'We can lay out the differences without hitting below the belt': Buttigieg on debate

2020 presidential candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg is interviewed on "This Week" following the third Democratic debate.
7:47 | 09/15/19

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Transcript for 'We can lay out the differences without hitting below the belt': Buttigieg on debate
morning. Thanks, good to be with you. I want to get to the debate but first that breaking news from the persian gulf. Those drone attacks on the Saudi oil facilities that threaten a big discorruption in the global oil supply. We've seen secretary of state Mike Pompeo call out Iran. President trump called the Saudi crown prince with a message of support. If you were in the oval office right now, how would you respond? If I were in the oval office, my focus would be on making sure this doesn't escalate into further instability, conflict and not only danger to world oil supply but danger to peace. Look, right now, there is more than enough destabilizing the Middle East and the persian gulf without fears that a president could destabilize it further with the next tweet. We need to make sure right now that we create options to prevent things from escalating further, and since this appears to be spillover from the Yemen conflict, making sure that the United States is playing a constructive role in guiding that conflict toward resolution That's the question. What is that constructive role on both fronds towards Saudi Arabia and Iran, on the one hand, many analysts have said the United States is giving too much unequivocal support to Saudi Arabia over the last several years. On the other hand, Iran has also been a destabilizing factor president trump had considered this French proposal to extend a line of credit to Iran, ease the sanctions in return for a meeting. Would you do that? Well, it makes sense to use whatever leverage we have with Iran. The problem is the president has actually reduced our leverage by unilaterally removing us from the Iran nuclear deal, the jcpoa. Look, the good news in a case like this when you think about the United States' ability to be a constructive force is that we have leverage with both sides. We have leverage with the Saudis because of our alliance and have had leverage with Iran. The problem is, we're either taking our own options off the table or not using them well. You've seen the Saudis telling the limits of our friendship with things like the killing of an American resident and journalist and we've seen Iran responding I would say predictably with escalation and provocation after what the president did to take us out of the nuclear deal. We're moving in the wrong direction but it's not too late for us to be a constructive force toward peace and stability in the region. I want to stay on foreign policy and Thursday night's discussion of Afghanistan. You said the U.S. Must stop endless wars and then added this -- If there's one thing we've learned about Afghanistan, from Afghanistan, it's that the best way not to be caught up in endless war is to avoid starting one in the first place. "The Wall Street journal" called that a startling claim. The idea that the United States started this war. What did you mean by that? Wasn't the war started by Osama bin laden from Afghanistan? Of course, it was, and that's why we acted in Afghanistan and rightly so. What I'm saying is that wars are extremely difficult to end. You know, today is the day that I left Afghanistan five years ago, and I thought I was one of the very last troops there. We are still there. We are still debating how to get out. So the lesson is when we're looking at the possibility of new conflicts erupting like some of the talk around Iran, we'd better remember how hard it was and is to resolve even a war that we had no choice but to be drawn into. So when you say the U.S. Started the war, you just misspoke? I did not say the U.S. Started war. What I'm saying is the lesson is that wars are difficult to end, but let's be very clear, we went to war in Afghanistan because the United States was attacked, and right now our mission in Afghanistan should be to ensure that we are never again attacked as a consequence of something happening in that country. Something I believe we can achieve without an open-ended commitment of ground troops. How do you feel about the debate three days out? I was struck by something David Axelrod told "The New York Times" today. He said that he felt that no one made the broadest, most appealing case for change on that stage. Do you agree? Well, in my biased opinion I, of course, think I did. Look, what we need is ideas that are bold enough to actually meet the challenge of the moment we're in and also capable of unifying the country. It's why, for example, I described how medicare for all who want it can work in a way that creates that public alternative, gets everybody covered, but unlike the medicare for all vision that senator Sanders and Warren have, it doesn't dictate that to the American people and risk further polarizing them which is difficult as a governing strategy not just politically speaking. Look, we need to unify this country. It's not going to be about papering over our differences or watering down our values. It's forming solutions that engage the American majority. Sometimes from following politics today you would forget that there is an American majority that believes that we need universal health care. There is an American majority for gun law, commonsense gun law that's going to save American lives. There is an American majority for immigration reform, higher wages, choice, pretty much everything that our party is advancing. Shame on us if we can't get and gather a majority of Americans who already agree with us on a majority of issues and use that not only to win an election but to govern well. You jumped on one of the contenders, Julian Castro, after he made that inaccurate suggestion that vice president Biden didn't remember what he was saying at the debate. But it did raise all these questions again about vice president Biden's age and fitness for office and Cory booker right after the debate had this to say on that. This is a lot of people who are concerned about Joe Biden's ability to carry the ball all the way across the end line without fumbling. At one point he's talking about people in communities like mine listening to record players. I don't remember the last time I saw a record player. Do you share that concern? That's for the voters to decide. Look, each one of us is competing based on our abilities and based on our vision and I think the candidate who has the best abilities and vision is going to prevail. I think we can lay out the differences without hitting below the belt, and that's what I plan to continue to do as a candidate. You have made this case for generational change. And that's one of your big pitches. You're only 37 years old. One of the other candidates, Andrew yang, told "The cedar Rapids gazette," it's difficult for someone born in the 1940s to have a natural understanding of the problems facing America today. Is that part of your pitch as well? I don't think that anyone should be disqualified as long as you're old enough constitutionally to run, which means being over 35. I do think that coming from a newer generation, coming from my generation gives you a different kind of perspective on some of these issues. Look, when we talk about, for example, the fact that by 2050 we have got to be carbon neutral as an economy, you know, lord willing, I'm planning to be here to see if we made it happen. I have a very personal stake in issues from that to the debt and the deficit. Something that's not a fashionable topic among Democrats but certainly for my generation that expects to be here when some of these fiscal time bombs go off. A real concern. And I think that perspective needs to be at the table right now at a time when around the world we're seeing more and more elected leaders from France to New Zealand to El Salvador coming from my generation when three out of the last four presidents were born within a few weeks of each other. Finally while you were on the statement Thursday night in Houston, the president was in Baltimore giving one of his campaign rally-type speeches, and it included some digs at you. Let's listen. They say, buttigieg is two points up in the state of Texas against president trump. I said, I don't think so. Do you think buttigieg is winning Texas? I've had him up to here. What's the best way to respond to that bluster? I mean, you can't take it that seriously other than I'm very curious to know what pollster let him know that I'm beating him in Texas by two points. That's news to me but it's very good news if it's true. Mayor buttigieg, thanks for joining us this morning.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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