TRANSCRIPT: The Democratic Debate

CLINTON: Well, George, you've got to put it into context. I was asked specifically about what was, very clearly, an effort by the Bush-Cheney administration to drum up support for military action against Iran.

CLINTON: Combine that with their continuing effort to try to get what are called bunker-buster bombs, nuclear bombs that could penetrate into the earth to go after deeply buried nuclear sites.

And I thought it was very important. This was not a hypothetical, this was a brushback against this administration which has been reckless and provocative -- to America's damage, in my opinion.

So I think there's a big difference, and I think it's a difference that really goes to the heart of whether we should be using hypotheticals. I mean, one thing that I agree with is we shouldn't use hypotheticals. You know, words do matter.

And this campaign, just like every other things that happens in the United States, is looked at and followed with very great interest. And, you know, Pakistan is on a knife's edge. It is easily, unfortunately, a target for the jihadists. And, therefore, you've got to be very careful about what it is you say with respect to Pakistan.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you accept that distinction?

OBAMA: There was no difference. It is not hypothetical that Al Qaida has established base camps in the hills between Afghanistan and Pakistan. That was acknowledged in the national intelligence estimates. And every foreign policy understands that.

No military expert would advise that we use nuclear weapons to deal with them, but we do have to deal with that problem.

And so, this is part of what I think Americans get frustrated about in politics, where we have gamesmanship and we manufacture issues and controversies instead of talking about the serious problem that we have, a problem that this administration has made worse and that our invasion of Iraq has made worse, but a problem that the next president is going to have to deal with. And the American people deserve to hear what we're going to do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Edwards, is there a difference or not?

EDWARDS: How about a little hope and optimism? Where did it go? You know, I listened to this debate, and this is what I hear.

EDWARDS: First of all, I think we have a clear path for America and for our friends on Iran, which Senator Clinton just spoke about. And that path is to work with our friends in Europe to put up a choice between carrots and sticks on the table for the Iranian people. Because there is a division between the Iranian people and their radical leader, Ahmadinejad. There's no question about that. We can take advantage of that. We should take advantage of that, drive a wedge between the two.

In the case of Pakistan, the truth of the matter is: Musharraf is not a wonderful leader, but he provides some stability in Pakistan. And there is a great risk, if he's overthrown, about a radical government taking over.

They have a nuclear weapon. They're in constant tension with India, which also has a nuclear weapon, over Kashmir. I mean, it's a dangerous, volatile situation.

But the last thing I want to say about this is it's not shocking that -- first of all, I think Senator Obama is entitled to express his view. And it's not shocking that people who have been in Washington a long time criticize him when he comes along and expresses his view.

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