Transcript: Democratic Candidates Debate in South Carolina
BROKAW: But it's a legitimate question for the people of this country, and especially for the people of your party.
LIEBERMAN: It is. One thing you're finding in our answers, Tom: Candidates who run for president are very optimistic people.
And so I intend to win some. And I'm real glad to be facing February 3rd. I always said that the primary in South Carolina and the six other states would be the first big test of my presidential candidacy. I'm the one experienced moderate in this field. And in states like this, it is only moderate Democrats who win elections.
So I look forward to Tuesday, carrying my message, big endorsement today from the Arizona Republic. And it had a message for the voters here to be bold. Don't just be an echo of New Hampshire.
I congratulate John Kerry on his victory, there.
But this is an opportunity for folks here to send a separate message of their own to the rest of the nation about nominating a Democrat like myself, a moderate, strong on defense, strong on civil rights, fiscally responsible, strong on values, who actually can do it.
We all want to do it, right? Defeat George W. Bush and give America a fresh start.
BROKAW: I'm going to ask the audience one more time to just -- I know that it's a partisan group, but -- so that we can move right along.
KUCINICH: Well, Tom, keep in mind, there's so much talent on this stage that I believe this race is going to go all the way to the convention. And what that means -- no one's going to get 50 percent of the delegates going to the convention. And I expect to be able to pick up delegates, state by state. And I'll arrive at the convention right in the mix for the nomination, and I look forward to it.
BROKAW: And Reverend Sharpton?
SHARPTON: Well, first of all, I think this is beyond politics. This is about the direction of the party.
I fully expect to win primaries in the coming weeks.
But I'm going to win because I'm speaking the issues and interests of people that have been ignoring.
It's almost contradictory to say, "If you don't win, get out."
Did you come in to win, or did you come in to stand up for something -- and make that win?
And I think that that's what's wrong. We have become too cheap. We act like we're at a race track betting on horses, rather than dealing with the fact that 75,000 lost their jobs in South Carolina.
And there are people that I can bring into the process that won't come in if someone like me is not in the process.
They ought to want all of us to stay in and bring our constituency to the table rather than try to eliminate.
I've been inspired in this campaign hearing John Edwards talk about he's a son of a mill worker. Well, I'm the son of a man who couldn't be a mill worker because of the color of his skin. But his son can be the president of the United States.
BROKAW: Reverend Al, thanks very much. Governor Dean, you said, appropriately enough, that you really did bring Iraq into this campaign in a very dramatic fashion.
All this week, we've been hearing from David Kay, who was the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, saying that the intelligence was almost all wrong. He's now called for an independent commission to investigate what in fact went wrong.
And at a hearing before the Armed Services Committee the other day, Senator Edward Kennedy said there was a deliberate manipulation of the intelligence.
You said that the books were cooked. Cooking the books means that there was a fraud of some kind, in an attempt to achieve something that wasn't in fact true. David Kay has said that that wasn't the case. He thinks the president was just simply abused by the intelligence agencies.
DEAN: Well, I don't think anybody knows for sure. And that's why I support the idea of an idea of an independent commission.
What we do know is this: The president was not candid with the American people when we went to war. It's why I did not support going to war, even though I did support the first Gulf War and I did support the Afghanistan war. I simply didn't believe what the president was saying.
What we now find out is that the Vice President Dick Cheney went to the CIA on at least one occasion, and maybe more, sat with middle- level CIA operatives and berated them because he didn't like their intelligence reports.
It seems to me that the vice president of the United States therefore influenced the very reports that the president then used to decide to go to war and to ask Congress for permission to go to war.
I am very, very proud of our military. They have done an outstanding job. I think our military ought to be used when we need to use our military.
The president himself and the secretary of state have recently admitted that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11; that there was no connection and no evidence of connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida.
In that case, why are we in Iraq? And why are so many people from South Carolina there right now, when they should be home concentrating on homeland security and when they should be going after Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida?
BROKAW: But in fairness, David Kay also told me the other day that he thinks now, looking back, that the two years before we went to war was the most dangerous period in Iraq in a long, long time because it was spinning out of control. Saddam Hussein was not in charge. There were people coming in and going out of the country, including well-known terrorists.
You saw the defense -- you saw the National Intelligence Estimate, Senator Edwards, as a member of the Intelligence Committee. Did you believe it when you saw it? And was that the basis for your vote, which you enthusiastically talked about when you made the vote to authorize war against Iraq?
EDWARDS: Well, it wasn't just the National Intelligence Estimate, it was a whole -- it was actually two or three years of sitting in briefings and receiving information from the Intelligence Committee, not only about the weapons issue, which is what Howard just talked about, but also about the atrocities that Saddam was committing against his own people, gassing Kurdish children in northern Iraq.
And I have to say, I think it is not for the administration to get to the bottom of this. It's actually not for the Congress to get to the bottom of this. The American people, we, need to get to the bottom of this, with an independent commission that looks at -- that will have credibility and that the American people will trust, about why there is this discrepancy about what we were told and what's actually been found there.
BROKAW: Senator Kerry, Governor Dean has made a very serious charge against the vice president, saying that he went to the CIA. We know that he did that, but do you believe that he berated middle-level people at the intelligence agency to, in effect, shape the intelligence that he wanted?
KERRY: There is a very legitimate question, Tom, about what the vice president of the United States was doing at the CIA. There's an enormous question about the exaggeration by this administration.
But the most important point -- and I think this is the larger issue of how you choose somebody to run and to be president of the United States. The president gave guarantees not just to the Congress and to the American people, but to the world, about how he would conduct himself as president.
He said he would build a legitimate global coalition. He said he would respect the United Nations inspection process and work through it. And he said to the American people he would go to war only as a last resort.
I will tell you, and I think General Clark will share this, that those who've been to war know that the words "last resort" are important.
And I intend to hold him accountable in this election, because the American people's pockets are being picked to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, and our troops are at greater risk than they needed to be. And we deserve leadership that knows how to take a nation to war if you have to.
BROKAW: Senator Lieberman, do you think that Libya would have given up its weapons of mass destruction if the United States had not invaded Iraq?
LIEBERMAN: It's a very important question. I seriously doubt whether Libya would have given up its weapons of mass destruction if we had not overthrown Saddam Hussein.
I seriously doubt if the Iranians would have allowed international inspectors come in and looked at their nuclear weapons sites if we had not done that.
We live in a dangerous world. I've been a senior member of the Armed Services Committee of the Senate. I've worked to keep our military strong and to know that in a dangerous world, sometimes you have to use it -- that power against dangerous people.
The statements that this administration made before the war, the questions we now have about the intelligence about weapons of mass destruction, the failure of the Bush administration to be prepared for what to do after we overthrew Saddam have all unfortunately given a bad name to a just war.
So I will never waiver in my conclusion that the world and America are safer with Saddam Hussein in prison and not in power, and thanks to the American military for bringing that result about.
BROKAW: General Clark, your friend, Congressman Kucinich, would pull the United States troops out of Iraq right away and go to the U.N. and say, "You go in and take over the peacekeeping there."
Would you tell him about what happened when we had U.N. peacekeepers in Bosnia?
KUCINICH: Tom, you've mischaracterized my position.
BROKAW: Well, tell me what you would do.
KUCINICH: My position is that we go to the United Nations with a whole new direction, where the United States gives up control of the oil, control of the contracts, control of ambitions to privatize Iraq, gives up to the United Nations all that on an interim basis to be handled on behalf of the Iraqi people until the Iraqi people are self- governing.
Furthermore, we would ask that the U.N. handle the elections and the construction of a constitution for the Iraqi people.
When the U.N. agrees with that, at that point, we ask U.N. peacekeepers to come in and rotate our troops out.
We help to fund it, we would help pay to rebuild Iraq, and we would give reparations to those innocent civilian noncombatants who lost their lives -- to their families.
BROKAW: I shortcut several of the steps that you would make, but nonetheless, you would turn over the security eventually to U.N. peacekeepers.
KUCINICH: On an interim basis, until the Iraqi people can be self-governing.
CLARK: Tom, I'll tell you what I think we should do with Iraq right now. We're going to have to form an international organization to take the burden off the United States.
The president is playing politics with national security when he says we'll be out by the 30th of June. That's just an arbitrary date related to the presidential election. It's not related to what's going on on the ground.
We need an international organization. We need to be able to bring every nation in that wants to help. We need to pull Bremer out. We need to put the U.S. forces there underneath NATO.
But I want to go back to the question you raised a minute ago about Iraq, because I heard from the Pentagon two weeks after 9/11 that the administration was determined to go into Iraq, whether or not there was any connection with 9/11; that they were going to use it as a pretext for invading Iraq.
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