National Public Radio presidential debate

Below is a complete rush transcript of the NPR News and Iowa Public Radio national Democratic Presidential debate.

Candidates: Sen. Joseph Biden; Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton; Sen. Christopher Dodd; John Edwards; Mike Gravel; Rep. Dennis Kucinich; Sen. Barack Obama

Moderators: Steve Inskeep, Michele Norris, and Robert Siegel

ROBERT SIEGEL: But the Democrats are here, and they are, from left to right on your radio dial, Senator Hillary Clinton, former Senator Mike Gravel, Senator Barack Obama, Senator Christopher Dodd, Senator Joseph Biden, former Senator John Edwards and Congressman Dennis Kucinich.

Governor Bill Richardson could not join us. He's attending the funeral of a Korean War soldier whose remains the governor recently helped repatriate from North Korea.

So we're going to get started with the debate, and let's stipulate in advance what I know many feel obliged to say. We're grateful that all of you are here, and we expect that you're grateful to the Iowa State Historical Museum, the people of Iowa, public radio in Iowa and NPR News. And we appreciate that and hope we can move on to the topic of Iran.

The new National Intelligence Estimate contains a major change. It says that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in the fall of 2003. Today President Bush said that nothing's changed in light of the report. He said the NIE, the National Intelligence Estimate, doesn't do anything to change his opinion about the danger Iran poses to the world.

For all of you — and let's go left to right across the radio dial — do you agree with the president's assessment that Iran still poses a threat? And do you agree that the NIE's news shows that isolation and sanctions work?

Senator Clinton.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I'm relieved that the intelligence community has reached this conclusion, but I vehemently disagree with the president that nothing's changed and therefore nothing in American policy has to change.

I have for two years advocated diplomatic engagement with Iran, and I think that's what the president should do. He should seize this opportunity and engage in serious diplomacy, using both carrots and sticks. I think we do know that pressure on Iran does have an effect. I think that is an important lesson. But we're not going to reach the kind of resolution that we should seek unless we put that into the context of a diplomatic process.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Senator Clinton.

Senator — former Senator Mike Gravel.

MR. MIKE GRAVEL: Iran's not a problem, never has been, never will be.

What you're seeing right here is something very unique, very courageous. What the intelligence community has done is drop-kicked the president of the United States. These are people of courage that have watched what the president is doing, onrush to war with Iran.

And so by releasing this information, which is diametrically opposed to the estimate that was given in '05 by showing that there is no information to warrant what the White House has been doing, they have now boxed in the president in his ability to go to war. So, my hat is off to these courageous people within the bureaucrats — bureaucracy of the intelligence community.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Senator Gravel.

Senator Barack Obama.

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