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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript


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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript

MR. SCHIEFFER: Today on "Face the Nation," from right to left, we'll talk with Republican candidate Fred Thompson and Democrat John Edwards. It's getting really, really close in Iowa just weeks before the caucuses. Hillary Clinton gets a key endorsement, and Barack Obama got Oprah. But Newsweek puts John Edwards on the cover this week and calls him "The Sleeper." We'll get his take this morning. And what about those Republicans? Giuliani and Romney are getting mean with each other, but Fred Thompson hits the Iowa highways this week and will criss-cross the state nonstop until caucus day. He'll lay out his Iowa road map for us this morning.

Then I'll have a final word on baseball's steroid error. But first, presidential candidates Thompson and Edwards on "Face the Nation."


MR. SCHIEFFER: And good morning, again. We start with Fred Thompson who is here in the studio. This may be the last warm spot you'll be in for a while, Senator.

MR. THOMPSON: (Laughs.)

MR. SCHIEFFER: Because as I understand it, you, starting tomorrow, will head to Iowa and will spend every day until caucus day there except for a little break for Christmas your people tell me.

MR. THOMPSON: That's exactly right.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Senator, I think even you would agree that your campaign got off to kind of a slow start, a little slow out of the starting gate, but you really are ramping it up. Tell me about this. Why did you decide to spend all of your time in Iowa now?

MR. THOMPSON: Well, Iowa is where it's at right now. I mean, it's first. It's going to decide who has the momentum going in the rest of the way. And it's kind of tailor-made for us. When I'm out on the trail in Iowa, it kind of reminds me of Tennessee. And I had never run for office before and started way behind and wound up way ahead. You know, just kind of (retail ?) politics, and that's what Iowa is conducive to. We've had a real good several days, and I think we're going in there right at the right time and the right way and going to spend the right amount of time.

MR. SCHIEFFER: I'm told you'll make five stops a day most of the time.

MR. THOMPSON: Well, those are scheduled. We'll have some unscheduled stops, you know, along the way. And it's going to be all over the state, and it's going to be in a bus, and we're going to have a lot of friends and neighbors and some folks from Tennessee and family and so forth going. We're going to do some good and have a good time.

MR. SCHIEFFER: What are you going to talk about, Senator? I mean, why are you running for president?

MR. THOMPSON: Well, that's what I'm going to talk about. We built this country based on certain assumptions, based on the role of the federal government and the delineated powers it has in the Constitution; based on the fact that when it came tax time the burden was on the government to prove that it belonged in the government coffers instead of in somebody's pocket; based upon the notion that you don't spend money that you don't have and you don't borrow money that you don't pay back. And the judiciary is the third branch of government, it's not the main branch of government when it comes to setting social policy. Those things are all under assault right now. Those assumptions, those things that made us a great nation are under assault. We've got to simply defend them and bring our principles that made us great up to modern-day problems.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Is Iowa it for you? Do you have to make a strong showing out there? I know you were running pretty good in South Carolina there for a while, and now you have gone down a little down there.

MR. THOMPSON: Well, down from one to second, I think, the last time I looked. But we've been running very strong in South Carolina. We've been up -- I think the latest was third in Iowa. That was a poll that was taken before the last debate, so I don't know if that will change things or not. But yeah, we need to do well in Iowa. There's no question about that. But others do, too. And it seems like the name of the game is to stick with your game plan, do what you set out to do with your message. Don't try to change your message. Don't try to be something that you're not. And on Election Day in Iowa, the pundits turn out to be wrong about as often as they turn out to be right.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, that's not the case only in Iowa. (Laughs.)

MR. THOMPSON: I was trying to be kind there a little. (Laughs.)

MR. SCHIEFFER: Senator, why do you think that Mike Huckabee, who started out with basically no money, a governor from a small state, all of sudden while nobody was looking, he's moved into the lead out in Iowa. Why was that?

MR. THOMPSON: Well, I don't know. I don't think anybody knows. At the end of the day, we're going to look back on it, and it's either going to be part of something big or it's just going to be a bubble, it's going to be a blip. And we don't know the answer to that. He certainly has some religious leaders and church people there well- organized. I mean, they're a cohesive group and well-organized. And he has worked them very, very hard. And you know, when you're talking about a relatively few votes, a group such as that can do you a lot of good politically. But now, you know, he's having to come forth and talk about his record like everybody else. And it's a very fluid situation, I think, there now.

MR. SCHIEFFER: You called one time, what, a pro-life liberal.

MR. THOMPSON: Yeah. Well, if you look at his policies, liberal is the only word that comes to mind when he was governor. I mean, the things that he said, the things that he did. I mean, he was very resistant to any kind of effort to stop illegal immigration, any kind of effort to make sure that those who came in illegally were not on the public roles, you might say, in terms of social services. The Cato Institute rated him one of the worst governors in terms of taxes and tax increases. He wanted to lift the embargo on Castro. Now he wants to close Guantanamo, because he thinks it will curry some favor with other nations. It's basically a pretty social, liberal policy that he has followed for several years. And he hasn't made any bones about it up until recently. And now I understand that he's got a tough immigration ad going on, but it's not consistent with his record.

MR. SCHIEFFER: You have made immigration pretty much the centerpiece of your campaign as I understand it. You're pretty tough on it. But what I don't understand, Senator, is what do you do? Okay, you tighten up the borders. Okay, you make it hard on employers. Maybe, as you're advocating, you cut off some sort of federal help to the states if they don't meet certain standards.

You're still going to have 12 million people in this country. Nobody knows really who they are. They're still going to be here. What do you do about them? There are not enough buses to take them all back to Mexico. If you're going to put them in jail, we don't have enough jails. How do you get to that part?

MR. THOMPSON: That's a fair question, but let me start with what you don't do. You don't say that once you make it in and once you violate the law, you throw up your hands and say you got us, there's nothing we can do about it so we've got to give you full citizenship or on the path to citizenship and set you ahead of all the people who have waited for years and years to play by the rules to become a part of America. I think if we did the things that you just mentioned, I think that if we enforced the borders, which we're a long way from doing, frankly, if we required employers to use modern technology to determine who they were hiring, and if we clamp down on sanctuary cities who are cities that are violating the law -- in 1996, we passed a law that outlawed sanctuary cities basically. And these cities are still doing it, in-state colleges and universities giving in-state college tuition, giving it to them without giving it to other people, in violation of the law. And if we basically said if you're going to continue this behavior, we're going to cut off federal funding -- if you did all those things, there would be attrition over a period of time.

You're right. Nobody's advocating that these people all be rounded up. Nobody's advocating that they even be arrested and incarcerated, although they're in violation of the law. They're simply saying that over a period of time that if you enforce the law and secure the border, there will be attrition that will make things start moving in the other direction. We're not doing any favors --

MR. SCHIEFFER: But you seem to be saying they've got to do this to keep some more from coming in, but these people are going to be here.

MR. THOMPSON: Well, they're going to be here for a while. But when I say attrition, I think that if they know they can't go back and forth across the border, if they know that they're not going to be working here indefinitely, if they know they're not going to be protected from the law essentially in these cities that they'll go back on their own accord. Obviously, not all of them and not overnight. But it will move in the right direction. That's the only thing that we can do. Otherwise, we have to kind of throw up our hands and, as you alluded to, you know, start thinking about the next 11 or 12 million. And the next 11 or 12 million after that.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you this question since you kind of took off on Mr. Huckabee. I'll give you a chance to say --

MR. THOMPSON: Well, I was responding to your question.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Exactly, absolutely you did. I want to give you a chance to explain why people should choose you instead of Governor Romney.

MR. THOMPSON: I don't want to spend a whole lot of time --

MR. SCHIEFFER: And I've got about 30 seconds, I'm sorry.

MR. THOMPSON: (Laughs.) Mitt's taken different positions at different times before different audiences at different times in his life and career. I'm not sure how you would ever determine how Mitt would govern in the future if you look at his past in comparison to what he's saying today. I've been a strong, consistent, common-sense conservative ever since I first set on the national scene. With me, you know what you get. And I am who I am, and it's who I've always been.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. Fred Thompson, I hope we'll talk to you again before we get to those Iowa caucuses.

MR. THOMPSON: Hope so.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Back in just a minute.


MR. SCHIEFFER: Now from Clear Lake, Iowa, Senator John Edwards.

And Senator, good morning. For you, I guess it's a little good news and bad news. The good news is you wound up on the cover of Newsweek magazine this weekend. They call you "The Sleeper" in the coming race for the Iowa caucuses. But the key endorsement out there, The Des Moines Register, they endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton. They endorsed you the last time out. What's changed since then?

MR. EDWARDS: Oh, I don't think anything's changed. I think that in this case, first of all, congratulations to Senator Clinton. The Register is a great newspaper, and there are great people who work there. And I have huge respect for them. We did have an important disagreement, and that disagreement was about what's going to be necessary to bring about the change in this country and specifically how you deal with the corporate power in bringing about that change. And I think their view was you work with them, you engage with them. And I think some of the huge corporate power and interests that exist in Washington have to be taken on. I think you have to take them on and be willing to fight them if you actually want to bring about change in this country. And we just had a fundamental disagreement about that.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just quote from what they said in the editorial. They said that you were their pick in 2004, but they said this is a different race with different candidates. "We, too, seldom saw the positive, optimistic campaign we found appealing in 2004." They say you're harsh, anti-corporate rhetoric would make it difficult to work with the business community to forge change. How do you respond to that?

MR. EDWARDS: I just think they're wrong. I mean, I respect their view. They're entitled to it. We had a vigorous debate when I was there at the editorial board. I think you work with the business community to forge change if that were effective. We already have change. It's the reason we don't have universal health care. It's the reason we haven't done a serious attack on global warming. It's the reason we have a tax policy that favors the interests of big companies and the richest Americans. It's the reason we have a trade policy that's destroying American jobs and doing incredible damage to the middle class with padding the profits of big corporations. I just think the balance is completely out of whack. And I think if we don't have a president, you know, a Teddy Roosevelt kind of president or a Harry Truman kind of president, who's willing to take those entrenched, well-financed interests on, it's going to be impossible to bring about change. And that's exactly what I'm going to do as president. I'm going to fight for that change.

MR. SCHIEFFER: So basically, you're saying all the things you cite these are the fault of the business community.

MR. EDWARDS: It's the fault of some very specific interests, Bob. Let me just be specific since I'm talking about it. I mean, I think, for example, insurance companies and drug companies have been a huge impediment to serious health care reform in this country. I think the oil companies, gas companies, power companies have been an obstacle to what we need to do to attack global warming and transform the way we use energy in America. I think some simpler things like family farmers struggling trying to compete against big, corporate farming interests. I think dealing with that issue has been very difficult because of the power of these big, multinational, corporate farming operations. And I think the list goes on and on and on.

And what I'm saying is you have to be willing to fight, not politicians -- I don't have the slightest interest in fighting with politicians, and I don't think America has any stomach for that. They're sick of it. But you do have to be willing to go and work with the Congress and fight and be tough about these entrenched interests. I do not think they'll give their power away voluntarily. They have far too much at stake, they're too sophisticated.

And I think it's going to take a president who has the resilience and the toughness and the fight to take them on and win. And I would argue that I've been doing that my whole life.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, in other words, what you seem to be saying this morning, Senator, is you can't tell these people let's sit down and talk about this, let's try to compromise here. You're talking about driving them to the wall saying look, I'm going to fight you at every turn. I'm not going to give at all. But how do you ever get anything done, Senator, without being willing to compromise?

MR. EDWARDS: Bob, you do deal with and compromise with members of Congress, not on fundamental principles but you work with members of Congress in that regard. What you can't do is sit down at the beginning with drug companies and insurance companies to negotiate health care reform. My job is not to look out for their interests. My job is to fight for the interests of the American people. And I think until you're in a position of strength -- and right now they're in the position of strength. For me, it's like, you know, I spent 20 years on court rooms fighting the same interests. And it's like me walking into the court room and saying, why don't you just give us what we're asking for, because I'm a nice guy, and we're right, and the people I represent are good people. You know it's the right thing to do, just go ahead and do it. They would laugh out loud. I mean, you have to be willing to take them on and beat them. That's what it takes. And I think once they're in a vulnerable positive, everything shifts.

But right now, as you can see from the last decade and a half, they are in the position of power. They're up there, they're spreading their money around, they use their influence. They killed universal health care in 1993. And the problem is this sort of corporate power and greed has infiltrated every part of what we're trying to do for this country. And I think we need a president who's willing to take them on, to be very, very tough against their interests at the same time that he galvanizes the American people to do what's right and at the same time that he's working with members of Congress to do what's right.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, we're going to take a break here and talk about this some more when we come back in just a second.


MR. SCHIEFFER: There's no question -- and we're back now with Senator Edwards.

Senator Edwards, there is no question that the let's-fight stance that you have taken in this campaign is different than the John Edwards I think we saw out in Iowa the last time out. How is it playing out there with Iowa voters? I know that it's virtually a three-way tie. But apparently, The Des Moines Register hasn't liked it all that much. What about the voters you're running into?

MR. EDWARDS: Well, I could tell you yesterday I had three events here in Iowa. The crowds were overflowing, huge crowds at every single event, energy, enthusiasm. I think what they're looking for, Bob, is they just want to be treated fairly. I mean, they don't want to feel like that their government and the way the government functions is being so distorted and distorted against their interests. You know, what I keep hearing from people is they want to make certain that they leave the country better than they found it and that their kids have a better life than they know they had. And they know in order to accomplish that they're going to have to make certain that we have universal health care, we change the way we use energy, that we have a tax code that works, that we're not leaving 200,000 veterans homeless. I mean, there are some really basic, fundamental issues that people feel are both fair, economic and moral. And they want to see them addressed. And I think they believe there are obstacles to being able to do those things. And they want a president of the United States and a candidate who will take these interests on to overcome those obstacles.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you this. Bill Clinton really ripped into Barack Obama the other night. He said that people who are going to go with Obama are willing to take a roll of the dice on the presidency. He said how can you have somebody who's had only one year of experience and go with him. Do you agree with those kinds of things that Bill Clinton is saying about Obama?

MR. EDWARDS: No, sir, I do not. I think that I have differences with Senator Obama, but it's not on that front. Senator Obama believes, for example, that the way you deal with these powerful, entrenched interests is that you sit at a table, negotiate with them and somehow or other they'll compromise away their power. And we just have a big, philosophical difference about that. I believe you have to take them on and that there's going to be an epic fight in front of us to be successful. He has a different view. His is more of a friendly view.

MR. SCHIEFFER: You have no problem with his readiness to be president. Is that what you're saying?

MR. EDWARDS: Well, I think every one of us are going to have to be judged on that score. And he's been in this campaign, he's been evaluated by everybody. Voters are going to take a hard look at him and me and Hillary Clinton to make that kind of determination. But I think that kind of criticism, just based on a paper resume record, is not legitimate. I think what you need to know is whether he's got the toughness, whether he's got the resilience, whether he's actually prepared as you picture him in your head or any other candidate, me included, whether they have the command to be commander in chief and leader of the free world. I think that's the test that has to be applied to all of us.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you, since I've asked you about Obama, I'm compelled to ask you about Senator Clinton. You were saying at one point you didn't think we wanted to replace corporate Republicans with a corporate Democrat. What's the difference between how she would approach the problems you're talking about and how you would?

MR. EDWARDS: We also have a significant, philosophical difference. She basically says the system in Washington works fine. She defends it, we can sort of maneuver our way through this system through the entrenched interests and the lobbyists and so forth and accomplish what needs to be accomplished. I just fundamentally disagree with her. She's totally entitled to her position. I just have a different one, and I think that if those things worked, we'd have universal health care. We would have a different energy policy, we'd have a different tax policy, we'd have a different trade policy. I don't think it works, and I think we have to be willing to stand up to those people to bring the changes this country is really hungry for.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Senator, I want to thank you very much. We'll see you again before the caucuses. Thanks for being with us. Back in a minute.

MR. EDWARDS: Thanks.

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