Transcript: CBS-New York Times Democratic Debate
FDCH e-Media, Inc.
Sunday, February 29, 2004; 3:01 PM
SPEAKERS: DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS
ANDREW KIRTZMAN, WCBS-TV CHANNEL 2, NEW YORK
THE REVEREND AL SHARPTON
RATHER: ... and Al Sharpton of New York.
The Democratic candidates are here this morning for their final joint appearance before Super Tuesday. We intend this hour to be a free-wheeling, informative discussion of the issues.
Joining me in the questioning are reporters Elizabeth Bumiller of The New York Times and Andrew Kirtzman of WCBS-TV Channel 2 here in New York.
This broadcast is being carried on many CBS radio and television stations, and by the Discovery Times channel.
The candidates' campaigns have drawn for positions around the table. There are no set rules, no time limits, although we hope things will move along fairly quickly and that the answers will be at least reasonably brief, gentlemen.
And we have only one goal, and that is to help you, the voters, make an informed decision.
So let's get to it. It's a big day in the news. Haiti is in the news. We have questions about that.
But first, I want each on of you in turn, in one sentence, in terms of your own spirituality, if you prefer religiosity to complete the sentence, "This I believe..."
KERRY: I believe in God. And I believe in the power of redemption, and the capacity of individual human beings to be able to make a difference, because, as President Kennedy said, "Here on Earth, God's work must truly be our own."
RATHER: Senator Edwards?
EDWARDS: I believe we live in a country where there are two different Americas, one for people who get everything they need every single day, and one for everybody else. And I believe that the president of the United States, with the Lord's help, has the power to change that.
KUCINICH: I believe that we're here to bring spiritual principles into the material world. And reflecting the words in Matthew 25, "When I was hungry, did you feed me? When I was homeless, did you shelter me?" We have a purpose here on this earth to try to help this -- lift this world up.
RATHER: Reverend Sharpton, "This I believe..."
SHARPTON: I believe in God, but I believe that God created us for a purpose. I believe that God has blessed this country immeasurably. The question is whether this country will bless God. So the way we can judge that is how we treat each other, human rights, in the many Americas.
I believe there are many Americas, not just poor and rich, but of many colors, of many religions, of many sexual orientations.
How we deal with one another, how with provide for one another, how we protect one another, is how we determine whether we are worthy of the blessings that God has given us.
RATHER: Thank you, Reverend.
Let me say again, that it is not scriptural, but around this table, at least, blessed are the brief.
SHARPTON: For they shall inherit the debate.
RATHER: Very probably.
Senator Kerry, President Bush has made it clear that the United States will be part of an international force going to Haiti. You've been critical of that action. Tell me what your beef is with what the president is doing.
KERRY: He's late, as usual. This president always makes decisions late after things have happened that could have been different had the president made a different decision earlier.
BUMILLER: Senator Kerry, what would you have done in this situation?
KERRY: Well, first of all, I never would have allowed it to get out of control the way it did.
KERRY: This administration empowered the insurgents, and it empowered -- look, Aristide...
BUMILLER: How did it empower the insurgents?
KERRY: I'll tell you precisely how, but first let me say this. President Aristide has made plenty of mistakes, and his police have run amok, and other things have happened, I understand that.
But the fact is that, by giving to the insurgents the power to veto an agreement, they effectively said, "Unless you two reach an agreement on the sharing of power, we're not going to provide aid and assistance."
So he empowered the insurgents to say, "No, we're not going to reach agreement." And they continued to battle, continued to have no services provided in Haiti, and then it started to spiral downwards.
So the result is that you almost inevitably had the clash that you have today. And innocent Haitians, the people of Haiti, deserved better than that over the course of the last year.
BUMILLER: Senator Edwards, could we ask what you think of this? Did you agree with the president's decision? And you've been critical in the past of his policy toward Haiti.
EDWARDS: Yes, that's because he's ignored Haiti the same way he's ignored most of the countries in this hemisphere.
Now, we have -- this is a country that's extraordinarily unstable. I think this is the 33rd government that they've had. One of the poorest nations, if not the poorest nation, in the world.
We should have been engaged over a long period of time, in a serious way, at least through diplomacy, not to allow this to get to a crisis situation where it now is.
But there are very serious issues here. The Haitian constitution, for example, provides that the chief justice is a successor to Aristide. The chief justice is apparently very close to Aristide.
I mean, we have to put a political process in place, stabilize the country first, then put a political process in place that allows us to move toward a serious democratic election, so that the people of Haiti are satisfied with the result.
RATHER: Senator, do you have any argument with anything that Senator Kerry just said about Haiti?
EDWARDS: We have a slight difference. I think it is true that, at its best, for the president and the administration, this has been neglect. In other words, they've paid no attention, they haven't been engaged. At its worst, they have actually facilitated the ouster of Aristide.
SHARPTON: I have a difference with both of those...
EDWARDS: Al, if you would let me finish, please.
BUMILLER: But no one says he's a good president, so why is it so terrible he's gone? You've all agreed on that.
EDWARDS: The reason is because it should be a democratic process that leads to his leaving, not the...
KERRY: George Bush...
EDWARDS: Excuse me, John, if you let me finish. It should be a democratic process that provides for someone else to rule Haiti.
And that's the problem with this. I mean, if you look at what's happened in Haiti over a relatively long period of time, it's been extraordinarily unstable. As I mentioned earlier, 33rd regime change.
KIRTZMAN: Senator, he was installed by Democrats, not by Republicans. Why are you blaming Bush, when you could be blaming Clinton, who was the one who was responsible for him being in power in the first place?
EDWARDS: But, remember, prior to that time, he was elected in elections that weren't even questioned or challenged, number one.
And number two, when this problem began to develop, this president did exactly what he's done with other problems around the world, which is do nothing, do nothing, and when it gets to crisis stage, then we act.
EDWARDS: And that's what's, by the way -- if we can just little elevation on this...
KIRTZMAN: Not much, Senator.
EDWARDS: One of the most serious problems with this with this administration is they talk about a doctrine preemption. How about a doctrine of prevention, where America leads and stays engaged with this problems?
KIRTZMAN: Reverend Sharpton, you've been patient.
SHARPTON: First all, I talked with the opposition leaders and President Aristide by phone this week. Second of all, I've been to Haiti several times. And I think that I'm speaking as one who has been close to this situation more than anyone on this stage.
One of the things I think we're seeing (inaudible) is that we only want certain people to talk, but we want everybody to vote. And we need to rid ourselves of that.
What we need to do, first of all, is allow Haiti to have the resources. The World Bank had approved a $500 million loan that this country has blocked. That's one.
RATHER: Was that the Bush administration or the Clinton administration?
SHARPTON: This administration, as well as prior administrations, should have made sure the World Bank loans had gone through. The resources were available. You almost set up a situation where Aristide had to fail.
BUMILLER: Reverend Sharpton, can we just go to domestic politics for a moment?
SHARPTON: No, we're going to finish on this.
BUMILLER: I would...
SHARPTON: If you don't want us to participate, say that, ma'am. I listened to them go back and forth.
BUMILLER: Let's go back to Haiti.
SHARPTON: Let's deal with Haiti. I think that what we're trying to say is that the president...
BUMILLER: No, no. Mr. Kucinich, would you like to say...
SHARPTON: ... should not come now, late, after he ignored what was going on all along. And I think that it is too little too late to just talk about military action.
KUCINICH: I'd like to answer your question directly. What the president is advocating, in terms of international intervention, is the right thing to do.
Now, let me talk to you about what I would do as president, in terms of creating a Department of Peace, a Cabinet-level position, where you would track the kind of percolation of conflict that goes on and intervene in a nonviolent way before it gets out of hand.
I mean, we need to take a prospective look at all of our international relations.
RATHER: Senator Edwards, we need to move on. We have a lot of ground we want to cover. We could spend this whole hour talking about Haiti and, I think, substantively so.
RATHER: But we're a couple days away from possibly decisive Super Tuesday. There are any number of voters out there who are in the process of making up their minds.
RATHER: Is there any question that you can ask Senator Kerry, speaking directly to him, that you think is important for those voters who haven't made up their mind, are in the process of making up their mind, to draw him out on some difference between the two of you?
Or are you in the position of saying, "Listen, it's late on, and I'm pretty much playing for vice president now, and I don't want to ask him the tough questions"?
EDWARDS: Oh, no. Oh, no, no. Far from it. I think there are tough questions. Let me tell you what I think, first of all, the fundamental difference is between John Kerry and myself. And then I'll ask him a question if you'd like me to do that directly.
The fundamental issue in this election is whether the people of this country believe that we're going to get change that originates in Washington or change that has to come from out here in the real world. And the differences between us on this -- I have multiple examples; I'll just give you one.
John Kerry has said he and I are in the same position -- we have basically the same position on trade. That's not true. We have a very different record on trade. But more importantly, my approach to trade is fundamentally different than his.
What he has suggested is that when he becomes president, he'll set up a committee to study for 120 days our trade agreements to see what needs to be done. Now, in the real world, in Ohio, if you live in Ohio and you lose your job during that 120 days, think about that. What you're going to say to a family that's lost their job because of bad trade agreements is, "Don't worry, we've got a Washington committee that's studying this for you."
I mean, what we should -- we know what's wrong with these trade agreements. They need to be changed. The president of the United States needs to be willing to change them.
(UNKNOWN): Senator Edwards, can I just ask, if you lose all 10 primaries on Tuesday, are you still in this race?
EDWARDS: Yes, ma'am, I'm going to be...
EDWARDS: Because the American people deserve this choice. And we are a very different choice, for the reasons we just talked about.
RATHER: I'd like to hear your question to Senator Kerry.
EDWARDS: My question is, do you believe we're going to change this country out of Washington, D.C.?
KERRY: Yes, because that's where the Congress of the United States is, and that's where 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is. And the answer is, we're going to need a president who has the experience and the proven ability -- proven ability -- to be able to stand up and take on tough fights.
Now, I just listened to John talk about Washington, D.C. Last time I looked, John ran for the United States Senate, and he's been in the Senate for the last five years. That seems to me to be Washington, D.C.
Secondly, when he tried to say there's a difference between us on trade just now, he said there's a difference in the record versus what we're going to do. That's not what people are looking for.
On the record, I have consistently fought to put in the trade agreements enforceable measures that allow us to stand up and fight for workers. In the China trade agreements, which incidentally John voted for, we have anti-surge, anti-dumping provisions. The president hasn't enforced them.
Moreover, John has just misrepresented the position that I've taken.