Complete Transcript: Democrats Participate in Calif. Debate
KERRY: One of the first.
KING: What would be the first executive order?
KERRY: Reverse the Mexico City policy on the gag rule so that we
take a responsible position globally on family planning.
KUCINICH: My first executive order will be to cancel NAFTA and the
KING: Cancel it?
KUCINICH: ... and return to bilateral trade conditioned on
workers' rights, human rights and environmental quality principles.
Now, to people watching this discussion who do not have any health
insurance at all -- and, you know, there's a direct connection between the
lack of health insurance in this country and the control which the
insurance industry has over Washington -- and the control that it has over
our Democratic Party, too.
KUCINICH: Larry, in 2000 -- Larry? In 2000, I brought...
KING: I'm paying attention to you, Dennis. Dennis, I can hear
and look over there at the same time.
KUCINICH: I didn't want you to miss this because this is something
KING: It's an old Jewish trait. We can do two things at once.
KUCINICH: This is something...
SHARPTON: Let's not get ethnic, Larry. Let's not get ethnic.
KUCINICH: This is something I know...
KING: Let's not get ethnic?
See how we're uniting. Even I'm saying, let's not get ethnic,
KING: Sorry, Dennis.
KUCINICH: I think the American...
Well, I'm glad to point out something that all those people who don't
have health insurance and all those people who have seen their premiums go
up 50 percent in the last three years already understand. And that is that
Washington right now is controlled by the insurance interests and by the
pharmaceutical companies. And our party, our Democratic Party four
years ago, John and John, I went to our...
... Democratic platform committee with a proposal for universal
single-payer health care. And it was quickly shot down because it
offended some of the contributors to our party.
I just want to state something: We must be ready to take up this
challenge of bringing health care to all the American people. And
that's what I'm asking everyone here to make a commitment to. Single
KING: We're going to turn now to Iraq, and Janet...
SHARPTON: Larry, just before you turn to Iraq, I think that
answers your question why we're in the race.
SHARPTON: It's not just who is going to head the ticket. But
we will have delegates at the convention to shape the platform and hold
whoever wins of the four accountable. That's why we are picking up
KING: All right. That's fair.
SHARPTON: This is not a coronation, this is a convention.
KING: Janet, let's...
SHARPTON: Who is going to represent us?
KING: Let's turn to Iraq. Janet?
CLAYTON: Senator Edwards and Senator Kerry, you both try to
portray yourself as different types of people in Washington. But you
both voted for the Iraq resolution, which basically gave the president
power to use any means that he deemed necessary and appropriate, including
military force, to respond to the perceived threat of Saddam
How can you criticize the president on his Iraq policy when both of you
handed him a blank check to do whatever he wanted?
EDWARDS: Who do you want to start?
KING: Either one. Go ahead, Senator.
EDWARDS: Well, first of all, I did what I did after giving an
awful lot of thought and study to it. I was worried about
it. All of us were. I took this responsibility very
I also said, at the time that the resolution was voted on, that it was
critical that, when we reached this stage, that this not be done by
America done, that it not be an American occupation, that it not be an
American operation. That it needs to be...
KING: And it wasn't.
EDWARDS: But it is. It is now. This is not
internationalized. I mean, we have some help from the British, but for the
most part, it's America doing it alone, which I believe is an enormous
mistake. It's the reason we're having one of the...
CLAYTON: Well, then, why didn't you not vote for it? Why
didn't you insist on caveats? It was a blank check. Why?
EDWARDS: But those -- but those -- what we did is we voted on a
The answer is, what we did is we voted on a resolution. It is for
the president of the United States to determine how to conduct the
war. That's his responsibility.
KING: So you trusted...
EDWARDS: No, I didn't trust him.
What this comes down to is this president has failed in his
responsibility. It's a completely legitimate criticism. Neither
of us would've conducted this operation the way he conducted it.
First of all, we would've done the groundwork to reach out to our
friends and allies around the world before we even went to a military
CLAYTON: So are you saying you were suckered?
EDWARDS: Wait, let me finish this, please.
And we also made clear, and I made clear, that in order for this to be
successful, at this point, we should have NATO involved in providing
security. We should have the United Nations involved in overseeing
the transitional government in Iraq. We need to get on a real
timetable for the Iraqis to govern themselves and to provide for their own
These are not things that I'm saying today for the first time. These
are things that I said at the time.
And this president has failed in his responsibilities. It's that
KING: Do you regret your vote? Do you regret your vote?
EDWARDS: I did what I believed was right at the time.
KING: Do you regret it?
EDWARDS: I believe I did what was right.
KING: Do you regret it?
EDWARDS: We don't get to go back, Larry. Five hundred...
KING: Well, you can regret something.
EDWARDS: Wait a minute. Five hundred -- over 500 men and
women have lost their lives in this cause.
All of us did what we thought was the responsible thing to do at the
time -- wrong or right. We're not perfect. You know, I did what
I believed was the responsible thing to do at the time.
EDWARDS: And if we did what we were supposed to be doing right now
and what we said should be done right now, we would be -- this policy
would actually be successful.
KING: Senator Kerry and then Dennis and...
KERRY: Let me return a favor from the last debate to
John. You asked a yes-or-no answer: "Do you regret your vote?"
The answer is: No. I do not regret my vote. I regret
that we have a president of the United States who misled America and broke
every promise he made to the United States Congress.
And here is a -- and I have a slightly different take from John on
this. Let me make it very clear: We did not give the president
any authority that the president of the United States didn't have. Did we
ratify what he was doing? Yes.
But Clinton went to Haiti without the Congress. Clinton went to
Kosovo without the Congress. And the fact is, the president was
determined to go, evidently. But we changed the dynamics by getting
him to agree to go to the United Nations and to make a set of promises to
Promise number one: He would build a true global international
coalition. Number two: he would honor the U.N. inspection
process. And number three -- and this is most important -- it's important
to me and to any of us who served in war: He said he would go to war
as a last resort.
He broke every single one of those promises. And in the end...
KING: Would you leave now?
KING: Would you leave...
KERRY: No, Larry...
KING: You don't agree with Dennis.
KERRY: No, I would not leave now. I think that you can't
leave now. The impact of leaving now on the war on terror, on the
Middle East, would be disastrous.
But what underscores how bad this administration is...
What underscores this administration's failure of leadership in foreign
policy across the board -- North Korea, AIDS, global warming, Russia, the
Middle East and, of course, in Iraq -- the failure is that Europe has an
enormous interest in not having a failed Iraq on its doorstep.
KING: We've got to take a break.
KERRY: Well, I want to finish. The Arab community has an
enormous interest in not having a failed Iraq as its neighbor.
And notwithstanding the legitimacy of that interest, this
administration has failed utterly to bring the international community to
KUCINICH: Could I just follow...
KERRY: I will bring that...
KING: Dennis and Al have to get a word in. But let's do this,
let's take a break, and we'll come right back with more on Iraq. We
can't put that away.
You're watching the Democratic debate on close to the eve of Super
Tuesday, cosponsored by CNN and the Los Angeles Times.
We'll be right back.
KING: Welcome back to this special debate co-sponsored by CNN and
the Los Angeles Times, coming to you from the University of Southern
California with Ron Brownstein and Janet Clayton.
And we have statements from Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton about Iraq,
and then we're going to move to domestic issues.
KUCINICH: Larry, as the Democrat who led the effort in the House
of Representatives challenging the Bush administration's march toward war
in Iraq, I'm very concerned about Senator Kerry's answer, because to say
that there are no regrets in light of the fact that we know now that Iraq
had nothing to do with 9/11, with Al Qaida's role in 9/11, with the
anthrax attack on our country, that Iraq had neither the intention nor the
capability of attacking this country, did not have weapons of mass
destruction, it puts us in a position where we're endorsing the
continuation of a war.
And I'm very concerned that our party...
KERRY: Dennis, I didn't say I had no regrets. I said I had a
regret about the actions of the president.
KUCINICH: Well, I can say that if you don't have an exit plan, if
you don't have...
KERRY: I do.
KUCINICH: ... if you don't have a way to get the U.N. in and get
our troops home -- there are Army reservists and there are National
Guardsmen and women who are waiting to hear if they're going to be brought
KUCINICH: Or are we looking at a draft? Because you've said
you want to send 40,000 more troops there.
KERRY: No, I haven't said that.
KERRY: I have never said that.
KUCINICH: You never said you wanted to bring 40,000 more troops
KERRY: No, I said what we need, because our troops are over-
extended in the United States, and we've turned the Guard and the Reserve
into almost active duty, we're hurting families all across the nation who
are paid less in the military than they were in the private
KERRY: And our military is so overextended that what I said is, on
a temporary basis, we need two additional divisions in the overall
standing Army of the United States, because when we rotate the divisions
back this spring, we will only have two divisions active that are able to
KUCINICH: See, I've seen nothing that suggests that you would
bring our troops home. If you're saying it now...
KUCINICH: If you're saying it now that you'll bring our troops
home, then that's real progress in this debate.
SHARPTON: I think that's why it's important that we have delegates
at the convention to hold whoever the nominee is accountable on issues
like Iraq, on issues like the Patriot Act. This is not just about
coronating a winner, it's about a direction of the party.
Hundreds of thousands of us were marching against this war while they
voted for it.
And I think that to vote against that and not to have us represented at
the convention is wrong.
Right now we have foreign policy questions. I'm going to Haiti.
People are not even discussing Haiti. We don't have delegates at the
A lot of the concerns of many Americans won't even be discussed if we
don't have delegates.
When I came in tonight, Ron, the first thing I asked on the way in is,
"How do I get out?" I wouldn't have voted for Bush to go in if I
didn't know his exit plan out. That doesn't make sense to me.
BROWNSTEIN: You've brought up Haiti. Before we turn to
domestic issues, let's talk about this quickly. If you were president
today, what would you be doing, Senator Edwards, about the crisis in
KING: Adding that the Caribbean nations today announced that +a
multi-national force should go in.
EDWARDS: Yes. That's correct, by the way, that's exactly what
What I would do is, ultimately we have to have a political solution for
this problem. And what I would do as president of the United States
is pick two or three respected world leaders, like President Clinton did
back in the '90s with Jimmy Carter and Sam Nunn, and, I believe, Colin
Powell, if I'm not mistaken.
KING: Right, those three.
EDWARDS: Send them to the region. Work on a political
solution. You know, the framework, I think that probably makes the most
sense is some...
KING: It might be too late.
EDWARDS: Maybe. Maybe. But if we can stabilize the
situation first, work on a political solution, and I think the framework
of that political solution is some shared authority, and then setting a
real timetable for a democratic election. I think that's the frame
that needs to be in place.
But can I say one other thing about this? We should not be in this
place. We are in this place because this is so typical of this
president's disengagement in this entire hemisphere. In fact, he's
done it all over the world. But this is a perfect example.
What he's done in Mexico, what he's done in Haiti. The reason
we're in this place is because this president has not been involved, not
been engaged. He's had complete...
KING: Are you saying he could have prevented this?
EDWARDS: I'm saying, if we had stayed involved, we would have seen
this coming a lot sooner, and we could have gotten...
EDWARDS: ... could have gotten involved and engaged...
KING: All right. Senator Kerry and then Janet. I know
that Al's going there Wednesday.
KING: I know. Senator Kerry and then you.
KERRY: Actually, I disagree with John a little bit, in that the
... the president himself, wasn't engaged, but his administration has
been. And his administration has been engaged in a very manipulative
and wrongful way.
EDWARDS: Are you saying they were engaged but wrong engaged?
KERRY: Here's what I'm telling you. Here's what I'm telling
you. This administration set up an equation. They have a
theological and a ideological hatred for Aristide. They always
And they approach this so that the insurgents were given -- empowered
by this administration, because they said to the insurgents, "If you...
"... Until you reach an agreement with Aristide and the government
about sharing power, we're not going to provide aid and assistance."
So we empowered them to simply veto any agreement, which is what
they're still doing with respect to a power-sharing in another government.
What this president ought to have done is to have given them an
ultimatum: Either we're going to restore the democracy, have the full
democracy in the region -- notwithstanding that I think Aristide has some
problems, and I do.
And I think there have been serious problems in his police, the way
they've managed things. But our engagement should have been to try to
restore the democracy, to bring those people together. That's what
KING: All right. Janet has a question.
CLAYTON: But as a practical...
KERRY: ... and that's what we should be doing now.
CLAYTON: But as a practical matter, if thousands of starving
Haitians get in a boat tonight -- 500 have already been turned away -- if
thousands of starving Haitians come to the coast of Florida, would you
embrace them, as the U.S. embraces fleeing Cubans? Or would you turn
SHARPTON: See, I think that's a critical question. I have
visited the Krome Detention Center. Mr. Bush says we give political
asylum to people coming from Cuba, but he says we would not do it from
Now we saw an exact opposite when we saw Haitians flee. And I've
seen Haitians. I've been to Krome Detention Center in Miami
twice. I am going to Haiti in a few days.
I think that the real issue is why this country continues to block
resources there that could have built the infrastructure, provided jobs;
why we blocked a $500 million approved loan from the World Bank. I
think that we've got a responsibility.
I'm disappointed in some things President Aristide has done. I
said that to him on the phone. I've said that to the opposition
But I do not think we can undermine a democracy. And we can't have
different strokes for different folks at the border in Miami.
KING: Janet's question, though, is would you take them in?
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