Live from North High School in Des Moines just one month before Iowa voters go to caucus to pick a democratic candidate for president. They are all here on one stage. Clinton, Edwards, Revell, Kucinich, Richardson, Biden and Obama. Talking tonight about immigration and civil rights, education and health care.
They better come prepared, these candidates will have to answer to some questions.
A last chance to make their case. And to make a move. HDNet presents the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum. Now live from Des Moines here is Dan Rather.
DR: (2:25) Good evening from a very cold and snowy Des Moines, Iowa and welcome to HDNet’s coverage of the Sixth Brown and Black Forum. We are coming in from inside North High School what you are seeing now is outside the high school where various demonstrators for the different candidates are shouting their slogans holding up their signs, beating their drums and so forth. It will be a capacity crowd inside. The forum will take place just behind me in the schools auditorium. On January 3rd just a little over a month from now Iowans will caucus to register their preferences for presidency. In the current wide open race the Iowa caucuses figure to play a key roll in setting the tone for what’s to come. This is especially true for the democratic candidates. Seven of whom are with us tonight. Now for the record the forum has repeatedly asked republican candidates to participate and they have declined. But this history making democratic field which includes an African American, a Hispanic Latino and a woman running for the highest office in the land. Tonight presents an opportunity to address questions of particular concern to voters of minority racial heritage. And in a nation where persons of minority racial background make up now one third of the overall population the issues explored tonight are of importance to all Americans. Foreign policy questions, Iraq, Iran, what to do about terrorism have often grabbed the headlines but expect domestic policy to get plenty of attention this night. Questions of race and poverty. So long staples of American politics but which to often get unaddressed in today’s campaigns along with such key issues as immigration and health care. Tonight’s even has become a must do for the democratic candidates. The Brown and Black Forum has become a major quadrennial event here in Iowa and this years field of candidates will be answering questions and addressing issues to an audience that represents the increasing diversity here in the heartland of America. Iowa turns out is changing to look like much of the rest of the country. HDNet’s Marla Tellez has that story.
MT: (4:38) Thanks Dan. The statistics may surprise you. Many Americans have the impression that Iowa is a wide homogenous place but there is a sizeable African American population and the challenges they face are a microcosm of the problems blacks face nationally. They are incarcerated at disproportionately high rates. Black high school students are suspended and expelled more than any other group. Many African Americans are actually losing hope. A new pole shows that nationally almost 80% of black’s life is the same if not worse than it was five years. Less than 50% believe life will get better in the next five years. This is a turnaround from the 1980s when 40% of blacks said that their lives were improving and nearly 60% were optimistic that their futures would be better. For the large still and growing Latino population immigration is one of the central issues. There have been raids at company’s employing immigrants and in some towns a backlash against what is perceived to be a flood of new residents. And poverty is an enormous problem. In 2005 the state wide poverty rate was about 11%. For Latinos almost 26%. Issues like these form the backdrop for the coming Iowa caucus and tonight’s forum. So it’s no wonder that the forum is held at North High School in Des Moines a racially mixed inner city school.
(6:10) So they could have picked really any high school to do the forum do you think that North High is a good representation?
(6:16) I think so. To have the Black and Brown Forum here like something for minorities cause we are so diverse like we have a lot of different types of people here. So I think it’s a very good representation.
MT: (6:27) We sat down last month with five kids to get their take. What matters to them and what they would like to hear from the politicians that they’ll see up close. Meet Carissa, Ahn, Laura, Juan and Marissa.
(6:43) My boyfriend was trying to pass out Ombama flyers he’s like down to earth I think. I haven’t seen no one else talk like Hillary or something but he was one that I was really interested in.
MT: (6:55) This will be the first presidential election these kids will get to vote in. They are all getting registered for caucus.
(7:02) And what about the idea of voting is that something that excites you? How does that make you feel?
(7:06) Yea it really does excite me just because I’m 18 I finally like my opinion and my voice finally matters and I can put it on a ballot and send it in and say this is who I want, this is who I pick. So I’ve always been too young to anything and now that I’m 18 I can finally do something that is going to matter.
(7:22) When did your parents come from Vietnam.
(7:25) We came like seven years ago.
(7:26) So that must be really satisfying to for you then have come here from Vietnam and now you are going to be 18 and you can take part in the political
(7:36) My opinion actually is going to be something like can make a difference in America.
MT: (7:43) They say the racial and gender diversity among the democratic candidates is a refreshing change.
(7:49) There is a black man, a Hispanic, a white woman.
(7:54) I think its great because like we’ve had rich white men like all the time you know like I think we need a president that can relate to everybody. Who went through the things that people went through in America like there’s not every citizen here is a rich white man. So I think we just need something different. We’re a different country now.
(8:20) As a minority in Iowa are there issues that you want them to address?
(8:24) Basically immigration. I don’t know what I want them to do basically they are coming here because they want a better life. For me it’s like hard to hear like they want. They want us out of here and I know we did go into the country illegally because that is what my parents did but I don’t know I think they need to be open minded. Think of all those people that are trying to work.
(8:53) There are actually minorities who work the jobs that Americans like don’t want no work. Some of them is like cleaning up at the hospital. My mom used to work at a hospital. Whenever she works, whenever she comes home her and my grandma they are always hurting their back by leaning down cleaning I mean it was hard. And there are no Americans going to do that. And what if we get sent back I mean American won’t be America anymore.
MT: Education is another big issue for these college bound seniors.
(9:26) How are you planning to pay for college?
(9:28) Hopefully I get enough scholarships and if not just getting loans and paying them back later on in life. Education is getting really expensive like going to college and I know that’s one of the big issues that’s going on right now. They are trying to make it cheaper and that will really like effect me in the future now like how much I have pay, how much more I have to pay, how much less and it’s like it would be really good to see it less.
MT: (9:58) Of all the things we discussed there were two issues these kids feel most passionate about. First the War in Iraq.
(10:06) Do any of you here have somebody fighting in the war.
(10:10) My friend she goes here her brother is in the war and she scared a lot when she hears the news about what’s happening over there.
(10:18) Any my teammates my former teammates they graduated last year. They signed up for the Marines Reserve.
(10:24) So it’s very real for you then.
(10:25) Yes. They were my friends. They said that why they did it in the first place because they regret doing it.
(10:33) There is a lot of students from North that are being shipped out to Iraq. But like for me it does make a difference because I think its just like its so stupid that we are out trying to fix somebody else’s country when our own country is still like messed up. New Orleans is still messed up from Katrina and that was what two years ago? Why are we in Iraq? Like I don’t understand why we are fighting over there. Like why are we losing our families over this.
MT: (11:03) And the other issue they experience on a personal level. Health care.
(11:10) About the reason why I have health insurance is because we have a low income and like it’s sucks for a lot of people who do have good jobs but they still can’t pay health insurance. My mom doesn’t have health insurance. So even when she gets sick she can’t go to the hospital.
(11:26) It’s my brother and his kids that don’t have health insurance and it’s hard. My brother was out of job and when they are sick you have to take them no matter what and you have to pay for it even though you don’t have, it’s very expensive.
(11:42) So then health care must be a priority for you in terms of what the next candidates.
(11:48) Yea I really care about health care. And I think everybody should have health insurance no matter what.
(11:54) I think health care is very important in and everybody needs it and its ridiculous how much it can cost knowing that every American, every citizen no matter where they are need health care and they all get sick and they need taking care of so I think it should be affordable knowing that it’s a universal thing that everybody’s going to need. It doesn’t have to be free but just affordable. Just so everybody can take advantage of it.
MT: (12:14) Strong beliefs, smart ideas. From smart young minds. Ready for their first election.
(12:20) A show of hands if you can go, are you guys going to attend the Brown and Black Forum?
MT: (12:29) They will be joined by voters from all across Iowa tonight for an event that can’t help but influence who wins the democratic nomination. Dan.
DR: (12:38) Thanks Marla. We are now joined by the distinguished governor of Iowa Chet Culver. Who was Secretary of State in this state for two terms before becoming governor. Governor Culver is a democrat who has a special concern about high school graduation rates and renewable energy. Welcome Governor. Glad to have you here.
CC: (12:57) Great to be with you Dan. Thanks for being in Des Moines tonight.
DR: (13:00) Well it’s always a pleasure to be in Des Moines even though the weather turned a little rough today. Governor, what are you looking for out of this forum tonight that we haven’t heard in previous forums or “debates”?
CC: (13:11) Well I think it’s very important for the presidential candidates to focus on diversity. That talk specifically about issues that relate to the African American and Latino communities that’s what the Brown Black Forum has historically been all about and I think Iowans and the rest of the nation deserve to hear how these candidates stand on some of these tough issues and I’m excited to be here. It’s kind of fun to watch as opposed to being in the middle of the battle. I just got elected last November and I’m honored that so many have decided to be here for this important night.
DR: (13:47) Well I’m noting that your father was a previous governor or Iowa and had a reputation of being one of the better governors in the nation. About renewable energy if you could ask one question of these candidates tonight about renewable energy what would it be?
CC: (14:00) I think what are the question is what are we going to ask Americans to do. Everyone is going to have to be a part of what I’ve called this twenty first century energy expedition. It’s going to take a coordinated effort, citizens in Iowa and across the nation are going to have to be a part of this. We’re going to have to be more efficient obviously with energy. And I hope that congress and the next administration really makes a commitment in terms of setting very high benchmarks whether its related to reducing emissions or using more bio-fuels or using more wind that leadership needs to come from Washington and then once it does we will ask Americans and Iowans to be a part of that in a constructive way. They might mean buying for flex fuel vehicles I’ve urged Iowans to buy flex fuel vehicles to purchase E85 to purchase bio diesel as opposed to being dependent on Mideastern oil so the next president is going to have to call on Americans to help us solve this energy challenge in the future and I expect that any one of these democrats will.
DR: (15:11) Let’s talk about graduation rates. Particularly among young men and women but principally young man in the minority communities. I know you have talked about this a lot but again if you could ask these candidates one question directed toward helping at least to solve this problem I think you have 46% drop out rate among African American young men in high school in this state what question would ask them?
CC: (15:34) Well this is an issue that’s near and dear to my heart in fact I’m the only governor in the nation that’s been in the classroom in the last twenty years. I have a masters in teaching. I taught right here in the Des Moines public schools a couple of miles from here at Hoover High School and so I’ve been on the front lines. I’ve been in the classroom with a 150 kids a day, six different classes, basketball before school, football after school. We need to give young people hope and opportunity. And it starts with early childhood education. W also have to give every child in America and Iowa a healthy start. If we can commit, if the next president can commit to giving every child in America health care and early childhood education we will solve half the challenge right there. On the other side of the equation we need to allow young people to go on to higher education. Unfortunately Iowa has ranked at the very bottom recently in needs based access to higher ed. That means based on income, we’re shutting out way to many young Iowans and young Americans across the nation are finding a similar challenge because higher ed is so expensive. We have to make college more affordable. We’ve come up in Iowa with an all Iowa opportunity scholarship based not on merit but needs based. Based on income. We need to offer the kids when they get into the educational system at a young age and when they leave those types of opportunities and I am confident that these young kids given those important tools will succeed and thrive and be productive citizens and I expect these candidates to talk on about their plans, specifically related to college affordability, and early childhood education tonight.
DR: (17:21) And how are you going to pay for all of that? Outlined a number of things that need to be done willing to raise taxes to do that?
CC: (17:28) Well I think it’s a matter of priorities. In Iowa we have a five billion dollar budget. We’ve decided that education is important. I didn’t have to raise taxes last session but we gave our regions institution the highest amount of money ever. We came up with the all Iowans opportunity scholarship, we’re expanding early childhood access across the state and we’re going to be the first state in the nation to cover every kid when it comes to health care. It’s a matter of choices. At that State house in Des Moines and at the Capital in Washington DC and it doesn’t necessarily involve cutting taxes. It might or raising taxes, it might involve in closing some loopholes some corporate loopholes and the candidates have talked about that. The presidential candidates. So it’s really a matter of having the commitment. And then asking Americans and Iowans to be a part of that vision.
DR: (18:24) I know you want to get inside the auditorium but democratic governor in a swing Midwestern state any chance you’ll be on the ticket? Are you available for a Vice Presidential nomination?
CC: (18:34) You know I love being the governor of Iowa. I am honored and privileged to be the 40th governor of this state. I’m enjoying the job. We’re getting some things done. I expect there will be a few other names that surface before mine and I’m honored to serve the people of this great state and the opportunities here in Iowa are unlimited. We want to create in Iowa the Silicon Valley of the Midwest. We want to become the renewable energy capital of the country right here in this state. That’s my plan, that’s vision and it’s probably going to take me a few years to make sure we get there.
DR: (19:11) Governor thanks for coming by. I really appreciate it.
CC: (19:13) Thank you. Welcome back to Iowa.
DR: (19:14) Glad to be back. Thanks so much. And now we want to introduce you to two very special people who are responsible for tonight’s event. Bringing to the four issues that are important to people in minority communities has become job one for our two hosts tonight State Representative Wayne Ford and long time Iowa activist Mary Campos are tonight’s co-chairs and founders of the Brown and Black Presidential Forum. I talked them awhile ago as they arrived inside in the auditorium. Talked to them about the presidential campaign, what they hoped for tonight at this particular event and also asked them what they want this to center on. What issues they believe have not had enough attention.
DR: (20:00) Well first of all thank you both for doing this. Ms. Campos what are your hopes for this forum. What do you hope to see and hear? How will it be different from other forums?
MC: I believe that the nation is going to be shocked to know that we do have the ability to change the country and that we have the population speaking of the Latino population that will be out in numbers to help us win an election.
DR: (20:28) Mr. Ford what issues are particular interest to people who belong to minority communities in the country, what do you hope to hear, what do you expect to hear here that hasn’t been dealt with or dealt with very much at other forums.
WF: (20:41) Well Dan I was number in the over representation of blacks in prison. We are number one in suspension rate of black children. If we can’t deal with suspension rate and putting blacks in prison in the State of Iowa we’re the fifth whitest state in America. How can we deal with the problems in New York or California? This is a very important forum.
DR: (20:59) Ms. Campos I hear people say all the time listen I don’t pay much attention to the Iowa caucus and because the state is so ill representative of the country as a whole. Is that fair?
MC: (21:08) I would say to them in the 14 year period of 1990 to 2004 Iowa saw 221% increase in Latino population.
DR: (21:18) And with the African American population Mr. Ford?
WF: (21:20) I think we had about 20,000. So without her people and my people and the rates that whites died in the state of Iowa there is no growth.
DR: (21:27) Mr. Ford why no republicans here?
WF: (21:29) Well me and Mary has always stuck our hand out for republicans
DR: (21:32) Invited them to come
WF: (21:33) Yes we have. Even before I became a State Legislator. For some various reason they said its not enough black republicans or Latino republicans in the state of Iowa so there is no reason to do this.
DR: (21:44) If you had one question to ask Ms. Campos what would it be of these candidates.
MC: (21:49) I would say to them being a politician and first of all I want to applaud them for being candidates. Because this is a hard life. And you know that and also I would say to them that I would ask them to search deeply in their soles and in their hearts answers that are trustworthy for us as a voting population.
DR: (22:14) Mr. Ford I’ll try you if you had one question to ask of each of these candidates what would it be?
WF: (22:18) that is flashes back to you. In the late 60s I watched you on CBS news in Vietnam and you were the first individual to make America that blacks were dieing at a very wrong rate. I remember that show many years ago. We are in the middle of a 100 year war I believe and the question is since Brown and Black people and white females only fighting this war what we going to do in this country to make the country great? And better.
DR: (22:39) Ms. Campos true or untrue that as things stand right now the republican assessment is that they may get more of the Latino vote in the overall election, not just in Iowa country but that there is no way they get a majority of the Latino vote do you agree with them:
MC: (22:53) I don’t think that they will have that. What they are thinking that they are going to have because I think that Latinos will vote but we are a very cautious in the manner in which we vote.
DR: (23:11) And with voters who have African American heritage Mr. Ford? I hear republicans all the time say listen there is no way we are going to get 30-35% of that vote. True or untrue?
WF: (23:20) With that in the last election we had precess minority precess black and brown that increased their voting population from 10 to 400%. This is a close race. We got a __________ and a ________________. Our forum will decide who will be the next president of this country. Or will be the democratic nominee.
DR: (23:38) I thank you both. I will see you along the trail after the broadcast.
WF: MC:(23:42) Thank you sir.
DR: (23:46) Wayne Ford and Mary Campos the founders of this Brown and Black Forum. We’ll be back to Des Moines right after this break so stay here with us.
? (24:25) I see it’s going to be crazy.
DR: (25:10) Former President Bill Clinton no surprise it was excepted although there was a time I thought the weather might prevent it from being here is in the hall. Someone passed by just a moment ago these are the words of this person not myself looked at me and said Elvis is in the hall referring of course to Former President Bill Clinton who is here. He will not be on stage tonight. He’s part of the audience and no doubt will be part of ___________ control for Hillary Clinton __________ later on. Moderating tonight’s discussion are two distinguished journalists Ray Suarez is a veteran of more than 30 years in journalism his writing has appeared in major publications across the country perhaps he’s best known for his work on public radio where he hosted talk of the nation and public television currently he is a senior correspondent for the News Hour on PPS and also moderating is Michelle Norris. She is an award winning journalist who hosts national public radio’s popular program All Things considered, she is also reported for ABC News, the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. Michelle is with us now she’s inside the hall. Michelle well Ray is here as well. I told Ray that you might not be here. By the way speaking of not being here this gives me a good opportunity to point out that Former Senator Mike Revell of Alaska was not able to make it here tonight. He had been scheduled to be here but because of weather he is not going to be here so it will be all of the democratic presidential candidates minus one. Michelle tell me what your hopes are for this forum tonight?
MN: (26:41) Well I hope that we are going to have a discussion like you have not heard thus far on the many debates that we have already seen and heard in part because of the issues that we are going to talk about and in part because we are going to put issues of importance to people of color and we’re going to try to have a very honest and open conversation about race, and about that very ________ question about whether demographics actually dictate someone’s destiny.
DR: (27:07) Ray what are hopes for tonight?
RS: (27:09) Well you know Dan a lot of the questions that are going to be asked in the next couple of ours just aren’t on the radar screen of most candidates forums that you will see if you turn into CSPAN or MSNBC or any of the other networks that have been running them. We’re going to try to dig new ground tonight.
DR: (27:27) Michelle what are the rules that the candidates have agreed to at any point is any candidate allowed to ask a question of another candidate? My understanding somewhat different from most of these forums and alleged supposed debates previously but that will be possible. Explain that to us.
MN: (27:44) That’s one of the things that actually distinguishes the Brown and Black Forum. The candidates can’t ask a question of another candidate at anytime but there are particular moments where Ray and I will be calling on various candidates and they can pose a question directly to the candidate of their choosing.
DR: (28:02) And Ray the other questions some questions are to come from the audience right?
RS: (28:05) That’s right. Tonight we’ll have people who have been in contact with us beforehand and we’ll bring them up and they’ll get to ask a question along with a panel of distinguished experts.
MN: (28:17) And we should say we are in a high school auditorium some of the students here from North High will also be able to ask questions of the candidates.
DR: (28:25) Well Michelle and Ray I know you are aware of the controversy that has developed rightly or wrongly over the last forum that was carried on CNN have efforts been made to ensure as much as possible that these are what I’ll call honest questions and not planted questions?
MN: (28:42) Well in this case we’ve been in contact with all of the members of the audience and the panel that will be asking questions so we’re quite confident that will not be the case.
DR: (28:53) And Ray in the all it’s traditional these days for some candidates to try to “pack the hall, paper the house” what do we know about that?
RS: (29:01) Well I think this if you go by who’s been coming through the front door and who has been heading for through the security barriers a lot of the candidates are very well represented tonight so we won’t have cheering clap just for one or another but probably a lot of enthusiastic supporters of many if not all of candidates.
MN: (29:21) We’ve been advised not to cheer and clap we’re going to see how that goes.
DR: (29:27) Michelle do you have one particular area or one particular question that you have in mind you say to yourself listen over this two hour period if we don’t get to anything else I am determined we are going to get this and have these candidates speak up on it?
MN: (29:37) One of the things I’m hoping for is that we __________ issue of race on the table. It’s something that we in America are very uncomfortable talking about. It’s actually most honest discussions about race take place at the kitchen tables or on comedy stage where comedians are often very honest about that. We’re hoping that we able to create the kind of atmosphere to our questions and to the discussions that we try to prompt where we will be able to talk about something that most Americans and certainly most people who are running for office aren’t always comfortable talking about.
DR: (30:06) Well Ray you and I have been covering politics long enough to know that among the subjects, many subjects candidates rarely want to talk candidly about is the question of race and race in America. I think we understand why because on the one hand they are fearful if they do talk about it candidly that they will lose votes. So they tend to go into the side shuffle about race.
RS: (30:32) We’re talking in an abstract and idealistic way rather than a real nuts and bolts way about how it affects life chances, how about different Americans end up in different places in this country because of race. That lives are really shaped by race. It’s a hard thing for candidates to talk about I think as you suggest.
MN: (30:51) You know it’s interesting if I can just add something Ray you know sometimes six different people can view the same thing. Whether it is a circumstance or a set of statistics or something that they see on the evening news. And they’ll have a very different interpretation of that sometimes it’s based on where they come from. Their perspective and so that’s one of the things we hope to hear from candidates is based on who they are, where they came from. Their life experiences. How they view this issue and that.
DR: (31:17) Ray from your experience with the minority communities what is issue number one is equality of opportunity what is it?
RS: (31:27) I think a lot of the gaps. The gaps in health care, access to health care. The educational gaps. The gaps in income and accumulated family wealth. They are there they are persistent and too large to just be explained away by circumstances and they are never or rarely part of these campaigns.
DR: (31:46) Michelle Norris and Ray Suarez our moderators tonight for this forum in Des Moines the Brown and Black Forum let you get to your seats and we’ll see as we go. Thanks a million. And our quality high definition coverage HDNet’s coverage of the Brown and Black Forum from Des Moines will continue after this brief break.
(32:30) HDNet presents the Sixth Brown and Black Presidency (cheering)
(33:00) Ok. Right. Biden isn’t going to make until 7:15 I don’t know if they want you to mention that but. DR: I understand well we’ll just swing with it a little bit. Ok. Right one minute max.
(34:00 cutting in and out talking)
DR: (34:22) Well we are a short time away from the start of tonight’s forum. Notice we do not call it a “debate” because it isn’t a debate by dictionary definition or otherwise so give them credit the people who put together the Black and Brown Forum they don’t call it a debate as some others try to do with theirs and who knows tomorrow’s newspapers and the television/radio coverage may speak of debate in Des Moines but it isn’t a debate it is as it’s advertised as a being a forum. Now we showed you pictures just a moment ago what’s going on inside is the candidates have arrived on the stage keep in mind that Former Senator Mike Rivell of Alaska is not here because of difficulties getting in with the weather. The candidates by the way are seated on a draw. That is they drew for places so if you say to yourself well why did they put John Edwards at or near the middle of this it is he had a lucky draw this time around if you consider that a lucky draw. The obligatory photographs sort of class photographs are being taken now. Outside it’s cold. Very cold. The temperature has been at or around freezing most of the day. There is a fairly heavy snow on the ground. Some of it will get frozen solid overnight and outside many of these young people students also a lot of adults there that beat the drums for their candidates. The outside contingents of the candidates seem to reflect the organizations and perhaps the money that the candidates have the more money the candidates have the more people they can get out and more signs. If you can Wayne Ford is addressing the audience of the auditorium now so lets pick up a little bit of what Mr. Ford is having to say.
(36:10) Well unfortunately he is speaking on the speaker in the auditorium so it’s a little distorted so we won’t be able to pick up what he says but primarily Wayne Ford an Iowa State Representative, a former high school football star in Washington DC has come out here to Iowa to make a name for himself he speaks with passion. He is now turning it over to Mary Campos the co-founder of the Brown and Black Forum. And to say inside the hall they can hear them very well the candidates are all mic’d up and you’ll be able to hear them quite clearly. This sort of preliminary if you will was designed to be for the people inside the halls themselves. And we are just about ready to go I’m told. Running a little bit late but as things go remarkably on time. So it’s now my privilege and honor to throw things inside to your moderators for tonight’s Brown and Black Forum from Des Moines Iowa Michelle Norris and Ray Suarez. Take it away Ray and Michelle.
(37:10) HDNet presents the Sixth Brown and Black presidential forum. Live from North High School in Des Moines Iowa. Now here are your moderators Michelle Norris and Ray Suarez.
(37:24) Right now we hear behind us the color guard.
MN: (40:18) Good evening. And Welcome to the Sixth Iowa Brown and Black Forum live on HDNet. I am Michelle Norris of National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and I’m joined by my friend and fellow moderator Ray Suarez from PBS’s News Hour with Jim Lehrer. For the next two hours we will be exploring vital issues of concern to African American and Latino voters. These are issues of course of vital concern to all Americans, invasions, civil rights, education, the economy and job opportunity. (Spanish translation)
RS: (41:19) Now we are honored of course to be joined tonight by almost all of the eight democratic candidates for president here at Des Moines North High School their positions on stage were chosen at random from left to right. They are Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Senator Hilary Clinton of New York, Former United States Senator John Edwards North Carolina, Congressmen Dennis Kucinich of Ohio we are expecting Joe Biden to arrive and when he arrives we will add him to the program but you should know around the country that this has been a tough weather day in Iowa and travel has been challenging to say the least. United States Senator Boroco Obama from Illinois and Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico.
MN: (42:12) Well before we begin tonight. We would like to thank North High School here in Des Moines for hosting this event. We’d also like to acknowledge and thank the forums co-founders and co-chairs Iowa State Representative Wayne Ford and Mary Campos. Wayne and Mary thank you so much for inviting us to be a part of this extraordinary event. The first Black and Brown Forum was back in 1984 and since then it has grown both in prominence and in scope. It’s now a force in both Iowa and National Politics this Forum is non partisan and all presidential candidates are invited to participate. However, no republicans accepted this year’s invitation. And again if you are seeing an empty chair there we expect to be joined by Senator Joe Biden and Mike Rivell unfortunately was able to make it.
RS: (43:02) So before we begin a quick explanation of tonight’s format and rules.
MN: (43:07) Ray and I will be asking questions as will four panelists who we will introduce shortly. We will also hear from some students from here at North High School and finally the candidates will have the opportunity to direct questions to each other. Candidates will have one minute for their answers and we will follow rebuttals as necessary. Follow with rebuttals as necessary. Also they will be one minute each. Ray and I will step in with follow-up questions when appropriate and each candidate will have the opportunity to make a one minute closing statement. So without further ado let’s get started.
MN: (43:54) Now it is, it’s like that old song Oh Baby It’s Cold Outside. It certainly is cold and thanks to all of you for making the effort to be with us tonight I know that you had to travel through perilous conditions so though it’s cold outside once we actually get started this evening I think I can say with a fair degree of confidence that it’s probably going to warm up here inside the auditorium. We want tonight to focus on issues that are important of great importance to people of color but really issues that are important to all Americans. We want to talk tonight about race. Something that people are often uncomfortable talking about. We hope to put that on the table. We hope to wrestle with a very difficult question. Question that people still debate. The question of whether demography helps determine destiny. In the short time that I have been Iowa I have talked with many people and one of the things that I’ve heard over and over again in discussions particularly with people of color is the concern about the high incarceration rate for people of color particularly here in Iowa. So I just want to begin with a few statistics that will put this in perspective. If present tends continue one out of every three black male born today can expect to go to prison. 60% of the people in prison are racial or ethnic minorities. In every state in this country and that bears repeating. In every state in this country the percentage of blacks and Hispanics in prison exceeds the percentage of blacks and Hispanics in the general population. And right here in Iowa the incarceration rate for a black man is more than 13 times higher than for white man. That is the highest disparity in the country and that’s right here in this state. My first question is to Former Senator John Edwards how would you as a candidate propose addressing criminal justice reform. Do you believe that it is something that is worthy of close examination and how would you do that? How would you try to reduce the prison pipeline without leaving yourself as a candidate or party vulnerable to the criticism that democrats are soft on crime?
JE: (46:07) Well Thank you and may I thank all of you for being here tonight and before I begin with that if I can just say to Senator Clinton and all the people who work for her how glad we are about the result of this terrible thing that happened in New Hampshire and we’re proud of what you have done and proud of what your campaign done all of us recognize who are in these presidential campaigns these young people who devote their lives to change the country whoever, whatever candidate they are for so we are all very thankful for the result of what happened in New Hampshire. I think we have an enormous problem with our criminal justice system. To answer your question. You’ve just described the problem. Young African American men in many places in the country believe that all that the only thing that is going to happen to them is they are either going to die or go to prison. They believe they live lives of hopelessness, no chances whatsoever. That has to change. And I think there are a variety of things that we have to change. We have to change these mandatory minimum sentences, especially for first offenses. Non violent first offenses. We need to have alternatives to incarceration. Like drug courts for example. We need to get rid of the disparity between crack and powder cocaine which the sentencing commission has proposed doing but it’s something that actually needs to be implemented into law. So there are a variety of things we need to do make this criminal justice system work. And can I just say one last thing. I know that we have time limits I don’t want to go over them but the one last thing is we have to create an infrastructure for young people who have a brush with the law, who’ve grown up in a difficult environment to be able to turn their lives around. That means drug counseling and rehabilitation, alcohol counseling, and rehabilitation making certain they get job training, making sure that they get education so they don’t go right back to the environment that got them into trouble to begin with.
MN: (47:46) Thank you. Thank you. I want to turn now to Senator Clinton if I could. I want to also reiterate Mr. Edwards statement was are so glad that you and your staff were safe. And we’re also so glad that you made it here tonight I understand the travel conditions were very, very difficult. This question is posed to you. We just heard about the sentencing guidelines for crack versus the sentencing guidelines and the disparity for those who are convicted crimes involving crack cocaine and crimes involving powder cocaine. The US sentencing commission just took steps to try to limit those guidelines to close that gap. There is now a debate as whether those who were convicted days or even decades before the US sentencing commission made that change if this should be retroactive. If this should also apply to those who were convicted days and perhaps decades before this change was made. What is your view on that?
HC: (48:39) Well Michelle thank you and I am very grateful for the prayers and the good wishes. All of my friends here on the stage as well as Senator Biden called yesterday and we were very relieved at the way it turned out. I believe we’ve got to decrease the disparity that exists. It is really unconscionable that someone who uses five grams of crack cocaine or compared to 500 grams of powder cocaine would face such disparate sentencing. And it’s further compounded because the possession of crack cocaine really is unique in the way that it leads directly to prison for so many people. So I am going to tackle the disparity. I think it definitely needs to be prospective on principal I have problems with retroactivity. I think that it’s something that a lot of communities will be concerned about as well so let’s tackle this disparity, let’s take it on. The sentencing commission hasn’t come forward yet with its specific recommendation but I’m looking forward to seeing it.
MN: (49:53) I need to talk to my good friend Ray but I’m going to do something very quickly just on the question of retroactivity a simple yes or no answer. Senator Dodd?
D: I’d be inclined to say yes on the retroactivity.
MN: (50:02) Yes ok. Former Senator Edwards?
E: (50:04) I’m not inclined to say yes the answer is yes absolutely it should be retroactive.
MN: (50:10) Representative Kucinich?
MN: Senator Obama?
MN: Governor Richardson?
R: I don’t know.
MN: (50:21) That was clear. Ray?
RS: (50:23) Senator Dodd this week the administration proposed freezing the interest rates for a lot of sub prime mortgages around the country that are about to trend up in interest rates and when you pick up the paper everyday it seems like the home financing system in this country is having something close to a nervous breakdown and the burden of that lands disproportionately on minority home owners. But some are suggesting this isn’t the fix. That merely freezing home rates for people who are in bad mortgages and can’t get out just delays the reckoning that is surely going to come. How would you fix this? Do you agree with the proposal?
SD: (51:01) I think it’s a pretty good idea in fact we made a similar suggestion I’ve been wrestling with this now since the last March and April when we first learned of the magnitude of the problem. Met with a lot of these stake holders to try to convince them to meet with their borrowers here to apply those kind of work out so people can maintain their presence in their homes. And the idea of freezing that rate either at that teaser rate these predators that drew people in would allow I think a couple of things to happen. One people to stay in their homes hopefully many of them but also the financial institutions their better off getting 3-4% back than nothing whenever foreclosures occur. So I’m inclined to like this idea. We’re also working I would say Ray I’m trying to make sure this doesn’t happen again. This was outrageous what went on here. The fact that there were no cops on the beat in this administration basically walked away from this and you have three times people of color in this country are being lured into sub prime lending. Many of them are eminently qualified for prime lending were drawn in the worst of all of those deals here. I hear brokers that frankly were not declaring who their financial relationship was with at all. Getting them to pay very high rates and then of course moving on and selling these things along in the market with no one being accountable. So we want to address the future problem but for those today in that situation I think frankly the idea of freezing will help. I just make one quick point as well here. It’s not just the person in foreclosure if you take a square block in this country in a fragile neighborhood one foreclosure in that block will cause every other property to decline in value by $3,000 to $5,000 dollars within an hour of that foreclosure. So this problem is not just affecting those who were caught into a very bad deal but other neighborhoods again are going to be adversely effected and why it needs to be addressed promptly.
RS: (52:41) Senator Obama I’d like to move to you next. Just recently a report came out in the national newspapers that found that middle class black families were not able to carry their children into the American middle class. It’s an astonishing number. Of children that grew up in middle class families had fallen out of the middle class and into poverty. Why do you think that happened and is there an appropriate role given what the constitutional description of the job of president is to do something about it beyond just saying that’s terrible.
SO: (53:14) Is the mic on yet?
RS: (53:32) We are not taking away from your time Senator.
SO: (53:42) Do we have a hand out mic? I’m happy to use that. One of the reasons that I’m running for president is that the American dream has always meant that if you worked hard if you invested in your children then their lives could be better than yours. And that dream that so many generations fought for feels like it’s slipping away. I think about my father in law. Who has now passed away. Here’s is a man who at the age of 30 was stricken with Multiple Sclerosis. On the Southside of Chicago nevertheless was able to work as a municipal worker, had a good job, could have a house, was able to have health insurance, was able to send his children including my wife Michelle to college and they have achieved in ways that he would have never dreamed. That’s been lost. Not just for African Americans increasingly but for all Americans. And so what do we need to do? We have to have a tax system that’s fair. I will take away tax breaks from company’s that are shipping jobs overseas and put tax breaks in the pockets of hardworking Americans who deserve it. We’ve got to invest in education. In a much more serous way and I put forward a plan to put 18 billion dollars a year in early childhood education, improving teacher’s salaries, improving the infrastructure for our schools. If we can invest and understand that this is a crisis that doesn’t just effect black and brown people but all of America I’m confident that we can make a big difference.
RS: (55:19) Thank you Senator. Let’s go next to Michelle Norris with the first of our candidate questions.
MN: (55:30) For those who follow the Brown and Black Forum you know one of the hallmarks of this event is that we allow candidates to ask other candidates questions directly and that first question is going to come from Senator Dodd. One of the hallmarks of the Brown and Black Forum (can you all hear me now)? One of the hallmarks of the Brown and Black Forum is that we allow candidates to ask other candidates questions directly. This evening that first question will come from Senator Dodd.
SD: (56:01) Thank you Michelle very much. Let me back in 2001 the congress passed I think one of the worst pieces of legislation along time the so called the Bankruptcy Reform Act I hear. My friends Senator Clinton, Senator Biden who is not here and Senator Edwards voted for that Bankruptcy reform bill, which drove a lot of people working class families into poverty, made it very difficult for them to manage their lives, to get back on their feet again. And so John I would like to ask you the questions you made a big issue of this issue of poverty, something you have dedicated your life to here could you explain to me why in the midst of that only five or six years ago you’d vote for a piece of legislation like that which did so much damage to so many families in our country?
JE: (56:42) Yea I was wrong. I was wrong and you were right Chris. I should not have voted for that bankruptcy bill it was a bad, bad piece of legislation. I think any of us who voted for it were wrong to have voted for it. I think there were some good provisions in it but I think on the whole when you look it at it actually did damage to low income families and working families in this country and as you have just pointed out you know it is the cause of my life to do something about 37,000 million people who live in poverty everyday in the United States of America. It will be the cause of my life as long as I’m alive and breathing and whatever we can do to strengthen low income families, to raise the minimum wage, to strengthen unions to organize in the work place, to get a national predatory lending law that cracks down on the very predators that you were speaking about earlier Chris, to allow kids to go to college who are willing to work when they are college. Those are the causes that I’m committed to and it is the cause of my life to do something about the issue of people who live in poverty, the homeless, the hungry we had 35,000 million of those last year and I’m completely committed to those causes and just to be clear on this issue you were right and I was wrong.
SD: (58:01) The only point I want to make I appreciate Johns’ answer on that there were three votes. There was the vote in 2000 and then there were two votes in 2001. I appreciate you being wrong let me make it clear it was wrong three times and
JE: (58:11) But I didn’t vote that way three times. I didn’t vote that way three times. In any event that was wrong on the bill.
?RS: (58:21) Governor Richardson we live in a country today where Latino and Black household wealth, not income, but accumulated household wealth is about 10% for the average black and brown family of what it is for the average white family. And we’ve posted these statistics even during decades of very rapid economic growth where the GDP has been going up. The average household income has been going up, the average wage has been going up. Yet black and brown people in the United States are not able to accumulate wealth that can be passed on to children, that can be used to leverage other kinds of loans to borrow for education or starting a business how did we get here and how do we get out of it? A 90% gap.
GR: (59:31) People should bear with us and understand that when there are 10 live mics on a floor this a very difficult situation. Ok Dennis Kucinich let me throw you that same question and Governor you will have a chance to respond but Cleveland is a place where you can see this written in bricks and mortar, written in bank balances every day and it’s a place where you were mayor and now serve as a congressman.
(59:59) No mic once again.
DK: (1:00:25) Boroco I want to thank you for passing the baton in this race. You are right about cities and like Cleveland and I see my good friend and sister Stephanie _____ Jones from Cleveland we face a situation where there is a massive amount of foreclosures, rising unemployment about around particularly around African American households and some Latinos. Here is my plan first of all. A full employment economy. A Roosevelt type WPA program that puts everyone who is able to work back to work with a living wage. Second a not for profit health care system. Where everyone in America is covered you know without any regards to paying premiums, co-pays and deductibles. Third, universal pre-kindergarten. So children age 3, 4 and 5 will have access to full quality day care funded by a 15% cut in the bloated pentagon budget. Four universal college education so our young people who are college age will be able to have a two and four year free public education funded by the government that spends the money into circulation. So we need to make economic reform the fundamental driving force in this country and a president percentage stands for the principal of a rising tide lifts all boats not trickle down economics. Thank you very much.
RS: (1:01:51) Thank you Congressmen. We’re going to take a quick break right now. Stay with us we’ll be back shortly.
?: (1:05:14) We are at North High School in Des Moines Iowa for this years Brown and Black Forum we’ve had some audio problems and the whole point of a candidates debate is to let the candidates speak to the people so we are trying to work out a __________ and make sure that those candidates can do exactly that. Not only be heard in the hall but be heard across the country for audiences around the country along various cable networks. We have most of our candidates here. You should know that today was a really tough weather day in Iowa what they call sound nice wintry mix but actually it’s a terrible, terrible thing, sleet, freezing rain and snow falling in rapid succession as the temperature went up and down throughout the day making travel treacherous on the roads for the candidates who were already in the Des Moines area and making it tough to fly into this area as well. So Senator Joe Biden of Delaware not yet able to join us. Senator Mike Rivell cancelled. All the other democratic candidates are with us here at North High School in Des Moines Iowa. Now you should understand with the Brown and Black Forum that all of the candidates from all the parties were invited. Only democratic candidates responded to this invitation.
RS: (1:09:03) Thanks for staying with us here at the Brown and Black Forum in Des Moines Iowa we are going to continue our program tonight with the candidates for president speaking to minority issues and we seem to have sorted out our audio problems and now I want to once again address Governor Bill Richardson who wasn’t able to answer us earlier. But I am not sure yet if he’s aware. No he’s not aware yet that we’re trying to begin again. Let’s try to get some order in the house. Here we go. They want to get on with it too. And let’s continue. Governor Bill Richardson let me give you a chance to answer that question about household wealth and what the president of the United States can do about it and what some of the causes are for these persistent gaps.
BR: (1:10:00) Well I said earlier I would be the real education president. I think the key is job and education. We’re not talking enough about jobs in this campaign but education in my judgment is the key. I’ve outlined a 60 billion plan to make America education number one in the world again. This is what I would do. And the statistic you did not mention is that one out of two African American and Hispanic youth don’t get through high school and that is a huge tragedy and there has been no improvement. Preschool for every child under four. You get to kids early. Full day kindergarten. Investments in science and math academies because we are 29th in the world when it comes to science and math. Art in the school programs and here at North High School I want to commend the drama department and all the great work that you do because I believe that having a strong art in the school program is going to make us more competitive in science and math. I’d get rid or no child left behind that is an impediment. And I would also have a minimum wage for our teachers at $40,000 and let me conclude with this. National service. This is what I mean. College loans unaffordable. Rip off artists, banks, student loan companies, here is my plan. Two years in exchange, two years of government loans, the government helps pay for tuition, one year of national service by the student.
MN: (1:11:43) Sorry to cut you off there but we have many questions and many people who want to pose questions to you. We turn to now to our distinguished panel of community leaders. Try that one more time. I first express apology for cutting you off we have many questions and we have many people who would like to pose questions to the candidates. We will turn now to our distinguished panel of community activists our first question is going to come from Juan Andreatti is his the president of the US Hispanic Leadership.
JA: (1:12:11) Thank you Michelle. My question is to Senator Clinton in an editorial yesterday the Chicago Sun Times said “the bitter hostility aimed at illegal immigrants stems in great part from immigrant’s failure to learn English”. Believe me immigrants are trying hard to learn English as they should. But until they do would you be willing to use your command of the English language to help dispel the negative perception of illegal immigrants, undocumented workers that more and more Americans are beginning to have and if yes what would you say?
HC: (1:12:49) Well I am glad you asked that because I think this is one of the most important issues facing our country and I deeply regret the way the republicans are politicizing and demogogging this issue. If you listen to their debates they are trying to out do each other in basically demeaning and attacking those who are here in our country yes without documentation but who are often doing the work that keeps our family going and raising their families and making a contribution. The answer is comprehensive immigration reform. And I think we have to keep talking about that and keep working towards it and for me that’s yes we’ve got to have tougher border security. We do have to crack down on employers who exploit and employee undocumented people. We’ve got to do more to help local communities bare the costs of it. Because they don’t set immigration laws. We’ve got to do more with our neighbors to the south to help them create more economic opportunity for their own people but at the end of the day there has to be an earned path to legalization. And yes a long that path there should be every effort made to learn English. But we’re not providing enough resources for programs to help people learn English so I intend to stand for and pass comprehensive immigration reform when I’m president.
MN: (1:14:15) Thank you Senator Clinton. Our next question comes……..
? 2004 we got a lot people registered to vote for the first time some millions of young people went to the poles, millions more are going to go in 2008 what can you say young African American and Latino men and women and others who often times feel locked out of the process? They feel as if nobody speaking to their issues. They feel as if nobody is listening to them. And one of the things that we’ve been able to do I think in this campaign and what we will continue to do is to encourage young people to mobilize, get registered, to vote and what you pointed the prospect of getting of bridging divides between African American Latinos is critical. Doctor King during the farm workers strike when Cesar Chavez was trying to organize farm workers wrote him a letter saying our cause is one. Our struggle is one. And we’ve lost that sense.
HC: (:00) Lawyers couldn’t exploit them any longer so that’s why I intend to do as president.
RS: (:02) Thank you Senator. I would like to quickly follow-up with Senator Biden. Do you believe as __________ we’re talking about jobs that Americans won’t do that is often used as a conversation point in this debate over immigration?
SB: (:21) Let’s get it straight. Americans will do any job if you pay them properly. You know the fact of the matter is that’s doesn’t mean we don’t need guest workers we do, that doesn’t mean we don’t need, but we should base the number of guest workers that are in the statute that we are trying to pass and we tried to pass before comprehensive immigration reform based upon need not an absolute number. And we should require employers to offer those jobs to citizens to see if they want those jobs. Case in point. You had Swift Meats down in North Carolina INS came in, 800 people took off, the fact of the matter is they had to go out and hire people, guess what they had to double the wage and provide health insurance. They got all the North Carolina’s they want to come in a slit pigs throats which no one wants to do. They did it. So that doesn’t mean there is not room. We need agricultural workers, we need H1B visas we need what in fact exists as a need not as an artificial number to allow employers to drive down wages.
?: (1:25) Well earlier on this panel it was suggested that higher illegal immigrants to do these jobs doesn’t drive down wages so I’m interested in hearing the side
SB: (1:33) ….. drives down wages. I think it drove down wages at Swift Meats. What happened? When 800 out of 2800 people left they had to go out and say ok now we’ll pay $10.50 an hour instead of $6.00 an hour or whatever the number was. And we’re going to give health insurance and guess what? North Carolina’s showed up for the jobs. Now granted the rate that they job is about 57% versus 46% I know it’s your home state John but I mean know that’s what happened. There is a lot of people who will go out and hang drywall and get a decent wage. There are not a lot of people who are going out and do the agricultural work that’s seasonal. So it should be based on need.
RS: (2:14) Let’s go to our expert panel again Dr. Juan Andreatti.
JA: (2:20) Thank you Ray and my question is to Senator Edwards at the end of the next president’s first term states like Iowa will have a shortage of 150,000 workers in its labor force. This is kind of a two questions in one. This at a time when thousands of immigrants are being rounded up at the work place and even in private homes and many are being subsequently deported. Do you believe a moratorium on raids is needed and what would you do as president to help states like Iowa meet its labor force needs?
JE: (3:09) Well first of all I think these raids and particularly the way they are being conducted separating parents from children just on Thanksgiving, actually the day before Thanksgiving, my kids and I went to work at a local food bank and a woman came through and told me the story of her husband who we’re actually trying to help now, but her husband who had lived in the United States of America for seventeen years, they had four children. She had serious, serious health problems and they had stopped him, arrested him, detained him, sent him to Georgia and they are sending him home. And I think the bottom line is that what we need is we need to change the law or reform the laws for immigration in this country so that everybody has a real and meaningful path to citizenship but I want to tag on just very quickly something Senator Biden spoke about a few minutes ago. A few months ago I made a poverty tour beginning in New Orleans and went through Mississippi and other places and I was in Canton, Mississippi meeting with poultry workers at a poultry plant where they had been abused in a way that most Americans would never understand. A man had broken his back they said it was his degenerative condition that caused it. Broken his back on the job and they were being taken advantage of every single time they raised a question about not being paid for the work they did or not being treated fairly or working in unsafe conditions what was the first question? What’s your immigration status? This is how these employers treat workers. And not only that we have a ground total of four, four bilingual federal workers who are responsible for the enforcement of our fair labor laws. Four. For the entire United States of America. What do you think the chances are that these people’s rights are being looked after? They are not. They will be when I’m president of the United States.
RS: (5:06) Senator thank you. We’ll move on next to our next candidate to candidate question and Senator Clinton it’s your turn.
HC: (5:14) Well today is World Aids Day. And I think it’s important on this particular night that we recognize I believe all of us have committed to supporting $50 billion dollars for global aids relief which I am very committed to and very excited about. But let’s not forget that Aids now is growing again in our own country particularly among African American and Latino women. And as I have said before the leading cause of death for African American women between the ages of 25 and 34 is aids. So I want to ask all of my fellow candidates here if they would join me not only in a pledge for what we’re going to do globally to address the aids pandemic in Africa and Asia and elsewhere but will you join me in a pledge that we’re going to do everything we can once again to address the aids pandemic right here in the United States of America and to put the money in that will provide the services and the treatment and the prevention that our own people deserve to have because frankly we have turned our backs, we have frozen the amount of money and I am very worried about what is happening to countless numbers of Americans when it comes to HIV and Aids.
? (6:42) And the answer is yes in 1990 when I was original co-sponsor of the Ryan/White Act we put $24 billion dollars in. It wasn’t popular to do it then. We should be doing a great deal more and it comes down to a simple proposition you have to have education, prevention and you have to provide medical services and medication.
RS: (6:56) Thank you very quickly
? (6:69) And yes I believe that if we have a not for profit health care system which has long term care and pays for pharmaceuticals the people with aids will get the care they need and I would ask you Senator Clinton to join me in that.
? (7:17) I think the most staggering statistic is this recent 50% of all new aids cases are African American. 19% are Latino. That is huge dramatic change a dramatic increase. We need a marshal plan domestically to deal with this issue and its outreach, its screening, it’s funding for aids research, it is also an all out effort in our cities to deal with this pandemic disease that is destroying this country. I would make my Vice President the Chairman of the HIV Aids Commission to give it the bureaucratic strength that this issue deserves. You have to elevate it within the bureaucracy.
RS: (8:05) Thank you Governor. Our next question. Senator Obama. The Federal Agency for Health Care research and quality recently reported that both Latinos and Blacks receive significantly worse medical care than whites in the United States when they get care. One out of three Hispanics, one out of five black Americans is uninsured. Hispanics are 2 ½ times as likely as a non Hispanic white American to be uninsured. One of three Latinos in the United States hasn’t been to the doctor in more than a year. Diabetes, asthma, hypertension are untreated or under treated in communities across America. What can the president do to address this and can we afford it?
BO: (8:52) The president can do everything to address this and can afford it if we are able to bring people together to get it done. And this is something that I am committed to doing as president. But it is indisputable that if you are poor in this country that is hazard’s to your health, if you are black or brown to and poor it can be downright deadly. For all the statistics that you cited. And that is why we have to create a comprehensive health care program that is available to all people who need it and I have put forward a plan that says that every single person can buy into a plan that is as good as the health care that I have as a member of congress, that we will emphasize preventative care and we will emphasize the reduction of disparities in that care. Because right now we got, what we know is that even when blacks or Latinos have the same quality of care, or have the same health insurance as whites do that they are not receiving the same quality of care. And that means that we’ve got to have more black and brown doctors and nurses, we’ve got to have done studies in terms of making sure that we are eliminating these disparities, we’ve got to make sure that we are going outreach in these communities ahead of time to prevent disease. Those are all things that are part of the plan that I put together and it is one of my number one priorities as president of the United States.
RS: (10:18) Senator thank you very much. We’ll go back to our panel. Professor Adrian Wing. Wing yes you are next.
AD: (10:29) This is a question for Governor Richardson. The dollar is so weak internationally that some black rappers are even flashing euros in their music videos now. What should be done if anything to restore global confidence in the dollar and how would those measures affect people of color in the United States?
GR: (10:55) Well America has lost its economic leadership. We have a $9 trillion dollar debt. We’ve got a weakening dollar. We’ve got jobs going overseas. These are the steps that I would take as president. What is going to be key is fiscal discipline. I am for a constitutional amendment to balance the budget within a 5-6 year period. We have to balance that budget. This debt is to commercial banks, to China, to India. I’ve for a line item veto. We need to investments also in science and technology. I would take the new industries of the future. Biomedical, solar, wind, biomass. I would invest in those new industries. This is what I did in my state to create 80,000 new jobs. Give a tax incentive for increasing the prevailing wage. That’s the second step that I would take. Invest in science and technologies and industries of the future. The third would be invest in education, invest in kids and science and technology and American not graduating substantially fewer engineers than China and India. It’s a competitiveness issue. It’s paying our teachers better, it’s making sure that we have a competitive economy and I believe to upgrade ourselves again I’m going to make this point in science and math. What we did in my state creating substantial art in the schools programs to boost the science and math proficiency of our kids. Will work, music, dance, sculpture. This is the kind of investment we need to make. Fiscal discipline, number two science and technology, invest in the new industries of the future and third invest in education. That’s how America will regain its economic leadership.
MN: (12:49) Thank you Governor. I am going to pose this question to Senator Dodd and as a Chairman of the Banking Committee perhaps you will appreciate my request for a dollar figure that goes along with your answer. In looking at the continuing recover in Katrina it’s clear that region not just continued recovery after Katrina it’s clear that New Orleans and the entire gulf coast region needs a great deal of assistance from the Federal Government. The question is what kind of attention and assistance will they get over the long term. In thinking about some sort of have you ever used the term marshal plan before? If you are talking about quitting together an action plan to help the gulf coast recover what is the dollar amount that you attach to that plan?
SD: (13:37) Well it’s a good question. The dollar amount whatever it takes in my view is what we ought to be doing. This is disgraceful. This great American city part of our country we are spending $10 billion dollars a month on a war in Iraq and yet we find that we aren’t funding all of the things we need to do in this country and having watched what happened under this administration when a great American city faced that natural disaster and still people living in trailers and _____________ people are still suffering, terribly everyday. So I can’t put a dollar number for you but I can tell you what we are doing here. Mary Landro and I have legislation right now to deal with housing trying to get it out of the banking committee on the floor of the United States Senate so that we can start to make a difference in that area and one area of jurisdiction that I’m responsible for we’ve watched 40,000 people leave that city not coming back. So whatever the investment it takes in my view to get that city back on its feet again the gulf _________ is what we ought to be prepared to do as a country here. As a nation here.
MN: (14:30) Why can’t you put a dollar amount on it?
SD: (14:30) Well because I don’t know what the dollar amount is. We’re talking about $50, $30, $60 billion dollars maybe more to make this happen and make this work. It’s housing issues, it’s job creation, it’s seeing to it that we have a Federal Emergency Management Agency that’s actually doing a job when future hurricanes come through that area again. So they can put it on a solid footing again. We’ve walked away from a major part of this country here. And that to me is a disgrace. That is the shame of this administration. Of not stepping up and doing what was necessary to do it. To put people back whole again in their very communities. They’ve had to leave. They’ve had to pack up and leave their communities where they have lived for generations in some cases. That should never, ever happen in any part of this country. And particularly in that part of the country and a lot of it was because frankly it’s was poor people. Poor people of color. In my view if it had been other parts of the country where there are not people of color I think you would have seen a larger response. From the Bush administration. They didn’t do it part because of what it was.
MN: (15:25) Thank you Senator. I would like to pose that same question to Governor Richardson. In thinking about the needs of the gulf coast, post Katrina, the continuing needs if you are putting together an action plan to help that region recover what is the dollar amount that you would attach to that plan?
GR: ( 15:49) We shouldn’t be talking dollars we should be talking a massive commitment on the part of the US government that were never going to let this happen again. And this means a commitment to ensure that people get their insurance companies pay for the homes that have been lost that we give preference to those have left Katrina. It means bureaucratic changes like having FEMA directly under the president. It means also taking steps appointing people that are competent to deal with natural disasters. It means also there is a law in the congress that Representative Maxine Water has proposed that I support that I don’t that it has a dollar figure but it’s a commitment that involves the US government in all its strength recognizing that this something can never happen again and it’s not just a matter of rebuilding and making those levees functional again. It isn’t meaning making sure that those homes come back to the people that owned them, it means saying that as a country you cannot let the American people down without a commitment that we will put all our resources to prevent this from happening again.
MN: (17:15) Thank you Governor. We are going to go to our distinguished panel and take another question from Ben Chavez.
BC: (17:23) Yes thank you. This is for Senator Clinton. This is on economic development question. A lot of what we have discussed on the forum so far has been about some of the issues about the quality of life and again the discrimination the disparity and one of the most hot wrenching experiences is economic inequality in our communities. In the black and brown communities. Hip hop has brought back among youth a return of the entrepreneur spirit. When Dean made reference rappers wanting euros they own their own businesses. And their product is not only demanded in the United States but all over the world. Hip hop is a global cultural phenomena where young people not only own their own labors their own production companies, own fashion companies, we are building hip hop soda shops around the world so Senator Clinton if you are elected President what leadership would you take to ensure that young people and Latino and Black communities not only have access to capital but to ensure that economic development the entrepreneur development of American being more inclusive of black and brown youth.
SC: (18:40) Well first of all let me thank and congratulate you and my friend Russell Simmons for what you’ve done with the hip hop summit because it’s been a very important way to highlight a lot of these issues. In New York City we have seen the transformation of Harlem from a combination of government action creating an empowerment zone, the private sector coming in to take advantage of that and an explosion of entrepreneurial dynamism. We’ve also seen the faith based community like Abyssinians and others that have been partners with it and of course we’ve seen a lot of hip hop participants and leaders taking advantage of that. So we need this partnership. We need this partnership between the public and private sector and the not for profit and faith based sector. And we need to make sure that young people have a particular stake in what we are going to present. So I am going to do everything I can to make the tools of government work again, like the Small Business Administration, which has frankly been missing in action the last seven years. They’ve turned their back on black and brown entrepreneurs and business owners. Looking for ways to get back into the business of tax incentives like the empowerment zone and others. And to create more credit through things like micro financing and consulting and technical assistance. I think we can see this happen all over America and not just urban America but rural America too. That’s what I’ve worked on in New York both in the City and in upstate and I intend to put that to work when I’m president.
MN: (5:27) Senator Clinton thank you. And Ben Chavez thank you for the question. It’s time for another candidate to candidate question. And this time question will come from Senator Boraca Obama.
BO: (20:23) Well a lot of what we’ve talked about today obviously has to do with structural inequalities, economics, but it also has to do with racial attitudes in this country. When we were talking early about the situation with immigrants and many have remarked and they are exactly right that if you watch the republican debates you can see how this issue is being demogoged. There is a consequence to that. Which is that hate crimes against Latinos have gone way up over the last year. We’ve also seen over the last several months this epidemic of nooses being hung all across the country since Gina the events down in Gina, Louisiana. And it indicates the degree to which a president has to set a tone of bringing all people together as opposed to excluding people. And being willing to talk about racial issues when they arise and having a justice department, a civil rights division of the justice department that is aggressive about investigating but there is one last one point that, I know it’s supposed to be a question, its going to Joe, the and that this is, A wide coalition of people from Reverend Sharpton to the anti defamation league have come together around hate crimes legislation I know you have been working on this for quite sometime we need to strengthen the enforcement of hate crimes legislation there is some work being done right now in the house that is pending and just wanted to get your prospective this is something that is very important to me as a member of the judiciary committee can we move this forward. It is something that I will prioritize as president but I don’t want to have to wait until I am.
Joe: (22:13) Oh by the way we can and we should move it forward the impediment right now is the president. Senator Kennedy and I and 40 other 38 other co-sponsors you are a co-sponsor as well have been pushing this, the funding. Look the bottom line here is it all gets down, for example, I blocked a Delawarean from being the head of the civil rights division when I was chairman of the judiciary committee. To get _______ Patrick an endorser and supporter of yours. We need someone in the civil rights division who is aggressive and we need justice department that is aggressive in going after these hate crimes. I would not wait. Why did we not hear immediately from the justice department in the Gina? Why did we not hear immediately when the rash of burnings took place? Why did we not hear? The reason is that they are not committed. Hate crimes are just that. The vilest and filthiest of crimes. And when you let one celebrated hate crime go unintended you generate, you generate an attitude. And I’ll conclude by saying that’s why if you notice in my immigration answer the first thing I said is that you have got to take the sting out of this. The majority of people undocumented are not Spanish speaking people taking peoples jobs. That’s the start. Tell the truth, prosecute. Have this just department and the civil rights head and I’d be happy to make you the head of the civil rights division with me as president of the United States of America.
MN: (23:47) Senator Biden
JB: (23:48) No but serious.
MN: (23:51) Governor Richardson you had a follow-up there. Very quickly.
GR: (23:53) Yes and it is very quick and I would suggest and Senator Biden has been a leader in this issue that there is one gap in that bill that goes from the house to the senate and it involves hate crimes that relate to sexual orientation. Transgender. It was not included in the house. Now this is not popular. But I did it four years ago in my state a red a state but if we’re going to thorough about ensuring that there is no discrimination on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation it should include all people and I would hope you would consider including that in the senate bill too.
MN: (24:39) Thank you. I have a question for Senator Clinton in the time that I’ve been in Iowa I’ve had a chance to drive through the neighborhood and stop in some of the eateries and the beauty shops and the barber shops the markets and talk to people where they move about. And I want to put to you one of the things that I’ve actually heard on the street. Here surrounding North High School, some people say that your husband’s crime bill is one of the primary factors behind the rising incarceration rate for blacks and Latinos. It earmarked $8 billion dollars for prisons and continued a trend to harsh or harsher sentencing. How do you view that and what do you say to people who sit in the barber chair and scratch their heads over this? Do you regret in any how this has affected the black community or do you stand by that?
HC: (25:36) Well I think that the results not only at the federal level but at the state level have been an increase an unacceptable increase in incarceration across the board and now we have to address that. Just as you can go and retrospective and say well why was this happening at the time and there were reasons why the congress wanted to push through a certain set of penalties and increase prison construction and there was a lot of support for that across a lot of communities because it’s hard to remember now but the crime rate in the early 90s was very high. And people were being victimized by crime in their homes, in their neighborhoods and their business. But we’ve got to take stalk now of the consequences so that’s why you know I want to have a thorough review of all of the penalties, of all the kinds of sentencing that is done and more importantly start having more diversion and having more second chance programs and really investing in young people. I put forth a youth opportunity agenda that will keep people out of prison and keep them out of that revolving door and that’s what I’m going to focus on when I’m president.
MN: (26:49) Senator Clinton. Thank you.
RS: (26:56) I’d like the next question to go to Senator Dodd but I’d like to hear from other members of the panel of candidates about it. Recently in my house a young Latino turned 18. And when he did he heard from the federal government and he got his post card telling him that in no uncertain terms that in a certain number of days he had to make himself known to the government, register for selective service in case of the need for a call up. Now I have another teenager as a matter of fact she’s sitting in the audience tonight. Who is going to turn 18 before too long. But she’s not going to hear from the government in that way. And I’m wondering whether this sends the right message about national service. What it means to be called up when your country needs and whether we ought to re-examine how we go about telling young people, asking young people for their service to the country? Senator?
SD: (27:55) Well that’s a great, great question. And I think I’m the only candidate here who has articulated a large national service program. As I mentioned earlier that I served in the peace corps back in the 1960s and I did so I’ve been asked a thousand times over the last 41 years why did I join the peace corps and a very simple answer I’ve given a thousands times is because an American president asked me to. He invited a generation of us to be involved in things larger than ourselves. Some involved in the civil rights movements, the farm workers movement, the military, the justice department, but we all felt we were giving something back and making a difference. I’m I think Joe or someone answer the question on the draft. I don’t see a need for the draft I don’t believe that is necessary. But if you are going to have one I think it ought to be gender neutral. If we are going to do that but I think all young people ought to be brought it. We don’t make separations in my view. But I do want to articulate the idea here that we ought to expand the opportunities. I would a ____________ from a 150,000 slots to a millions slots here and connect it with affordability of college education. Retirees who have so much to offer I think are willing to be asked again to participate in the community. Compare if you will when John Kennedy invited a generation of us to do not that long ago and consider what this president asked us to do in the wake of 911. I hear. What was the question? Go shopping in a sense. It was remarkable, remarkable statement to make when you consider how willing people were not only in this country and elsewhere to be involved in the effort or rebuilding our country. Taking it back again. So I’m a strong believer here. I believe we ought to do what Maryland has done. Maryland has a requirement that every high school student before you graduate commit 100 hours of public service in your community. I’d like that to be a part of every community in this country here. To learn the habit of giving. The idea of giving something back to your community. Developing that idea, developing that habit I think can carry you through life. And we’re richer for it. So I’m a very strong advocate of universal national service not required but extending that invitation to people be involved and being a part of things larger than themselves.
RS: (29:51) Thank you Senator Dodd. Let me. Everybody wants to jump in on this question but let me just refine it just briefly and get very quick hits from the rest of the panel. If it did not necessarily mean military service, and if it did not necessarily mean combat service, should the country examine registering women at 18 as well and I will go from left to right, Senator Clinton?
HC: (30:15) Yes.
RS: (30:17) Senator Edwards:
SE: (30:18) Is this yes no?
RS: (30:20) Yes we’re kind of pressed for time.
SE: (30:22) Yes. The answer is yes but can I just say a 15 second follow-up. I do think that it’s absolutely crucial that we ask Americans to be patriotic about something other than war. To ask Americans to be willing to take the action that makes this country what it’s capable of being. As Chris spoke about John Kennedy’s call to action I think we need a president who asks Americans to sacrifice.
RS: (30:43) Congressmen Kucinich:
CK: (30:45) I think we need to move this country away from militarism and away from wars and instrument a policy and reach out to our young people as John Kennedy did and said ask not what your country can do for you ask what you can do for your country there is many different ways to serve. One of which is in the military that’s honorable service but for that question to come at this time when we have our young people in Iraq on a war based on lies and we have this country preparing to go to war against Iran I think that we have to say no to a draft and put in the context of America must change its direction and this forum here tonight if it means anything it should mean a new direction for America away from war and towards giving our young people a real future where they can use all their talents and ability serving in many different capacities.
RS: (31:34) Thank you Congressman. Senator Biden?
SB: (31:41) The answer is yes 1988 Sam not only introduced a bill mandatory universal service you get to pick on of three things if you chose the army it’s six months, if you chose a domestic peace corps it’s two years, if you chose foreign peace corps you only have to do it a year. Everyone man woman, men and women when they get to be eighteen they can chose what they want but there should be universal service unless there is an extreme physical disability.
RS: (32:05) Senator Obama?
SO: (32:06) Yes. The reason right now I live in Chicago is because I moved to Chicago to work as a community organizer. Working on the streets of Chicago to help impoverished communities. It was the best education I ever had. Because it taught me ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they come together. Every young person should have that opportunity to serve and do something that is bigger than themselves. And when they do it not only does the country benefit but they do as well.
RS: (32:36) Governor Richardson?
GR: (32:39) My answer is yes. And I outlined a plan two years of college tuition paid off by the government, one year of national service. But I’m going to go beyond that and say when it comes to the country sacrificing and the people sacrificing I sense in especially Iowa’s that we need to pull together. We can’t have easy answers anymore. And one area where I will ask the American people to sacrifice is when it comes to reducing our dependence on foreign oil and also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And that means being more sensitive with mass transit and appliances and air conditioning and I believe the American people today want to give something back. They are able all over the country to say we want to be inspired. We want to be brought together. We want to deal with issues and then if it’s for the common good we are ready to take those steps.
RS: (33:38) Thank you governor. Let’s go back to the panel. To _________ Gonzales from the Iowa commission on Latinos.
AG: (33:46) Thank you Ray and this question is for Senator Edwards. Here membership is the only true anti poverty program. Union members earn up to 30% more than their non-union counterparts and in the case of Latinos and African Americans it goes as far as 50% difference in salaries and earnings from union members to non-union members. More than 57,000 million workers in this country say that they would join a union if they got a chance to do so. But when employers fire one in every four workers who want to join a union and when employers violate with impunity two fist labor laws that rule the labor relations these days with impunity what are they to do they need a new route to really get dignity and respect in the work place. What would you do, what do you see the role of president in protecting union jobs encouraging union jobs who flourish in this country and protecting the rights of a worker who stands up to his employer and invokes the law that protects them and gets fired for doing so?
SE: (34:43) Well first we need a president of the United States who’s actually willing to walk on the White House lawn and say the word Union. Second we need a president of the United States who will explain to the American people that the union movement helped build the great middle class in the United States of America that absolutely crucial and they will be crucial to building the middle class and strengthening the middle class in the future. We have well over 50 million people as you pointed out in this country who would like to join a union. What we need to do if we really want to strengthen and grow economic security if we want to strengthen and grow the middle class in the country we must strengthen and grow the organized labor movement. In order to do that I know from what I have seen personally that the abuses are ramped. I mean completely ramped. The law is on the side of big corporations as it is in many other areas and not on the side of workers. So what we need to do is change the law. If you can join the republic party by signing your name to a card every worker in America should be able to join a union by signing their name to a card. And when I am president of the United States and it becomes necessary for the union and strength and solidarity to go out on strike when they are walking that picket line no one will walk through that picket line and take their job away for them. Not when I’m president of the United States.
MN: (36:06) Thank you Senator and thank you for the question. This has been a wonderful evening but its time to round the corner to our final chapter closing statements from each of the candidates. This was decided by a random draw the order of these closing statements and because of that you are going to hear again from Mr. Edwards.
SE: (36:22) Thank you. Thank you all very much for being here. Thank you for our panelists for participating. You know here is my belief. I think we have a wall that’s been built around Washington DC. And no one understands that wall better than African Americans and Latinos in America. Because you have been left on the outside of that wall. And that wall has been built by people with money and power to protect their own interests. And to make sure that their interests are taken care of and not the interests of the vast majority of the American people. It’s everything from drug companies, stopping universal health care, insurance companies stopping universal health care, oil companies and power companies stopping the protection of our environment and dealing with global warming. We have seen, I’ve seen in my own lifetime strength of people of courage who led the civil rights movements in America I mentioned earlier I grew up in the segregated south I have seen people of courage who stood up for what was right and for what was moral and just. Our generation is faced with an enormous challenge. Will we take that wall down. Will we have the strength and courage to reclaim this democracy for the many not for the few because if we do and I believe we will with the right leadership, with the right fighter as president we are going to meet the test of moral, the moral test of our generation. Which is to make certain that our children have a better life than we had and to make absolutely certain that we leave America better than we found it.
MN: (37:54) Thank you Senator Edwards. We move next to Governor Richardson.
GR: (38:03) I told those Latinos ____________________________. And I want to more than anything we need to bring this country together. I want to thank the civil rights movement. And the efforts of African Americans that pave the way for many of us and history may be made with an election of a woman president, African American, Latino I’m positive about this country. You know I know we are negative sometimes and the end of the world but you know I’m optimistic, I’m patriotic I think that we’re moving forward. And my last point I know this is a minority forum but we minorities always get put in boxes. African Americans, Hispanics, pollsters parties think well they only care about immigration or civil rights or affirmative action. I think what is one of the most fundamental misconceptions about minorities is that we care about all issues. We care about health care and education. We care about moving this country forward. And I just want to say to voters of Iowa I’m honored to have been put through this process of scrutiny, of being welcomed into your homes and I’m honored to participate today in this forum.
MN: (39:30) Governor Richardson. Thank you. We hear now from Representative Dennis Kucinich.
DK: (39:42) Thank you very much. I carry a copy of the constitution with me which is very relevant to this audience because in the 14th amendment it talks about the guarantee of due process and equal protection of the law in the 15th amendment not denying the right to vote based on race, color but you know what our constitution is being shredded. We’re losing our country to lies. To war based on lies. And to debt. This is one of the reasons why I’ve introduced articles of impeachment to call this administration accountable. So we have to start focusing on the things that people really need. I grew up in the city of Cleveland the oldest of seven. My parents never owned a home. We were renters. We lived in 21 different places by the time I was 17 including a couple cars. So my politics is very practical. People need jobs and that’s why I stand for a full employment economy with a new WPA. People need health care that’s why I’m the only one up here who stands for a not for profit health care system where everyone is covered and recognizes that these health insurance companies are making money not providing health care. I stand for educational opportunities starting at age 3 and going all the way through to and including college. If you want your country back you give me your vote and I’ll give you your country back. Thank you very much.
MN: (41:00) Representative Kucinich. Thank you.
RS: (41:04) For our next closing statement we got to Senator Joe Biden who has one minute.
JB: (41:06) That would be a change. First of all you know there is a lot of debate in this election and I have great respect for all my colleagues here whether this is about experience or change the truth is it is about action. The next president is going to have act immediately. A lot of you wonder why I always talk about Iraq. Iraq is like a big boulder sitting in the middle road. It’s sucking up a $150 billion dollars a year now. Unless you end that war in Iraq all the things we all care about are not going to be able to be done. But they are going to have to move quickly we’re going to move quickly to end this war to get the money available to deal with health care, to deal with education, to deal with all the things we’ve all talked about tonight. And it is true there is a great opportunity here. If I had gotten amnesia in 1968 when I got involved in the civil rights movement in 1964 and I woke up today and they said there was an African American, woman and a Hispanic running I’d say God that’s wonderful. I mean that sincerely. I mean that sincerely. But I’ll hope you’ll all judges those of you and what I’ve found about the African American and Hispanic community they go for whoever they think has the greatest quality. You’re point earlier today. And the point I’m making to you is this. Take a look at our record. My entire career is based upon civil rights, civil liberties and working to make sure we do everything from extend the voting rights act to make sure that we have a death penalty procedures act to make sure we provide opportunity for everybody. So I hope you take a look. The American people are ready for change folks. They are ready for change, pragmatic simple straight forward solutions but it requires action from the day we get sworn in.
RS: (42:36) Thank you Senator. Let’s go next to Senator Boraca Obama.
BO: (42:41) I am running for president because of what Dr. King called the fierce urgency of now. We have urgent problems but we’ve seen an administration that is adrift and the American people understand this urgency but they haven’t had the leadership to bring people together, overcome the special interests that are dominating Washington and speak honestly about how we are going to solve these problems. Now I don’t want to wake up four years from now and find out that we got millions more young African American, Latino youth who are in prison as opposed to going to college. I don’t want to wake up and find out that we’ve got millions more Americans without health insurance. I don’t want to find out that we have not made more progress in making sure that working Americans have a job that pays a living wage and can retire with dignity and with respect. I am standing here because somebody somewhere at some point in time stood up when it was risky, stood up when it was hard, stood up when it wasn’t popular. We have to stand up on behalf of future generations and if you and I join me I promise you we can change America.
RS: (43:58) Thank you Senator Obama. Let’s go next to Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut. Senator Dodd.
SD: (44:07) Well first of all thank all of you for inviting us to be a part of this evening. In 33 days this state is going to make a very important decision. The first state in the country that will begin the selection process. You need to make a decision about which of us up here can win an election. First and foremost. Who can not only bring democrats but independents and republicans who seek change to support our ticket. It is not a foregone conclusion that any democrat we nominate will win the election next fall. We need to win that election. We need to make sure that our nominee has the ability to reach out and draw a broad section of our country to support our ideas and policies. And then to carry that forward. I know that people that talk about turning up the heat or rallying people or firing people up. We’ve got to tone things down a bit in my view in this country here. We need to understand that we’ve got to come together as a people here. We need to elect a president that has the proven ability to bring people together to make a difference for our country. So what I’ve done for a quarter of a century when I started the children’s caucus. When I wrote the family of medical leave act. When I did the first childcare legislation on autism, premature births, infant screening, headstart. I brought democrats and republicans to make those changes in our country. That’s what this country wants desperately. They’re tired of the fighting. They want a nation once again work together to produce the results for our country. It begins in Iowa in 33 days. You have the responsibility now of choosing to send us out further in these other contests to make our case and then to win this election not on behalf of our party our individual candidacies. We are all at risk here and it our joint task as a generation to make a difference for country in the world in which we live. And I think you for the opportunity to make my case. Thank you.
RS: (46:06) Senator Clinton.
HC: (46:08) Well I’m running for president to continue the work that I’ve done for 35 years. Work that is incredibly important to me that I’ve seen literally transform lives from my work with the children’s defense fund to chairing the legal services corporation, to fighting for change in Arkansas for better education and health care to helping to create the state children’s health insurance program to insure 6 million children in our country to working in a bipartisan manner in the senate to really solve what should be nonpartisan American problems. We have a lot of work to do. And whoever holds up his or her hand to take the oath of office on January 20th 2009 will have to begin immediately to repair the damage that has been done by the Bush/Cheney administration but more importantly to restore pride in our country again. To begin to do the hard work of making sure every American has health care, to having an energy policy that will put millions of Americans to work with green power jobs and a lot of those necks in those colors are going to be black and brown. To having an education system that works for everyone from pre-kindergarten to college affordability. To once again send out a message around the world that American values will be respected not only around the world but here at home. I’m running for president to make it clear that we will make progress together and I hope that I can earn your support for the Iowa caucuses because that’s where the road to the White House starts. Thank you all very much.
RS: (47:58) I’d like to thank this large and enthusiastic audience who came to North High School in Des Moines tonight. They were terrific and right with it and paying attention to every answer. It’s great to have you with us tonight. Thanks to all the candidates for being with us in Des Moines as well.
MN: (48:13) And thanks also to Wayne Ford and Mary Campos the founders of the Iowa Brown and Black debate. Stay with us. Coverage will continue. Special coverage with Dan Rather.
RS: (48:26) And for Michelle Norris I am Ray Suarez. Thanks for being with us. Goodnight.
DR: (48:37) So the crowd in the high school auditorium begins to file out. Some sort towards the stage where the candidates are taking off their microphones and in come cases saying goodnight to one another. As your reporters thinks about this particular forum and keep in mind not a debate they were honest enough and candid enough to call it a forum and not a debate. There were some moments of substance. Some minutes of substance. Some things were discussed that had not been discussed or at least not discussed at the length they were here tonight such as should the United States continue it’s blockage of Cuba, particularly as long as Fidel Castro is still alive and influential there. A number of subjects were touched on having to deal with racial justice in the United States. One of the hopes of the founders and sponsors of this Brown and Black Debate was realized as there was a good deal of discussion about such things as education, immigration. Immigration got a fair amount of time. But I think it’s also fair to say that were as it become all too common in these affairs a good deal of side stepping and doing what’s known in the political factor as the old side shuffle. With that comes to mind that George Washington it was said could jump 23 feet, which was a record in those days and today we do have politicians who can sidestep a lot farther than that. Keeping in mind that it take a lot to put your name out there running for president of the United States but again it needs to be underscored that no matter what the forum is, no matter what you call it, that the candidates have the opportunity and they take advantage of the opportunity to sidestep quite a bit and there was no shortage of that here tonight. Now we’ve pulled out few not necessarily the highlights of this forum but a few so lets take a look. First there was an interesting exchange between New Mexico’s Governor Richardson and Senator Clinton. So let’s put that up for you first have a look and listen.
GR: (50:56) I’d like to ask Senator Clinton a question. Like me her husband, President Clinton was a CEO. And was a successful CEO and was a successful president. He balanced the budget like I did in New Mexico. He created new jobs and my question to Senator Clinton is don’t you think that Governors make good presidents? And I’d like to yield to the rest of my time to supplement your answer.
HC: (51:45) Well Bill I think they also make good vice presidents.
DR: (51:55) Pretty good thrust and __________ there and some humor which is always in short supply with these forums. There also was the moment that the audience seemed particularly riveted on when Former Senator from North Carolina John Edwards talked about progress in his lifetime on race relations. Take a listen to this.
JE: (52:15) I think that if you grew up the way I did and you’ve described it very well I grew up in the 50s and 60s in the south in South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina and I grew up in the segregated south. I saw up close, up close what it means to have overt discrimination. I saw how African Americans including my friends were treated. We have made progress but we have much progress left to make and the extraordinary inequality that we have been discussing here tonight whether it’s education inequality, healthcare inequality, income inequality, asset inequality, across that entire waterfront if you are African American in this country today you are much more likely to have healthcare problems, to not have healthcare coverage, to not have 10% of the assets as Ray mentioned a few minutes ago that white families. So have we made progress yes we have made progress but we have a long march in front of us. To create the equality of that Dr. King spoke about.
DR: (53:23) John Edwards. Then there was the moment when Boraco Obama talked about making comebacks.
BO: (53:29) Well nationally Senator Clinton I think is very well known and for wonderful public service that she has rendered as well as her husband and African American voters are like any other voters. Which is that until they get to know you and your track record they are going to be asking questions. They are not sure. And so in the state of Illinois up until a month before I ran for the United States Senate we had a third of the African American vote. We ended with 92% because people started finding out this is somebody who has worked for racial profiling legislation. This is somebody who has helped to bring an end to wrongful convictions in death penalty cases. This is somebody who has expanded healthcare for people who didn’t have it. So my job is to get known in this race. But understand this African American voters, Latino voters, women voters, what they are really concerned about is not identify issues or symbolism they are trying to figure who’s going to help make sure they can pay the rent, who is going to make that they don’t lose their house, who is going to make sure that they can send their children to college. And I believe I can bring the country together, overcome the special interests, stand up for what’s right in order to make that happen and you know are pretty well in Iowa so far. Where people are getting to know that record.
DR: (54:43) Boraca Obama from the just completed Brown and Black Forum for presidential candidates all democrats since the republicans declined to appear here in Des Moines. Now joining me on the set just outside the auditorium where the forum took place is Mary Campos one of the two founders of this Brown and Black Forum and my first question to you Mary is that did this meet your expectations? Or not?
MC: (55:19) Well I would say it did. I would say it did. Certainly.
DR: (55:25) Very good. Now so far as I know you and Wayne the co-sponsors of this have not announced the support for any candidates. Do you have a candidate?
MC: (55:36) I’m still thinking. I’m still thinking it over. I think that it was said that we have group that’s tom terrific candidates and I think in each one I can find something that I admire and that I honestly believe that they can deliver. I think that the things that were said tonight are things that are going to help us win this election and I’m going to think about it and possibly by the caucuses I’ll be sitting with where I want to be.
DR: (56:08) As you look at the field here what issue given what was transpired here tonight what issue still does not get as much focus, as much attention as you think it should.
MC: (56:23) Probably I think that one of the things that we just assume that we are going to do is to be sure that we have a working community. We have ________jobs. Jobs and we have to encourage our young people to stay in school so that they can become qualified. We’ve already talked about it and acknowledged the lack of doctors and nurses and scientists. You know I thought we need to do this thing. And so I’m just hoping that we will get one ok.
DR: (56:54) Mary Campos thanks for being with us. So this Brown and Black Forum for presidential candidates comes to a close. We want to thank the fine folks with the Brown and Black Forum for tonight’s event and my colleagues tonight Ray Suarez and Michelle Norris. As you think about what happened here this evening you may want to keep in mind something your reporters learned over a lifetime of covering political campaigns which is overnight is a long time in politics. A week is forever. And in this presidential nomination race, the first in the nation Iowa caucuses are still a month away. Not a single vote has been counted anywhere for any presidential candidate, democrat or republican. So let’s be clear. Iowa remains a wide open particularly volatile race in both parties poling spin and media reports tend to emphasize the horse race aspects of the campaigns focusing on guesses and that’s all they are guesses about who’s up and who’s down. Who appears to be winning and who’s losing at any particular moment. This is at the expense of covering where the candidates actually stand on issues and what they might or might not do if elected about the economy, healthcare, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, China, racial justice and a long list of other important items. If character and stands on the issues as opposed to personality money and media savvy and manipulation are to be decisive in choosing the next president of our beloved country it is up to you Mr. and Ms. Citizen to make them so. From Des Moines Iowa for HDNet I’m Dan Rather. Good night.