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CBS "Face The Nation" - Transcript

Interview

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CBS "Face The Nation"

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, one thing is for sure. This Democratic race is still very close. Yesterday, of course, Barack Obama won another caucus, the one up in Wyoming. He now leads Hillary Clinton in the delegate count, by our calculation somehow, about 113 delegates I think it is. Well, here to talk about what to do about Florida and Michigan, two people who have a real interest in it, Bill Nelson, senator from Florida who is working for Senator Clinton, by the way, and John Kerry, senator from Massachusetts who is campaigning this year for Barack Obama.

Well, Senator Nelson, hearing Howard Dean reminded me of the joke about the football coach who kept yelling out, give the ball to Leroy! And they wouldn't give it to Leroy. And finally, the quarterback hollered over, Leroy doesn't want the ball! It sounds like Howard Dean doesn't want the ball here. He's telling you folks to work it out. What's going to happen here?

SEN. NELSON: Bob, I've been trying for eight months. I started on this last July and August trying to avoid this train wreck. And the Democratic National Committee, the chairman, they were just hard over. You're going to do it our way or not, even though the state legislature a year ago last spring, a Republican legislature with a Republican governor, changed the date. The Democratic leader in the state senate even offered an amendment to try to put it back to February the 5th. It was defeated, the amendment, and the bill went on to pass. It was an election reform bill, so don't give me this stuff about every Democrat voted for the bill. It was about election machines and paper trails and all of that.

MR. SCHIEFFER: But what do you do now?

SEN. NELSON: Well, I felt so strongly about the right of people's vote to count as they intended their vote that I even sued Howard Dean and I sued the DNC. The federal judge didn't see it our way. So if we're not going to have the DNC seat the delegation as the will of the Florida people have expressed it, then the only thing I know to do is to do it over. And you can't put up the election machinery full bore, so you've got to go to a different device. And I would suggest mail in. You mail a ballot to every registered Democrat in the state of Florida. You mail it ahead of time so it can get overseas to the men and women overseas. And then the apparatus of the state government counts the votes. They confirm the signatures -- it's just like an absentee ballot --

MR. SCHIEFFER: Sure.

SEN. NELSON: -- on the envelope. So you've got to have the cooperation. So it's going to be up to Governor Crist and the legislature. They're going to have to --

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, who's going to pay for it, Senator?

SEN. NELSON: Well, that would have to be, since Governor Dean has said that he's not going to do it in the DNC, then the Florida Democratic Party is going to have to go out and raise the money. And we're looking at about $6 million.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Six million dollars.

Well, Senator Kerry, you are supporting Barack Obama here.

SEN. KERRY: Yes, I am.

MR. SCHIEFFER: What do you think ought to happen?

SEN. KERRY: I think the rules ought to be followed. I think that, obviously, Barack Obama believes very strongly that delegates from those states ought to be represented at the convention. And Barack Obama believes in inclusivity, but he also believes in playing by the rules, not changing them after the fact. He played by the rules in Michigan. He even went to the lengths of taking his name off the ballot as did every other candidate except for Hillary Clinton. Now --

MR. SCHIEFFER: And he and none of the other candidates campaigned in Florida.

SEN. KERRY: Correct. And they didn't campaign. Well, there was a campaign under the radar screen in Florida. And everybody knows that. A lot of money was spent in Florida, and Senator Clinton went there the night of the primary and claimed the victory. So in a sense here, what you see is sort of two different attitudes about how American politics ought to be played. Barack Obama will play by the rules, and he will do whatever the party and the states decide to do.

MR. SCHIEFFER: So if they decide to do what Senator Nelson's --

SEN. KERRY: He will play by the rules.

MR. SCHIEFFER: -- talking about, he'll do that.

SEN. KERRY: He will play by the rules. But let me emphasize that Senator Clinton is trying to change the rules in Michigan. She's saying, I won't accept a caucus. Which is, frankly, up to the state, also the party, and they had a caucus there. That's exactly what was there. So she's busy gaming it, frankly, in the same way that, unfortunately, I think she's gaming this commander in chief issue.

I mean, this week, they were busy in the Clinton campaign floating the idea of maybe having Barack Obama be vice president, you know, in the ticket. Well, the first threshold question about a vice president is, are you prepared to be president? Do you pass the threshold? So on the one hand, they're saying he's not prepared to be president. On the other hand, they're saying maybe he ought to be vice president. You can't have the argument both ways. That's exactly the politics that Barack Obama is running the change.

So he'll accept whatever the party and the states decide. Let's go forward. Let's get this done in a way that allows Michigan and Florida to be at the convention, brings the party together, units it, which is what his candidacy is about, and resolves this issue fairly.

SEN. NELSON: Bob, I did not come here to talk about Clinton versus Obama. I came here to talk about the right of people's vote in Florida to count and to count as they intended it.

SEN. KERRY: Which we agree on.

SEN. NELSON: And that's the principle that I'm going to stand on. And that's the principle that well before I endorsed Hillary, which was six weeks ago, last summer, eight months ago, I was trying to avoid this train wreck. Now, John is trying to make this into a Hillary versus Barack. They're both good friends of mine. I have endorsed Hillary, because I think she would be the better president. But the fact is that both Barack and Hillary have much invested to get this thing right. Because if Michigan and Florida are not seated, it is going to be monumentally consequential.

As a matter of fact, polls are showing -- 22 percent of independent votes in Florida are saying in fact that they are less likely to vote for the Democratic nominee as a result of the way the DNC is treating Florida.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, do either of you -- let me just ask you this question. Do either of you think that either candidate will benefit if this winds up at the convention and has to be resolved there?

SEN. KERRY: Of course not, absolutely not. Let me just say Bill's my good friend, and we campaign together a lot. And he's been a great champion of trying to work this out early. And he's been correct in fighting for Florida and in fighting for this to be done in a sensible way. And I applaud him for that. But we are in a campaign. We are trying to choose a nominee. And these approaches are relevant to this question of why people want change in America.

You know, I think people are just tired. You know, frankly, they look at this fight, and they say, what's going on? Where' the adult leadership? You know, what's happening? And you've got a candidate, Barack Obama, who is saying, I'll do whatever the party and the states want to do. I think that's pretty magnanimous. I think that's called big thinking, if you will, openness. He's not trying to squeak it.

"Whatever the states" means whatever the states and the party decides. If there's a -- but again, rules are rules. I mean, how could you run for president and suggest that the rules always ought to be changed in midstream and give confidence to Americans that you're going to play by the rules when you're president?

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you this, and we have about just a few seconds left here. Are you satisfied with Howard Dean as the chairman of the national committee?

SEN. NELSON: Well, he is the chairman, and the chairman ought to be getting the two campaigns together on a buy-in of how we're going to resolve this. And I have thrown out one suggestion which is a do- over with a mail-in ballot. So I would appreciate it very much if the chairman would get the DNC to sign up to this so we can move on.

MR. SCHIEFFER: And that would be satisfactory to Senator Obama.

SEN. KERRY: Again, he'll do what they decide. Speaking for myself, I don't think a mail-in is as democratic, if you will, in this context where I think they really ought to field the presidential race. They ought to get a chance to have people down there, not just do a mail-in. They ought to have a combination like Oregon --

SEN. NELSON: They would have --

SEN. KERRY: In Oregon, they have a combination where you do it. But I'm confident this can be worked out, Bob. I think the party will work it out. I think Howard Dean is doing his best to hold the rules but also to be fair and inclusive.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. We have to end it there. Thank you very much, gentlemen, for a very spirited discussion. I think we all learned something. We'll be back in a minute.


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