Transcript: Democratic Candidates Debate in South Carolina
And that was common knowledge in Washington. There should never have been a congressional authorization for the president to have a blank check to take this country to war, because everybody knew that's what he intended to do. And they knew what the timetable was. It was a politically motivated timetable to go in the 30th of March, just like this 30th of June date.
We've got to change this government.
BROKAW: Reverend Sharpton?
SHARPTON: I think that we cannot go quickly past the president giving the wrong premise to the American public to get support. Had he said, "We're going to war because Saddam Hussein is a bad guy," the public would not have rallied around that.
We were told, in the wake of 9/11, we were in imminent danger with weapons of mass destruction. We cannot allow him to change this now and say we were just after Hussein because he was a bad guy. Everybody knows Hussein was a bad guy, and there are other bad guys who we didn't go after, and we didn't lie about it.
I preached the funeral of a young man, Darius Jennings, who died shot down in a helicopter in Iraq. I preached it right here in Orangeburg, South Carolina. His mother was told he went to war to protect us from weapons of mass destruction. She was not told he went to war because we have a bad guy over there, because there's any number of bad guys. We should find a way to get rid of bad guys, but lying to the American people is not the way you run a country, and George Bush ought to be removed for that.
BROKAW: On that note, we'll say that we're going to continue this discussion, talking about the United States, the West for that matter, and its relationship with the nation of Islam, the war on terror, and especially here in South Carolina, what happened to all the jobs and how can they be replaced?
BROKAW: We're back on stage at the Peace Center for Performing Arts in Greenville, South Carolina, with the seven presidential candidates contesting for the Democratic presidential nomination. South Carolina's primary is next Tuesday.
Senator Kerry, let me ask you a question. Robert Kagan, who writes about these issues a great deal from the Carnegie Institute for Peace, has written recently that Europeans believe that the Bush administration has exaggerated the threat of terrorism, and the Bush administration believes that the Europeans simply don't get it.
Who is right?
KERRY: I think it's somewhere in between. I think that there has been an exaggeration and there has been a refocusing...
BROKAW: Where has the exaggeration been in the threat on terrorism?
KERRY: Well, 45 minutes deployment of weapons of mass destruction, number one.
Aerial vehicles to be able to deliver materials of mass destruction, number two.
I mean, I -- nuclear weapons, number three.
I could run a long list of clear misleading, clear exaggeration. The linkage to Al Qaida, number four.
That said, they are really misleading all of America, Tom, in a profound way. The war on terror is less -- it is occasionally military, and it will be, and it will continue to be for a long time. And we will need the best-trained and the most well-equipped and the most capable military, such as we have today.
But it's primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world -- the very thing this administration is worst at.
And most importantly, the war on terror is also an engagement in the Middle East economically, socially, culturally, in a way that we haven't embraced, because otherwise we're inviting a clash of civilizations.
And I think this administration's arrogant and ideological policy is taking America down a more dangerous path. I will make America safer than they are.
BROKAW: General Clark, you've been quite outspoken in blaming the Bush administration for the terrorist attacks of 9/11. You better...
CLARK: No, no, no, Tom, no, I didn't blame the Bush administration for the attacks. We know who did the attacks. It was Osama bin Laden and Al Qaida. But what I have said is that the president did not do all he could have done to have prevented that attack.
BROKAW: That's the premise of my question. The fact of the matter is that I said I think that you know better than anyone is that we were under attack in this country by Osama bin Laden well before George Bush took office: the original attack on the World Trade Center, the attack on the USS Cole in the Arabian Sea, the attack on the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which happened during the Clinton administration.
Was there an inadequate response to terrorism during President Clinton's term?
CLARK: Well, I have not been on the inside of the Clinton administration, in terms of how they responded to terror.
BROKAW: You don't have to be on the inside. We know what happened.
CLARK: I will tell you this, Tom. Here's what we did. We always recognized that there was a threat of terrorism. And we began in 1996, with Khobar Towers, to really work on the defensive, the anti-terrorism measures. And as the commander in Europe, we really strengthened our security. And that was my focus, the security of the military forces over there.
In '98, when Osama bin Laden issued a fatwa against the United States, there should have been, at that point, measures to go and get Osama bin Laden. I'm told that there were such measures that were attempted to be undertaken. Why they didn't work, what they are, and so forth, I don't know.
But I will say this: that when the Bush administration came to office, the Bush administration was told the greatest threat to America is Osama bin Laden, and yet almost nine months later, when the United States was struck, there was still no plan as to what to do with Osama bin Laden.
But we had worked really hard with Vladimir Putin to do something about national missile defense and get out of the ABM Treaty, and a lot of other things had been done.
This administration did not have its priorities right, and the president, not the intelligence community, and not the previous administration, President George W. Bush must be held accountable for that. That's the job of the president of the United States: to focus attention, to set the priorities, to take the actions to keep America safe.
BROKAW: I dislike telling a general that he has to stop, but you have to stop right there.
Congressman Kucinich, you were serving in the House of Representatives during the Clinton administration. You weren't raising your hand and say, "Hey, wait a minute. We're being attacked in our embassies; our ships are being attacked. Khobar Towers was attacked in Saudi Arabia. What are we doing about that?"
You've often been an early alert system for a lot of urgent issues in this country, but it simply wasn't on the agenda, was it, in the Congress, as well, during the previous administration?
KUCINICH: I wouldn't say it wasn't on the agenda. I would say that the Clinton administration handled its approach in a way that I think tried to create international cooperation.
Tom, where I think the problem is today is that the administration's approach, their doctrine is wrong. The doctrine of preemption led us into Iraq. The doctrine of unilateralism essentially led us into Iraq. The doctrine of first strike puts us at risk of expanding war.
So this administration started off with the wrong doctrine. And you know what? It was ideologically driven. Because we know that the Project for the New American Century was talking years before about an attack on Iraq and their ideological adherents came into the administration.
We need to re-engage with the world community and work with the world community through the U.N. Tom, that's the only way we're going to be safe as a nation.
BROKAW: Senator Lieberman, the president said the other night in the State of the Union address, "I don't need a permission slip from the United Nations to defend the natural security interests of this country."
Isn't that a legitimate position for a president of the United States?
LIEBERMAN: Yes, it is a legitimate position in the final analysis.
But let me just tell you a brief story. I met in a hotel in Nashua, New Hampshire. Turned out to be a security guard. And he came over to me and said, "I'm going to support you in the primary, and I want you to know why. I have a son who's a Marine. He's going to be deployed to Iraq. And I trust my son's life to you as commander in chief."
Well, I was stopped by that, honored by his confidence, and aware of the awesome responsibility that comes with this job.
But he went on to make clear what he meant, and he was right: "I know that as commander in chief, you will not commit America's sons and daughters to war unless there is no other alternative.
"But, two, you will make effort when you do so to have international help.
"Three, if you still feel it is in the security interests of the United States, of course, as commander of chief, you will reserve the right to act alone to protect the security and freedom of the American people.
BROKAW: Reverend Sharpton, there is a great war going on in the world between the West and the Nation of Islam. And the United States, at the moment, is losing the war for hearts and minds. Everyone agrees on that, whatever their political position happens to be.
Specifically, what should the United States be doing in terms of programs? And how much money should it commit to find common ground between this country and the democratic ideals that we all embrace and the Nation of Islam?
SHARPTON: Well, first of all, I assume when you say "the Nation of Islam" you're talking about Islamic nations, because there is a Nation of Islam in the United States that has nothing to do what you're talking about.
So I'm just asking for clarity.
BROKAW: I'm talking about Islamic nations.
SHARPTON: You're talking about Islamic -- first of all, I think...
BROKAW: No, no, I'm talking about the Islamic movement around the world, because it really does transcend nations in many ways.
SHARPTON: But, in many ways, I think that we can't allow the distortion, because Mr. Bush and some of his crowd have said they represent a Christian view against the Islamic. And I don't think Christ could join most of their churches.
So, I mean, I don't agree with the speech.
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