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Transcript: CBS-New York Times Democratic Debate

So in that broad definition, he is. 

But I think that compared to some of us, no. I think we've made ourselves clear on that. 

But I don't think -- "liberal" is going to lose this dirty name in 2004, because George Bush has so let down what conservative -- I remember when conservatives were respectable. 

_____CBS-NYT Dem. Debate_____
In N.Y. Debate, It's No More Mr. Nice Guys (The Washington Post, Mar 1, 2004)
Debate Raises Doubts For Kerry-Edwards Run (The Washington Post, Mar 1, 2004)
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BUMILLER: Thank you, yes.

RATHER: Senator Edwards, I want to...

EDWARDS: May I respond to just to this question, Dan...

RATHER: Sure.

EDWARDS: ... because all three others have. 

RATHER: Well, I'm coming to you. Are you a liberal? 

EDWARDS: I don't believe anybody -- this is actually a subject that John and I agree about. I don't think anybody in America cares about what some inside-Washington publication says about your ideology. 

What they care about is: What are your values, where you come from, what do you believe in, and who are you fighting for? And do you understand the real world and the problems that people face every day in their life? That's what the people of the United States are looking for. 

KIRTZMAN: Let me pick on that.

EDWARDS: This president...

KIRTZMAN: Senator Edwards...

EDWARDS: ... this president does not understand what's going on in people's lives.

EDWARDS: He is completely out of touch. 

I wish he would so one day what the four of us do every single day, which is go out, campaign, conduct town-hall meetings, not ticketed events, not when you make people pay $2,000 to get in the door, but actual real people and listening to what their problems are. 

This president does not know what's going on in the real world. 

KERRY: Can I say one other thing?

RATHER: If it's brief.

KERRY: Well, I will be brief. But is this president a legitimate Republican or conservative? Because there's nothing conservative about driving deficits up as far as the eye can see. 

There's nothing conservative about trampling on the line of division between church and state in America. 

There is nothing conservative about letting your attorney general trample on civil liberties and civil rights, and be twice cited by his own inspector general for doing so. 

This administration is extreme. And I believe we're offering America mainstream American values. 

RATHER: But, if you will, Andrew has a question and I wanted to get to it. But I let me pick up on that and what Senator Edwards said. 

The latest poll I've seen shows that a combination, that a Kerry- Edwards ticket or an Edwards-Kerry ticket, would at this moment get more votes than a Bush-Cheney ticket. It would be stronger than either one of you, Senator Kerry or Senator Edwards, running alone, and Reverend Sharpton, with you or the congressman alone. 

My question is, Senator Kerry, are you prepared here and now to say, if you get the nomination, you will run with John Edwards and that's a strong ticket? 

KERRY: No, and I don't think John Edwards would be prepared to say that he would necessarily run with me. 

RATHER: Would you, Senator Edwards?

EDWARDS: I think there's no way to say that. We're still in a fight for the nomination. 

KERRY: We're vying for the nomination.

KUCINICH: And let me say why neither Senator Kerry nor my good friend, Senator Edwards, would be appropriate as nominees: Because they supported the president on the war, said there were weapons of mass destruction, which you actually embroidered, Senator Kerry. 

And you know what? Think of the 2004 debate, standing next to President Bush where he says, "Oh, look, I said there were weapons. Senator, you said there were weapons. I was for the war; you supported the war. I was for the occupation; you supported the occupation. And Senator, thank you, you want to send more troops to the armed services." 

You know what? I'm in the best position to challenge this president, because the war should be the singular issue. They lied to get the American people to accept the war. We have 130,000 troops there who are still at risk. We've spent over $200 billion of money that's needed for our domestic agenda. Over 10,000 Iraqis have lost their lives. 

I mean, this war ought to be the single issue. And frankly, John...

BUMILLER: Let me ask a question about Iraq. I have an Iraq question.

KIRTZMAN: This morning you have -- go ahead.

(LAUGHTER)

KERRY: You're having to work to get in.

(LAUGHTER)

KIRTZMAN: Tough crowd. 

Senator Edwards, through the campaign, and again this morning, you have spoken very eloquently and movingly about the fight against the rich and the powerful on behalf of the working class. And yet, you yourself are rich and powerful. You're worth upwards of $36 million. 

KIRTZMAN: You have a $4 million house in Georgetown, a $1 million beachhouse in North Carolina, a $1 million home in Raleigh.

Do you think your supporters know that you live this way?

EDWARDS: Well, first of all, in fairness, if you're going to list our assets, I hope you'll list John Kerry's too...

(LAUGHTER)

... because he's got a lot more than I've got.

CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS: Here's the truth. The truth is that I come from the same place most Americans have come from. I grew up in a family where my father worked in the mill, working -- didn't make me any different than most people in this country. I mean, he worked hard, he had a high school education. I was the first person in my family to go to college. 

KIRTZMAN: But they've heard that part, but have they heard the other part, is the question. 

KUCINICH: Why should that disqualify him? I mean, that's crazy. You know what? He has spoken...

(CROSSTALK)

KUCINICH: John, let me defend you on this. 

(LAUGHTER)

Because I'm saying that the fact that he's speaking about these issues relating to two Americas, that there's poverty in this country, and those issues ought to be addressed, I'm glad you're talking about it, John, and I...

SHARPTON: And I am, too. But I think, Andrew, the point is...

(CROSSTALK)

SHARPTON: I will let you finish, like you did me.

I think the point is, though, the reason I say there's more than two Americas is because he could come from there to where he is. And many of us can't because of other obstacles: because of race, because of sex, because of sexual orientation. 

So the reason I disagree with just two Americas is, he could go from a mill to $36 million. Many people can't do it. 

And I might add, there was nothing more biased in the South than some of those mill towns, where some of us couldn't even work in the mills. 

So I think that his story should be told, but it should be told in the broader context of why everyone can't have the same kind of achievement. 

(CROSSTALK)

KIRTZMAN: I've got to interrupt you, because Dennis was defending...

(CROSSTALK)

KIRTZMAN: I will give you the turn. I just want to remind you of the question that I...

EDWARDS: I remember the question.

KIRTZMAN: Do you think your supporters know you live this way?

EDWARDS: Yes, sir, I think that most of them do. They know I've done very well.

And the truth is this. Let me just put this in the simplest terms I know how. I come from the same place that most Americans come from. I am running for president of the United States so that millions of American get the same chances that I've had. I mean, it's just that simple. 

And Al Sharpton is completely right about one thing. This is not just wealth and class. It's race -- we have two health-care systems in America. We have two public school systems. We have two governments, one for the insiders and the lobbyists and one for everybody else. 

What this is about for me, in its simplest terms, is trying to make sure that other Americans get the same chance that I've had.

I don't want to see us, those of us who've had the great luck to have done pretty well in this country, to pull the ladder up behind us. We want to make it available to more people, no matter where they live, who their family is or what the color of their skin is.

BUMILLER: Senator, let's move this around the world to Iraq for just a minute.

KERRY: Can we also move it around the table?

(LAUGHTER)

BUMILLER: I'll ask you, and then I'll ask the Reverend Sharpton.

As you know, Iraq is to begin ruling itself on June 30th, when the U.S. is transferring authority. Now, there's a lot of people in Washington and Baghdad who are saying this is completely set on a political timetable at the convenience for President Bush. 

Should we put off the June 30th transfer?

KERRY: I think the transfer should depend entirely on the ability to guarantee a stable Iraq. It should not be set arbitrarily, certainly not by an election date. 

What is critical is that you have...

BUMILLER: Is that a yes or no?

KERRY: It's, obviously, it's a... 

BUMILLER: It's a what?

KERRY: You should put it off if it's needed to be put off. I mean, look, if the date works, terrific. But the test is not a date. The test is the stability and viability of Iraq. And what is critical...

BUMILLER: Reverend Sharpton, what do you think?

SHARPTON: I think the date was set for political reasons. If it, by some miracle -- and I don't foresee it -- that we could see a stabilized enough situation to meet the date, we should do it. But I don't see how we can do it. 

I think I am part of those that think that this was set in time for the '04 election, time for George Bush, when he's trailing in the fall, to say that they're already in self-government, and try to take it off the table.

I think that we cannot take Iraq off the table. I think the president misleading the country, and those that supported his misleading it, while hundreds of thousands of us marched, must be a central issue in the fall campaign.

BUMILLER: Senator Edwards?

EDWARDS: First of all, I think the date has now been embraced by the United Nations. The key to this is that there be legitimacy. There will not be legitimacy as long as this to the Iraqis has the stamp, "Made in America." This has to be changed.

And in order for it to be changed, the United Nations has to be involved in setting up this provisional government. That way, it'll be more acceptable to the Iraq people, more acceptable to the rest of the world.

KIRTZMAN: Senator Edwards...

EDWARDS: And the administration, by the way, the Bush administration, is completely responsible for us being in this place. They have squandered our credibility around the world, which is why we're in this place.

RATHER: Just before you answer, let me remind people who may have just turned in, we have just passed the halfway mark. We're roughly 33 and a half minutes into an hour program with the four remaining contenders to the Democratic presidential nomination.

Now, Congressman, the question is whether you think that date should be postponed.

KUCINICH: Well, I'd say that the date is not as significant as the fact that the United States wants to maintain control over the oil assets of Iraq, wants to privatize Iraq, run the contracts in Iraq and continue an occupation of Iraq. 

See, that's the key issue. Because you have 130,000 troops there. You have all kinds of families who are wondering when are my sons and daughters, mothers and fathers going to come home. 

And you know what? I've been the only one up here to, throughout this whole campaign, talk about a specific plan for withdrawal. We have to find a way to bring U.N. peacekeepers in and to bring our troops home.

And that's what we ought to be talking about here. I mean, it would be good to hear from Senator Kerry, who the other day said that there's a right way and wrong way to do it, and that we're in there for the long haul -- it'd be good for you to tell the American people what are you going to do with those other 40,000 troops you say you're going to bring in the first 100 days? 

And also, are you going to have a draft? Are you going to get us out of Iraq, or are you going to be the Democratic version of the Republican war that you voted for?

KERRY: No, I'm not going to have a draft. Yes, I will get us out of Iraq.

KUCINICH: How?

KERRY: None of those troops are going to Iraq that I've talked about, that 40,000.

That is a reflection of the fact that our military is extraordinarily overextended. Our Guards and Reserves have been turned into almost active duty. When we bring the rotation of these four divisions back, over the course of the spring, we'll only have two divisions actively prepared to do what we need to do in our country.

KUCINICH: How are we going to get another 40,000 troops, John?

KERRY: Dennis, I laid out -- I think I was the first United States senator to stand up and lay out a very specific plan for how you approach the rest of the world and bring them to the table with respect to Iraq. 


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