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Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate Sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Institute and Fox News Channel – Part 2

Location: Detroit, MI

MR. CAMERON: Senator Kerry, Senator, a question for you on troop strength. We have U.S. forces all over the world, in a variety of hot spots, potential crisis in manpower. What would you do you to resolve that? Should there be an increase in call-ups, Reserve and Guard, reinstate the draft, or pull them back?

SEN. KERRY: Well, let me just comment, first of all, if I can, on General Boykin. (Scattered laughter.) General Boykin has confused the heck out of the White House on all this talk about the Almighty, because when he talks about the Almighty, the president thinks he's talking about Cheney, Cheney thinks he's talking about Halliburton -- (laughter, applause) -- Cheney thinks he's talking about Halliburton -- (laughter) -- and John Ashcroft thinks they're talking about him. (Laughter.) So they don't know where to go. (Laughter, applause.)

I also must say, as I listen to Governor Dean, I'm not sure, if I were he, I would want to use George Bush as a reference for a governor becoming president without foreign policy experience. (Applause.) Because what we've seen is a president who ran saying, "I'm going to have good advisors around me." Now, we had Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and Powell, and look at the judgments they made. We're electing the president of the United States, not a staff. And we need to elect a president who has the judgment to do this. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Okay, that's the end of round two. We are now going to go to commercial break. When we come back we will start talking about domestic issues. We'll be right back.


MS. IFILL: (Applause.) Welcome back to the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan, for the Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate. We're joined by about 3,000 invited guests here in what's been called the gem of Detroit, the beautiful and historic Fox Theater. (Applause.)

On stage are the nine people who want to be the Democratic nominee for president. We are going to begin round three of questions, with the emphasis shifting to domestic issues. And Carl Cameron begins the questioning.

MR. CAMERON: This one for you, Ambassador Braun, a question about jobs, manufacturing in particular. Here in Detroit there has been a great loss of manufacturing jobs—a problem that most of the Democrats have complained about during the course of this campaign. In the context of trade, ambassador, it has been embraced by Republican and Democratic presidents alike that those jobs that may go overseas as a consequence of trade can be replaced through job training. Apparently it isn't working. So what's the solution? Should we pull back on our international trade deals?

MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: I think that the first thing we have to do is make certain that the globalization of trade does not create a race to the bottom that creates the exploitation of workers abroad and the hemorrhaging of jobs here at home. (Applause.) We have an absolute responsibility to see to it that our country retains a vital and robust manufacturing base, because manufacturing is central to our ability to create goods for the rest of the world. And in so doing that's going to require a number of things. We need to take a look at the tax code and the way it works to impair the ability of people to manufacture.

But my big issue on manufacturing and what we can do to help is health care reform. (Applause.) If we can take the burden of health care off of our manufacturers—if we can take the burden of health care off of our small businesses, have a single-payor system of health care that will give coverage to every American -- (applause) -- that will go a long way to building up our manufacturing base and resolving some of our trade deficit issues. (Applause.)

MR. CAMERON: Thank you, ambassador.

Continuing on with trade, Congressman Gephardt, as the former House Democratic leader, perhaps amongst the entire tableau of candidates here, you are best known for your opposition to a variety of trade deals, and for that you have been branded by some of your opponents as a protectionist and an isolationist that would do damage to the U.S. economy as a consequence. Why is that unfair?

REP. GEPHARDT: Well, it's not only unfair, it's dead wrong. I have a plan to get this economy moving again, to create jobs in this society and to get us into a place where we are creating jobs again, as we did in 1993 when I led the fight for the Clinton economic program. We did it. Remember? Twenty-two million new jobs in this country. (Applause.)

I've got a health care plan to get everybody covered with health care. I've got—I want to give manufacturing incentives to manufacturers to stay in the United States. I want to raise the minimum wage—one of the smartest things we did during the Clinton administration. (Applause.)

But—and I've got ideas on energy and on pensions and on lots of important issues.

But let me say this about trade: The one area where I disagreed with President Clinton was on trade. All the candidates now—John Kerry, John Edwards, Howard Dean, Joe Lieberman—now say they would never sign a treaty like NAFTA and China that doesn't have proper protections for labor and environment. I was against those treaties when it counted. It's easy to say now that we shouldn't have done that. But when the treaties were in front of the Congress, they voted for them. We need a new trade policy that's optimistic, that raises up standards in other countries. We've got to stop the exploitation of workers across the world. (Applause.) We need consumers, not just producers. (Applause.)

MR. CAMERON: Senator Edwards, I don't know if you've had a chance to see the city of Detroit, but this city is a symbol of the promise and the problems facing this nation, and the people here realize that foreign nations are very important. But they also want to know how is it that Washington—the president and Congress—can sign $87 billion to rebuild Iraq and not find enough money to rebuild America's cities? (Applause.) Money for its schools, its roads, the urban areas—what is your urban agenda? What are your priorities? (Applause.)

SEN. EDWARDS: Well, we've lost over a million jobs in urban America just last year alone. People are struggling and hurting. I have a plan called—I've written it down—called "Cities Rising." The idea is to first bring jobs to urban America. Let's create incentives for new businesses to start there, incentives for existing businesses to locate their plant and facilities there—and not just jobs—good-paying jobs with good benefits, with access to health care.

Second, to do something about the same of having two public school systems in America—one for the haves and one for the have- nots. (Applause.) We have a responsibility to do something about that. This president is never going to do anything about it.

What I want to do is this: First, lead a national initiative to pay teachers better. (Applause.) Second, give bonus pay to teachers who will teach in schools in less advantaged areas. Give scholarships to young people who are willing to teach in these schools. And last, but not least, we need to empower people and create wealth for things like home ownership. People who live in urban areas deserve a decent place to live, in addition to health care and education. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Hewell?

MR. PERKINS: Senator Lieberman, a famous talk show host admits his addiction to prescription drugs. (Laughter.) He goes off the treatment. There are addicts who have also admitted that they have a problem—they're behind bars right now. (Applause.) There seems to be a disparity, real or perceived, a disparity that seems if you're rich and famous you go to rehab, but if you are poor and unknown you go to jail. (Applause.) How will you change the perceived mistreatment or real mistreatment of people in the medical and legal fields?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: This is a very important question, and it's time for a change on this.

Let's first acknowledge that there is a real problem here. This is not just rhetoric. Just this past week, I read in the newspapers of a study done in the state of Maryland that showed something like 90 percent of the people in Maryland jails for drug-related charges are African-American.

Now, that's a miscarriage of justice. There's just no rationale as to why that number would be so much larger than the African- American population in the state of Maryland.

I believe in a system of justice. I believe, as I presume—and I know everyone here does—that people have to be held accountable for crimes. But the system of justice must be fair. Too many people are in jail today for non-violent drug offenses. They are costing our country, their states, their families, their neighborhoods an enormous amount.

We need to commit ourselves to turn this around and invest in rehabilitation; invest in some of the causes of crime, like education, job-training. The fact is, when I'm president, I'm going to fix this problem. I'm going to not have John Ashcroft at the Justice Department. I'm going to have an attorney general who will work to see that there is justice that is fair.

I say one final word, and it says it all. Reverend Jackson was in Connecticut some years ago and he talked about this problem. And he said, "You know, it costs more to keep a young African-American in jail than to send that same young man through Yale." That's what we ought to be doing. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Thank you, Senator. General Clark, this week you introduced your economic plan in which you said that you would save $2.3 trillion in 10 years by repealing part of President Bush's tax cuts and cutting waste. But you did not tell us how you would and when you would balance the budget, this budget deficit that you have said is so corrosive. Do you want to tell us now?

GEN. CLARK: Well, I'm happy to talk about this. I think that what you've got right now in this country is a real absence of responsible government. This government has lost its bearings. They came to office with no policies except tax cuts, and they were tax cuts for the wealthy. They said tax cuts would help us. They said tax cuts would bring us jobs. They didn't. They said they'd fix Social Security. They didn't.

This government doesn't have a policy. What we need to do is work on America's needs. And to do that, we need to recapture some of the revenues that were given away in those Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, those making over $200,000 a year.

MS. IFILL: General --

GEN. CLARK: And then we need to use them.

MS. IFILL: Forgive me for interrupting, because I would really like for you to be more specific in the time you have left about exactly how you would do that.

GEN. CLARK: I'm going to give you that answer right now. What you've got to do is you've got to put this country on a path to fiscal responsibility. That's why I gave the plan of recapturing $2.3 trillion.

I don't have a date to balance the budget because I think it's important to use some of that money that's recaptured to meet America's urgent needs in education, health care and Social Security. That's what I'm going to do with that money. We're going to use it more wisely, more effectively, and be more responsible than this administration has been. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Thank you.

MR. CAMERON: Congressman Kucinich, when would you balance the budget? And on tax cuts, there's a debate amongst you who are debating. Some would repeal all of the Bush tax cuts. Others would repeal some but leave them in place. To repeal the Bush tax cuts, is that a tax hike on those who have seen a reduction?

REP. KUCINICH: No. Actually, the tax cuts that go to people in the top brackets ought to be repealed and ought to be put into a fund to provide for universal college education, free tuition, for the 12 million American students who are currently attending public colleges and universities. (Applause.)

Now, this administration, if it moves toward budget-balancing, will inevitably balance it on the backs of the American people. My economic strategy will be to fuel growth in the economy by having a full-employment economy, by working to rebuild our cities with a massive new WPA-type program.

My economic policies will work towards universal health care, which will inspire further growth in the economy, universal pre- kindergarten, which will enable parents to be able to have their children ages three, four and five for a five-day-a-week child-care program, saving families between $5,000 and $7,000 per child.

My economic program will include the cancellation of NASA and the WTO and return to bilateral trade, conditioned on workers' rights, human rights and the environment. My economic program will address things like this—the sale of United States Steel assets to foreign countries, which are undermining our ability to defend our economy and to defend our national security. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Okay, Carl.

MR. CAMERON: Reverend Sharpton, along the lines of budget politics, it's fairly evident that all of you up there would prefer to see the wealthiest Americans shoulder a greater part of the burden. What sacrifice would you put upon average working families to carry their share of the burden in the coming Sharpton economy?

REV. SHARPTON: First of all, I think that the average working family is already sharing their burden—part of the responsibility. (Applause.)

I think that when you look at an economy and when you look at an administration that has led toward deregulation, where we not only have the top-level income-bracket people paying less, percentage-wise, of tax; you have businesses that can form offshore companies paying no tax at all; to lecture working-class, average, middle-class Americans on how they can do more, when you have the Enrons of the world operating offshore, doing nothing -- (applause) -- I think, is an insult to the intelligence of the American people. (Applause continues.)

We are bearing our responsibilities. In fact, it is on our backs that you are being able to do what you are being—have been able to do. We've been the ones that have beared (sic) the brunt of the American economy. We just have not shared from the prosperity. It is an insult -- (bell rings) -- to keep telling Americans to send our children to war; it's an honor to risk their lives, to die for the country; but it's a burden for the rich to pay their taxes to the country. (Cheers, applause.)

MS. IFILL: Thank you, Reverend. (Inaudible.)

MR. PERKINS: Governor Dean, you may say amen, if you feel so inclined. (Laughter.)

MR. DEAN: I am very sorry to have to speak after Brother Al. I was afraid this was going to happen. (Laughter.)

MR. PERKINS: But we are now facing the biggest budget deficit in history. You have promised that you would balance the budget by your second term. Is Medicare on the table? Is Medicaid on the table?

MR. DEAN: Medicare is not on the table. I'm a strong supporter of Medicare. It's a solemn contract between the seniors of this country and Lyndon Baines Johnson and the rest of us.

Social Security is not on the table. I'm a strong supporter of Social Security. And those programs need not be cut.

We can balance the budget, but if those programs are in trust funds and the trust funds are reasonably solvent—Medicare until 2023, Social Security until about 2043 -- what you need to do is get rid of every dime of the Bush tax cut.

Some up here say we should keep the middle-class tax cuts. What middle-class tax cuts? What about your—the average -- 60 percent of the people in this country got a $304 tax cut. One percent, which are rapidly writing $2,000 checks to George Bush, got a $26,300 tax cut. (Light applause.)

And in the meantime, think of what's happened to your college tuition or your kid's college tuition. What about your property taxes? Has that gone up more than $304 in the last two and a half years? (Applause.)

We need to get rid of every dime of the president's tax cuts, begin to start balancing the budget -- (bell rings) -- and restore things like Pell grants and full funding of special education -- (cheers, applause) -- so we can pay for (adequate ?) college education and balance the budget.

MS. IFILL: Excuse me just for a moment. Did you say Medicaid was off the table as well.

MR. DEAN: I'm sorry. What?

MS. IFILL: Did you say Medicaid was off the table as well?

MR. DEAN: Well, I plan to add $87 billion to Medicaid, so we can have universal health insurance for everybody. (Applause.)

MR. PERKINS: Senator Kerry, your plan to balance the budget?

SEN. KERRY: Well, let me just say that last week, in Iowa, Governor Dean said that entitlements were on the table. Now if he just took Social Security and Medicare off the table, the question is, what entitlements are on the table? Veterans' pensions? Food stamps? Medicaid? Social—disability? You can't answer that question.

Now I'm going to do exactly what Bill Clinton did. I'm going to cut the deficit in half in the first four years. Bill Clinton's plan was to balance the budget in 10 years, not the five Governor Dean says. The reason we decided not to do it in five was because it required extraordinary cuts in the things we've just talked about doing: investing in the city of Detroit, investing in our schools, investing in health care, making our economy move.

I—when Governor Dean just said, "What middle-class tax cut," let me tell him what middle-class tax cut. The Burnett (sp) family in Colfax, Iowa, earns $70,000. But under his plan, they're going to pay $2,178 more in taxes -- (bell rings) -- because they lose the child credit, to raise their children; they pay a penalty for being married again, because he puts it back; and they lose the 10 percent bracket, as everybody else here does. So you begin to be taxed at 15 percent, not 10 percent. Those aren't Bush Republican cuts. Those are the Democrat cuts that we worked hard to put in place to protect the middle class. (Scattered applause.)

Bill Clinton protected the middle class. We grew the economy. If you liked Bill Clinton's economy for eight years, you're going to love John Kerry's for the first four years. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Thank you, Senator Kerry.

And on that note, we are going to go for another commercial break, and we'll be right back with more of the debate.


MS. IFILL: (Applause.) Welcome back to the Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate here in Detroit. We are in the historic Fox Theater, which is celebrating its 75th year of operations, a perfect location for tonight's even.

We now enter round four of questions for the candidates. My first question, however, will go to Governor Dean, who feels like he's been knocked around a little bit. I just want to warn you I'm calling this round the "conventional wisdom round." Governor Dean, in your case the rap on you of course is some of the things you have been hearing tonight, but including the fact that you were a small-time governor, that you were in favor of the war but that you're against the war, but you are in favor of other things. How do you respond to that, and how do you respond to Senator Kerry?

DR. DEAN: Well, you know, George Bush the first called Bill Clinton a governor from a small, failed state. I welcome Senator Kerry's remarks. He managed to get two punches in right before the bell, so we had the spectacle of Senator Kerry using President Bush's financial arguments and numbers in order to sustain the Bush tax cuts. Then he attacks me on a policy that I disagree with him on. Senator Kerry agrees with George Bush on the war. If you are going to defend the president's tax cuts and you are going to defend the president's war, I frankly don't think we can beat George Bush by being "Bush- lite". I think we've got to stand up for Democratic principles. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: And how do you expect to sell that notion on the road?

MR. DEAN: How do I expect to sell that to the nation?

MS. IFILL: Yeah.

MR. DEAN: Because I expect that when you stand up for what you believe in, people desperately want to have somebody who is not just going to tell them what they believe, or what they ought to believe, or what they think. What they really want is somebody who is going to stand up for Democratic Party principles.

I started out in this campaign saying I was from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party, which Paul Wellstone said—not meaning that I was a big liberal, I was a big conservative, I was a big moderate. What I meant was just like Paul Wellstone, I say what I think, and I don't care if 70 percent of the people in this country disagree with me, as long as I believe it's the right thing to do. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: The next person in our conventional wisdom round is Senator Kerry. I will give you a chance to respond to what Governor Dean just said. But also the rap on you is that you are kind of a Northeastern liberal elitist, and that you have some problem connecting with people. How do you dispel that notion?

SEN. KERRY: Well, wait till you see my video, "Kerry Gone Wild." (Laughter.) (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: I can't wait. (Laughter.)

SEN. KERRY: Let me just come back quickly, if I can. What Governor Dean just said is incorrect on both counts. Number one, I don't use the numbers of the administration. I use the Brookings Institute numbers. They're separate, completely independent and reliable.

Secondly, the people who have helped me work those numbers are many of the very people who helped Bill Clinton put together that economy in the 1990s.

Thirdly, with respect to the war and saying what you believe, we never heard Governor Dean ever say how he would deal with Iraq. I voted the way I think was correct to deal with the security of our country, and we had a right as Americans to expect the president of the United States to do it properly. We had a right to expect him to make that coalition, to use the diplomacy. I believe Americans want somebody who can defend the security of the United States. And this war on terror is far less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence-gathering law enforcement operation, and the American people deserve somebody who can lead them to do it correctly and make us safer and stronger in the process.

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

Congressman Gephardt, you've done this before—you ran for president in 1988. You got a lot of support from unions, a lot of whom seem to be hanging back. In fact, the Service Employees International Union appears to be flirting with Governor Dean. Has your moment passed?

REP. GEPHARDT: No, I think my moment's arrived. I'm going to beat George Bush in November of 2004. (Applause.) I'm going to win this race because I have the most experience I think of anybody on this stage. I've dealt with every issue that we've had to deal with. I fought against the Republican ideas in 1994 of deep cuts in Medicare, big tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. I led the fight for the Clinton economic program in 1993. I'm proud of that. I'm proud I worked with the Congressional Black Caucus and the other members of our caucus to pass that economic plan, and it worked. It made America a better place. I'm proud of that.

And I'm proud that we have helped, with that good economy, the poorest people in this country do better. They did better in the Clinton years than they've ever done. And, incidentally, everybody did better when Bill Clinton was president. (Applause.) I said it before—I said it before, and I'll say it again: If you want to live like a Republican, you better vote for the Democrats. (Applause.)

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

REP. GEPHARDT: One more word. Like father, like son, four years and this president is done. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Senator Edwards. Senator Edwards, the rap on you—you're a one-term senator, you're a trial lawyer and therefore you're supposed to be compromised by that somehow. The expectations for you were so high in the beginning that you were on the cover of Newsweek magazine. Yet in the latest Newsweek poll out today you're at the bottom of the pack. What happened?

SEN. EDWARDS: First of all, nothing happened. I'm doing great in Iowa, moving up in New Hampshire—got a double-digit lead in the state of South Carolina.

I'm very proud of what's happening with my campaign, first because I have the most comprehensive plan on jobs, on the economy, on allowing all kids who are willing to work for it to go to college, to deal with the two public school systems we have in America, a real comprehensive health-care plan. I've written it down. I'm giving it out to voters all over the country, and they're responding.

More importantly, I am fighting for in this campaign the very people that I grew up with, people like my father, who worked in a mill all his life, people like the people that I fought for for 20 years in courtrooms against big corporations, against big insurance companies, against big drug companies.

When I am president of the United States, I will continue the cause that has been the cause of my life, which is fighting for everything—giving everything I have inside to stand up for working people, to stand up for middle-class families, and to keep them from being denied the opportunity that they're entitled to. That's what I'll do as president of the United States, and that's the reason this campaign is going to work. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Ambassador Braun, the last financial statements show that your campaign actually has very little money. You are the only woman in this race, yet your base of support seems to be at least thin. What is your breakout strategy?

MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: Breakout strategy? I think that we have a vibrant, robust campaign. I'm very excited about putting this campaign effort together. We're doing very well in the polls, as you know, beating a number of candidates who've been out in the field for over a year and have 20 times the money we have.

We've got a grassroots effort. So if breakout strategy means working with people and talking to voters one on one, retail strategy, I'm happy to do that. That's how I've always won elections.

You know, my whole career has been a matter of bringing people together and building bridges and breaking down barriers. And I've made history before when people said I couldn't win, and I intend to make history again -- (applause) -- and take the "Men Only" sign off the White House door. (Applause.)

And since I have another second, let me just tell a quick story. When I first ran for office, they told me, "Don't run. You can't possibly win. The blacks won't vote for you because you're not part of the Chicago machine. The whites won't vote for you because you're black. And nobody's going to vote for you because you're a woman." I got in the race. I won. I've been winning elections ever since. (Applause.)

People vote for their interests, and they will vote for me. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Thank you, Ambassador. Congressman Kucinich, we looked it up today; the last member of the House who was elected directly from the House to the presidency was Abraham Lincoln. That was a long time ago. How do you plan to break that string up there?

REP. KUCINICH: Well, actually, that president, who was James Garfield, lived in the same county that I'm from. So I'm looking to repeat history in that regard.

And I also will say that we have to—I suppose all of us must believe this, but my presence here on this stage arises from growing up in the city of Cleveland and understanding the power of individuals to change the outcome, of being able to come from poverty, being able to come from living in a car, and understanding that with hope and with courage, you can create new possibilities.

And I think every American is waiting for a president who can relate to the aspirations of people who don't have jobs, so that we can have a full-employment economy where the president understands the importance of jobs. People today who don't have health care want a president who understands how important it is to have health care because maybe at some time in his life he didn't have the advantages.

I think people are looking for someone they can identify with and someone who has been able to achieve an American dream and cause all people to have the chance to reach and to achieve that dream.

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

MR. PERKINS: I know (this is?) out of time, but Madam Moderator, before we move on from Congressman Kucinich, you said something earlier in this debate that I think is important that we correct, for you to know and for the nation to know. You mentioned that there were 300 people dead in the streets of Detroit in September. That is absolutely untrue. There's actually been --

REP. KUCINICH: I'm sorry, I didn't hear you.

MR. PERKINS: You said there were 300 people dead in the streets of Detroit in September.

REP. KUCINICH: No, it's 35. I misspoke.

MR. PERKINS: Yeah, let's be -- (inaudible). There's actually been a 30 percent reduction in the homicide rate in Detroit. (Inaudible.)

REP. KUCINICH: The numbers were 17,000, I think, since 1972 and 35 in September. And I appreciate the chance to correct the record. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Next question is for Senator Lieberman. The question—you've heard the term bandied about on the stage tonight, "Bush- lite." That's the rap on you, that you are way too moderate, way too middle-of-the-road for especially Democratic primary voters.

How do you sell yourself or convince people that you can be the standard-bearer, that you can be angry enough to take on George W. Bush?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Right. Well, first, let me say that nobody's used the reference "Bush lite" to me since Wes Clark became a Democrat --

MS. : Ooh!

SEN. LIEBERMAN: -- and got into this presidential race. (Groans, whistles, laughter.) So I welcome you in that regard.

I've been a life-long Democrat. I'm a proud Democrat. I—you can have a hard time finding two Americans who are angry (sic) about George Bush's presidency than Al Gore and me, believe me. (Applause.)

I would—and look at my record: strong on civil rights throughout my career, strong on environmental protection. I believe that America will not be the country we want it to be unless the government is involved in making our schools better, ending two tiers of education today, providing health insurance, working to stand behind manufacturers, growing the middle class. I was attorney general of my state and fought the special interests on behalf of the people.

I got to tell you, Gwen, I get angry when people say to me somehow that I'm not an authentic Democrat because I'm strong on defense -- (bell rings) -- strong on values, and willing to talk about the role of faith in American life. I'm not going to yield that ground to the Republicans.

I'm Joe Lieberman. I'm an independent-minded Democrat. And as president, I'm going to restore prosperity and security to the American people. That's who I am. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Thank you.

General Clark, I'll be back with you in a moment. I know you want to respond.

But first, I want to turn to Reverend Sharpton. Your rap is that your rhetoric is very high-flown, but that there's not a lot of policy to back it up; that you are a provocateur, but that you shouldn't be taken seriously. How do you respond to that?

REV. SHARPTON: Well, I think the folks that are behind me in the polls—you called the Newsweek poll—they're taking me very seriously. (Laughter.) And I think that—I've put out a book, "Al on America," full of policy. If the media would read, rather than write, they would be very clear that we are talking about very serious stuff. (Applause.)

But the problem we have is that in America many of us are not taken seriously. Most of us are not taken seriously. That's why we have a president that would send money to Iraq and not money to the schools in Detroit. (Applause.) That's why we have a president that wants to give people the right to vote in the capital of Iraq, Baghdad, and not respect the right of the voters in the capital of the U.S. in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)

So the problem is that they don't take me seriously personally. They don't take us collectively seriously. And that's why we need to register and vote and come out in numbers like we never did before, so they will never, ever marginalize and not take us seriously again. (Cheers, applause.)

MS. IFILL: General Clark, you heard what Senator Lieberman had to say about you, and you've heard what other people have said about you, which is that your campaign started fast and then you hit some organizational stumbles, and that in fact you've never been elected anything. Why to start as president?

GEN. CLARK: Well, you're exactly right, Gwen. I—the last—in fact, the last election I was in was for homeroom student council representative. (Laughter.) I—we put our heads down on our desks, the teacher asked us to raise our hand, and I voted for my best friend. And after it was over, I said, "Why, you voted for me, right?" He said, "No, I didn't." He won by one vote. (Laughter.)

I'm not up here running for homeroom student council representative. I'm in this campaign because this country's in one heck of a mess. It's in a mess in Iraq, it's in a mess at home, and it needs strong leadership. And Americans want leaders who can not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. And that's what I've done in my career in the United States Army, and that's why I'm here in front of you today. (Applause.)

I'm proud of my service in the United States Army. Gwen, I fought in Vietnam as a company commander. I came home on a stretcher. I stayed with the United States Army when other people left the service. (Bell rings.) I worked in the United States Army to make it a great institution. And I'm proud of the fact that we lived affirmative action in that institution, and we made it one of the best institutions in America for treating every individual with respect and dignity. And that's the spirit I bring to leadership.

MS. IFILL: Thank you. (Applause.)

We have now reached the point in the debate where each of the candidates will have one minute to sum up the statements of the evening, starting with Senator Kerry.

SEN. KERRY: Thank you. There's a front-page story in today's Washington Post that says that Democrats are going to try to run away from the issue of gun safety. I don't think that we can get elected nationally if we're not prepared to stand up against powerful special interests and make it clear that, whether it's the NRA or any other special interest, we're prepared to stand for our principles.

All across this country we have too many people who die each year from guns. So let me make it plain: I'm for the assault weapons ban, I'm for the Brady Bill, I'm for making sure we stand up for gun safety in this country. We cannot be a party that retreats in an effort to try to court votes and not save lives.

We also have to stand up against all the special interests. They have changed the face of America. They're stealing our own democracy. And I believe whether it's rolling back the high end of the Bush tax cut or getting big oil out of the White House, or reversing the policy decisions with respect to education, we need in this country to fight against those interests that are taking the voices of the average Americans away. I've done that for 35 years, and I intend to do that, stand up to them, as president of the United States. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Senator Edwards.

SEN. EDWARDS: George Bush's America is not our America. But we have to do more than say, "I told you so." I have a very concrete plan about how to move this country forward. I have written it down. It is not a wish list. It is not political rhetoric. These are real ideas that I can put in place from the first day I'm in office that will improve the lives of real Americans: five million more jobs in two years; health care as a birthright for every child in America -- (applause) -- college for every young person who is willing to work for it. There are a lot of issues in this campaign, in this election.

At the end of the day, the election is about something much bigger than that. It's about what kind of America we are. It's about what kind of America we want to be. I believe in an America where the family you are born into and the color of your skin never controls your destiny. I believe in an America where the son of a truck driver can be a brain surgeon. I believe in an America where the daughter of a schoolteacher can be a CEO. And I still believe in an American where the son of a mill worker could beat the son of a president for the White House. That's the America I will fight for. (Applause. Cheers.)

MS. IFILL: Thank you, senator. Reverend Sharpton?

REV. SHARPTON: I've entered this race talking about we need to create jobs. I have an infrastructure redevelopment plan -- $250 billion over five years, rebuilding bridges, highways, tunnels. I've also talked about single-payor plan national health insurance. But I've also talked about how we must save this party from continually moving to the right and away from the base votes that depended on this party historically. (Applause.) This party has lost the Congress in the last six elections, because we've run away from the base voters that need us the most. My running is not only to win the White House, but it is for this party to register voters and a message that we can win state houses and congressional houses and Senate houses and save this country from where it is. (Applause.)

I think that when you vote, you vote for who represents what you feel is right. That is why I've said we have got to stop these elephants that are winning donkey jackets. (Applause. Cheers.) I intend to slap this donkey, the Democratic Party, until this donkey kicks George Bush out of the White House next November! (Applause. Cheers.)

MS. IFILL: Thank you, Reverend Sharpton. Congressman Kucinich.

REP. KUCINICH: Thank you. This afternoon I met with a group of Detroit area activists who are called Save Our Sons and Daughters. Their sons and daughters had experienced death by great violence—usually by guns. And in the union hall where we met there were pictures of the children spread across card tables. It was the funeral home programs that talked about their lives. And in meeting with the activists, they told me about the 35 homicides in Detroit in the year 2003, and how in Detroit since '72 there's 17,000 homicides, and nationally 11,000 homicides a year. And what they called me there to talk to me about is the war at home—the war at home.

We're in Detroit today, and we realize that Detroit is representative of so many American cities who are waiting for an opportunity to come up and have the triumph of hope over despair. We have weapons of mass destruction we have to address here at home. Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction. Homelessness is a weapon of mass destruction. Unemployment is a weapon of mass destruction. And we need to address these problems here in our cities, and that's what my candidacy for president is all about. Thank you. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Thank you, Congressman Kucinich. Ambassador Moseley Braun.

MS. MOSELEY BRAUN: Thank you very much. You know, this race is not about the people on this stage or even George Bush. It's about you. It's about the people in this country.

And I believe our country is at a crossroads. If the Bush bait- and-switch administration stays in place for another four years, we won't recognize America. I believe that it is time for women to have a chance to be heard and to renew this country. (Applause.)

I am qualified to do this job and I am ready to take the "Men Only" sign off the White House door. (Applause.) But I need your help to do it. I hope everyone here commits themselves to register voters and let people know that every vote counts, in spite of the 2000 election.

We have a responsibility to our children to make certain that we leave them no less opportunity, no less hope, no less freedom than our ancestors left them—left us. And if we are to do honor to our ancestors and justice to our children, we have to come together to make certain that these people do not continue to bait and switch and take our country and take the promise of our country away from us.

It is time for another direction. I'm the clearest alternative to George Bush. I don't look like him. I don't talk like him. I don't act like him. I don't think like him. And I can put this country on the right track as president of the United States. Thank you. (Applause/cheers.)

MS. IFILL: Thank you, Ambassador. Governor Dean.

MR. DEAN: There are a lot of politicians in America today looking at our campaign and wondering how we're doing it. And the truth is, we're not doing it; you're doing it. This is not an election just to change presidents. This is an election to change Washington and change America.

The people on this stage with me have over three-quarters of a century of experience in Washington. And if one of them wins the nomination, believe me, I'm going to do everything I can to make sure they become the next president of the United States. (Applause.)

But we have to change American politics, and that means we have to be free of special interests. A lot of people have talked about that. A lot of people have talked about a lot of things. We are where we are today because 200,000 Americans gave us $75 apiece. There are no special interests in Washington anymore that are going to be able to buy us for $75 apiece. The special interests that are supporting us are the American people.

It is time to take our country back. You have the power to do that with what you have done already in this campaign. We have the power to take back the Democratic Party and make it stand up for what we believe in again.

We have the power to take back the United States of America so our flag is not owned by John Ashcroft and Rush Limbaugh and Jerry Falwell anymore. It belongs to all of us. (Applause.) And we have the power, you have the power, together to take back the White House in 2004. And that is exactly what we're going to do.

Thank you. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Thank you, Governor. General Clark.

GEN. CLARK: We're at a crucial turning point in American history. We are in trouble. We're in war abroad and we have a failing economy at home. I learned in the United States Army, in my military career, how to stand up to dictators. I learned how to put a plan together. I learned how to keep our troops safe and accomplish the mission.

I put my finger in the chest of a dictator and told him that if he didn't shape up, we'd bomb him. And when he didn't shape up, we did. And he's in The Hague now awaiting trial for war crimes.

But I also learned leadership in the United States Army. I learned that generals don't win wars, soldiers do; that we're all in this together; that a unit is no stronger than every soldier in it, that every soldier in it has got to have the education, training and skills he needs, that you have to have a high code of ethics, that we're all in that together, and that great leaders don't only have plans; they listen to the led.

I'd like to see an America in which business and political leaders stop just looking out for themselves but look out for all of us. I'd like to see an America in which business and political leaders understand that ordinary Americans aren't just cogs in the system; they are America.

I'd like to see an America in which business and political leaders make sure that every American gets the education and training he needs to contribute to this country. And if he's not on an equal playing field, we put him there.

We can have that America. We can have that America if we make the right choice in this election. It starts by changing the administration in Washington and getting real leadership in our nation's capital.

Thank you. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Thank you, General. Congressman Gephardt.

REP. GEPHARDT: America is at a crossroads. This election is not about me or any of us. It's about all of us. It's about what kind of country this is going to be.

I see the world very differently than George Bush. I think we're all tied together. Someone who doesn't have health insurance, they still get sick. They go to the emergency room; they have worse problems than they should. Then we've got to take care of that. That gets put on your bill, whether you know it or not.

Somebody's child doesn't get educated, winds up in prison; we all pay the bills every day. Martin Luther King said, "I can't be what I ought to be until you can be what you ought to be." And that's what I really believe.

My own life is the best example. I grew up poor. I got to go to university and law school because the Baptist church I grew up in gave me loans so that I could go.

And I just want all of you to know this. When I'm in that Oval Office, every day, on every issue, I'm going to be trying to figure out how every person in this country -- (bell rings) -- fulfills their God-given potential—nobody left out, nobody left behind. We can make America a better place than it's ever been.

Thank you. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: Thank you, Congressman. Senator Lieberman.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Gwen. Thanks to you, Carl, Hewell, and the Congressional Black Caucus and the City of Detroit for a great debate tonight. (Applause.)

Gwen, campaigns are about ideas for the future. They're about our vision for how to make our country better. I presented a lot of new ideas in this campaign to give America a fresh start. You can find them on my website at I want to talk about one quickly here at the end, and that's tax reform and tax fairness. Under George Bush, corporations and the people at the top are paying a lot less. The middle class is being squeezed. Higher health care costs, education costs, job insecurity. People and median incomes are down. The middle class needs a break. Without a strong middle class, we're never going to have a strong America. That's what my tax fairness plan does. It will cut taxes on 90 percent of tax payers. That's right. 98 percent of the taxpayers will get a cut in taxes under my plan. (Bell rings.) Will I ask corporations to pay their fair share to make that happen? Yes. Will I close loopholes? Absolutely. Will I ask people who can afford it to pay more? You bet I will. That's the way to be fair, to bring down the deficit, to protect Social Security, and implement my plan to create ten million new jobs in the first four years. That's the way to lead with integrity and fairness, which George Bush hasn't done, and which I will as president of the United States.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

MS. IFILL: This will be the final word. That concludes our debate. We'd like to thank the candidates for their time, the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, the very lively audience here at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (Applause.) And, of course, our audience at home. (Applause.) I'm Gwen Ifill. For my colleagues and for Fox News, good night.


Copyright 2003 Federal News Service, Inc. Federal News Service

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