Friday, November 30, 2007

Just A Note

The Political Heretic will be on a little trip for the weekend but will return to his daily blogging Monday.

Tom Delay's Overreach

"Alan, let me — let me tell you something, even the immigration part, which is the number one issue with the Republicans — the Republican Party, even those questions were so shallow and so meaningless, it never got — it never allowed the candidates to get into the meat of immigration. The way that they asked the questions were silly, shallow, and twisted to reflect the "Clinton News Network" agenda." former Representative Tom Delay (R-Texas) commenting on the CNN/Youtube debate on "Hannity & Colmes".

Hmm. Let's See. Were the immigration questions "silly, shallow, and twisted to reflect" the Democratic agenda. I'll report. You decide.

1. "This is Ernie Nardi from Dyker Heights in Brooklyn, New York, with a question for the ex-Mayor Giuliani.

Under your administration, as well as others, New York City was operated as a sanctuary city, aiding and abetting illegal aliens.

I would like to know, if you become president of the United States, will you continue to aid and abet the flight of illegal aliens into this country?"


Is that question twisted to reflect the Democratic agenda? No, unless you believe his concern about siding with illegal aliens was crafted to help the Democratic agenda.

How about this one? Does this one make the Republicans look bad?

2. "Michael Weitz: Good evening. There are thousands of people in Canada and Mexico waiting to come to America legally. They want to become American citizens. They want to be part of the American dream. Yet, there are those in the Senate that want to grant amnesty for those that come here illegally.

Will you pledge tonight, if elected president, to veto any immigration bill that involves amnesty for those that have come here illegally?

Thank you."


Only if you believe treating potential immigrants who respect our immigration laws fairly is wrong.


Towards the end, the conservative panelist, radio talk show host Sean Hannity, said this:

"Congressman DeLay, I agree with you totally. Congressman Ford, good to see you both again. I actually agree with a lot of the analysis he has here. I thought Fred Barnes had a good piece when he wrote about this. He said, 30-plus questions, six on immigration, three guns, two abortion, gays, exactly the issues, in the view of liberals and many in the media which, for Republicans, make them look particularly unattractive here."

What, the Republicans don't know how to win an argument on uncomfortable subjects? Please. The Log Cabin Republican endorsement question was a soft ball and it was given to Huckabee whose anti-gay, "Christian leader" image is helped, not hurt in the Republican primary. One wonders how Giuliani would have answered that one. And "Don't Ask, Don't Tell?" Romney answered that one poorly because he couldn't defend his flip flop.

The focus on immigration was understandable, particularly since Frank Luntz said his focus group want stronger border enforcement. Did not Giuliani and McCain's approval ratings drop when Luntz' focus group heard them try to defend (in the case of McCain) or deny (in the case of Giuliani) their liberal immigration policies? I guess FOX News should punish Frank Luntz since he, too focused on immigration reform.

Question: Could a soft ball be twisted to make the Republicans look bad?

"My name is Sarah Lederach. I'm 18 years old. I'm from Scarsdale, Pennsylvania. And I'm a student at Penn State University.

Often, I've heard both politicians and voters express their concern with providing a better future for their children. A concern of my generation is the trillions of dollars of national debt and what kind of responsibility we will have for that in the future.

"My question for you all is, if elected, what measures will you take to tackle the national debt and control spending?"


Seems like a fair question for a party that rhetorically speaks about spending cuts don't you think?

or this one:

"My name is Ronald Lanham from Mobile, Alabama. And I want you to tell me, do you support the elimination of the federal income tax in favor of a national retail sales tax, also known as the fair tax? Thank you."

Real hard for a Republican to answer. One would think these candidates, whose main focus would be on taxes would have given it any thought. It's not as if moderator Anderson Cooper offered any follow-up questions. Well, maybe one on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and one on abortion penalties but he was for the most part smart enough to foster a debate by letting the candidates challenge each other's claims and respond in kind.

All is fair in war.

"Hi there. I'm Eric Bentson from Phoenix, Arizona. Got a quick question for all you candidates.

Any of you all want to tell us about your gun collection, roughly how many you own, what your favorite make, model and caliber is, if any of them require a tax stamp?"


Now who would be embarrassed to own a gun? Does owning a gun make the Republicans look ridiculous? Was the question asked to make the Republicans look foolish? No.


On abortion:
First, the tough one:

"Hi. My name is Journey. I'm from Texas. And this question is for all (inaudible) pro-life candidates.

In the event that abortion becomes illegal and a woman obtains an abortion anyway, what should she be charged with, and what should her punishment be? What about the doctor who performs the abortion?"


Seems like a tough question but it's a fair to ask the candidates who would criminalize the procedure since they consider abortion the willful taking of a human life. Don't blame "Journey" for asking the question. Blame the Republican candidates who to this day cannot tell the American people why they would let a pregnant woman get away with murder.

Now the soft ball:

"Hello, my name is AJ. I'm from Millstone, New Jersey. I would all of the candidates to give an answer on this. If hypothetically, Roe v. Wade was overturned, and the Congress passed a federal ban on all abortions and it came to your desk, would you sign it? Yes or no?"

Get this straight. The Republican and Democratic candidates should rise and fall on the vision they plan to offer. If they offer the American public an appealing vision with specific policy prescriptions for making this country a better, I'll hope they do well but if they cannot defend their principles, their policy prescriptions and their vision for the future they deserve to look foolish and ultimately go down to defeat in the polls.

Too Much Credit for Clinton Press Conference

Give Hillary Clinton credit for saying all of the right things at her brief press conference - for promising to visit New Hampshire and her campaign workers, for commending those who put their future on hold to volunteer regardless of party affiliation and for thanking New Hampshire, the local police, and the FBI for putting an end to this hostage crisis quickly.

On his show "Hardball," though, Chris Matthews gave Hillary Clinton too much credit for holding this press conference and taking questions. No candidate in his or her mind would have any reason to hide from speaking to the media on this matter. There was no reason for her to stonewall the journalists reporting on this incident at her campaign office in Rochester. Credit will be due when a political candidate doesn't bunker down when reporters ask them of politically inconvenient revelations.

The Weekend Update

Once again, an abbreviated Weekend Preview.

Note: Presidential candidates interviewed this week - Mike Huckabee, John McCain, and Chris Dodd. Other Notable guests Senators Jim Webb, Carl Levin, Arlen Specter; Representative Chris Van Hollen and political strategist Karl Rove.

Advice: Watch the first half of "This Week" at 10:00 AM ET to see Huckabee if you can, then "Face The Nation" for McCain at 10:30 AM ET. Flip to CNN at 11:00 AM to catch President Bush and then Senator Dodd. By the way, did I say Chris Dodd is one of the two most underrated Democratic Party candidates in the race for the White House? Not that he gets much coverage since most journalists are fascinated by the "experience" fight between Obama and Clinton.

Tim Russert of "Meet The Press" and Chris Wallace of "FOX News Sunday" are not interviewing presidential candidates this week but if you want to hear Jim Webb talk about his Iraq War views or watch Karl Rove and Representative Chris Van Hollen duke it out on the FOX News Channel you can catch their shows when they are repeated in the evening.

Catch the transcript for any other show that may appear on Sunday morning.

I. THE SUNDAY INTERVIEW SHOWS


1. "FOX News Sunday" on FOX (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
Topics This Week - election 2008 debate, Fred Smith interview, Giuliani and Clinton political headaches. (a) a debate on the key issues facing voters with Karl Rove, former White House Deputy Chief of Staff in the Bush administration and Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-Marlyand), the Chairman of the Congressional Campaign Committee. (b) "American Leaders" series interview with FedEx CEO and founder Fred Smith. (c) FOX News Sunday panelists Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson of National Public Radio, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, and Nina Easton of Fortune on Giuliani's mayoral security spending and former President Bill Clinton's assertion that he opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. (d) Power Player of the Week - Earl "Rusty" Powell, the Director of the National Gallery of Art. This show which is hosted by Chris Wallace is repeated on the FOX News Channel at 6:00 PM ET.

2. "This Week" on ABC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET on Philadelphia channels and 10:30 AM ET on New York channels): Topics This Week - Mike Huckabee on his campaign, punditry on the Republican debate, Steven Van Zandt and his Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. (a) former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansas) on his campaign for the White House. (b) Round table - Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal, Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times, Katrina vanden Heuval of The Nation, and George Will of ABC News and The Washington Post debate this week's politics which obviously will focus on the Republican debate. (c) Voices - E Street Band musician Steven Van Zandt on his Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. (d) In Memorium. (e) Sunday Funnies. George Stephanopoulos hosts this show.


3. "Meet The Press" on NBC (Sunday at 10:30 AM ET): Topics This Week - Webb's view on the war in Iraq, election 2008 punditry. (a) Senator Jim Webb (D-Virginia) of the Armed Services Committee on his trip to Iraq, military progress, and our future role in Iraq. (b) Decision 2008 Political Roundtable with David Brody, David Gregory, Michele Norris, and Eugene Robinson. This show which Tim Russert hosts is repeated on MSNBC at 10:00 PM ET.

4. "Face The Nation" on CBS (Sunday at 10:30 AM ET): Topics This Week - election 2008. (a) Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) on his campaign for the White House and debate performance. (b) Obama Campaign strategist David Axelrod and Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson on the fight for the Democratic Party's nomination. Bob Schieffer hosts.

5. "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on CNN (Sunday at 11:00 AM ET): Topics This Week - Bush, Chris Dodd's campaign for the White House, Iraq War progress report, debate on the Iraq War. (a) President George W. Bush interviewed. (b) Senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) on his campaign for the White House. (c) Lt. General Raymond Odierno, the commander of Multi-National Corps on progress in Iraq. (d) Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) of the Armed Services Committee and Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) of the Judiciary Committee interviewed as well.


II. THE WEEKEND POLITICAL TALK SHOWS



1. "Beltway Boys" on FOX News Channel (Saturday at 2:00 PM ET): Topics This Week - Romney, Huckabee, and Bill Clinton. (a) Romney v. Huckabee in the Christian conservative primary. (b) Bill Clinton as his wife's political albatross. Co-panelists Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke host.


2. "FOX News Watch" on FOX News Channel (Saturday at 2:30 PM ET):
Topics This Week - CNN debate question plant fallout, Drew Peterson and Sean Taylor. (a) CNN Debate - Democratic question planting. (b) Drew Peterson v. the media on his missing wife. (c) NFL Player Sean Taylor's death coverage. Co-panelists include syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, Jim Pinkerton, Jane Hall, Neil Gabler and host Eric Burns.


3. "The Chris Matthews Show" on NBC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
Topics This Week - Rudolph Giuliani, Condoleeza Rice (a) Rudolph Giuliani's discipline on the campaign. (b) Condoleeza Rice as President George W. Bush's Secretary of State. Panelists to include Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times, John Heilemann of New York Magazine, Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic, Gloria Borger of U.S News & World Report, and host Chris Matthews.


5. "Reliable Sources" on CNN (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
no preview is given for this show which Howard Kurtz hosts Sunday mornings.

So, Who Cares?

This is what the right wing American Family Association has e-mailed to its e-mail subscriber list - just to let readers know what they consider important.

"Kohl's is taking a misleading, in-your-face attitude when it comes to Christmas.

Last year, thousands of individuals asked Kohl's to include Christmas in their in-store promotions and media advertising. The company promised they would. However, in researching their in-store promotions and advertising this year, the company has ignored that promise.

Under their online FAQ section, Kohl's says Christmas "will be featured in print, TV, and radio throughout the season." This is misleading. When AFA contacted Kohl's we were told only that the word Christmas will be featured "in 6 of our flyers between mid-November and New Year's Day." They made no mention of using Christmas in radio or TV spots or in-store promotions, as they had promised. This is misleading.

Following their usual pattern, Kohl's will distribute 18 flyers during that time period. That means they will use Christmas in only one-third of their flyers. To date, Kohl's has distributed four of the flyers with 62 uses of "holiday" and ZERO uses of "Christmas." Kohl's has misled the public.

Under a hard to find "Christmas promotions" category on their Web site, Kohl's doesn't include a single use of Christmas. Why would Kohl's ban Christmas? The obvious answer is they don't want to offend non-Christians.

With the exception of a handful of trinkets associated with Christmas by their manufacturer, Kohl's has misled the public and effectively banned Christmas.

At the time this is being mailed, Christmas is not mentioned on Kohl's home page. We expect the company will put the word Christmas on their home page as soon as they begin hearing from you. Then they can point you to their home page to prove they are not banning Christmas. Should they do that, it will again be misleading."


Oh yes. We have a crisis. Kohl's isn't wishing its customers a merry christmas. Do you think we could make our good friends at the AFA feel better by wishing them a merry christmas?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Comments on the Debate: Illegal Immigration

The transcripts to the CNN/YouTube debate found here, among other places.


I. IMMIGRATION


MR. COOPER: "All right.

You've got a guitar, right? Yeah.

All right. Enough of the singing, enough of the snowmen,. Let's begin the debate. From one tough-talking New Yorker, a question to another tough-talking New Yorker."


Q "This is Ernie Nardy (sp) from Dyker Heights in Brooklyn, New York, with a question for the Ex-Mayor Giuliani. Under your administration as well as others, New York City was operated as a sanctuary city, aiding and abetting illegal aliens. I would like to know, if you become president of the United States, will you continue to aid and abet the flight of illegal aliens into this country?"



MR. GUILIANI: "Ernie, that was a very good question. And the reality is that New York City was not a sanctuary city. (Audio break) -- single illegal immigrant that New York City could find that either committed a crime or was suspected of a crime. That was in the executive order originally done by Ed Koch, continued by David Dinkins and then done by me.

And the reason for the confusion is, there were three areas in which New York City made an exception. New York City allowed the children of illegal immigrants to go to school. If we didn't allow the children of illegal immigrants to go to school, we would have had 70,000 children on the streets at a time in which New York City was going through a massive crime wave, averaging 2,000 murders a year, 10,000 felonies a week.

The only two exceptions related to care -- emergency care in the hospital and being able to report crimes. If we didn't allow illegals to report crimes, a lot of criminals would have gone free because they're the ones who had the information.

But the most important point is, we reported thousands and thousands and thousands of names of illegal immigrants who committed crimes to the immigration service.

They did not deport them. And what we did, the policies that we had were necessary because the federal policies weren't working. The federal policies weren't working, stopping people coming in to the United States.

If I were president of the United States, I could do something about that by deploying a fence, by deploying a virtual fence, by having a BorderStat system like my COMSTAT system that brought down crime in New York and just stopping people from coming in, and then having a tamper-proof ID card."


Comments: (1) As mayor, Giuliani led illegal immigrants in his city to believe that New York City was a sanctuary city. (2) The mayor disingenuously refuted the sanctuary city claim by touting his crackdown on one subset of illegal immigrants - those who commit other crimes aside from their unauthorized stay in the city. (3) His reference to the COMSTAT was good. It reminded us of his good image as a crime fighter but it also reminds us of what he didn't do about illegal immigration as New York City's mayor.


MR COOPER: Governor Romney, was New York a sanctuary city?

MR. ROMNEY: Absolutely. "Called itself a sanctuary city, and as a matter of fact, when the Welfare Reform Act that President Clinton brought forward said that they were going to end the sanctuary policy of New York City, the mayor brought a suit to maintain its sanctuary city status. And the idea that they reported any illegal alien that committed a crime, how about the fact that people who are here illegally are violating the law. They didn't report everybody they found that was here illegally, and -- (interrupted by cheers, applause) -- this -- this just happens to be a difference between Mayor Giuliani and myself and probably others on the stage as well, which is we're going to have to recognize in this country that we welcome people here legally. But the mayor said, and I quote almost verbatim, which is, if you happen to be in this country in an undocumented status -- and that means you're here illegally -- then we welcome you here. We want you here. We'll protect you here. That's the wrong attitude. Instead we should say, if you're illegally, you should not be here; we're not going to give you benefits other than those required by the law, like health care and education. And that's the course we're going to have to pursue."

Comments: Romney definitely listened to Giuliani's answer and attacked him on his weak point - the failure to report every illegal immigrant to the proper federal authorities. He uses Giuliani's own words against him though I believe Giuliani's challenge to the welfare provision concerned the denial of benefits to legal immigrants.

MR. GIULIANI: "It's unfortunate, but Mitt generally criticizes people in a situation in which he's had far the worst record. For example, in his case, there were six sanctuary cities; he did nothing about them. There was even a sanctuary mansion. At his own home illegal immigrants were being employed -- (laughter, cheers, applause) -- not -- not -- not being turned in to anybody or by anyone.

And then, when he deputized the police, he did it two weeks before he was going to leave office, and they never seemed to even catch the illegal immigrants who were working at his mansion. So I would say he had sanctuary mansion, not just sanctuary city. (Cheers, applause.)"


Comment: Mitt Romney's efforts to crack down on illegal immigration surpass "America's mayor" by far. He strongly opposed legislation that would have given illegal immigrants in state tuition rates at colleges then, albeit towards the end of his term, gave state police the authority to detain illegal immigrants. Here's the question for him - why so late in his term? Giuliani's attack on Romney's illegal employee may seem unfair at first since he did not hire them; the business he used did it.


MR. ROMNEY: "No, I did not. So let's just talk about that.
Are you suggesting, Mr. Mayor -- because I -- I think it's really kind of offensive, actually, to suggest -- to say look, you know what, if -- if you're a homeowner and you hire a company to come provide a service at your home -- paint the home, put on the roof -- if you hear someone that's working out there -- not that you've employed, but that the company has -- if you hear someone with a funny accent, you as a homeowner are supposed to go out there and say, I want to see your papers? Is that what you're suggesting?"

Are you suggesting, Mr. Mayor -- because I -- I think it's really kind of offensive, actually, to suggest -- to say look, you know what, if -- if you're a homeowner and you hire a company to come provide a service at your home -- paint the home, put on the roof -- if you hear someone that's working out there -- not that you've employed, but that the company has -- if you hear someone with a funny accent, you as a homeowner are supposed to go out there and say, I want to see your papers? Is that what you're suggesting?


Comment: A very good comeback from Mitt Romney though again he dodges the one part of Giuliani's attack that undermines his immigration enforcement record - his failure to give the state police the authority to detain illegal immigrants sooner. The two would trade barbs over illegal immigration with MItt Romney getting the better of the exchange. Mitt Romney may try to cast himself as the perfect candidate but Giuliani's use of the term "holier than thou" didn't further his cause since it is viewed as a pejorative that may offend those who want a candidate with strong immigration enforcement credentials. Romney easily repudiated him on that point by noting that immigration enforcement isn't about building the elusive perfect city on the hill; it's the law. One last point - Since Giuliani told Bush to appoint Bernard Kerik as his Department of Homeland Security Secretary he should be the last to speak of candidates who let criminals work for them "under their nose."


MR. ROMNEY: "-- let me tell you what I did as governor. I said no to drivers' licenses for illegals. I said, number two, we're going to make sure that those that come here don't get a tuition break in our schools, which -- I disagree with other folks on that one. (Applause.)

Number three, number three, I applied to have our state police enforce the immigration laws in May, seven months before I was out of office. It took the federal government a long time to get the approvals."


Comment: To his credit the governor did oppose giving drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. As governor, Mitt Romney opposed efforts to give illegal immigrants new benefits but he did not crack down on illegal immigration. It took him 3 years and 5 months, by his own admission, to do one thing - give the State Police the right (but not the obligation to) detain illegal immigrants.

ROMNEY: "And we enforced the law, and Massachusetts is not a sanctuary state. And the -- the policies of the mayor of pursuing a sanctuary nation or pursuing a sanctuary city are frankly wrong."

Comment: No he didn't.

MR. COOPER: "Okay. Let's play next video from the same topic."


MICHAEL WEITZ (Franklin, New Jersey): "Good evening. There are thousands of people in Canada and Mexico waiting to come to America legally. They want to become American citizens. They want to be part of the American dream. Yet there are those in the Senate that want to grant amnesty for those that come here illegally. Will you pledge tonight, if elected president, to veto any immigration bill that involves amnesty for those that have come here illegally? Thank you. (Applause.)"

Comment: Good point. We do spit in the face of those who respect our laws by offering those who did not play by the rules amnesty. I've made that point before and it is a point which immigrant enforcement supporters should bring up more often.

MR. COOPER: "Senator Thompson?"

MR. THOMPSON: "Yes, I'd pledge that. A nation that cannot and will not defend its own borders will not forever remain a sovereign nation. And it's unfair -- (applause) -- we have -- we have thousands of people standing in line at embassies around the world to become United States American citizens, to come here, to get a green card, to come here and to assimilate and be a part of our culture.

They are part of what has made our country great, some of our better citizens. We all know them and love them. Now it's our country together, theirs and ours now together. It's our home. And we now get to decide who comes into our home. And to place somebody above them or in front of them in line is the wrong thing to do. We've got to strengthen the border, we've got to enforce the border, we've got to punish employers -- the employers who will not obey the law, and we've got to eliminate sanctuary cities and say to sanctuary cities, if you continue this we're going to cut off federal funding for you; you're not going to do it with federal money. (Applause.)"


Bingo. Aside from Hunter and Tancredo on illegal immigration Thompson is the only candidate the PoliticalHeretic would trust.

THOMPSON: "Now, there are parts of what both of these gentlemen have just said that I would like to associate myself with. First of all, of course, Governor Romney supported the Bush immigration plan until a short time ago. Now he's taken another position, surprisingly. (Laughter.")

As far as Mayor Giuliani is concerned, I am a little surprised the mayor says, you know, everybody's responsible for everybody that they hire, but we'll have to address that a little bit further later. I think we've all had people, probably, that we have hired that in retrospect probably it was a bad decision.

(Inaudible cross talk.)

He did have -- he did have a sanctuary city. In 1996 I helped pass the bill outlawing sanctuary cities. The mayor went to court to overturn it. So if it wasn't a sanctuary city, I'd call that a frivolous lawsuit. (Laughter.)"


MR. GIULIANI: "New York City was not a sanctuary city. New York City did three exceptions. The three exceptions were to allow children to go to school; to allow those illegal immigrants who were the victims of crimes to report the person who assaulted them, beat them up, mugged them; and third, to allow emergency care in the hospitals, which we were required to do by federal law.

We had a policy of reporting every single illegal immigrant, other than those three, who committed any kind of crime -- "


MR. COOPER: Senator McCain, let me bring you back to the question that was asked by the YouTube user. Would you be willing to veto any immigration bill that involves amnesty for those who have come here illegally?

SEN. MCCAIN: "Yes, of course, and we never proposed amnesty. But you know --"

HECKLER: (Off mike.)

SEN. MCCAIN: "-- this whole debate --"

MR. COOPER: "Come on. Please, let him answer."

SEN. MCCAIN: "You know, this whole debate saddens me a little bit because we do have a serious situation in America. In 1986, we passed a law that said we would enforce our borders and gave amnesty to a couple million people. We gave the amnesty, now we have 12 million people and still borders that are not enforced.

I came to the Senate not to do the easy things, but to do the hard things. Mel Martinez and I knew that this was going to be a tough issue, but we thought the status quo was unacceptable -- broken borders, 12 million people here illegally, a need for a temporary worker program certainly in my state in the agricultural sector, certainly in the state of Florida. And we tried to get something done. We said we'd enforce the borders. The American people didn't believe us. They don't believe us because of our failure in Katrina, our failure in Iraq, our failures in -- reining in corruption and out- of-control spending. So we tried and we failed.

And I appreciate the president's efforts. He comes from a border state, too. And what we've learned is that the American people --"


MR. COOPER: "Time."

SEN. MCCAIN: "-- want the borders enforced. We must enforce the -- secure the borders first.

But then you've still got two other aspects of this issue that have to be resolved as well. And we sit -- we need to sit down --

-- as Americans and recognize these are God's children as well and they need some protections under the law and they need -- (applause) -- and they -- they need some of our love and compassion"


Comment: The "comprehensive bill" which Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) and Senator Mel Martinez (R-Florida) supported did in fact provide illegal immigrants amnesty. It would have given them the right to stay in the United States and then let them earn their way to citizenship by paying back taxes. It, in essence, offered the illegal immigrants something which the United States did not grant to many potential immigrants were not given - a home in the United States and a path to American citizenship.

The illegal immigrants may or may not be "God's children" but we cannot provide for everyone who wants to come to the United States. They wouldn't need any "protections under the law"if they were sent back.


MR. COOPER: (Laughs.) "I -- well, Congressman Tancredo?"

REP. TANCREDO: "Yeah, well, I tell you, this has been wonderful. I -- and Senator McCain may not be happy with this -- the spirit of this debate. As -- for a guy who usually stands on the bookend -- here -- side and just listens all the time, that's kind of frustrating, you know, in other debates. I have to tell you, so far it's been wonderful -- (laughter) -- because -- because all I've heard is -- is -- is people trying to out-Tancredo Tancredo. (Laughter.) It is great. I am so happy to hear it. (Applause.) It is a wonderful thing, and it's a good message. Yes, we want to secure the borders. And --"

Rhetorical Question: Squandered time. Why didn't he use his time to respond to McCain's dubious assertions concerning what we owe illegal immigrants.

MR. COOPER: Our next question is actually directly to you, so let's bring it up. (Laughter.)

REP. TANCREDO: "Let me go ahead and answer it. Next question.

Jack Brooks: Hammered by competition with imports, our family- owned business struggles each year to find seasonal workers. We've been working with a seasonal guest-worker program, the H2B program, bringing in and sending home workers every year.

But with Congress failing to enact a comprehensive immigration and guest worker bill, I want to know whether I'll have a job next year. What are you going to do to keep these guest workers coming to the U.S. to save our business?"


Cooper: "Congressman Tancredo?"

Tancredo: "OK, the gist of the question, as I understand it, is, what I'm going to do stop guest workers from coming in here?"

Cooper: "No, no, to help. This small business needs guest workers."

Tancredo: "I'm sorry. I could not hear that. I'm sorry. Well, I'll tell you, I'm not going to aid any more immigration into this country, because in fact, immigration...

(Applause)

... massive immigration into the country, massive immigration, both legal and illegal, does a couple of things.

One of it is, makes it difficult for us to assimilate. The other thing is that it does take jobs.

I reject the idea -- I reject the idea, categorically, that there are jobs that, quote, "No American will take." I reject it.

(Applause)

Now, what they will do...

(Applause)

... what you can say -- what you absolutely can say to these people is that there are no -- there are some jobs Americans won't take for what I can get any illegal immigrant to do that job for. Yes, that's true.

But am I going to feel sorry if a business has to increase its wages in order for somebody in this country to make a good living? No, I don't feel sorry about that and I won't apologize for it for a moment. And there are plenty of Americans who will do those jobs."


Comment: Would Americans take these jobs if the workers made minimal wage? Probably but the price in fruit and vegetables would go up if agricultural subsidies were not increased. Anderson Cooper should have asked Tancredo which of those two scenarios he would favor or if he would restrict price increases at the expense of the seller.
Credit him for answering the question and for those of us who support immigration restrictions, answering it correctly.



Hunter: "Yes. Cooper, a great debate. It's nice to listen to lots of statements about what the other candidates will do with respect to the borders.

I built that border fence in San Diego and it does work. It's a ...

(Applause)

You know, we built a double fence. We had the number one smuggler's corridor in America with most of the illegal aliens and most of the drugs that came into the entire country coming in through that number one corridor between Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego, California.

We built the double-border fence with a road in between, and we reduced the smuggling of people and drugs by more than 90 percent. And as a result of that, the crime rate...

(Applause)

... the crime rate in the city of San Diego went down by 53 percent by FBI statistic. And as a result of that, I wrote the law that the president signed last October 26, incidentally, passed the Senate 80-19, that mandates 854 miles of double-border fence across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

Now, the administration has $800 million on hand right now, cash on hand. They haven't built a linear inch of that fence in Texas.

As president of the United States, I would bill the double-border fence, all 854 miles, in six months."


Question: can it get built in six months?

Ashley: "Governor Huckabee, while governor of Arkansas, you gave a illegal aliens a discount for college in Arkansas by allow them to pay lower in-state tuition rates. However, we have thousands of military members currently serving our country in Iraq with children at home. If these children chose to move to Arkansas to attend college, they would have to pay three times the tuition rate that illegal aliens pay.

Would you support a federal law which would require any state that gives these tuition rates to illegal aliens to give the same rates to the children of our military members??"


Cooper: "Governor Huckabee, you have 90 seconds."

Huckabee: "Thank you very much.

Ashley, first of all, let me just express that you're a little misinformed. We never passed a bill that gave special privileges to the children of illegals to go to college.

Now, let me tell you what I did do. I supported the bill that would've allowed those children who had been in our schools their entire school life the opportunity to have the same scholarship that their peers had, who had also gone to high school with them and sat in the same classrooms.

They couldn't just move in in their senior year and go to college. It wasn't about out of state tuition. It was an academic, meritorious scholarship called the Academic Challenge Scholarship.

Now, let me tell you a couple of provisions of it. And, by the way, it didn't pass. It passed the House but got in the Senate and got caught up in the same kind of controversy that this country is caught up in.

And here's what happened. This bill would've said that if you came here, not because you made the choice but because your parents did, that we're not going to punish a child because the parent committed a crime.

That's not what we typically do in this country.

It said that if you'd sat in our schools from the time you're five or six-years old and you had become an A-plus student, you'd completed the core curriculum, you were an exceptional student, and you also had to be drug and alcohol-free -- and the other provision, you had to be applying for citizenship.

It accomplished two things that we knew we wanted to do, and that is, number one, bring people from illegal status to legal status.

And the second thing, we wanted people to be taxpayers, not tax- takers. And that's what that provision did.

And finally, would we give that provision to the children of veterans, personally? What we've done with not just the children of veterans, but most importantly, veterans is disgraceful in this country.

And that's why I proposed a veterans bill of rights that, if anything, would give our veterans the most exceptional privileges of all, because they are the ones who have earned all of our freedom -- every single one of them."


Comment: Huckabee could honestly say Arkansas was not giving illegal immigrants "special privileges" because they were de facto residents of the state and thus were receiving the same treatment any other resident of that state would get. However, that is besides the point for the whole topic and the questioner's concern revolves around the treatment we owe those who by law were not invited to live and work in the United States and in particular, his state. The questioner would say Huckabee is giving de jure non-residents of the United STates more privileges than de jure residents from other states by providing them college tuition rates equal to that of de jure Arkansas residents.

Cooper: "Governor, you called Governor Huckabee a liberal on immigration."

(Applause)

Romney: "Well, you know, I like Mike. And I heard what he just said. But he basically said that he fought for giving scholarships to illegal aliens. And he had -- he had a great reason for doing so.

It reminds me of what it's like talking to liberals in Massachusetts, all right? They have great reasons for taking taxpayer money and using it for things they think are the right thing to do.

Mike, that's not your money. That's the taxpayers' money.

(Applause)

And the right thing here is to say to people that are here legally as citizens or legal aliens, we're going to help you. But if you're here illegally, then you ought to be able to return home or get in line with everybody else. But illegals are not going to get taxpayer-funded breaks that are better than our own citizens, those that come from other states or those that come from your state."


Comment: Great line. He wove Republican tax policy into his answer on illegal immigration. He knows his party's talking points and philosophical views real well and plays to it. That is both his strength and his weakness. He knows what the people want to hear. The question is, do they believe he is saying it because it is what they want to hear.

Cooper: "You have 30 seconds to respond."

Huckabee: "Well, but they didn't get something better. They had to earn it.

And, you know something, I worked my way through college. I started work when I was 14 and I had to pay my own way through.

I know how hard it was to get that degree. I am standing here tonight on this stage because I got an education. If I hadn't had the education, I wouldn't be standing on this stage. I might be picking lettuce. I might be a person who needed government support, rather than who was giving so much money in taxes I want to get rid of the tax code that we've got and make it really different."


Comment: Glad Huckabee worked his way through college. One problem - illegal immigrants did not earn their way to in-state tuition rates since they did not earn the right to live in Arkansas or for that matter any other state or territorial possession of the United States.

Romney: "Well ..."

Huckabee: "Mitt, let me finish. Let me finish, Mitt.

In all due respect, we are a better country than to punish children for what their parents did. We're a better country than that.:

(Applause)

Cooper: "Another question -- we have one more question for..."

Romney: "I get a chance to just respond to that. We are not punishing children for what their parents did. I respect the fact that you worked your way through college. That's the way you are. That's wonderful. A lot of people in this country do tremendous things to get their education. But the question is, are we going to give taxpayer-funded benefits to kids that are here illegally and put them ahead of kids that are here legally?

There is only so much money to go around, and ..."


Comment: Well, it's not enough to say we are not punishing the children by denying that we are punishing the children. The law in question dealt specifically with a law concerning in-state tuition rates for those who by law are not Arkansas residents and consequently were, before any such law was passed, being treated as if they were legal residents of another state. That said, I'm glad he noted the financial costs we accrue by giving illegal immigrants special breaks.

Huckabee: "No, there is ..."

Romney: "Let me finish, too."

Huckabee: "Well, but let's just be factual."

Cooper: "You've got 30 seconds. Your time is up."

Romney: "There's only so much money. Are we going to say that kids that are here illegally are going to get a special deal? Are they going to get a deal better than other kids? Do they get benefits by virtue of coming here illegally? And the answer is no."

Comment: Amen.

Huckabee: "Because they're earning it. That was the difference. They had to earn it by their..."

Rhetorical Question: and the legal American college student from Alabama or Mississippi did not?


Cooper: We've got another question from a YouTube watcher. Let's watch, please.

YouTube question: "Good evening, candidates. This is (inaudible) from Arlington, Texas, and this question is for Ron Paul.

I've met a lot of your supporters online, but I've noticed that a good number of them seem to buy into this conspiracy theory regarding the Council of Foreign Relations, and some plan to make a North American union by merging the United States with Canada and Mexico.

These supporters of yours seem to think that you also believe in this theory. So my question to you is: Do you really believe in all this, or are people just putting words in your mouth?"


On the Immigration Issue:

Clear winner: Romney for not only being in tune with his party's base but for making himself the most prominent spokes person for the cause. Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, and Fred Thompson all said they oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants but Romney challenged Huckabee, Giuliani, and McCain's liberal immigration records.

Runner Up: Mike Huckabee who continues to shine even when he is wrong. He was the prominent spokesperson for the other side. Giuliani ran from that position; McCain was chastened when trying to explain it; Huckabee alone fought for it. Primary voters probably won't like it but he became Mitt Romney's primary opponent on an issue most Republican primary voters care about.


Clear Loser:
Giuliani for accusing MItt Romney of something he could possibly be held responsible for. The mayor had no answer to Romney's question concerning the inquiry he would need to make based upon one's accent. The mayor denied New York City's status as a "sanctuary city" to no avail. Media reports will now surface to prove him wrong. He could have done what Romney did with abortion and say he was wrong. If Romney could refer to the stem cell debate to justify his change of heart on abortion rights, Giuliani could say the tragedy of 9/11 made him re-think his view on sanctuary cities, illegal immigrants, and border patrol. He missed his conversion opportunity; the door is closed. Any change of heart will now appear as disingenuous as his assertion that New York City was not a "sanctuary city."


Runner Up Loser:
John McCain for (a) denying what most immigration restriction supporters know to be obvious - that the "comprehensive immigration reform package" McCain supported gave illegal immigrants amnesty - and (b) for letting Huckabee become the primary spokes person for the opposition. McCain needs to look strong but he surrendered the spot light to Romney's most prominent challenger in Iowa, Huckabee.


Biggest Missed Opportunity:
Fred Thompson for letting Romney be the primary spokes person for curtailing illegal immigration.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Debate Tonight

Don't forget. The Republican Youtube debate on CNN. 8:00 PM ET.

The Saudis' Image

"Lahem is accused by the prosecutor general of "belligerent behavior, talking to the media for the purpose of perturbing the judiciary, and hurting the country's image," according to an official letter he received Monday.

Since he started practicing law almost five years ago, Lahem has defended clients whom other lawyers refused, including a school administrator suspended for criticizing the religious establishment, a man convicted of promoting homosexuality for saying it was genetic, three political reformists seeking a constitutional monarchy, and the first Saudis suing the country's powerful religious police. ...


... Lahem's most recent client -- dubbed by local media as Girl of Qatif, her home town -- and a male acquaintance were sitting in a car last year when they were kidnapped by seven men and raped at knifepoint. The victims were originally sentenced to 90 lashes for being alone in the car, and the rapists were sentenced to between 10 months and five years in prison."
from a news article in The Washington Post

2. "The Saudi justice minister expressed his regret about the media reports over the role of the women in this case which put out false information and wrongly defend her, ...

... "The charged girl is a married woman who confessed to having an affair with the man she was caught with."
in a news report for MSNBC


Comments:

1. Marriages aren't freely chosen; they are arranged in Saudi Arabia. Adultery in that environment is a given, particularly if it is defined as having lust in your heart for someone else. Love has nothing to do with it.

2. Even if the adultery was not excusable it doe not warrant 90 lashes let alone criminal sanctions.

3. The Saudis, in first defending the sentence imposed upon the raped woman who apparently asked for it, do a good job making their image look bad by themselves.

"Doctors Playing Judge"

Monday night's edition of "Anderson Cooper's 360 Degrees" featured a segment on the conflicting expectations some patients and physicians have concerning the obligations the physicians have in providing their patients with contraceptive devices.

CNN correspondent Randy Kaye interviewed three people - "Melissa," a patient who was denied prescriptive contraceptives, Dr. Scott Ross, a family physician who would not prescribe contraception, and Dr. Edward Langston of the American Medical Association.

Some physicians like Dr. Ross believe they have a right to deny their patients coverage if it requires them to provide services that conflict with the moral beliefs associated with their religious upbringing. The stake for them increases when if the patient is expecting them to offer them "emergency contraceptive devices" like the "morning after" pill which can function like an "abortificient" which they consider the willful taking of a human life. Mandating coverage in these circumstances, they note, interferes with their constitutional right to free exercise, which allows them to practice what they preach.

Patients like "Melissa," however, go to their physician, pharmacies, and hospitals expecting a minimal amount of care and this may, depending upon their own situations and beliefs, include emergency contraception coverage. "Melissa's" experience, was apparently far worse; she said her physician imposed his religious beliefs on her. Her physician, "Melissa" said, told her she needed to rethink her attitude concerning sexual behavior which he considered immoral.

Anderson Cooper and Randy Kaye, intentionally or not, portrayed this moral controversy as an "either/or" dilemma in which one side must win at the opposing faction's expense.

The PoliticalHeretic believes this dilemma could be resolved with just consideration given to the patients who are entitled to seek that coverage and the physician who is entitled to deny the patient that coverage. A comprehensive bill would protect the patient's interest in seeking emergency contraception with minimal interference with a physician's refusal rights by guiding him or her to the doctor who would have no problem providing him or her with that coverage.

A comprehensive bill would mandate coverage at hospitals and pharmacies where the patient's choice of facilities is minimal and the number of doctors that could offer the coverage their associate would not is at its maximum. In some cases the patient has no say where he or she will be treated. In others, the patient's choice is limited to a few hospitals within a given area. The patient who is turned down such coverage could seek that aid from another doctor on site provided that the hospital is by law required to have on staff, physicians who would provide emergency contraception.

It would not mandate coverage at the doctor's office. Patients have many doctors from which to choose from. They could, whenever they want to, open a phone book, call a doctor's office and ask if they provide contraceptive coverage before they make an appointment. A disclosure law requiring doctors to post sings in the waiting room outlining what services are and are not covered, thereby informing regular patients who might eventually seek emergency contraception they will have to look elsewhere, but ultimately the burden is on the patient. There would be more than enough doctors willing to provide that coverage, if not in the same town, at the closest hospital.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Priorities Askew: The Middle East Peace Process and the War in Iraq

President George W. Bush spent the last seven years in office fighting a war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and a second war against Sunni insurgents, Iranian-backed Shiite militias and Al Qaeda forces in Iraq.

War on both fronts continues to this day. Al Qaeda forces hide in the sparsely settled mountainous region at the Afghan-Pakistani border while Taliban forces engage NATO forces near Kandahar. The coalition force's military successes have not been followed by the political negotiations it was meant to foster. While the administration says Iraq's leadership are fairly distributing oil revenues among Iraq's major factions, nothing suggests this will continue after we eventually withdraw our forces from Iraq.

To his credit, the Bush administration did not squander his time reviving the defunct Middle East peace process. The Israeli and Palestinian administrations lack the will and the credibility to uphold the commitments they have made let alone negotiate over new ones to enforce.

Yasser Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas, squandered his time negotiating with Hamas only to watch his party ousted from power in the National Assembly. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presided over a losing war with Hezbollah before finding himself embroiled in political scandal. Abbas couldn't halt the missiles Islamic Jihad and Hamas launched at Israel. Olmert would not hault settlement expansion in the West Bank.

The president should not divert his administration's attention away from the standoff between the Iran and the international community over nuclear proliferation, Pakistan's constitutional crisis, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq for a peace process when the prospects for an enforceable comprehensive peace treaty appears bleak.

Mr. Bush, however, is now thinking about his legacy. The president apparently believes he could salvage his Iraq-marred legacy if he could get the Israelis, Arab nations, and Palestinians to sign onto a peace accord and let the Iraqi political reconciliation process languish as long as our troops hold onto the gains they have made on the military front. This strategy is short sighted. Administration officials say the political benchmarks needed for political reconciliation are being met without an oil revenue distribution or de-Baathification law. The administration officials' analysis is shortsighted in so far as it relies upon an artificial balance of power enforced by the troops left on the ground.

No one can say for certain how long this would last once the de facto balance of power shifts as it inevitably would if and when the coalition forces are withdrawn from Iraq. An Iraqi administration unhindered by an occupation force may be less inclined to distribute oil revenues equitably or respect Kurdish and Sunni autonomy. Sunni Baathists could always be fired once we leave. Since our troops are bogged down fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our efforts to manage evolving crises elsewhere will be hindered.

The Middle East peace process the president hopes to revive affects the Israelis, Arabs and Palestinians more than it affects us. We have no troops in the West Bank. The Israelis are negotiating for their peace, security, and tranquility - the Palestinians for their independence, dignity, and prosperity.

We do have troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq - troops that could be utilized elsewhere should negotiations with the North Koreans fall through, or if al Qaeda terrorists conduct operations in southeast Asia, Pakistan, or north Africa. The president should re-double his efforts to reach a lasting settlement between Iraq's on their own time.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Weekend Preview

I. THE SUNDAY INTERVIEW SHOWS



1. "FOX News Sunday" on FOX (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
Topics This Week - Fred Thompson's White House bid, Iraq War progress report, Middle East peace process, the fight against AIDS. (a) Choosing the President Series - former Senator Fred Thompson (R-Tennessee) on his declining poll numbers, his tax cut plan and bid for the White House. (b) Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Senator Carl Levin offer their evaluation of potential progress in Iraq. (c) FOX News panelists Brit Hume of FOX News Channel, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard, Mara Liasson of National Public Radio, and Juan Williams of National Public Radio on the Middle East peace conference. (d) Power Player of the Week - Golden Globe nominee Ashley Judd on the fight against AIDS in India. This show, which is hosted by Chris Wallace and re-aired at 6:00 PM ET on the FOX News Channel.


2. "Meet The Press" on NBC (Sunday at 10:30 AM ET): Topic This Week - election 2008 round table with Democratic strategists James Carville, Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, Republican strategist Mike Murphy and Republican strategist Mary Matalin. This show, which ist hosted by Tim Russert, is re-aired at 10:00 PM ET.


3. "This Week" on ABC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET on the Philadelphia channel or 10:30 AM ET on the New York station): Topics This Week - John McCain's visit to Iraq, Bill Richardson's plan to bring the troops home, a campaign for St. Jude's Children's Hospital. (a) Senator and presidential candidate John McCain (R-Arizona) on his visit to Iraq on Thanksgiving. (b) Governor Bill Richardson (D-New Mexico) on his plan to end the war and bring U.S. troops home. (c) Round table with Andrew Sullivan, John Karl, Cokie Roberts and George Will. (d) Voice - Marlo Thomas on her "Thanks and Giving" campaign for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. (e) In Memorium. (f) Sunday Funnies.


4. "Face The Nation" on CBS (Sunday at 10:30 AM ET): nothing posted yet. Show hosted by Bob Schieffer.




5. "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on CNN (Sunday at 11:00 AM ET):
Topics This Week - Mike Huckabee's White House bid, a former Iraqi official's progress report on the war in Iraq. (a) former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansas) on his bid for the White House and his jump in the Iowa caucus polls. (b) former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi on the war in Iraq. (c) Ron Brownstein of The National Journaal on election 2008, election 2008, and partisanship. This show is hosted by Wolf Blitzer.


II. THE WEEKEND POLITICAL TALK SHOWS



1. "Beltway Boys" on FOX News Channel (Saturday at 2:00 PM ET):
Topics This Week - Barack Obama's drug confession, progress in Iraq. (a) "evidence" that the troop surge is working - will the Democrats support the war in Iraq now? (b) Senator Barack Obama's prior drug use confession at a high school. (c) Ups and Downs. Co-hosted by Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke.


2. "FOX News Watch" on FOX News Channel (Saturday at 2:30 PM ET):
Topics This Week - brave new world of blogs. (a) their influence. (b) the top five blogs. (c) Quick Takes on the media. Panelists include Jim Pinkerton, Cal Thomas, Jane Hall, Neil Gabler, and host Eric Burns.


3. "The Chris Matthews Show" on NBC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET): Topics This Week - viability of Barack Obama and John McCain's election campaigns. (a) Obama's Iowa poll jump. (b) McCain's prospects in New Hampshire. Panelists will include Norah O'Donnell of MSNBC, David Brooks of The New York Times, Clarence Paige of The Chicago Tribune, Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times, and host Chris Matthews.


4. "Reliable Sources" on CNN (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
CNN does not offer potential viewers coming attractions for this show which is hosted by Howard Kurtz on Sunday mornings.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Just A Link

Just one editorial from one of the Iowa dailies I couldn't let go unnoticed before I go off on Thanksgiving break. will return to give the weekend update minus the feature news show previews on Friday or Saturday.

Hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Clinton's Experience: Just A Thought

Why isn't Senator Clinton challenged on her claim of being the candidate with experience? The junior two-term senator from New York said she has 35 years worth of experience. Her would-be first man blames himself for the health care debacle so what role did she play in the White House. By her logic, Laura Bush could have boasted about her fifteen years as a first lady (eight years as Texas' first lady and her seven (as of now) as the nation's first lady if she decided to enter the race for the White House.

Obama's legislative experience surpasses Clinton's. Neither has executive experience (that we know of). Both graduated from law school. Clinton appears to be more hawkish than Obama on Iran. Obama more so than Clinton on Pakistan. Unless we gain access to the Clinton archives I'd say Clinton's declared superior experience is debatable.

Perhaps debate questioners should ask Mrs. Clinton how she could campaign as the candidate with the experience when Senators Joe Biden's (D-Delaware) and Chris Dodd's(D-Connecticut) experience, far exceed her.

How Edwards Helps Obama

There has been some talk on the political shows that Obama would benefit if John Edwards drops out. Edwards' voters presumably would go to Obama since the senator from Illinois would be the logical vote for change candidate. He opposed the war from the beginning, speaks like a professor at college, and as of now has not been tainted by the scandals that plagued the Clinton family in their second term in the White House.

Edwards' voters may go to Obama but then again they may not. While Edwards stays in the race Obama gets to take the high road while Edwards and Clinton slug it out. If the former senator from Iowa withdraws from the race after the Iowa caucus, Obama won't be able to do that.

Fact Check

"Yes, Joe Biden continues to impress on foreign policy in the debates and Bill Richardson could pick up votes on the left as the strongest advocate for withdrawal from Iraq. Dodd has an opening on Iraq too. But where Obama, Clinton and Edwards are concerned, it's doubtful that anyone but a member of the Council on Foreign Relations will vote on the basis of a careful parsing of the candidates' views." E.J. Dionne from The Washington Post - linked to from RealClearPolitics

No. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) is the strongest advocate for a withdrawal from Iraq. Richardson would have our troops out within a year. Kucinich said he could have them out within a month.

Not to Be the Pessimist

"If that is the case, maybe the question we need to start asking is not: When do Iraqis reach a formal internal peace so we can go? But rather: Can the informal arrangements they’re cobbling together reach a level of stability that would enable a major drawdown of U.S. forces next year?

I don’t know. My Iraq crystal ball stopped working a long time ago. I’m taking this one step at a time.

Right now what is indisputable is that we are seeing the first crack in years in a wall of pessimism that has been the Iraq story. It is only a crack, but it creates new possibilities. It would be reckless to ignore or exaggerate.

You have to keep your mind open that something may be emerging from the ground up — and yet be wary. Are the parties really working something out, or are they just tired? Is Secretary Rice wisely letting the situation ripen or deftly running from the problem?"
Thomas Freidman in The New York Times

Not to be the pessimist but maybe they are just waiting us out because we are the group preserving the "imbalance of power." Maybe the civil war will break out once we leave.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Some Added Comments About the Debate

1. On the Plus Side: Wolf Blitzer did a good job in providing some more balanced coverage. Dennis Kucinich, Chris Dodd, Joe Biden and Bill Richardson got more air time than allotted in the MSNBC debate.

2. On the negative side there weren't enough follow up questions. Clinton got away with her "no" answer on the illegal drivers license question when they should have asked Clinton what changed her mind about illegal immigration. Too biased in favor of Clinton.

3. Winners: Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Dodd
2. Losers: Barack Obama, Edwards, and Bill Richardson
3. Neither: Kucinich


Winners

1. Hillary Clinton: Successfully changed the subject from her illegal immigration driver licenses dodge to health care which she considers her key marquee issue. Successful in making Edwards look bad by accusing him of Republican-like mudslinging.

2. Biden and Dodd: Once again these two showed they have the experience we could all use in the White House. Biden's specific reference to the aircraft we provide General Musharraf is comforting.

Losers

1. Barack Obama: His debating skills have improved but his gains were overshadowed by his dodging on illegal drivers licenses. His failure to give a "yes" or "no" answer quickly was even mroe damaging because he himself brought it up earlier as an example of the kind of dodging that proves Clinton is not a candidate of change.

2. Bill Richardson: His answer on Yucca Mountain did nothing to bolster his credentials as a former U.S. Secretary of Energy and he gave the Republicans an ad they could use in the general when he said human rights interests around the world trump ournational security interests.

3. John Edwards: was put in his place after he accused Clinton for, in his words, being a part of the corrupt system. He had some good lines but he is consistently outclassed from Obama who gets to stay above the fray while he attacks Clinton.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Frisking the Debate: Posted With Additions As I Blog

First the link to the debate transcripts here. I am going to paste the entire transcripts and blog within it in bold but since this was a long debate it will be done in stages. Please come back to this post. Additions will be made over time today, tomorrow, Sunday, and maybe into Monday.

A. Obama v. Clinton: Sparring on Straight Talk Turns into False Debate Slug Fest on Health Care


1. CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN: "Senator Clinton, recently in an interview on CNN, you said of the last debate that you weren't at your best that day.

You stumbled on an important question involving illegal immigration. But your opponents are saying that that's really part of a larger pattern with you, that you often avoid taking firm positions on controversial issues. And one of your opponents on this stage calls this "the politics of parsing."

How do you respond to that?"


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D) New York: "Well, Campbell, I am happy to be here tonight. And this pantsuit, it's asbestos tonight." (Huh?)

(LAUGHTER)

"So I am aware that some people say that, but I think that the American people know where I've stood for 35 years. I've been fighting for issues affecting women and children, workers and families."
(Right. "Fiscal responsibility" to fix social security, a "fair and progressive" tax code, and what about those 35 years when she's been in office for what 8 years? If her husband provided the news media access to the National Archives we might know what positions she took on a host of issues while serving as our First Lady.)

CLINTON: "I've been fighting for universal health care.

And I know that people are looking at this campaign and evaluating us, and I've put forth very specific policies about what I will do as president.

Because this has to be a big election. This is going to be one of the most important elections we've ever had in our country's history. And it is important that we have a candidate who is tested and a president who is ready to lead from day one.

And I'm perfectly comfortable leaving these assessments up to the American people to make their judgments among us."
(Again, if she were comfortable leaving this up to the American people we'd have access to the National Archives. We'd know how she was tested and how she responded to it. As of now her claim to be "tested" is just that, a claim.)

2. BLITZER: "All right.

Senator Clinton, you want to respond?"
(to Obama's assertion that Clinton is dodging the issues and is not providing straight talk).

CLINTON: "Well, I hear what Senator Obama is saying, and he talks a lot about stepping up and taking responsibility and taking strong positions.

But when it came time to step up and decide whether or not he would support universal health care coverage, he chose not to do that. His plan would leave 15 million Americans out. That's about the population of Nevada, Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire." (Comment: Defending your dodges by asserting that another candidate does not answer his does not suffice. Changing the subject may be politically effective and politically inexpedient thing to do but it does not address the underlying concern behind the charges leveled against her. Nor for that matter would I characterize a push for universal health care to be an act of courage. Most Americans I think would like health care coverage).


"I have a universal health care plan that covers everyone. I've been fighting this battle against the special interests for more than 15 years, and I am proud to fight this battle.

You know, we can have a different politics, but let's not forget here that the people who we're against are not going to be giving up without a fight. The Republicans are not going to vacate the White House voluntarily. We have some big issues ahead of us, and we need someone who is tested and ready to lead. I think that's what my candidacy offers.
(APPLAUSE) (Comment: Clinton definitely is winning the slogan war - "fair and progressive," "fiscal responsibility," and "tested and ready." Those are her main themes. The raison d'etat for her campaign - "tested and ready." Now if only she could prove it.)


3. BLITZER: "Let me bring in Senator Obama, because you've been among those critical of Senator Clinton. You've suggested she's triangulating, whatever that means, on some of the key issues. She's running a textbook Washington campaign, you've suggested that.

I want you to explain, if you don't mind, Senator: What do you mean by that?"


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D) ILLINOIS: "Well, first of all, I'm really happy to be here in Nevada, and I appreciate this opportunity.

Senator Clinton, I think, is a capable politician and I think that she has run a terrific campaign.

But what the American people are looking for right now is straight answers to tough questions, and that is not what we've seen out of Senator Clinton on a host of issues -- on the issue of drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants.

We saw in the last debate that it took not just that debate, but two more weeks before we could a clear answer, in terms of where her position was.

The same is true on Social Security. We have serious disagreements about how we're going to make sure that Social Security is there for the people who need it.

And what I'm absolutely convinced of is that, right now, we need a different kind of politics. Everywhere I go all throughout Nevada, people are struggling with health care, people are working harder for less, they are having a tougher time saving, tougher time retiring.

And part of the reason is because they don't feel that Washington is listening to them."
(Easy question to answer. Just attack the opponent. Answered it correctly of course. Clinton answered maybe one of the 20 + questions she was given in the last debate).

2. BLITZER: "All right, Senator Obama." (Answer to Clinton's charge about Clinton's charge that he is not providing universal health care).

OBAMA: "Well, let's talk about health care right now because the fact of the matter is -- the fact of the matter is that I do provide universal health care.

The only difference between Senator Clinton's health care plan and mine is that she thinks the problem for people without health care is that nobody has mandated, forced them to get health care. That's not what I'm seeing around Nevada.

What I see are people who would love to have health care. They desperately want it. But the problem is they can't afford it, which is why we have put forward legislation..."
(Comment: right. Obama's plan provides universal coverage by, it is hoped, filling in the cracks for those who cannot obtain it through their employer and still want health care. It isn't the single-payer nationalized system Kucinich calls for but neither is Clinton's who would raise the income tax to pre-Bush levels and redistribute the revenue in the form of tax credits to small businesses and those looking to buy health insurance." Will either plan work work? Is either fiscally responsible? Do the numbers add up? Why not have a debate on that?)

(APPLAUSE)

"We've put forward a plan that makes sure that it is affordable to get health care that is as good as the health care that I have as a member of Congress. That's what the American people are looking for, that's what they deserve and that's what I intend to provide as president of the United States."

CLINTON: "I can't let that go unanswered. You know, the most important thing here is to level with the American people. Senator Obama's health care plan does not cover everyone. He starts with children, which is admirable. I helped to create the children's health insurance program back in 1997. I am totally committed to making sure every single child is covered."

(APPLAUSE)

"He does not mandate the kind of coverage that I do, and I provide a health care tax credit under my American health choices plan so that every American will be able to afford the health care. I open up the congressional plan, but there is a big difference between Senator Obama and me. He starts from the premise of not reaching universal health care.
(Comment: a quick read of her plan suggests she may have a point here. Obama sets up an exchange or governing board to serve as the patients' ombudsman. The Clinton plan relies on specific mandates which insurance providers would be required to abide by. And yes. Obama only mandates coverage for children whereas Clinton mandates coverage all around. Score one for Clinton but again, this might not matter. Both are promising individuals who want and need health insurance a plan. One need not mandate something everyone wants - health insurance.)
)


BLITZER: Senator Obama, we're going to have a lot more on health care. Go ahead. Go ahead.

(PROTESTOR SHOUTS OFF-MIKE)

OBAMA: I will be very brief on this issue. Hillary states that she wants -- she states that she wants to mandate health care coverage, but she is not garnishing people's wages to make sure that they have it.

BLITZER: OK, please.

Go ahead. (PROTESTOR SHOUTS OFF-MIKE)

OBAMA: "She is not -- she is not enforcing this mandate. And I don't think that the problem with the American people is that they are not being forced to get health care. The problem is they can't afford it. And that is why my plan provides...

(APPLAUSE)

... the mechanism to make sure that they can."


(Comment: right on).


Winner of this exchange: Clinton on style and maybe substance. Obama scored a couple of philosophical debating points but stuttered towards the end. He's of course right. The question is not whether everyone is mandated but whether those who feel they need health insurance get it. Mandating coverage for something everyone in theory would like to have makes no sense. They'll get it without the mandate. However, Clinton appeared more confident and scored a couple of debating points of her own. Her plan does offer more mandates on the insurance providers. Note too, how she skillfully moved the topic of discussion from her main weakness, her failure to speak truthfully about any of the questions given to her in the last debate to a topic she counts as among her greatest strengths - health care. Wolf Blitzer brought us back to the topic at hand, Clinton's credibility, at Dennis Kucinich's expense (he wanted a shot to enter the health care debate and was shot down) with a question to John Edwards.

B. Clinton's Response to Edwards: Defining Political Difference Attacks as Cheap Shot Personal Attacks

BLITZER: "I want Senator Edwards to weight in. Because you have spoken about the politics of parsing in your criticism of Senator Clinton. I want you to explain what that means."

FMR SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: "Well, can I say, first, nobody on this stage is perfect, and that certainly includes me. And I don't claim perfection; far from it.

What I would say is, that the issue is whether we can have a president that can restore trust for the American people, in the president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

Because I think this president has destroyed that trust. And I think there are fair questions to be asked of all us, including Senator Clinton.

Senator Clinton says she will end the war. She also says she will continue to keep combat troops in Iraq and continue combat missions in Iraq.

She says she will turn up the heat on George Bush and the Republicans, but when the crucial vote came on stopping Bush, Cheney and the neocons, on Iran, she voted with Bush and Cheney.

On the issue of Social Security...

(APPLAUSE)

... on the issue of Social Security, she said, standing beside me on the stage, that she would not do anything about the cap on Social Security taxes, and she has said privately to people, because it's been reported in the press, that in fact she would consider raising that cap.

And the most important issue is she says she will bring change to Washington, while she continues to defend a system that does not work, that is broken, that is rigged and is corrupt; corrupted against the interest of most Americans and corrupted..."

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: "All right..."

EDWARDS: "... and corrupted for a very small, very powerful, very well-financed group."

BLITZER: "We're going to..."

EDWARDS: "So we have fundamental differences."

BLITZER: "We're going to get to all of these issues, including energy and Iran and everything else." (Well, Blitzer, you opened it up with the vague question).

Comment: Right. Clinton is dodging the bullet on social security. Right. She did vote for the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment that declared the Qud forces a terrorist organization.

CLINTON: "Well, Wolf, I've just been personally attacked again, and I..." (defiantly vindicating herself - good move)

BLITZER: "Senator Clinton, I'll let you respond because there was a direct charge made against you." (Nowhere has his comments been more useless than here. Clinton was about to respond anyway.)

CLINTON: "Well, you know, I respect all of my colleagues on this stage."

AUDIENCE MEMBER: "Clinton!" (a plant?)

CLINTON: "And, you know, we're Democrats and we're trying to nominate the very best person we can to win.

And I don't mind taking hits on my record on issues, but when somebody starts throwing mud, at least we can hope that it's both accurate and right out of the Republican playbook.

(APPLAUSE)

Because what I believe is important is that we put forth what we stand for. I have been active for 35 years. The American people know where I stand.

You know, Senator Edwards raised health care again -- when Senator Edwards ran in 2004, he wasn't for universal health care. I'm glad he is now.

CLINTON: But for him to be throwing this mud and making these charges I think really detracts from what we're trying to do here tonight. We need to put forth a positive agenda for America..."


BLITZER: "All right."

Comment: Wow. "Throwing mud", "Republican playbook". Political theater at its best. Did she respond to the substance of John Edwards charges? No. Edwards went after her on the Iraq War (an issue worthy of debate), and social security (another topic worthy of debate) and made one unsubstantiated cheap shop on her alleged cronies? She just belittled him for taking "cheap shots" and dodged questions concerning social security and Iraq but it worked.

C. Biden's Subtle Attack on the Sparring Candidates and the Moderator Egging Them On

We're going to give Senator Edwards a chance to respond. I want Senator Biden to weigh in.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D) DELAWARE: "Oh no, no, no, no."

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: "Senator Biden, I want you to weigh in."

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: "Don't do it, no! Don't make me speak!" (lol, love the sarcasm!)

BLITZER: "I want you to. Go ahead."

(APPLAUSE)

"What do you think? Senator Biden, here's the question: What do you think about this exchange among Democrats? Is that good for the Democrats or is it bad?"


BIDEN: "Hey, look, let's get to it, folks. The American people don't give a darn about any of this stuff that's going on up here. Look, they're sitting -- no, seriously, think about it.

They're sitting down at their tables at night, they put their kids to bed, and they're worried about whether or not their child is going to run into a drug dealer on the way to school. They're worried about whether or not they're going to be able to pay for their mortgage because, even if they didn't have one of those subprime mortgages, things are looking bad for them.

BIDEN: They're worrying about whether they're going to keep their job. And they're worried about whether their son in the National Guard's going to get killed in Iraq. Ladies and gentlemen...

(APPLAUSE)

Every political campaign gets to this place. And I'm not criticizing any of the three people who are the ones who always get to talk all the time at these things.

(APPLAUSE)

(LAUGHTER) I'm not. I'm not. I'm not criticizing. But look, folks, let's get straight to it here. This is not about experience. It's not about change. It's about action.

Who among us is going to be able to, on day one, step in and end the war? Who among us understands what to do about Pakistan? Who among us is going to pick up the phone and immediately interface with Putin and lay off Georgia because Saakashvili is in real trouble?

Who among us knows what they're doing? I have 35 years of experience. While everyone's talking about their experience -- and Hillary has great experience and John and the rest of them, I was passing the Violence Against Women Act.

BIDEN: I was passing the crime bill. I was passing...

(UNKNOWN): You're right."


(APPLAUSE)

Way to go Biden! Bring Wolf Blitzer, who is salivating over a potential three-way brawl between Clinton, Edwards, and Obama back to reality. This is a debate and the public is looking for a debate on the issues they may care about. Just one thought. Biden contradicted himself by first saying this debate shouldn't be about experience and then, well, touting his experience.

D. Perfect Timing - Ironic Isn't It?

BLITZER: "Let me just point out, everyone is going to have plenty of time tonight. I want John Roberts to go ahead and ask the next question, and then we'll bring everybody in, I promise."

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN: "Senator Clinton, you were saying just a moment ago..."



E. Edwards: Distinguishing Between Pandering and Conversion

"The question is not going to her, by the way. Reiterating what you said, you said you think it is legitimate for you to take hits on your record.

Well, some of those hits on your record have come from the far right-hand side of the stage from Senator Edward, who has frequently attacked you for flip-flopping.

Senator, you have changed your position on several issues. You were for the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository before you were against it. You were for the Iraq war before you were against it.

People change their positions. If it is fair for you to change your position, is it not fair for her to change hers? "
Phew. It's not going to her. It's only about her.

EDWARDS: "It's absolutely fair. It's absolutely fair for people to learn from their experience and grow and mature and change. Anybody who's not willing to change based on what they learn is ignorant, and everybody ought to be willing to do that.

That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying there's a difference between that and saying the exact same two contrary things at exactly the same time.

I mean, for example, just over the course of the last week, Senator Clinton said in Washington that she would vote for the Peru Trade Deal, and she said in Iowa, talking to union members, that she wanted a moratorium on trade deals.

The important thing about this, though, is none of us -- none of us -- because the reality is, and I want to add on to something that Joe Biden said -- you know, before I came over here tonight, I was thinking we're going to have this debate. When we finish, all of you are going to be on television saying, "Oh, who scored points? Who won the debate?"

All of us are going to be fine."


EDWARDS: "The question is: Will America be fine?

Because what I saw...


(APPLAUSE)

"... before we came over here, on your troll underneath the screen, 35 million Americans, last year, went hungry; 37 million people in this country live in poverty every day; 47 million Americans have no health care coverage.

And there is a fundamental choice that everyone in this room, and Democratic voters have to make. And that is, who do you believe will take on this system and change it so that it's no longer rigged, corrupt, and rigged against the interests..."


BLITZER: "All right. All right."

EDWARDS: "... of the American people.

... of the American people.

That is the fundamental choice. And I think people are entitled to know that they have choices. There's nothing personal about this. This is about what America needs to be. This is about those 35 million people...
"


Comment: I think he makes a good point by distinguishing between flip-flopping, pandering and conversion here and on the merits I think he was right. Glad to see he responded to the mudslinging charge in that last graph.

Addition 1

F. Senator Dodd Parrots Biden When Asked to Weigh
In


BLITZER: All right. Hold on one second.

I want Senator Dodd to weigh in.

Senator Dodd, because you said -- made a statement earlier in the week, and I'm quoting you now: you're, "surprised at just how angry Senator Edwards has become," and you suggested, "He's not the same person I once knew."

(LAUGHTER)

Go ahead and elaborate. Tell us what you mean.

BLITZER: "All right. Hold on one second.

I want Senator Dodd to weigh in.

Senator Dodd, because you said -- made a statement earlier in the week, and I'm quoting you now: you're, "surprised at just how angry Senator Edwards has become," and you suggested, "He's not the same person I once knew."

(LAUGHTER)

Go ahead and elaborate. Tell us what you mean."



SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D) CONNECTICUT: "Well, let me, I mean, pick up on this point here.

I think, first of all, we Democrats have a job to do, and that is to unite this party, attract independents, Republicans who are seeking change, to join us 12 months from now and elect a Democrat to the White House and to hold on to the House and Senate. That's number one.

(APPLAUSE)

And it's going to take more than just getting people in our own party to support us. We're going to have to reach out.

There's a shrillness to the debate. The American people want results, they want the job done, exactly what Joe Biden talked about here. But people get up in the morning and go to work, they sit around and they worry about their jobs, their retirement, their health care, this kids' education, and they wonder if anybody in Washington is paying any attention to them and whether or not the job is being done on their behalf.

And, frankly, when a campaign is about turning up the heat or who's angrier or who's yelling louder, the American people turn off, in terms of listening.

They want us to come together. They want a president that can lead the country.

DODD: We want a Democratic candidate who can unite our party. And I think if we waste time on the shrillness of this debate, then we lose the American people."


BLITZER: "All right."

DODD: "So it's important to focus on those."

(APPLAUSE)



G. Governor Richardson Allowed to Weigh In As Well

BLITZER: "Governor Richardson, go ahead."

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D) NEW MEXICO: "Well, by the way, I'm Bill Richardson. I'm Governor of New Mexico.

(APPLAUSE)

(LAUGHTER)

And nice to meet you all.

(APPLAUSE)

I -- you know, it seems -- you know, it seems that John wants to start a class war. It seems that Barack wants to start a generational war. It seems that Senator Clinton, with all due respect on her plan on Iraq, doesn't end the war.

All I want to do is give peace a chance.

(APPLAUSE)

And I say that because these are the fundamental issues. Do our plans end the war? Do our plans make America energy-independent?

(APPLAUSE)

RICHARDSON: Do our plans -- do our plans give health care to every American? Are we creating jobs and economic growth? Are we resolving the real problems affecting this country?

You know, let's stop this mud-slinging. let's stop this going after each other on character on trust. Let us debate the issues that affect the American people, and let us be positive. Let's be positive."


(APPLAUSE)

Comment: Not bad. Like the humor as he introduced himself. His comments about Edwards starting a class war and Clinton failing to end one are canned but it makes for a good quote that could be used in a campaign commercial. It was Richardson's high point in the debate.


Wolf Blitzer asked if the candidates would support the Democratic nominee. John Edwards and Joe Biden had a couple of good lines when answering the question. Kucinich finally got a chance to speak.

H. Obama's Free Fall On Drivers Licenses for Illegal Immigrants

BLITZER: "Campbell, go ahead."

BROWN: "All right, let's talk about the issues. Senator Obama, I want to ask you about immigration. It's an important issue in this state in particular. There are between 100,000 to 200,000 illegal immigrants here in Nevada.

And you supported various benefits for illegal immigrants, including drivers licenses and in-state college tuition. What do you say to those Americans who say they are losing out because you would give benefits to people who broke the laws of this country, who came here illegally.

And then more generally, as president, where do you draw the line when it comes to benefits for illegal immigrants?"


OBAMA: "I would say that they're justified in feeling frustrated because this administration, the Bush administration, has done nothing to control the problem that we have. We've had 5 million undocumented workers come over the borders since George Bush took office.

It has become an extraordinary problem. The reason the American people are concerned is because they are seeing their own economic positions slip away.

Oftentimes, employers are exploiting these undocumented workers. They're not paying the minimum wage. They're not observing worker safety laws.

So what we have to do is create a comprehensive solution to the problem. Now, I have already stated that as president I will make sure that we finally have the kind of border security that we need. That's step number one. Step number two is to take on employers. Right now, an employer has more of a chance of getting hit by lightning than be prosecuted for hiring an undocumented worker. That has to change.

They have to be held accountable.

(APPLAUSE)

And when we do those things...

(APPLAUSE)

When we do those things, I believe that we can take the undocumented workers, the illegal aliens who are here, get them out of the shadows, make sure that they are subject to a stiff penalty, make sure that they're learning English, make sure that they go to the back of the line so they're not getting an advantage over people who came here legally. And when we do that, I think that we can, instead of shedding all this heat, start shedding some light on the problem, and we can once again be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. That's what I intend to do as president of the United States."



Comment: Okay for a general answer though I wouldn't refer to those who came in here illegally with euphemisms like "undocumented workers." Hearing such phrases from a candidate who speaks of "straight talk" is unbecoming.


BLITZER: "All right. I want to just press you on this point, because it's a logical follow-up, and then I want to go and ask everyone.

On the issue that apparently tripped up Senator Clinton earlier, the issue of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, I take it, Senator Obama, you support giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

Is that right?"


OBAMA: "When I was a state senator in Illinois, I voted to require that illegal aliens get trained, get a license, get insurance to protect public safety. That was my intention.

(APPLAUSE)

And -- but I have to make sure that people understand. The problem we have here is not driver's licenses. Undocumented workers do not come here to drive.

(LAUGHTER)

They don't go -- they're not coming here to go to the In-N-Out Burger. That's not the reason they're here. They're here to work. And so instead of being distracting by what has now become a wedge issue, let's focus on actually solving the problem that this administration, the Bush administration, had done nothing about it.


Comment: This should be an easy "yes" or "no" answer. Obama said that he, as a state senator once supported it but we should know where he stands on this issue now.


BLITZER: "Well, let's go through everybody because I want to be precise. I want to make sure the viewers and those of us who are here fully understand all of your positions on this barring -- avoiding, assuming -- there isn't going to be comprehensive immigration reform.

Do you support or oppose driver's licenses for illegal immigrants?"


OBAMA: "I am not proposing that that's what we do.

What I'm saying is that we can't...

(LAUGHTER)

No, no, no, no. Look, I have already said, I support the notion that we have to deal with public safety and that driver's licenses at the same level can make that happen.

But what I also know...

BLITZER: All right...

OBAMA: But what I also know, Wolf, is that if we keep on getting distracted by this problem, then we are not solving it.

BLITZER: But -- because this is the kind of question that is sort of available for a yes or no answer.

(LAUGHTER)

Either you support it or you oppose it."

(APPLAUSE)

Comment: So now he backtracks a little. He is not proposing drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, but would he support it? This is bad. He roundly criticized Senator Hillary Clinton for her flip flops on this issue for the past two weeks and then brought it up again earlier in this debate. He should have been prepared for this and, well, answered the question.


I. Edwards, Dodd, and Biden Say No to Drivers Licenses for Illegal Immigrants with Dodd Providing the Rationale; Richardson and Kucinich Say "Yes" to Drivers Licenses for Illegal immigrants on Drivers Licenses for Illegal Immigrants with Kucinich Saying the Problem Could be Solved by Ending NAFTA and Questioning the Legal Grounds for Controlling Our Borders.



"Let's go down and get a yes or no from everyone, starting with Senator Edwards."

EDWARDS: "Tell me again what your question is."

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: "Do you support driver's licenses for illegal immigrants?"

EDWARDS: "If we don't have comprehensive..."

BLITZER: "In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform -- doesn't look like it's going to happen any time soon -- do you support driver's licenses for illegal immigrants?"

EDWARDS: "No, but I don't accept the proposition that we're not going to have comprehensive immigration reform."

What I do support, and what I will do as president of the United States, is move this country toward comprehensive immigration reform. And anyone who's on the path to earning American citizenship should be able to have a driver's license."


Comment: He gets it. Those who support granting illegal immigrants drivers licenses before a deal controlling our borders is made obviously don't care enough about border control or the problems opening our country to an unlimited number of illegal immigrants presents to our health care system.

BLITZER: "Senator Dodd?"

DODD: "Well, it's important to put it in context. It's obviously -- look, clarity is important here. The American people, in a debate like this, want clarity here. Certainly, the whole idea of getting immigration reform is something I strongly support.

But I believe part of our job is to discourage those who want to come here -- I understand why they want to come, but coming illegally creates serious problems -- four to 500,000."


BLITZER: "So, is that a yes or a no?"

DODD: "No, my belief is that giving a -- as I've said in the very beginning here, I think drivers' licenses are the wrong thing to be doing, in terms of attracting people to come here as undocumented."

Comment: Dodd is right. Giving illegal immigrants drivers licenses only encourages more illegal immigration because it makes it easier for them once they get here.

BLITZER: "Senator Clinton?"

CLINTON: "No."

Comment: This is really ironic. In the last debate she fudged the issue while Obama said he generally supported it. Now Clinton gets to pretend that she is taking a stand while Obama fudges his issue. Go figure. Let's not forget, she had New York Governor Elliot Spitzer (D-New York) drop his plan to offer illegal immigrants driver licenses before she made her announcement so she wouldn't appear to be the one killing the proposal. Why didn't Blitzer follow up and ask why she changed her mind? She was not pressed about her flip-flop so she was allowed to win this round by default as Obama faltered from his self-inflicted wound. Dodd gains some credibility in future negotiations over "comprehensive immigration reform" though since he not only broke from the pack (as did Biden) to oppose a measure that lures more illegal immigrants into the country but also provided the rationale for opposing it.

BLITZER: "Congressman Kucinich?"

KUCINICH: "I take issue with your description of people being illegal immigrants. There aren't any illegal human beings. That's number one.

(APPLAUSE)

KUCINICH: Number two, they are undocumented. I believe that the best way to do it -- thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

I believe the best way to deal with this is cancel NAFTA and renegotiate the trade agreement with Mexico."


(APPLAUSE)

Comments: No one said they were illegal human beings. Border control advocates say they these people are illegal immigrants.

BLITZER: "Let me re-phrase the question, Congressman.

If undocumented people in this country should be able to get driver's licenses..."


KUCINICH: "You give people a path to legalization, and then they can be legal and have their driver's license. That's the way to work it."

Comments: Mr. Kucinich obviously does not believe countries have a right to decide who may or who may not enter their sovereign territory. I think most working taxpaying Americans would believe we do have that right because we have to provide for their care when they can't provide for it by themselves and that comes at our expense.

BLITZER: "What about in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform?"

KUCINICH: "You know what? You give people a path to legalization and you work to make sure that you don't criminalize their status any further. Again, I take exception to the way you framed that question."


Kucinich still doesn't get it. We don't criminalize their status just as we don't criminalize 15-year olds who want to drive. Illegal immigrants "criminalize" themselves when they break the laws which their legal counterparts follow.


BLITZER: "Governor?"

RICHARDSON: "Well, my answer is yes, and I did it. You know why? Because the Congress, and I notice Barack mentioned the president, but the Congress also failed miserably to pass comprehensive immigration.

RICHARDSON: And we need to have it in this country. I did it four years ago. My legislature sent me a bill. I signed it. My law- enforcement people said it's a matter of public safety.

What we need is public safety, a reduction in traffic fatalities. We wanted more people to be insured. When we started with this program, 33 percent of all New Mexicans were uninsured. Today, it's 11 percent."


BLITZER: "All right."

RICHARDSON: "Traffic fatalities have gone down. It's a matter of public safety. States have to act when the federal government and the Congress doesn't act. The answer is comprehensive immigration. The answer is..."

Commentary: "The answer is" sending them home.

BLITZER: "All right."

RICHARDSON:

"The answer is -- secure the borders, a stronger relationship with Mexico. Those that knowingly hire illegal workers..."

BLITZER: "All right."

RICHARDSON: "... should be punished. And a path to legalization. That is the solution."

BLITZER: "Senator Biden?"

BIDEN: "No."

K. Merit Pay for Teachers: Clinton Doesn't Answer Question But Favors School-Based Merit Funding, Biden + Dodd Opposes Merit Pay Then Calls for for Credential and Participation-Based Teacher Pay Add On; Richardson Avoids Question and Calls for Teacher Salary Raises

"Senator Dodd, a lot of people in this room, no doubt, are very concerned about the quality of education that their children will have and how it will prepare them for a post-secondary education and the working world after that.

In workplaces across America, it's pretty common to reward high- performing employees with pay raises and to terminate bad employees.

However, in our education system across the country by and large, in our nation's public schools, teachers' unions make it difficult to do that.

Question is: What is wrong with rewarding a teacher who excels at the job that they're doing by paying them more than an average teacher would make? "
(APPLAUSE)

"Well, I think if you define excelling by teachers who will go into poor -- rural or poor urban areas and make a difference, mentor children after school, put in extra time to make a difference, then I think that sort of merit pay has value.

If you're judging excelling by determining whether or not that teacher has students who do better because they're in better neighborhoods or better schools, I'm totally opposed to that.

(APPLAUSE)

That's not the way to be judging...

(APPLAUSE)

And this is critical. I always say, this is the single most important issue. I've been asked the question, over 26 years in the Senate, 1,000 times. It's a difficult question to answer. What's the most important issue?

This is the most important issue. Every other issue we grapple with depends upon our ability to have the best-educated generation we've ever produced.

(APPLAUSE)

And we need to have, in my view, far more cooperation at the national level.

We spend less than 5 percent of the national budget on elementary and secondary education. That is deplorable, in my view.

(APPLAUSE)

It's basically Title I. We need to fundamentally reform No Child Left Behind. No Child Left Behind is a disaster for most schools and most teachers...

(APPLAUSE)

I've spent 26 years in the Senate. I started the Children's Caucus, 26 years ago, with Arlen Specter.

I wrote the legislation dealing with after-school programs, infant screening, autism issues, as well. I spent a good deal of my time -- head start senator of the decade by the Head Start Association.

I've dedicated a good part of my public career to children and to education -- one-quarter of the population, but truly, 100 percent of our future.

This is an issue that deserves far more attention. We ought to have one single debate on education. (APPLAUSE)

It comes up about once every two hours in the discussion."


Comment: So I gather he is against merit pay and has not taken a position on the firing of bad teachers?

BLITZER: "We're talking about education right now, and I want I want to bring Congressman Kucinich in, because I know you're a strong supporter of the unions -- the teachers union, very powerful -- teachers unions, very powerful.

Are there any issues with unions -- teachers unions or other unions, for that matter -- with which you disagree?"


KUCINICH: "My father was a truck driver. He was a member of The Teamsters. I happen to be a member of the IATSE. I think that the trade -- that the union movement is essential to upholding human rights.

And I think that if we had trade agreements that had workers' rights in them, that would lift up conditions for workers in this country and in all countries.

So I'm the candidate of workers in this -- this campaign because I've stood for jobs for all, full employment economy, health care for all, education for all.

And the fact of the matter is that a Kucinich administration will means a workers' White House. Right now wealth is being accelerated upwards, and I'm the one candidate in the race who comes right from the working class and can address those needs directly because I remember where I came from."


Comment: Not all unions are equal and not all workers need a union. I would expect workers in the private sector to generally need the protection of a union from unscrupulous employers and they did perform an important service in pushing for higher wages and the safety standards that are now in place. Teachers in the urban communities might need them but those who teach in the generally well-to-do suburban communities really don't need a union since they get good pay, a lot of holidays and the summers off. Government workers, generally get very good benefits that far surpass those provided for in the private sector.

BLITZER: "All right. I take it that the answer is there's nothing -- there's no issues, no major issues you disagree with America's unions."

KUCINICH: "Well, you know, the Teamsters wanted to drill in Alaska. I voted against drilling in Alaska. So it's not like I'm a slam dunk on every issue."

BLITZER: "All right.

Governor..."


KUCINICH: "But I'm for working people. That's why I'm up here."

RICHARDSON: "I think the key -- the key -- I want to be the education president.

The key to a good education is a strong teacher. One of the problems we have in this country is we disrespect teachers. We underpay them. I would have a minimum wage for all teachers starting out at $40,000 per year.

(APPLAUSE) And, Chris, I think we need to be bolder with No Child Left Behind. I would junk it. This is a disaster. It's got to go. I would have preschool for every child. I would have full-day kindergarten. America is 29th in science, to the European Union, to Japan. We need to have science and math academies. Hire 100,000 science and math teachers. Have art in the schools.

(APPLAUSE)

We need also to have a college education policy that deals with these huge loans that are killing our college students.

(APPLAUSE)

What I would do -- and, you know, we are in a great college here. What I would do is in exchange for two years of tuition, government pays tuition, one year of national service to this country. Those are the kind of creative solutions we want in this country."


Comment: Richardson dodged the question and spouted the party line. Raise teacher salaries across the board without considering teacher merit. Mr. Richardson's proposal for teacher recruitment is interesting but I'm not quite sure how he will fund it. And why only one year of service?

BLITZER: Let me -- thank you, Governor. Thank you very much.

"I want Senator Clinton to weigh in on the issue of merit pay.

If there's a teacher out there who's doing a great job, should that teacher get merit -- get a bonus for doing a great job, that individual teacher who works really hard, does a great job educating young people?"


CLINTON: "Well, I support school-based merit pay for a lot of the reasons Chris was talking about. We need to get more teachers to go into hard-to-serve areas. We've got to get them into underserved urban areas, underserved rural areas.

But the school is a team, and I think it's important that we reward that collaboration. You know, a child who moves from kindergarten to sixth grade, say, in the same school, every one of those teachers is going to affect that child.


BLITZER: "But what if there's an excellent teacher in that team and a crummy teacher in that team, a teacher who's simply riding along and not really working very hard, not really educating those young kids?

Do you give just everybody the merit pay, or do you give it to individual teachers?"


CLINTON: "Well, you need to weed out the teachers who are not doing a good job. I mean, that's the bottom line. They should not be teaching our children.

(APPLAUSE)

I mean, what I believe so strongly is that our education system has served this country very well. But we're in the 21st century. We do need to reimagine it. We've got to get everybody to talk about it.

But what I object to with the Bush administration is it's always talking down. We need to have a collegial collaboration. And the teachers need to be at the table...

BLITZER: "All right."

CLINTON: "... helping us figure out what the best way is to achieve our goals."

Comment: Well, schools are a team. The teachers, school administrators, school board, parent-teacher associations, parents, and students make the school. The teachers no doubt cannot teach to an unruly class of inattentive students and cannot discipline students who are continually supported in their mischievous endeavors by unruly parents so a system that rewards some school districts at the expense of failing ones make sense. There are, however, in every school, some teachers who stand out because they go above and beyond what is required and those who probably aren't qualified for their position. Senator Clinton would have us believe we could just "weed them out." No, it's not that simple; not with teacher tenure all but guaranteeing their employment. Would she push school districts towards a policy that loosens the restrictions that keep unqualified teachers in the schools? Would she encourage school boards to offer higher salaries for those who provide more tutoring sessions after school and on the weekends or for those who lead the students in extracurricular activities?

BLITZER: "I want to move on to the next question, but I want Senator Biden to weigh in, because I know your wife is a teacher, so go ahead. Should an excellent teacher be given merit pay?"

BIDEN: An excellent teacher should be judged by whether or not that teacher outside of the classroom improves themselves and their teaching skills.

My wife got two master's degrees and a doctorate degree. That's merit pay. She went out there and she earned the ability to be able to demonstrate to everyone that she was an exceptional teacher, because she went out and she gathered this additional knowledge, instead of being -- not just being a good teacher.

Here's the problem with simple merit pay, based on the principle. Who makes the decision, based on merit pay?

(APPLAUSE)

Who is the person who...

(APPLAUSE)

I believe there should be teaching excellence. I think we should demand more of our teachers in continuing education. I think there should -- and unions don't like that.

I think there should be -- demand more of the teachers, in terms of the participation after school and in school.

(APPLAUSE)

But I think you've got to pay them.

And the last point I'll make is, Bill is correct. You have to -- look, the idea you start teachers at $28,000, in most states, where, in the countries we're competing with, they start off and they graduate their -- the graduating seniors are getting the same pay that engineers are getting in those same schools.

BIDEN: My father has an expression -- God love him -- before he passed away. He'd say, "Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget and I will tell you what you value."


(APPLAUSE)

"I've laid out a $30 billion plan..."

BLITZER: "Thank you."

BIDEN: "... over five years to -- 16 years of education is what our kids need. They need to start two years earlier and be guaranteed two years after school."

BLITZER: "Thank you, Senator."

Comment: Biden appears willing to consider one aspect of merit pay so that puts him ahead of the others. In one sense he already undercut the argument he made against it (who decides and how) by suggesting pay based upon teacher qualifications and teacher participation in after-school activities. Perhaps a program geared to helping a teachers obtain that masters and doctorate degree, as Richardson suggests, may help if the teachers promise to serve three or four years in failing schools. I don't believe this is the whole answer though. Teachers, and school administrators who do a poor job of providing their students with a good education should be fired.

I don't think anyone won this round. Richardson, Biden, and Clinton raised some good points but rewarding good teachers while punishing bad teachers seems to be a non-brainer. Richardson pandered to the teachers unions the most.


L. Biden on Pakistan: Cut F-16s and P-3s Unless Musharraf Backs Down on Emergency Rule; Reach Out to Pakistani Middle Class Through NGO's and Economic Aid

BROWN: "Senator Biden, a question on Pakistan.

As you know, in the past few weeks Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf has declared a state of emergency there. He's dismissed several Supreme Court justices. He's recently placed opposition leader Benazir Bhutto under house arrest twice now and imprisoned numerous other dissenters.

And I know you spoke with Musharraf last week. And you, along with several others on the stage, assert that the U.S. should maintain its current level of financial support for Pakistan.

And my question is, is it your view that there are times when the security of the United States is more important than the way a key ally, like Musharraf, disregards freedom and disregards democracy?"


BIDEN: "First of all, I do not think we should maintain the same aid we're giving. I have made it clear to Musharraf personally when he called me, and I've spoken personally to Bhutto, before -- I might add, the president spoke to either one of them -- I spoke to them and I indicated very clearly two things.

APPLAUSE)

One, if he did not -- if he did not take off his uniform, if he did not hold fair and free elections by the middle of January, I would on the floor of the Senate move to take away the aid we're giving with regard to F-16s and P-3s, because that's the biggest leverage you have on him within his military.

He is not a sole player. He has to keep his military happy, as well. I would use that leverage.

Secondly, I've indicated that what we should do is move from a Musharraf policy to a Pakistan policy. Unlike anyone else, within five days of this happening, I laid out a detailed plan. The president hasn't, no one on this stage has -- no else has -- a detailed plan, as president, how I will proceed with Iraq.

And you have to move from military aid to giving to the middle class there. The middle class is overwhelmingly the majority. They get no connection with the United States. We have to significantly increase our economic aid relative to education, relative to NGOs, relative to all those things that make a difference in the lives of ordinary people over there, and not be doing it through the military side.

I know there's more to say, Campbell. I appreciate you asking me the question, and I'm sorry I answered it. I know you're not supposed to questions based on what I..."

(LAUGHTER)


Comment: Pretty good answer. He obviously does not believe we can avoid the turn of events in Pakistan against Musharraf. He would have the United States use its soft power with economic programs geared to win the Pakistani populace over to our side and his specific reference to the F-16's and P-3's shows he knows what leverage we have on the Pakistani president. One gaffe - he called "Pakistan" "Iraq." Not as bad as Richardson's though.



M. Richardson's Big Gaffe: National Security Trumped by Democracy


BLITZER: "Well, let me bring in Governor Richardson.

Governor Richardson...

(APPLAUSE)

... you've suggested cutting off military aid to Pakistan so long as the Pakistani leader doesn't take these steps to restore the constitution, take off his military uniform, end the national state of emergency and have free and fair elections.

But some are worried, including the opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto -- I spoke with her earlier this week -- that cutting off military aid to the Pakistan military could undermine U.S. national security.

This is a country that has nuclear weapons. It has a strong Taliban presence, an Al Qaida presence. Are you worried at all that as bad as President Musharraf might be, it could get a whole lot worse over there."


RICHARDSON: "Well, of course I'm worried, but what happened with our Pakistan policy, we got our principles wrong. We forgot our principles, our principles that we said to Musharraf: You know, Musharraf, security is more important than human rights.

(APPLAUSE)

If I'm president, it's the other way around -- democracy and human rights. What I would do is, yes, I would condition the assistance to Musharraf. We give him $10 billion. Sixty percent of that is to his military.

I would say, President Musharraf, unless you restore the constitution; unless you have elections in January; unless you end the state of emergency; unless you allow Benazir Bhutto to run as a candidate; unless you put the supreme court back -- and something else we forgot.

He is supposed to go after terrorists on his border. And he has done a very weak job of doing that."


Did he really mean what he said about putting democracy and human rights above national security or did he simply misspeak?

RICHARDSON: "... but here's another point -- no, but here's another point. Pakistan and the politics of Pakistan, Islamic parties get maybe 15 percent of the vote. I mean, so this threat that, oh, revolutionary elements are going to overtake him, if he has a fair election, and you take his party and Benazir Bhutto's party, and you get the military..."

BLITZER: "But..."

RICHARDSON: ... I believe that moderate forces can win. So, if we're on the side of democracy and human rights, and we're on the side of Musharraf having elections, then U.S. interests are preserved, and the Pakistani people have a democracy.

BLITZER: Let me just be precise because I want to make sure we all -- I heard you correctly.

What you're saying, Governor, is that human rights, at times, are more important than American national security?

RICHARDSON: "Yes...

(APPLAUSE)

... because I believe we need to find ways to say to the world that, you know, it's not just about what Halliburton wants in Iraq. It's also about...

(APPLAUSE)

... our values of freedom, equality. Our strength is not just military and economic."


Comment: I'm sorry but fighting the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan is not about Halliburton. It's about national security and exacting justice for the 3,000 + men, women and children who died when religious fanatics crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a rural stretch of land in Pennsylvania.

BLITZER: "All right."

RICHARDSON: "Our strength as a nation is our values: equality..."

BLITZER: "All right."

RICHARDSON: "... freedom, democracy..."

BLITZER: "All right."

RICHARDSON: "... human rights."

Comment: To be fair, I don't think Governor Richardson believes human rights trumps national security. If he thought Musharraf was aiding going after the Taliban I don't think he would have called for his removal unless there was a turn of events like the one taking place in Pakistan right now. Still, words matter. What the president says will be heard around the world. And voters would hear a Republican-sponsored campaign ad quoting him if he were the nominee.


N. Edwards on Pakistan: Four Objectives or Concerns Presented With No Means Deal With the Situation Provided.


BLITZER: Go ahead, Senator.


EDWARDS: "Well, I think, first of all, we have some basic goals that we need to be focused on with respect to Pakistan.

One is to make sure that the extremists in northwest Pakistan are under control; second that we provide support for the democratic reformers; third, as Senator Biden just spoke about, to make sure these elections take place in January; and, fourth, we need to make certain that the nuclear weapons are under control.

Now, this leads to a bigger questions. I think Pakistan is the living, breathing example that America's ad hoc policy of dealing with the spread of nuclear weapons, while it's absolutely required in today's world given what's happening with Iran, given what we see today in Pakistan and the incredible fragility of the administration in Pakistan and the presidents of an extraordinary extremist element within Pakistan.

But this is the living, breathing example of a policy that will not work over the long-term -- I'm about to finish. What we have to do, what America needs to do and what I will do, as president of the United States, is to lead a long-term international effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

It is the only way we're going to keep the world secure and keep America secure."


Commentary: Edward tells us what he believes we need to do without offering us the means to achieve it. How do we secure Pakistan from the militants? How do we secure Pakistan's nuclear weapons? Are we going to send American troops into Pakistan to secure them when Musharraf's regime collapses? Get real.


O. Obama on Pakistan: Democracy and National Security Interests Never Collide

BLITZER: "Everybody's going to have a chance.

Senator Obama, is human rights more important than American national security?"


OBAMA: "The concepts are not contradictory, Wolf."

Commentary: Oh really? Let's see. Gaza, Lebanon, Iraq. Get the picture?

BLITZER: "Because occasionally, they could clash."

OBAMA: "They are complementary. And I think Pakistan is a great example.

Look, we paid $10 billion over the last seven years and we had two goals: deal with terrorism and restore democracy.

And we've gotten neither.

And Joe and Bill are exactly right on this. Pakistan's democracy would strengthen our battle against extremists.

The more we see repression, the more there are no outlets for how people can express themselves and their aspirations, the worse off we're going to be, and the more anti-American sentiment there's going to be in the Middle East. We keep on making this mistake.

As president, I will do everything that is required to make sure that nuclear weapons don't fall into the hands of extremists, especially going after Al Qaida in the hills between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But we've got to understand that, if we simply prop up anti- democratic practices, that that feeds the sense that America is only concerned about us and that our fates are not tied to these other folks.

And that's going to make us less safe.

That's something I intend to change."



Commentary: Well he's right about the deal. We got neither from Musharraf and that is a problem. If we are going to provide some aid we should at the very least get his aid in the war on terror. Obama then uses the talking points the neo-conservatives used to justify our invasion of Iraq. A democratically-elected government, like an autocratic one, can ally itself with us or it could stand in opposition to us. The democratic elections held within the Palestinian territories bolstered Hamas, a terrorist organization whose interests in the Middle East differ from ours. Lebanese elections emboldened Hizbollah which now runs southern Lebanon. The elections in Ukraine moved that country further from Putin's sphere of interest and that, for us, was probably a good thing. But elections are not the be all, end all Mr. Obama is suggesting it is. We don't know who will replace Musharraf and at this point we might not have any control over who will.


P. Dodd Dissents on Pakistan: Do Not Link Aid to Musharraf's Cooperation Because His Replacement Could Be Worse

BLITZER: "Hold on. Hold on one second. Senator Dodd, I want you to weigh in. What is more important when they clash: human rights versus national security?"

DODD: "Well, first of all, I hope maybe others don't find this as ironic as I do that have President Bush urging the Turks not to invade Kurdish areas of Iraq and lecturing Musharraf about restoring the constitution. This is an administration that stepped all over our own constitutional processes.

(APPLAUSE)

And this isn't. Elections are -- there is an expression in Spanish that says elections..."

BLITZER: "What is more important, human rights or national security?"

DODD: "Obviously, national security, keeping the country safe. When you take the oath of office on January 20, you promise to do two things, and that is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and protect our country against enemies both foreign and domestic. The security of the country is number one, obviously."

BLITZER: "All right. OK."

DODD: "Secondly, this doesn't mean -- elections are only one note, as they say, in the tune of democracy. Be careful what you wish for. If there were totally free elections. In many of the countries we're talking about today, the Islamic Jihad or the Islamic Brotherhood would win 85 percent of the vote.

That's not a great outcome for us at this point either."


BLITZER: "All right."

DODD: "So we need to have a sense of balance about this here. I disagree with those who suggest here that we ought to condition Musharraf's actions regarding some of these issues on aid and assistance here.

There's only one way into Afghanistan. It's through Pakistan. The generals in the military control the nuclear weaponry here. We need to move and remind Musharraf that there are obligations he needs to fulfill.

Be careful here about insisting upon..."


BLITZER: "All right, you answered the question, Senator."

DODD: "No, no, let me finish. Because, literally, then you have to do what you say you're going to do. And if he doesn't do what he's suggesting, then you have to terminate that relationship, and that puts this country in a very, very dangerous position right now."


Comment: Good point from Senator Dodd. It is the one which a lot of us have been saying for years but it may be too late at this time to bolster Musharraf so making the aid contingent upon a smooth transition as Biden, Richardson, and Obama would do still holds if only in this case. The situation in Pakistan differs from the situation in Saudi Arabia or Egypt. Pakistan's somewhat cooperative government may fall soon because Musharraf's opponents have shown no inclination of backing down. We don't face those problems in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Moreover, the Pakistanis might, thought I could be wrong, might support a secular government not unlike the one Benazir Bhutto led. The secularists in Pakistan have a viable party that could legitimately win nation-wide elections. Egypt and Saudi Arabia do not moderate legitimate parties that could do so.



Q. Clinton on Pakistan:

BLITZER: "You say national security is more important than human rights. Senator Clinton, what do you say?"

CLINTON: "I agree with that completely. The first obligation of the president of the United States is to protect and defend the United States of America. That doesn't mean that it is to the exclusion of other interests.

And there's absolutely a connection between a democratic regime and heightened security for the United States. That's what's so tragic about this situation. After 9/11, President Bush had a chance to chart a different course, both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan, and could have been very clear about what our expectations were.

We are now in a bind. And it is partly -- not completely, but partly -- a result of the failed policies of the Bush administration.

So where we are today means that we have to say to President Musharraf, "Look, this is not in your interest either; this is not in the interest of the United States. It is not in your interest to either stay in power or stay alive." We have to figure out how we're going to navigate this.

When I was meeting with him earlier this year, I asked him if he would accept a high-level presidential envoy to begin to negotiate some of these issues.

He said yes. I got back, I called the White House, I asked them to send such a high-level envoy -- they did not do it. They're going to send one now.

So, I mean, you've got to stay on top of this and you have to manage it all the time. That requires presidential attention; we haven't had that, and part of the reason is obvious now."


BLITZER: "Thank you, Senator."

Comment: What different course in Pakistan would Clinton have had us chart after 9/11? Did we not want Musharraf to help us capture Al Qaeda? Calling for his removal from power at that point would have been counterproductive. And how would we have succeeded? Would Clinton have supported a mandate to invade Pakistan? Clinton's reference to a high-level envoy seems questionable. A visit from the Secretary of State would have sufficed. That's what we pay them for. Meet with the leaders of foreign countries.

Obama and Clinton didn't really hurt themselves in this round of questioning but Richardson did if only because his mistake could be unfairly used against him in a campaign commercial. Biden and Dodd really shined here, though and it's really a shame they were prematurely put into second-tier status by the media pundits on cable television. Biden showed once again, that he is well informed. Dodd raised a concern not raised by the others.



R. Troop Surge in Iraq: Obama, and Richardson Say Political Settlement Only Way Out; Kucinich Calls for Troop Withdrawal and Funding Cuts Now



ROBERTS: "To Governor Richardson, a military police unit from the Nevada National Guard, stationed about 12 miles from here, just left for its third tour of duty in Iraq.

I want to talk to you for just a moment here about the effect of the troop increase over there. It's true that 2007 is the deadliest year so far since 2003 for American forces, but it's also true that U.S. troop deaths have been declining steadily since the spring. And in fact, in the month of October, they were at their lowest level in nearly two years. At the same time, there has been a marked decline in the number of deaths of Iraqi people.

Is General David Petraeus correct when he says that the troop increase is bringing security to Iraq?"


RICHARDSON: "John, we shouldn't be talking about body counts. One American death is too much."


Comment: Not a bad line.


(APPLAUSE)

"And what I am saying here is the surge is not working.

There is less -- right now, less possibility of a political solution. Three out of the 18 benchmarks of the General Accounting (sic) Office have been fulfilled. Even among Republican math, that is a failing grade.

(LAUGHTER)

What I'm saying also is that -- look at this statistic: 65 percent of the Iraqi people now say it's OK to shoot an American soldier. Our troops are dying -- over 3,800, two today, 60,000 wounded, casualties, mainly mental trauma.

Now, my position is that we get the troops out in a year, leave no residual forces behind -- unlike some of my colleagues here that want to leave some until 2013 -- but not just wave goodbye, because we have a responsibility.

And that is: one, to get a political compromise, a U.S.-led political compromise among the three groups that they share power -- the Sunni, the Shia, the Kurds -- that they share oil revenues, that we have an all-Muslim, all-Arab peacekeeping force, with some European forces, headed by the U.N., a donor conference that involves other countries -- European Union, rich Arab states, contributing to the reconstruction of Iraq, where we have spent."


Comment: well he's right to focus on the political solution or lack thereof but the American voter will get lost in statistics. Many do not trust in any statistics because each side has their own facts. Tell them to "look at this statistic" and they will question why they shouldn't look at another statistic as well. Better to suggest that whatever success we have now would not outlive our departure because that would make for the stronger, more convincing argument.


BLITZER: Congressman Kucinich, is the troop increase...

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: "Is the troop increase, as General Petraeus has put forward over these past few months -- is it working?"


KUCINICH: "No. The occupation is fueling the insurgency. In 2003, I put forth a plan to get out of Iraq. I'm actually the only one on this stage who voted against the war...

(APPLAUSE)

... voted against funding the war, 100 percent of the time.

(APPLAUSE)

And also who has a plan to bring the troops home. And they should be brought home now. And let me tell you something, the Democrats in Congress have not done the right thing for the American people. They should tell President Bush, we're not going to give you another dime. We're not putting a bill on the floor. Bring them home now.

(APPLAUSE)

Also, when you talked about Pakistan, you didn't get a chance to come to me on that question, but I want to point something out to you, Wolf. You cannot look at Pakistan and the destabilization that is occurring in many Muslim nations without understanding the role that our aggression against Iraq has played in contributing to that destabilization. So I am speaking about a new policy of strength through peace, no more unilateralism, no more preemption, no more first-strike, open-dialogue diplomacy, and adherence to international law."



Comment: Well, the occupation may be fueling a part of the insurgency but the factions are vying for power and this will continue long as long as there is no political settlement.



BLITZER: "Thank you, Congressman.

Senator Obama, I will put the same question to you.

(APPLAUSE)

Is General Petraeus' strategy working?"



OBAMA: "There is no doubt that because we put American troops in Iraq, more American troops in Iraq, that they are doing a magnificent job.

And they are making a difference in certain neighborhoods. But the overall strategy is failed because we have not seen any change in behavior among Iraq's political leaders. And that is the essence of what we should be trying to do in Iraq.

That's why I'm going to bring this war to a close. That's why we can get our troops out -- our combat troops out within 16 months. That's why we have to initiate the kind of regional diplomacy, not just talking to our friends, but talking to our enemies, like Iran and Syria, to try to stabilize the situation there.

(APPLAUSE) OBAMA: But I just want to make this important point, because all of us as we're campaigning, we're seeing this in human terms. People are on two, three, four tours of duty. Families are carrying an enormous burden.

This year, we saw the highest casualty rates for American troops in Iraq since this war started.

The same, by the way, is true in Afghanistan. If we have seen a lowering violence rate, that's only compared to earlier this year. We're back to where we started back in 2006."


BLITZER: "All right."


OBAMA: "And so the notion that somehow because we've gone from horrific violence to just intolerable levels of violence, and that somehow that justifies George Bush's strategy is absolutely wrong, and I'm going to bring it to a halt when I'm president of the United States."

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: "All right. Thank you."

"Thank you, Senator."


Comment: Right tone and I think he made the connection between the military and political negotiations more smoothly than Richardson did. One thing - "is failing" not "is failed." Let's leave the Bushisms to Bush.



S. Free Trade and Dangerous Chinese Toys

BROWN: "Congressman Kucinich, we're approaching the holiday season right now and parents across the country are in a panic. They are rifling through their toy boxes. They are throwing things away because they are so worried that toys, that products coming from China right now are too dangerous for their children.

Do you believe that the people on this stage who voted to fully open trade relations with China bear some of the responsibility for what's going on right now?"


KUCINICH: "Well, of course they do, in the same way that people who voted for the war bear responsibility for what's going on.

People who voted for the Patriot Act bear responsibility for what's going on.

(APPLAUSE)

People who voted for Yucca Mountain bear responsibility.

People have to take responsibility for their positions.

Now, let's talk about China trade. The fact of the matter is, Wolf, it was well known when China trade came up that China doesn't have environmental quality standards, doesn't have health standards, doesn't have workers' rights, doesn't permit people to form unions.

Now, everyone knew that. And for someone to come up afterwards -- and I think in the last debate, I think Hillary Clinton was criticized by John Edwards for some trade-related issue, but the fact of the matter is, John, you voted for China trade understanding that workers were going to be hurt.

Now, you're a trial lawyer, you knew better. I'm saying that it's important, really."


BLITZER: "Let's ask Senator Edwards to respond.

Was that vote a mistake?"


EDWARDS: "I'm not sure what I being a trial lawyer has to do with it, but -- wait, what my response is..."

KUCINICH: "Product liability."

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

EDWARDS: "Cute, Dennis.

I think America's trade policy has been a complete disaster. I do believe that NAFTA, CAFTA, Colombia, Korea, Peru, which we're now considering, has been a complete and total disaster.

And I think it's really important to prove what's been happening with trade into the bigger picture of what's happening with America. Because what I believe is that powerful interests, particularly big corporate interests, have literally taken over this government.

And they've taken over against the interest of ordinary Americans. And the living, breathing example of that is, in 1993, when we were in control of the White House, of the United States Senate and the United States House, we made an effort to pass universal health-care.

The big drug companies, insurance companies and their lobbyists killed it.

The same time, NAFTA was put on the table."


Comment: Edwards did not address the issue. Why did he vote for NAFTA? Or well, he created a question. Why didn't he believe NAFTA and these other trade pacts wouldn't be the disaster he now thinks they are?

EDWARDS: "We didn't -- no, let me finish this. We didn't get something that America desperately needed, which is universal health care. But we got something America did not need, which is NAFTA, which has cost us millions of jobs. We will not change this country...

(APPLAUSE)

... if we replace a crowd of corporate Republicans with corporate Democrats. We have to give the power in this democracy back to the American people. That's what's at stake in this election."


BLITZER: "All right. I'm going to let Senator Clinton respond. But let me just rephrase the question. Was your vote to normalize trade relations with China a mistake?

EDWARDS: I think what is a mistake is allowing China to operate unfettered, to send dangerous products into this country, to not have the president of the United States hold them responsible for their trading obligations to the WTO, which has not been done."



BLITZER: "So it was a mistake."

EDWARDS: "I think it was right to bring them into WTO. It's wrong to not hold them responsible for their obligations."

BLITZER: "All right. Senator Clinton, all of us remember the big NAFTA debate when your husband was president of the United States. A lot of us remember the debate between Al Gore, who was then vice president, and Ross Perot.

Ross Perot was fiercely against NAFTA.

Knowing what we know now, was Ross Perot right?"


(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: "All I can remember from that is a bunch of charts.

(LAUGHTER)

That, sort of, is a vague memory.

Look, NAFTA did not do what many had hoped. And so we do need to take a look at it and we do need to figure out how we're going to have trade relations that are smart, that give the American worker and the American consumer rights around the world.

And I want to go back to Campbell's question for a minute, because it's really related to this. It is something that every parent should be worried about. It's not only the toys. It's the pet food. It's the medical components in prescription drugs.

If we don't impose a third-party, independent investigative arm on our corporations that do business in China, as well as the Chinese government, we should not permit any items to be imported into our country until we're sure they're safe."


(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: "I mean, that, to me, is rule number one."

BLITZER: "All right. So let me rephrase the question. I'll rephrase the question. Was NAFTA a mistake? Was NAFTA a mistake?"

BLITZER: All right. So let me rephrase the question. I'll rephrase the question. Was NAFTA a mistake? Was NAFTA a mistake?

CLINTON: NAFTA was a mistake to the extent that it did not deliver on what we had hoped it would, and that's why I call for trade timeout. When I am president, I'm going to evaluate every trade agreement. We do need to get back to enforcing the ones we have, which the Bush administration has not done. They have totally abdicated that.

But I think we have to get broader than that. We've got to have enforceable labor and environmental standards. We've got the WTO that enforces financial and corporate rights. We need the International Labor Organization and other mechanisms that will be there to enforce labor rights and environmental rights.

And that's what I intend to do as president.

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: "I want to go to John Roberts in a second, but I know Senator Dodd and Senator Obama want to weigh in on this. Senator Dodd, you first."

DODD: "Well first of all, look, I respect the fact that we are calling for time-outs. But, as pointed out earlier by John Edwards, we have had Senator Obama and Senator Clinton both come out in support of the Peruvian free trade agreement.

Now, you're switching our positions on these issues here for the convenience of a debate and discussion, and where polling data may be. We are in a global economy. It is critically important that we do everything we can to expand those markets so that our products and our services can be sold in foreign nations.

It was outrageous in a sense here. If a U.S. corporation produced contaminated toys or food, they would have been shut down in 20 minutes. I called upon the president to put a moratorium on trade coming out of China. When those products were announced to be contaminated, it should have stopped right then and there."

BLITZER: "All right. Quickly, Senator Obama was NAFTA a mistake?"

OBAMA: "Well, first of all, I hope Chris is clear. I haven't changed positions on Peru.

I am intending to..."


(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: "I am for it, and I plan to vote for it, because it is a small country. This is a trade agreement that has the labor agreements and the environmental agreements that we've been fighting for in it. And I think it's the right thing to do.

I am opposed to CAFTA. I've been opposed to South Korea.

But going back to the issue of China, you know what Japan does with Chinese, when it comes to, for example, food importation. They send their own inspectors over to China, and they set up their own safety system, and they say, "If you don't abide by our rules, you can't send food into Japan."

Now, the question is, why doesn't the United States impose these same rules and regulations as Japan has?

(APPLAUSE)

This is the biggest market -- this is the biggest market in the world. China has to sell here.

But this goes back to how we did most favored nation trading status with China. The problem was, we had one lever. When we allowed them in, we should have said, "We will review this every single year, so if you are not behaving properly, if you are not safeguarding our consumers and find that you are not looking out for American workers, or the administration is not, we will have that subject to review."


BLITZER: "Thank you."

BIDEN: "Wolf?"

OBAMA: "That was the failure on that China vote."

BIDEN: "Thirty seconds, Wolf, 30 seconds."

BLITZER: "All right, 30 seconds. I got to let Senator Biden..."


BIDEN: "Look, it's not the agreement; it's the man. Under the WTO, we can shut this down. What are they all talking about here? It's about a president who won't enforce the law.

(APPLAUSE)

When they contaminated chicken, what happened? They cut off all chicken going in from Delaware, a $3 billion industry, into China -- they cut it off.

We have power under this agreement. I don't know what anybody is talking about here. Enforce the agreement. Shut it down. BLITZER: Thank you, Senator."



T. Nuclear Waste Dumping: Two Ways to Say You Are Clueless Without Saying So


ROBERTS: "I want to explore the energy issue for a moment here, because it's of particular importance to this state.

Senator Obama, the price of oil is flirting with $100-a-barrel- mark right now, making all the more urgent the need for alternate fuel sources.

You support nuclear energy as a part of the plan for the future, but there is an issue of what to do with the waste. You are opposed to the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository about 90 miles from here. Your state uses about -- gets about 48 percent of its power from nuclear compared to 20 percent for most other states, yet you are opposed to bringing nuclear waste from other states and keeping it in Illinois.

The question is, if not in your backyard, who's?"


OBAMA: "Well, as I've said, I don't think it's fair to send it to Nevada...

(APPLAUSE)

... because we're producing it.

So what have to do is we've got to develop the storage capacity based on sound science. Now, laboratories like Argonne in my own home state are trying to develop ways to safely store nuclear waste without having to ship it across the country and put it in somebody else's backward.

But keep in mind that I don't think nuclear power is necessarily our best option.

It has to be part of our energy mix. We have a genuine crisis that has to be addressed. And as president, I intend to address it. And here's what we have to do.

We have to, first of all, cap greenhouse gases, because climate change is real and it's going to impact Nevada, and it's impacting the entire planet. That means that we're going to have to tell polluters: We're going to charge you money when you send pollution into the air that's creating climate change.

That money we can then reinvest in solar, in wind, in biodiesel, in clean coal technology, and in superior nuclear technology."


BLITZER: "All right, Senator, until there's some new technological breakthrough, as you would hope and all of us would hope, where do you send the waste?"

OBAMA: "Well, right now, it is on-site in many situations. And that is not the optimal situation, Wolf. But don't keep on assuming that we can't do something.

I mean, this is about the third time where you said, assuming we can't do it, what's our option?"


BLITZER: Well, until we can...

OBAMA: But -- but -- but I'm running for president because I think we can do it.

(APPLAUSE)

I reject...

(APPLAUSE)

I reject the notion that we can't meet our energy challenges.

BLITZER: All right.

OBAMA: We can, if we've got bold leadership in the White House that is saying we are going to do something about climate change, we are going to develop renewable energy sources. That's what I intend to do as president.

BLITZER: "Let..."

OBAMA: "And we shouldn't, you know, be pessimistic about the future of America."

BLITZER: "OK. Well, I'm optimistic."

(LAUGHTER)

Comment: Obama couldn't answer the question of where nuclear waste should go so what does he do? He hides behind his optimism and says we'll solve it. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. I certainly hope so because as of now he seems to have no clue.


"Governor Richardson is a former energy secretary. What do you do with the nuclear waste, in the interim?"

RICHARDSON: "Well, you mentioned all the labs, Argonne, Yucca Mountain. I was in charge of them.

Here's what you do. First, the future is renewable. It's not oil. It's not coal. It's not nuclear.

(APPLAUSE)

What you do with the waste is you don't put it in Yucca Mountain. All my life, as secretary of energy, as a congressman, I oppose the site, for environmental reasons, water saturation.

I don't think the answer also is in regional sites. There is a technological solution, a scientific solution. What I would do, I would turn Yucca Mountain into a national laboratory. We have the greatest brains in our national lab scientists. We need to find a way to safely dispose of nuclear waste. There is a technological solution, but while we do that, we shouldn't be giving the nuclear power industry all of these advantages in the Senate bills that are coming forth, or subsidies. Oil, coal and nuclear are getting most of the subsidies.

We need an energy revolution in this country to shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources by 50 percent by the year 2020. Eighty percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions are mandated.

We need to have 30 percent of our electricity renewable, and it's going to be also the American people -- I going to say this honestly -- sacrificing a little bit when it comes to appliances, when it comes to being part of an energy efficiency revolution."


BLITZER: "Thank you, Governor."



"So Richardson was the Energy Secretary and he didn't, during his tenure ask what we were going to do about nuclear waste? This is not the answer I would expect from the guy who was "in charge" of Yucca Mountain.



U. The Gender Card and Hillary Clinton



BROWN: "Senator Clinton, you went to your alma mater recently, Wellesley College, and you said there that your tenure had prepared you to compete in the all-boys-club of presidential politics.

At the same time, your campaign has accused this all-boys-club, surrounding you on stage, of piling on with their attacks against you. And then your husband recently came to your defense by saying that these, quote, "boys," had been getting rough with you.

And some have suggested that you, that your campaign, that your husband are exploiting gender as a political issue during this campaign.

What's really going on here?"


CLINTON: "Well, I'm not exploiting anything at all. I'm not playing, as some people say, the gender card here in Las Vegas. I'm just trying to play the winning card.

(APPLAUSE)

And I understand, very well, that people are not attack me because I'm a woman; they're attacking me because I'm ahead. And I understand that...

(APPLAUSE)

You know, as Harry Truman famously said, "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."

(APPLAUSE)

And I feel very comfortable in the kitchen.

(LAUGHTER) And I'm going to withstand the heat. But, you know, this is really one of the kind of issues that we can laugh about because it's exciting when you look at this field of candidates.

You know, several of us would never have had a chance to stand here and run for president -- a Latino, an African-American, a woman -- if it hadn't been for the progress of America over my lifetime. And I am thrilled to be running to be the first woman president."


(APPLAUSE)

BROWN: "But, Senator, if I can just ask you, what did you mean at Wellesley when you referred to the "boy's club"?"

CLINTON: "Campbell..."

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: "Just curious."

CLINTON: "Well, it is clear, I think, from women's experiences that from time to time, there may be some impediments.

(LAUGHTER)

And it has been my goal over the course of my lifetime to be part of this great movement of progress that includes all of us, but has particularly been significant to me as a woman.

And to be able to aim toward the highest, hardest glass ceiling is history-making.

Now, I'm not running because I'm a woman. I'm running because I think I'm the best qualified and experienced person to hit the ground running, but it's humbling...

(APPLAUSE)

It's been inspiring. And I have to tell you, as I travel around the country, you know, fathers drive hours to bring their daughters to my events. And so many women in their 90s wait to shake my hand. And they say something like: I'm 95 years old, I was born before women could vote, and I want to live long enough to see a woman in the White House."


BLITZER: "Thank you, Senator.

(APPLAUSE)

We're going to take a quick break, but I want to give all the boys up here a chance..."


(LAUGHTER)

Comment: Clinton clearly is trying to have it both ways - as the woman who on the one hand denies running to be the woman president but reminding those who find the idea of having a woman president excited reminded they could make their wish come true.



V. Audience Questions

1. Fighting the Rush to War in Iran: Biden Threatens Impeachment If War Unauthorized; Clinton Casts Vote for Kyl-Lieberman as a Vote for the Troops Iranian Qud forces Kill; Edwards Vows to Fight Bush and Cheney Ever Step of the Way and Obama Blames the Nature of Campaigning for His Missed Vote

CATHERINE JACKSON: "I finally got my son home after three tours of policing in the Iraq civil war. Now, members of the Bush administration and the conservative members of Congress are beating the drums of war again.

My son is still part of the Marine Individual Ready Reserve. And, if President Bush starts another unnecessary war, there will be a chance that he will likely be recalled for war. All of you on the stage have either -- I'm sorry -- have former political power or significant informal power and have the ability to stop the rush to war.

Please tell me how you are going to show us your leadership on this issue now so I can decide who I think would be the best leader for tomorrow.
"

BIDEN: "They way you do that, ma'am, is to not ratchet up the winds of war here. We had a vote in the United States Senate on declaring the Quds Force -- their special forces -- and the Revolutionary Guard to be a terrorist organization.

A lot of people voted for that -- 70-some voted for it. it's a serious, serious mistake. Because what it does -- it was completely counter-productive.

(APPLAUSE)

What it was, ma'am -- what it did was, it convinced the rest of the Muslim world this is really a war against Islam and not a war in Iraq, and, number two, it rose the -- caused the price of oil to head to a hundred dollars a barrel -- we're paying $30 a barrel for what they call a risk premium -- and it helped to stabilize the situation both in Iran -- I mean, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

BIDEN: "So the way to do this is keep quiet, hush up, and do what I told the president personally and what I've said as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee: If he takes the country to war in Iraq (sic) without a vote of Congress, which will not exist, then he should be impeached."


(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: "Senator, Senator Clinton, you voted for that resolution. You're the only one on the stage who did vote for that resolution. Do you want to respond to Senator Biden?"

CLINTON: "I do."

BIDEN: "I wasn't attacking Senator..."

CLINTON: "No, no, no, no."

BLITZER: "I know, but she did vote for the resolution.

But if you could address this young man..."


CLINTON: "Yes."

BLITZER: "... and his mother about their fear that because of your vote he might have to go fight in Iran."

CLINTON: "Well, there is no basis for that fear. There is, however, a deep concern that is well justified about this president.

That's why what I've tried to do is oppose a rush to war. I started speaking out against it back in February because I was worried about President Bush. Working with members of Congress to do exactly what Joe is saying, which is to make it absolutely clear there is no legal authority whatsoever.

But what I think is most important is that we have aggressive diplomacy with Iran. I believe that the Bush administration has allowed this situation to worsen and fester because they won't have any diplomatic relations of any sort with Iran. So what I would do is to immediately begin that kind of negotiation. And I wouldn't ask the Iranians to give up their quest for nuclear power or anything else. Get them to the table.

Let's figure out if there's some way we can, number one, ratchet down the tensions; number two, prevent from becoming a nuclear weapons power. Because that would be dangerous for all of us. And get the rest of the world to help us.

We need China and Russia, the neighbors in the region. That's what I would be doing.

The only thing I would add, in addition to thanking you for your service, is that, having been in Iraq, you know that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has assisted the militias and others in killing our Americans and in maiming them.

They have imported technology and technical assistance.

I believe they are a terrorist group. I think sanctioning them and putting some pressure on them is an important part of getting to the diplomatic table with both carrots and sticks."


BLITZER: "All right."

CLINTON: "So, oppose the rush to war, but get tough and have a diplomatic approach to Iran."



Comment: "he senator from New York hit all the points she wanted to quite well. She denies the claims that this resolution authorizes the president to go to war, called for diplomacy and cast her vote for the resolution branding Iran's Quds a terrorist group to a vote to speak up for the troops like the service man in the audience who are being attacked by the Iranians. Not bad and if it weren't for the language within the resolution that endorses the use of military force, almost believable.



BLITZER: All right. I want to hear from Senator Edwards first. Go ahead, Senator Edwards. Do you accept her explanation this was no vote for a rush to war with Iran?

EDWARDS: "Well, let me say -- can I just say, first, Christopher, thank you.

God bless you for what you did for us and for America. Men and women like you have served this country so courageously, and I'm proud of both you and your mom being here to speak up, because I think this is such a crucial issue for the future of the country.

My own view is that it's important for us to stop Bush, Cheney and the neocons at every, single stage.

(APPLAUSE)

And I think there was an important opportunity to do that on the vote on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Bush, Cheney and the neocons wanted the Iranian Revolutionary Guard declared a terrorist group, as Senator Biden just spoke about, because it's part of their path to moving militarily on Iran.

And, actually, the fear a lot of us had about that was realized about a week ago when Bush, Cheney and the administration declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, and -- this is the part everyone's going to love -- a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction.

(AUDIENCE BOOING)

We've seen this movie. We know how it turns out. And I think it is absolutely crucial for Democrats on this issue to show real strength, real backbone and stop this president from moving forward on Iran."


Comment: Stop them at "every single stage." Very quotable.

BLITZER: "Thank you, Senator."

(APPLAUSE)

"Very quickly, Senator Obama."

OBAMA: "Well, Chris, we appreciate your service. And your mom, I can only imagine what she went through when you were away. So we're glad you're back home.

But understand the problem with this vote on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. It wasn't simply that it was identified as a terrorist organization; it was also that in the language of the resolution, it said we should maintain our forces in Iraq with an eye toward blunting Iranian influence.

So it's not just going to have an impact, in terms of potentially having a war against Iran; it also gives this administration an excuse to perpetuate their failed strategy in Iraq. And that could mean that you could be redeployed in Iraq.

That's why this was a mistake, and that's why not only do we have to bring the war in Iraq to a close, but we have to change the mindset that got us into war. Which means we initiate -- yes, I agree with Hillary that we've got to initiate bold diplomacy.

I think the next president has to lead that diplomacy. It can't just be envoys. And one of the reasons I'm running for president, and Hillary and I had a disagreement on this, I said I would meet with not just our friends but also with our enemies. Because that's what strong countries and that's what strong presidents do is meet with our adversaries, tell them where we stand."


BLITZER: "Senator, I want to go back to Suzanne Malveaux, but this was an important vote, and you missed that vote. You weren't present in the Senate when that vote occurred."

OBAMA: "No, this is true. And it was a mistake. This is one of the hazards of running for president. But what I have consistently said, and I said at the time of the vote, was that we should not take steps that would increase two presences inside Iraq with an eye towards blunting the impact of Iran. I always think that's a mistake."

Comment: Not a bad answer but he loses some credibility by missing the vote. Campaigning is not an excuse. In fact it makes him look worse. If he said there was no way the Kyl-Lieberman amendment was going down in defeat he might have salvaged some credibility for his failure to show up. It does not exonerate him but it would mitigate the damage.

BLITZER: "Thank you, Senator.

Go ahead, Suzanne."



2. Military v Private Contractor Wage Disparity: Richardson Says He Will Remove Contractors from Iraq and Raise Military Wages

MALVEAUX: "Jeannie Jackson, if you would stand for us please. You have something in common with the other mother, you have a son that's also in Iraq. But your question, your concern is very different. What is your question?"

JEANNIE JACKSON: "Well, I think you're all about getting us out of Iraq, and I appreciate, so it may be a moot point. But my son's making $30,000, while corporate people are making minimum $100,000 for going over there.

Is there any way to end this disparity in wages?

And also, I'd like to say to Bill Richardson, happy birthday."


(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.


BLITZER: "All right. Well, let's throw the question to the birthday boy. Go."


MALVEAUX: "OK. I guess he gets the gift here. And obviously we're talking about private contractors.

Governor Richardson, you know that Senator Obama has said he would pull out all of the private contractors if, in fact, that he was president. But in light of how stretched our military is, do you think that's a practical solution?"


RICHARDSON: "Yes. I would pull out all the contractors.

(APPLAUSE)

I would get them all out...

(APPLAUSE)

... just like I would get all our troops out, all residual forces, and I would do it within a year."


(UNKNOWN): "Great answer."

RICHARDSON: "Here's my answer. What I believe we need to do is we need to reform our military. This is what I would do. This war in Iraq has bled us enormously, has bled our military enormously.

I would find ways to keep the all-volunteer force. Now, I would say to you that I would have two more divisions in the Army, two more in the Marines.

I would increase military pay and educational benefits, a new G.I. Bill for our military.

(APPLAUSE)

But what I would also do is, with our veterans -- you know, in military families, I would have a hero's health card for every military person in this country... (APPLAUSE)

... which would mean that they could get health care, not just at the V.A. system, but anywhere they want.

I would fully guarantee funding at the V.A. And most importantly, the big, big challenge is mental health. We don't treat mental health with the parity that this country deserves.

(APPLAUSE)

And our kids coming back from Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, there's a huge burden -- mental trauma, traumatic brain injury, PTSD. We have a V.A. system and we have a mental health system in this country this is not given the parity, the coverage that it deserves."


(APPLAUSE)

Comment: First off, the question concerned salary disparity in wages between private contractors and US military forces and the moderator then posed a different question to Richardson. The governor used his time to answer both questions. He promised to get the private contractors out of Iraq (one follow up question would be to ask if that would be a breach of contract) and to increase military wages.

BLITZER: "Thank you, Governor. Thank you."

3. Civil Liberties and Profiling: Edwards to Roll Back Patriot Act, and Guantanamo Bay Civil Liberties Abuses, Kucinich Says Voters Should Elect Person Who Was Right At Start and Biden Says Patriot Act Did Not Authorize Racial Profiling

MALVEAUX: "Our next questions is -- Khalid Khan, if you would please stand for a moment. You and I spoke very briefly, and you said you have some concerns about racial profiling."

KHALID KHAN: "Yes, I do. I am an American citizen and have been profiled all the time at the airport. Since 9/11, hundreds of thousands of Americans have been profiled. And, you know, it is like a harassment."

KHAN: "My question is that -- our civil liberties have been taken away from us. What are you going to do to protect Americans from this kind of harassment?"

MALVEAUX: "Senator Edwards, we'd like you to take that. You obviously voted for the Patriot Act, which gives the government extended powers of surveillance. What do you say to people like Mr. Khan who say he's been abused by that power?"

EDWARDS: "I say he's right. He's right. This administration has done more than abuse the Patriot Act, and the Patriot Act needs to be dramatically changed, by the way.

(APPLAUSE)

But in addition to that, the racial profiling that you are describing has to be stopped, and it will be stopped when I am president of the United States. We're going to take the steps that need to be taken to restore America's moral leadership in the world, and that means a whole group of things: stopping the profiling, stopping the illegal -- and I use that term intentionally -- the illegal spying on the American people that this president has been engaged in.

(APPLAUSE) Closing Guantanamo, which I think is a national embarrassment.

(APPLAUSE)

No more secret prisons, no more rendition.

EDWARDS: And it's just absolutely amazing to me that there's actually an open discussion in the United States of America about what kind of torture will be tolerated. I'll tell you what kind of torture will be tolerated when I'm president of the United States -- no torture will be tolerated when I'm president of the United States."


BLITZER: "Thank you. Thank you, Senator."

(APPLAUSE)

EDWARDS: "We're going to restore our respect in the world."


Not a bad answer but he is promising to undo what he himself voted for.


BLITZER: "Congressman Kucinich, I believe you're the only person on this stage who had a chance to vote on the Patriot Act right after 9/11 who voted against it right away."

KUCINICH: "That's because I read it."

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: "Now, here's the question.

(APPLAUSE)

Here's the question. Here's the question. Here's the question.

Congressman, do you feel, as you felt on other issues, that those who voted for the Patriot Act, and there are several here on this stage, bear a responsibility for the way this individual, this American citizen is being treated when he goes through an airport?"


KUCINICH: "You're owed an apology, you really are. And every American should be able to present themselves without having to be further scrutinized based on ethnic identity.

But let's go back to the point that you made here. The time -- you know, the president of the United States is called upon to make the right decision at the right time. And you've seen here tonight people who voted for the war, voted to fund the war, now they have a different position. People voted for the Patriot Act. Now they have a different position. People voted for China trade. Now they have a different position. People who voted for Yucca Mountain. Now they had a different position.

Just imagine what it will be like to have a president of the United States who's right the first time. Just imagine.

(APPLAUSE)

And I don't think -- I don't think that the first questioner's question was really answered about what are you going to do about this president, and for that matter the vice president, because they're out of control, and Congress isn't doing anything."


(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: "Thank you. Thank you, Congressman."

KUCINICH: "It's called impeachment and you don't wait.

(APPLAUSE)

You do it now. You don't wait."


BLITZER: "All right. Suzanne has another question..."

KUCINICH: "Now. Impeach him now."

BLITZER: "... but I want -- Senator Biden, go ahead and respond, because you voted for the Patriot Act."

BIDEN: "You know, let's -- facts are a funny thing. They get in the way.

(LAUGHTER)

You know what I mean? There is nothing in the Patriot Act that allows profiling. Let's get that straight. Nothing in the Patriot Act allows profiling. Number one, you're profiled illegally. I have voted against and worked with legislation with many people on this stage to stop profiling. That's number one. It did not. It's not because of the Patriot Act. It's a convenient thing to talk about, number one.

Number two, you know, when we had a chance to close down Guantanamo, I voted against funding Guantanamo. Other folks up here voted for funding it, including the two leading candidates. I voted to not build the new $36 million part. I called for closing it three years ago.

(APPLAUSE)

And so folks, this -- but this is not about who was right when.


BIDEN: "It's: What's your plan now?

What are you going to do now?"


(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: "Thank you. Thank you, Senator."

(APPLAUSE)

"Go ahead, Suzanne."


4. Immigration: Richardson Against "Demonizing Immigrants" and Dodd Says A Fence May be Required in Some Areas

MALVEAUX: "George Ambriz, you're a graduate student here, and you're also a mentor to children. I understand that you have a concern about immigration.

GEORGE AMBRIZ: Yes, I do.

Buenos noches y bienvenidos.

(APPLAUSE)

It seems that many political commentators, such as Lou Dobbs, are guiding the debate and strongly shaping U.S. policy on immigration, by insinuating a linkage to terrorism.

As many people know, no terrorist has come from our southern border.

Do you consider fighting terrorism and slowing the flow of illegal immigration coming from our southern border as intrinsically related issues?"


MALVEAUX: "Governor Richardson, since you're the only one on this stage who does not support even building a fence, why don't you take this one?"

KUCINICH:"That's not true."

RICHARDSON: "By the way, Dennis, you keep -- stop including me in all these votes. I've been a governor. I'm in New Mexico. I'm not in Washington.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

Here's my answer. You know, two years ago -- and I'm the only one who's dealt with the immigration issue directly.

You know, and by the way, with the Congress, let me just say the Congress' approval rating is 11 percent. Now, you know who's higher? Dick Cheney and HMOs.

My point is that, you know...

(LAUGHTER)

Let's talk about the need to bring this country together. Dysfunctional relationships exist between the president and the Congress. It needs to be corrected.

Here's my answer. Two years ago, I'm the first governor to declare a border emergency because the federal government wasn't doing its job in stopping the flow of drugs and people. But you know what? We should stop demonizing immigrants. We should stop doing that.

(APPLAUSE)

And I'm against the fence because it will not work. The Congress only funded half of the fence... (LAUGHTER)

... and it's not American. What I would do is do four quick things. One, we have to secure the border. Double the number of border patrol agents. Keep the National Guard there a little longer. Detection equipment, as you mentioned.

Secondly, those who knowingly hire illegal workers should be punished.

(APPLAUSE)

Third, we should have a relationship -- it's called foreign policy -- with Mexico. They're our friend. But we should speak frankly to our friends, and it should be something like this: Mexico, give jobs to your people.

At the very least...

(APPLAUSE)

You know, at the very least, stop handing out maps on the easiest place to cross.

(LAUGHTER)

And then, lastly, a legalization plan -- a legalization plan. Not amnesty, not citizenship, but a path to legalization that involves conditions -- learning English..."


BLITZER: "Thank you."

RICHARDSON: "Paying back-taxes."


Comment: I don't see how a border fence would be any more un-American than a border patrol that is designed to halt illegal immigration. The fence, at the very least, would seem to deter more people of it is high enough.


BLITZER: "I want to Senator Dodd, though, to respond, because you voted for that security fence along the border between the U.S. and Mexico."

DODD: "Bienvenidos tambien. (SPEAKING IN SPANISH)

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

I Was in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic.

DODD: I will give you some points. In certain places you could make a case that a wall might help, not of course on the entire border. I am opposed to that. But the idea of having some sort of better security, including additional guards, additional technology here to allow us to deal with the issues.

But there ought not to be any correlation here. When you take the oath of office, you don't swear to uphold the Constitution or protect the country. I believe by upholding our rights, we do protect the country. And the administration has taken the opposite view. They are posing to us the false choice, the dichotomy that to be safer, we have to give up rights. I think that is so fundamentally flawed and fundamentally dangerous for the United States of America to embrace that idea."


Comment: Dodd has to explain further why a fence may be needed in some areas near the border and not in other areas. No one pressed him on that. The senator from Connecticut then veered off onto a tangent by talking about a question he wasn't asked but should have been asked about civil liberties and obviously handled it well.


(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: "All right. Thank you, senator.

Let's go back to Suzanne."


MALVEAUX: "We have Judy Bagley here with us. If you would stand for a moment."


5. Social Security Reform: Obama for Raising the Cap But Against Raising the Retirement Age; Clinton for a Commission and Refuses to Answer Any Other Question


MALVEAUX: "We have Judy Bagley here with us. If you would stand for a moment.

You have been working in the casino business for some 27 years now, a cashier?"


BAGLEY: "That's right."

MALVEAUX: "You've seen a lot of people come and go, obviously."

BAGLEY: "Absolutely."

MALVEAUX: "What is your concern?"

BAGLEY: "I'm a booth cashier and we moved here over 30 years ago. And I have three children, and as of yesterday, 8 grandchildren."

(APPLAUSE)

MALVEAUX: "And what is your -- congratulations. That's amazing."

BAGLEY: "Thank you."

MALVEAUX: "And what is your question to the candidates?

BAGLEY: My question is, over the next several years, the Baby- Boomers, like my husband and I, will be retiring en masse. At the same time, the country is at a record deficit. We face a major challenge.

When I retire, I will have my pension, but many others will not. Throughout the campaign, we've heard the candidates supporting -- committing to support -- oh my goodness -- committing to support Social Security and Medicare.

My question is -- but the ideas on reform are often vague.

My question is: What do you plan to do to ensure that Social Security and Medicare are truly available to us, our children and grandchildren in light of the current budget conditions?"


MALVEAUX: "Thank you very much. Very important issue."

Senator Obama?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, Judy, thank you for the question, and thanks for the great work you do on behalf of the culinary workers, a great union here.

(APPLAUSE)

Look, this is something that we've talked about in our campaign. We've got 78 million baby boomers who are going to be retiring. And the first thing we have to do is to put an end to George Bush raiding the Social Security trust fund to pay for a misguided war in Iraq.

(APPLAUSE)

If we take some of that money back and we start getting control of our budget and have fiscal discipline, that will make some of the difference. But not all of it, because we're going to have more senior citizens, more retirees and fewer workers.

So I've been very specific about saying that we should not privatize, we should protect benefits. I don't think the best way to approach this is to raise the retirement age.

But what we can do is adjust the cap on the payroll tax. Right now, anybody who's making $97,000 or less, you pay payroll tax on 100 percent of your income. Warren Buffett, who made $46 million last year, pays on a fraction of one percent of his income.

And if we make that small adjustment, we can potentially close that gap, and we can make sure Social Security's there."


BLITZER: "Thank you."

OBAMA: Last point, just because I have to answer the full question. Medicare is a tougher problem because we've got health-care inflation going up. And I am meeting people all across the country who just can't manage even if they've got health insurance.

Their premiums have gone up 78 percent since George Bush took office. It's a scam. And people are getting desperate.

The only way we're going to fix Medicare is if we get that rising cost under control. And that means having a universal health care plan, where every single person has prevention, and they are able to get the treatments they need.

We're instituting health technologies and managing the chronically ill so that we save money, we provide coverage for everybody. That, over the long term, will save Medicare enormous amounts of money and it will be there for you.

BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

(APPLAUSE) Senator Clinton, you've been criticized by Senator Obama and, I think, Senator Edwards, among others, for refusing to take a hard and fast position on whether you would raise the tax above those making $97,500 a year, to try to secure Social Security in the long term.

Are you ready to make a hard and fast statement, now, on your position on what Senator Obama just said?

CLINTON: Well, I'll tell you what I'm for. And I think Judy raises two really important issues. I am for getting back to fiscal responsibility. I think I counted you said "deficit" three times.

Six and a half years ago, when George Bush came into office, he inherited a balanced budget and a surplus.

(APPLAUSE)

And the Social Security system was on a path to be solvent into 2055. We have long-term challenges with Social Security.

We have a crisis with Medicare, just like we have a crisis with health care costs.

We have a crisis with energy costs.

We have a lot of very intense challenges we have to meet right now.

So what I want to do is move back toward fiscal responsibility. I think if we don't do that, we're not going to deal with any of these problems adequately.

Then I think we will demonstrate that we're serious about getting our house in order again, and then I think we have to have a bipartisan commission.

I do not want to fix the problems of Social Security on the backs of middle-class families and seniors. If you lift the cap completely, that is a $1 trillion tax increase. I don't think we need to do that.

But I want to say one final word about Medicare. Number one, Medicare should be able to negotiate for lower drug prices. It was a travesty...

BLITZER: All right. Thank you, Senator.

CLINTON: ... when the Bush administration did not allow that to happen, and I have a lot of other ideas about we'll preserve and strengthen Medicare.

BLITZER: So, Senator, you're not ready to accept a raising of the cap on that? But I know that Senator Obama wants to respond to you.

OBAMA: "I will be very brief on this because, Hillary, I have heard you say this is a trillion-dollar tax cut on the middle class by adjusting the cap. Understand that only 6 percent of Americans make more than $97,000 a year. So 6 percent is not the middle class.



(APPLAUSE)

It is the upper class. You know, this is the kind of thing that I would expect from Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani, where we start playing with numbers. We start playing with numbers in order to try to make a point.

(APPLAUSE)

And we can't do that. No, no, no. This is too important -- this is too important for us to pretend that we are using numbers like a trillion dollar tax cut instead of responsibly dealing with the problem that Judy asked for, and she said she wants a specific answer. And she said she wants a specific answer and that's what I provided.

But understand that this is the top 6 percent, and that is not the middle class."


Taking Clinton on here makes Obama look good. Mr. Obama notes that an overwhelming majority of American citizens do not make 97,000 a year = at least according to this census study and then questions Clinton's refusal to answer these questions.

BLITZER: "Senator?"

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: "First of all -- first of all, I think that you meant a tax increase, because that's what it would be.

But, secondly, it is absolutely the case that there are people who would find that burdensome. I represent firefighters. I represent school supervisors. I'm not talking -- and, you know, it's different parts of the country. So you have to look at this across the board and the numbers are staggering.

Now, when people say, "Be specific," I listened very carefully to what Senator Obama said when he appeared on one of the Sunday morning shows, and he basically said that he was for looking at a lot of different things and using a bipartisan commission to do it. I think that's the right answer. That is where I have been from the very beginning.

That's what worked back in 1983 when we had a real crisis in Social Security. The government got together. President Reagan and Speaker Tip O'Neill put together a bipartisan commission.

Then everybody looked at everything at once. It wasn't one person's idea or somebody else's idea. Everybody had to get into a room and say, here's what we're going to do to fix the problem. That's what I want to do, because I think that's what will work for America."


(APPLAUSE)

Senator Clinton dodges the issue again by leaving the recommendations to a bipartisan "fact finding committee" like Obama proposed. What she left out was the fact that Obama at least supports lifting the cap on taxes. A presidential candidate should at the very least say what he or she would consider doing. Obama said he is willing to do one thing. Clinton won't suggest she is open to anything.

Mrs. Clinton says many people would find this tax raise burdensome. Indeed it would be but if social security is going to be salvaged such burdens will have to imposed, particularly on those who are not sharing in the burden now. There are no free rides. Either we cut the benefits or we raise the taxes.


6. Supreme Court Justices on Roe v Wade: All Profess Support for Roe v Wade and Vow to Nominate a Nominee Who Will Uphold it. Biden and Dodd Want Someone In Touch With the Regular Folks, Kucinich Says He Would Try to Lower Abortion Rates, Richardson Expects His Nominees to Respect Diversity and Education Equalization, Edwards Cheers For Those Who Can Issue Unpopular Decisions, Obama Wants Justices Who Will Look After Those Shortchanged by the Law and Clinton Explains Privacy Importance

BLITZER: "I want everybody to stand by because we have a lot more to talk about, a lot more of these questions from undecided voters here in Nevada, but we're going to take a quick commercial break. Much more from the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, right after this."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(CROSSTALK)

DODD: "First of all, thanks for your question. But obviously you want people here that are going to have a balanced sense of justice, that bring a life experience to that bench, where they're not just there are academics, that have a clear record in the judicial branch, where they either served as a judge or as a lawyer, where they've demonstrated that ability to be fair and just when it comes to the administration of the laws of our country here.

I don't necessarily believe in applying litmus tests here. I think that's a dangerous precedent to begin that process here. You start down that path, others may follow it, you end up with a court then that may lack that kind of balance.

Obviously, as someone who's pro-choice and have been their entire public life and career, I feel very strongly about Roe v. Wade. I would not want a justice to be appointed who would even think about overturning that.

But I want to be very carefully here...

(APPLAUSE)

But I'd want to be careful about making sure that I'd know the person, I'm not just looking at people I don't know or don't understand their background, so I have a very good feel of where they're going to be on these matters, not the people here, when they make the statement that they will uphold precedent and they raise their right hand before the Judiciary Committee and make that committee, and then violate that commitment. That I find highly offensive.

That will not happen in a Dodd administration. I promise.


BLITZER: "All right, let's go through the whole panel. I want everybody to weigh in; this is an important question that was raised with Senator Biden.

Would you insist that any nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court supported abortion rights for women?"


BIDEN: "Suzanne's decided. I'm not answering her question. I'm answering the question of the woman who was there, OK?

(APPLAUSE)

And, number one -- and then I'll answer Suzanne's question."


BLITZER: "So, let's ask the woman.

Do you want him to answer that question?"


BIDEN: "Do you want me to answer your question?"

(UNKNOWN): "I would like for you to answer both questions."

BIDEN: "I will answer both. Answer your question first.

Your question first. I've provided over more Supreme Court justices than anyone in American history -- number one.

Number two, I have taken on those justices who, in fact, show no balance -- they are ideologues. We have enough ideologues. We have enough professors on the bench.

I want someone who ran for dog catcher. I want someone -- literally, not a joke. When Hillary's husband asked me for his advice when he was appointing people, I wanted to go to people and so did he -- we couldn't. Four people turned it down.

We wanted to get someone who, in fact, knew what it was to live life. Knew what it was -- not as some intellectual feat.

(APPLAUSE)

And by the way, the next person that is appointed in a Biden administration is going to be a woman. We don't have enough women on the bench, number one.

Number two, to Suzanne Malveaux's question, I would not appoint anyone who did not understand that Section 5 of the 14th Amendment and the liberty clause of the 14th Amendment provided a right to privacy. That is the question I would ask. If that is answered correctly, that that is the case, then it answers the question, which means they would support Roe v. Wade."


BLITZER: "Let's go down the whole panel, and if you could give me a short yes or no, would you insist on a Supreme Court nominee supporting abortion?"

RICHARDSON: "I would have diversity as a prime criteria, but I would also ask my nominee, this is what I would ask. Number one, do you believe Roe v. Wade is settled law? Number two, do you support the right to privacy? Number three, do you support civil rights? Number four, do you support what you asked -- education, school equalization?

If the answer is no to those questions, that basically say, is it settled law or not -- you want to call it a litmus test, fine -- those would be the judges that I would appoint to the Supreme Court."


(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: "Thank you, Governor."

Congressman?

KUCINICH: "A Kucinich appointment to the Supreme Court would have a litmus test on abortion. It's a question of a woman's right to choose and a right to privacy. But a president has to do more than that. A president has to be a healer. And this has been one of the great divides in our country. And so I want to let the American people know that I'll stand for prenatal care, postnatal care, child care, a living wage, universal health care, sex education, birth control..."

(APPLAUSE)

BLITZER: "All right."

KUCINICH: "We can make abortions less necessary if we have a healer in the White House. And we can also protect a woman's right to choose. We can do both."

BLITZER: "Thank you, Congressman.

Senator Clinton?

(APPLAUSE)

Senator Clinton, would this be a sine qua non for you that any nominee you name to the Supreme Court would have to share your view on abortion?"


CLINTON: "Well, they'd have to share my view about privacy, and I think that goes hand-in-hand. Privacy, in my opinion, is embedded in our Constitution. What does it mean to have a right to free speech or the right to worship as you choose if you also don't have the right to be left alone, to have that privacy that goes with being an American.

(APPLAUSE)

So it would be absolutely critical. And I, like Senator Biden...


BLITZER: "So the answer is yes."

CLINTON: "Yes, the answer is yes."

BLITZER: "OK, all right."

CLINTON: "But I just want to say, Senator Biden really deserves a lot of plaudits because he knows this issue forwards and backwards, and I think it's important to have a president who understands the intricate connections of our branches of government and the Constitution.

I think that's one of the great tragedies of George Bush's presidency, is he didn't really understand the way our government was supposed to work."


BLITZER: "Thank you.

Senator Obama, you used to be a professor of law."


(APPLAUSE) OBAMA: "I would not appoint somebody who doesn't believe in the right to privacy. But you're right, Wolf. I taught constitutional law for 10 years, and when you look at what makes a great Supreme Court justice, it's not just the particular issue and how they ruled. But it's their conception of the court.

And part of the role of the court is that it is going to protect people who may be vulnerable in the political process, the outsider, the minority, those who are vulnerable, those who don't have a lot of clout. And part of what I want to find in a Supreme Court justice -- and Joe's exactly right. Sometimes we're only looking at academics or people who've been in the courts.

If we can find people who have life experience, and they understand what it means to be on the outside, what it means to have the system not work for them, that's the kind of person I want on the Supreme Court."


BLITZER: "Thank you, Senator.

We heard from Senator Dodd, so let Senator Edwards go ahead.

Would you insist that nominees support abortion?"


EDWARDS: I would insist that they recognize the right to privacy and recognize Roe v. Wade as settled law.

But I want to go beyond what some others have said here, because it is so crucial, if you grew up like I did in the segregated South and you saw how important it was to have federal judges who had some backbone and were willing to stand up against popular opinion. We had a judge who desegregated the public schools in North Carolina, in Charlotte, North Carolina. He literally had to have armed guards take him from home to work and home each day.


That's the kind of courage and strength we need in a United States Supreme Court justice."

BLITZER: "Thank you, Senator.

All right, Suzanne."



Comment: No Democratic candidate on the stage would nominate a justice who would overturn Roe v Wade intentionally but the conversation was still interesting. Biden and Dodd said they would look for someone who worked and lived in the real world, Obama wants someone who would know a thing or two about the law's affect on disfavored groups. Kucinich reminded us of his former antiabortion roots by suggesting how a president could help lower the abortion rates.