Iraq and cuts in health care, education, job creation, veterans' benefits, housing programs.

See, this debate ought to be about substantive differences which we do have.

(APPLAUSE)

And I have the greatest respect for Senator Edwards and Senator Kerry, but we have substantive differences along these lines that I think it would help to explicate here tonight.

KING: All of you are pledged to support the winner of this four?

SHARPTON: And work for him. I will travel...

KING: You will work?

SHARPTON: I will travel all over this country to make Al Sharpton president.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

KING: And stay in the best hotels.

SHARPTON: Even better hotels.