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CNN Democratic Presidential Debate


Location: Las Vegas, NV

CNN Democratic Presidential Debate


MR. BLITZER: Senator Edwards, we're going to give you a chance in a second. (Continued cheers, applause.)

We're going to give Senator Edwards a chance to respond. I want Senator -- Senator Biden to weigh in.

Senator Biden?

SEN. BIDEN: Oh, no, no, no, no, no. (Laughter.)

MR. BLITZER: I want you to weigh in.

SEN. BIDEN: Don't do it. No. Don't make me speak.

MR. BLITZER: I want you to. Go ahead.

What do you think -- Senator Biden, here's the question. What do you think about this exchange among Democrats? Is that good for the Democrats or is it bad?

SEN. BIDEN: Hey, look, let's get to it, folks. The American people don't give a darn about any of this stuff that's going on up here. Look, they're sitting -- now, seriously, think about it. They're sitting down at their table tonight, they've put their kids to bed, and they're worrying about whether or not their child's going to run into a drug dealer on the way to school.

They're worrying about whether or not they're going to be able to pay for their mortgage, because even if they didn't have one of those subprime mortgages, things are looking bad for them. They're worrying about whether they're going to keep their job. And they're worrying about their son in the National Guard's going to get killed in Iraq. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, look, every -- every political campaign gets to this place. And I'm not criticizing any of the three people who are the ones who always get to talk all the time at these events. (Laughter.) I'm not. I'm not. I'm not criticizing. But look, folks, let's get straight to it here. This is not about experience, it's not about change, it's about action.

Who among us is going to be able to on day one step in, (end ?) the war. Who among us understands what to do about Pakistan? Who among us is going to pick up the phone and immediately interface with Putin and tell him to lay off Georgia because Saakashvili is in real trouble? Who among us knows what they're doing?

I have 35 years of experience. While everyone's talking about their experience -- and Hillary has a great experience, and John and the rest of them -- I was passing the Violence Against Women Act. I was passing the crime bill.

MR. BLITZER (?): All right.

MR. BIDEN: I was passing -- you're right. (Extended cheers and applause.)


MR. BLITZER: I just want to go down the line and ask everyone, and then we're going to move on to the next question.

Just to be precise because there was a little confusion, thanks to Senator Edwards earlier in the week, I just want to make sure I fully understand all of you Democrats. Are you ready to commit absolutely, positively that you will support the Democratic nominee, no matter who that nominee is, no ifs, ands or buts?


SEN. BIDEN: Hell, no, I wouldn't support any of these guys. (Laughter.)

No, I'm joking, joking. Of course, for them all.


MR. BLITZER: I want to move on to the next question, but I want Senator Biden to weigh in because I know your wife is a teacher. So go ahead. Should an excellent teacher be given merit pay?

SEN. BIDEN: An excellent teacher should be judged by whether or not that teacher, outside of the classroom, improves themselves and their teaching skills. My wife got two master's degrees and a doctorate degree. That's merit pay. She went out there and she earned the ability to be able to demonstrate to everyone that she was an exceptional teacher, because she went out and she gathered this additional knowledge instead of being -- not just being a good teacher.

Here's the problem with simple merit pay, based on the principle. Who makes the decision, based on merit pay? (Applause.) Who's the person who -- (inaudible)? I believe there should be teaching excellence. I think we should demand more of our teachers in continuing education. I think there should -- and unions don't like that. I think we should demand more of the teachers in terms of their participation after school and in school. But I think you've got to pay them.

And the last point I'll make is Bill is correct; you have to -- look, the idea you start teachers at $28,000 in most states when, in the countries we're competing with, they start off and they graduate their -- the graduating seniors are getting the same pay that engineers are getting in those same schools.

My father has an expression, God love him, before he passed away. He'd say, "Don't tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I will tell you what you value." I've laid out a $30 billion plan -- (applause) -- over five years --

MR. BLITZER: Thank you.

SEN. BIDEN: -- (to pay ?) -- 16 years of education is what our kids need. They need to start two years earlier and be guaranteed two years after school.

MR. BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

Campbell Brown.

MS. BROWN: Senator Biden, a question on Pakistan. As you know, in the past few weeks Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf has declared a state of emergency there. He's dismissed several Supreme Court justices. He has recently placed opposition leader Benazir Bhutto under house arrest twice now and imprisoned numerous other dissenters.

And I know you spoke with Musharraf last week. And you, along with several others on this stage, assert that the U.S. should maintain its current level of financial support for Pakistan. And my question is, is it your view that there are times when the security of the United States is more important than the way a key ally like Musharraf disregards freedom and disregards democracy?

SEN. BIDEN: First of all, I do not think we should maintain the same aid we're giving. I have made it clear to Musharraf personally, when he called me, and I've spoken personally to Bhutto -- before, I might add, the president spoke to either one of them -- I spoke to them and I indicated very clearly two things.

One, if he did not take off his uniform, if he did not hold fair and free elections by the middle of January, I would, on the floor of the Senate, move to take away the aid we're giving with regard to F- 16s and P-3s, because that's the biggest leverage you have on him within his military. He is not a sole player. He has to keep his military happy as well. I would use that leverage.

Secondly, I've indicated that what we should do is move from a Musharraf policy to a Pakistan policy. Unlike anyone else, within five days of this happening I laid out a detailed plan. The president hasn't. No one on this stage has. No one else has -- a detailed plan as president how I would proceed with Iraq.

And you have to move from military aid to giving to the middle class there. The middle class is overwhelmingly the majority. They get no connection with the United States. We have to significantly increase our economic aid relative to education, relative to NGOs, relative to all those things that make a difference in the lives of ordinary people over there, and not be doing it through the military side.

MR. BLITZER: All right, thank you.

SEN. BIDEN: I know there's more to say, Campbell. I appreciate you asking me the question and I'm sorry I answered it. I know you're not supposed to answer questions, based on what I've heard. (Laughter.)


SEN. BIDEN: Wolf -- 30 seconds, Wolf. Thirty seconds.

MR. BLITZER: All right -- 30 seconds. I've got to let Senator Biden --

SEN. BIDEN: Look, it's not the agreement; it's the man. Under the WTO, we can shut this down. What are they all talking about here? It's about a president who won't enforce the law. (Applause.) When they contaminated chicken, what happened? They cut off all chickens going in from Delaware -- a $3 billion industry -- into China. They cut it off. We have power under the -- this agreement. I don't know what anybody's talking about here. Enforce the agreement.

MR. BLITZER: Thank you.

SEN. BIDEN: Shut it down. (Applause.)


MS. MALVEAUX: Sure, Wolf. They are all very excited, about a hundred folks here. I've had a chance to actually meet at least some of you here, and obviously I noticed when you were responding to some of the candidates you were shaking your head, wrinkling your nose. I'm not sure if they've answered your questions, and this is your opportunity to ask the candidates what you really care about.

Catherine Jackson, I want to start off with you. If you'd stand with your son, please. Now, Catherine, I understand that you're quite concerned about your son, Christopher. You have served three tours of duty in Iraq, and you're -- (cheers, applause) -- recognize your service. (Extended cheers, applause.) That's for you, Christopher.

Your mother, I spoke with her -- your mom -- is so worried that you're going to be called to duty again, but not to be deployed in Iraq, but rather Iran. Do you share her concern?

CHRISTOPHER JACKSON: Yes, I do. And I feel that if we continue on the path we're at, that's where we're going to end up, in Iran. And that's not what our troops need. Our troops need to come home now. (Cheers, applause.)

MS. MALVEAUX: Catherine -- Catherine, your question.

CATHERINE JACKSON: I finally got my son home after three tours of policing Iraq's civil war. Now members of the Bush administration and neoconservative members of Congress are beating the drums of war again. My son is still part of the Marine Individual Ready Reserve, and if President Bush starts another unnecessary war, there will be a chance that he'll likely be recalled for war.

All of you on the stage have either -- I'm sorry -- have formal political power or significant informal power, and have the ability to stop the rush to war.

Please tell me, how are you going to show us your leadership so -- on this issue now so I can decide who I think would be the best leader for tomorrow?

MS. MALVEAUX: To Senator Biden, please.

SEN. BIDEN: The way to do that, ma'am, is to not ratchet up the winds of war here. We had a vote in the United States Senate on declaring the Qods Force -- their special forces -- and the Revolutionary Guard to be a terrorist organization. A lot of people voted for that; 70 some voted for it. It's a serious, serious mistake because what it does, it was completely counterproductive. (Applause.)

What it did was, ma'am, what it did was it convinced the rest of the Muslim world this is really a war against Islam and not a war in Iraq; and number two, it rose the -- it caused the price of oil to head to $100 a barrel. We're paying $30 a barrel for what they call a risk premium. And it helped destabilize the situation both in Iran -- I mean Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So the way to do this is to keep quiet, hush up, and do what I told the president personally and what I've said as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. If he takes the country to war in Iraq (sic) without a vote of Congress, which will not exist, then he should be impeached. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. BLITZER: Senator Clinton, you voted for that resolution. You're the only one on the stage who did vote for that resolution. Do you want to respond --


MR. BLITZER: -- to Senator Biden?

SEN. BIDEN: I wasn't attacking Senator Clinton.


MR. BLITZER: -- Senator Biden to go ahead and respond because you voted for the Patriot Act.

SEN. BIDEN: You know, let's -- facts are a funny thing; they get in the way. (Laughter.) You know what I mean?

There is nothing in the Patriot Act that allows profiling. Let's get that straight.

Nothing in the Patriot Act allows profiling, number one. You're profiled illegally. I have voted against and worked with legislation with many people on this stage to stop profiling. That's number one. It did not. It's not because of the Patriot Act. It's a convenient thing to talk about, number one.

Number two, you know, when we had a chance to close down Guantanamo, I voted against funding Guantanamo. Other folks up here voted for funding it, including the two leading candidates. I voted to not build the new $36 million part. I called for closing it three years ago.

And so folks, this -- but this is not about who was right when, it's what's your plan now? What are you going to do now? (Applause.)


MR. BLITZER: All right, let's go through the whole panel. I want everybody to weigh in. This is an important question that was raised. I'll start with Senator Biden.

Would you insist that any nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court supported abortion rights for women?

SEN. BIDEN: Suzanne's decided. I'm not answering her question. I'm answering the question of the woman who is there. Okay? (Cheers, applause.) And -- number one. And then I'll answer Suzanne's question.

MR. BLITZER: Well, let's ask the woman. Do you want him to answer that question?

SEN. BIDEN: Do you want me to answer your question?

MS. SPENCER: I would like for you to answer both questions.

SEN. BIDEN: I will answer both. I'll answer your question first. Your question first, is I've presided over more Supreme Court justices than anyone in American history, number one.

Number two, I have taken on those justices who in fact show no balance. They are ideologues. We have enough ideologues. We have enough professors on the bench. We have enough -- I want a someone who ran for dog catcher. I want someone -- (laughter) -- literally. Not a joke. When Hillary's husband asked me for his advice when he was appointing people, I wanted to go to people, and so did he. We couldn't -- four people turned it down.

We wanted to get someone who in fact had -- knew what it was like to live life, knew what it was as not some intellectual feat. (Applause.)

And by the way, the next person that's appointed on a Biden administration is going to be a woman. We don't have enough women on the bench, number one.


SEN. BIDEN: Number two, Suzanne Malveaux's question. I would not appoint anyone who did not understand that Section 5 of the 14th Amendment and the Liberty Clause of the 14th Amendment provided a right to privacy. That's the question I'd ask them. (Applause.) If that is answered correctly, that that is the case, then it answers the question, which means they would support Roe v. Wade. (Applause.)


MR. BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

Senator Biden --

SEN. BIDEN: Let me give you a direct answer to your question. I'd start by ending the war, and I've already gained the respect of my Republican colleagues; the only person that's gotten 75 votes in the United States Senate on a plan to end the war.

It's sitting in a drawer. It'll begin the day that I get elected.

Secondly, one of the ways you work in the House and the Senate is over time you gain respect. Find me a Republican on the other side that doesn't respect my judgment and doesn't think I tell them straight up the truth. I've worked with them. I've already done it. I would also include Republicans in my administration. Look, the basic premise you operate on, I reject. The vast majority of Republicans think this war stinks as well. The vast majority of Republicans out there think that our foreign policy is shambles. The vast majority of the Independents think that.

Folks, this is not going to be that hard. This is like not -- this isn't pushing the rope. They're sticking with George Bush out of loyalty, but I promise you I've already brought them along. I brought them along on Bosnia under the administration of Senator Clinton -- of President Clinton. I brought them along on the issue of dealing with arms control. I brought them along on the issue of the war in Iraq.

So folks, don't --

MR. BLITZER: Thank you.

SEN. BIDEN: -- buy into this premise that Republicans -- average Republicans and Republican senators don't agree to this, they do. They're afraid to take on Bush. I will end that. I've already done it, and I would start with ending the war in Iraq with 75 senators -- (off mike). (Cheers, applause.)


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