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Transcript: CBS-New York Times Democratic Debate
KUCINICH: I've never suggested that, John.
KERRY: Well, then, you've adopted my plan, because my plan...
KUCINICH: No, John, I've...
BUMILLER: Can I ask a more personal question about Iraq and funerals? Could I just -- let me just ask that, because...
KERRY: But wait a minute, we actually have an issue that's on the table here, and I'd like to finish it.
BUMILLER: Can you do it quickly?
KERRY: There is a better way to do what George Bush is doing, which is to bring the international community in. He refuses to share responsibility in the reconstruction. He refuses to share responsibility for the decisionmaking of the transformation of the country. And both of those are prerequisites to being able to get other countries to share in the responsibility.
KERRY: And what is incredible is that all of Europe has a huge interest in not having Iraq as a failed state on its doorstep, all of the Arab countries have a huge interest in not having a failed Iraq...
BUMILLER: Let me...
KERRY: ... as their neighbor, and notwithstanding...
KERRY: ... the president has none of them legitimately involved.
BUMILLER: Thank you.
Here's the question. As you well know, more than 500 American men and women have died in Iraq, and the president has been criticized for not attending a single funeral.
KERRY: I disagree with that.
BUMILLER: What would you do?
KERRY: That is just profoundly wrong. I've talked to a number of families, many families, and those families have said to me, you know, we haven't really from the president or anybody, why can't you make phone calls to those families?
BUMILLER: How can you go to 500 funerals and be president?
KERRY: You don't go to 500 funerals. But you can certainly say to people -- and it shows respect to all the families, if you pick a funeral, go to that funeral. And then, you know what else...
SHARPTON: Or reach out to the families.
BUMILLER: The president does do that.
SHARPTON: I preached at one of the funerals of one of the young men killed, Darius Jennings. It's not about going to all of the funerals, it's showing compassion. These people lost their lives in the service of this country.
The real question, though, is why they lost their lives in the first place. And that's why I said we've got a debate out in this party. There were those that supported the president doing that. You can't give a man a blank check, and then go back and ask how come there's no money in the account. They gave him a blank check. He used it.
KUCINICH: There's a point that's being missed here, and the point that's being missed is, we should be taking action to make sure there are no funerals.
SHARPTON: That's correct.
KUCINICH: We should be bringing our troops home.
KIRTZMAN: OK, fair enough. Fair enough. Everyone...
KERRY: ... allowing those those caskets to be viewed when they come in to Dover Air Force Base...
BUMILLER: Well, do you think they should be photographed when they come back?
KERRY: I think you should give them full honors after their return to the United States.
KIRTZMAN: OK. Fair enough. Fair enough.
Senator Edwards, one of the main issues of the general election is going to be whether the president can keep you safe. There has not been a terrorist attack on United States soil for two-and-a-half years since the destruction of the World Trade Center.
EDWARDS: Oh, I think -- first of all, I don't credit the president. I think there are a number of things that the administration and the Congress have done that have moved the country in the right direction toward keeping the American people safe.
We have not done enough. There are a whole group of things that need to be done to keep the American people safer.
KIRTZMAN: Has George Bush kept the country safe, in your opinion?
EDWARDS: No, that's what I'm trying to tell you. I think there are a whole group of things that we need to do in addition to what's being done now.
For example, a better job at our ports. We have thousands of containers coming in every day. We inspect 4 or 5 percent of them. All of the experts tell us if we don't inspect at least 10 to 20 percent, it's very difficult to have a deterrent effect.
We have nuclear and chemical plants that are extraordinary vulnerable.
But by the way, this is a perfect example of Bush being married to special interests, because the chemical industry -- what happened was, they recognized the problem that I recognized, and others, about the vulnerability of chemical plants. We have over a hundred...
KIRTZMAN: But put yourself in the place...
EDWARDS: You just asked -- you just asked me what he's not done...
KIRTZMAN: We just have limited time, so we want to try to give everybody...
EDWARDS: ... you'll let me finish this, please.
This is a perfect example of what this administration does. We have chemical plants, over 100, any one of which, if they were attacked, could cost a million lives or more.
All of us recognized this was a problem. We wanted to take action. The chemical industry pushed back, lobbied against it, and the Bush administration caved.
KIRTZMAN: With all due respect, Senator, I'm trying to get to the bottom line of my question, though...
EDWARDS: Yes, sir.
KIRTZMAN: ... which is that the typical American, when he or she goes to a voting booth in November, has got to make a bottom-line decision: Who is going to keep me safe? Now, we've got Bush in the White House already or a one-term senator who doesn't have that much foreign policy experience.
Number one, how do you convince that person that you can keep him as safe or safer than Bush? And number two, would you consider running with a running-mate, perhaps, who has more foreign policy credentials than you do to make up for that deficiency?
EDWARDS: First of all, there is no deficiency. The issue here is not the length of your resume. The issue is the strength of your vision, what it is you believe needs to be done to keep the American people safe, convincing them that -- for example, when I have been campaigning around the country, I have consistently asked to groups of people, "What would you do differently today than you would have done on September 11th if a terrorist attack occurred in your community?"
EDWARDS: People don't have a clue. They have no idea what they're supposed to do.
KUCINICH: Well, there's another aspect to that.
EDWARDS: Excuse me, if I could -- I'll finish. In 30 seconds, I'll finish.
But that's a perfect example of what's happening in the real world -- not in Washington -- in the real world. People do not know what needs to be done. They don't how to respond if an attack occurs. They don't know, in fact, if an attack occurred in the middle of night, how they're going to find out about it.
RATHER: Reverend Sharpton?
SHARPTON: I think that the first thing you've got to deal with, Andrew, on that question is we've got to finish investigating what happened 9/11 to find out if the Bush administration could have done more to avoid that attack.
I mean, maybe I missed something here, but that attack happened under George Bush. It didn't happen under someone else.
So are you now suggesting that Bush's answer to Americans are, be glad you're alive? I mean, I think that that is absurd.
KIRTZMAN: It's an interesting point. It's an interesting -- well, let me just pivot off of what Sharpton says, an interesting point.
KERRY: I think we could have done -- absolutely, we could have done more. No question about it. But we should have done more since then, too.
And let me just say something. We've spent -- this debate is now getting towards its end. We're in New York City. Fifty percent of the African-Americans in New York City are unemployed between the ages of 16 and 64.
One of the things the president could have done in order to make this city more safe, frankly -- he's only given it one-tenth of the money that they need with respect to protection of water supply. He's cut $250 million for firefighters. They're cutting firefighters and closing firehouses. They're cutting the COPS program.
There's a $5 billion to $6 billion deficit in the state of New York. The governor, therefore, has started to raise taxes or cut services.
George Bush's priority: tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
My priority: a $50 billion fund as a tax relief education fund, which is part of the stimulus counted in my numbers...
BUMILLER: Senator Kerry, I have a...
KERRY: Can I finish?
KIRTZMAN: You haven't gotten the direct answer...
KERRY: I'd like to finish.
KUCINICH: You haven't gotten a direct answer on this, and I want to answer you directly. This is about national security. And you asked the question, essentially, are we safer?
And I will submit to you, we are not. We are not safer, because we attacked a country that did not attack us and have created a resurgence of Al Qaida as a result.
RATHER: Thank you, Congressman.
KUCINICH: Excuse me.
BUMILLER: Senator Kerry, I have a question...
KUCINICH: We're not safer.
BUMILLER: ... about likeability. You know, even your Democratic fans say that the president beats you hands down on likability, which, like it or not, is a major factor in a television era.
KERRY: Actually, Elizabeth, I learned it from the people who I've campaigned with all across the country. I learned it in Iowa, and I learned it in New Hampshire.
BUMILLER: Senator Edwards, what do you think...
KERRY: And that is precisely what I'm doing today and precisely what I'm going to keep doing.
RATHER: If I may, Elizabeth, let me ask Senator Edwards the same question in a somewhat different way.
EDWARDS: Yes, OK.
RATHER: I want to use a Texas expression here. We know...
EDWARDS: Somehow I knew this...
RATHER: No, but, in understandable terms, we're dealing with something really important here. That is, who is going to run against George Bush in November. We're talking the presidency of the United States.
But we know that likability, as Ms. Bumiller said, is very important to the campaign -- charisma, whatever you want to call it.
... enough excitement factor, enough charisma, enough likeability?
EDWARDS: Yes. Let me answer your question directly. First of all, I know John Kerry. I like him very much. And he and I have known each other for years.
I don't think this is a personality contest. I think what people are looking for in a president is somebody who, when they hear them speak, speaks their language, understands what their lives are like, shares their values.