Thursday, October 02, 2008
Biden and Palin debate: transcript of Biden's words http://edition.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/02/debate.transcript/?iref=mpstoryview
Let me begin by thanking you, Gwen, for hosting this.
And, Governor, it's a pleasure to meet you, and it's a pleasure to be with you.
I think it's neither the best or worst of Washington, but it's evidence of the fact that the economic policies of the last eight years have been the worst economic policies we've ever had. As a consequence, you've seen what's happened on Wall Street.
If you need any more proof positive of how bad the economic theories have been, this excessive deregulation, the failure to oversee what was going on, letting Wall Street run wild, I don't think you needed any more evidence than what you see now.
So the Congress has been put -- Democrats and Republicans have been put in a very difficult spot. But Barack Obama laid out four basic criteria for any kind of rescue plan here.
He, first of all, said there has to be oversight. We're not going to write any check to anybody unless there's oversight for the -- of the secretary of Treasury.
He secondly said you have to focus on homeowners and folks on Main Street.
Thirdly, he said that you have to treat the taxpayers like investors in this case.
And, lastly, what you have to do is make sure that CEOs don't benefit from this, because this could end up, in the long run, people making money off of this rescue plan.
And so, as a consequence of that, it brings us back to maybe the fundamental disagreement between Gov. Palin and me and Sen. McCain and Barack Obama, and that is that the -- we're going to fundamentally change the focus of the economic policy.
We're going to focus on the middle class, because it's -- when the middle class is growing, the economy grows and everybody does well, not just focus on the wealthy and corporate America.
Well, that's what I've done my whole career, Gwen, on very, very controversial issues, from dealing with violence against women, to putting 100,000 police officers on the street, to trying to get something done about the genocide in -- that was going on in Bosnia.
And I -- I have been able to reach across the aisle. I think it's fair to say that I have almost as many friends on the Republican side of the aisle as I do the Democratic side of the aisle.
But am I able to respond to -- are we able to stay on the -- on the topic?
Yes, well, you know, until two weeks ago -- it was two Mondays ago John McCain said at 9 o'clock in the morning that the fundamentals of the economy were strong. Two weeks before that, he said George -- we've made great economic progress under George Bush's policies.
Nine o'clock, the economy was strong. Eleven o'clock that same day, two Mondays ago, John McCain said that we have an economic crisis.
That doesn't make John McCain a bad guy, but it does point out he's out of touch. Those folks on the sidelines knew that two months ago.
Well Gwen, two years ago Barack Obama warned about the sub prime mortgage crisis. John McCain said shortly after that in December he was surprised there was a sub prime mortgage problem. John McCain while Barack Obama was warning about what we had to do was literally giving an interview to The Wall Street Journal saying that I'm always for cutting regulations. We let Wall Street run wild. John McCain and he's a good man, but John McCain thought the answer is that tried and true Republican response, deregulate, deregulate.
So what you had is you had overwhelming "deregulation." You had actually the belief that Wall Street could self-regulate itself. And while Barack Obama was talking about reinstating those regulations, John on 20 different occasions in the previous year and a half called for more deregulation. As a matter of fact, John recently wrote an article in a major magazine saying that he wants to do for the health care industry deregulate it and let the free market move like he did for the banking industry.
So deregulation was the promise. And guess what? Those people who say don't go into debt, they can barely pay to fill up their gas tank. I was recently at my local gas station and asked a guy named Joey Danco (ph). I said Joey, how much did it cost to fill your tank? You know what his answer was? He said I don't know, Joe. I never have enough money to do it. The middle class needs relief, tax relief. They need it now. They need help now. The focus will change with Barack Obama.
The charge is absolutely not true. Barack Obama did not vote to raise taxes. The vote she's referring to, John McCain voted the exact same way. It was a budget procedural vote. John McCain voted the same way. It did not raise taxes. Number two, using the standard that the governor uses, John McCain voted 477 times to raise taxes. It's a bogus standard it but if you notice, Gwen, the governor did not answer the question about deregulation, did not answer the question of defending John McCain about not going along with the deregulation, letting Wall Street run wild. He did support deregulation almost across the board. That's why we got into so much trouble.
Well Gwen, where I come from, it's called fairness, just simple fairness. The middle class is struggling. The middle class under John McCain's tax proposal, 100 million families, middle class families, households to be precise, they got not a single change, they got not a single break in taxes. No one making less than $250,000 under Barack Obama's plan will see one single penny of their tax raised whether it's their capital gains tax, their income tax, investment tax, any tax. And 95 percent of the people in the United States of America making less than $150,000 will get a tax break.
Now, that seems to me to be simple fairness. The economic engine of America is middle class. It's the people listening to this broadcast. When you do well, America does well. Even the wealthy do well. This is not punitive. John wants to add $300 million, billion in new tax cuts per year for corporate America and the very wealthy while giving virtually nothing to the middle class. We have a different value set. The middle class is the economic engine. It's fair. They deserve the tax breaks, not the super wealthy who are doing pretty well. They don't need any more tax breaks. And by the way, they'll pay no more than they did under Ronald Reagan.
Gwen, I don't know where to start. We don't call a redistribution in my neighborhood Scranton, Claymont, Wilmington, the places I grew up, to give the fair to say that not giving Exxon Mobil another $4 billion tax cut this year as John calls for and giving it to middle class people to be able to pay to get their kids to college, we don't call that redistribution. We call that fairness number one. Number two fact, 95 percent of the small businesses in America, their owners make less than $250,000 a year. They would not get one single solitary penny increase in taxes, those small businesses.
Now, with regard to the -- to the health care plan, you know, it's with one hand you giveth, the other you take it. You know how Barack Obama -- excuse me, do you know how John McCain pays for his $5,000 tax credit you're going to get, a family will get?
He taxes as income every one of you out there, every one of you listening who has a health care plan through your employer. That's how he raises $3.6 trillion, on your -- taxing your health care benefit to give you a $5,000 plan, which his Web site points out will go straight to the insurance company.
And then you're going to have to replace a $12,000 -- that's the average cost of the plan you get through your employer -- it costs $12,000. You're going to have to pay -- replace a $12,000 plan, because 20 million of you are going to be dropped. Twenty million of you will be dropped.
So you're going to have to place -- replace a $12,000 plan with a $5,000 check you just give to the insurance company. I call that the "Ultimate Bridge to Nowhere."
Well, the one thing we might have to slow down is a commitment we made to double foreign assistance. We'll probably have to slow that down.
We also are going to make sure that we do not go forward with the tax cut proposals of the administration -- of John McCain, the existing one for people making over $250,000, which is $130 billion this year alone.
We're not going to support the $300 billion tax cut that they have for corporate America and the very wealthy. We're not going to support another $4 billion tax cut for ExxonMobil.
And what we're not going to also hold up on, Gwen, is we cannot afford to hold up on providing for incentives for new jobs by an energy policy, creating new jobs.
We cannot slow up on education, because that's the engine that is going to give us the economic growth and competitiveness that we need.
And we are not going to slow up on the whole idea of providing for affordable health care for Americans, none of which, when we get to talk about health care, is as my -- as the governor characterized -- characterized.
The bottom line here is that we are going to, in fact, eliminate those wasteful spending that exist in the budget right now, a number of things I don't have time, because the light is blinking, that I won't be able to mention, but one of which is the $100 billion tax dodge that, in fact, allows people to take their post office box off- shore, avoid taxes.
I call that unpatriotic. I call that unpatriotic.
Again, let me -- let's talk about those tax breaks. Barack Obama -- Obama voted for an energy bill because, for the first time, it had real support for alternative energy.
When there were separate votes on eliminating the tax breaks for the oil companies, Barack Obama voted to eliminate them. John did not.
And let me just ask a rhetorical question: If John really wanted to eliminate them, why is he adding to his budget an additional $4 billion in tax cuts for ExxonMobils of the world that, in fact, already have made $600 billion since 2001?
And, look, I agree with the governor. She imposed a windfall profits tax up there in Alaska. That's what Barack Obama and I want to do.
We want to be able to do for all of you Americans, give you back $1,000 bucks, like she's been able to give back money to her folks back there.
But John McCain will not support a windfall profits tax. They've made $600 billion since 2001, and John McCain wants to give them, all by itself -- separate, no additional bill, all by itself -- another $4 billion tax cut.
If that is not proof of what I say, I'm not sure what can be. So I hope the governor is able to convince John McCain to support our windfall profits tax, which she supported in Alaska, and I give her credit for it.
Well, mortgage-holders didn't pay the price. Only 10 percent of the people who are -- have been affected by this whole switch from Chapter 7 to Chapter 13 -- it gets complicated.
But the point of this -- Barack Obama saw the glass as half- empty. I saw it as half-full. We disagreed on that, and 85 senators voted one way, and 15 voted the other way.
But here's the deal. Barack Obama pointed out two years ago that there was a subprime mortgage crisis and wrote to the secretary of Treasury. And he said, "You'd better get on the stick here. You'd better look at it."
John McCain said as early as last December, quote -- I'm paraphrasing -- "I'm surprised about this subprime mortgage crisis," number one.
Number two, with regard to bankruptcy now, Gwen, what we should be doing now -- and Barack Obama and I support it -- we should be allowing bankruptcy courts to be able to re-adjust not just the interest rate you're paying on your mortgage to be able to stay in your home, but be able to adjust the principal that you owe, the principal that you owe.
That would keep people in their homes, actually help banks by keeping it from going under. But John McCain, as I understand it -- I'm not sure of this, but I believe John McCain and the governor don't support that.
There are ways to help people now. And there -- ways that we're offering are not being supported by -- by the Bush administration nor do I believe by John McCain and Gov. Palin.
BIDEN: Well, I think it is manmade. I think it's clearly manmade. And, look, this probably explains the biggest fundamental difference between John McCain and Barack Obama and Sarah Palin and Joe Biden -- Gov. Palin and Joe Biden.
If you don't understand what the cause is, it's virtually impossible to come up with a solution. We know what the cause is. The cause is manmade. That's the cause. That's why the polar icecap is melting.
Now, let's look at the facts. We have 3 percent of the world's oil reserves. We consume 25 percent of the oil in the world. John McCain has voted 20 times in the last decade-and-a-half against funding alternative energy sources, clean energy sources, wind, solar, biofuels.
The way in which we can stop the greenhouse gases from emitting. We believe -- Barack Obama believes by investing in clean coal and safe nuclear, we can not only create jobs in wind and solar here in the United States, we can export it.
China is building one to three new coal-fired plants burning dirty coal per week. It's polluting not only the atmosphere but the West Coast of the United States. We should export the technology by investing in clean coal technology.
We should be creating jobs. John McCain has voted 20 times against funding alternative energy sources and thinks, I guess, the only answer is drill, drill, drill. Drill we must, but it will take 10 years for one drop of oil to come out of any of the wells that are going to begun to be drilled.
In the meantime, we're all going to be in real trouble.
I have always supported it. That's a fact.
Absolutely. Absolutely we do. We call for setting hard targets, number one...
Oh, I'm sorry.
Oh, on clean coal. My record, just take a look at the record. My record for 25 years has supported clean coal technology. A comment made in a rope line was taken out of context. I was talking about exporting that technology to China so when they burn their dirty coal, it won't be as dirty, it will be clean.
But here's the bottom line, Gwen: How do we deal with global warming with continued addition to carbon emissions? And if the only answer you have is oil, and John -- and the governor says John is for everything.
Well, why did John vote 20 times? Maybe he's for everything as long as it's not helped forward by the government. Maybe he's for everything if the free market takes care of it. I don't know. But he voted 20 times against funding alternative energy sources.
Absolutely. Do I support granting same-sex benefits? Absolutely positively. Look, in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple.
The fact of the matter is that under the Constitution we should be granted -- same-sex couples should be able to have visitation rights in the hospitals, joint ownership of property, life insurance policies, et cetera. That's only fair.
It's what the Constitution calls for. And so we do support it. We do support making sure that committed couples in a same-sex marriage are guaranteed the same constitutional benefits as it relates to their property rights, their rights of visitation, their rights to insurance, their rights of ownership as heterosexual couples do.
No. Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage. We do not support that. That is basically the decision to be able to be able to be left to faiths and people who practice their faiths the determination what you call it.
The bottom line though is, and I'm glad to hear the governor, I take her at her word, obviously, that she think there should be no civil rights distinction, none whatsoever, between a committed gay couple and a committed heterosexual couple. If that's the case, we really don't have a difference.
Gwen, with all due respect, I didn't hear a plan. Barack Obama offered a clear plan. Shift responsibility to Iraqis over the next 16 months. Draw down our combat troops. Ironically the same plan that Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq and George Bush are now negotiating. The only odd man out here, only one left out is John McCain, number one. Number two, with regard to Barack Obama not quote funding the troops, John McCain voted the exact same way. John McCain voted against funding the troops because of an amendment he voted against had a timeline in it to draw down American troops. And John said I'm not going to fund the troops if in fact there's a time line. Barack Obama and I agree fully and completely on one thing. You've got to have a time line to draw down the troops and shift responsibility to the Iraqis.
We're spending $10 billion a month while Iraqis have an $80 billion surplus. Barack says it's time for them to spend their own money and have the 400,000 military we trained for them begin to take their own responsibility and gradually over 16 months, withdrawal. John McCain -- this is a fundamental difference between us, we'll end this war. For John McCain, there's no end in sight to end this war, fundamental difference. We will end this war.
John McCain voted to cut off funding for the troops. Let me say that again. John McCain voted against an amendment containing $1 billion, $600 million that I had gotten to get MRAPS, those things that are protecting the governor's son and pray god my son and a lot of other sons and daughters.
He voted against it. He voted against funding because he said the amendment had a time line in it to end this war. He didn't like that. But let's get straight who has been right and wrong. John McCain and Dick Cheney said while I was saying we would not be greeted as liberators, we would not - this war would take a decade and not a day, not a week and not six months, we would not be out of there quickly. John McCain was saying the Sunnis and Shias got along with each other without reading the history of the last 700 years. John McCain said there would be enough oil to pay for this. John McCain has been dead wrong. I love him. As my mother would say, god love him, but he's been dead wrong on the fundamental issues relating to the conduct of the war. Barack Obama has been right. There are the facts.
Well, they're both extremely dangerous. I always am focused, as you know Gwen, I have been focusing on for a long time, along with Barack on Pakistan. Pakistan already has nuclear weapons. Pakistan already has deployed nuclear weapons. Pakistan's weapons can already hit Israel and the Mediterranean. Iran getting a nuclear weapon would be very, very destabilizing. They are more than - they are not close to getting a nuclear weapon that's able to be deployed. So they're both very dangerous. They both would be game changers.
But look, here's what the fundamental problem I have with John's policy about terror instability. John continues to tell us that the central war in the front on terror is in Iraq. I promise you, if an attack comes in the homeland, it's going to come as our security services have said, it is going to come from al Qaeda planning in the hills of Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's where they live. That's where they are. That's where it will come from. And right now that resides in Pakistan, a stable government needs to be established. We need to support that democracy by helping them not only with their military but with their governance and their economic well-being.
There have been 7,000 madrasses built along that border. We should be helping them build schools to compete for those hearts and minds of the people in the region so that we're actually able to take on terrorism and by the way, that's where bin Laden lives and we will go at him if we have actually intelligence.
Can I clarify this? This is simply not true about Barack Obama. He did not say sit down with Ahmadinejad.
The fact of the matter is, it surprises me that Sen. McCain doesn't realize that Ahmadinejad does not control the security apparatus in Iran. The theocracy controls the security apparatus, number one.
Number two, five secretaries of state did say we should talk with and sit down.
Now, John and Gov. Palin now say they're all for -- they have a passion, I think the phrase was, a passion for diplomacy and that we have to bring our friends and allies along.
Our friends and allies have been saying, Gwen, "Sit down. Talk. Talk. Talk." Our friends and allies have been saying that, five secretaries of state, three of them Republicans.
And John McCain has said he would go along with an agreement, but he wouldn't sit down. Now, how do you do that when you don't have your administration sit down and talk with the adversary?
And look what President Bush did. After five years, he finally sent a high-ranking diplomat to meet with the highest-ranking diplomats in Iran, in Europe, to try to work out an arrangement.
Our allies are on that same page. And if we don't go the extra mile on diplomacy, what makes you think the allies are going to sit with us?
The last point I'll make, John McCain said as recently as a couple of weeks ago he wouldn't even sit down with the government of Spain, a NATO ally that has troops in Afghanistan with us now. I find that incredible.
Gwen, no one in the United States Senate has been a better friend to Israel than Joe Biden. I would have never, ever joined this ticket were I not absolutely sure Barack Obama shared my passion.
But you asked a question about whether or not this administration's policy had made sense or something to that effect. It has been an abject failure, this administration's policy.
In fairness to Secretary Rice, she's trying to turn it around now in the seventh or eighth year.
Here's what the president said when we said no. He insisted on elections on the West Bank, when I said, and others said, and Barack Obama said, "Big mistake. Hamas will win. You'll legitimize them." What happened? Hamas won.
When we kicked -- along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, "Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don't know -- if you don't, Hezbollah will control it."
Now what's happened? Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the government in the country immediately to the north of Israel.
The fact of the matter is, the policy of this administration has been an abject failure.
And speaking of freedom being on the march, the only thing on the march is Iran. It's closer to a bomb. Its proxies now have a major stake in Lebanon, as well as in the Gaza Strip with Hamas.
We will change this policy with thoughtful, real, live diplomacy that understands that you must back Israel in letting them negotiate, support their negotiation, and stand with them, not insist on policies like this administration has.
Look, past is prologue, Gwen. The issue is, how different is John McCain's policy going to be than George Bush's? I haven't heard anything yet.
I haven't heard how his policy is going to be different on Iran than George Bush's. I haven't heard how his policy is going to be different with Israel than George Bush's. I haven't heard how his policy in Afghanistan is going to be different than George Bush's. I haven't heard how his policy in Pakistan is going to be different than George Bush's.
It may be. But so far, it is the same as George Bush's. And you know where that policy has taken us.
We will make significant change so, once again, we're the most respected nation in the world. That's what we're going to do.
I'll talk about both. With Afghanistan, facts matter, Gwen.
The fact is that our commanding general in Afghanistan said today that a surge -- the surge principles used in Iraq will not -- well, let me say this again now -- our commanding general in Afghanistan said the surge principle in Iraq will not work in Afghanistan, not Joe Biden, our commanding general in Afghanistan.
He said we need more troops. We need government-building. We need to spend more money on the infrastructure in Afghanistan.
Look, we have spent more money -- we spend more money in three weeks on combat in Iraq than we spent on the entirety of the last seven years that we have been in Afghanistan building that country.
Let me say that again. Three weeks in Iraq; seven years, seven years or six-and-a-half years in Afghanistan. Now, that's number one.
Number two, with regard to arms control and weapons, nuclear weapons require a nuclear arms control regime. John McCain voted against a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty that every Republican has supported.
John McCain has opposed amending the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty with an amendment to allow for inspections.
John McCain has not been -- has not been the kind of supporter for dealing with -- and let me put it another way. My time is almost up.
Barack Obama, first thing he did when he came to the United States Senate, new senator, reached across the aisle to my colleague, Dick Lugar, a Republican, and said, "We've got to do something about keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists."
They put together a piece of legislation that, in fact, was serious and real. Every major -- I shouldn't say every -- on the two at least that I named, I know that John McCain has been opposed to extending the arms control regime in the world.
Well, our commanding general did say that. The fact of the matter is that again, I'll just put in perspective, while Barack and I and Chuck Hagel and Dick Lugar have been calling for more money to help in Afghanistan, more troops in Afghanistan, John McCain was saying two years ago quote, "The reason we don't read about Afghanistan anymore in the paper, it's succeeded.
Barack Obama was saying we need more troops there. Again, we spend in three weeks on combat missions in Iraq, more than we spent in the entire time we have been in Afghanistan. That will change in a Barack Obama administration.
I think the American public has the stomach for success. My recommendations on Bosnia. I admit I was the first one to recommend it. They saved tens of thousands of lives. And initially John McCain opposed it along with a lot of other people. But the end result was it worked. Look what we did in Bosnia. We took Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks, being told by everyone, I was told by everyone that this would mean that they had been killing each other for a thousand years, it would never work.
There's a relatively stable government there now as in Kosovo. With regard to Iraq, I indicated it would be a mistake to -- I gave the president the power. I voted for the power because he said he needed it not to go to war but to keep the United States, the UN in line, to keep sanctions on Iraq and not let them be lifted.
I, along with Dick Lugar, before we went to war, said if we were to go to war without our allies, without the kind of support we need, we'd be there for a decade and it'd cost us tens of billions of dollars. John McCain said, no, it was going to be OK.
I don't have the stomach for genocide when it comes to Darfur. We can now impose a no-fly zone. It's within our capacity. We can lead NATO if we're willing to take a hard stand. We can, I've been in those camps in Chad. I've seen the suffering, thousands and tens of thousands have died and are dying. We should rally the world to act and demonstrate it by our own movement to provide the helicopters to get the 21,000 forces of the African Union in there now to stop this genocide.
Absolutely. There is a line that should be drawn.
The line that should be drawn is whether we A, first of all have the capacity to do anything about it number one. And number two, certain new lines that have to be drawn internationally. When a country engages in genocide, when a country engaging in harboring terrorists and will do nothing about it, at that point that country in my view and Barack's view forfeits their right to say you have no right to intervene at all.
The truth of the matter is, though, let's go back to John McCain's strategy. I never supported John McCain's strategy on the war. John McCain said exactly what Dick Cheney said, go back and look at Barack Obama's statements and mine. Go look at joebiden.com, contemporaneously, held hearings in the summer before we went to war, saying if we went to war, we would not be greeted as liberator, we would have a fight between Sunnis and Shias, we would be tied down for a decade and cost us hundreds of billions of dollars.
John McCain was saying the exact opposite. John McCain was lock- step with Dick Cheney at that point how this was going to be easy. So John McCain's strategy in this war, not just whether or not to go, the actual conduct of the war has been absolutely wrong from the outset.
God forbid that would ever happen, it would be a national tragedy of historic proportions if it were to happen.
But if it did, I would carry out Barack Obama's policy, his policies of reinstating the middle class, making sure they get a fair break, making sure they have access to affordable health insurance, making sure they get serious tax breaks, making sure we can help their children get to college, making sure there is an energy policy that leads us in the direction of not only toward independence and clean environment but an energy policy that creates 5 million new jobs, a foreign policy that ends this war in Iraq, a foreign policy that goes after the one mission the American public gave the president after 9/11, to get and capture or kill bin Laden and to eliminate al Qaeda. A policy that would in fact engage our allies in making sure that we knew we were acting on the same page and not dictating.
And a policy that would reject the Bush Doctrine of preemption and regime change and replace it with a doctrine of prevention and cooperation and, ladies and gentlemen, this is the biggest ticket item that we have in this election.
This is the most important election you will ever, ever have voted in, any of you, since 1932. And there's such stark differences, I would follow through on Barack's policies because in essence, I agree with every major initiative he is suggesting.
Can I respond? Look, all you have to do is go down Union Street with me in Wilmington or go to Katie's Restaurant or walk into Home Depot with me where I spend a lot of time and you ask anybody in there whether or not the economic and foreign policy of this administration has made them better off in the last eight years. And then ask them whether there's a single major initiative that John McCain differs with the president on. On taxes, on Iraq, on Afghanistan, on the whole question of how to help education, on the dealing with health care.
Look, the people in my neighborhood, they get it. They get it. They know they've been getting the short end of the stick. So walk with me in my neighborhood, go back to my old neighborhood in Claymont, an old steel town or go up to Scranton with me. These people know the middle class has gotten the short end. The wealthy have done very well. Corporate America has been rewarded. It's time we change it. Barack Obama will change it.
They didn't get yours or mine? Which one didn't they get?
Gwen, I hope we'll get back to education because I don't know any government program that John is supporting, not early education, more money for it. The reason No Child Left Behind was left behind, the money was left behind, we didn't fund it. We can get back to that I assume.
With regard to the role of vice president, I had a long talk, as I'm sure the governor did with her principal, in my case with Barack. Let me tell you what Barack asked me to do. I have a history of getting things done in the United States Senate. John McCain would acknowledge that. My record shows that on controversial issues.
I would be the point person for the legislative initiatives in the United States Congress for our administration. I would also, when asked if I wanted a portfolio, my response was, no. But Barack Obama indicated to me he wanted me with him to help him govern. So every major decision he'll be making, I'll be sitting in the room to give my best advice. He's president, not me, I'll give my best advice.
And one of the things he said early on when he was choosing, he said he picked someone who had an independent judgment and wouldn't be afraid to tell him if he disagreed. That is sort of my reputation, as you know. I look forward to working with Barack and playing a very constructive role in his presidency, bringing about the kind of change this country needs.
Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history. The idea he doesn't realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that's the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.
And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there's a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.
The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote. He has no authority relative to the Congress. The idea he's part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive and look where it has gotten us. It has been very dangerous.
You're very kind suggesting my only Achilles Heel is my lack of discipline.
Others talk about my excessive passion. I'm not going to change. I have 35 years in public office. People can judge who I am. I haven't changed in that time.
And, by the way, a record of change -- I will place my record and Barack's record against John McCain's or anyone else in terms of fundamental accomplishments. Wrote the crime bill, put 100,000 cops on the street, wrote the Violence Against Women Act, which John McCain voted against both of them, was the catalyst to change the circumstance in Bosnia, led by President Clinton, obviously.
Look, I understand what it's like to be a single parent. When my wife and daughter died and my two sons were gravely injured, I understand what it's like as a parent to wonder what it's like if your kid's going to make it.
I understand what it's like to sit around the kitchen table with a father who says, "I've got to leave, champ, because there's no jobs here. I got to head down to Wilmington. And when we get enough money, honey, we'll bring you down."
I understand what it's like. I'm much better off than almost all Americans now. I get a good salary with the United States Senate. I live in a beautiful house that's my total investment that I have. So I -- I am much better off now.
But the notion that somehow, because I'm a man, I don't know what it's like to raise two kids alone, I don't know what it's like to have a child you're not sure is going to -- is going to make it -- I understand.
I understand, as well as, with all due respect, the governor or anybody else, what it's like for those people sitting around that kitchen table. And guess what? They're looking for help. They're looking for help. They're not looking for more of the same.
I'll be very brief. Can I respond to that?
Look, the maverick -- let's talk about the maverick John McCain is. And, again, I love him. He's been a maverick on some issues, but he has been no maverick on the things that matter to people's lives.
He voted four out of five times for George Bush's budget, which put us a half a trillion dollars in debt this year and over $3 trillion in debt since he's got there.
He has not been a maverick in providing health care for people. He has voted against -- he voted including another 3.6 million children in coverage of the existing health care plan, when he voted in the United States Senate.
He's not been a maverick when it comes to education. He has not supported tax cuts and significant changes for people being able to send their kids to college.
He's not been a maverick on the war. He's not been a maverick on virtually anything that genuinely affects the things that people really talk about around their kitchen table.
Can we send -- can we get Mom's MRI? Can we send Mary back to school next semester? We can't -- we can't make it. How are we going to heat the -- heat the house this winter?
He voted against even providing for what they call LIHEAP, for assistance to people, with oil prices going through the roof in the winter.
So maverick he is not on the important, critical issues that affect people at that kitchen table.
Yes, I can. When I got to the United States Senate and went on the Judiciary Committee as a young lawyer, I was of the view and had been trained in the view that the only thing that mattered was whether or not a nominee appointed, suggested by the president had a judicial temperament, had not committed a crime of moral turpitude, and was -- had been a good student.
And it didn't take me long -- it was hard to change, but it didn't take me long, but it took about five years for me to realize that the ideology of that judge makes a big difference.
That's why I led the fight against Judge Bork. Had he been on the court, I suspect there would be a lot of changes that I don't like and the American people wouldn't like, including everything from Roe v. Wade to issues relating to civil rights and civil liberties.
And so that -- that -- that was one of the intellectual changes that took place in my career as I got a close look at it. And that's why I was the first chairman of the Judiciary Committee to forthrightly state that it matters what your judicial philosophy is. The American people have a right to understand it and to know it.
But I did change on that, and -- and I'm glad I did.
Well, again, I believe John McCain, were he here -- and this is a dangerous thing to say in the middle of an election -- but he would acknowledge what I'm about to say.
I have been able to work across the aisle on some of the most controversial issues and change my party's mind, as well as Republicans', because I learned a lesson from Mike Mansfield.
Mike Mansfield, a former leader of the Senate, said to me one day -- he -- I made a criticism of Jesse Helms. He said, "What would you do if I told you Jesse Helms and Dot Helms had adopted a child who had braces and was in real need?" I said, "I'd feel like a jerk."
He said, "Joe, understand one thing. Everyone's sent here for a reason, because there's something in them that their folks like. Don't question their motive."
I have never since that moment in my first year questioned the motive of another member of the Congress or Senate with whom I've disagreed. I've questioned their judgment.
I think that's why I have the respect I have and have been able to work as well as I've been able to have worked in the United States Senate. That's the fundamental change Barack Obama and I will be bring to this party, not questioning other people's motives.
Gwen, thank you for doing this, and the commission, and Governor, it really was a pleasure getting to meet you.
Look, folks, this is the most important election you've ever voted in your entire life. No one can deny that the last eight years, we've been dug into a very deep hole here at home with regard to our economy, and abroad in terms of our credibility. And there's a need for fundamental change in our economic philosophy, as well as our foreign policy.
And Barack Obama and I don't measure progress toward that change based on whether or not we cut more regulations and how well CEOs are doing, or giving another $4 billion in tax breaks to the Exxon Mobils of the world.
We measure progress in America based on whether or not someone can pay their mortgage, whether or not they can send their kid to college, whether or not they're able to, when they send their child, like we have abroad -- or I'm about to, abroad -- and John has as well, I might add -- to fight, that they are the best equipped and they have everything they need. And when they come home, they're guaranteed that they have the best health care and the best education possible.
You know, in the neighborhood I grew up in, it was all about dignity and respect. A neighborhood like most of you grew up in. And in that neighborhood, it was filled with women and men, mothers and fathers who taught their children if they believed in themselves, if they were honest, if they worked hard, if they loved their country, they could accomplish anything. We believed it, and we did.
That's why Barack Obama and I are running, to re-establish that certitude in our neighborhoods.
Ladies and gentlemen, my dad used to have an expression. He'd say, "champ, when you get knocked down, get up."
Well, it's time for America to get up together. America's ready, you're ready, I'm ready, and Barack Obama is ready to be the next president of the United States of America.
May God bless all of you, and most of all, for both of us, selfishly, may God protect our troops.
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Obama 2008 - I want my country back
Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.