Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Barack Obama – debate tonight on CNN. The debate begins at 8:00 p.m. (ET). The debate will last 2 hours.
Wolf Blitzer will moderate. The first part of the debate will take place with each candidate standing and behind a podium. The second part of the debate will resemble the last two previous debates – there will be more of the candidates and less control by the moderators. Conversation between the candidates will be encouraged. The Congressional Black Caucus which is sponsoring the debate is in attendance. The debate takes place on the holiday to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Do not expect REZKO or Obama’s violation of the Democratic National Committee rules forbidding campaigning in Florida, to be mentioned. Expect attacks on Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. We welcome the possibility of being wrong.
Watch the debate on the internet HERE.
Joe Johns: Economy. How much money would your stimulus plan put in the pockets of average South Carolinian?
Clinton: My stimulus package would address the mortgage crisis with a moratorium. I also have a way to put provide money for energy costs. We will have money for rebates but the right rebates. Bush is proposing rebates that leaves many out. We need the right kind of stimulus. On Dr. King’s day we need to address his legacy for economic justice.
Obama: The King march was for jobs. It is critical to give a stimulus to the economy. Senator Clinton’s plan originally did not have rebates. We can stimulate the economy.
Edwards: I am proud to be here on Dr. King’s holiday. Central to his work was equality between the races. The chasm between rich and poor is widening. What Bush does, as Hillary pointed out, leaves out 50 million Americans. The difference between what I propose and the others is to create long term jobs and green jobs. They both support the Peru trade deal. This is crucial to South Carolina.
Obama: The plan for green jobs is a long term solution. We are sliding into a recession. John is right that the textile mills are closing. NAFTA was a mistake. Hillary says this was good for the economy. I disagree on Peru. Peru is the size of New Hampshire. John you voted for China trade.
Clinton: I want to clarify. I don’t want to open up the tax codes while Bush is in charge. I wanted to do it through spending. Rebate money was separate but things have become desperate. I do believe the green collar jobs are possible now. We can put hundreds and hundreds of young people to work today. From a jobs and justice effort we need to lay down the markers now. We have to hold the line against Bush.
Edwards: What I have proposed on green collar jobs would be available in 30 to 60 days. The problem with Peru Barack is you are leaving it in the hands of George Bush.
Obama: In a year’s time it will be me who is enforcing the rules. I first moved to Chicago as a community organizer, I know what it is for families to have the rug pulled out from under them. NAFTA was a tremendous problem. China trade which you voted for also was a tremendous problem.
Malveaux: Clinton says she pays for her programs.
Obama: What she says is not true. There are a set of assertions made by Senator Clinton and her husband are not true. When president Clinton says it is a fairy tale I did not oppose the war it is not true, same with Republican policies.
Clinton: I could not agree more. Your record and what you say does matter. It is difficult to trace what Senator Obama has said because he always says that is not what he meant. The Republicans had ideas but they were bad ideas. I can give you the quotes. You have a lot of money for foreign aid but not how you pay for them. Elections are about the future but you have to look to the record. Neither I nor my campaign are saying you did not oppose the war. You gave a great speech. The problem is that by the next year you took the speech off your website and you voted for funding time after time.
Obama: Hillary I will be happy to provide you with the information. BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN HILLARY and OBAMA. While I was fighting you were on the Board of Wal-Mart. I did not say that about Ronald Reagan. The irony of this is that you gave more praise to Ronald Reagan in a new book than I did.
Clinton: We’re just getting warmed up. In an editorial Board in Reno you said 2 different things. I never mentioned Ronald Reagan. You mentioned Ronald Reagan, not me. You said the Republicans had ideas. I fought against Reagan while you defended your contributor and slumlord REZKO.
Edwards: ….. Both Senator Obama and I have proposals on Social Security not Senator Clinton. Hillary does not want to talk about raising taxes.
Johns: Sub-prime loans and African-Americans. Have lenders specifically targeted African-Americans?
Edwards: Yes. They have targeted the most vulnerable families.
Blitzer: Does your plan prolong the agony?
Clinton: No it prevents the agony. The mortgage crisis is not only destroying the dream of home ownership is having a worldwide ripple effect. I disagree with those who say don’t do anything.
Obama: We should help but not the speculators. We have a history in this country of preying on poor people. The bankruptcy bill was like this. In the last debate Senator Clinton said she voted for the bill but was happy it did not pass.
Blitzer: Respond to the slumlord charge?
Obama: I worked for someone and a church group and I did a few hours work. Consistency matters. Truthfulness matters.
Clinton: I regretted voting for the bankruptcy bill. I opposed the second bankruptcy bill. There was an amendment on credit card charges over 30%. Obama voted for it. Senator Obama did the work of the insurance companies on the Illinois health care bill. Obama does not want his record examined.
Obama: I thought 30% was too high.
Edwards: You voted for it because it was too high????
Obama: We had not talked about it.
Clinton: But you voted for it and the credit card companies.
Clinton: It is difficult to have a discussion with you because you never take responsibilities for your votes. In Illinois Senator Obama voted 136 times “present”. Voted present on sex shops near schools. It is difficult to get a straight answer from Senator Obama.
Obama: The bill on sexual abuse I sponsored. I have family members who were victims of sexual abuse. There was a legal problem with it. You pick one vote. People are not wanting to say anything to get elected. I don’t mind having policy debates but I don’t enjoy having to enjoy these criticisms which are not factually accurate.
Clinton: That law is still on the books. It was never struck down.
Edwards: I do think it is important whether you are willing to take hard positions. People have to vote up or down. Why did you vote for over 100 times “present” instead of yes or no.
Obama: In Illinois you vote present if there are problems.
Edwards: You criticise us but you have done the same thing. You pick one vote from us, you do the same thing. What if I had not shown up to vote. It would have been safe for me.
Obama: Most of these votes had no political consequences. I opposed legislation that is now being used against me. It was not smart for me to oppose this war. Illinois has a different system than Washington.
Malveaux: Healthcare. Who would African-American women be better under your program?
Clinton: I do not leave anyone out. We can withstand the attacks that will come.
Johns: Does your healthcare plan cover illegal aliens?
Obama: No. We cover children. The issue is how are we going to get it done. Hillary Clinton and President Clinton tried to get it done in the wrong way, behind closed doors.
Edwards: None of our plans cover illegal aliens. I strengthen emergency room help. Senator Obama said we need to be honest about our positions. Senator Obama’s plan is not universal. Senator Obama has taken more money from the insurance companies.
Obama: I don’t take PAC money or federal lobbyist money. I’ve raised a lot of money. This is a legitimate policy debate. Hillary and John have in their plan a mandate which forces everyone to pay for insurance. Senator Clinton is not clear on how that will be enforced. The problem is that people can’t afford health care.
Edwards: The problem with this argument is that you can say the same thing about Social Security. Bush says people should be able to get out of Social Security if they want to.
Clinton: If you don’t start out trying to get Universal health care you won’t get there. It is imperative that from the very beginning we say everyone will be covered. My plan does that. This is a core Democratic principle. I am not going to start out leaving 15 million people out. Obama again has “evolved” . This is like the “present” votes. The Chicago papers said Obama voted present for political reasons. I am not going to put band aids on the problem. I will fight for this.
Obama: Folks are having to pay fines in Massachusetts because they can’t afford it. People will purchase it if they can afford it. I never said we should try for single payer. Your presentation of my positions is what has evolved.
Clinton: The surge pacified parts of Iraq. The purpose of the surge was to force the Iraqi government to move politically. What is moving the Iraqi government is what is happening here. They know they will not have a blank check once I am president.
Blitzer: John McCain says the surge is working. He says the U.S. must not surrender?
Edwards: He’s wrong. The surge was for political purposes.
Obama: I want us to be careful getting out. McCain says we can stay in for 100 years.
Clinton: I hope to have nearly all out within a year. The problem is that Bush is trying to have a long term agreement with Iraq. Bush thinks he will not need to go to our congress but only to the Iraqi congress. We have to reign in President Bush. We need legislation in a hurry. Bush cannot bind our country without going to congress.
Blitzer: Congressman Charlie Rangel said he likes you and is proud of you but that black voters should not do what makes them feel good but what is good for the nation?
Obama: African-Americans should do what is best for the country. We differ on what is best for the nation. I can unite the country and fight the special interests. His principle is right but he miscalculates on his equation.
Malveaux: Many African-American voters say voting for Obama would change how they see themselves?
Edwards: I am not going to tell African-American voters what to think. No one has been more aggressive on ending poverty than I. It is central to my campaign. We need to take on this moral challenge.
Clinton: When I left law school I went to work not for a law firm but for Marian Wright-Edelman. This infuses why I am in public services. Standing up time and time again for health care and children. But we need a reality check. How do we end poverty? The average AA family these past few years have lost income. During the 1990s income for AA went up $7600. We need a president who creates shared prosperity.
Obama: I have put forward a comprehensive poverty plan. But it is not just talking about it during a campaign. I started my career as a community organizer. One last point – the media has focused on race but as I travel around South Carolina people want to move beyond our divisions.
Edwards: Before I was involved in politics I was involved in faith ministries. I worked with the poorest of the poor. I don’t want to have the poor thought of as a statistic.
Johns: Obama, Toni Morrison called Bill Clinton the “first black president”. Do you agree?
Obama: Well, Bill Clinton had an enormous affinity for the African-American community. I have to investigate more Bill’s dancing abilities before I accurately judge whether he is a ‘brother’.
Clinton: I am sure that can be arranged. I want to echo what Barack has said. This campaign is part of making history. What better way to celebrate the birthday of Dr. King than to look on this stage. “Right has no sex, truth has no color” was said by Frederick Douglass. We are competing for the most important job in the world. We have to stay focused on the future.
Obama: I’m glad that Hillary and John were giving me a tough time because it shows I’m good. When I say we should not focus on my race or Hillary’s gender, we need to acknowledge that there is still racism. How do we pursue racial justice?
Clinton: We all have to address these issues. We also have to fight for gender equality. Women do not get equal pay and African-American women get even less. You don’t hear Republicans speak to these issues. We have a specific set of priorities.
Edwards: I was born in South Carolina in the segregated south. I saw things up close.
Malveaux: People think your husband’s voice is too loud. Is he overshadowing you?
Clinton: He is a strong advocate for me. He feels strongly about this country. Michelle and Elizabeth are strong advocates for their husbands. But the big question is who is ready on day one and who can resist the republicans. I think I make the best case for that. Ultimately this is not about us, it is about the people of South Carolina, it is about people who come to me and tell me their stories. Politics is not a game. We have seen for the past seven years a president who does not care.
Obama: All of us have smart and effective spouses. I do not begrudge Bill Clinton campaigning vigorously on your behalf. That is an asset to your campaign. I am troubled by not having my record accurately portrayed. When you say taking on the Republicans it is important to redraw the electoral map. We Democrats have not had a working majority for a long time. Bush and Cheney have given their party a very bad name. We want to expand the scope of the electorate to get 60% support.
Edwards: It is important for South Carolina to understand that they are not just voting in a primary but electing the next president. I will fight the Republicans. We always do well in Chicago and New York but not in rural areas. I grew up in the rural south, I can go everywhere.
Obama: John is right to compete everywhere. The polls I’ve seen show me winning. In Nevada I won in the north. We can reach out to all. On the issue of faith, I am a proud Christian. There have been times when the Democratic Party has not reached out to evangelicals.
Clinton: There are many polls showing me beating everyone too. We know that we will have a general election about national security. I believe I am better positioned on the issue of defending our country. The Republicans have been after me for 16 years and I’m still here.
Edwards: McCain has made central campaign finance reform. You talk about day 1 but I have committed to not having lobbyist in the White House.
Clinton: I will hire honest people. You employ lobbyists wives and others. I think I am tough enough to fight the lobbyists.
Edwards: When people give you money they expect something.
Clinton: You take money from trial attorneys.
Edwards: And they expect me to defend people.
Clinton: Lobbyists represent interests of the people paying the lobbyists.
Obama: No one is clean. On national security you say you are best prepared. I fundamentally disagree. We need to serve a strong contrast. We need to overcome the politics of fear. I will meet with our enemies and our friends.
Edwards: We need a visionary foreign policy.
Blitzer: final question. If Dr. King were alive why should he endorse you?
Edwards: I met with Martin III and he was happy that I was pushing the issues of equality and ending poverty.
Obama: Dr. King would not endorse any of us. He would hold us accountable. I believe change does not happen from the top down but from the bottom up. Transparency and accountablity is the hallmark of my career.
Clinton: Change comes from the extraordinary efforts of the American people. Dr. King pushed political leaders to get them over the line to become part of the movement. We are strongest when we lead by our values. I intend to make his legacy real.