ABC News Illinois Senate Debate: Transcript Part I

By Kate McCarthy

Oct 19, 2010 11:15pm

Here is part one of the transcript for ABC News’ Illinois Senate debate on October 19, 2010:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Good evening and welcome.  It’s great to be here in Chicago for tonight’s Senate Debate.  And the race could not be tighter between Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias.  Gentlemen, welcome the you, as well.  Tonight’s debate is being presented by ABC 7 and the League of Women Voters in Illinois.  We also have a lot of people watching on ABCNews.com and Facebook.

Joining me in the question tonight, ABC 7’s Charles Thomas, political writer, Carrie Lester of the Daily Herald and Andy Shaw, executive director of The Better Government Association, long time reporter for WLS, as well.  We want to get right to it tonight.  We’re gonna start with the opening statements.  Each candidate will have an opening statement of one minute each.  They had a draw.  Alexi Giannoulias, you go first.                                                                                                      

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
Thank you.  This has been a tough and at times very negative campaign.  But there is a lot at stake.  Because of this devastating recession people across the state have lost their jobs, have lost their homes, and are struggling just to make ends meet.  Tragically, the decisions in Washington, D.C. over the last decade have made things worse.  Exploding budget deficits.  Shipping jobs overseas.  A failure to address our environmental challenges.

And record job loses that have decimated the American middle class.  Congressman Kirk over the last decade has been a part, has been an architect of some of these decisions.  Why in the world would we send the same people who created this mess back to Washington, D.C.?  You deserve a Senator who will tell you the truth.  Who will fight for you every day.  And who will stand up to the special interests that rule Washington, D.C.

You may not always agree with me, but you will always know where I stand.  And while I can’t promise you that we’ll fix all these problems over night, I will promise you that no one will fight harder and no one will work harder to make sure that you and your family have a shot at the American Dream.                         

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Kirk?                                     

MARK KIRK:
Thank you.  I want to thank the League and I want to thank Channel 7 for having us here today.  I ask for your vote to help grow this economy.  Our country used to number our debt in billions.  Now, it’s in trillions.  America was a creditor nation.  It is now one of the top debtors to many foreign interests.  How do we preserve the American Dream, when the average American today, when she or he is born, already owes the government $42,000?  In this race, I am the candidate that will vote to spend less, to borrow less, and to tax less, to help save our economy.  I am a fiscal conservative.  A social moderate.  And a national security hawk.  A centrist, who will help bring thoughtful, independent leadership to Illinois and the United States Senate.                                                                                            

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Okay, gentlemen, thank you very much.  We’re gonna go to questions right now.  Andy Shaw, you’re first.                                                                                                                                                 

ANDY SHAW:
Congressman Kirk, this campaign has featured an abundance of attack ads, character assaults, and mudslinging, and a notable lack of high level discourse on the important issues facing the next Illinois Senator.  To what extent are you– should you be held accountable by the voters of Illinois for the negative tone of the campaign, which has been disappointing to virtually everyone?                                                                                                                                      

MARK KIRK:                                                                                                                                        I think this campaign certainly has been about the resume and background, but at heart, when we vote on November 2nd, it will be about economic philosophy.  If you’re happy with the direction of the government right now.  Of trillions in debt.  Of increasingly are– accelerating the spending of the Congress.  And the grow of the– growing of the government into our– national life, then my opponent is your candidate.

But there is a growing voice in Illinois that wants a check and balance.  That does not think that we should raise taxes in Springfield, like my opponent would like, or in Washington, D.C.  And we need a new small business bill of rights.  Ten new policies to help out the real number one employers, small business.  Half of all the jobs.  Eighty percent of the job losses.  We know how Congress has hurt them.  We don’t know very much how the current Congress has helped them at all.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Mr. Giannoulias.                                                                                                                          

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
You’re right, Andy.  This has been a brutal campaign.  But it’s brutal out there for a lot of families.  And while we have tried to talk about our campaign and tried to talk about ideas, about investing in early childhood education, turn this economy around, changing the way things are done in Washington, D.C.  Congressman Kirk and Karl Rove with their millions of dollars have a different agenda.  That’s politics.

To hear Congressman Kirk say that he taxes less, borrows less, and spends less is a tremendous irony, because there’s no one in this race who’s actually taxed more, spent more, and borrowed more.  And Congressman– you can call yourself a fiscal conservative all you want.  We went from record budget surpluses to record budget deficits when you voted for every single one of the George Bush budgets.

That have– been a part of the overspending, overtaxing, over-borrowing ethos in Washington, D.C.  So to all of a sudden claim that you’re a fiscal conservative when your record doesn’t prove that, I think is important to voters.  If you’re thrilled with the way Washington, D.C. works.  If you’re thrilled with Washington, D.C. politics as usual.  With Congressman Kirk and Karl Rove, then he’s your man.  If you want some fresh leadership and some new ideas,…we create the next generation of private sector jobs now.  Then I’d be honored to have your vote.                                                            

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
And you get a follow up.                                                                                                                 

ANDY SHAW:
Let me follow up by confronting the elephant in the room, the character issue.  Congressman Kirk, what do you tell voters who wonder about a man who embellishes a resume.  Mr. Treasurer, what do you say to voters who wonder about someone whose bank makes loans to unsavory characters and who is student loan program, Bright Start, virtually collapsed?
                                                                                                                                                 GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Congressman Kirk, I think you’re first.                                                                                           

MARK KIRK:
I misstated a part of my military record.  It’s a painful process.  I learned a big lesson from that.  I apologized to the people of Illinois.  I then released all 21 years of my officer fitness report.  Service in Afghanistan.  Service in Allied Force.  Service in Northern Watch.  It’s made me a better Congressman and advocate for veterans and men and women who wear the uniform. And for me, the national security of the United States has been a life work of mine.                                                                        

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
I am very proud of the community bank that my father started 30 years ago.  And let’s be clear, no one has ever suggested that the bank has ever done anything illegal, illicit, or improper.  Never.  The truth– the difference– between myself and Congressman Kirk is– I’ve always told the truth.  And principles matter.  Values matter.  And as I mentioned earlier, you may not always agree with me, but you will always know where I stand.

I will always tell you the truth.  And that’s what we need now more than ever.  People are sick and tired of Washington, D.C. politics as usual.  Congressman Kirk has to answer to voters on why he didn’t tell the truth on his record.  And I hope we– have that discussion here tonight.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Carrie Lester, you get the next question.

CARRIE LESTER:
As Mr. Shaw mentioned– each of your campaigns have been dogged by personal stories from the past.  Mr. Kirk with– allegations of an embellished resume and Mr. Giannoulias over the failure of your family’s bank.  Looking back at how you responded to those– revelations.  Coming out into the open.  Up in– out in the media.  Do you feel you– you should have done anything differently?  Do you feel that– that any of your statements may have ultimately discouraged voters?

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
I think back when I– ran for State Treasurer, I probably should have done a better job, quite frankly, explaining– the way that community banks decide whether or not to– approve or deny  a loan.  They look at the credit worthiness of the borrower.  They look at whether or not that individual can pay the loan.  But again, we need to be clear on the facts.  And I understand it’s politics.  No one has ever– accused my father’s business of doing anything– illicit or improper.

And Congressman Kirk– and Karl Rove– have said a lot of things that are untrue and deeply offensive.  I’m very proud– of my father’s business.  I’m very proud of the fact that he came to this country and has helped thousands of people achieve the American Dream by helping them buy their first home, start their first business, hire another employee.

So, sure, it’s very easy to cherry pick a few individuals out of thousands, out of thousands– and make a nasty political ad.  But any business owner will tell you that running a business is not a straight line.  Of course, mistakes are made.  Inevitably, unfortunately, there are people you wish you never would have done business with.  But if we talk about– who’s right for moving this country forward.  If we talk about who’s gonna fight for middleclass families.  There’s a stark choice in this race.  Congressman Kirk wants to fight for big corporations and the wealthiest Americans.  I want to fight for middleclass families that have been destroyed by this recession.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Mr. Kirk?

MARK KIRK:
Well, there is a big difference here.  I made a mistake and I corrected it.  I took ownership.  As naval officers, we’re trained to take command, to be responsible, accountable, and– and for that, I am.  And that’s why I corrected the record.  But the difference between me and my opponent is he made a number of mistakes.  Betting his– bank’s future on the risky real estate loans.

Brokered hot money deposits.  And loans to well-known convicted felons and mobsters like Michael Jaws Jarango.  Even this– mystery trip to– Florida.   In which you went to see him and his business.  In which he ran a prostitution ring.  When we saw the Broadway Bank collapse, you took no responsibility whatsoever.  When we saw the Bright Star Program lose $70 million in college savings of Illinois families that trusted you, that wasn’t your fault either.  I think the difference also is in accountability.  I’m not perfect.  I made mistakes.  But I owned them and corrected them.  And meanwhile, my opponent, says nothing is really his fault.

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
Typical– typical Washington, D.C. change the subject sleight of hand.  Congressman says he’s been accountable.  Look, I’ve seen the Congressman’s fitness reports.  And they’re impressive.  But nowhere in those fitness reports does it answer any of the questions that have plagued him throughout this campaign.  He keeps on pointing to these fitness reports to provide answers to these questions.  But I’ve looked at the fitness reports.  Nowhere in there does it say that he served– in Iraq.  Nowhere in there does it say he was shot at by Dutch peacekeepers.  Nowhere– does it say that he was shot at at all.  On Meet The Press–

CARRIE LESTER:
The question was about how you handled your own situation.  And if you felt you should have done differently.                                    

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
And as I mentioned, when I– first ran for State Treasurer, I should have done a better job explaining the realities of how– of how community banks work.  But, you know, the Congressman said that– he’s holding himself accountable.  And that’s not true.  I’ve looked at these fitness reports.  On Meet The Press, David Gregory– asked him whether or not he was shot at.  And the Congressman never answered the question.  So, the question, Congressman is– why with this record, would you not tell the truth?  Why would you make all this stuff up?  Congressman, simple question.  Were you shot at or not?

MARK KIRK:
But the ultimate irony that a man who spends most of his campaign for the Senate criticizing my military record and yet he never served a day in uniform himself.                                     

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
Were you shot at or not?                                     

MARK KIRK:
And when we see this that– I have– put my life on the line for the United States, as many of my fellow veterans have done.  But your entire campaign is about a military record in which I served.  I put it on the line.  You were back in the rear– with the gear.  And I understand, you made that– decision.  And when we look at all of these– bank loans to felons and mobsters.  The people that were your business associates.  And then on national TV you admitted– "I didn’t know the extent of the criminal activity of the people that I lent money to."  From a federal licensed institution that then collapsed.  And then you transferred a $390 million bill onto the back of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.  I think you should have some apologizing to do, too.

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
Again, no answer to the question.

CHARLES THOMAS:
to Congressman Kirk.  You have made fiscal responsibility a centerpiece of your campaign.  Citing your opposition to the Obama Administration’s economic stimulus, because of its cost.  What different course or courses of action would you have supported in 2009 to stimulate the economy and get unemployed Americans back to work?

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
I think if we had a much smaller bill with a much larger amount of money for infrastructure, it could have gained bipartisan support.  But a surprising amount of the stimulus– spent money on social programs that had been rejected by the Congress for many years.  And the failure of the stimulus, remember we were promised that unemployment would top out at eight percent by the Administration.

In Illinois, it’s ten percent.  And we have seen a raft of wasteful spending stories about what the stimulus tried to spend money on.  And a real failure of its record.  I think we could have built a bipartisan record on that bill, but instead, the lasting legacy of the stimulus will be a near trillion dollar debt leveled on the financial future of our kids.  And much of that money borrowed from creditors who gave it to Uncle Sam expecting to be repaid with interest by our kids.

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
Again–

CHARLES THOMAS:
Mr. Giannoulias?                                     

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
Again– facts and records matter.  Congressman Kirk voted for every single one of the Bush budgets that took us from record budget surpluses to record budget deficit– deficits.  More was added to our national debt during those eight years than in all the administrations in the history of the United States combined.  President Obama was handed– a one point– a one and half trillion deficit the day he took office.  And now Congressman Kirk voted against the largest middleclass tax cut in this country’s history.

He voted against infrastructure projects.  And again, The Recovery Act has not been a perfect bill.  The question is what would have happened if we didn’t have it?  And economists across the board will tell you that– The Recovery Act helped stem the Second Great Depression.

CHARLES THOMAS:
Congressman Kirk, could you be more specific about what you would have supported in terms of getting the economy righted?  2009?                                     

MARK KIRK:
One of the tragedies of the stimulus was that it limited projects to shovel ready projects.  Which means the big pay off projects, which, for example, in Illinois would have been fully funding the O’Hare Modernization Project.  Or a new lock and dam system for  Mississippi River for Illinois.

CHARLES THOMAS:
You believe that should have been funded?

MARK KIRK:
If that was funded, we would have a long term economic payoff.  Instead what happened is especially the House Appropriations Committee, which largely wrote most of the legislation, was told spend nearly a trillion dollars.  And take nearly every discarded social spending program off the table.  Remember, every dollar by this Congress, 40 percent is– is borrowed.  Most of it from abroad.

One of the things I did right after the stimulus was passed was I went to the Bureau of the Public Debt and I asked the person who borrows money on behalf of the United States how much do we have to borrow per week?  And he says, "Between servicing old debt and new, Congressman, we have to borrow $160 billion a week to make sure the Treasury doesn’t run out of money."  That is irresponsible in my view.  And a growing chorus of people think that that is also completely unsustainable.

CHARLES THOMAS:
A follow up to Treasurer Giannoulias.  Will you go to Washington to simply be a rubber stamp for the Obama Administration?                                     

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
No, of course not.  And look, I– have said repeatedly that– I’m gonna vote my conscience.  And if that means I disagree with Harry Reid.  If that means I– I disagree with the Administration, then I’ll say so.  I’m there to help the people of Illinois, not to be– a typical Washington, D.C. party hat.  Here’s– my plan.  And here’s my outline of my economic plan.

I believe in a job creation tax credit for small businesses that hire right now.  I believe in a payroll tax holiday for low to moderate income workers.  I believe we should have a permanent extension of the R & D tax credit.  There’s over one and a half trillion dollars that is sitting on the sideline in the private sector, we need to do everything we can to encourage the private sector to start hiring.  To grow this economy.  To invest in infrastructure.  To create jobs right now, ‘cause people are hurting in a very real way.  And unfortunately, Congressman– Congress has forgotten how tough it is out there on main street.  We have an unemployment rate of just under ten percent in Illinois.  We need to create jobs right now.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:                                                                                                             Let me follow up on Charles question.  It’s my question now for Mr. Giannoulias.  You know, of all the Senate candidates in the country, you’re probably closer to the President than any of the other candidates.  No– you’re one of the few candidates who’s actually advertising his relationship with the President.  But no matter what happens on Election Day, there are gonna be fewer Democrats in the Senate.  There are gonna be fewer Democrats in the House.  So– so, what– as a friend of the President, what midcourse corrections would you advise him to take?  Give me two specifics.

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
Well, I will give you two specifics.  But I also think it’s important to point out that again– we are dealing with some– enormous challenges when the President took office.  That being said, there was an omnibus spending bill which had thousands of earmarks, a ton of pork, this is somewhere where I think the Congressman and I agree.  I would have voted against it.  I think the Congressman– I think– excuse me, that President Obama– should have vetoed it.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
I’m talking about going forward, though.

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
Going forward, I think we need to do everything we can, again– to create a sense of urgency when it comes towards– a clean energy future.  I think it’s– a priority not just from a moral perspective, but from a national security, from a global competitiveness, and from a job creation standpoint.  And we need to do everything we can to incentivize the private sector again to start hiring.

That means tax cuts.  That means making it a better business environment.  That means increasing access to capital.  The biggest complaint I hear from my friends in the business community is how tough it is out there to get a loan.  How tough it is out there– to get a line of credit.  And there is– a bill that would provide $30 billion– to community banks.  $12 billion in tax breaks to middle to– small business.  This is something, by the way, that the Congressman voted against.

Those are the measures– a bill that was completely deficit neutral.  Those are the measures that we need.  We need to increase access to capital.  $1.8 trillion is sitting in Wall Street banks.  Even conservatively if you– if you leverage that out, that’s $18 trillion in lending.  We need to grease– the wheels on the private sector.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Similar question for you, Congressman Kirk– Sarah Palin– yesterday said that the– Republican Party is quote "through" if they don’t follow the dictates of the Tea Party.  What does the Tea Party get right and what do they get wrong?

MARK KIRK:
Well, certainly– we should spend less, borrow less, and tax less to help this economy out.  We are facing a– $900 billion tax increase.  If you look with the Congressional leaders and their plans.  On December 31st, I think that threatens a double dip– recession.  I think if we look at– the needs to cut spending, let’s cut spending across the board, even including the Department of Defense.

For example, I voted to– not have a second engine for the F-35 fighter.  I sup– strongly supported– Secretary Gates’ plan to close down joint forces command.  I think spending restraint and I think– we may have a– line item veto proposal from the President.  I hear that’s coming.  And Republicans should support it.  Because any way that we reduce spending will help out the economy and the long term future of the United States so that we don’t become such a debtor nation in hawk to every other country in the world.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
 I’m not sure I got a direct answer to my question from either one of you.  So, I’m gonna try one more time.  First to you, Mr. Giannoulias, again, on the President’s basic approach, what kind of midcourse correction, correction from his approach?  You outlined his agenda.  What kind of correction does he have to make?

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
Sure.  As– as I mentioned– learning from– mistakes in the past– I think there is– a focus on health care reform, which is something that I’m supportive of.  And I think for the long term economic– sustainability of this country– is an important step.  That being said, I think we should have had a laser-like focus on creating jobs.

If people aren’t working, George, they’re not gonna be able to pay their mortgages.  And we’re gonna continue to have– a housing– market collapse.  If people aren’t working, their kids aren’t gonna afford– to go to college.  Losing a job is– is more than just losing a paycheck, it affects your morale, it affects our communities, and it’s making us a less secure nation.  So, we need to do everything we can, again, to create private sector jobs and to stimulate the private sector.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
What did the Tea Party get wrong?

MARK KIRK:
I think the Tea Party is focused on– fiscal conservative is good.  But if you ask what is my independence from the Republican Party, I’ve been very independent.  I have backed stem cell research.  I have backed the– the S-CHIP program for– in– for– low income kids have health insurance.

The Hate Crimes Bill, when it went through the House was the– Conyers/Kirk Bill (PH) to make sure.  And that is now the law of the land.  I voted to cut– oil subsidies for big– oil companies.  In the end, I’ve had one of the most independent voting records– in the– House of Representatives.  And when the Daily Herald endorsed me over my opponent, they said I was Mr. Independent.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Andy Shaw.

ANDY SHAW:
Gentlemen, Illinois is a fiscal basket case.  Virtually bankrupt.  A $13 billion budget deficit.  $6 billion in unpaid bills.  An $80 billion unfunded pension liability.  Now, the Federal Government found time and money to bailout big banks and Wall Street and giant insurance companies and the auto companies.  To what extent is the Federal Government responsible, if at all, for bailing out virtually bankrupt states like Illinois?  And under what conditions would you support some sort of a bailout so that there’s not governmental Armageddon in states like Illinois?  Congressman Kirk, why don’t you take a crack at this first?

MARK KIRK:
Well, the Illinois– economic situation for our state is– is terrible.  And, of course, my opponent is the State Treasurer, who has presided over much of this.  Unpaid bills by the State of Illinois have gone from $1 to $5 billion, according to the Chicago Tribune just this year.  All three credit ratings have downgraded the State of Illinois debt.  Recently, the State of Illinois even– went hat in hand to European– creditor and asked to borrow money.

And had to pay a higher interest rate than Mexico, a country whose– economy and currency collapsed in 1982.  I don’t think the Federal Government should further bailout such fiscal irresponsibility by the state.  I think we should roll back much of the sending decisions made by Governor Blagojevich.  Now an indicted and convicted felon.  And return fiscal responsibility to the State of Illinois.  Without someone bailing out even more irresponsible decisions led by the current team that runs the State of Nil– Illinois, including my opponent.

ANDY SHAW:
Bailout by the Feds, Mr. Treasurer?

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
Again, we’ve got some enormous challenges here in Illinois.  I’ve been screaming from the rooftops as State Treasurer.  And while I don’t have a vote on these issues, I do have a voice.  We talked about pension reform from the very beginning.  Unlike Congressman Kirk who has doubled our national debt, we’ve actually found ways to– to cut our discretionary spending when needed.  We’ve streamlined services in the State Treasurers Office.  I’ve cut my workforce by 17 percent my predecessor has it.

So, to hear Congressman Kirk– rail against these bailouts, here’s someone who voted twice.  Proudly said he voted twice for bailouts of the biggest Wall Street banks.  But voted against the Recovery Act, which provide– which a third of the Recovery Act provides emergency– stimulus and funding to states and municipalities that have been devastated.  And again, the State of Illinois, this is not a problem that’s happened for the last three, four, five years.  This is a 25-year problem.  Fund sweeps, chronic underfunding of the pensions.

The truth of the matter is, going forward, states provide emergency aid to a lot of families.  Social service providers.  School districts.  So, the Federal Government needs to be responsible partner.  My biggest problem with the Recovery Act, Andy, was that when money was given to states and municipalities, there was no requirement that there was some sort of– budget constraint.  Some sort of accountability to make sure that only if you get this money– you only get this money– if you make some corrections to the way you– operate your yearly budgets.

ANDY SHAW:
You don’t think that’s a good idea?  Some have suggested a virtual Race to the Top approach to bailouts.  In other words, "Prove to me that you can cut and you can raise revenues and you can streamline, and then we’ll talk about some line of credit."  Does that make sense?  Or do you roll– do you rule out bailouts of any sort?

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
I think that what you said at first makes sense.  Again– when money was given to states and municipalities, that was an opportune time– to use the Federal Government’s leverage to make sure there’s some accountability.  To make sure that every year there weren’t fund sweeps and– a lack of paying their yearly pension obligations.  To make sure that states and municipalities– live within their means.  So, yes.

ANDY SHAW:
Congressman Kirk, are there conditions under which you’d support Federal assistance, if only in the form of a line of a credit?  If they cut budgets and streamlined and raised revenues, would you then entertain the idea of some sort of credit line that would enable them to keep government running without decimating education and services?

MARK KIRK:
Certainly.  For example, I voted for Amendment this summer that cut a whole number of federal programs and provided some assistance to the states.  But it was completely revenue neutral.  And it was a surprising set of decisions by– Speaker Pelosi to actually identify many stimulus programs which were a complete waste.  And actually cut funding and provide– to key programs.

But it’s interesting, my opponent just said, he criticized me for voting for the TARP program.  And yet, during the Chicago Tribune endorsement session, after a painful to watch session, he admitted that he would have voted for it, as well.  And yet, he criticizes me for that vote.  Also in that session, the Tribune asked him, "Name one spending program or bill that you could identify."  He couldn’t name one.  And they said, once again, "Painful to watch."  Which I think is part of the reason why they endorsed me over my opponent for this office.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Carrie Lester.

CARRIE LESTER:
The Dream Act.  Legislation aimed at helping children who are in the United States illegally become citizens.  Has become one of the flashpoints in the contentious debate over illegal immigration.  Will you each please detail if you support or oppose the measure and how you would vote if this came up in the Senate?

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
My position is clear.  I– I am in favor of the Dream Act.  I’m in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.  I’m proud of the leadership that Senator Durbin, our Senior Senator has shown on this issue.  And this goes to the broader issue.  People want leaders.  They want to hear where you stand on different positions.  They asked Congressman Kirk just a few weeks ago where he stands on the Dream Act.  A bill that’s been out there for ten years.  And he said– he hasn’t read it yet.  He hasn’t seen it yet.  Well, that’s not leadership.  We can’t afford to tear these families apart.  These are young men and women– who want a chance, a shot at the American Dream.

CARRIE LESTER:
Mr. Kirk?

MARK KIRK:
I think that first we have to restore the trust of the American People in the ability to– administer our own border.  Right now, that trust is completely broken.  There are two candidates in this race.  I’m the Spanish speaking candidate.  Went to school in Mexico.  Very much care about that country.  President– Calderon has in a death struggle with drug cartels.  And says that he doesn’t have full control of four of the 32 states of Mexico.

We’ve already seen that Phoenix has become one of the kidnap capitals of the Western Hemisphere.  We don’t want that kind of violence– spreading across onto our side.  Remembering, of course, our status in Illinois as being the state with the highest number of per capita gang members– in the state.  I think if we restore that trust, if we close down the border, if make sure that for the homeland security of the United States, we accomplish a fundamental mission of understanding who is coming into the country.  We reward legal immigrants, who have played by the rules.  Then we open up the space for the rest of the debate.  But until you restore that trust, I don’t think we can move forward.  And we should restore that trust.

CARRIE LESTER:
But Congressman, if this came up for a vote before all that is done, what are you gonna do?  How are you gonna vote?

MARK KIRK:
This is not the time to do this.  We have a decisive, bipartisan majority right now for border control.  For making sure the United States can defend itself and make sure that illegal entry into the United States is not possible.  And that all of the other problems that could come with it are secured from the American People.

And we have a set of leaders in Washington right now that are out of touch with the American People.  I will tell you that the rank and file members of both parties that I work with are ready for a border control measure.  And they’re ready to establish trust.  And once we do that, the rest of the debate can happen.  But until that time, we have a set of leaders, the Speaker and the Majority Leader, who are not interested in border control.  Who want a different agenda.  And I think we’ll have new leaders soon.  And then we can step by step work on this problem by restoring that border control trust.

CARRIE LESTER:
So, are you saying that if this came up in the next few months, you would vote no then?

MARK KIRK:
I think we need to get border control first.  That’s the first piece of legislation.  And I will tell you that there is a decisive bipartisan majority of Democrats and Republicans that want to get that done first.

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
Carrie, this is what people are sick and tired of in Washington, D.C.  You asked him a simple question.  I asked him a simple question.  He refused to tell his position on– a– the Dream Act.  I’ve made my position clear.  I am for a responsible path to citizenship.  Absolutely we need to secure our borders.  That needs to be the first thing we do.  But just give ‘em an answer Congressman.  They may not always agree with you.  Just tell ‘em the truth.  Tell ‘em where you stand so they can make their decision on Election Day.  It’s important.

As I mentioned earlier, you may not always agree with me, but I’ll always tell you where I am on positions.  I don’t just put my finger in the wind and take up positions the way that Congressman Kirk has.  Someone who votes for cap and trade and says he does it for the national security interest of the United States.  And then runs– to the right of the Senator– a Senate candidate and says that he would never vote that way again.  He only voted that way for the narrow interest of his district.

Someone who on a Monday afternoon says he wants to protect 6,000 teachers from losing their job– jobs, which I was proud of.  And then 18 hours later, goes to Washington, D.C. on a Tuesday afternoon and votes against them.  That’s not leadership.  So, let’s hear where you stand on the Dream Act.  Let’s hear where you stand on whether or not you were shot at.  These are simple questions.

MARK KIRK:
Border control first.  Then later on the rest.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Charles Thomas.

CHARLES THOMAS:
Congressman Kirk, earlier this month during a conference call, you described your campaign’s "voter integrity program."  Saying it would focus on the south and west sides of Chicago.  Rockford and Metro East, where your opponents might quote "jigger the vote somewhat."  The areas you mentioned include large numbers of African Americans who in past elections have voted heavily Democratic.  Can you explain how this program– or whether this program is or is not targeted at African Americans?     

CONGRESSMAN KIRK:
It's not.  Now, remember, Metro East is 84 percent non-African American.  It's– for a statewide voter integrity effort to help poll watchers across America– across the State of Illinois, to make sure that we have a free and fair election.  It's probably no surprise that with the last two chief executives of the State of Illinois convicted felons, that we have a corruption problem in our state.  In fact, according to the Justice Department now, we're one of the six most corrupt states in America.  We've become a punch line on night– late-night television.  It's interesting that my opponent, soon after this was announced, said he's going to launch his own voter integrity operation, and I think he was quite surprised when I said, "That's good."  Because if we have a Republican and a Democrat poll watcher increases across Illinois, we have a shot at a free and a fair election.  And in the state now known as the most corrupt in America, that's a good thing.

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
I think it's clear what happened.  You got– Congressman Kirk got caught on tape saying that he wants to put, quote, "voter integrity programs."  And what it is, on the south side, on the west side of Chicago.  Parts of Rockford.  In– in areas of east St. Louis that he calls them, the same, goons and thugs are responsible– for what took place in Florida in 2000.

There's no voter integrity, and I'll tell you why his comments aren't true.  Because there's never been an accusation of fraud on the west and south side of Chicago.  Congressman, at a time when we should be encouraging people to vote, you're trying to suppress the African American vote, and that's unacceptable.  It's dangerous.

CONGRESSMAN KIRK:
Again, with the–

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
And try–

CONGRESSMAN KIRK:
It's the– in the last month.

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
It flies in the spirit of our democracy.  We're on the south and west side of Chicago where they voted for our policy.

CONGRESSMAN KIRK:
We had– we had a conviction just in Chicago recently, and in Metro–

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
On the south and west side of Chicago.

CONGRESSMAN KIRK:
But it is no secret that there is corruption in the State of Illinois, and you of all people–

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
On the south and west side of Chicago–

CONGRESSMAN KIRK:
 You of all people should know–

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
On the south and west side of Chicago.

CONGRESSMAN KIRK:
–there is corruption in the State of Illinois.

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
Exactly.  There's your answer.

CONGRESSMAN KIRK:
Okay.  Clearly, it's an amazing statement that someone would assert that there is no corruption in this state.

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
Well, you said there's voter fraud.  I'm just asking you where's the voter fraud in the south and–

CONGRESSMAN KIRK:
You've had recent convictions.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
But you– you guys are going– one of you is– is going to represent Illinois in a– in all-White Senate.  How are you going to– are you going to do anything extraordinary to represent African Americans once you get there, given the fact that there– there aren't going to be any– any others there?

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
Well, obviously– this is an historic state.  I've spoken to President Obama about this, and– and as you know, I worked hard to make sure he was President of the United States.  I've talked to Congressmen– Bobby Rush about what kind of Senator we want for the African American community, what kind of Senator we want for the people of Illinois, and he told me not since Senator Welston has there been a true fighter for middle-class families, for poverty-stricken families.
                                      GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
But what will you do– will you make– take any extraordinary steps to make sure that– that voice is heard?

ALEXI GIANNOULIAS:
Absolutely.  I want to work with– President Obama.  I want to focus on like the concepts, like the neighborhoods and more integrative approach to our inner-cities.  I want to make sure we fully fund ceasefire.  I want to make sure we fully fund the Youth Promise Act.  I want to work hard to get guns off our streets, and provide these young men and women in the inner-city options.  That's my fight, that's my struggle.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS:
Congressman Kirk?

CONGRESSMAN KIRK:
I think we need an entrepreneurial renaissance in the African American community, so that people are not dependent on just the government program, but have a business, a job, dignity, and real power.  One of the ideas that I would bring to the Senate and hope would pass would be take any vacant property, vacant– commercial property for two years, certified by the mayor, and then subject to no federal tax for the next ten years if an investor came in, built jobs, and made the inner-cities in America exciting to build a business again.  I think we also need to work with the communities to dry up the supply of recruits for the gangs.

Like Reverend– John Ike Cables, Jesus Named Apostolic Church– a Smarties program, which has helped to do this.  And finally, we need an effort to take out the big gang leaderships themselves.  The gangster disciples, the Vice Lords and the Latin Kings, that prey on kids, especially in junior high school.

Click Here for part II of the transcript.

Transcript has been edited for clarity.


 

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