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Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate Sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute and Fox News Channel – Part 1

Location: Detroit, MI

October 26, 2003 Sunday


MS. IFILL: Now let's meet the nine Democratic candidates:

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, now in his fourth term in Congress. (Applause, cheers.)

Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, now serving his first term in office. (Applause, cheers.)

Reverend Al Sharpton, civil rights activist, from New York City. (Applause, cheers,)

Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, now in his fourth term in the House. (Applause, cheers.)

Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois, elected to one term in the United States Senate, and former ambassador to New Zealand. (Applause, cheers.)

Howard Dean, who served five terms as governor of Vermont. (Applause, cheers.)

General Wesley Clark, retired four-star general and former supreme commander of NATO forces. (Applause, cheers.)

Congressman Dick Gephardt of Missouri, serving a 14th term in the House, where he was formerly the Democratic leader. (Applause, cheers.)

And Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, serving in his third term in the Senate, and former vice presidential candidate. (Applause, cheers.)

The candidates' positions on the stage were drawn by representatives from each campaign. Now here is 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 too long, candidates will hear this sound. (Bell rings.) (Laughter.)

At the end of the program, each candidate will have one minute for a closing comment. We ask the audience to please limit applause during the question-and-answer portion of the debate.

Now, with the first question, Carl Cameron of Fox News.

MR. CAMERON: Thank you very much, Gwen. And thank you, candidates.

We begin tonight with Governor Dean. Governor, there was more violence this morning in Baghdad. A missile attack on the Al-Rashid Hotel claimed the life of an American military colonel, as well as injuring a number of others.

You opposed the war and now the $87 billion to fund its reconstruction and the stabilization of the region. What do you say to service members and their families who view your position as something short of supporting the troops?

MR. DEAN: I don't think servicemen and -women do view my position as short of supporting the troops. I've made it very clear that we need to support our troops, unlike President Bush, who tried to cut their combat pay after they had been over there and he doubled their tour of duty; unlike President Bush, who tried to cut—successfully cut 164,000 veterans off their health care benefits. I'd say all of us up here support our troops a great deal more than the president of the United States does. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. CAMERON: Senator Kerry, I want to direct the next question to you, in part because you voted for the Iraq resolution but have also opposed the $87 billion. To many, that speaks to an inconsistency that your candidacy has been criticized by for having a difficult-to-explain position on the Iraq war. Is it inconsistent for you to support the resolution and not the reconstruction money?

SEN. KERRY: Not in the least. In fact, it is absolutely consistent, because what I voted for was to hold Saddam Hussein accountable, but to do it right.

This president has done it wrong every step of the way. He promised that he would have a real coalition. He has a fraudulent coalition. He promised he would go through the United Nations and honor the inspections process. He did not. He promised he would go to war as a last resort—words that mean something to me as a veteran. He did not. He broke every promise. He's done it wrong.

And he's even doing this wrong, because what he ought to be doing is internationalizing this effort, going to the United Nations, asking the United Nations to take part in a larger way, which they would be willing to do if he was prepared to shift real authority to them. You have to take the target off of American troops, you have to get rid of the sense of American occupation, and that's the only way to invite other countries to be part of this.

And finally, Joe Biden and I brought in an amendment to ask, Americans are the wealthiest Americans to share. He wouldn't allow that to happen. I'm not going to vote for him to continue to do it wrong. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Next set of questions to Hewell Perkins.

MR. PERKINS: Gwen, thank you, and I'd like to welcome all of the candidates to Detroit. Reverend Sharpton, thousands rallied yesterday in Washington against the U. S.-led occupation of Iraq. You spoke to that crowd saying that it was time to bring the U.S. troops home right now. Would that not be an admission of defeat and would it not throw Iraq and the entire region into chaos?

REV. SHARPTON: First of all, my mother's from the South. One of the things I learned is you can't plant a watermelon seed and grow oranges. (Laughter.) You cannot get right out of wrong. Bush was wrong to go in in the first place. (Applause.) To delay coming out is not going to make it right. We cannot continue to play Bush roulette. There used to be Russian roulette. Now it's Bush roulette. (Applause) With the lives of American troops seeing every day with no real exit strategy. What's going to happen? Are you going to make it or not? We need to not get into another Vietnam. Talking about withdrawing with honor. Mr. Bush put the honor of this nation aside when he deceived the public by putting us in harm's way with no weapons of mass destruction - (applause) - we need to go to the U.N., we need to say that - (inaudible) - a multilateral commitment, and we need to show that we really love the troops by bringing the troops home. Why can't we bring them home now? (Cheers, applause.)

MR. PERKINS: General Clark, your campaign implies that your combat experience gives you a better understanding of the implications of war, but your political message is confusing. You have not only praised the President that you now want to defeat, but according to the Urban Institute voting guide, in February of 2003 you said this, "Saddam Hussein has these weapons and so, you know, we're going to go ahead and do this and the rest of the world has got to get with us." But you have also so far refused to take a firm position on the President's request for more money. Can you tell us exactly where you do stand?

GEN. CLARK: I'll be happy to tell you where I stand. I think I've been very consistent from the beginning. Right after 9/11, this administration determined to do bait and switch on the American public. President Bush said he was going to get Osama bin Laden dead or alive. Instead he went after Saddam Hussein. He doesn't have either one of them today. (Cheers, applause.)

I've been against this war from the beginning. I was against it last summer. I was against it in the fall. I was against it in the winter. I was against it in the spring. And I'm against it now. It was an unnecessary war. There was no imminent threat. On the other hand, just like Reverend Sharpton said, Bush got our, the President got all our troops out there, got them poised, committed the United States to this thing. What he didn't do was he didn't use diplomacy, he didn't use leadership, he didn't bring the rest of the world with us. He should have. There was time to do it. There was no imminent threat. And there's no excuse for his failure of leadership. You're right. I've been there. And I know that you don't start a military operation if you know what you're doing unless you know how you want it to end. This President didn't know how he wanted it to end. He doesn't know what he's doing today. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Carl has a follow-up.

MR. CAMERON: General, there is a long litany of comments from you, both in your time as a former television analyst and then over the course of the last several months, are we to understand that what you're saying now is that those things that you have said that were positive about the war was not what you meant? (Laughter.)

GEN. CLARK: No, I always, I'm a fair person, Carl. And when this administration's done something right, well, if they were Russians doing something right, Chinese doing something right, French doing something right, or even Republicans doing something right, -- (laughter) - I'm going to praise them. Now, this country was attacked on 9/11. And it was right that this administration went into Afghanistan. And I supported that war. So did ninety percent of the American people. That Taliban government should have been taken out. But the failure of this administration was not to put the troops in to finish the job against Osama bin Laden. And you know why they didn't do it? They didn't do it because all along their plan was to save those troops to go after Saddam Hussein. So I support them for what they did right. And I condemn them for what they did wrong. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Thank you, General. (Applause.) My question now is for Congressman Gephardt, who actually has taken a position on this $87 billion reconstruction request. You voted for it because you said you did not, in a statement, you said it was a bad idea to send a ambiguous message to our troops or an uncertain message to our friends or enemies in Iraq. Aside from message sending, is there no room for changed minds in this kind of debate?

REP. GEPHARDT: I think we all try to do what we think is right. That's what I try to do. I thought the right thing to do, even though I want part of it to be a loan, and have a lot of other suggestions about where the money could come from, in the end you're presented in the Congress with a vote, up or down, on the $87 billion. And I can't find it within myself to not vote for the money support the troops, our young men and women who are over there protecting us, dodging bullets in a very tough and difficult situation. And so I felt the right thing to do was to do that.

I agree with the view that this president had failed us. And I am very sorry about that. He hasn't gotten us the international help that we need. He still hasn't gotten the troops and the money that should have been there from the beginning.

But let me make one other point. We have got some differences here in opinion about this war and the money. But I think it's an abomination for this administration and this president to call people who disagree with him—and sometimes we do—as lacking patriotism. (Applause.) I think the highest act of patriotism is saying what we believe. (Applause. Cheers.)

MS. IFILL: Carl?

MR. CAMERON: Senator Lieberman, you've certainly not called the positions that your rivals have taken on the war and on the funding unpatriotic, but you have called it inconsistent. You've suggested that it's weak and that it sends a duplicitous message to the world. You heard a variety of opinions expressed by your rivals. Why are they wrong?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, I'm surprised to here this variety again. You know, this s a test of leadership at a difficult moment in American history. I've said this before, I'll say it again: Howard Dean, Carol, Dennis, Al—we have a different point of view on whether we should have gone into Iraq to get rid of Saddam Hussein, but they've been clear and they've been consistent, and I respect them for that.

We are trying to replace a president who doesn't level with the American people, who is not consistent. And we are not going to do it unless we also level. So I don't know how John Kerry and John Edwards can say that they supported the war but then opposed the funding of the troops who went to fight the war that the resolution that they supported authorized. I've been over Wes Clark's record and statements on this so many times. I heard him tonight take six different positions on whether going to war was the right idea. It took him four days to decide whether voting on the 87 billion was a good idea. The American people want leadership they can trust to do what's right for our country and have the courage to stick with that, whether it's politically easy or not. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: I would like to give Senator Edwards and Senator Kerry, in that order a chance to respond.

SEN. EDWARDS: Thank you. Well, my view of leadership is standing up for what you believe in, Joe. I have stood up for what I believe in. I believe that the Saddam was a threat that had to be dealt with; therefore I voted for the congressional resolution. However, I said at the time that it was critical for us to have a plan for what would happen now. This president has no plan of any kind that I can see.

Second, that we bring our friends and allies in and this becomes an international effort, not just an American occupation and an American effort. Then the president of the United States comes to us and says, I want $87 billion. Trust me on this—I'll be back next year to ask for more and more money.

Here's my view, Joe: For me to vote yes on that would be to give this president a blank check, and I am not willing to give George Bush a blank check. (Applause.) And I will never give George Bush a blank check.

MS. IFILL: Senator Kerry.

SEN. KERRY: Well, Joe, I have seared in me an experience which you don't have, and that is the experience of being one of those troops on the front lines when the policy has gone wrong. (Applause.) And the way you best protect the troops is to guarantee that you put the troops in the safest, strong position as fast as possible. Our troops are today more exposed, are in greater danger, because this president didn't put together a real coalition, because this president has been unwilling to share the burden and the tasks. And I will tell you the American people understand that. The way you best protect—this money could have been separated. There was a separate amount of money we could have given. Now, they've got enough money for the next few months. Nothing we did in that vote puts them at jeopardy. What we did was vote to protect the security of the troops in the long run by making clear how we do this. And, secondly, what happened to asking Americans to share the burden? Joe Biden and I had an amendment to ask the Americans who were getting $690 billion of tax cuts to give up $90 billion, and just get 600 (billion dollars) over the next 10 years, and George Bush couldn't even say yes to that. Instead he's dumping this bill on our children and on the deficit. I'm voting against that, because that's wrong.

MS. IFILL: Very briefly. I have to go to General Clark and have you respond to Senator Lieberman. General Clark?

GEN. CLARK: Thank you Gwen. Well, I wasn't in Congress. I wasn't able to vote on the $87 billion. But I want to make it very clear that I would not have voted on $87 billion.

I want to commend John Edwards and John Kerry and those who voted against this resolution. I didn't believe last year we should have given George Bush a blank check in Iraq. He said he was going to go to the U.N. Instead he started a war.

Now we're trying to give him another blank check. There's no telling what's going to happen. He still hasn't come forward with a strategy for how we're going to succeed on the ground in Iraq.

I think the best form of welfare for the troops is a winning strategy, and I think we ought to call on our commander-in-chief to produce it, and I think he ought to produce it before he gets one additional penny for that war. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: In the interest of getting everybody in on this debate, I want to go back to Carl Cameron for another question.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: May I respond, please?

MS. IFILL: Senator, we'll—you can respond in your next round.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I'll respond very quickly. I'm sorry.

MS. IFILL: Okay, very quickly.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay. I want to say, obviously I respect John Kerry's military service to our country. But that's not what this is about. This is about the votes that he's cast that I believe are inconsistent. In fact, why do we look back and wonder about our time in Vietnam? We didn't support our troops. If everyone had voted the way John Kerry did, the money wouldn't have been there to support our troops.

Tough decision; $87 billion is a lot of money -- $87 billion is a lot of money. It should have been less if George Bush had brought in our allies and had a plan. But in the end, if you want to be president, you've got to make the choice. I didn't duck it. I didn't play politics. I voted to support our troops.

MS. IFILL: Okay, with the moderator's privilege, we could go back and forth on this all night, but we really have a lot of ground to cover, so we would like to go back to the next question.

MR. CAMERON: And we can assure you, there'll be plenty of other bites at this apple. (Laughter.)

Senator Edwards, today comes as the two-year anniversary of the Patriot Act falls upon us. The Patriot --

REP. KUCINICH: Excuse me a minute. You missed some of us in this round.

MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: Yes, two of us didn't get to answer the last question.

MS. IFILL: And we're going to get to you as soon as everybody finishes rebutting. But right now it's to Carl.

MR. CAMERON: Believe it or not, much of this has been in rebuttal action and not actual formulated questions. And that's why we're—and you're coming up next, rest assured.

MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, that's just because nobody's mad at us. (Laughter/applause.)

MR. CAMERON: Senator Edwards, the Patriot Act, a piece of legislation that you voted for, a piece of legislation that has been much-criticized by virtually everybody on this stage, falls two years old today.

There has been a tremendous amount of criticism of John Ashcroft and the Justice Department for its enforcement of that legislation, legislation that you authored. Shouldn't it, in fact, be incumbent on those of you who wrote the legislation to take responsibility for it, other than those who are legally responsible for enforcing it?

SEN. EDWARDS: Well, I did. First of all, I think Carol Moseley Braun and Dennis Kucinich should be heard. I hope you're going to have questions for them. So I want to stand up for what they said. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: No problem.

SEN. EDWARDS: Second, on the Patriot Act, which I, along with -- (laughter) -- which I, along with almost the entire United States Senate, voted for—here's the reality of the Patriot Act. There are some provisions in the Patriot Act, most of which get no attention, which did good things, which updated the law, which allowed us to go after money laundering, which allowed information-sharing, some of the problems that existed before September 11th.

The problem with the Patriot Act and the reason we need to make changes is because it gave entirely too much discretion to an attorney general who does not deserve it. It's that simple. (Applause.) And I want to --

MR. CAMERON: But Senator --

SEN. EDWARDS: (Inaudible.)

MR. CAMERON: -- wasn't the legislation written by the lawmakers providing that very latitude? Didn't you create that latitude in the legislation that you wrote?

SEN. EDWARDS: Yes. And the attorney general of the United States came before us and told us that he would not abuse his discretion. He has abused his discretion. He has consistently abused his discretion. We all know that now. These provisions need to be changed.

I want to add something to this, though, since you stopped me in mid-answer. I want to add something to this, because I think there's something more at stake here than the Patriot Act. I mean, the very liberties and freedoms that we're supposed to be fighting for are in danger every single day this administration is in office.

It's not just the Patriot Act. You know, they have a policy that allows them to arrest American citizens on American soil, put them in prison, keep them there indefinitely. They never see a lawyer. They never see a judge. This is not the America that we believe in. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Senator—Bill Perkins.

MR. PERKINS: Ambassador Braun, a memo from the secretary of Defense questioned whether we are actually winning the war on terror, questions our intelligence; CIA Director George Tenet now under fire, a Clinton appointee. Whose head should roll here? And furthermore, everybody up here is going to say that the commander-in-chief needs to provide a plan. But what is your plan specifically for getting us out of this mess?

MS. BRAUN: Well, I have been consistent from the beginning.

I opposed this war, and I raised the question of how much it would cost the American people, even before troops were committed there.

Having said that, I stand with the mothers of the young men and women who are there, and believe that as Americans, we have to bring our troops home, but we have to bring them home with honor. We blew the place up. We have to fix it back.

And at present, the United Nations and no—none of the—happily, we're moving toward internationalizing the force, but even the United Nations won't put troops on the ground there, because it's too dangerous. I think we have to do what we can do to give our troops the support. Some of those young men and women are sitting out there in the desert without even basic supplies. It is an outrage the way we are treating our own servicemen and -women in this issue—in this effort.

And by the way, those who are injured, like Shoshana Johnson, who are not getting the kind of support they need when they come back home—it's just wrong the way the Defense Department is handling this and this administration is handling our troops. (Bell rings.) They're not supporting the troops. (Applause.) They're just supporting their friends with big contracts to rebuild Iraq and to make more money. (Applause, cheers.)

MR. PERKINS: Congressman Kucinich, you have been consistent in your opposition to the war, but there are reports that you have also refused to sign the intelligence non-disclosure form, which means that you are not allowed to see all the information collected in secret by the CIA and FBI. And the question is, how can you oppose something that you do not know?

REP. KUCINICH: Well, actually, I knew enough not to vote for the war without having to sit in on briefings that were totally phoney. (Applause.) I mean, those briefings are designed to mislead members of Congress, so I thought I'd spare the time and work on things that were a little bit more important.

I can tell you that I've actually presented a plan—it's on my website at—as an exit strategy, to get the U.N. in and the U.S. out of Iraq. And that involves three points:

First, to have the U.N. handle the oil, with no privatization of the Iraqi oil. (Applause.)

To have the U.N. handle the contracts, with no more Halliburton sweetheart deals, no war profiteering. (Cheers, applause.)

And to have the U.N. handle the cause of new governance in Iraq, on behalf of the Iraqi people, until the Iraqi people can be self- determining.

We can get the U.N. in and the U.S. out, and it's time to bring our troops home. (Cheers, applause.)

Furthermore, you know, a number of us have opposed the war. But I'd have to say, to Dr. Dean, you said in paid TV ads that only you opposed the war in Iraq, but that's not true. Why forfeit the public trust? Why can't you just admit that you made a mistake and take down the ads? (Bell rings.) I mean, to have Ambassador Braun, Mr. Sharpton and myself—we opposed the war. Why don't you take down those ads? They're not true.

MR. PERKINS: Governor Dean?

MR. DEAN: Here's what the ad says, among other things:

A hundred and thirty thousand troops in Iraq, with no end in sight and a price tag that goes up daily. The best my opponents can do is ask questions today that they should have asked before they supported the war.

Now that—include—that's those opponents who supported the war. Clearly, Ambassador Moseley Braun, Dennis Kucinich, Bob Graham, Al Sharpton and myself opposed the war right from the beginning. Despite Wes's statements to the contrary, he did support the resolution. He told Katrina Swett in New Hampshire that she should support the resolution. These other folks voted for the war, too.

So I don't think my ad is inaccurate at all. I'm talking about the people who supported the war -- (bell rings) -- with whom I disagree.

MS. IFILL: Okay.

REP. KUCINICH: That ad is a misrepresentation.

MS. IFILL: Okay, Congressman.

REP. KUCINICH: And anyone who reads it would understand that's a fair characterization.

MS. IFILL: You have made your point.

That's the end of round one. Now we're going to go to our second round of questions, also on war, on the war on terror and foreign policy. Carl?

MR. CAMERON: General Clark, I suspect you're going to want to comment a little bit on the governor's remarks about the ad and your early support, as he's asserted it.

But your military service in general is considered a large part of the predicate for your candidacy. I wonder if you could take a moment and explain to us why, at the end of your time as the supreme allied commander of NATO, you were not re-upped, and why such folks as retired General Hugh Shelton have suggested that you were effectively fired for what he called character and integrity issues.

GEN. CLARK: Well, thanks for the opportunity to talk about this. (Laughter.) It's a—we used to call charges like that McCarthyism when they came out in the 1950s. (Applause.)

Now the simple truth is that Hugh Shelton is an old friend of mine. I've known him for 20 years. But we had a significant disagreement about policy. I believed the purpose of the United States in Europe was to follow through our commitments to bring peace to Bosnia and prevent another round of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans in Kosovo. I believed there were 1-1/2 million Albanians there who were in danger of being thrown out of their homes and have their lives and property at risk.

Some people in the Pentagon disagreed with me. I went through the Pentagon and recommended we use diplomacy, backed by the threat of force. I had the permission of the Pentagon to do that. I worked, I warned, I struggled to prevent a war, and when it finally came down to it, I had to fight it, lead it, and we won it.

But let me tell you two things. (Bell rings.)

Number one, I stand up and fight for what I believe in, and nobody is going to see the United States on my watch humiliated in a military mission because we don't have the gumption to follow through on our requirements. And, number two, when you put American troops in harm's way, you better not do it without a plan and a strategy, and the determination that you are going to prevail. That's what I stood for. We were successful. I received two distinguished service medals --

MS. IFILL: General --

GEN. CLARK: -- and the Presidential Medal of Freedom for that kind of leadership. Why Hugh Shelton would say that now, I have no idea.

MS. IFILL: General --

GEN. CLARK: But if anybody knows, would you please let me know? Thank you. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Carl, before you launch your next question, I would really like to appeal to all of the candidates here tonight to try to stay something close to the time. That way you will all be heard.


MR. CAMERON: Ambassador Braun, you've urged the current administration repeatedly to negotiate peace and to deal with other nations, and an opportunity for you perhaps to go back and clear the record over something in the past. It has been reported repeatedly that in 1996 as a senator, against the wishes of the U.S. government, you visited Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha, and someone who at the time was recognized worldwide as a murderous dictator. How does that association play to your ability to be a peace-minded commander in chief?

MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: Well, when you consider—thank you for the question—when you consider that I have 20 years in public life, and have a long record of advocating and fighting for human rights around the world. I led the fight in the state of Illinois to withdraw our support of the apartheid regime in South Africa. I know a number of African leaders as a result of my work over time. As the only African American in the United States Senate, it was not inappropriate for me to visit countries in Africa, including Nigeria. (Applause.) And as I did so—on my own dime, by the way, and on private time, I never went -- (applause) -- the State Department never had anything to say to me about any of my private travel.

But specifically what you mention, with regard to the late General Abacha, I went to his son's funeral. I did not make a PC judgment that it was inappropriate to go to that funeral. But having said that, I must tell you that my human rights record remains unblemished. My reputation and my record of integrity in office remains unscarred, and I am standing here before the American people offering my service as someone who knows her way around the world. Thank you.

MS. IFILL: Thank you, ambasador. (Applause.) Hewell?

MR. PERKINS: Congressman Gephardt, here in metro Detroit we have one of the largest concentrations of Arab Americans in this country. By and large they love America. They are willing to die for this country. But at the same time, some of them will tell you they do not see the world as we see it. In fact, in the eyes of some, groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are not terrorist groups—they are freedom fighters or defenders. My question to you: Would you be willing to negotiate with groups now labeled as terrorists if such an effort would end the suicide bombings in Israel, and also possibly resolve the Middle East crisis?

REP. GEPHARDT: I don't think that you can negotiate with terrorists—people who decided that violence is the way that they are going to settle their problems. (Applause.)

But let me say this to you: I think this administration has failed in getting at the root causes of terrorism. I think they're just dealing with the symptoms of terrorism, and I support those efforts. You've got to stop someone from doing harm to the United States if they are bound and determined to do it. But we have got to get at the root causes. We've got to be a leader for peace in the Middle East. This administration walked away from the Middle East after this president came in office—said it wasn't our problem—we weren't going to really lead and do the things that we had been doing. He walked away from a North Korean that President Clinton got. I'm more worried about nuclear weapons coming to the terrorists from North Korea than I am Iraq. (Applause.) He walked away from the global warming treaty. He walked away from the International Criminal Court.

Let me say this: If we are going to defeat terrorism, we have got to engage in countries across the world. We have got to fight against poverty, we have got to fight against bad governance, and we have got to say to people that are supporting terrorists this behavior cannot stand. We have got to stop the support for terrorism. We need peace in the world, not terrorism. (Applause.)

MR. PERKINS: Senator Lieberman, in light of that, there are many who believe that peace in the world is impossible without some resolution of the Palestinian issue. How far are you willing to go? How much are you willing to do to win the trust of the Palestinian people?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, Hewell, as you know, I was here in Detroit just a week ago to speak to the Arab-American Institute to stress what unites us. As I said, the hyphen between Arab-American and other ethnic Americans is in some places in the world a divider. Here it's a uniter. It should remind us we're all Americans and we're all children of the same God and children of the same father, Abraham. We are literally brothers and sisters.

And it's in that spirit that I intend to approach, as president, the conflict in the Middle East. It's a tragedy, people dying every day. It requires the kind of persistence of the president of the United States that Dick Gephardt has just spoken of and that President Bush has not shown in now almost three years in office.

The solution here—the only acceptable solution is quite clear, a two-stage solution—peaceful, free Israel standing next to peaceful, free, independent Palestine. And that will come. (Applause.) That will come only if the United States remains involved. And the first step must be an end to terrorism.

When I negotiate with Hamas and other terrorist groups, not while they're terrorists, but, you know, as a matter of faith and policy, I believe that people are capable of change. If they renounce terrorism, as Yitzhak Rabin, the late prime minister of Israel, said, you don't negotiate with your friends to achieve peace; you negotiate with those who have been your enemies.

Yes, I would do anything within reason and security to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

MS. IFILL: Thank you, Senator. (Applause.) We are attempting to imagine each of you in the White House, in the Oval Office. And in that spirit, Governor Dean, I have a question for you.

You have been unstintingly critical of this war. Yet, with all due respect, you have commanded nothing more than the Vermont National Guard. You did not serve in the military. How would you, as president, be able to exert any credibility, any command over a post- war Pentagon?

MR. DEAN: Well, first of all, I have as much foreign policy experience as George W. Bush did when he got into office -- (cheers) -- and Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Secondly, the important part of what you do as president of the United States is have very good people, which I do, talking to me about issues in defense and foreign policy, and to use judgment and patience.

In view of what is happening in Iraq today, I would submit to you that my foreign policy experience might be more valuable in the White House today than the foreign policy experience of many of the people who supported the Iraq war, because I was, for some reason, listening to my folks, able to tell that the president was not being candid with the American people when he sent our brothers and sisters and our sons and daughters to Iraq.

The truth is, the president tried to make us think that al Qaeda had something—that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. Three weeks ago he admitted that there was no evidence for that. Now we've got 135,000 people over there, over 300 casualties and over 1,200 people wounded and injured because of that lack of patience and judgment.

MS. IFILL: Thank you, Governor. (Applause.)

MR. PERKINS: Congressman Kucinich, you have proposed changing the name of the Department of Defense to the Department of Peace. But in a world in which our enemies are willing to kill themselves to kill us, is it not better that we stand and fight? And is it not better that we wage that battle on foreign shores and not here in America?

REP. KUCINICH: Well, first of all, my proposal was to create a separate Cabinet-level position, a Department of Peace, which would work domestically to make non-violence an organizing principle in our society.

I visited with a Detroit community group that is talking about the problems of violence in urban areas. For example, over 300 people perished on the streets of Detroit in September. We have a problem with violence in our society that needs to be addressed.

And I think we can take up on the work of Dr. King and others who have worked to make non-violence an organizing principle through making sure that we address the problems of violence in the homes, domestic violence, spouse abuse, child abuse, violence in the community, gangs, violence in our schools.

When we contrast that with the purpose of the Department of Defense, that's to provide military force. Now, I think that we have to have a commitment to work with the nations of the world to make war archaic so we won't need to send our men and women abroad in search of wars or to fight wars that they never should have had to fight in the first place.

MS. IFILL: Thank you, Congressman. (Applause.)

MR. PERKINS: Senator Edwards, there are seemingly bigger threats in the world right now from North Korea and from Iran, Iran with its program for nuclear weapons and North Korea with both its nuclear weapons and missiles that can reach American shores.

We seem to be willing now to let third parties, other nations, negotiate there right now. But North Korea seems to be willing to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for food and money. Is that nuclear blackmail? Are you willing to accede to that? What is your plan for solving these very potentially dangerous situations?

SEN. EDWARDS: No. North Korea is the biggest proliferator on the planet—proliferator of missile technology, potential proliferator of raw fissile material.

And it is not blackmail. It has to do with a little bit of leadership and common sense.

This president has completely disengaged in North Korea. If you watched what happened, the Clinton administration was actually engaged, making progress. As soon as Bush—President Bush came into office and this administration took over, they disengaged, they had no policy, then an inconsistent policy. They alienated our friends in South Korea.

So the simple answer is this:

We should sit at the table with the North Koreans. We should be willing to negotiate with the North Koreans. We should be tough. We should require that they stop their nuclear development program, nuclear weapons development program. We should have the absolute ability to verify that that has in fact occurred. And we should be willing to do something in return. (Bell rings.) They need something from us.

But this is an enormous threat, not just to the American people, to—but to the peace and security of the world. And this is a place where President Bush is failing the American people.

MS. IFILL: Thank you, Senator. (Applause.)


MR. CAMERON: Reverend Sharpton, quite recently U.S. General Boynton (sic; means Boykin) stood in a church and characterized the war against terrorism as a battle between Christianity and Islam. As a public person who has not been afraid to bring politics to the pulpit, what's your reaction to that?

REV. SHARPTON: Let me say three things, because I want to respond to some others and as I get to your answer. (Laughter.)

One, I think that it is very dangerous, on the second anniversary of the Patriot Act, to empower this attorney general in any way that can target people. Robert Kennedy Jr. and labor leader Dennis Rivera and I went to jail over protesting the Navy bases in Vieques before the Patriot Act. This administration wants to stifle and to stop dissent.

And when we see, particularly when you are of color, rise to power—this is the Congressional Black Caucus tonight—when we see what they're doing to John Street, what they've tried to do to Kwame Kilpatrick here in Detroit -- (applause) -- we cannot let this Justice Department have power where they can play politics with the judicial system in the name of the Patriot Act or any other act.

Secondly, in the Middle East, it's not a question of terrorists. Who defines "terrorist"? Today's terrorist is tomorrow's friend. (Applause.) We were the ones that worked with Saddam Hussein. (Applause.) United States worked with bin Laden. (Bell rings.)

I went in 2001 and met with Arafat at the insistence of the Israeli foreign minister. Would anyone here meet with Arafat in terms of trying to get peace in the Middle East?

Let's put the hard questions out, Senator Lieberman. Would you meet with the head of the Palestinian Authority? (Applause, cheers.)

In answer to your question, I think that Boykin's statement is wrong. This is not about one religion against another. It's about right versus wrong. I said it earlier, when we were talking about right to choose, one of the reasons I'm glad to be in this race is we going to have the battle between the Christian right and the right Christians. (Bell rings.)

(Prolonged cheers and applause.)

MS. IFILL: Senator Lieberman, you've got 30 seconds -- (cheers, applause) -- you can hardly hear me. Senator Lieberman, you've got 30 seconds to respond to Reverend Sharpton's statement. Senator Lieberman. (Applause.)

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Any time I come after the Reverend Sharpton, I always want to say, "Amen, brother," you know. (Laughter, applause.)

But let me answer Al's question. I --

MS. IFILL: Briefly, if you can.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yes, very quickly. I visited the Middle East last December. I visited the Palestinians. I met with the soon-to-be but unfortunately not-too-long-to-be prime minister, Abu Mazen, Mahmoud Abbas. I met with members of the cabinet.

I did not meet with Yasser Arafat. Do you know why? President Bill Clinton gave him an offer of Palestinian statehood -- (bell rings) -- along with former prime minister Barak, that came that close to being enacted. But he turned against it and then facilitated violence.

I said before I would not hesitate, as president, to have the United States mediate between the Israelis and any Palestinian leader who really had declared their own war against terrorism. Unfortunately, Arafat has none—not done that. In fact, he stopped Prime Minister Abbas and now Prime Minister Qureia from doing what they wanted to do, which is to take on the terrorists. (Applause.) As long as he's there, there's not going to be real chance for peace in the Middle East. (Applause continues.)

MS. IFILL: That's (an answer ?).


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