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Democratic Presidential Debate in Durham, N.H. - Part 1

Location: Durham, NH

Transcript: Democratic Presidential Debate in Durham, N.H. - Part 1

Tuesday, December 9, 2003; 8:44 PM



KOPPEL: Good evening and welcome to the 973rd Democratic debate of this young political season.

It isn't, of course, but I suspect that to many of the folks standing up here and to my colleagues in the press room who are watching at times it seems like it.

What is it, Governor Dean? We're about 20th, 24th, 25th.

DEAN: Some number like that.

KOPPEL: Some number like that.

DEAN: It's a big number.

KOPPEL: So it's been going on for 25 times.

And I'm joined this evening by my colleague from WMUR, which is our ABC affiliate up here in New Hampshire, Scott Spradling. And he and I will be asking questions according to a rigorous discipline that has been set up by representatives of the candidates here and by the Democratic National Committee.

The way it goes is, we are obliged to ask each of the candidates three questions, so that'll be 27 questions over the first half of this occasion.

Our questions are supposed to be 30 seconds or less. Your answers are supposed to be one minute or less. If somebody says something nasty about somebody else it is up to us to decide whether the victim of that assault gets a chance to respond, but you almost certainly will.

And that's about it. That'll be the first half of it.

The second half is much more wide open, and we hope to engage you with one another a little bit more. But let's get to it right away.

And if you will forgive me, or at least bear with me for just one second, I'm going to ask you to do something physical, and then I promise I will give you an opportunity to elaborate at greater length orally.

This has been an extraordinary day for Governor Dean. As we all know, he got the endorsement of former Vice President Al Gore.

KOPPEL: Things are going very well for him in the polls. Things are going very well for him in terms of raising money.
So I would like all of you up here, including you, Governor Dean, to raise your hand if you believe that Governor Dean can beat George W. Bush.



DEAN: That wasn't what I said.


KOPPEL: So don't look at me. Look at these eight other folks. I'm...

DEAN: You kind of put them on the spot, though.

KOPPEL: Yes, that's the idea.

Tell me, Senator Kerry, why didn't you raise your hand?



KERRY: For the very simple reason, Ted, that I believe in my candidacy and I believe in my vision for the country, and because every indication is that I can beat George Bush. And that's been shown in some of the national polls.

I was sort of surprised today, actually, by the endorsement, because I thought that Joe Lieberman had shown such extraordinary loyalty in delaying his own campaign...


... that it surprised me.

But let me tell you-and I think I speak for every candidate up here-this race is not over until votes have been cast and counted.


KERRY: And I am running for president because I believe I can offer the leadership that our nation needs at a critical time in its history.

We're at war, and the world is looking to us for leadership.

George Bush has run the most arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological foreign policy in the modern history of our country.

I am going to return us to the United Nations. I'm going to restore our place in world leadership. And I am going to break the stranglehold in this country of special interests that have brought us an energy bill...

KOPPEL: Senator Kerry, forgive me for interrupting. You may have noticed that red light.

KERRY: I didn't notice any red light.


KOPPEL: Well, I mean, that's why I'm drawing your attention to it. And I let you go a little bit longer.

KERRY: I apologize.

KOPPEL: By the time we get to the flashing yellow light, it means you got 15 seconds left.

Congressman Gephardt, you didn't raise your hand, either. None of you did.

I'm not really asking you-at least, I wasn't then-whether you think you're the better candidate. I was simply asking you whether you thought that Howard Dean could beat George W. Bush. Not a one of you raised his or her hand.

GEPHARDT: Well, I'm sure that all of us think that we have the best chance to beat George Bush. But I think we're all united in wanting to replace George Bush with a much better president.

GEPHARDT: This president has let this country down every time, every possible...


Now, you know, I think I have more experience than anyone on the stage at the highest levels of government, fighting for the values of the Democratic Party, fighting for middle-class families-something that I came from and something that I feel very strongly about.

But I think I've translated that experience into bold ideas, big ideas, that address the problems we face.

And finally, I think I can beat George Bush in the states where you got to beat George Bush. In order to beat George Bush, you've got to beat him all across the top of this country, not just in California and New York, but in places like Missouri and Ohio and West Virginia.

KOPPEL: You're out of time, Congressman.
Senator Lieberman, you've got a bit of a shot to the solar plexus today. You had to be surprised by it; you have to be a little disappointed by it.

Fact of the matter is, someone has got to win the primaries and the caucuses and, ultimately, the Democratic nomination before they can hope to win the presidency against George Bush.

Have your chances received a bad shock today?

LIEBERMAN: Ted, I think in some unpredicted, unexpected way, my chances have actually increased today. I can tell you that our phones have been ringing off the hook at the campaign headquarters. I've been stopped in the airports, people angry about what happened.

And I was raised to face adversity in one way: double my determination to continue to fight for what's right for the future of our party and our country.

And I'll tell you why I didn't raise my hand in response to that question: This campaign for the Democratic nomination is fundamentally a referendum within our party about whether we're going to build on the Clinton transformation in our party in 1992 that reassured people we were strong on defense, we were fiscally responsible, we cared about values, we were interested in cutting taxes for the middle class and working with business to create jobs.

Howard Dean-and now Al Gore, I guess-are on the wrong side of each of those issues.

So I'm ready to fight for the future of this party that I love and fight for the future of this country, because we're only going to defeat George Bush if we have an independent-minded, center-out Democrat...

KOPPEL: You're out of time, Senator.
I'm sorry. I'm going to do this to all of you. It's the only way to be fair to you.

KOPPEL: Reverend Sharpton, you were raising your hand before. In response to which part of what happened?

SHARPTON: Well, I think that-I think all of us have an opportunity to beat Bush if we do not break and chase away from our party the people that we're going to have to mobilize to come out.

What I start hearing today is dangerous. That's why I didn't raise my hand.

Al Gore went to New York today. He should have noticed Tammany Hall is not there anymore. Bossism is not in this party. To talk about people ought not run and that people ought...

... to get out of this race is bossism that belongs in the other party.

We waited four years after some of us were disenfranchised, some of us in Duvall County couldn't vote, so we can express ourselves. And we're not going to have any big name come in now and tell us the field should be limited and we can't be heard.


The Republicans shut us up four years ago. Al Gore-no Democrat should shut us up today. Let the people decide on the nominee. Bossism shouldn't happen.

I know that Governor Dean and Al Gore love the Internet; www.bossism <

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