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Congressional Black Caucus Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate - Part 1

Location: Baltimore, MD

Congressional Black Caucus Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate
Fox News Network
September 9, 2003 Tuesday

HEADLINE: Democratic Presidential Debate & Post-Analysis

GUESTS: Elijah Cummings

BYLINE: Brit Hume, Tony Snow, Fred Barnes, Mort Kondracke, Ceci Connolly, Carl Cameron

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS WASHINGTON MANAGING EDITOR: Good evening and welcome to Gilliam (ph) Hall on the campus of Morgan State University, home of the Bears.

I'm Brit Hume. Fox News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute are bringing you the first of two debates with the Democratic presidential candidates. Before we meet them and the journalists who will question them, we have some opening comments from Congressman Elijah Cummings, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Good evening. I'm Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland. On behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute, its chairman, Congressman Benny Thompson of Mississippi, and Fox News Channel, I welcome you to Baltimore's Morgan State University and this evening's nationally televised debate among the leading Democratic candidates for president of the United States.

As a nation we have placed our faith in the democratic process. Yet we must prepare ourselves to become informed participants in that process by doing our homework to determine where the candidates stand on issues of importance to our families, community and nation.

We Americans are living through difficult and dangerous times. Our informed choice in the presidential election next year will affect each of us, our children and generations yet unborn. For these reasons, tonight's debate is critical and it reminds us that we, the people, remain the ultimate authority in America.

My friends, our decisions will shape the substance of our future.

Thank you.


HUME: Thank you, Congressman.

Now, let's meet the candidates.

Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, elected to one term in the United States Senate and served as well as an ambassador to New Zealand.


The Reverend Al Sharpton, civil rights activist in New York and founder of the National Action Network.


Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, now serving his first term in office.


Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, now in his fourth term in Congress.


Howard Dean of Vermont, former five-term governor of the Green Mountain State.


Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, serving in his third term in the Senate.

And former vice presidential candidate.


Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, the former mayor of Cleveland, now in his fourth term in the U.S. House.


Congressman Dick Gerhardt of Missouri, serving a 14th term in the House, where he was formerly Democratic leader.


And Senator Bob Graham of Florida, serving now his third term in Congress, former governor of the Sunshine State.


The candidates' positions on the stage were chosen at random by representatives from each of their campaigns.

Here's the format for our debate.

Each candidate will be asked questions pertaining first to foreign policy and in subsequent rounds to domestic issues, with some focus on issues of importance to the Congressional Black Caucus.

Answers are limited to one minute each. We have green, yellow and red lights to help the candidates keep track of their time, and if an answer runs long, candidates will hear this sound.

At the end of the program, each candidate will also have one minute for a closing comment.

Asking the questions tonight will be three noted journalists. Farai Chideya, former television correspondent, author and now editor of


Ed Gordon, known to many of you from his work with NBC and Black Entertainment Television, currently contributing editor of Savoy Magazine.


And Juan Williams, author, senior correspondent of National Public Radio,analyst for Fox News and host of the syndicated program "America's Black Forum."


We ask the audience, please, not to applaud during the question and answer portion of the debate.

The first series of question swill deal with the war on terror and foreign policy.

And Juan begins that first round.

JUAN WILLIAMS, NPR: Good evening, Reverend Sharpton.

It's now been two years since the September 11th attacks on America. No other attacks have taken place. Is this proof that the Bush administration policies have been effective? And if not, why not?

REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, other attacks have taken place. But let us begin with what the Bush administration promised.

They promised us bin Laden. We are almost at the second anniversary, where is bin Laden?

That's what we need to ask George Bush.


George Bush has tried to distract us with other engagements. He has not gone after and successfully taken us out of harm's way of the people that did this.

And what they have attacked is the civil liberties of Americans. What has changed with the PATRIOT Act and the Anti-Terrorist Act is the liberties of Americans are now under attack, not the terrorists that did such a vicious and despicable act.

So I think that what we all need to do on September 11th is say to George Bush, promises made were not kept. We still have bin Laden at large. Newsweek magazine can find him, video and audio coverage can find him. This guys has out more videos than a rock star, but George Bush's intelligence agencies can't find him.


WILLIAMS: Senator Edwards, you recently said you supported a larger international force going into Iraq to take some of the pressure off of the U.S. military presence there.

If international forces don't show up, should we increase the U.S. presence or leave?

SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I don't accept that premise. I think that, in fact, I've been saying this for more than a year, which is that we have to have the help of our friends and allies, the United Nations, NATO, our other friends and allies around the world.

It's critically important for a number of reasons. One is to help relieve the burden on American troops and be able to bring some of these troops who've been there a very long time home.

Second is to reduce the burden on the American taxpayer. And I would remind everybody listening, this is the same administration who says we can't afford a real prescription drug benefit, we can't afford to invest in our public schools, we can't afford to address the serious health care crisis in America, but the American taxpayer can afford to pay for everything that's happening in Iraq right now on the ground.

Well, they're wrong about that. We need our friends and allies in this effort. And we also need it for the purpose of helping the lower—the anti-American sentiment on the ground in Iraq right now.

We need to lead in a way that brings others to us and creates respect for America, because at the end of the day we'll be safer in a world where America is looked up to and respected.


WILLIAMS: Ambassador Moseley Braun, Ambassador, what concessions would you make to France to get their vote in the United Nations? How much authority or control should the United States concede to join—to win, I should say, the U.N. mandate for a multinational force that would operate under U.S. command?

CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me say at the outset that this problem—and it is a problem—was caused in the first place when Congress advocated its Article 1, Section 8 authority under the Constitution and gave a president, who was not elected by the American people, the right to go on, on a free-for-all with a preemptory attack in Iraq. But that's beside us.

What he did was fritter away international goodwill, fritter away our international institutions, our friends around the world, Old Europe conversation—it was just over the top and unnecessary.

So now we're in a position of having to go back to those allies that that this administration thumbed its nose at and asked for help and burden- sharing.

I think in the first instance, it's not just about France; it's about Germany, it's about other members of United Nations and other members of NATO. We need to go back and make up. We don't have to relinquish and I don't think we can relinquish command and control. But at the same time, we have every responsibility to engage a multinational force to help us out of the quagmire in Iraq.


HUME: Next set of questions from Ed Gordon. Ed?


Senator Lieberman, let me start with you. No exit strategy; $87 billion asked for by the president. Some say that may be a low ball. Troops continue to die, and the United States is looking for better international support. Vietnam comparisons are now creeping up.

I'm wondering, and I've not heard this from this group specifically, is there a point that you feel it's fair for the United States to cut bait with all that we know, bring the troops home and simply send money over to rebuild?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ed, let me say first that what President Bush gave the American people on Sunday night was a price tag, not a plan. And we in Congress must demand a plan.

The president, obviously, when he took us to war, which I supported, did not have a plan for what to do the day Saddam Hussein fell. We have a right to demand a plan today, how to get international peacekeepers in, how to get our allies in to help in the rebuilding of Iraq.

I do want to say to my friends who have said tonight that they want international peacekeepers—I've been saying that for more than a year, but they will not send American troops.

This is a very important answer for the 140,000 Americans who are in Iraq and the military today and their families here in America, a disproportionate number of whom are African American.

I would be prepared as president to send American troops in there to protect the 140,000 who are there today, because international peacekeepers may not be there for months to come.

Bottom line, to answer your question—this is a battle in the war on terrorism. Failure and defeat is not an option. We can win it if we work together.

GORDON: Governor Dean, let me try that question on you specifically.

Is there an scenario that you could give us where you would say I will pull troops out entirely?

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can't do that. We cannot lose the peace in Iraq. I think the president's judgment was grossly called into question. I think if he wants to do something for veterans, he ought to figure out how not to have one-year tours and have six-month tours instead.

This is a battle for terrorism all right. It's a battle that was created by the president of the United States who ignored the greater danger in Iran and North Korea and al Qaeda at home to do it.

This was a mistake, this war. And the president's gotten into it, now we're going to have to get out of it.

But if we leave Iraq to chaos, al Qaeda may move in, if we leave Iraq to a fundamentalist Shiite regime with Iranian influence, we will be in both circumstances worse off than we were when Saddam Hussein was president.

Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. Saddam Hussein was a dreadful man. What we should have done is tried to focus on establishing a democracy in a Palestinian state and bring peace to the Middle East instead of invading Iraq and causing more complications and more death and more pain for our American families.


GORDON: Senator Kerry, let me address this to you. Picking up on what Governor Dean just suggested, do you see this war as a mistake? And you have, perhaps more than any other up here, suggested that the president has misled the country. I'm wondering if you believe he did so intentionally.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I don't know the answer to that question until we have the full measure of the investigation into the intelligence and the intelligence failure here. We do know that that exists.

But we need to be successful. People keep asking what's the exit strategy. The exit strategy is victory. It's success in what we're seeking to do. But it's to be smart about it.

This president has turned his back on 200 years of tradition of our country in foreign policy. This president rushed to war against the advice of many in this country. He clearly didn't plan for the peace.

And it's extraordinary, it's an act of negligence of remarkable proportions, because this president began this war on his schedule. And there's no excuse for not having done what everybody said you need to do, which is build the support structure internationally.

We have to de-Americanize this war, we have to take the target off of American troops as fast as possible, we have to cede some authority for the humanitarian and the governance components of this, even as we take control of the security piece. That's the only way to be successful. And no, we do not need or want more American troops to do that.


HUME: Farai Chideya has the next questions.



Congressman Kucinich, in Sunday night's speech the president said, "We have learned that terrorist attacks do not come from the use of strength, they come from the perception of weakness." Do you agree?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we have to understand that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, nor with al Qaeda's attack, nor did they have anything to do with the anthrax attack.

I think Senator Kerry described well the direction we should be going in. I only wish that he had joined with me in an effort to organize Congress to vote against the war.


I think that what we need to do now is to get the U.N. in and to get the U.S. out. And the way to achieve that is to have the United Nations handle the collection and distribution to the Iraqi people of the oil revenues with no privatization, have the U.N. handle all the contracts, no more Halliburton sweetheart deals, and have the U.N. create the circumstances for rebuilding an Iraqi government. I think that nothing less than that will enable the United States to get out of there and extricate ourselves.

Furthermore, we have to repeal the PATRIOT Act, which is a basis of fear that was drummed up in this country without any rational basis for protecting this country.


We're being driven by fear, and I have to say that it's time for us to challenge that fear.


CHIDEYA: Thank you.

Senator Graham, last year the Congressional Budget Office indicated that Iraq could pay for its reconstruction by selling oil, but the war has stunted its oil revenues.

It's also raised this question: Should Iraqis pay with their oil for damages from a war that we initiated?

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I will support whatever is required to protect our brave men and women in Iraq. I will not support a dime to protect the profits of Halliburton in Iraq.

In my judgment...


If you notice what the president said on Sunday night, he said that he would agree to an internationalization of the military in Iraq, but when he talked about an internationalization of the economic and political decisions in Iraq, all he said is, "We want to turn it over to the Iraqis as fast as possible."

That is the latest example of the blank-check mentality of this president.

Let me read to you what the resolution was that most members of Congress on this podium voted for, Congressman Kucinich and I voted against.

The president's resolution said, "The president is authorized to use the armed forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate."

My friends, those who voted for that gave the president a blank trust, a blank check. We cannot trust this president with a blank check.


CHIDEYA: Thank you.

Congressman Gephardt, the same question about oil. Should we be using Iraqi oil revenues to pay for the damages from the war?

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We need the help of the international coalition. We need to rebuild Iraq, but we need the help of the international coalition to do it.

I told this president a year and a half ago that if he wanted to deal with Iraq he had to get the U.N., he had to get the NATO to help us, that we needed their money and their personnel.

It is incomprehensible to me that we are here today six months, five months after the conflict ended, and he still has not gotten any money from any other country and any people of appreciable numbers from any other armed forces.

This president's foreign policy is a miserable failure. He has failed the American people...


... and he's failing the people in Iraq. He needs to get help.

We've got our young people over there being hurt. We've got people over there being injured and killed. It's costing a billion dollars a week. He needs to get the help from the international coalition that he should have gotten months ago. He has not done what he should do as president of the United States.


HUME: And that concludes this first round of questioning.

We continue now with the theme of foreign policy, the war on terror and national defense.

Ed Gordon has the next set of questions.


GORDON: Thank you, Brit. I appreciate it.

Congressman Gephardt, let me stay with you.

Mr. Kucinich and Mr. Graham have suggested this. Should Congress have perhaps not, if you'll allow this, wrapped themself in the flag as they did seemingly to many Americans and perhaps been a little more steadfast in not allowing this president to go to war as quickly?

GEPHARDT: I met the president in the Oval Office on 9/12. I told him two things. I told him that we had to trust one another on these questions of life and death and that we had to try to put politics aside, to try to find answers to keep our people safe. That's our highest responsibility.

A few weeks later, I began to hear about Iraq, and I said to him in another meeting that if you wanted to deal with Iraq, you've got to get help and you've got to go to the U.N. I said, "We created the U.N. It's our organization. We're the leader. We need to get the help that we need."

Finally, he went to the U.N. And I said he gave a good speech. He said, "This is a world problem, not just an American problem."

I said, "That's correct."

He said, "I need your help. If I'm going to get the U.N., I got to show that I've got Congress behind me."

I said, "Fine, but I want language in the resolution that says you're going to exhaust the process at the U.N. and you'll have a plan."

He never had the plan and, incredibly, four, five months after the war is ended, he does not have the help that we need. It is an abomination that he has not gotten our country and our troops the help that we need.

When I'm president, if he hasn't done it, I'll get the help that we need. I'll preserve the alliances that Democratic and Republican presidents put together over 70 years in this world.

Thank you.


GORDON: Mr. Kucinich, let me ask you. Reverend Sharpton hinted at this.

Cynics have suggested the president promised Osama bin Laden's head and couldn't deliver it so he turned his focus to Saddam Hussein and Iraq. Do you believe that specifically to be the case?

KUCINICH: Well, when you consider the fact that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 and the fact that the day after 9/11 there was a meeting in the National Security Council where Donald Rumsfeld said that the administration ought to use the opportunity to go after Iraq, I think that the attack in Iraq was a foregone conclusion after 9/11 even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

So the president misled the nation. And he misled the nation into believing that there were weapons of mass destruction.

Dick—who is a good friend of mine—Dick, I just want to say that when you were standing there in the Rose Garden with the president and you were giving him advice, I wish that you would have told him no, because as our Democratic leader, your position...


As our Democratic leader, your position helped to inform mightily the direction of the war. And I believe—I am glad—and I share your passion now about the direction the administration is taking this country.

But there is no question, this administration did not have to go to war against Iraq. There are no weapons on mass destruction have been found. And he basically misrepresented the case to the American people.


GORDON: Mr. Graham, let me ask you the same question that I tried with Senator Kerry, see perhaps if you will give me a little bit more straightforward answer. And that is whether or not—I don't mean that in any disrespect because he can't know this specifically. But in your heart, do you believe that the president intentionally misled the American people?

GRAHAM: Yes. I have been a member...


I was a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee for 10 years, chairman the last two years during the investigation into 9/11.

The president knew, or should have known, for instance, that the materials that he alleged were going to be used to rebuild Iraq's nuclear weaponry...


SHARPTON: Now you all don't get to the Black Caucus debate and start acting up, now.



GORDON: Continue, please.


GORDON: I believe he's making his appointment now, Mr. Graham. Go ahead.

HUME: Senator, you have the balance of your time. Please proceed.

GRAHAM: Ed, the president knew or should have known that there was no relationship between 9/11, there was no relationship between Osama been forgotten and Saddam Hussein.


The president also abandoned the war on terror in the spring of 2001 by moving military and intelligence resources out of Afghanistan to begin the war on Iraq. I believe that the war in Iraq has been a distraction from winning the war on terror in Afghanistan, in Yemen, in Syria and the other places where it's yet to be fought.

That's why I voted against the resolution.


HUME: Farai, you're next.

CHIDEYA: Thank you.

I wanted to ask Ambassador Braun a question that came from one of many people who wished that she could be here tonight.

A mother of twins in New York City wants to know how you'd address the problem of terrorism concerning Saudi Arabia, a country from which much of Osama bin Laden's money allegedly comes.

MOSELEY BRAUN: You know, I'm glad you asked the question.

I would like to respond in part to your last one about strength.

You know, strength in the war on terrorism is not represented by bravura and bullying and striding around the world stage pushing people around. It's not represented by the kind of showing off that we've seen, failing to—making the speeches and using the words, but not even putting the money in the state and local governments for first responders, for the police and fire and the emergency workers to protect people.

This administration will not work with others, will not ask directions.

And they're spending like drunken sailors. We have a blown-up budget deficit.

Strength in my mind would have represented—would have been represented by a singular focus on getting the criminals who violated every American on 9/11, who destroyed the fabric of our confidence in our ability to protect ourselves and would work with others to go forward and begin to hunt out these criminals wherever in the world they might be found. And that's not what's happened under this administration, which is why we have to replace them in 2004.


CHIDEYA: Thank you.

Reverend Sharpton, 30 years ago, on September 11th, an American- supported coup in Chile led to the beatings, deaths and disappearances of thousands of Chilean citizens.

Under what circumstances would you, as president, support covert action against other governments?

SHARPTON: I think that we should always and only go forward with action if we are there to protect American lives. But I think that we are not even discussing that when we talk about Iraq.

Let's be clear that this president sent the secretary of state to the U.N. with alleged evidence of imminent danger. We are now several months after he says the war is over and we have not seen any of that evidence.

And what bothers me is that some in the Congress that supported the president should have asked him before they gave him entrance what the exit was.

I've never heard of people acting like they didn't know we needed an exit when they gave him the entrance. That is a miserable failure, for us to allow this president to play these kinds of games.


As president, I would become involved only if there were American lives at stake.

I would not—I took the same position in Liberia when I went to Ghana four weeks ago. I would not run around trying to be the world's bully, and I would not act like a gang leader like George Bush did saying, "Let's get on," when I got troops on the ground.


CHIDEYA: Thank you.

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