MR. GIBSON: So we're going to begin with opening statements, and
we had a flip of the coin, and the brief opening statement first from
SEN. OBAMA: Thank you very much, Charlie and George, and thanks
to all in the audience and who are out there.
You know, Senator Clinton and I have been running for 15 months
now. We've been traveling across Pennsylvania for at least the last
five weeks. And everywhere I go, what I've been struck by is the core
decency and generosity of people of Pennsylvania and the American
But what I've also been struck by is the frustration. You know,
I met a gentleman in Latrobe who had lost his job and was trying to
figure out how he could find the gas money to travel to find a job.
And that story, I think, is typical of what we're seeing all across
the country. People are frustrated not only with jobs moving and
incomes being flat, health care being too expensive, but also that
special interests have come to dominate Washington, and they don't
feel like they're being listened to.
I think this election offers us an opportunity to change that, to
transform that frustration into something more hopeful, to bring about
real change. And I'm running for president to ensure that the
American people are heard in the White House. That's my commitment,
if the people of Pennsylvania vote for me and the people of America
vote for me.
MR. GIBSON: Senator Clinton?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, we meet tonight here in Philadelphia where
our founders determined that the promise of America would be available
for future generations if we were willing and able to make it happen.
You know, I am here, as is Senator Obama. Neither of us were
included in those original documents. But in a very real sense, we
demonstrate that that promise of America is alive and well. But it is
There is a lot of concern across Pennsylvania and America.
People do feel as though their government is not solving problems,
that it is not standing up for them, that we've got to do more to
actually provide the good jobs that will support families, deal once
and for all with health care for every American, make our education
system the true passport to opportunity, restore our standing in the
I am running for president because I know we can meet the
challenges of today, that we can continue to fulfill that promise that
was offered to successive generations of Americans starting here so
And I hope that this evening, voters in Pennsylvania and others
across the country will listen carefully to what we have to say, will
look at our records, will look at the plans we have.
And I offer those on my website, hillaryclinton.com, for more
detail. Because I believe with all my heart that we the people can
have the kind of future that our children and grandchildren so richly
MR. GIBSON: Thank you both.
And with that as preamble, we will take a very short commercial
break. And we will come back and begin 90 minutes of debate. The
Pennsylvania Democratic Debate continues after just one minute.
We'll begin each of the segments of this debate with
short quotes from the Constitution that are apropos to what we're
going to talk about. And it is good to be back here at the National
So let's start. And I'm going to give a general question, before
we get to the issues, to both of you on politics.
There have already been many votes in many states, and you have
each, as you analyze the vote, appealed disproportionately to
different constituencies in the party, and that dismays many in the
party. Governor Cuomo, an elder statesman in your party, has come
forward with a suggestion. He has said, look, fight it to the end.
Let every vote be counted. You contest every delegate. Go at each
other to the -- right till the end. Don't give an inch to one
another. But pledge now that whichever one of you wins this contest,
you'll take the other as your running mate, and that the other will
agree if they lose, to take second place on the ticket.
So I put the question to both of you: Why not?
Don't all speak at once. (Laughter.)
SEN. OBAMA: Well, I'm happy to start with a response. Look,
this has been an extraordinary journey that both Senator Clinton and I
have been on and a number of other able candidates. And I think very
highly of Senator Clinton's record. But as I've said before, I think
it's premature at this point for us to talk about who vice
presidential candidates will be because we're still trying to
determine who the nominee will be.
But one thing I'm absolutely certain of is that come August, when
we're in Denver, the Democratic Party will come together, because we
have no choice if we want to deliver on the promises that not only
we've made but the founders made. We are seeing peoples' economic
status slipping further and further behind. We've seen people who
have not only lost their jobs but now are at risk of losing their
We have a sharp contrast in terms of economic policies. John McCain
wants to continue four more years of George Bush policies and, on the
foreign policy front, wants to continue George Bush's foreign policy.
So I'm confident that both Senator Clinton's supporters and
Senator Obama's supporters will be supporting the Democratic nominee
when we start engaging in that general election.
MR. GIBSON: But Senator Clinton, Governor Cuomo made that
suggestion because he's not so sure. And other Democrats are not so
Just to quote from the Constitution again, "In every case,"
Article Two, Section One, "after the choice of the president, the
person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be
the vice president."
If it was good enough in colonial times, why not in these times.
SEN. CLINTON: Well, Charlie, I'm going to do everything I
possibly can to make sure that one of us takes the oath of office next
January. I think that has to be the overriding goal, whatever we have
Obviously we are still contesting to determine who will be the
nominee. But once that is resolved, I think it is absolutely
imperative that our entire party close ranks, that we become unified.
I will do everything to make sure that the people who supported
me support our nominee.
I will go anywhere in the country to make the case. And I know that
Barack feels the same way, because both of us have spent 15 months
traveling our country. I have seen the damage of the Bush years.
I've seen the extraordinary pain that people have suffered from
because of the failed policies; you know, those who have held my hands
who have lost sons or daughters in Iraq, and those who have lost sons
or daughters because they didn't have health insurance.
And so, regardless of the differences there may be between us,
and they are differences, they pale in comparison to the differences
between us and Senator McCain.
So we will certainly do whatever is necessary to make sure that a
Democrat is in the White House next January.
MR. GIBSON: All right. I will let this go. I don't think
Governor Cuomo has any takers yet.
Let me start with a question to you, Senator Obama.
SEN. OBAMA: Yes.
MR. GIBSON: Talking to a closed-door fundraiser in San Francisco
10 days ago, you got talking in California about small-town
Pennsylvanians who have had tough economic times in recent years. And
you said they get bitter, and they cling to guns or they cling to
their religion or they cling to antipathy toward people who are not
Now, you've said you misspoke; you said you mangled what it was you
wanted to say. But we've talked to a lot of voters. Do you
understand that some people in this state find that patronizing and
think that you said actually what you meant?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, I think there's no doubt that I can see how
people were offended. It's not the first time that I've made, you
know, a statement that was mangled up. It's not going to be the last.
But let me be very clear about what I meant, because it's
something that I've said in public, it's something that I've said in
television, which is that people are going through very difficult
times right now and we are seeing it all across the country. And that
was true even before the current economic hardships that are stemming
from the housing crisis. This is the first economic expansion that we
just completed in which ordinary people's incomes actually went down,
when adjusted for inflation, at the same time as their costs of
everything from health care to gas at the pump have skyrocketed.
And so the point I was making was that when people feel like
Washington's not listening to them, when they're promised year after
year, decade after decade, that their economic situation is going to
change, and it doesn't, then politically they end up focusing on those
things that are constant, like religion.
They end up feeling "This is a place where I can find some refugee.
This is something that I can count on." They end up being much more
concerned about votes around things like guns, where traditions have
been passed on from generation to generation. And those are
incredibly important to them.
And yes, what is also true is that wedge issues, hot-button
issues, end up taking prominence in our -- in our politics. And part
of the problem is that when those issues are exploited, we never get
to solve the issues that people really have to get some relief on,
whether it's health care or education or jobs.
So this i something that I've said before. It is something that
I will repeat again. And yes, people are frustrated and angry about
it, but what we're seeing in this election is the opportunity to break
through that frustration. And that's what our campaign has been
about, saying that if the American people get involved and engaged,
then we are going to start seeing change. And that's what makes this
MR. GIBSON: Senator Clinton?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, I am the granddaughter of a factory worker
from Scranton who went to work in the Scranton lace mills when he was
11 years old, worked his entire life there, mostly six-day weeks.
He was also very active in the Court Street Methodist Church.
And he raised three sons and was very proud that he sent all of them
I don't believe that my grandfather or my father, or the many
people whom I have had the privilege of knowing and meeting across
Pennsylvania over many years, cling to religion when Washington is not
listening to them. I think that is a fundamental, sort of,
misunderstanding of the role of religion and faith in times that are
good and times that are bad.
And I similarly don't think that people cling to their
traditions, like hunting and guns, either when they are frustrated
with the government. I just don't believe that's how people live
Now, that doesn't mean that people are not frustrated with the
government. We have every reason to be frustrated, particularly with
But I can see why people would be taken aback and offended by the
remarks. And I think what's important is that we all listen to one
another and we respect one another and we understand the different
decisions that people make in life, because we're a stronger country
because of that.
And certainly the weeks that I have spent criss-crossing
Pennsylvania, from Erie to Lancaster County, and meeting a lot of
wonderful people, says to me that despite whatever frustration anyone
has with our government, people are resilient, they are positive, and
they're ready for leadership again that will summon them to something
greater than themselves, and that we will deliver on that if given a
MR. GIBSON: We're going to have some other questions on the same
theme, so you'll be able to get back that.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me pick up on this. When these comments
from Senator Obama broke on Friday, Senator McCain's campaign
immediately said that it was going to be a killer issue in November.
Senator Clinton, when Bill Richardson called you to say he was
endorsing Barack Obama, you told him that Senator Obama can't win.
I'm not going to ask you about that conversation. I know you don't
want to talk about it. But a simple yes-or-no question: Do you think
Senator Obama can beat John McCain or not?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think we have to beat John McCain, and I
have every reason to believe we're going to have a Democratic
president and it's going to be either Barack or me. And we're going
to make that happen.
And what is important is that we understand exactly the
challenges facing us in order to defeat Senator McCain.
He will be a formidable candidate. There isn't any doubt about
that. He has a great American story to tell. He's a man who has
served our country with distinction over many years, but he has the
wrong ideas about America. And those ideas will be tested in the
cauldron of this campaign.
But I also know, having now gone through 16 years of being on the
receiving end of what the Republican Party dishes out, how important
it is that we try to go after every single vote everywhere we possibly
can to get to those electoral votes that we're going to need to have
the next president elected.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But the question is, do you think Senator
Obama can do that? Can he win?
SEN. CLINTON: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Now, I think that I can do a better job. (Laughter.) I mean,
obviously, that's why I'm here. I think I am better able and better
prepared in large measure because of what I've been through and the
work that I've done and the results that I've produced for people and
the coalition that I have put together in this campaign, that Charlie
referred to earlier.
Obviously, I believe I would be the best president, or I would
not still be here, standing on this stage, and I believe I'm the
better and stronger candidate against Senator McCain, to go toe to toe
with him on national security and on how we turn the economy around.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Obama, do yo think Senator Clinton
SEN. OBAMA: Absolutely, and I've said so before. But I too
think that I'm the better candidate. (Laughter.) And I don't think
that surprises anybody.
Let me just pick up on a couple of things that Senator Clinton
said, though, because during the course of the last few days, you
know, she's said I'm elitist, out of touch, condescending. Let me be
absolutely clear. It would be pretty hard for me to be condescending
towards people of faith, since I'm a person of faith and have done
more than most other campaigns in reaching out specifically to people
of faith, and have written about how Democrats make an error when they
don't show up and speak directly to people's faith, because I think we
can get those votes, and I have in the past.
The same is true with respect to gun owners. I have large
numbers of sportsmen and gun owners in my home state, and they have
supported me precisely because I have listened to them, and I know
So the problem that we have in our politics, which is fairly
typical, is that you take one person's statement, if it's not properly
phrased, and you just beat it to death. And that's what Senator
Clinton's been doing over the last four days. And I understand that.
That's politics, and I expect to have to go through this -- this
But I do think it's important to recognize that it's not helping
that person who's sitting at the kitchen table who is trying to figure
out how to pay the bills at the end of the month.
And Senator Clinton's right. She has gone through this. You
know, I recall when back in 1992, when she made a statement about how,
what do you expect, should I be at home baking cookies?
And people attacked her for being elitist and this and that. And
I remember watching that on TV and saying, well, that's not who she
is; that's not what she believes; that's not what she meant. And I'm
sure that that's how she felt as well.
But the problem is that that's the kind of politics that we've
been accustomed to. And I think Senator Clinton learned the wrong
lesson from it, because she's adopting the same tactics.
What the American people want are not distractions. They want to
figure out, how are we actually going to deliver on health care; how
are we going to deliver better jobs for people; how are we going to
improve their incomes; how are we going to send them to college?
That's what we have to focus on. And yes, they are in part
frustrated and angry, because this is what passes for our politics in
terms -- instead of figuring out, how do we build coalitions to
actually move things forward?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, could I --
MR. GIBSON: Senator Clinton, before I move on, do you want to do
a brief response?
SEN. CLINTON: Oh, I do.
Well, first of all, I want to be very clear. My comments were
about your remarks.
And I think that's important, because it wasn't just me responding to
them, it was people who heard them, people who felt as though they
were aimed at their values, their quality of life, the decisions that
they have made.
Now, obviously, what we have to do as Democrats is make sure we
get enough votes to win in November. And as George just said, you
know, the Republicans, who are pretty shrewd about what it takes to
win, certainly did jump on the comments.
But what's important here is what we each stand for and what our
records are and what we have done over the course of our lives to try
to improve the circumstances of those who deserve to live up to their
own potential, to make the decisions that are right for them and their
families. And I think year after year for now 35 years, I have a
proven record of results.
And what I'm taking into this campaign is my passion for
empowering people, for giving people the feeling that they can make a
better future for themselves. And I think it's important that that
starts from a base of respect and connection in order to be able to
get people to follow you and believe that you will lead them in the
MR. GIBSON: Senator Obama, since you last debated, you made a
significant speech in this building on the subject of race and your
former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. And you said subsequent
to giving that speech that you never heard him say from the pulpit the
kinds of things that so have offended people.
But more than a year ago, you rescinded the invitation to him to
attend the event when you announced your candidacy. He was to give
the invocation. And according to the reverend, I'm quoting him, you
said to him, "You can get kind of rough in sermons. So what we've
decided is that it's best for you not to be out there in public." I'm
quoting the reverend. But what did you know about his statements that
caused you to rescind that invitation?
SEN. OBAMA: Well --
MR. GIBSON: And if you knew he got rough in sermons, why did it
take you more than a year to publicly disassociate yourself from his
SEN. OBAMA: Well, understand that I hadn't seen the remarks that
ended up playing on youTube repeatedly. This was a set of remarks
that had been quoted in Rolling Stone Magazine and we looked at them
and I thought that they would be a distraction since he had just put
But, Charlie, I've discussed this extensively. Reverend Wright
is somebody who made controversial statements but they were not of the
sort that we saw that offended so many Americans. And that's why I
specifically said that these comments were objectionable; they're not
comments that I believe in.
And I disassociated myself with them.
What I also said was, the church and the body of Reverend
Wright's work, over the course of 30 years, were not represented in
those snippets that were shown on television, and that the church has
done outstanding work in ministries on HIV/AIDS, prison ministries,
providing people with the kind of comfort that we expect in our
And so what I think I tried to do in the speech here at the
Constitution Center was speak to a broader context, which is that
there is anger in the African American community that sometimes gets
expressed, whether in the barbershop or in the church.
That's true not just in the African American community. That's
true in other communities as well. But what we have the opportunity
to do is to move beyond it. And that's what I think my candidacy
And Senator Clinton mentioned earlier that we have to connect
with people. That's exactly what we've done throughout this campaign.
The reason we've attracted new people into the process, the
reason we've generated so much excitement, the reason that we have
been so successful in so many states across the country, bridging
racial lines, bridging some of the old divisions, is because people
recognize that unless we do, then we're not going to be able to
deliver on the promises that people hear every 4 years, every 8 years,
every 12 years.
And it's my job in this campaign to try to move beyond some of those
divisions, because when we are unified, there is nothing that we
MR. GIBSON: Senator Clinton, let me -- I'm sorry, go ahead.
Senator Clinton, let me follow up, and let me add to that. You have
said that he would not have been my pastor, and you said that you have
to speak out against those kinds of remarks, and implicitly by getting
up and moving, and I presume you mean out of the church.
There are 8,000 members of Senator Obama's church. And we have
heard the inflammatory remarks of Reverend Wright, but so too have we
heard testament to many great things that he did. Do you honestly
believe that 8,000 people should have gotten up and walked out of that
SEN. CLINTON: I was asked a personal question, Charlie, and I
gave a personal answer. Obviously, one's choice of church and pastor
is rooted in what one believes is what you're seeking in church and
what kind of, you know, fellowship you find in church. But I have to
say that, you know, for Pastor Wright to have given his first sermon
after 9/11 and to have blamed the United States for the attack, which
happened in my city of New York, would have been intolerable for me.
And therefore I would have not been able to stay in the church, and
maybe it's, you know, just, again, a personal reflection that
regardless of whatever good is going on -- and I have no reason to
doubt that a lot of good things were happening in that church -- you
get to choose your pastor. You don't choose your family, but you get
to choose your pastor. And when asked a direct question, I said I
would not have stayed in the church.
SEN. OBAMA: Well, let me just respond to -- to two things.
Absolutely many of these remarks were objectionable. I've already
said that I didn't hear them, because I wasn't in church that day. I
didn't learn about those statements until much later.
MR. GIBSON: But you did rescind the invitation to him --
SEN. OBAMA: But that was on -- that was on something entirely
different, Charlie. That -- that was on a different statement. And I
think that what Senator Clinton referred to was extremely offensive,
to me and a lot of people.
But what I should also point out is that Senator Clinton's former
pastor, I think, publicly talked about how Reverend Wright was being
caricatured and that in fact this is somebody who had maintained an
extraordinary ministry for many years.
And so there are two important points: Number one, I wasn't aware of
all these statements, and I can understand how people would take
offense; but number two, the church is a community that extends beyond
the pastor and that church has done outstanding work for many, many
The third point I guess I would make is once again that unless we
can bridge some of these divides we're not going to solve problems in
this country. And what my entire body of work over the last 20 years
has been devoted to is getting blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians,
Native Americans, young, old to work together, starting when I was a
community organizer. And my own life embodies that diversity. That's
what America's about and that's what this campaign has been about.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator, two questions. Number one, do you
think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do? And number
two, if you get the nomination, what will you do when those sermons
are played on television again and again and again?
SEN. OBAMA: You know, George, look, if it's not this, then it
would be something else. I promise you, if Senator Clinton got the
nomination, there will be a whole bunch of video clips about other
things. In a general election, we know that there are going to be all
kinds of attacks launched and leveled. There have been quite a few
leveled in this primary campaign.
And I have confidence in the American people that when you talk
to the American people honestly and directly about what I believe in,
what my plans are on health care, on energy, when they see my track
record of the work that I've done on behalf of people who really need
help, I have absolute confidence that they can rally behind my
And, you know, the notion that somehow that the American people
are going to be distracted once again by comments not made by me but
by somebody who is associated with me, that I have disowned, I think
doesn't give the American people enough credit.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You've disowned him?
SEN. OBAMA: The comments, comments that I've disowned. Then
that is not something that I think --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But you do believe he's as patriotic as you
SEN. OBAMA: This is somebody who's a former Marine. And so I
have -- I believe that he loves this country, but I also believe that
he's somebody who, because of the experiences he's had over the course
of a lifetime, is also angry about the injustices that he's seen.
MR. GIBSON: I'm getting a little out of balance here. Do you
want to take a few seconds, or do you want to go to the next question?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think, in addition to the questions about
Reverend Wright and what he said and when he said it, and for whatever
reason he might have said these things, there were so many different
variations on the explanations that we heard. And it is something
that I think deserves further exploration, because clearly what we've
got to figure out is how we're going to bring people together in a way
that overcomes the anger, overcomes the divisiveness and whatever
bitterness there may be out there.
It is clear that, as leaders, we have a choice who we associate
with and who we apparently give some kind of seal of approval to. And
I think that it wasn't only the specific remarks, but some of the
relationships with Reverend Farrakhan, with giving the church bulletin
over to the leader of Hamas to put a message in. You know, these are
problems, and they raise questions in people's minds.
And so this is a legitimate area, as everything is when we run
for office, for people to be exploring and trying to find answers.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Clinton, we also did a poll today,
and there are also questions about you raised in this poll. About six
in 10 voters that we talked to say they don't believe you're honest
and trustworthy. And we also asked a lot of Pennsylvania voters for
questions they had. A lot of them raised this honesty issue and your
comments about being under sniper fire in Bosnia.
Here's Tom Rooney from Pittsburgh.
Q: Senator, I was in your court until a couple of weeks ago.How do you reconcile the campaign of credibility that you have whenyou've made those comments about what happened getting off the planein Bosnia, which totally misrepresented what really happened on thatday? You really lost my vote. And what can you tell me to get thatvote back?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, Tom, I can tell you that I may be a lot ofthings, but I'm not dumb. And I wrote about going to Bosnia in mybook in 2004. I laid it all out there. And you're right. On acouple of occasions in the last weeks I just said some things thatweren't in keeping with what I knew to be the case and what I hadwritten about in my book. And, you know, I'm embarrassed by it. Ihave apologized for it. I've said it was a mistake. And it is, Ihope, something that you can look over, because clearly I am proudthat I went to Bosnia. It was a war zone.General Wesley Clark is here in the audience with me as one of mymajor supporters. He and I were talking about it before I came out.You know, our soldiers were there to try to police and keep the peacein a very dangerous area. They were totally in battle gear. Therewere concerns about the potential dangers. The former president ofBosnia has said that he was worried about the safety of the situation.So I know that it is something that some people have said, "Waita minute. What happened here?" But I have talked about this andwritten about it. And then, unfortunately, on a few occasions I wasnot as accurate as I have been in the past.But I know too that, you know, being able to rely on myexperience of having gone to Bosnia, gone to more than 80 countries,having represented the United States in so many different settingsgives me a tremendous advantage going into this campaign, particularlyagainst Senator McCain.So I will either try to get more sleep, Tom, or, you know, havesomebody who, you know, is there as a reminder to me. You know, youcan go back for the past 15 months. We both have said things that,you know, turned out not to be accurate. You know, that happens whenyou're talking as much as we have talked.But you know, I'm very sorry that I said it. And I have saidthat, you know, it just didn't jibe with what I had written about andknew to be the truth.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Obama, your campaign has sent out acascade of e-mails, just about every day, questioning SenatorClinton's credibility. And you yourself have said she hasn't beenfully truthful about what she would do as president.Do you believe that Senator Clinton has been fully truthful abouther past?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, look, I think that Senator Clinton has astrong record to run on. She wouldn't be here if she didn't. And youknow, I haven't commented on the issue of Bosnia. You know, I --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Your campaign has.
SEN. OBAMA: Of course, but --
SEN. CLINTON: (Laughs.)
SEN. OBAMA: Because we're asked about it.But look, the fact of the matter is, is that both of us areworking as hard as we can to make sure that we're delivering a messageto the American people about what we would do as president.Sometimes that message is going to be imperfectly delivered, becausewe are recorded every minute of every day. And I think SenatorClinton deserves, you know, the right to make some errors once in awhile. I'm -- obviously, I make some as well.I think what's important is to make sure that we don't get soobsessed with gaffes that we lose sight of the fact that this is adefining moment in our history. We are going to be tackling some ofthe biggest issues that any president has dealt with in the last 40years. Our economy is teetering not just on the edge of recession,but potentially worse. Our foreign policy is in a shambles. We areinvolved in two wars. People's incomes have not gone up, and theircosts have. And we're seeing greater income inequality now than anytime since the 1920s.In those circumstances, for us to be obsessed with this -- thesekinds of errors I think is a mistake. And that's not what ourcampaign has been about.What our campaign has been about is offering some specific solutionsto how we move these issues forward and identifying the need to changethe culture in Washington, which we haven't talked at all about, butthat has blocked real reform decade after decade after decade. That,I think, is the job of the next president of the United States.That's what I intend to do. That's why I'm running.
MR. GIBSON: And Senator Obama, I want to do one more question,which goes to the basic issue of electability. And it is a questionraised by a voter in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, a woman by the name ofNash McCabe. Take a look.NASH MCCABE (Latrobe, Pennsylvania): (From videotape.) SenatorObama, I have a question, and I want to know if you believe in theAmerican flag. I am not questioning your patriotism, but all ourservicemen, policemen and EMS wear the flag. I want to know why youdon't.Just to add to that, I noticed you put one onyesterday. But -- you've talked about this before, but it comes upagain and again when we talk to voters. And as you may know, it isall over the Internet. And it's something of a theme that SenatorsClinton and McCain's advisers agree could give you a majorvulnerability if you're the candidate in November. How do youconvince Democrats that this would not be a vulnerability?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, look, I revere the American flag, and I wouldnot be running for president if I did not revere this country. Thisis -- I would not be standing here if it wasn't for this country.And I've said this -- again, there's no other country in which mystory is even possible; somebody who was born to a teenage mom, raisedby a single mother and grandparents from small towns in Kansas, youknow, who was able to get an education and rise to the point where Ican run for the highest office in the land. I could not help but lovethis country for all that it's given me.And so what I've tried to do is to show my patriotism by how Itreat veterans when I'm working in the Senate Veterans AffairsCommittee; by making sure that I'm speaking forcefully about how weneed to bring this war in Iraq to a close, because I think it is notserving our national security well and it's not serving our militaryfamilies and our troops well; talking about how we need to restore asense of economic fairness to this country because that's what thiscountry has always been about, is providing upward mobility andladders to opportunity for all Americans. That's what I love aboutthis country. And so I will continue to fight for those issues.And I am absolutely confident that during the general electionthat when I'm in a debate with John McCain, people are not going to bequestioning my patriotism, they are going to be questioning how canyou make people's lives a little bit better.And let me just make one last point on this issue of the flagpin. As you noted, I wore one yesterday when a veteran handed it tome, who himself was disabled and works on behalf of disabled veterans.I have never said that I don't wear flag pins or refuse to wear flagpins. This is the kind of manufactured issue that our politics hasbecome obsessed with and, once again, distracts us from what should bemy job when I'm commander in chief, which is going to be figuring outhow we get our troops out of Iraq and how we actually make our economybetter for the American people.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator, if you get the nomination, you'llhave to -- (applause) -- (inaudible).I want to give Senator Clinton a chance to respond, but first afollow-up on this issue, the general theme of patriotism in yourrelationships. A gentleman named William Ayers, he was part of theWeather Underground in the 1970s. They bombed the Pentagon, theCapitol and other buildings. He's never apologized for that. And infact, on 9/11 he was quoted in The New York Times saying, "I don'tregret setting bombs; I feel we didn't do enough."An early organizing meeting for your state senate campaign washeld at his house, and your campaign has said you are friendly. Canyou explain that relationship for the voters, and explain to Democratswhy it won't be a problem?
SEN. OBAMA: George, but this is an example of what I'm talkingabout.This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor ofEnglish in Chicago, who I know and who I have not received someofficial endorsement from. He's not somebody who I exchange ideasfrom on a regular basis.And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowingsomebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago when I was 8years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn't make muchsense, George.The fact is, is that I'm also friendly with Tom Coburn, one ofthe most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, whoduring his campaign once said that it might be appropriate to applythe death penalty to those who carried out abortions.Do I need to apologize for Mr. Coburn's statements? Because Icertainly don't agree with those either.So this kind of game, in which anybody who I know, regardless ofhow flimsy the relationship is, is somehow -- somehow their ideascould be attributed to me -- I think the American people are smarterthan that. They're not going to suggest somehow that that isreflective of my views, because it obviously isn't.
SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think that is a fair general statement,but I also believe that Senator Obama served on a board with Mr. Ayersfor a period of time, the Woods Foundation, which was a paiddirectorship position.And if I'm not mistaken, that relationship with Mr. Ayers on thisboard continued after 9/11 and after his reported comments, which weredeeply hurtful to people in New York, and I would hope to everyAmerican, because they were published on 9/11 and he said that he wasjust sorry they hadn't done more. And what they did was set bombs andin some instances people died. So it is -- you know, I think it is,again, an issue that people will be asking about. And I have no doubt-- I know Senator Obama's a good man and I respect him greatly but Ithink that this is an issue that certainly the Republicans will beraising.And it goes to this larger set of concerns about, you know, howwe are going to run against John McCain. You know, I wish theRepublicans would apologize for the disaster of the Bush-Cheney yearsand not run anybody, just say that it's time for the Democrats to goback into the White House. (Laughter, applause.)know that they're going to be out there, full force. And you know,I've been in this arena for a long time. I have a lot of baggage, andeverybody has rummaged through it for years. (Laughter.) And sotherefore, I have, you know, an opportunity to come to this campaignwith a very strong conviction and feeling that I will be able towithstand whatever the Republican sends our way.
SEN. OBAMA: I'm going to have to respond to this just reallyquickly, but by Senator Clinton's own vetting standards, I don't thinkshe would make it, since President Clinton pardoned or commuted thesentences of two members of the Weather Underground, which I think isa slightly more significant act than me --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Applauds.)
MR. GIBSON: Please.
SEN. OBAMA: -- than me serving on a board with somebody foractions that he did 40 years ago.Look, there is no doubt that the Republicans will attack eitherof us. What I've been able to display during the course of thisprimary is that I can take a punch. I've taken some pretty good onesfrom Senator Clinton. And I don't begrudge her that. That's part ofwhat the political contest is about.I am looking forward to having a debate with John McCain, and Ithink every poll indicates that I am doing just as well, if notbetter, in pulling together the coalition that will defeat JohnMcCain.And when it comes to November, and people are going into thepolling place, they're going to be asking, are we going to go throughfour more years of George Bush economic policies; are we going to gothrough four more years of George Bush foreign policy?And if we as Democrats and if I as the nominee have put forward aclear vision for how we're going to move the country forward, dealwith issues like energy dependence, lower gas prices, provide healthcare, get our troops out of Iraq, that is a debate that I'm happy tohave and a debate that I'm confident I can win.
MR. GIBSON: And Senator Clinton, I'm getting out of balance interms of time.
SEN. CLINTON: I've noticed. (Laughs.)
MR. GIBSON: And you're getting shortchanged here. And so if youwant to reply here, fine. If you want to wait, we'll do it in thenext half hour.
SEN. CLINTON: We can wait.
MR. GIBSON: All right.We will take a commercial break. We will come back. And theDemocratic debate, from the city of Philadelphia before thePennsylvania primary, will continue. Stay with us. (Applause.)(Announcements.)Another quote from the Constitution, apropos becausewe are here, as you heard just a moment ago, at the ConstitutionCenter.Senator Clinton, a question for you. We talked about themilitary applications from the Constitution and this is a questionthat involves the war in Iraq. It comes from Mandy Garber ofPittsburgh. Take a look.MANDY GARBER (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania): So, the real questionis, I mean, do the candidates have a real plan to get us out of Iraqor is it just real campaign propaganda? And you know, it's reallyunclear. They keep saying we want to bring the troops back, butconsidering what's happening on the ground, how is that going tohappen?Let me just add a little bit to that question,because your communications director in your campaign, Howard Wolfsonon a conference call recently was asked, "Is Senator Clinton going tostick to her announced plan of bringing one or two brigades out ofIraq every month whatever the realities on the ground?" And Wolfsonsaid, "I'm giving you a one-word answer so we can be clear about it,the answer is yes."So if the military commanders in Iraq came to you on day one andsaid this kind of withdrawal would destabilize Iraq, it would set backall of the gains that we have made, no matter what, you're going toorder those troops to come home?
SEN. CLINTON: Yes, I am, Charlie. And here's why: You know,thankfully we have a system in our country of civilian control of themilitary. And our professional military are the best in the world.They give their best advice and then they execute the policies of thepresident. I have watched this president as he has continued tochange the rationale and move the goalposts when it comes to Iraq.And I am convinced that it is in America's best interest, it isin the best interest of our military, and I even believe it is in thebest interest of Iraq, that upon taking office, I will ask thesecretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and my securityadvisers to immediately put together for me a plan so that I can beginto withdraw within 60 days. I will make it very clear that we will doso in a responsible and careful manner, because obviously, withdrawingtroops and equipment is dangerous.I will also make it clear to the Iraqis that they no longer havea blank check from the president of the United States, because Ibelieve that it will be only through our commitment to withdraw thatthe Iraqis will begin to do what they have failed to do for all ofthese years.I will also begin an intensive diplomatic effort, both within theregion and internationally, to begin to try to get other countries tounderstand the stakes that we all face when it comes to the future ofIraq.But I have been convinced and very clear that I will begin towithdraw troops within 60 days. And we've had other instances in ourhistory where some military commanders have been very publicly opposedto what a president was proposing to do.But I think it's important that this decision be made, and I intend tomake it.
MR. GIBSON: But Senator Clinton, aren't you saying -- I mean,General Petraeus was in Washington. You both were there when hetestified, saying that the gains in Iraq are fragile and arereversible. Are you essentially saying, "I know better than themilitary commanders here"?
SEN. CLINTON: No, what I'm saying, Charlie, is that no one canpredict what will happen. There are many different scenarios. Butone thing I am sure of is that our staying in Iraq, our continuing tolose our men and women in uniform, having many injured, the Iraqicasualties that we are seeing as well, is -- is no way for us tomaintain a strong position in the world.It's not only about Iraq. It is about ending the war in Iraq, sothat we can begin paying attention to all of the other problems wehave. There isn't any doubt that Afghanistan has been neglected. Ithas not gotten the resources that it needs. We hear that from ourmilitary commanders responsible for that region of the world. Andthere are other problems that we have failed to address.So the bottom line for me is, we don't know what will happen aswe withdraw. We do know what will happen if we stay mired in Iraq.The Iraqi government will not accept responsibility for its ownfuture.Our military will continue to be stretched thin, and our soldiers willbe on their second, third, even their fourth deployment. And we willnot be able to reassert our leadership and our moral authority in theworld.And I think those are the kind of broad issues that a presidenthas to take into account.
MR. GIBSON: And Senator Obama, your campaign manager, DavidPlouffe, said, when he is -- this is talking about you -- when he iselected president, we will be out of Iraq in 16 months at the most;there should be no confusion about that.So you'd give the same rock-hard pledge, that no matter what themilitary commanders said, you would give the order: Bring them home.
SEN. OBAMA: Because the commander in chief sets the mission,Charlie. That's not the role of the generals. And one of the thingsthat's been interesting about the president's approach lately has beento say, well, I'm just taking cues from General Petraeus.Well, the president sets the mission. The general and our troopscarry out that mission. And unfortunately we have had a bad mission,set by our civilian leadership, which our military has performedbrilliantly. But it is time for us to set a strategy that is going tomake the American people safer.Now, I will always listen to our commanders on the ground withrespect to tactics. Once I've given them a new mission, that we aregoing to proceed deliberately in an orderly fashion out of Iraq and weare going to have our combat troops out, we will not have permanentbases there, once I've provided that mission, if they come to me andwant to adjust tactics, then I will certainly take theirrecommendations into consideration; but ultimately the buck stops withme as the commander in chief.And what I have to look at is not just the situation in Iraq, butthe fact that we continue to see al Qaeda getting stronger inAfghanistan and in Pakistan, we continue to see anti-Americansentiment fanned all cross the Middle East, we are overstretched in away -- we do not have a strategic reserve at this point. If there wasanother crisis that was taking place, we would not have a brigade thatwe could send to deal with that crisis that isn't already scheduled tobe deployed in Iraq. That is not sustainable. That's not smartnational security policy, and it's going to change when I'm president.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Obama, let's stay in the region.Iran continues to pursue a nuclear option. Those weapons, if they gotthem, would probably pose the greatest threat to Israel. During theCold War, it was the United States policy to extend deterrence to ourNATO allies. An attack on Great Britain would be treated as if itwere an attack on the United States.
SEN. OBAMA: Well, our first step should be to keep nuclearweapons out of the hands of the Iranians, and that has to be one ofour top priorities. And I will make it one of our top priorities whenI'm president of the United States.I have said I will do whatever is required to prevent theIranians from obtaining nuclear weapons. I believe that that includesdirect talks with the Iranians where we are laying out very clearlyfor them, here are the issues that we find unacceptable, not onlydevelopment of nuclear weapons but also funding terroristorganizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as their anti-Israelrhetoric and threats towards Israel. I believe that we can offer themcarrots and sticks, but we've got to directly engage and makeabsolutely clear to them what our posture is.Now, my belief is that they should also know that I will take nooptions off the table when it comes to preventing them from usingnuclear weapons or obtaining nuclear weapons, and that would includeany threats directed at Israel or any of our allies in the region.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So you would extend our deterrent to Israel?
SEN. OBAMA: As I've said before, I think it is very importantthat Iran understands that an attack on Israel is an attack on ourstrongest ally in the region, one that we -- one whose security weconsider paramount, and that -- that would be an act of aggressionthat we -- that I would -- that I would consider an attack that isunacceptable, and the United States would take appropriate action.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Clinton, would you?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, in fact, George, I think that we should belooking to create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much furtherthan just Israel. Of course I would make it clear to the Iraniansthat an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from theUnited States, but I would do the same with other countries in theregion.You know, we are at a very dangerous point with Iran. The Bushpolicy has failed. Iran has not been deterred. They continue to tryto not only obtain the fissile material for nuclear weapons but theyare intent upon and using their efforts to intimidate the region andto have their way when it comes to the support of terrorism in Lebanonand elsewhere.And I think that this is an opportunity, with skillful diplomacy,for the United States to go to the region and enlist the region in asecurity agreement vis-a-vis Iran. It would give us three tools wedon't now have.Number one, we've got to begin diplomatic engagement with Iran,and we want the region and the world to understand how serious we areabout it. And I would begin those discussions at a low level. Icertainly would not meet with Ahmadinejad, because even again today hemade light of 9/11 and said he's not even sure it happened and thatpeople actually died. He's not someone who would have an opportunityto meet with me in the White House. But I would have a diplomaticprocess that would engage him.And secondly, we've got to deter other countries from feelingthat they have to acquire nuclear weapons. You can't go to the Saudisor the Kuwaitis or UAE and others who have a legitimate concern about
Iran and say: Well, don't acquire these weapons to defend yourselfunless you're also willing to say we will provide a deterrent backupand we will let the Iranians know that. Yes, an attack on Israelwould trigger massive retaliation, but so would an attack on thosecountries that are willing to go under this security umbrella andforswear their own nuclear ambitions.And finally we cannot permit Iran to become a nuclear weaponspower. And this administration has failed in our efforts to convincethe rest of the world that that is a danger, not only to us and notjust to Israel but to the region and beyond.Therefore we have got to have this process that reaches out,beyond even who we would put under the security umbrella, to get therest of the world on our side to try to impose the kind of sanctionsand diplomatic efforts that might prevent this from occurring.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me turn to the economy. That is thenumber one issue on Americans' minds right now.Yesterday, Senator McCain singled that the number one issue, inthe general election campaign on the economy, is going to be taxes.And he says that both of you are going to raise taxes, not just on thewealthy but on everyone. Here's what he said in his speech yesterday.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): (Pre-recorded remarks.) All these taxincreases are under the fine print of the slogan: hope.They're going to raise your taxes by thousands of dollars a year.And they have the audacity to hope you don't mind.(Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Clinton, two-part question.
Two-part question: Can you make an absolute, read-my-lips pledgethat there will be no tax increases of any kind for anyone earningunder $200,000 a year?And if the economy is as weak a year from now as it is today, will you-- will you persist in your plans to roll back President Bush's taxcuts for wealthier Americans?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, George, I have made a commitment that I willlet the taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year go back tothe rates that they were paying in the 1990s.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if the economy is weak?
SEN. CLINTON: Yes. And here's why: Number one, I do notbelieve that it will detrimentally affect the economy by doing that.As I recall, you know, we used that tool during the 1990s to very goodeffect and I think we can do so again.I am absolutely committed to not raising a single tax on middleclass Americans, people making less than $250,000 a year. In fact, Ihave a very specific plan of $100 billion in tax cuts that would go tohelp people afford health care, security retirement plans, you know,make it possible for people to get long-term care insurance and carefor their parents and grandparents who they are trying to support,making college affordable and so much else.Well, if you look at how we'd have to sequence that, we might notbe able to do all of that at once. But if you go to my website,HillaryClinton.com, it is laid out there how I will pay foreverything, because everything I have proposed, I have put in how Iwould pay for it.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: An absolute commitment, no middle-class taxincreases of any kind.
SEN. CLINTON: No, that's right. That is my commitment.
MR. GIBSON: Senator Obama?
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Would you take the same pledge?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, I not only have pledged not to raise theirtaxes, I've been the first candidate in this race to specifically sayI would cut their taxes.And one of the centerpieces of my economic plan would be to saythat we are going to offset the payroll tax, the most regressive ofour taxes, so that families who are earning -- who are middle-incomeindividuals making $75,000 a year or less, that they would get a taxbreak so that families would see up to a thousand dollars worth ofrelief.Senior citizens who have earnings of less than $50,000 wouldn'thave to pay income tax on their Social Security. And middle-classhomeowners who currently don't itemize on their tax filings, theywould be able to get a deduction the same way that wealthy individualsdo.Now, here's the reason why that's important. We have seen wagesand incomes flat or declining at a time when costs have gone up. Andone of the things that we've learned from George Bush's economicpolicies, which John McCain now wants to follow, is that pain tricklesup. And so, partly because people have been strapped and have had atough time making ends meet, we're now seeing a deteriorating housingmarket.That's also as a consequence of the lack of oversight and regulationof these banks and financial institutions that gave loans that theyshouldn't have. And part of it has to do with the fact that you had$185 million by mortgage lenders spent on lobbyists and specialinterests who were writing these laws.So the rules in Washington -- the tax code has been written onbehalf of the well connected. Our trade laws have -- same thing hashappened. And part of how we're going to be able to deliver onmiddle-class tax relief is to change how business is done inWashington. And that's been a central focus of our campaign.
MR. GIBSON: Senator Obama, you both have now just taken thispledge on people under $250,000 and 200-and-what, 250,000.
SEN. OBAMA: Well, it depends on how you calculate it. But itwould be between 200 and 250,000.
MR. GIBSON: All right.You have however said you would favor an increase in the capitalgains tax. As a matter of fact, you said on CNBC, and I quote, "Icertainly would not go above what existed under Bill Clinton, whichwas 28 percent."It's now 15 percent. That's almost a doubling if you went to 28percent. But actually Bill Clinton in 1997 signed legislation thatdropped the capital gains tax to 20 percent.
SEN. OBAMA: Right.
MR. GIBSON: And George Bush has taken it down to 15 percent.
SEN. OBAMA: Right.
MR. GIBSON: And in each instance, when the rate dropped,revenues from the tax increased. The government took in more money.And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28 percent, therevenues went down. So why raise it at all, especially given the factthat 100 million people in this country own stock and would beaffected?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, Charlie, what I've said is that I would lookat raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness. We saw anarticle today which showed that the top 50 hedge fund managers made$29 billion last year -- $29 billion for 50 individuals. And part ofwhat has happened is that those who are able to work the stock marketand amass huge fortunes on capital gains are paying a lower tax ratethan their secretaries. That's not fair.And what I want is not oppressive taxation. I want businesses tothrive and I want people to be rewarded for their success. But what Ialso want to make sure is that our tax system is fair and that we areable to finance health care for Americans who currently don't have itand that we're able to invest in our infrastructure and invest in ourschools.And you can't do that for free, and you can't take out a creditcard from the Bank of China in the name of our children and ourgrandchildren and then say that you're cutting taxes, which isessentially what John McCain has been talking about. And that isirresponsible.You know, I believe in the principle that you pay as you go, andyou don't propose tax cuts unless you are closing other tax breaks forindividuals. And you don't increase spending unless you'reeliminating some spending or you're finding some new revenue. That'show we got an additional $4 trillion worth of debt under George Bush.That is helping to undermine our economy, and it's going to changewhen I'm president of the United States.
MR. GIBSON: But history shows that when you drop the capitalgains tax, the revenues go up.
SEN. OBAMA: Well, that might happen or it might not. It dependson what's happening on Wall Street and how business is going. I thinkthe biggest problem that we've got on Wall Street right now is thefact that we've got a housing crisis that this president has not beenattentive to and that it took John McCain three tries before he got itright.And if we can stabilize that market and we can get credit flowingagain, then I think we'll see stocks do well, and once again I thinkwe can generate the revenue that we need to run this government andhopefully to pay down some of this debt.
MR. GIBSON: Senator Clinton.
SEN. CLINTON: Well, let me start by saying that I think we knowthat we've got to get back to an economy that works for everyone. Thepresident has been very good for people who are doing well, and that'sgreat. But it was better for our country when we had an economy thatlifted everyone up at the same time, and we had that during the 1990s;you know, 22.7 million new jobs, more people lifted out of povertythan any time in our recent history. A typical family saw a $7,000increase in income.And we have lost that. You know, now the typical family has lostat least $1,000. And the fact is that, you know, I don't want to takeone more penny of tax money from anybody. But what I want to do ismake some smart investments. And I was the first to come out with astrategic energy fund, where we need to be investing in cleanrenewable energy. And I think we could put 5 million Americans towork.I think we have to invest in our infrastructure. That also willget the economy moving again, and I believe we could put about 3million people to work in good union jobs where people get a good wagewith a good set of benefits that can support a middle-class familywith a rising standard of living.I want to see us actually tackle the housing crisis, somethingI've been talking about for over a year. If I had been president ayear ago, I believe we would have begun to avoid some of the worst ofthe mortgage and credit crisis, because we would have started muchearlier than we have -- in fact, I don't think we've really done verymuch at all yet -- in dealing with a way of freezing homeforeclosures, of freezing interest rates, getting money intocommunities to be able to withstand the problems that are caused byforeclosures.Governor Rendell has done a great job in Pennsylvania. He sawthis coming. And unlike our current president, who either didn't knowit or didn't care about it, he has really held the line, andPennsylvania has been much less affected by home foreclosures. Butthe president hasn't done that, and what I have proposed would dothat.So you've got to look at the entire economy. And from myperspective, yes, taxes is a piece of it. But you've got to figureout what is it we would invest in that would make us richer and saferand stronger tomorrow, which would (be ?) helping everybody.
MR. GIBSON: I'm going to go to a commercial break. But I justwant to come back to one thing you said, and I want to be clear. The
question: was about capital gains tax. Would you say, "No, I'm notgoing to raise capital gains taxes"?
SEN. CLINTON: I wouldn't raise it above the 20 percent if Iraised it at all. I would not raise it above what it was during theClinton administration.
MR. GIBSON: "If I raised it at all." Would you propose anincrease in the capital gains tax?
SEN. CLINTON: You know, Charlie, I'm going to have to look andsee what the revenue situation is. You know, we now have the largestbudget deficit we've ever had, $311 billion. We went from a $5.6trillion projected surplus to what we have today, which is a $9trillion debt.I don't want to raise taxes on anybody. I'm certainly againstone of Senator Obama's ideas, which is to lift the cap on the payrolltax, because that would impose additional taxes on people who are, youknow, educators here in the Philadelphia area or in the suburbs,police officers, firefighters and the like.So I think we have to be very careful about how we navigate this.So the $250,000 mark is where I am sure we're going. But beyond that,we're going to have to look and see where we are.
MR. GIBSON: Very quickly, because I owe Senator Clinton time,but, yeah, you wanted to respond.
SEN. OBAMA: Well, Charlie, I just have to respond real quicklyto Senator Clinton's last comment. What I have proposed is that weraise the cap on the payroll tax, because right now millionaires andbillionaires don't have to pay beyond $97,000 a year.That's where it's kept. Now most firefighters, most teachers, youknow, they're not making over $100,000 a year. In fact, only 6percent of the population does. And I've also said that I'd bewilling to look at exempting people who are making slightly abovethat.But understand the alternative is that because we're going tohave fewer workers to more retirees, if we don't do anything on SocialSecurity, then those benefits will effectively be cut, because we'llbe running out of money.
MR. GIBSON: But Senator, that's a tax. That's a tax on peopleunder $250,000.
SEN. OBAMA: Well, no, look, let me -- let me finish my pointhere, Charlie. Senator Clinton just said she certainly wouldn't dothis; this was a bad idea. In Iowa she, when she was outside ofcamera range, said to an individual there she'd certainly consider theidea. And then that was recorded, and she apparently wasn't awarethat it was being recorded.So this is an option that I would strongly consider, because thealternatives, like raising the retirement age, or cutting benefits, orraising the payroll tax on everybody, including people who make lessthan $97,000 a year --
MR. GIBSON: But there's a heck of a lot of --
SEN. OBAMA: -- those are not good policy options.
MR. GIBSON: Those are a heck of a lot of people between $97,000and $200(,000) and $250,000. If you raise the payroll taxes, that'sgoing to raise taxes on them.
SEN. OBAMA: And that's -- and that's -- and that's why I'vesaid, Charlie, that I would look at potentially exempting those whoare in between.But the point is, we're going to have to capture some revenue inorder to stabilize the Social Security system. You can't -- you can'tget something for nothing. And if we care about Social Security,which I do, and if we are firm in our commitment to make sure thatit's going to be there for the next generation, and not just for ourgeneration, then we have an obligation to figure out how to stabilizethe system.And I think we should be honest in presenting our ideas in terms ofhow we're going to do that and not just say that we're going to form acommission and try to solve the problem some other way.
SEN. CLINTON: Well, in fact, I am totally committed to makingsure Social Security is solvent. If we had stayed on the path we wereon at the end of my husband's administration, we sure would be in alot better position because we had a plan to extend the life of theSocial Security Trust Fund and again, President Bush decided that thatwasn't a priority, that the war in Iraq and tax cuts for thewealthiest of Americans were his priorities, neither of which he'sever paid for. I think it's the first time we've ever been taken towar and had a president who wouldn't pay for it.But when it comes to Social Security, fiscal responsibility isthe first and most important step. You've got to begin to reign inthe budget, pay as you go, to try to replenish our Social SecurityTrust Fund.And with all due respect, the last time we had a crisis in SocialSecurity was 1983. President Reagan and Speaker Tip O'Neill came upwith a commission. That was the best and smartest way, because you'vegot to get Republicans and Democrats together.That's what I will do. And I will say, number one, don't cutbenefits on current beneficiaries; they're already having a hardenough time. And number two, do not impose additional tax burdens onmiddle-class families.There are lots of ways we can fix Social Security that don't imposethose burdens, and I will do that.
SEN. OBAMA: That commission raised the retirement age, Charlie,and also raised the payroll tax. And so Senator Clinton, if she --she can't have it both ways. You can't come at me for proposing asolution that will save Social Security without burdening middle-income Americans, and then suggest that somehow she's got a magicsolution.
SEN. CLINTON: But there are more progressive ways of doing itthan, you know, lifting the cap. And I think we'll work it out. Ihave every confidence we're going to work it out. I know that we canmake this happen.
MR. GIBSON: On that point, we're going to take a break, acommercial break. The Democratic debate from here in Philadelphiabefore the Pennsylvania primary will continue. Stay with us. We'llbe back. (Applause.)(Announcements.)Back to the Philadelphia Debate, the DemocraticDebate, just less than a week now before the Pennsylvania primary.And I would be remiss tonight if I didn't take note of the factthat today is the one-year anniversary of Virginia Tech. And I thinkit's fair to say that probably every American during this day, at onepoint or another, said a small prayer for the great people at thatuniversity and for those who died.It also, I suspect, makes this an appropriate time to talk aboutguns. And it has not been talked about much in this campaign and it'san important issue in the state of Pennsylvania.Both of you, in the past, have supported strong gun controlmeasures. But now when I listen to you on the campaign, I hear youemphasizing that you believe in an individual's right to bear arms.Both of you were strong advocates for licensing of guns. Both ofyou were strong advocates for the registration of guns.Why don't you emphasize that now, Senator Clinton?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, Charlie, on Friday, I was with Mayor Nutter,who's here, in West Philadelphia at the YMCA there, to talk about whatwe could do together to bring down the crime rate that has ravagedPhiladelphia.You know, more than one person, on average, a day is murdered inPhiladelphia. And Mayor Nutter is very committed, as the mayor ofthis great city, to try to do what he can to stem the violence.And what I said then is what I have been saying, that I will be agood partner, for cities like Philadelphia, as president. Because Iwill bring back the COPS program, the so-called COPS program, where wehad 100,000 police on the street, which really helped drive down thecrime rate and also helped create better community relations.I will also work to reinstate the assault weapons ban. We had itduring the 1990s. It really was an aid to our police officers, whoare now once again, because it has lapsed -- the Republicans will notreinstate it -- are being outgunned on our streets by these military-style weapons.I will also work to make sure that police departments inPhiladelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, across America get access to thefederal information that will enable them to track illegal guns,because the numbers are astounding. Probably 80 percent of the gunsused in gun crimes are in the hands of that criminal, that gang member-- unfortunately, people who are sometimes, you know, mentallychallenged -- because it got there illegally. And under theRepublicans, that information was kept from local law enforcement.So I believe that we can balance what I think is the rightequation. I respect the Second Amendment. I respect the rights oflawful gun owners to own guns, to use their guns, but I also believethat most lawful gun owners whom I have spoken with for many yearsacross our country also want to be sure that we keep those guns out ofthe wrong hands.And as president, I will work to try to bridge this divide, which Ithink has been polarizing and, frankly, doesn't reflect the commonsense of the American people.So we will strike the right balance to protect the constitutionalright but to give people the feeling and the reality that they will beprotected from guns in the wrong hands.
MR. GIBSON: Senator Obama, the District of Columbia has a law,it's had a law since 1976, it's now before the United States SupremeCourt, that prohibits ownership of handguns, a sawed-off shotgun, amachine gun or a short-barreled rifle. Is that law consistent with anindividual's right to bear arms?
SEN. OBAMA: Charlie, I confess I obviously haven't listened tothe briefs and looked at all the evidence. As a general principle, Ibelieve that the Constitution confers an individual right to beararms. But just because you have an individual right does not meanthat the state or local government can't constrain the exercise ofthat right, and, you know, in the same way that we have a right toprivate property but local governments can establish zoning ordinancesthat determine how you can use it.And I think that it is going to be important for us to reconcilewhat are two realities in this country. There's the reality of gunownership and the tradition of gun ownership that's passed on fromgeneration to generation.think has been polarizing and, frankly, doesn't reflect the commonsense of the American people.So we will strike the right balance to protect the constitutionalright but to give people the feeling and the reality that they will beprotected from guns in the wrong hands.
MR. GIBSON: Senator Obama, the District of Columbia has a law,it's had a law since 1976, it's now before the United States SupremeCourt, that prohibits ownership of handguns, a sawed-off shotgun, amachine gun or a short-barreled rifle. Is that law consistent with anindividual's right to bear arms?
SEN. OBAMA: Charlie, I confess I obviously haven't listened tothe briefs and looked at all the evidence. As a general principle, Ibelieve that the Constitution confers an individual right to beararms. But just because you have an individual right does not meanthat the state or local government can't constrain the exercise ofthat right, and, you know, in the same way that we have a right toprivate property but local governments can establish zoning ordinancesthat determine how you can use it.And I think that it is going to be important for us to reconcilewhat are two realities in this country. There's the reality of gunownership and the tradition of gun ownership that's passed on fromgeneration to generation.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Clinton, you have a home in D.C.Do you support the D.C. ban?
SEN. CLINTON: You know, George, I want to give local communitiesthe opportunity to have some authority over determining how to keeptheir citizens safe.This case you're referring to, before the Supreme Court, isapparently dividing the Bush administration. You know, the Bushadministration basically said, we don't have enough facts to knowwhether or not it is appropriate.And Vice President Cheney who, you know, is a fourth specialbranch of government all unto himself -- (laughter) -- has actuallyfiled a brief saying, oh, no, we have to, you know, we have to preventD.C. from doing this.So --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But what do you think? Do you support it ornot?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, what I support is sensible regulation thatis consistent with the constitutional right to own and bear arms.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Is the D.C. ban consistent with that right?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think a total ban, with no exceptionsunder any circumstances, might be found by the court not to be. But Idon't know the facts.But I don't think that should blow open a hole that says thatD.C. or Philadelphia or anybody else cannot come up with sensibleregulations to protect their people and keep, you know, machine gunsand assault weapons out of the hands of folks who shouldn't have them.
MR. GIBSON: Well, with all due respect, and I'm not sure I gotan answer from Senator Obama. But do you still favor licensing andregistration of handguns?
SEN. CLINTON: What I favor is what works in New York. You know,we have a set of rules in New York City and we have a totallydifferent set of rules in the rest of the state. What might work inNew York City is certainly not going to work in Montana. So, for thefederal government to be having any kind of, you know, blanket rulesthat they're going to try to impose, I think doesn't make sense.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But Senator, you were for that when you ranfor Senate in New York.
SEN. CLINTON: I was for -- I was for the New York rules, that'sright. I was for the New York rules because they have worked overtime. And there isn't a lot of uproar in New York about changing them,because I go to upstate New York, where we have a lot of hunters andpeople who are collectors and people who are sport shooters; they haveevery reason to believe that their rights are being respected. Youwalk down the street with a police officer in Manhattan; he wants tobe sure that there is some way of protecting him and protecting thepeople that are in his charge.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Obama, last May we talked aboutaffirmative action, ad you said at the time that affluent AfricanAmericans like your daughters should probably be treated as prettyadvantaged when they apply to college, and that poor white children --kids -- should get special consideration, affirmative action.So, as president, how specifically would you recommend changingaffirmative action policies so that affluent African Americans are notgiven advantages, and poor, less affluent whites are?
SEN. OBAMA: Well, I think that the basic principle that shouldguide discussions not just on affirmative action but how we areadmitting young people to college generally is, how do we make surethat we're providing ladders of opportunity for people? How do wemake sure that every child in America has a decent shot in pursuingtheir dreams?And race is still a factor in our society. And I think that foruniversities and other institutions to say, you know, we're going totake into account the hardships that somebody has experienced becausethey're black or Latino or because they're women --
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if they're wealthy?
SEN. OBAMA: I think that's something that they can take intoaccount, but it can only be in the context of looking at the wholesituation of the young person. So if they look at my child and theysay, you know, Malia and Sasha, they've had a pretty good deal, thenthat shouldn't be factored in. On the other hand, if there's a youngwhite person who has been working hard, struggling, and has overcomegreat odds, that's something that should be taken into account.So I still believe in affirmative action as a means of overcomingboth historic and potentially current discrimination, but I think thatit can't be a quota system and it can't be something that is simplyapplied without looking at the whole person, whether that person isblack or white or Hispanic, male or female.What we want to do is make sure that people who have been locked outof opportunity are going to be able to walk through those doors ofopportunity in the future.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Clinton, would you agree to thatkind of change?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, here's the way I'd prefer to think about it.I think we've got to have affirmative action generally to try togive more opportunities to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds-- whoever they are. That's why I'm a strong supporter of earlychildhood education and universal pre-kindergarten.That's why I'm against No Child Left Behind as it is currentlyoperating. And I would end it, because we can do so much better tohave an education system that really focuses in on kids who need extrahelp.That's why I'm in favor of much more college aid, not theseoutrageous predatory student loan rates that are charging people I'vemet, across Pennsylvania, 20, 25, 28 percent interest rates. Let'smake college affordable again.See, I think we have to look at what we're trying to achieve heresomewhat differently. We do have a real gap. We have a gap inachievement. We have a gap in income. But we don't have a potentialgap.I think our job should be to try to create the conditions thatenable people to live up to their God-given potential. And that meanshealth care for everyone -- no exceptions, nobody left out. And itmeans taking a hard look at what we need to do to compete and win inthe global economy.So that's how I prefer to think about it. You know, let'saffirmatively invest in our young people and make it possible for themto have a good middle-class life in today's much more competitiveeconomy.
MR. GIBSON: We're running short on time. Let me just give somequick questions here, and let me give you a minute each to answer.What are you going to do about gas prices? It's getting to $4 agallon. It is killing truckers.
SEN. CLINTON: That's right.
MR. GIBSON: People are in trouble. And yet the whole world paysa whole lot more for gas than we do. What are you going to do aboutit?
SEN. CLINTON: Well, I met with a group of truckers in Harrisburgabout a week and a half ago, and here's what I told them. Number one,we are going to investigate these gas prices. The federal governmenthas certain tools that this administration will not use, in theFederal Trade Commission and other ways, through the JusticeDepartment, because I believe there is market manipulation going on,particularly among energy traders. We've seen this movie before, inEnron, and we've got to get to the bottom to make sure we're not beingtaken advantage of.Number two, I would quit putting oil into the Strategic PetroleumReserve and I would release some to help drive the price downglobally.And thirdly, if there is any kind of gas tax moratorium, as somepeople are now proposing --
MR. GIBSON: Like John McCain.
SEN. CLINTON: -- like John McCain, and some Democrats, frankly-- I think Senator Menendez and others have said that we may have todo something, because when you get to $4-a-gallon gas, people are notgoing to be able to afford to drive to work. And what I would like tosee us do is to say if we have that, then we should have a windfallprofits tax on these outrageous profits of the oil companies, and putthat money back into the highway trust fund, so that we don't lose outon repair and construction and rebuilding.But ultimately, Charlie, we've got to have a long-term energystrategy. We are so much more dependent on foreign oil today than wewere on 9/11, and that is a real indictment of our leadership. AndI've laid out a comprehensive plan to move us toward energyindependence that I hope I will have the opportunity to implement aspresident.
MR. GIBSON: Very quickly, Senator Obama, I -- the same thing.But we've heard from politicians for a long time we're going to enddependence on foreign oil. I just have a quote: "The generation-longgrowth in our dependence on foreign oil will be stopped dead in itstracks right now." That was Jimmy Carter in 1979. And it's gotten awhole lot worse since then.
SEN. OBAMA: Well, you're right. And that's why people arecynical, because decade after decade, we talk about energy policy orwe talk about health care policy, and through Democratic andRepublican administrations, nothing gets done.Now, I think many of the steps that Senator Clinton outlined aresimilar to the plans that we talked about. It is absolutely true thatwe've got to investigate potential price gouging or marketmanipulation. I have strongly called for a windfall profits tax thatcan provide both consumers relief and also invest in renewableenergies.I think that long term, we're going to have to raise fuelefficiency standards on cars, because the only way that we're going tobe able to reduce gas prices is if we reduce demand. You've still gota billion people in China, and maybe 700 million in India, who stillwant cars. And so the long-term trajectory is that we're going tohave to get serious about increasing our fuel efficiency standards andinvesting in new technologies.That's something I'm committed to doing. I've talked about spending$150 billion over 10 years in an Apollo Project, a Manhattan Projectto create the alternative energy strategies that will work not onlyfor this generation but for the next.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: We're running out of time for this segment.Very quickly, for each of you, 30 seconds. Senator Clinton, you'vesaid that you believe in using former presidents. How would you useGeorge W. Bush if you were president? (Laughter.)
SEN. CLINTON: I'm going to have to give some serious thought tothat. (Laughter.) You know, I do believe that it's a way to unifyour country. I thought that President Bush was right when he askedhis father and Bill to represent us during the aftermath of thetsunami. I thought it sent a great message here at home and aroundthe world. And I'm sure that there will be opportunities to ask allthe former presidents to work on behalf of our nation.You know, we've got to come together. And the former presidentsreally exemplify that, whether one agrees with them politically ornot. When they're all together, representing our country, that sendsa strong message. And I would look for a way to use all our formerpresidents, but that'll take some careful thought on my part.(Laughter.)
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Obama.
SEN. OBAMA: Well, you know, I think that having the advice andcounsel of all former presidents is important. I'm probably morelikely to advice of the current president's father than presidenthimself because I think that when you look back at George H.W. Bush'sforeign policy, it was a wise foreign policy.And how we executed the Gulf War, how we managed the transition out ofthe Cold War, I think, is an example of how we can get bipartisanagreement. I don't think the Democrats have a monopoly on good ideas.I think that there are a lot of thoughtful Republicans out there.The problem is, we've been locked in a divided politics for solong that we've stopped listening to each other. And I think thatthis president in particular has fed those divisions. That'ssomething that we've tried to end in this campaign, and I think we'rebeing successful.
MR. GIBSON: All right.We're going to take one more commercial break, come back with afinal question for both of you in just a moment.(Announcements.)Final question, now, to finish what I think has beena fascinating debate, and I appreciate both of you being here --thanking you in advance.I -- it is hard to see how either one of you win this nominationon the basis of pledged delegates in primaries. And it could wellcome down to superdelegates. And I know you've been talking to themall along. But let's say you're at the convention in Denver, andyou're talking to a group of 20 undecided superdelegates. How are yougoing to make the case to them why you're the better candidate andmore electable in November?What do you say to them -- minute-and-a-half each. And by a flipof the coin, Senator Clinton goes first.
SEN. CLINTON: Well, I say to them what I've said to votersacross America -- that we need a fighter back in the White House. Weneed someone who's going to take on the special interests.And I have a plan to take away $55 billion of the giveaways andthe subsidies that the president and Congress have lavished on thedrug companies and the oil companies and the insurance companies andWall Street. And I have a plan to give that money back -- give itback in tax cuts to the middle class -- people who deserve it, whohave been struggling under this president, who feel invisible, whofeel like, you know, they're not even seen anymore.And we're going to make everybody feel like they're part of theAmerican family again. And we're going to tackle the problems thathave been waiting for a champion back in the White House.Now, obviously, I can't do this alone. I can only do it if I getpeople who believe in me and support me and who look at my trackrecord and know that, you know, I've spent a lifetime trying toempower people, trying to fight for them.And I think it's going to be challenging, but it is absolutely what wemust do in order to keep faith with our country and to give ourchildren the future that they deserve.So I will tell everyone who listens that I'm ready to be thecommander in chief. I've 35 generals and admirals, including twoformer chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Wesley Clark andothers, who believe that I am the person to lead us out of Iraq, totake on al Qaeda, to rebuild our military.And I will turn this economy around. We will get back to sharedprosperity and we will see once again that we can do this the rightway so it's not just a government of the few, by the few and for thefew. And I need your help. I need the help of the voters here inPennsylvania, first and foremost, in order to be able to get to thoseconversations.And I hope that I have demonstrated not just over the last weeksor even over the last hour and half but over a lifetime that you cancount on me. You know where I stand. You know that I will fight foryou and that together we're going to take back our country.
MR. GIBSON: Senator Obama.
SEN. OBAMA: Well, when we started this campaign 15 months ago,it was based on a couple of simple principles: number one, that wewere in a defining moment in our history. Our nation's at war. Ourplanet's in peril. Our economy is in a shambles. And mostimportantly, the American people have lost trust in their government,not just Democrats but independents and Republicans who've beendisillusioned about promises that have been made election afterelection, decade after decade.And the bet I was making was a bet on the American people; thatthey were tired of a politics that was about tearing about each otherdown, but wanted a politics that was about lifting the country up;that they didn't want spin and PR out of their elected officials, theywanted an honest conversation.And most importantly, I believe that change does not happen fromthe top down, it happens from the bottom up. And that's why wedecided we weren't going to take PAC money or money from federalregistered lobbyists, that we were not going to be subject to special-interest influence, but instead were going to enlist the Americanpeople in a project of changing this country.And during the course of these last 15 months, my bet's paid offbecause the American people have responded in record numbers, and notjust people who are accustomed to participating, but people whohaven't participated in years. I talked to a woman here inPennsylvania, 70 years old, she whispered to me, "I've never votedbefore, but I'm going to vote in this election."And so my point to the super delegates would be that if we'regoing to deliver on health care for every American, improve ourschools, deliver on jobs, then it's going to be absolutely vital weform a new political coalition in this country. That's what we'vebeen doing in this campaign, and that's what I'm going to do when I'mpresident of the United States of America.
MR. GIBSON: The audience has been very good in restrainingthemselves. I think a round of applause for Senators Obama andClinton. (Applause.)And that concludes tonight's Pennsylvania debate.We appreciate both of you and wish you both the best.Thank you very much. (Applause continues.)