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Democratic Presidential Debate - Transcript


Location: Hanover, NH

Democratic Presidential Debate - Transcript

MR. RUSSERT: Good evening, and welcome. We have some big issues to talk about tonight, so let's start right now.

Senator Obama, I'd like to start with you. General Petraeus in his testimony before Congress, later echoed by President Bush, gave every indication that in January of 2009 when the next president takes office, there will be 100,000 troops in Iraq. You're the president. What do you do? You said you would end the war. How do you do it in January of 2009?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, first of all, Tim, let me say thank you to Dartmouth for hosting this event.

And let me also say that had my judgment prevailed back in 2002, we wouldn't be in this predicament. I was opposed to this war from the start, have been opposed to this war consistently. But I have also said that there are no good options now; there are bad options and worse options.

I hope and will work diligently in the Senate to bring an end to this war before I take office. And I think that it is very important at this stage, understanding how badly the president's strategy has failed, that we not vote for funding without some timetable for this war.

If there are still large troop presences in when I take office, then the first thing I will do is call together the Joint Chiefs of Staff and initiate a phased redeployment. We've got to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. But military personnel indicate we can get one brigade to two brigades out per month.

I would immediately begin that process. We would get combat troops out of Iraq. The only troops that would remain would be those that have to protect U.S. bases and U.S. civilians, as well as to engage in counterterrorism activities in Iraq.

The important principle, though, is there are not going to be any military solutions to the problem in Iraq. There has to be a political accommodation, and the best way for us to support the troops and to stabilize the situation in Iraq is to begin that phased redeployment.

MR. RUSSERT: Will you pledge that by January 2013, the end of your first term more than five years from now, there will be no U.S. troops in Iraq?

SEN. OBAMA: I think it's hard to project four years from now, and I think it would be irresponsible. We don't know what contingency will be out there.

What I can promise is that if there are still troops in Iraq when I take office, which it appears there may be unless we can get some of our Republican colleagues to change their mind and cut off funding without a timetable, if there's no timetable, then I will drastically reduce our presence there to the mission of protecting our embassy, protecting our civilians and making sure that we're carrying out counterterrorism activities there.

I believe that we should have all our troops out by 2013, but I don't want to make promises not knowing what the situation's going to be three or four years out.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, Democrats all across the country believed in 2006, when the Democrats were elected to the majority in the House and Senate, that that was a signal to end the war, and the war would end.

You have said that will not pledge to have all troops out by the end of your first term, 2013. Why not?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, Tim, it is my goal to have all troops out by the end of my first term. But I agree with Barack. It is very difficult to know what we're going to be inheriting. You know, we do not know, walking into the White House in January 2009, what we're going to find. What is the state of planning for withdrawal?

That's why last spring I began pressing the Pentagon to be very clear about whether or not they were planning to bring our troops out. And what I found was that they weren't doing the kind of planning that is necessary, and we've been pushing them very hard to do so.

You know, with respect to the question, though, about the Democrats taking control of the Congress, I think the Democrats have pushed extremely hard to change this president's course in Iraq. Today I joined with many of my colleagues in voting for Senator Biden's plan, slightly different than he'd been presenting it, but still the basic structure was to move toward what is a de facto partition if the Iraqi people and government so choose.

The Democrats keep voting for what we believe would be a better course.

Unfortunately as you know so well, the Democrats don't have the majority in the Senate to be able to get past that 60-vote blockade that the Republicans can still put up. But I think every one of us who is still in the Senate -- Senator Biden, Senator Dodd, Senator Obama and myself -- we are trying every single day. And of course, Congressman Kucinich is in the House.

But I think it is fair to say that the president has made it clear. He intends to have about 100,000 or so troops when he leaves office -- the height of irresponsibility, that he would leave this war to his successor. I will immediately move to begin bringing our troops home when I am inaugurated.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Edwards, will you commit that at the end of your first term, in 2013, all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq?

MR. EDWARDS: I cannot make that commitment. I -- well, I can tell you what I would do as president. If I -- when I'm sworn into office come January of 2009, if there are in fact, as General Petraeus suggests, 100,000 American troops on the ground in Iraq, I will immediately draw down 40 (thousand) to 50,000 troops and, over the course of the next several months, continue to bring our combat troops out of Iraq until all of our combat troops are in fact out of Iraq.

I think the problem is, and it's what you've just heard discussed, is, we will maintain an embassy in Baghdad. That embassy has to be protected. We will probably have humanitarian workers in Iraq. Those humanitarian workers have to be protected.

I think somewhere in the neighborhood of a brigade of troops will be necessary to accomplish that -- 3,500 to 5,000 troops.

But I do say -- I want to add to things I just heard. I think that it's true that everyone up here wants to take a responsible course to end the war in Iraq. There are, however, differences between us, and those differences need to be made aware. Good people have differences about this issue. For example, I heard Senator Clinton say on Sunday that she wants to continue combat missions in Iraq. To me, that's a continuation of the war. I do not think we should continue combat missions in Iraq, and when I'm on a stage with the Republican nominee come the fall of 2008, I'm going to make it clear that I'm for ending the war. And the debate will be between a Democrat who wants to bring the war to an end, get all American combat troops out of Iraq, and a Republican who wants to continue the war.

MR. RUSSERT: Governor Richardson.

SEN. CLINTON: Tim, could I just clarify that? You know, I said there may be a continuing counterterrorism mission, which, if it still exists, will be aimed at al Qaeda in Iraq. It may require combat, Special Operations Forces or some other form of that, but the vast majority of our combat troops should be out.

MR. EDWARDS: But can I just say, my only point is I don't have any doubt that Senator Clinton wants to take a responsible course. There is a difference, however, in how we would go about this, and I think Democratic primary voters are entitled to know that difference.


MR. RUSSERT: All right. We'll give you -- I want to give Senator Gravel a chance.

Senator Gravel, I've listened to you very carefully in this campaign. You were in the Senate.

MR. GRAVEL: You're one of the few that has.

MR. RUSSERT: You were in the Senate, and you take credit for stopping the draft. If you were a senator right now, what advice would you give your colleagues still in Congress about how they can stop the war even though they don't have enough votes to stop a debate or to override a veto?

What should they do?

MR. GRAVEL: Well, the first thing, you stop the debate by voting every single day on cloture, every day, 20 days, and you'll overcome cloture. The president vetoes a law; it comes back to the Congress, and in the House at noon, every single day, you vote to override the president's veto. And in 40 days, the American people will have weighed in, put the pressure on those -- you tell me that the votes aren't there, you go get them by the scruff of the neck. That's what you do. You make them vote.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator, are you suggesting that these candidates suspend their campaigns, go back to Washington and for 40 consecutive days vote on the war?

MR. GRAVEL: If it stops the killing, my God, yes, do it! And, Tim, you're really missing something. This is Fantasyland. We're talking about ending the war; my God, we're just starting a war right today. There was a vote in the Senate today -- Joe Lieberman, who authored the Iraq resolution, has offered another resolution, and it essentially a fig leaf to let George Bush go to war with Iran. And I want to congratulate Biden for voting against it, Dodd for voting against, and I'm ashamed of you, Hillary, for voting for it. You're not going to get another shot at this, because what's happened if this war ensues -- we invade and they're looking for an excuse to do it.

And Obama was not even there to vote.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I'll give you a chance to respond.

SEN. CLINTON: (Laughs, laughter, applause.) Well, I don't know where to start, but let me --

MR. RUSSERT: Please take 30 seconds.

SEN. CLINTON: Yes. Let me respond. My understanding of the revolutionary guard in Iran is that it is promoting terrorism. It is manufacturing weapons that are used against our troops in Iraq. It is certainly the main agent of support for Hezbollah, Hamas and others, and in what we voted for today, we will have an opportunity to designate it as a terrorist organization, which gives us the options to be able to impose sanctions on the primary leaders to try to begin to put some teeth into all this talk about dealing with Iran. We wouldn't be where we are today if the Bush administration hadn't outsourced our diplomacy with respect to Iran and ignored Iran and called it part of the "axis of evil." Now we've got to make up for lost time on the ground.


MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, in 1981 the Israelis took out a nuclear reactor in Iraq. On September 6th, to the best of our information, Israel attacked Syria because there was suspicion that perhaps North Korea had put some nuclear materials in Syria.

If Israel concluded that Iran's nuclear capability threatened Israel's security, would Israel be justified in launching an attack on Iran?

SEN. CLINTON: Tim, I think that's one of those hypotheticals that --

MR. RUSSERT: It is not a hypothetical, Senator. It's real life.

SEN. CLINTON: -- that is better not addressed at this time.

MR. RUSSERT: It's real --

SEN. CLINTON: What is real life is what apparently happened in Syria, so let's take that one step at a time.

MR. RUSSERT: But my question --

SEN. CLINTON: I know what the question is.

MR. RUSSERT: The question is --

SEN. CLINTON: But I think it's important to lay out what we know about Syria.

MR. RUSSERT: Would Israel -- my question is --

SEN. CLINTON: Because we don't have as much information as we wish we did. But what we think we know is that with North Korean help, both financial and technical and material, the Syrians apparently were putting together, and perhaps over some period of years, a Nuclear facility, and the Israelis took it out. I strongly support that.

We don't have any more information than what I have just described. It is highly classified; it is not being shared. But I don't want to go a step further and talk about what might or might not happen down the road with Iran.

MR. RUSSERT: My question was --

SEN. CLINTON: But I think it is fair to say what happened in Syria, so far as we know, I support.

MR. RUSSERT: My question is, would the Israelis be justified if they felt their security was being threatened by the presence of a nuclear presence in Iran, and they decided to take military action?

Would they be justified?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, Tim, I'm not going to answer that because what I understand is that --

MR./SEN./REP. : I'll answer --

SEN. CLINTON: -- there was -- there was evidence -- (interrupted by laughter). Well, let me just finish -- (continued laughter, applause) -- and then Mike and Dennis can answer.

But there was evidence of a North Korea freighter coming in with supplies. There was intelligence and other kinds of verification. So I don't think it's a question of if they feel it. That is a much higher standard of proof. Apparently, it was met with respect to Syria.

MR. RUSSERT: You will all be running against a Republican opponent, perhaps Rudy Giuliani. This is what he said.

"Iran is not going to be allowed to build a nuclear power. If they get to a point where they're going to become a nuclear power, we will prevent them; we will set them back eight to 10 years. That is not said as a threat; that should be said as a promise."

Would you make a promise as a potential commander in chief that you will not allow Iran to become a nuclear power and will use any means to stop it?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, what I have said is that I will do everything I can to prevent Iran from becoming an nuclear power, including the use of diplomacy, the use of economic sanctions, opening up direct talks. We haven't even tried. That's what is so discouraging about this. So then you have the Republican candidates on the other side jumping to the kind of statements that you just read to us.

We need a concerted, comprehensive strategy to deal with Iran. We haven't had it. We need it. And I will provide it.


MR. RUSSERT: Before we take a break, I want to go to Alison King of New England Cable News, who has been sifting through thousands of questions from across the country and New England and here in New Hampshire.

Alison, a question, please.

ALISON KING (New England Cable News): Thank you, Tim.

Dozens of cities around the country, including several here, right here in New England, have been designated as sanctuary cities. These are communities that provide a safe haven for illegal immigrants, where police are told not to involve themselves in immigration matters.

Would you allow these cities to ignore the federal law regarding the reporting of illegal immigrants and, in fact, provide sanctuary to these immigrants?


MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, would you allow the sanctuary cities to exist?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, in addition to the general points that have been made, that I agree with, why do they have sanctuary cities? In large measure because if local law enforcement begins to act like immigration enforcement officers, what that means is that you will have people not reporting crimes. You will have people hiding from the police. And I think that is a real direct threat to the personal safety and security of all the citizens.

So this is a result of the failure of the federal government, and that's where it needs to be fixed.

MR. RUSSERT: But you would allow the sanctuary cities to disobey the federal law.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I don't think there is any choice. The ICE groups go in and raid individuals, but if you're a local police chief and you're trying to solve a crime that you know people from the immigrant community have information about, they may not talk to you if they think you're also going to be enforcing the immigration laws.

Local law enforcement has a different job than federal immigration enforcement. The problem is the federal government has totally abdicated its responsibility.


MR. RUSSERT: And we are back live from Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, and we are resuming our debate.

Senator Dodd, let me start with you. President Bush predicted that Hillary Clinton would be the nominee for president for your party. You issued a statement that said, quote, "I can understand why the president would want Senator Clinton to be the nominee."

What does that mean?

SEN. CLINTON: (Laughs, laughter.)

SEN. DODD: Well, if I were Hillary Clinton, I'd be very worried.

SEN. CLINTON: (Laughs.)

SEN. DODD: This is the same guy who said, "Way to go, Brownie," here. (Laughter, applause.) And I think "mission accomplished" was the other one I saw. So in terms of being a prognosticator of events, I'd say the president has somewhat of a bad record when it comes to that.

But certainly we all respect and admire Hillary and can understand that as well. But this race is going to be won by voters here in this state and Iowa and other caucus and primary states. Making predictions in September or August about who's going to win later on, I think, has proven to be rather faulty over the years. So I look very much forward to the kind of race that develops.

I said -- I walked in here this evening, and a fellow walked up to me and he said, "Anderson Cooper, what's happened to you here?" (Laughter.) So I realized I have some gaining of ground to do here, but nonetheless, I'm counting on the American people. Democrats make a good choice in the coming months, not the president of the United States predicting the winner in the Democratic primary.

MR. RUSSERT: But your statement said, "I can understand why the president would want Senator Clinton." Why does George Bush want Senator Clinton to be the nominee of the party? That's what you said.

SEN. DODD: Well, being somewhat facetious Tim, obviously --


SEN. DODD: And the question here of whether or not you're actually trying to in a sense encourage a certain outcome here. And we all believe we'd be the best candidates. I certainly do, based on 26 years of working on every major domestic and foreign policy issue of our country, having proven to get results for our nation, having authored the Family and Medical Leave Act, child care legislation, dealing in Latin America, dealing with financial services. I think people want not only promises about what you'll do, but a proven record of what you've been able to accomplish.

MR. RUSSERT: Experience and judgment have been two issues that have been raised in this campaign. Senator Clinton, as first lady, your major initiative was health care. You acknowledge that you did some things wrong in that. Democrats and Republicans both rejected your proposal. You said that the most important vote you cast in the Senate was on the Iraq war. You voted for it.

If, in fact, you made fundamental misjudgments on health care as first lady and the war as senator, why shouldn't Democratic voters say, "She doesn't have the judgment to be president"?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, Tim, I'm proud that I tried to get universal health care back in '93 and '94. It was a tough fight. It was kind of a lonely fight. But it was worth trying. And of course I've said many times that I made mistakes.

But I think the biggest mistake was that we didn't take the opportunity that was offered back them to move toward quality affordable health care for every single American.

But I've come back with a different plan that I believe is much better reflective of what people want, namely, an array of choices. You can keep what you have. But if you're uninsured or you're underinsured, you'll now have access to the congressional plan.

And I think it's a different time. Many more people -- in business, in labor, doctors, nurses, hospitals and especially American families -- know that we have to change what we do in health care. And I think that my experience on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, knowing how challenging it will be to take on the special interests, which I've been taking on for a very long time, gives me a special insight into what we must do. And I intend to be the health care president. You see a lot of people with those stickers that say, "I'm a health care voter." Well, I want to be the health care president.

And I think that finally there will be a consensus behind us to do that. And I look forward to going into the White House and getting that done, because I think it's the highest domestic priority that we have right now.

MR. RUSSERT: Could the scaled bill down -- scaled-down bill that you have now, which is very similar to what Senator Chafee, a Republican, had back in 1993 -- your bill today could have passed back then, but you refused to compromise.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I don't -- well, I don't think that's a fair reading.

If you'll remember, there was a decision made by the Republicans then that they would not support extending health care to every American. I regret that, and so did the late Senator Chafee, because he and I had many conversations about that.

But those arguments have been really discredited the last 15 years. People know that we can't sustain the course we're on without doing more damage, more uninsured, more people denied the care that their doctors say they need, even though they have insurance, driving more doctors to distraction, overworking our nurses. There's so much that has happened that people can see with their own eyes now, that I believe that we finally have a consensus to do what we should do.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Biden, you said the other day, quote, "Do you really believe that Senator Clinton can get more than 15 percent of Republicans to vote for health care?" What does that mean?

SEN. BIDEN: No, what is means is that in order to get health care, you're going to have to be able to persuade at least 15 percent of the Republicans to vote for it.

MR. RUSSERT: And she cannot?

SEN. BIDEN: I think it's going to be more difficult -- unfairly, but I think it's more difficult for Hillary. Hillary, because she has battled the special interests, and she has, but look at the special interests. The special interests, with regard to Hillary, they feed on this, you know, this Clinton-Bush thing.

It's not Hillary's fault. But the fact of the matter is, it's much more difficult to go out and convince a group of Republicans, I would argue, getting something done that is of a major consequence.

I have experience doing that. I did it on the crime bill, I did it on -- today, the first time we rejected -- fundamentally rejected the president's policy. And I'm not suggesting it's Hillary's fault. I think it's a reality that it's more difficult, because there's a lot of very good things that come with all the great things that President Clinton did. But there's also a lot of the old stuff that comes back. It's kind of hard. When I say "old stuff," I'm referring to policy -- policy.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Edwards, you said in effect that Senator Clinton's mismanagement of health care meant that 40 million Americans have not had it since 1993. That's a very serious charge.

MR. EDWARDS: Well, I didn't use the word "mismanagement." I think Senator Clinton actually worked, as first lady at that time, very hard for health care.

But here's -- I listen to this discussion, and this is what I hear -- a bunch of people who've been in Washington a long time who think that everything has to be done there. It's like the rest of America doesn't exist. They're going to have a bunch of Washington insiders who sit around tables together, negotiate, compromise, insurance companies, drug companies, lobbyists, and they're going to figure out together -- to the exclusion of the rest of America -- what should be done about health care.

I think we actually need a president who's willing to go to Americans and make the case for the need for universal health care. And the thing that I have committed to do is the first day that I am president, I will say to the Congress, to myself, to the vice president, to the members of the Cabinet, if you have not passed universal health care by July of this year, July of 2009, you lose your health care because there is no excuse for politicians in Washington to have health care coverage when America has no health care coverage. (Applause.)

And I -- if I -- can I add one last thing?

MR. RUSSERT: Well, Senator, I want to ask you this because in 2004 when you ran for president, you said we could not afford universal health care, it was not achievable, and it was not responsible. You've changed dramatically on this issue.

MR. EDWARDS: That's true and so has America. I proposed universal health care for children at that point, and what is clear from this presidential campaign is I was the first presidential candidate -- others have followed me now, and that's a good thing, good thing for America -- but I was the first presidential candidate to lay out a specific truly universal health care plan. And the one thing I can tell you, as anybody who knows me, anybody who knows me knows I will never give up.

What happened in '93 and '94 is we didn't get universal health care, but we got NAFTA. And when I'm president of the United States, you have my word I will never pull the universal health care bill. I will put everything I have behind making sure that's enacted.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Obama, I asked Senator Clinton about experience in judgment. You have served in the U.S. Senate about 33 months. You have no landmark legislation as such that you have offered. When you were elected back in 2004, you said, quote, "The notion that somehow I am going to start running for higher office, it just doesn't make sense."

If it didn't make sense in 2004, why does it make sense now?

SEN. OBAMA: Because I think that the country is at a crossroads right now and it needs three things. Number one, it needs somebody who can bring the country together, and that's the kind of experience that I bring to this office. When I was in the state legislature, I was able to get people who were polar opposites -- police officers and law enforcement working with civil rights advocates to reform a death penalty system that was broken; bringing people together, Republicans and Democrats, to provide health insurance to people who didn't have it. That's number one.

Number two, we need somebody who can take on the special interests and win. And I have consistently done that. On money in politics, in the state legislature I passed landmark ethics legislation against not just Republicans but also some of the leaders in my own party. I did the same thing working with Russ Feingold with the ethics reform package that we passed last year.

And the third thing is telling the truth to the American people even when it's tough, which I did in 2002, standing up against this war at a time where it was very unpopular. And I was risking my political career, because I was in the middle of a U.S. Senate race.

Now, those are, I think, the kinds of experiences that people are looking for right now in this country, and that's the kind of experience I bring to bear to this race.

I just want to make one last comment. I think Hillary Clinton deserves credit for having worked on health care. I think John deserves credit for his proposal. I know that, you know, he feels that he put out his plan first. You know, Harry Truman put something out 60 years ago for universal health care. I wrote about it in a book that I wrote last year -- a plan very similar to John's.

The issue is not going to be who has these particular plans. It has to do with who can inspire and mobilize the American people to get it done and open up the process. If it was lonely for Hillary, part of the reason it was lonely, Hillary, was because you closed the door to a lot of potential allies in that process. At that time, 80 percent of Americans already wanted universal health care, but they didn't feel like they were let into the process.


MS. KING: Quickly, have you sat down with your daughters to talk about same-sex marriage?

SEN. OBAMA: My wife has.

MS. KING: Okay.

I'd like to ask Senator Clinton the same question.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I -- I really respect what both John and Barack said. I think that we've seen differences used for divisive purposes, for political purposes in the last several elections, and I think every one of us on this stage are really personally opposed to that and will do everything we can to prevent it.

With respect to your individual children, that is such a matter of parental discretion. I think that obviously it is better to try to work with your children, to help your children the many differences that are in the world and to really respect other people and the choices that other people make, and that goes far beyond sexual orientation.

So I think that this issue of gays and lesbians and their rights will remain an important one in our country. And I hope that -- tomorrow we're going to vote on the hate crimes bill, and I'm sure that those of us in the Senate will be there to vote for it. We haven't been able to get it passed, and it is an important measure to send a message that we stand against hatred and divisiveness. And I think that, you know, that's what the Democratic Party stands for in contrast all too often to the other side.

MS. KING: Thank you, Senator.

Tim, back to you.

MR. RUSSERT: Thank you, Alison.

We're going to take another quick break. We're going to come back and talk about something that affects this generation and the next generation -- Social Security, Medicare and a whole lot more. We'll be right back to the Democrats debate.


MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, would you be in favor of saying to the American people, "I'm going to tax your income. I'm not going to cap at $97,500. Everyone, even if you're a millionaire, is going to pay Social Security tax on every cent they make"?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, Tim, let me tell you what I think about this because I know this is a particular concern of yours, but I want to make three points very briefly.

First, I do think that it's important to talk about fiscal responsibility. You know, when my husband left office after moving us toward a balanced budget and a surplus, we had a plan to make Social Security solvent until 2055. Now, because of the return to deficits, we've lost 14 years of solvency. It's now projected to be solvent until 2041. Getting back on a path of fiscal responsibility is absolutely essential.

Number two, I think we do need another bipartisan process. You described what happened in '83. It took presidential leadership, and it took the relationship between the White House and Capitol Hill to reach the kind of resolution that was discussed.

And I think that has to be what happens again, but with a president who is dedicated to Social Security, unlike our current president, who has never liked Social Security. You can go back and see when he first ran for Congress he was dissing Social Security. So when I'm president, I will do everything to protect and preserve Social Security so we can have that kind of bipartisanship.

And finally, then you can look in the context of fiscal responsibility and of a bipartisan compromise what else might be done. But I think if you don't put fiscal responsibility first, you're going to really make a big mistake, because we demonstrated in the '90s it had a lot to do with moving us toward solvency.

MR. RUSSERT: But you would not take lifting the cap at 97.5 off the table.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I take everything off the table until we move toward fiscal responsibility and before we have a bipartisan process. I don't think I should be negotiating about what I would do as president. You know, I want to see what other people come to the table with.

MR. RUSSERT: But Senator Biden said you can't grow your way out of this. And for the record, when the Clinton administration left office, Social Security was only guaranteed to 2038, not 2055.

SEN. CLINTON: There was a plan, on the basis of the balanced budget and the surplus, to take it all the way to 2055.

MR. RUSSERT: A plan --

SEN. CLINTON: And we know what happened. George Bush came in, went back to deficits, and has basically used the Social Security trust fund and borrowing from China --

MR. RUSSERT: But Senator --

SEN. CLINTON: -- and other countries to pay for the war.

MR. RUSSERT: -- a simple question.

A simple question. What do you put on the table? What are you willing to look at to say, "We're not going to double the taxes, we're not going to cut benefits in half; I'm willing to put everything on the table, some things on the table, nothing on the table"?

SEN. CLINTON: I'm not putting anything on the proverbial table until we move toward fiscal responsibility. I think it's a mistake to do that.


SEN. DODD: But you've got to raise it up, clearly, to do this.

Let me also say something, look, because all of this comes down to one other issue, Tim, clearly. Joe made the point earlier. We can all talk about this. No one political party is going to do this. It's going to take people who can bring people together to get the job done. And you need to demonstrate not just the experience but the proven ability to actually get results by bringing people together to do things that were difficult to accomplish. That's what I've done for 26 years. I know how to do this. And I think the American people are looking for leadership that -- not just make promises about what they're going to do, but the ability to bring elements together, as you had happen with Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill and Bob Dole and Pat Moynihan. That kind of leadership is missing today. That's what the American people want back.

MR. : I want to --

SEN. CLINTON: Tim, I just have to insert something here. You know, the Democrats are against privatization. I fought against it. We all did.

But in the interests of, I think, facts, we were on a pathway, at the end of the Clinton administration, in the words of Alan Greenspan, of eliminating the debt.

That was one of the excuses he gave when he voted for those horrible tax cuts in 2001, that he was so worried we would actually eliminate the debt.

So I think it's important that you cannot give away what you're going to be negotiating over when it comes to Social Security until you make it clear that fiscal responsibility has got to be the premise of the negotiation. And if you don't lead with that and if you don't point to the fact that the Democrats are much better stewards of our country's budget then the Republicans are -- because once again we're in a mess after this President Bush leaves office -- then you're going to be negotiating with yourself, and I think that's a mistake.

MR. RUSSERT: But Senator Clinton --

SEN. CLINTON: Put fiscal responsibility --

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton -- Senator Clinton -- Senator Clinton, you would acknowledge that the programs as they are now constructed will not exist unless significant changes are made in them for the next generation.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think we have to make some significant changes, and I've told you where I would start from and what I would do. And I think it's a mistake to be negotiating over what you will give away before you even get to the bipartisan process, because the fiscal responsibility -- (interrupted by cross talk) --

MR. RUSSERT: One second -- one second here. I want to turn to another health issue because this is important before I bring Allison in.

Over 400,000 Americans have premature death due to smoking or secondhand smoke.

Senator Clinton, would you be in favor of a national law to ban smoking in all public places?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, we banned it in New York City. And people thought it would be a terrible idea, and everyone was really upset about it. And actually business at a lot of establishments, like restaurants and other places, increased, because many people felt more comfortable going when there was no smoking.

I think that we should be moving toward a bill that I have supported to regulate tobacco through the FDA. And once it has those health warnings and once the FDA can regulate it, I think that will give a lot of support to local communities to make these, what are essentially zoning decisions. And I'd fully support that.

MR. RUSSERT: But you're not in favor of a national law to ban smoking in public places?

SEN. CLINTON: Not at this point. I think we're making progress at the local level.


MR. RUSSERT: We are back in New Hampshire.

Politicians spend millions of dollars on TV commercials, which last 30 seconds. We want to demonstrate to the American voters tonight that you can answer a question in 30 seconds. (Laughter.) Here we go.

Senator Obama, you go around the country saying it's time to turn the page. Are you talking about the Bushes, the Clintons or both?

SEN. OBAMA: What I'm talking about is ending the divisive politics that we have in this country. I think it is important for us as Democrats to be clear about what we stand for. But I think we also have to invite Republicans and independents to join us in a progressive agenda for universal health care, to make sure that they are included in conversations about improving our education system and properly funding our public schools. I think turning the page means that we've got to get over the special interest-driven politics that we've become accustomed to. And most importantly it's important for us to make sure that we're telling the truth to the American people about the choices we face.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, if you are the nominee, it will be 28 years, from 1980 to 2008, where there's been a Bush or a Clinton on the national ticket. (Laughter.) Is it healthy for democracy to have a two-family political dynasty? (Laughter.)

SEN. CLINTON: I thought Bill was a pretty good president. (Cheers, applause.) And from my perspective, you know, the values that he acted on on behalf of our country, both at home and abroad, are ones that stand the test of time.

But look, I'm running on my own. I'm going to the people on my own. I think I know how to find common ground and how to stand my ground. And on all the issues that matter to America in the 21st century, I wish we could turn the clock back, but we can't. And we need to start with leadership that can deliver results and get us back to the values that make America great.


RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, would you rule out expanding nuclear power?

CLINTON: No, but it would not be one of the options that I favor, unless, number one, the cost can get down for the construction and operation; number two, that we have a viable solution for the nuclear waste. I voted against Yucca Mountain. I've spoken out against Yucca Mountain. I think that recently the discovery -- there's an earthquake fault going under the proposed site at Yucca Mountain -- certainly validates my opposition. So there are a lot of very difficult questions. But we're going to have to look at the entire energy profile, in order to determine how we're going to move away from our dependence upon carbon-based fuels. And I will look at everything, but there are some tough questions you'd have to answer with respect to nuclear.

RUSSERT: I want to move to another subject, and this involves a comment that a guest on Meet the Press made, and I want to read it, as follows: Imagine the following scenario. We get lucky. We get the number three guy in Al Qaida. We know there's a big bomb going off in America in three days and we know this guy knows where it is.

RUSSERT: Don't we have the right and responsibility to beat it out of him? You could set up a law where the president could make a finding or could guarantee a pardon.


President Obama, would you do that as president?

SEN. OBAMA: America cannot sanction torture. It's a very straightforward principle and one that we should abide by. Now, I will do whatever it takes to keep America safe. And there are going to be all sorts of hypotheticals, an emergency situation, and I will make that judgment at that time.

But what we cannot do is have the president of the United States state as a matter of policy that there is a loophole or an exception where we would sanction torture. I think that diminishes us, and it sends the wrong message to the world.

GOV. RICHARDSON: Senator Biden, would you allow this presidential exception?

SEN. BIDEN: No, I would not, and I met up here in New Hampshire with 17 four -- three-and-four-star generals who, after my making a speech at Drake Law School pointing out I would not under any circumstances sanction torture, I thought they were about to read me the riot act. 17 of our four-star and three-star generals said, Biden, will you make a commitment you will never use torture?

It does not work and it's part of the reason why we got the faulty information on Iraq in the first place. Because it was engaged in by one person who gave whatever answer they thought they were going to give in order to stop being tortured. It doesn't work. It should be no part of our policy ever, ever.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, this is the number-three man in al Qaeda.

We know there's a bomb about to go off, and we have three days, and we know this guy knows where it is. Should there be a presidential exception to allow torture in that kind of situation?

SEN. CLINTON: You know, Tim, I agree with what Joe and Barack have said. As a matter of policy, it cannot be American policy, period.

I met with those same three- and four-star retired generals, and their principal point, in addition to the values that are so important for our country to exhibit, is that there is very little evidence that it works.

Now, there are a lot of other things that we need to be doing that I wish we were -- better intelligence, making our -- you know, our country better respected around the world, working to have more allies.

But these hypothetical are very dangerous because they open a great big hole in what should be an attitude that our country and our president takes toward the appropriate treatment of everyone. And I think it's dangerous to go down this path.

MR. RUSSERT: The guest who laid out this scenario for me with that proposed solution was William Jefferson Clinton last year. So he disagrees with you.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, he's not standing here right now. (Laughter, applause.)

MR. RUSSERT: So there is a disagreement.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I'll talk to him later. (Laughter.)

MR. RUSSERT: Well, that raises the question: which foreign policy decisions of the Clinton administration were you involved in or did you advise?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I have always said that my husband and I started a conversation 36 years ago, and it never stopped. So I was certainly involved in talking about a lot of what went on in terms of the president's decisions.

But I know very well that the president makes the decision; everyone in the White House is there because of one person, the president, including the spouse of the president. And, ultimately, the president has to sift through everything that is recommended and make her decision. And what I believe is that it's the ultimate responsibility of a president to seek out a broad cross section of advisors who will have different points of view and provide different perspectives. And that's what I intend to do, and that is certainly what my husband did as well.

MR. RUSSERT: Anyone else want to disagree with President Clinton on torture?

MR. GRAVEL: Yes, I do.

SEN. DODD: Well, listen. You know --

MR. RUSSERT: Go ahead. Senator Dodd.

SEN. DODD: Not that I disagree, but this is all part of the military commissions act, which was adopted last fall -- there were only a handful of us that voted against it at the time -- and I've written legislation to overturn it. I'll offer no better witness here than John McCain, who said that during those terrible years he was incarcerated and tortured, he would say anything to those interrogators in order to stop the physical pain.

So we need to reinforce the idea here, this is a dreadful way to collect information. We need to do other things to make sure it happens, but walking away from international conventions, as we did with the Geneva Conventions, to disallow the restrictions on torture I think is a mistake, and also to walk away from habeas corpus. But leadership requires you try to do something about it, and I'm doing something about it by trying to get the Congress to overturn that legislation --


MR. RUSSERT: I want to turn to politics and money. Senator Clinton, as you well know, you had to turn back $850,000 in contributions from Norman Hsu because of his rather checkered past. Again, President Clinton said this: "Now, we don't have to publish all our donors for the Clinton Foundation, but if Hillary became president, I think there would be questions about whether we tried to win favor by giving money to me."

In light of that, would -- do you believe that the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Library should publish all the donors who give contributions to those two entities?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, Tim, I actually co-sponsored legislation that would have sitting presidents reveal any donation to their presidential library, and I think that's a good policy.

MR. RUSSERT: And the foundation?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, it would be the same, because that's where the library comes from.

MR. RUSSERT: Until such legislation, would they voluntarily, the Clinton Library and Clinton Foundation, make their donors public?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, you'll have to ask them.

MR. RUSSERT: What's your recommendation?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I don't talk about my private conversations with my husband, but I'm sure he'd be happy to consider that.


MR. RUSSERT: I want to give everyone a chance on this, if you could just take 10 seconds.

Senator Clinton, favorite Bible verse?

SEN. CLINTON: The Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." I think it's a good rule for politics, too.


MR. RUSSERT: I want to thank you all for your answers this evening. I want to ask Allison King for one more question. This, after all, is New Hampshire. She wants to ask you about baseball.


MS. KING: For many here in New England, the answer to this next question may be the most important one you answer tonight. Red Sox or Yankees? (Laughter.)

Senator -- Governor Richardson.

SEN. DODD: Which is it now, Bill? Come on.

GOV. RICHARDSON: Red Sox because Manny Ramirez is back. The Red Sox will win the pennant, and they will win the World Series. (Laughter, applause.)

MS. KING: Senator Clinton.

REP. KUCINICH: You know, I've got to take exception to this. Cleveland Indians won the central division, 92 victory. (Laughter, applause.) They're going to the World Series.

Hi, mom. (Laughter.)

MS. KING: Senator Clinton, where are you on this, Red Sox or Yankees?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I hate to say it in front of this New Hampshire crowd, I'm a Yankees fan -- (booing, cheers, applause) -- have been for a long, long time.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, what about a World Series Yankees and Cubs?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, you know, I've worried about that because I think given the Cubs' record -- which of course I hope it happens, but it could very well be a sign of the coming apocalypse were that ever to occur -- (laughter) -- it would be so out of history that you'd have the Cubs versus the Yankees. Then, I'd be really in trouble. But I --

MR. RUSSERT: But who would you be for?

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I would probably have to alternate sides. (Laughter, applause.)

MR. RUSSERT: Spoken like a true sports fan.


MR. RUSSERT: Thank you all. Thank you voters of New Hampshire and all across the country for watching the Democratic candidates tonight, and thank you Dartmouth. (Applause.) Our thanks to New England Cable News -- (continued applause) -- Dartmouth College. The broadcast re-airs tonight 1:00 a.m. Eastern on MSNBC. If you want to see the Republican candidates in a similar setting, NBC will bring you the debate from Dearborn, Michigan October 9th. (Continued applause.) I'll see you this Sunday on Meet the Press.

From Hanover, New Hampshire, good night.


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