Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois will face off in a Democratic presidential debate in Austin Thursday.
The debate, to be held on the campus of the University of Texas, will air live on CNN, CNN International and CNN.com from 8 to 9:30 p.m. ET. The debate will also air in Spanish on Univision at 11:30 p.m. ET.
For both candidates, a great deal is at stake. This is the first time in three weeks that the two remaining major Democratic White House hopefuls have debated.
The debate comes at an important learning moment. Even though extreme right-wing Republicans hate John McCain they recognize the bigger enemy is Big Media. When the New York Times printed an attack on Republican McCain, the entire Republican Party came together to denounce the New York Times.
In contrast, during the many times Hillary Clinton has been unfairly attacked by Big Media, Democrats supporting Obama have rejoiced. That treachery by Democrats and allies will never be forgotten.
These “Democrats”, PINOs, Naderites, will reap what they sow.
Moderators: Jorge Ramos, John King, Campbell Brown
Hillary: 36 years ago I came to Austin for my very first job registering voters. I have met friends for a lifetime. Hard work, individual responsibility count for a lot. Barbara Jordon taught me a lot. Today would have been her birthday. My great friend Anne Richards taught me so much about determination. She reminded us that sometimes it is good to have a laugh. For me politics is about making a read difference in people’s lives. 3,600 children in Texas and 2,100 national guard members get health care because of the work I did. We will end discrimination against sick people. I will also take care of veterans. I offer a lifetime of experience and proven results. I ask you to join in my campaign, which is really your campaign. Thank you.
Obama: We are at a defining moment in our history. Our economy is in a shambles. I met a couple who have a predatory loan, a young woman who sleeps only 3 hours a night. I am also meeting veterans and the parents of those who have fallen as a consequence of a war that should never have been fought. Now, Senator Clinton and I have been talking about these issues. These problems have to be resolved. What is lacking is not good ideas. What is lacking is that Washington is a place where good ideas go to die. Too many politicians are interested in scoring points and not getting things done. Senator Clinton mentioned Barbara Jordon. She said Americans want an America as good as its promise.
Ramos: Fidel Castro resigned. Would you be willing to sit down with Raul Castro?
Hillary: This gives Cuba a chance. I want to see changes in political prisoners policy. I want to bring the region together. If Cuba moves towards democracy I will look for opportunities to help and consider a presidential visit. But I would not meet with him until there was evidence that they were committed to change. We’ve had this conversation before. I believe in diplomatic engagement but not a presidential visit unless there were conditions met.
Obama: The starting point should be the liberty of the Cuban people. We now have an opportunity. I would meet without preconditions though there has to be preparation. That preparation could take some time. I would not meet without preparations.
Brown: That’s not what you said earlier?
Obama: We have to change policy. That will happen in steps. First remittances and travel. As JFK said we should not fear to negotiate.
Hillary: I agree we should be willing to have relations with anyone. I have said that for example about Iran. It’s in our interest and the people of those countries. But there has been this difference between us on presidential visits. JFK expected a lot of preparatory work done. We should eliminate the Bush policy which is narrowly defined. I would get back to bipartisan diplomacy. I want to send a clear message to the world that the arrogance and preemption of the Bush Administration is over.
Obama: Preparation is critical. Either of us would step back from the Bush policies. But the president has to take a more active role in diplomacy. If there are preconditions it reinforces the idea that we are arrogant.
King: Economy. Differences between you two?
Obama: People have been struggling for a long time. This has to be a priority. Restore a sense of fairness and balance. End Bush tax cuts. Close tax loopholes. Engage in trade but have safety and environmental standards. Senator Clinton and I agree on many of these issues. The question people have to ask is how to get it done. The next president has to be able to overcome the special interests.
Hillary: I would agree with a lot of what Senator Obama has said. The wealthy and the well connected have had a president. We need a president for everyone. We need a trade prosecutor. We need much tougher standards on imports. We need much more vigorous enforcement. We need a moratorium on home foreclosures. 80,000 in Ohio, 86,000 in Texas. I would freeze interest rates for 5 years. In addition I have been promoting clean green jobs to put millions of Americans to work. Finally, we need to end George Bush’s war on science. We need to get back to being the innovation nation.
Ramos: Immigration. Would you stop immigration raids?
Hillary: I would consider stopping the raids in some situations. We need comprehensive immigration reform. Crack down on employers who exploit workers and lower wages. And in places like Laredo we need to help with costs. We also need a path to legalization.
Obama: I would add absolutely critical that we tone down the rhetoric. We have seen hate crimes skyrocket. We are a nation of laws and immigrants. We need comprehensive reform. We must require fines, back of the line, and learning of English for illegal immigrants. We also have to improve our relationship with Mexico. Bush promised leadership but Bush dropped the ball.
King: Border fence. You voted for the fence (HC).
Hillary: Senator Obama and myself voted for that as part of a larger bill. There is a dumb and smart way to protect the border. What I have said is we need to review this. There may be places that a fence makes sense. As usual the Bush Administration is going off the deep end.
King: Was your vote wrong?
Hillary: There is a lot we have learned about smart fencing. The way Bush is going about this, filing eminent doman, is wrong. There are limited places where a physical barrier will work. But a technological fence is an option.
Obama: We mostly entirely agree. I will reverse the Bush policy. It is important to deal with this problem as well as provide opportunity for the 12 million here.
Ramos: By 2050 there will be 150 million Spanish speakers in the U.S.
Hillary: It is important for Americans to be bilingual. But English has to remain our common unifying language. I have been against making English the official language. In NY we have over 170 languages spoken. I do think English remains an imporant part of the American experience.
Obama: Everyone should learn English. Every student should be learning a second language. Our students should learn to work across boundaries.
King: Tone. Credibility. Talk vs action.
Hillary: I have said all hat no cattle about Bush. Senator Obama and I have a lot in common. We care deeply about the future. We have run a very positive campaign. But there are differences. But I do offer solutions. It is what I offer to voters because it is what I have done all my life. There are also differences between our accomplishments. Words matter but actions speak louder than words.
Obama: Actions do speak louder than words. I have done many things in my life. Veterans who had to pay for their meals would say that I have engaged not only in talk but in action. There is a fundamental difference in how we think. She is saying “let’s get real”. This implys that people who vote for me are delusional. That the newspaper boards are delusional. They see Washington differently. Reduce the special interests or we will not get anything done. It is not just a matter of putting forward policy positions, we have to inspire people to go beyond divisions or we will continue to see gridlock.
Brown: There has been some attention on your speeches. The Clinton campaign has accused you of plagiarism.
Obama: Words matter. The notion that I have plagiarized from someone who gave me the lines is silly. This is silly season in politics. How are we going to create good jobs and good wages? What I talk about in these speeches, and some are pretty good, is about policy. These are specific concrete proposals.
Hillary: I think if your candidacy is going to be about words, they should be your words. This is not change you can believe in, it’s change you can Xerox. There is no doubt that you are an eloquent speaker. We do have to unite the country, but it has to be for a specific purpose. We have to overcome resistance to health care. Senator Edwards and I chose to put forward a universal health care plan. I put forward a moratorium on home foreclosures. Both you disagreed with. We have to do the hard work not of only bringing the country together but getting things done. When I took on universal health care it was against a firestorm. I don’t want to leave anyone out.
Obama: Senator Clinton mentioned 2 specific issue areas. We both want universal health care. She said my plan was good but now the politics have changed. I also want to reduce health care costs. We have a philosophical difference. Senator Clinton believes we must force everyone to purchase it. I believe people want it but can’t afford it. There are legitimate arguments for why Senator Clinton calls for a mandate. But we all want universal health care. I admire that she tried to get universal health care and there was opposition from the special interests but there was also a lot of secrecy which caused problems. We need to change the politics of how the plan will be implemented.
Hillary: We can get back on the path we were on. I will be comfortable in taking on McCain on fiscal irresponsibility.
Hillary: It will sort itself out. We will have a unified party and we will win in November.
Obama: I think these primaries and caucuses count for something.
Brown: Leadership. The moment that tested you the most?
Obama: No single moment. The tragectory of my life. Learning to take responsibility for my own actions.
Hillary: I’ve lived through some crisis and challenging moments in my life. I am grateful for the support and prayers of millions of Americans. All the challenges I have had are nothing like what Americans face. I went with Senator McCain to the Intrepid facility and saw many on wheelchairs and gurneys. The speaker had most of his face disfigured from a roadside bomb. I have been blessed. That is what motivates me to get up every morning. Whatever happens we will be fine. I just hope we will be able to say the same thing about the American people and that is what this election should be about.