TRANSCRIPT: The Democratic Debate

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about this point, though, that Senator Edwards raises? He says the fact that you're taking money from lobbyists symbolizes that you're part of the status quo, part of the failed politics of Washington.

CLINTON: Well, George, I believe we have to change Washington. I've stood up against the special interests, I've taken them on. I took them on, on health care. I took them on and voted against a lot of their special interest legislation, like class action reform, which is just really another way of lining the pockets of big business.

CLINTON: I've taken them on on so many different fronts.

But there is this artificial distinction that people are trying to make. Don't take money from lobbyists, but take money from the people who employ and hire lobbyists and give them their marching orders. Those are the people that are really going to be pushing back.

I think we can do a much better job if we say we have got to move toward public financing, get the money out of American politics, because it's the people who employ the lobbyists who are behind all the money in American politics.

(APPLAUSE)

I think what we need to do is go after a better agenda of reform.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Back to you, Senator. She says the distinction is artificial.

EDWARDS: The distinction is not artificial. But first of all, Senator Clinton did a terrific job in the 1990s trying to do something about health care in this country. She deserves credit for that.

But here's what I believe: The reason we don't have universal health care in America today is because of the insurance industry, the drug companies and their lobbyists.

EDWARDS: It's that simple.

(APPLAUSE)

And, George, we need -- and there's a fundamental question here: Whether you believe, whether voters believe the way we're going to have universal health care is to deal with those people, to make a deal with them. I don't. I don't think it'll work.

I don't think we should be taking their money. I think we ought to make it absolutely clear that we're not going to take money from insurance company lobbyists or drug company lobbyists, these big corporate lobbies, that actually killed -- killed -- the health care effort that was done in the 1990s.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Dodd, I want to ask you...

EDWARDS: Let me finish. Let me finish.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to ask...

EDWARDS: The question is -- the question is: What will bring change? What will bring change?

My belief is you have to take these people on and beat them to bring change. You can't sit at a table and negotiate with them.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Dodd, will you accept the challenge from Senator Edwards?

DODD: Well, look, first of all, I find this sort of situational ethics here. I mean, over the years, the fine people taking money from one group or the other were sort of competing with each other as to which group is a good or bad group here.

The fact of the matter is: I've been supporting, for years and years, public financing of federal offices.

DODD: That's what needed in this country.

(APPLAUSE)

We're never going to solve this problem, unless we move in that direction.

(APPLAUSE)

And, certainly, it's not only the money you take, but what are you doing? How are you casting your votes? Where were you on bankruptcy? Where were you on dealing with the estate tax reform?

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