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Text Of Democratic Debate (6)

EDWARDS: People don't have a clue. They have no idea what they're supposed to do.

KUCINICH: Well, there's another aspect to that.


EDWARDS: Excuse me, if I could -- I'll finish. In 30 seconds, I'll finish.

But that's a perfect example of what's happening in the real world -- not in Washington -- in the real world. People do not know what needs to be done. They don't how to respond if an attack occurs. They don't know, in fact, if an attack occurred in the middle of night, how they're going to find out about it.

RATHER: Reverend Sharpton?

SHARPTON: I think that the first thing you've got to deal with, Andrew, on that question is we've got to finish investigating what happened 9/11 to find out if the Bush administration could have done more to avoid that attack.

I mean, maybe I missed something here, but that attack happened under George Bush. It didn't happen under someone else.

So are you now suggesting that Bush's answer to Americans are, be glad you're alive? I mean, I think that that is absurd.

I think that we need to finish investigating what happened 9/11, could this administration have done more, before we start giving them bouquets and talk about...

KIRTZMAN: It's an interesting point. It's an interesting -- well, let me just pivot off of what Sharpton says, an interesting point.

Do you agree with Wesley Clark that Bush didn't do enough to prevent the World Trade Center attacks?

KERRY: I think we could have done -- absolutely, we could have done more. No question about it. But we should have done more since then, too.

And let me just say something. We've spent -- this debate is now getting towards its end. We're in New York City. Fifty percent of the African-Americans in New York City are unemployed between the ages of 16 and 64.

One of the things the president could have done in order to make this city more safe, frankly -- he's only given it one-tenth of the money that they need with respect to protection of water supply. He's cut $250 million for firefighters. They're cutting firefighters and closing firehouses. They're cutting the COPS program.

There's a $5 billion to $6 billion deficit in the state of New York. The governor, therefore, has started to raise taxes or cut services.

George Bush's priority: tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

My priority: a $50 billion fund as a tax relief education fund, which is part of the stimulus counted in my numbers...

BUMILLER: Senator Kerry, I have a...

KERRY: Can I finish?

KIRTZMAN: You haven't gotten the direct answer...

KERRY: I'd like to finish.


KUCINICH: You haven't gotten a direct answer on this, and I want to answer you directly. This is about national security. And you asked the question, essentially, are we safer?

And I will submit to you, we are not. We are not safer, because we attacked a country that did not attack us and have created a resurgence of al Qaeda as a result.

We are not safer, because we don't know about 9/11 because the commission can't even get the information from the White House.

RATHER: Thank you, Congressman.

KUCINICH: Excuse me.

We are not safer because the president has a doctrine of unilateralism and preemption and is building new nuclear weapons, sending a signal to the rest of the world that they better watch out, and follows up in saying, "You better get us first before we get you."

BUMILLER: Senator Kerry, I have a question...

KUCINICH: We're not safer.

BUMILLER: ... about likeability. You know, even your Democratic fans say that the president beats you hands down on likability, which, like it or not, is a major factor in a television era.

So what have you learned from your -- one of your competitors, John Edwards, about campaigning and what's important in a 2004 race?

KERRY: Actually, Elizabeth, I learned it from the people who I've campaigned with all across the country. I learned it in Iowa, and I learned it in New Hampshire.

And I think the reason I've won 18 or 20 contests so far, and I'm now campaigning hard to win others, is that give me a living room, give me a barn, give me a VFW hall, give me a one-on-one, and I think I can talk to anybody in this country.

BUMILLER: Senator Edwards, what do you think...

KERRY: And that is precisely what I'm doing today and precisely what I'm going to keep doing.

RATHER: If I may, Elizabeth, let me ask Senator Edwards the same question in a somewhat different way.


RATHER: I want to use a Texas expression here. We know...

EDWARDS: Somehow I knew this...


RATHER: No, but, in understandable terms, we're dealing with something really important here. That is, who is going to run against George Bush in November. We're talking the presidency of the United States.

But we know that likability, as Ms. Bumiller said, is very important to the campaign -- charisma, whatever you want to call it.

Does Senator Kerry have enough Elvis to beat George Bush...


... enough excitement factor, enough charisma, enough likeability?

You know what I'm talking about, and people in North Carolina and elsewhere will know what I'm talking about when I say, "Does he have enough Elvis," because when he gets down to November, a lot of people are going to vote on who they like the best, whether we want them to vote that way or not.

EDWARDS: Yes. Let me answer your question directly. First of all, I know John Kerry. I like him very much. And he and I have known each other for years.

Here's what I would say, though, in answer to both of your questions.

I don't think this is a personality contest. I think what people are looking for in a president is somebody who, when they hear them speak, speaks their language, understands what their lives are like, shares their values.

And I sometimes hear journalists say, "Well, you know, the people who vote, they just don't understand the issues well enough. They don't understand the subtleties of the difference between you and John Kerry at the fourth level of tax policy."

Well, here's the truth about that. The truth about that is the American people get it right. What they know is they know in their gut when somebody's telling them the truth. They have a radar for the truth, and they know who they can trust. They know whether you're honest and sincere, and whether they can rely on you and trust you...

RATHER: But excuse me, one second...

EDWARDS: But that, I think -- if I could just finish -- that, I think, is the ultimate issue. When they look in your eyes, when they hear what you have to say, do they trust you, and do they want you to be their president?

RATHER: Let me call time out for just one second, because this is necessary. We are inside roughly the 13-minute mark here, and I have to do something now that I wish I didn't have to do. I wish we had the rest of the afternoon to talk about it, but we need to pick up the pace in these 13 minutes, because there are any number of subjects that we have not covered.

So, let me, with your permission, change the subject very quickly. I do ask for brevity here. We'll try to work everybody in.

But, Senator Kerry, what's wrong with gay marriage?

KERRY: I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. It's a personal belief.

RATHER: Well, what's wrong with a man and a man committing to each other for life?

KERRY: What I think -- I think it's a distinction between what you believe the institution of marriage is, but what's important, Dan, is that you give people rights. I'm for rights, not for terminology or status -- rights.

RATHER: But who does it hurt, Senator?

KERRY: I think all -- that's not the issue. The issue is...

RATHER: Well, that's the question.

KERRY: ... are we prepared to provide rights to all Americans, so that they share the same rights as other people, not the same terminology or status?

I believe that the right, the spousal rights -- the right of inheritance, the right with respect to taxes, the right with respect to visitation in a hospital -- there are a whole series of rights. I am for those rights being afforded to every single American without distinction.

KUCINICH: May I respond?

RATHER: But who does it hurt, Congressman?

KUCINICH: First of all, I'm glad that Senator Kerry says he's for rights. I think it would be instructive to review the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, because I think that many Americans believe that equality of opportunity should not be denied on account of race, color, creed or sexual orientation.

And so what we're really talking about is having people be able to avail themselves of the same protections of civil law, that 1,047 different protections that people have when they're married, and to enable those privileges to be extended to everyone regardless of sexual orientation.

This is really about who we are, not just as a party, but as a nation. And we have to show capacity to expand. And I think any of us who are up here should be willing to take a stand on behalf of those people who are about to be excluded by the president of the United States from the protection...


KIRTZMAN: I'm kind of curious, Senator Kerry. If one of your children came to you and said, "First of all, I'm gay; second of all, I've met someone of the same gender that I want to marry," would you go to the wedding? Would you respect that relationship?

KERRY: I've been to the wedding of somebody who has gotten married who's gay, and I just happen to have a different opinion about what you call it and what the status is.

But I believe they deserve all the rights, all the support, all the love, all the affection, all of the rights that the state can afford. That's why...


KERRY: That's why I am for civil union. That's why I'm for partnership rights. That's why I'm for even the federal extension, with respect to tax code and other rights.

RATHER: Reverend Sharpton?

SHARPTON: I think that's states' rights. I think you cannot have any civil or human rights left up to the states.

RATHER: So you're for a constitutional amendment?

SHARPTON: I am for the constitutional right for human beings to decide what they want to do with human beings. Which is why I think the likeable thing is one issue here, is not who runs against the president, it's what runs against the president.

RATHER: All right, let me again move on...

SHARPTON: And I think what must run against the president is the rights of American citizens to have fair and equal rights.

RATHER: Let me just say...

BUMILLER: Let me ask John...

EDWARDS: Can I just say, though, how extraordinarily political what this president is doing is. I mean, here -- first of all, there's no issue...

BUMILLER: No, no. Here's the question.

EDWARDS: Yes, ma'am.

BUMILLER: Do you see a difference between gay rights and civil rights? Why is one right a federal right, and the other one you're saying leave it to the states? What's the difference here?

EDWARDS: Here's what I say. I say that the federal government plays an important role in civil rights and in gay rights. I believe the federal government should recognize what the state, who has forever, now, decided what constitutes marriage...

BUMILLER: Why is there a different standard here?

EDWARDS: But wait a second, wait a second. We're talking about what the definition of marriage is, which is something that has always been decided by states, not rights. Now, see, this is one place that actually Senator Kerry and I largely agree. If we're talking about a bundle of rights, with what rights you'd get under federal law for partners, the problems with adoption...

SHARPTON: But they used to say that blacks were three-fifths of a human. What do you mean? Are gays and lesbians human or not?

EDWARDS: Of course they're human.

SHARPTON: Then why can't they have the same human rights?

BUMILLER: I hate to ask this question because I never get an answer, but what is the difference between a gay marriage and a gay civil union, when you have heterosexuals getting married at city hall, and there's no religion involved and it's called a civil ceremony? What is the difference?

SHARPTON: They say you can shack up, just don't get married. That's the difference.

RATHER: If I may, we need to move on.

BUMILLER: But the answer?

EDWARDS: The answer is, I believe that gay and lesbian couples should be respected. I think they're entitled to rights. And that's what I think the role...

BUMILLER: But you just can't call it marriage.

EDWARDS: I think it's for the states to decide that.

RATHER: We're at 11:51 eastern time. We are all going to get criticized if we don't move to at least some foreign policy questions.

Senator Kerry...

KERRY: What about the economy, health care, education...

RATHER: I wish we had another three hours. Here's the question...


RATHER: I want to talk about North Korea. You're president of the United States, and you get information, absolutely unequivocal information, that the North Koreans, not only do they nuclear weapons and the ability to deliver those nuclear weapons, but that they are real and present threats to Japan and some of their neighbors (ph).

Are you prepared, under those circumstances, to move and move decisively with American military power?

KERRY: Of course I'd do whatever is necessary to protect the security of the United States of America. Bill Clinton moved quite authoritatively when the Straits of Taiwan were being threatened by China. I would do the same thing.

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