TRANSCRIPT: ABC News/Facebook/WMUR Democratic Debate

Four Democratic contenders meet in New Hampshire.

ByABC News
January 5, 2008, 10:35 PM

Jan. 5, 2008— -- The following is a full transcript of the Democratic presidential debate sponsored by ABC News, Facebook, and ABC affiliate WMUR. The debate took place on January 5, 2008, at St. Anslem College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

SAWYER: And that's Charlie Gibson talking to the new crowd thathas come in for the Democratic contenders as they gear up to begintheir debate in just a few minutes, as we say.

They're checking mics, checking where they're going to sit. Itis the second half of our double-header tonight.

And while they're getting ready, we though we'd show you some ofthe action taking place outside the auditorium at St. Anselm College.

Take a look at this. It's the campaign visibility area, which isa very dry name for what goes on. The candidates' supporters go outand, in some of the gentler campaign arts, they sign at each other,they cheer for each -- it's 32 degrees outside, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you know what so much of that is for?That's actually for the candidates. You want your candidate to gointo that room and see all the supporters out there so it pumps you upas you're heading in.

SAWYER: So, as they come in in their cars...


SAWYER: ... they see their supporters braving the cold to cheerthem on.

SAWYER: It's a great thing, one of the things we love aboutdemocracy. But of course, I just want to say that we do want toremind everybody of where everything stands now.


In the Iowa caucuses Thursday night, Barack Obama, the big winneron Thursday night. He got 38 percent of the vote. John Edwardssqueezing by Hillary Clinton, 30 percent to her 29 percent, and BillRichardson, who will also be in the debate tonight, he was way, wayback. He was back at 2 percent.

SAWYER: And as we said earlier, according to the latest trackingpoll from our affiliate in New Hampshire, WMUR, cosponsors oftonight's debate, Clinton and Obama are now neck-and-neck, tied at 33percent going into tonight's debate, with Edwards in third with 20percent, Richardson in fourth with 4 percent.

OK, George, tell us what to look for here.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think Senator Clinton's got the toughest jobtonight. She's got to find a way to be aggressive and engage BarackObama, without appearing too negative.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What I think she's going to try to do ispressure him on national security issues, and pounce if he makes amistake. That's what's most important.

What she'll also do -- and this is speaking about what Biannafound in Facebook -- show some passion about the economy, about whatpeople are going through, especially in New Hampshire.

Barack Obama, his job tonight is to ride the wave. You know, hegrew up part of his life in Hawaii. He was a surfer. And what he'sgot to do tonight is just ride this wave of change. But there's goingto be a lot of pressure on him as well, again, on these nationalsecurity issues. He cannot make a mistake on this issue tonight.That could be real trouble for him.

John Edwards -- I don't actually know what he's going to do,because he's got a choice to make tonight. He's got to decide who hisopponent is in New Hampshire. Is it Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?Out on the stump in the last few days, he's been kind of ignoringSenator Clinton and focusing more on Obama. We'll see what he doestonight.

And finally, Bill Richardson is going to be in there. And hemight have to change tonight as well. All through these debates, hehas been very nice to Senator Clinton. He's been the one backing herup and saying, "Everybody should be positive."

But I've got to tell you, right now, the Clinton campaign and theClintons themselves are livid at Governor Bill Richardson, becausethey believe he made these deals with Barack Obama in the Iowacaucuses to throw his support in the places where he wasn't viable toBarack Obama so he could stay in the race.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And it will be interesting to see the bodylanguage and the play between Richardson and Clinton tonight becauseof that.

SAWYER: Well, let's talk about a couple of the things SenatorClinton did on the campaign trail just today -- changed a few of hertactics.

She took questions at great length. Even for a couple of hours,she took questions.

She had some independent young voters traveling along with her.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think they're responding to what happened onThursday night, the tableaux of Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright,not looking like change.

Also, she's taking a page out of her husband's playbook from1992. Campaign round the clock; answer every question.

John McCain did it, too, in 2000. It works in New Hampshire.

SAWYER: All right.

Here it goes, once again. Another high-stakes moment. It is theDemocrats turn. And Charlie Gibson is in Manchester, New Hampshire.


GIBSON: Thank you very much, Diana.

And thank you, George.

We are back at the Dana Humanities Center at Saint Anselm Collegehere in Manchester, New Hampshire.

And I am delighted to say that the four leading Democraticpresidential candidates vying for the Democratic nomination are alljoining us this evening. And we have, again, drawn lots for theirplacement on the stage.

GIBSON: And so let me introduce them from left to right. Wehave with us former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, SenatorBarack Obama of Illinois, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico andSenator Hillary Clinton from New York.

And again, for the first 45 minutes of this debate, I will beposing questions in three rather broad categories. We'll do 15minutes each, but with the hope that I can sort of stay out of the wayto the extent possible and let the candidates discuss the issues amongthemselves.

There are no lights to limit -- time limits, at least for thispart of the debate. But I will interrupt politely, I hope, if thingsseem to be going a little bit long.

GIBSON: So let me start with what is generally agreed to be, Ithink, the greatest threat to the United States today, and, somewhatto my surprise, has not been discussed as much in the presidentialdebates this year as I thought would be, and that is nuclearterrorism.

And for some background, here's ABC's Chief InvestigativeCorrespondent Brian Ross.


BRIAN ROSS, ABC CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: After morethan six years of trying, the United States still does not have areliable way to spot nuclear material that terrorists might smuggleinto the country, much as ABC News twice did in demonstrations withoutbeing caught.

And after six years of trying, the United States has yet tocapture the man who says it is his religious duty to get nuclearweapons: Osama bin Laden.

And in the last 18 months, U.S. officials say his Al Qaida hasregrouped using safe havens along the Pakistani border to train anddispatch hundreds of new recruits.

ROSS: And just as troubling, amidst all the turmoil in Pakistan,the influence of bin Laden continues to grow there, a country withmany nuclear weapons.



GIBSON: Brian Ross there.

Well, Osama bin Laden, as he pointed out, has said it is his dutyto try to get nuclear weapons. Al Qaida has been reconstituted andre-energized in the western part of Pakistan.

And so my general question is, how aggressively would you goafter Al Qaida leadership there?

And let me start with you, Senator Obama, because it was you whosaid in your foreign policy speech that you would go into westernPakistan if you had actionable intelligence to go after it, whether ornot the Pakistani government agreed. Do you stand by that?

OBAMA: I absolutely do stand by it, Charlie. What I said wasthat we should do everything in our power to push and cooperate withthe Pakistani government in taking on Al Qaida, which is now based innorthwest Pakistan. And what we know from our national intelligenceestimates is that Al Qaida is stronger now than at any time since2001.

OBAMA: And so, back in August, I said we should work with thePakistani government, first of all to encourage democracy in Pakistanso you've got a legitimate government that we're working with, andsecondly that we have to press them to do more to take on Al Qaida intheir territory.

What I said was, if they could not or would not do so, and we hadactionable intelligence, then I would strike.

And I should add that Lee Hamilton and Tom Keaton, the heads ofthe 9/11 Commission, a few months later wrote an editorial saying theexact same thing.

I think it's indisputable that that should be our course.

Let me just add one thing, though. On the broader issue ofnuclear proliferation, this is something that I've worked on sinceI've been in the Senate. I worked with Richard Lugar, then theRepublican head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to pass thenext stage of what was Nunn-Lugar so that we would have improvedinterdiction of potentially nuclear materials.

OBAMA: And it is important for us to rebuild a nuclearnonproliferation strategy, something that this administration,frankly, has ignored, and has made us less safe as a consequence.

It would not cost us that much, for example, and would take aboutfour years for us to lock down the loose nuclear weapons that arestill floating out there, and we have not done the job.

GIBSON: I'm going to go the others in a moment, but what youjust outlined is essentially the Bush doctrine. We can attack if wewant to, no matter the sovereignty of the Pakistanis.

OBAMA: No, that is not the same thing, because here we have asituation where Al Qaida, a sworn enemy of the United States, thatkilled 3,000 Americans and is currently plotting to do the same, is inthe territory of Pakistan. We know that.

And this is not speculation. This is not a situation where weanticipate a possible threat in the future.

And my job as commander in chief will be to make sure that westrike anybody who would do America harm when we have actionableintelligence do to that.

GIBSON: Senator Edwards, do you agree with him?

EDWARDS: If I as president of the United States know where Osamabin Laden is, I would go get him, period.

This man is the mastermind of a mass murder in the United Statesof America. He is public enemy number one, as Al Qaida is.

But I would add, this has to be put into a bigger context of whatshould America be doing over the long term to deal with this wholeissue of nuclear proliferation? Because if you look at Pakistan, it'sa perfect vehicle for actually thinking about this issue.

Here's an unstable leader, Musharraf, in a country with a seriousradical -- violently radical element that could, under somecircumstances, take over the government.

If they did, they would have control of a nuclear weapon. Theycould either use it, or they could turn it over to a terroristorganization to be used against America or some of our allies.

I think the bigger picture on this is, what do we do over thelong term?

Because what we're doing now is essentially an ad hoc, nation-by-nation, case-by-case basis of trying to control the spread of thisnuclear technology.

EDWARDS: In the short term, that is exactly what we should doand what I would do as president of the United States. But A.Q. Khan,who developed the nuclear weapon for Pakistan, we know has alreadyspread some of this technology to other places.

And I think this ad hoc policy does not work over the long term.And what I believe we should be doing over the long term and what Iwill do as president of the United States, besides dealing with theseshort-term threats -- which are very serious and should be takenseriously -- I, as president of the United States, want to do whatsome Republicans and some Democrats have said, which is to lead along-term initiative -- international initiative -- to actually ridthe world of nuclear weapons, because that is the only way to make theworld safer and secure and to keep America safe.

GIBSON: Well, you led me right up to the point of what you'd doif the Islamic radicals actually took control of the Pakistanigovernment and, therefore, were in control of nuclear weapons, andthen you went away from that. But I'll come back to that in a moment.

Governor Richardson?

RICHARDSON: In any foreign policy decision, I would usediplomacy first, in response to your question.

RICHARDSON: And that basically means that the last thing we needin the Muslim world is another action like Iraq, which is going toinflame the Muslim world in a horrendous way.

Now, here's what I would do.

First, with Pakistan, here is an example of a country, apotentially failed nation-state with nuclear weapons. What apresident must do is have a foreign policy of principles and realism.

And the Bush foreign policy, with Musharraf, we get the worst ofall worlds. We had a situation where he has not gone after Al Qaidain his own country, despite the fact that we've given him $11 billion.And he's also severely damaged the constitution. He's basically saidthat he is the supreme dictator. So we have the worst of all worlds.

What I would specifically do as president is I would askMusharraf to step aside. There is a provision in the Pakistaniconstitution...

GIBSON: Ask him to step aside?

RICHARDSON: Yes. For a caretaker...


RICHARDSON: Because we have the leverage to do that.

RICHARDSON: We have the leverage to do that.


RICHARDSON: And I would send a high-level envoy to ask him tostep aside.

There's a provision in the Pakistani constitution for a caretakergovernment of technocrats. This happened when a previous primeminister died. And I would make it unmistakably clear that he had tohave elections.

Now, elections are scheduled tentatively for February. A broadlybased government, it's what's best for the United States.

GIBSON: I understand your point about diplomacy, but SenatorObama's postulate was, we have actionable intelligence, the Musharrafgovernment won't move. Do we, should we go into western Pakistan and,essentially, try to take him out?

RICHARDSON: If we have actionable intelligence that is real andif Musharraf is incapable, which he is -- because here's a man who hasnot stood up for his democracy, he is virtually in a situation wherehe's losing control -- then you do take that action.

RICHARDSON: However, Charlie, first you use diplomacy.

And diplomacy is to try to get what is best for the UnitedStates. And that is a democratic Pakistan with free and fairelections, and a concerted effort on the part of Musharraf or whoeveris in the leadership in Pakistan to go after the terrorists in thosesafe havens which they have not done.

GIBSON: Senator Clinton?

CLINTON: Well, I think it's important to get back to yourquestion, because obviously that's the most direct threat to theUnited States.

We did take action similar to what has been described about 10years ago, based on what was thought to be actionable intelligence,sending in missiles to try to target bin Laden and his top leadershipwho were thought to be at a certain meeting place.

CLINTON: They were not taken out at the time.

So we have to be very conscious of all the consequences.

Now, as far as I know, there are, like, five things quickly thatwe should be looking at.

Bin Laden has in large measure regrouped because we did not putin the troops and make the commitment to aggressively going after himinside Afghanistan when we had a chance. Therefore, we need more NATOtroops and a faster effort to train the Afghan army so that we do havethe personnel and the technology, including the Predators, to be ableto be on the spot at the time to try to move as quickly as possible.

Secondly, I think it's imperative that any actionableintelligence that would lead to a strike inside Pakistan's territorybe given the most careful consideration.

CLINTON: And at some point -- probably when the missiles havebeen launched -- the Pakistani government has to know they're on theway. Because one of the problems is the inherent paranoia about Indiain the region in Pakistan, so that we've got to have a plan to try tomake sure we don't ignite some kind of reaction before we even knowwhether the action we took with the missiles has worked.

Real quickly, thirdly, so far as we know right now, the nucleartechnology is considered secure, but there isn't any guarantee,especially given the political turmoil going on inside Pakistan.

I would work very hard to try to get Musharraf, who is theelected president -- these elections are about parliamentarypositions. If you remove Musharraf and have elections, that's goingto be very difficult for the United States to be able to control whatcomes next.

CLINTON: I would try to get Musharraf to share the securityresponsibility of the nuclear weapons with a delegation from theUnited States and, perhaps, Great Britain, so that there is some fail-safe.

And just, finally, I think that what we have to do is, Musharrafand Afghanistan, is to repair the failed policies of the Bushadministration. And that's going to require intensive effort in theregion. And Bill is right that we should be engaged in that diplomacyright away.

But this is the forgotten front line in the war againstterrorism, because the Bush administration has walked away.

RICHARDSON: Charlie, I want us to just remember history. I wantus to remember history.

Years ago, we backed the shah of Iran, a dictator. We are payingfor that policy today by having backed a tyrant who repressed hispeople -- unintended consequences.

A president has to act.

RICHARDSON: I believe that we have to be on the side of thePakistani people, not on the side of the dictator.

And what we have today is an opportunity to get Musharraf to stepaside, to move toward this caretaker government, but also -- also --to use the leverage of the assistance we've given him.

Most of the assistance that we've given him -- $11 billion, hehasn't used to go after terrorists. He's put it in militaryassistance for his fight against India. The money has been stolen.

We get the worst of all worlds. If we stand on a foreign policyof principle, of human rights, along with protecting our security,that is the best direction for our foreign policy.

OBAMA: Let me just pick up on a couple of things that have beensaid. And I think people are in broad agreement here. But I thinkone of the things that's been left out is Iraq. And part of thereason that we neglected Afghanistan, part of the reason that wedidn't go after bin Laden as aggressively as we should have is we weredistracted by a war of choice.

OBAMA: And that's the flaw of the Bush doctrine. It wasn't thathe went after those who attacked America. It was that he went afterthose who didn't.

And as a consequence, we have been bogged down, paidextraordinary -- an extraordinary price in blood and treasure, and wehave fanned the anti-American sentiment that actually makes it moredifficult for us to act in Pakistan.

Just one more point I want to make on this, Charlie. I think itis absolutely true that we have to, as much as possible, getPakistan's agreement before we act. And that's always going to be thecase.

GIBSON: I want to...

OBAMA: But we have to make sure that we do not hesitate to actwhen it comes to Al Qaida. Because they are currently stronger thanthey were at any time since 2001, partly because we took our eye offthe ball.

GIBSON: I want to go to another question. And it really is thecentral one in my mind in nuclear terrorism. The next president ofthe United States may have to deal with a nuclear attack on anAmerican city.

GIBSON: I've read a lot about this in recent days. The bestnuclear experts in the world say there's a 30 percent chance in thenext 10 years.

Some estimates are higher. Graham Allison (ph), at Harvard, saysit's over 50 percent.

Senator Sam Nunn, in 2005, who knows a lot about this, posed twoquestions that stick in my mind. And I want to put them to you here.

On the day after a nuclear weapon goes off in an American city,what would we wish we had done to prevent it? And what will weactually do on the day after?


EDWARDS: Well...


EDWARDS: Well, let me say first, this is the very point I wasmaking a few minutes ago.

In the short term, we're faced with very, very serious threatsabout the possibility of these nuclear weapons getting in the hands ofa terrorist group or somebody who wants to attack the United States ofAmerica.

The first thing is we have to immediately find out who'sresponsible and go after them. And that is the responsibility of thepresident of the United States.

Because if someone has attacked us with a nuclear weapon, itmeans they have nuclear technology, it means they could have gottenanother nuclear weapon into the United States that we're unaware of.We have to find these people immediately and use every tool availableto us to stop them.

EDWARDS: Secondly, it is the responsibility of the United States-- and by the way, what I'm about to say doesn't just apply to anuclear attack. It applies to this crisis that exists in Pakistanright now with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

It is the responsibility of the president in times like this tobe a force for strength, principled strength, but also calmness.

It is enormously important for the president of the United Statesnot to take -- to react and to react strongly, but to do it in a waythat is calming for the American people and calming for the world.

Because it would be an enormous mistake for the president of theUnited States to take a terrible, dangerous situation where millionsof Americans or thousands of Americans could have lost their lives,and to ratchet up the rhetoric and make it worse than it already is.

GIBSON: Let me come to the two Sam Nunn questions to you,Senator.

OBAMA: Well, as I said, I've already been working on this. AndI think this is the most significant foreign policy issue that weconfront.

We would obviously have to retaliate against anybody who struckAmerican soil, whether it was nuclear or not. It would be a much moreprofound issue if it were nuclear weapons.

That's why it's so important for us to rebuild the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that has fallen apart under this administration.

We have not made a commitment to work with the Russians to reduceour own nuclear stockpiles. That has weakened our capacity topressure other countries to give up nuclear technology. We have notlocked down the loose nuclear weapons that are out there right now.

These are all things that we should be taking leadership on. Andpart of what we need to do in changing our foreign policy is not justend the war in Iraq; we have to change the mindset that ignores long-term threats and engages in the sorts of actions that are not makingus safe over the long term.

GIBSON: And I know, Senator Clinton, you've worked on this, aswell.

CLINTON: Yes, I have.

GIBSON: But in terms of retaliation, this is not likely going tobe a state that sets off a nuclear attack (inaudible), it's going tobe a stateless group.

CLINTON: Well, the first part of your question was, what wouldwe wish we had done. And I have worked on this in past legislation tomove in the direction that I think we should go to have a very highlevel of commitment from the White House, including a personresponsible in our government for marshaling our resources against theproliferation of nuclear weapons.

CLINTON: There has to be a better organizing effort to make surethat every part of the United States government is working together.I don't think we've done what we need to do on homeland defense. Youstarted that segment talking about the ease with which ABC smuggledthings into this country. We haven't done enough on port security.We have not made the kind of commitment that is necessary to protectus from this kind of importation.

But let me just add that when you look at where we are, thestateless terrorists will operate from somewhere. I mean, part of ourmessage has to be there is no safe haven.

CLINTON: If we can demonstrate that the people responsible forplanning the nuclear attack on our country may not themselves be in agovernment or associated with a state, but have a haven within one,then every state in the world must know we will retaliate againstthose states.

There cannot be safe havens for stateless terrorists who are inthese networks that are plotting to have the proliferation of nuclearweapons and be smuggling into our country or elsewhere the kind ofsuitcase device that could cause such havoc.

So I think we have to be very, very clear. You know, deterrenceworked during the Cold War in large measure because the United Statesmade it clear to the Soviet Union that there would be massiveretaliation.

We have to make it clear to those states that would give safehaven to stateless terrorists, that would launch a nuclear attackagainst America that they would also face a very heavy retaliation.

GIBSON: Final word, Governor?

RICHARDSON: Charlie, when I was secretary of energy, that wasone of my responsibilities: securing nuclear stockpiles, nuclearmaterials, mainly with the Soviet Union.

RICHARDSON: I went there many times. We made progress.

But since then, there has been a proliferation of loose nuclearweapons, mainly in the hands of terrorists, that could cross,presumably, a border; that could be smuggled in in a cargo ship withour very weak port security.

If I'm elected president, I will do two things. First, I willseek immediate negotiations with the Soviet Union and other nuclearstates to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, but also a treaty onfissionable material, where you have verification, where you try tosecure those loose nuclear weapons from states like North Korea andothers that could be drifting into the international community.

RICHARDSON: But most importantly, I think we have to realizethat the challenges America faces internationally, they'retransnational. They're stateless.

It's international terrorism. It's nuclear terrorism. It'senvironmental degradation. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Makingus less dependent on fossil fuels. Those are the transnationalchallenges that are going to require international cooperation.

And this president believes in unilateralism. This presidentbelieves in going military first. This president believes inpreemption. You discussed this in the Republican debate. My foreignpolicy would be different.

GIBSON: I'm going to...

RICHARDSON: There would be realism,...

GIBSON: I'm going to move on.

RICHARDSON: ... human rights and principles.

GIBSON: I'm going to move on.

And I'm going to move on to domestic policy, how much thegovernment is spending, how much you would spend with the programsyou've proposed and the promises you've made.

GIBSON: And some of that is entitlements. For a littlebackground, ABC's Betsy Stark.


ABC BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT BETSY STARK: Every hour of this newyear, another 400 baby boomers will turn 60, swelling the ranks ofthose soon eligible to collect Social Security and Medicare. Theforecasts are foreboding. By 2017, the Social Security surplus runsdry and the system begins taking in less tax revenue than it pays outin benefits.

For Medicare, the problems are even more severe. By 2013, theprogram's Hospital Insurance Fund is expected to fall into the red andthe insurance premiums seniors pay for doctor's visits andprescription drugs are projected to keep rising.


STARK: Many young Americans simply assume there will be nothingleft for them to guarantee the security of their old age.