South Carolina Demorcratic Debate Transcript: Part IV

South Carolina Democratic Debate Transcript: Final Portion (Part !V)

MALVEAUX: Congressman Clyburn earlier said today, "I think he can afford to tone it down." Is there a risk that he is overshadowing
your message and your voice?

CLINTON: Well, I think that he is very much advocating on my behalf, and I appreciate that. He is a tremendous asset. And he feels very strongly about this country and what's at stake and what out future should be.


I believe that this campaign is not about our spouses. It is about us. It is about each of us individually. Michelle and Elizabeth are strong and staunch advocates for their husbands, and I
respect that.

But, at the end of the day, voters are going to have to choose among us, and I think it's fair to say that really the most important decision is who would be the best president on day one, to deal with all the problems that we know are waiting for our next president? And the subsidiary question is, who can best withstand the Republicans and all that we know is coming from them in order to win in November 2008?

I believe strongly that I can make the best case for that. Obviously, my colleagues believe just as strongly.

So I think that we need to keep our focus on what's at stake in the election, what the future holds, what each of us will bring to this campaign and the presidency, because ultimately it's really not about any of us. It's about the people of South Carolina. It's about the people of America.

And my voice is their voice. What I want to do is take not only my 35 years of experience into the White House, but I want to take all those voices of these extraordinary Americans who come up to me and tell me their stories and give me hope and inspiration that I can do something for them. Because that's what it's about for me.

Politics is not a game. It is the most serious of business. We have seen that over the last seven years. We have seen what a difference it makes when we have a president who is indifferent to and insensitive about the real-life struggles of Americans, and I want to be the champion that once again gives Americans the feeling that they have a president who cares about them and can produce results for them. And that's what I intend to do.

BLITZER: I'm going to let both of the other senators respond. Then we'll take a quick break.
Go ahead, Senator Obama.

OBAMA: Well, Hillary's right. All of us have extraordinarily smart and effective advocates in our spouses.

And, as I've said before, I do not at all begrudge -- I would expect that Bill Clinton would campaign vigorously on your behalf. Obviously, he's the ex-president, so that means that the gets a lot of outsized attention and there's nothing long with that. That's, as you said, an asset to the campaign.

I have been troubled, and we already had this discussion, so I don't want to go over it again, the degree to which my record is not accurately portrayed. But that's standard practice in some of our political battles.

What I do want to focus on, though, is how important it is, when you talked about taking on the Republicans, how important it is I think to redraw the political map in this country. And the reason I say that is that we have gone through the 2000 election, the 2004 election, both of which were disappointing elections.

But the truth is that we as Democrats have not had a working majority in a very long time. And what I mean by that is a working majority that could push through the kinds of bold initiatives that all of us have proposed. And one of the reasons that I am running for president is because I believe that I can inspire new people to get
involved in the process, that I can reach out to independents and, yes, some Republicans who have also lost trust in their government and want to see something new.

When you look at Bush and Cheney and their record, the one good thing they've done for us is they have given their party a very bad name.


That gives us a unique opportunity in this election, and what we can't do, I think, is just to take the playing field as a given. We want to expand the scope of the electorate so that we can start getting a 60 percent majority, more folks in the House, more folks in the Senate, and I think that's something I can do.

OBAMA: And that's why we've seen record turnout in every election so far. I'm not taking all the credit for it. I think people are voting against George Bush. But I also think that we've
inspired people who had not previously voted before, and that's what the Democratic Party has to do.

BLITZER: Senator Edwards?

EDWARDS: I would just add on it's just really important for primary voters in South Carolina and all the other subsequent primaries to understand they're not just voting in a primary.

They're voting to establish what we're going to be doing next November and who our candidate will be next November. And it's becoming increasingly likely, I think, that John McCain is going to be the Republican candidate.

Now, here's what we have to be thinking about. Who will be tough enough and strong enough? And who can compete against John McCain in every place in America?

You know, I believe that I won't just be here campaigning in the South Carolina primary. When I'm the Democratic nominee, I'll be back in South Carolina campaigning for the general election.

And we can't concede places like South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Missouri, all these places around America where we know, everyone knows, that we always do well -- all three of us have been through this -- we always do well in Chicago, or New York, or Los Angeles, Seattle.

We do well in the big urban areas. The question is: Are we competitive in the rural areas, in the tougher places for Democrats to

And the only thing I would say -- and I think it has nothing to do with race and gender. Let me be really clear about that. It's amazing now that being the white male...

OBAMA: You're feeling all defensive about it, John. It's all right, man.

EDWARDS: ... is different.

What I was going to say, though, is being able to go everywhere in America and campaign and to compete -- and I grew up in the rural
south, in small towns all across the rural south, and I think I can go everywhere and compete head-to-head with John McCain.

And, actually, the last time I saw one of your polls that had all three of us against John McCain, I was the one that beat John McCain
everywhere in America.


And I think we need to be able to have a candidate when people are voting -- it's not the only consideration. Lord knows, if you
don't agree with what we stand for, and you don't believe in us, our character and our ability to lead this country, you should not vote for us, no matter what it means for the general election.

But if you believe in our passion, our strength, our toughness, our independence from these special interests -- I've never taken
money from a Washington lobbyist or a special interest PAC, which is different than these two guys, over our whole career.

But what I would say that I think what that means is I can go anywhere in America and compete against John McCain and win.

BLITZER: We have to take a quick break, but we have a lot more to talk about, much more of this presidential debate here in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, when we come back.


OBAMA: ... where in northern Nevada, in places like Elko, I won by 30 points. And we were attracting Independents and some Republicans. You know, this is the same way that I was able to win
the election in Illinois, going to downstate Illinois. So, I think it's important for us not to assume that we can't reach out to people
of all -- of all persuasions, and I want to just take one last example on this, and that is on the issue of faith.

OBAMA: You know, I am a proud Christian. And the...


I think there have been times -- there have been times where our Democratic Party did not reach out as aggressively as we could to evangelicals, for example, because the assumption was, well, they don't agree with us on choice, or they don't agree with us on gay rights, and so we just shouldn't show up. And when you don't show up, if you're not going to church, then you're not talking to church folk. And that means that people have a very right-wing perspective in terms
of what faith means and of defining our faith.

BLITZER: All right.

OBAMA: And as somebody who believes deeply in the precepts of Jesus Christ, particularly treating the least of these in a way that he would, that it is important for us to not concede that ground. Because I think we can go after those folks and get them.


BLITZER: All right. Suzanne has a question on faith to all of you.

CLINTON: But Wolf...

BLITZER: Hold...

CLINTON: ... let me just get in here, because there are a lot of polls showing that I'm beating them higher than anybody else. I don't
think that has -- I don't think, frankly, that has much to recommend this far from an election.

If John is right and Senator McCain is the Republican nominee, we know that once again we will have a general election about national
security. That is what will happen.

I believe of any one of us, I am better positioned and better able to take on John McCain or any Republican when it comes to issues
about protecting and defending our country and promoting our interest in the world. And if it is indeed the classic Republican campaign, I've been there. I've done that.

They've been after me for 16 years, and much to their dismay I am still here. And I intend to be still here when that election comes around and we win in November 2008.


EDWARDS: I just want to add that I think it's about -- I don't think it's about polls either, Hillary, by the way. But I do think it
is about fundamental differences between us and them. And this is a difference that you and I have.

You know, I think that John McCain has made central to his time in public life, in his campaign, campaign finance reform and cleaning
up the money in politics. And I think it's dangerous for us to send somebody against him who presents a contrast to what he represents. And I'm proud of the fact that I've never taken money from a Washington lobbyist or a special interest PAC.

EDWARDS: And I have a question -- I have a question that I'm interested in hearing you respond to. You've talked a lot about day
one. I've committed -- I don't know what Barack has said about this -- but I've committed not to have any corporate lobbyists working in my White House on the first day that I'm president.

Will you make the same commitment?

CLINTON: Well, you know, John, I will make the commitment to have people in the White House who are honest and trustworthy and put the interests of the United States first. But I think...

EDWARDS: Is that a no?

CLINTON: You know what? I don't know.


I don't know, because I'm not in favor of corporate lobbyists, but you keep drawing these artificial distinctions. You take money
from people who employ lobbyists, who are married to lobbyists, who are the children of lobbyists.

And, you know, at some point this gets really hard to take, because if you are someone like I am, who has withstood the full force of corporate lobbyists, starting with the health insurance companies, and the drug companies, and the oil companies, and everybody that I've taken on for all of these years, you know, I think I'm independent and tough enough to be able to deal with anybody. And that's what I
intend to do.


EDWARDS: Those people, though -- here's the problem, Hillary. Everybody is listening. They can make their own judgment about this. They don't have to depend on us. When somebody gives you millions and millions of dollars, I think they expect something. I don't think they're doing it for nothing.

CLINTON: Well, John, trial lawyers have given you millions and millions of dollars. So...

EDWARDS: And what they expect from me is they expect me to stand up for democracy, for the right to jury trial, for the right for little people to be heard in the courtroom. And that is exactly what I stand up for.

That is not the same thing. That is not the same thing as corporate lobbyists who are in there every single day lobbying against the interests of middle-class Americans. And I think we need a
president who can stand up.

We have a difference about this. You're entitled to your view. But we have a real difference about it.

CLINTON: No, we don't have a real difference. Where we stand is -- where I stand is for public financing. I'm going to do everything
I can to get public financing, to get the money out of American politics.

But, you know, Barack has a lot of lobbyists who are leading his campaign here in South Carolina. John has had lobbyists who've been
working hard for him all of these years.

The point is that you've got to say no. You've got to say no.

OBAMA: Let me interject.

CLINTON: And, yes, I think that we will say no consistently in order to have a positive agenda that is actually going to make a difference. Do you have to stand up to the lobbyists? Yes. But the lobbyists represent the interests that are paying the lobbyists. So to go and focus on the lobbyists, you know, kind of misses the point.

OBAMA: Let me just interject on this.

Hillary, you're right. Nobody's hands are perfectly clean in politics. That is true. I mean, there a distinction, though, between
not taking PAC and federal lobbyist money and having that as a major way of driving your campaign and having some ancillary involvement.

But, you know, I don't want to go down that route. What I want to really focus on is this issue of national security, because I think
you've repeated this a number of times. You are the person best prepared on national security issues on day one, and so if you're running against John McCain, that you can go toe-to-toe.

I fundamentally disagree with that. And I want to tell you why, because I believe that the way we are going to take on somebody like a
John McCain on national security is not that we're sort of -- we've been sort of like John McCain, but not completely, you know, we voted for the war, but we had reservations.

I think it's going to be somebody who can serve a strong contrast and say, "We've got to overcome the politics of fear in this country."
As commander-in-chief...


As commander-in-chief, all of us would have a responsibility to keep the American people safe. That's our first responsibility. And I would not hesitate to strike against anybody who would do Americans or American interests' harm.
But what I do believe...

BLITZER: All right.

OBAMA: Wait, Wolf, let me finish. I was listening to these folks quite some time.

What I do believe is that we have to describe a new foreign policy that says, for example, I will meet not just with our friends, but with our enemies, because I remember what John F. Kennedy said, that we should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate.

Having that kind of posture is the way I think we effectively debate the Republicans on this issue. Because if we just play into the same fear-mongering that they have been engaged in since 9/11, then we are playing on their battlefield, but, more importantly, we are not doing what's right in order to rebuild our alliances, repair our relationships around the world, and actually make us more safe in
the long term.

EDWARDS: And it requires that -- wait, wait. Both of them talked about it. You've got to let me say a word.

BLITZER: All right, 30 seconds, please.

EDWARDS: What it requires is having something beyond a short-term foreign policy of convenience. I mean, Bush has done extraordinary damage to us.

EDWARDS: But if we have a visionary foreign policy, where we re-establish America as a moral leader in the world, where we do the things that we need to do to combat global poverty, to deal with the spread of HIV/AIDS, the spread of disease at large, economic development, what it does is it takes an entire generation of young people who are sitting on the fence as I speak and on one side is Al Qaida and Bin Laden, Islamic jihad, and on the other side is the United States of America, which way do they go?

That depends entirely on us. If they continue to see this foreign policy of belligerence, selfishness, only interested in the
expansion of American power, we will drive them in the other direction.

If, on the other hand, they see America as the light, the source of hope and opportunity, it will pull them to us like a magnet. We need to be that light again.


BLITZER: Thank you, Senator.

We are completely out of time, but we have time for one final question that I'd like to ask all three of you to respond and, if possible, within one minute or less, and it's an important question on this important day.

And, Senator Edwards, let me start with you. If Dr. Martin Luther King were alive today, unfortunately, he's not, but if he were alive today, why do you think he would or why should he endorse you?

EDWARDS: For two reasons. One is that -- we've talked about this a great deal already -- I met with Martin III in Atlanta on Saturday and he was very kind about me pushing the single biggest
issue -- two biggest issues that Dr. King stood for, which are the issues of equality and ending poverty in America.

I've been on at least part of his poor people's campaign. I was in Marks, Mississippi, among other places. I mean, I have been
pushing this issue as aggressively and as loudly as I possibly can and I will do it as long as I'm alive, because it is central to what I believe.

He also worked very hard for the Voting Rights Act and he would look at an America today where almost half of our people don't vote. They're disenchanted. They -- Barack's spoken about this. They feel disengaged.

And what we need is a president of the United States who actually believes to their core in equality, who's willing to fight for that
equality, who's willing to do things that may not be politically popular. And fighting to end poverty in America may not get you any votes, but it is the right thing to do.


BLITZER: Senator?

OBAMA: Well, I don't think Dr. King would endorse any of us. I think what he would call upon the American people to do is to hold us
accountable, and this goes to the core differences, I think, in this campaign.

I believe change does not happen from the top down. It happens from the bottom up. Dr. King understood that.


It was those women who were willing to walk instead of ride the bus, union workers who are willing to take on violence and intimidation to get the right to organize. It was women who decided, "I'm as smart as my husband. I'd better get the right to vote."

OBAMA: them arguing, mobilizing, agitating, and ultimately forcing elected officials to be accountable, I think that's the key.

So that has been a hallmark of my career, transparency and accountability, getting the American people involved. That's how we're going to bring about change. That's why I want to be president of the United States, to respect the power of the American people to bring about change.


BLITZER: Senator Clinton?

CLINTON: Well, there is no doubt that change comes from the extraordinary efforts of the American people. I've seen it in my life. I'm sitting here as a result of that change.

It is also true -- and Dr. King understood this. He campaigned for political leaders. He lobbied them. He pushed them. He cajoled. He did everything he could to get them over the line so that they would be part of the movement that he gave his life for.

There are people sitting in this audience right now, John Lewis, Jim Clyburn, they were part of those kinds of efforts, going so far as
they could to make it clear that we had to live up to our values and our ideals.

And then there was a meeting of morality and politics. And the political leaders finally responded.

The American people should not have to work so hard to get leaders who will actually help them and recognize we are strongest when we lead by our values. Dr. King transformed the lives of so many
of us, and I intend to do whatever I can to make his legacy real in the lives of Americans.

BLITZER: Senators, that ends our debate. Thank you so very much. Thanks to all of you.


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