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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," 96 hours and counting to the Iowa caucuses, and it's very, very close among the top Democrats. We'll talk with one of them, John Edwards. As Bill Clinton sees it, only his wife has the experience to be president, but we'll talk to the Democrat who does not agree at all, John Edwards. He's locked in a tight battle with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in that first contest.

We'll get the latest from Pakistan from CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan. We'll analyze the rest of the week's political news with John Harris of Politico. And I'll have a final word on Michael Bloomberg. Is he getting closer to running for president as an independent? But first Democratic candidate John Edwards on "Face the Nation."


MR. SCHIEFFER: And good morning, again. Joining us from Des Moines this morning in John Edwards, a Democratic candidate for the presidential nomination. And he's in a very, very close race.

Welcome, Senator. And as I said at the top of the broadcast, former President Clinton was out on the stump in Iowa yesterday and saying that his wife, Hillary Clinton, is really the only one who has the kind of experience that will be needed in time of crisis in the presidency. I guess I'll just give you a chance to respond to that.

MR. EDWARDS: Well, with all respect to President Clinton, I obviously would vigorously disagree with that. And I think if you actually watched the way each of us responded to this crisis that occurred in the last few days in Pakistan, it gave a very clear sort of looking-glass view in how we would respond to crisis. And I hope we'll get a chance to talk about that.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, how did you respond?

MR. EDWARDS: Well, what I did was I found out about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. And I have to say, this is a tragic death. You know, I was with Benazir Bhutto in Abu Dhabi in the Middle East just a few years ago. We spoke at the same conference, and she spoke then about the path to democratization. I think her language was in Pakistan being "baptized in blood." And she understood very clearly the risk she was taking. She was an extraordinary, heroic woman for doing what she did. But what I did when I found out she had died, had been assassinated, is I called the Pakistani ambassador that morning, expressed my concerns to him and said I'd like to speak to President Musharraf who I had met years ago in Islamabad, because I had some things I wanted to urge him to do. And a couple of hours later, President Musharraf called.

I've raised basically three big issues with him. Number one, that the path to democratization in Pakistan must continue, both for Pakistan and for their credibility with the rest of the world. He assured me that it would. That has to be taken with a huge grain of salt given his history. Then secondly, I said you have to allow independent international investigators into Pakistan to get the facts, find out what happened. Because if you do it internally, no one's going to trust what happens. And on that score -- and by the way, I also said it needs to be a transparent process. And on that score, he didn't give me an answer. He said he'd be willing to think about it. And then finally, we talked about the upcoming elections. And I talked about the importance of them being open, fair, opposition parties being involved and that they take place as soon as they could.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, this morning, a member of his administration said it now appeared that the elections may have to be postponed, perhaps for as long as eight weeks. Now, when Mrs. Clinton was interviewed about this yesterday, she seemed rather ambivalent about whether the elections ought to be held as scheduled. What do you read into this idea that they may be postponed for as much as two months?

MR. EDWARDS: Well, for credibility sake and for democracy's sake, it's important that they take place as soon as possible. But Bob, it's equally important that the opposition parties be represented. It's equally important that the elections themselves be fair, open, that they be verifiable so that the Pakistani people and the rest of the world know that there was in fact a legitimate election. So they need to be held soon. I don't think it's absolutely crucial that they be held in early January as scheduled, but I think they need to take place soon. And the other criteria for determining whether there in fact was a legitimate election have to be met.

MR. SCHIEFFER: All right. Let's get back to the campaign on the ground up there in Iowa. And I want to go back to President Clinton yesterday. He has become Senator Clinton's main advocate, clearly. She says that he will not have an official role in her White House if she is elected. But I want to ask you, do you believe that someone as aggressive, as gregarious, as opinionated and who happens to be a former president cannot have an official role if his wife becomes president? Does that bother you at all?

MR. EDWARDS: (Chuckles.) Well, I think it's a complete fantasy. You watch President Clinton out on the -- and I like President Clinton very much -- but you watch him out on the campaign trail, and he spends an awful lot of time talking about his views and not as much time talking about Senator Clinton's, which is understandable given his history and his leadership. No, I think it's unrealistic to think that President Clinton wouldn't play a major role. As a matter of fact, I think that President Clinton may play some role in my administration in providing help with us around the world and with leaders around the world.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let's talk about something that you've stressed over and over, and that is that you don't take money from lobbyists, you don't take money from PACs. But Senator, your former campaign manager is running one of these independent-spending organizations. It spent about $750,000, three-quarters of a million dollars, on ads out there in Iowa. It also turns out that one woman, an heir to the Mellon fortune who is more than 90-years old, has given as much as, what, a half million dollars, maybe more to this organization. And yet, you continue to say you're running against the big-money interest. Why don't you tell these people to stop this? Because as I understood it, that's the sort of thing you're running against.

MR. EDWARDS: I've made it very clear, Bob, that they should stop. You know, I've been opposed to 527s. I think they should be illegal. I've made that absolutely clear. I've said publicly numerous times now that I call on them to stop any ads that they're running. I might add, just so everyone knows, all your viewers know, they're not running any negative, no attack ads. This is just positive advertising. But that aside, I think these 527s need to be banned. And I think over my entire career in public life, not just in this campaign, I've made very clear what I stand for, because I've, unlike other candidates in this race, never taken a dime from a Washington lobbyist my entire public career, never taken any money from a special interest PAC. And yesterday in the campaign in Iowa, I announced that there will be no corporate lobbyists or anybody who's lobbied for a foreign government working in my White House.

So I think --

MR. SCHIEFFER: But Senator --

MR. EDWARDS: -- I've walked the walk -- you go ahead, Bob.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, I was going to say, have you personally called these people -- I mean, this man is your ex-campaign manager -- and said listen you need to stop this, this is not what I'm for? Have you done that or just put out statements in public?

MR. EDWARDS: I've done exactly what I'm allowed to do under the law, Bob. Under the law, we are not allowed to talk with, coordinate or work with these people. I found out about this exactly the same time that you and the rest of the press found out about it. In fact, I might have found out about it later. And as soon as I found out, that day I said publicly in a very clear way that I called on them to stop. But I want to be absolutely clear, I have, for the about 10 years that I have been in public life, taken a very strong, very principled stand on all these issues. I've done what I have control over, which is not taking lobbyist's money, not taking special- interest PAC money. I don't have control over 527s. I think they ought to be outlawed, and I'll do everything in my power as president of the United States to do exactly that.

MR. SCHIEFFER: But there's nothing, as I understand it in the law, Senator, that prevents you from calling them and telling them to stop. You say you can't call and coordinate things. There's nothing in the law that says you can't call and tell them to stop, is there?

MR. EDWARDS: Well, I would respectfully disagree with that. I think if the candidate calls somebody running a 527 and tells them to either do something or not do something, that could be interpreted as a coordination. So what I did is the day I found out about this I made very clear I'm against 527s, I didn't want them running advertising, and I've continued to say that every time I've been asked. But I can't stop these people, Bob. I don't have control over them.

MR. SCHIEFFER: One of the people in Senator Obama's campaign -- and you're locked with Senator Obama and Senator Clinton in this race out there in Iowa -- says that your campaign is the equivalent of "storm the Bastille" with you and your attacks on drug companies, oil companies and all the others standing in the way of reform. Do you like that slogan? Do you like to be called a populist, because that's what a lot of people are calling you?

MR. EDWARDS: What I am is a fighter, Bob. I've 54-years old. I've been fighting for these changes my entire life in different ways. I spent 20 years in court rooms fighting big corporate power. I've done the same thing in public life, and I'm proud of that. I mean, I just have a fundamental difference with Senator Obama. He has this philosophical view that you can sit at a table with drug companies, oil companies and insurance companies and negotiate with them, and somehow they'll just voluntarily give their power away. And I think that's a complete fantasy. It will never happen. I think that we have an epic fight in front of us. And I absolutely believe to my soul that this corporate greed and corporate power has an ironclad hold on our democracy. And if we don't take that hold away, it will be impossible to have universal health care, energy transformation, trade and tax policy that actually works for the American people and for the middle class.

MR. SCHIEFFER: You know, all the candidates are talking about change and saying they're the agents of change. How does your concept of change differ from, say, Senator Obama's or Senator Clinton's?

MR. EDWARDS: Oh, I think there are really fundamental differences between the three of us on this. Senator Clinton defends the system in Washington. I don't think you can take these people's money -- the lobbyists, the PACs, et cetera -- and sit at a table and make a deal with them. I think if that worked it would have worked a long time ago. We'd have, for example, universal health care today. And I think that will not work. I don't think you can defend a broken system and bring about the change that you need. I also don't think that the philosophy, the sort of academic theory, that you can be nice to people and nice to oil companies and insurance companies and drug companies and somehow they'll just along, I just don't think that will ever work. I think we have an epic fight in front of us.

I mean, we've had presidents who've engaged this fight in the past, Bob. Teddy Roosevelt did it in busting the trusts and busting the monopolies. Franklin Roosevelt did it in bringing about huge transformational change in this country. He stood up to these powerful, well-financed interests to bring the change that this country needs. And I think we need a president who's willing to stand up and fight for what we need, and this is a fight I've been in my whole life.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Where do you go if you do not do well in Iowa, if you don't finish in the top two? Can you go on?

MR. EDWARDS: Well, I would respectfully reject the premise. I mean, I'm a few days from the Iowa caucus. We have huge momentum on the ground. I mean, this is something I can -- it's palpable. I mean, I go to my events, the crowds are overflowing, they're spilling out the doors. There's a huge amount of energy. This is a momentum and an energy behind this campaign that's familiar to me. I saw some of this in 2004. It's even more powerful now. So I think we're moving, and we're moving in a really strong way, and I'm extraordinarily encouraged about what's going to happen right here in Iowa on Thursday night.

MR. SCHIEFFER: John Edwards, thank you very much, Senator. We'll be back in just one minute with the latest from Pakistan.

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