Nevada debate tonight. Broadcast live on MSNBC and on the internet HERE.
Dennis Kucinich will not be at tonight’s debate due to a late court ruling won by NBC.
We’ll keep our eyes on the Michigan primary results as well.
At tonights debate we hope economic issues get discussed:
Last week Hillary Clinton offered a broadly similar but somewhat larger proposal. (It also includes aid to families having trouble paying heating bills, which seems like a clever way to put cash in the hands of people likely to spend it.) The Edwards and Clinton proposals both contain provisions for bigger stimulus if the economy worsens.
And you have to say that Mrs. Clinton seems comfortable with and knowledgeable about economic policy. I’m sure the Hillary-haters will find some reason that’s a bad thing, but there’s something to be said for presidents who know what they’re talking about.
The Obama campaign’s initial response to the latest wave of bad economic news was, I’m sorry to say, disreputable: Mr. Obama’s top economic adviser claimed that the long-term tax-cut plan the candidate announced months ago is just what we need to keep the slump from “morphing into a drastic decline in consumer spending.” Hmm: claiming that the candidate is all-seeing, and that a tax cut originally proposed for other reasons is also a recession-fighting measure — doesn’t that sound familiar?
Anyway, on Sunday Mr. Obama came out with a real stimulus plan. As was the case with his health care plan, which fell short of universal coverage, his stimulus proposal is similar to those of the other Democratic candidates, but tilted to the right.
For example, the Obama plan appears to contain none of the alternative energy initiatives that are in both the Edwards and Clinton proposals, and emphasizes across-the-board tax cuts over both aid to the hardest-hit families and help for state and local governments. I know that Mr. Obama’s supporters hate to hear this, but he really is less progressive than his rivals on matters of domestic policy.
No applause allowed.
Moderators: Brian Williams, Tim Russert, Natalie Morales (with viewer questions)
Williams announces Romney wins Michigan. No mention of Hillary winning Michgan.
Williams: Martin Luther King birthday. Brings up the race issue of recent days. Blames Hillary.
Clinton: We agree neither race nor gender should be part of this campaign. MLK’s dream has been realized. Edwards son of mill worker. Obama’s profound story. Myself a product of the women’s movement. Obama and I have exuberant supporters and we are different from Republicans on this issue. We are all here as a result of Dr. King’s efforts.
Obama: Hillary said it well. A defining moment in history. Nation at war. Race is always an issue. My campaign and Hillary and Edwards and Democrats know we need to come together as a people. We have more in common than what separates us.
Edwards: I lived in the south including during segregation. We made great progress but we are not over making more progress.
Russert: Accountability. Hillary said your campaign has been pushing this story. True enough your campaign published a memo.
Obama: True enough. I have sent a message that we will focus on the issues. I am convinced that everyone here is committed to racial equality.
Russert: Do you believe this was a deliberate attempt to marginalize you?
Obama: No. Look at what happened in Iowa.
Russert: In NH your polling was higher. Do you think race was an issue when voters got into the polling booth.
Obama: No. Hillary Clinton ran a good campaign. I am convinced that change is going to happen because the American people are determined that change is going to happen.
Russert: Accountability. You said anyone who says things you don’t like “they are gone”. Shortly after Robert Johnson made some statements about Obama. Is he gone?
Obama: Johnson has issued a statement on what he said. What is critical is that the American people understand the stakes are really high on a range of issues. Keeping their homes, jobs. I went door to door in Nevada. What people talk to me about is issues that affect their lives.
Morales: Slight differences among candidates, why not a woman or an African-American?
Edwards: Who is best to bring about that change. This is a personal thing for me. Hillary mentioned I come from a mill worker family. Who will never give up? Who will fight for the rights of unions to organize? These things are personal for me.
Morales: What is a white male to do running against these historic candidacies?
Edwards: They have asked not to be considered on the basis of their race or gender.
Williams: You won the women’s vote in Iowa but Hillary won the women’s vote in New Hampshire. At the last televised debate you said “You’re likeable enough Hillary”.
Obama: I regret it. It did not come out the way it was supposed to. During that debate there was a tendency to parse out the issues. We need to focus on who has a vision on how to move the country. Not just Democrats. Enlist the American people.
Williams: At that debate it looked, Edwards, that you and Obama were piling on. Did it look that way?
Edwards: It might have looked that way but I will say what needs to be said. There are entrenched interests in this country that have to be fought.
Russert: [Disruption from the audience] Senator Clinton when you say Obama is not ready what are the consequences in the fall?
Clinton: I have the highest regard for Obama and Edwards. When we have a nominee we will have a totally unified Democratic Party. The question for those in Nevada is Who will be ready on day 1. Energy policy, 47 million Americans not insured, Bush in the Gulf begging for lower oil prices. All of that and more. I am presenting my qualifications, my ideas. I will keep putting forward my ideas.
Russert: Are Obama and Edwards prepared?
Clinton: That is for the voters to decide. Voters have to imagine us in the Oval office.
Russert: Obama you said in an interview that you are not an operating officer?
Obama: Being president is not shuffling paper, it is about a vision. It is about mobilizing and inspiring the American people. What is needed is sound judgement, hope for the future, and push aside the special interests.
Russert: What is your greatest strength, greatest weakness?
Obama: To get people to recognize what they have in common. My desk does not look good. I lose papers.
Edwards: 54 years fighting. At first for me. In courtrooms fighting. I feel things personally and that can undermine what you need to do.
Clinton: I am passionate. I’ve been blessed. To whom much is given much is expected. I think I can deliver change. Help people to live up to their potential. I get impatient. I sometimes come across that way. I sometimes push for things faster than people are willing to go. But you have to be able to manage the bureaucracy. We’ve seen a president who said he would follow the Harvard school business model. We saw the failure of that in Katrina and the Gulf Coast. You have got to set the tone but you have to hold the bureaucrasy to account.
Obama: That’s not what I said. You do have to hold the bureaucrasy. But you have to listen to different viewpoints. We have to ask tough questions before we send people to fight. These are questions of judgment. But there is a need for strong management skills. But we have to mobilize the country and be straight with them.
Williams: We receive a lot of misinformation about you. That you are Muslim, won’t pledge allegiance to the flag, took the oath of office on the Koran. How will you fight this?
Obama: I am a Christian, I pledge allegiance and sometimes lead it in the Senate. We did not do well in NH not because of these rumors but because we did not do things we needed to do in the campaign. The American people will sort out the lies from the truth.
BREAK – the economy is next.
Williams: Citibank is looking for $20 billion overseas to stay afloat. What can be done? Is there something wrong with foreign ownership of American brands?
Clinton: I am concerned and have spoken out about this before. These huge pools of funds are a concern. The U.S. Congress and the Federal Reserve Board need to do something. The financial institutions helped create the crisis in subprime loans which threaten peoples homes. They bundled these debts and sold them overseas. I have a plan, a moratorium, on these foreclosures. We need to deal with these sovereign wealth funds.
Edwards: The fundamental problem is what is happening to the economy. The growth is for upper income Americans. Americans are worried about healthcare and their jobs and their homes.
Obama: Part of the reason Kuwait and others bail out our financial institutions is because we don’t have an energy policy. Nevada has a lot of sun. But there is no effort on alternative fuels.
Russert: Americans are feeling the bankruptcy pinch. Edwards you voted for the bankruptcy bill?
Edwards: I regret that vote. Middle class incomes are not going up. We need truly universal health care, a radical transformation of production and use of energy, national minimum wage raise, make it easier to go to college.
Russert: You voted for that bill too. Do you regret that vote?
Clinton: Yes. I opposed the 2005 bill. Fortunately the bankruptcy bill did not become law. Everything we are talking about falls disproportionately on minorities. They are the first to be let go in economic downturns. The first to lose their homes. We will lose another million homes in foreclosures. The home market is down. I have a sense of urgency.
Russert: The 2001 and 2005 bankruptcy bill?
Obama: I opposed them both. The interests of the financial industry were put ahead of the American people. We need to get rid of lobbyists and change how politics is done in Washington. We have to release people who are in bankruptcy due to illness.
Morales: Obama, what safeguards would you put in place to protect us from your end of the tax cuts.
Obama: Exempt middle class from the tax cuts. Warren Buffet pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. No taxes on Social Security checks. That will help the economy grow.
Morales: Your plan for a moratorium?
Clinton: We have short, medium and long term goals on the economy. Freezing the interest rates will stabilize the housing markets and will help what the FED is doing to help the economy. We need a $30 billion fund to prevent foreclosures. In Las Vegas there is now a beginning slowdown in tax receipts. I want $5 billion to employ people in “green collar” jobs like installing solar panels.
Williams: You get to ask questions.
Edwards to Obama: Campaign finance. We want to do something about health care. Clinton raised more money from health industry until recently when you surpassed her. Do you think they want something from you?
Obama: I don’t take federal lobbyist money. I get a lot of money from small contributors. Ultimately I am for public funding. I am proud to make progress to push back on influence from lobbyists.
Clinton to Obama: We both want to convince President Bush to change direction on Iraq. Bush has refused. Bush wants to enter into an agreement with Iraq that will keep us in Iraq after his presidency. We need to stop Bush from binding our hands. I have introduced legislation to force Bush, on permanent bases and other issues. I am asking Obama to co-sponsor my legislation.
Obama: We can work on this Hillary. Bush wants to tie our hands. I opposed the war consistently. The Iraqi minister says we will be there until 2018. My first job will be to tell the Joint Chiefs of Staff that they have a new mission.
Williams: Will you join Obama in his pledge to get out of Iraq?
Clinton: I have already pledged to do that.
Edwards: I have said that I will get the troops out in one year.
Russert: I asked you in an earlier debate if you would get out of Iraq in your first term. You said “no”. I am hearing something different tonight.
Obama: No your question was about all troops. We might need some to protect our embassy.
Clinton: What Barack said is what I and Edwards said. It’s not only George Bush. The Republican candidates are saying the same thing. Senator McCain said we might have troops in Iraq for 100 years.
Edwards: We will have troops to protect the embassy.
Obama: [Starts to question Edwards then stops, regarding troops in Iraq.]
Edwards: As long as you have combat troops in Iraq you have an occupation. I will have a rapid response force outside of Iraq. That is a difference. [Obama tries to interrupt.]
Obama: That is a distinction without a difference.
BREAK – Domestic issues next.
Russert: Volunteer army. A federal statute which forces colleges to have ROTC and recruitment on campus loses funding. Will you enforce this?
Clinton: Yes. Our fine young people go into these programs. Bush administration sends mixed messages on this. They want soldiers but they take away signing bonuses if they are injured. I will support our military.
Russert: Some of the top schools do not have ROTC?
Clinton: They should not disrespect our young people wanting these programs.
Obama: Yes. Minorities carry a lot of this load. I have a national service program.
Edwards: Yes. It’s not enough to talk about the great service of veterans.
Obama: This shows how this administration has failed. Veterans in Walter Reed have to pay for their meals and calls.
Clinton: We have to do everything necessary to help our veterans. Traumatic brain injuries concern me. I have passed legislation on this.
Williams: Yucca mountain. Everyone pledges to end Yucca mountain.
Obama: I pledge. That was a mistake to spend billions but I don’t want to spend billions more. Let’s get experts and determine what is best.
Clinton: I voted against Yucca mountain in 2001. I have held hearings. The science does not support it. John was in favor of it when he voted for it twice. Obama has one of his biggest supporters, Exelon Corporation, for Yucca mountain.
Edwards: I oppose Yucca mountain. We disagree on nuclear power. I am against nuclear power. Hillary is agnostic. Obama is for it.
Clinton: But John, you voted for Yucca mountain.
Edwards: I have said for years I am against it.
Russert: Obama you voted for the Energy bill which was called a “nuclear renaissance”. Clinton voted against it.
Obama: I voted for it because it was the biggest investment in alternative energy. With respect to nuclear energy I said if we could figure out a way for safe and effective nuclear energy then yes. I want to cap greenhouse gases.
Clinton: That energy bill was known as the Dick Cheney energy bill. It was the wrong policy for America. It was heavily tilted towards nuclearly energy. We have to break the lock of special interests. Take the tax cuts from that Dick Cheney energy bill and put it towards clean renewable energy. It won’t happen by hoping for it. I voted against that energy bill. Let’s take away the giveaways in that bill to the energy industry.
Russert: Greenhouse gasses will increase?
Edwards: There are a whole range of alternative fuels. Senator Clinton you have raised more money from those people. We need a cap on carbon emissions. I am also for a moratorium on coal fired plants.
Clinton: I have a comprehensive energy plan that does not rely on nuclear power. We should not have more nuclear plants unless they can be proved viable. This should be our “moon” project. That’s what I want to do.
Obama: This is an example of where ordinary citizens need to change.
Williams: What is the problem with English as an official language?
Edwards: We need comprehensive immigration reform. I am not for amnesty. One of the requirements should be that if you came here illegally you pay a fine. You should also learn to speak English. We should help with that process.
Russert: Clinton, one of your pollsters was quoted as saying that hispanic voters have not voted for blacks. Is that your position?
Clinton: That was a historical observation. This is a black and brown forum I wish we could discuss that.
Obama: Not in Illinois, they voted for me. Latino voters when they know of my history they vote for me. We agree on the broad outlines here on immigration reform. I worked on the immigration issues. That is the kind of leadership I have shown.
Morales: Why is there such high dropout rates among blacks?
Obama: Same as with latinos. When they get to school they are already behind. They must get the help they need. For every dollar we spend we get ten dollars back. Reward teachers.
Clinton: Let’s follow up on this Tim. This is a black and brown debate. I want to commend Barack for his comprehensive view on this. I’ve worked with the 100 Black men on this issue.
Edwards: We need universal pre-K. We have a huge dropout rate. We have to create second chance schools.
Russert: Gun deaths. Leading cause of death among young black men. Clinton, you were for licensed guns?
Clinton: I am for licensed guns. I am also a political realist. The law in NY has worked to a great extent. I don’t want the federal government to preempt local laws. We need an effective federal registry. We need to crack down on illegal gun dealers. Reinstate the assault weapons ban. I believe in the Second Amendment.
Obama: I don’t think we can get that done. We can do common sense enforcement. The NRA has fought traceing of guns. It is important for Americans to hunt and fish. We can respect the Second Amendment but crack down on illegal guns.
Russert: Is it too difficult to win an election and be against guns?
Edwards: You don’t need a AK-47 to hunt. We need a president to understands hunters have a right to their guns.
BREAK – final segment next.