Transcript: Obama and Clinton Debate

MANDY GARBER, PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA: The real question is, I mean, do the candidates have a real plan to get us out of Iraq, or is it just real campaign propaganda? And it's really unclear. They keep saying we want to bring the troops back. But considering what's happening on the ground, how is that going to happen?


GIBSON: Let me just add a little bit to that question, because your communications director of your campaign, Howard Wolfson, on a conference call recently was asked, is Senator Clinton going to stick to her announced plan of bringing one or two brigades out of Iraq every month, whatever the realities on the ground?

And Wolfson said, 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, and said, this kind of withdrawal would destabilize Iraq, it would set back all of the gains that we have made, no matter what, you're going to order those troops to come home?

CLINTON: Yes, I am, Charlie. And here's why. Thankfully, we have a system in our country, of civilian control of the military. And our professional military are the best in the world. They give their best advice. And then they execute the policies of the president.

I have watched this president, as he has continued to change the rationale and move the goal posts when it comes to Iraq. And I am convinced that it is in America's best interests, it is in the best interests of our military, and I even believe it is in the best interests of Iraq that upon taking office I will ask the secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and my security advisers to immediately put together for me a plan so that I can begin to withdraw within 60 days.

I will make it very clear that we will do so in a responsible and careful manner because, obviously, withdrawing troops and equipment, is dangerous. I will also make it clear to the Iraqis that they no longer have a blank check from the president of the United States.

Because I believe that it will be only through our commitment to withdrawal that the Iraqis will begin to do what they have failed to do for all of these years. I will also begin an intensive diplomatic effort, both within the region and internationally, to begin to try to get other countries to understand the stakes that we all face when it comes to the future of Iraq.

But I have been convinced and very clear that I will begin to withdraw troops within 60 days. And we've had other instances in our history where some military commanders have been very publicly opposed to what a president was proposing to do. But I think it's important that this decision be made. And I intend to make it.

GIBSON: But Senator Clinton, aren't you saying -- General Petraeus was in Washington. You both were there when he testified. Saying that the gains in Iraq are fragile and are reversible. Are you essentially saying: I know better than the military commanders here?

CLINTON: No, what I'm saying, Charlie, is that no one can predict what will happen. There are many different scenarios.

But one thing I am sure of is that our staying in Iraq, our continuing to lose our men and women in uniform, having many injured, the Iraqi casualties that we are seeing, as well, is there -- is no way for us to maintain a strong position in the world.

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