[Sorry, the video for this story has expired, but you can still read the transcript below. ]
JIM LEHRER: Now, some snapshots of Democratic candidates in action today as we head into the final weekend before the Iowa caucuses. Here are Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, John Kerry and John Edwards, beginning with Gephardt, who took questions from reporters.
REP. DICK GEPHARDT: I’ve been talking about the issues in this campaign, and I’ll continue to do that. We have differences on issues with all the candidates. At every stop it is important to remind people that I’m the only candidate who voted against NAFTA, who voted against China.
Howard Dean was for both of those treaties; John Kerry voted for both of those treaties; John Edwards voted for China– he wasn’t there for NAFTA– so I have the only candidacy who was there fighting against bad trade deals in the mid ’90s that have helped lose Iowa 30,000 jobs in the last ten years. Iowa’s voters care about that. That is a big difference on a very important issue for the voters in this state.
I’ve said many times that I have real differences with Howard Dean on Medicare. He said it’s the worst federal program ever; I think it’s the best federal program ever. We just don’t agree on this. And I did not support the big Republican cut Medicare in the mid ’90s; he did. I think it was the wrong decision, so we disagree on that. My health care plan is far better than the other candidates’ health care plans. I get more people covered at a lower price than John Kerry’s plan, Howard Dean’s plan, John Edwards’ plan, by far. So these are real differences.
That’s what you do in a campaign, is discuss the differences. Voters want to know that. They need to know that. They also look at experience, they look at who can best beat George Bush. I’ve always known this would be a close competition, a dead- heat, tight race. I believe we’re going to win. And I’ve believed that for a long time.
I believe it because we have the best experience; I have the best issues — jobs and trade, health care, trade, education. These are the issues people care about here. And I’m the best chance to beat George Bush, and I think voters know that and will know that as we go through these next three days, and I really believe we have the best organization, we have the best ability to get our voters out, and that’s the key in Iowa. In Iowa the best organization usually wins.
The issues that I’m connecting with voters on are the issues of the greatest importance to people out here, and because I have the most experience and because I have the best chance to beat George Bush, I think all of that together means that we’re going to get more voters to the caucuses for Dick Gephardt on election day.
HOWARD DEAN: All these people are good people that we’re running against here for the nomination, and I’m going to support whoever wins this nomination. But the fact is when we went into Iraq only one person stood up against that war, and it was me. Everyone else went along with it. I was the only person who stood up to say “No Child Left Behind” is a federal intrusion into our schools, and it’s going to make them worse, not better. Everybody else went along with it.
We can’t beat George Bush by trying to be like him. We can only beat George Bush by standing up for what we believe, just like Harry Truman did in 1948, when he demanded health insurance for every single American. We can do this by bringing young people and people who haven’t been involved in politics back into the process. We do that by showing them that there really is a difference between the Democratic and the Republican Party and that we know what it is and we’re willing to fight for it.
There is no disgrace in standing up for jobs for America. There’s no disgrace in talking about health insurance, not just when you’re running for president but doing it like we did in Vermont. There’s no disgrace in standing up for the right to organize in unions, because unions have made people’s living standards rise all over America– ordinary middle class people who can now work in a factory or a mine or a school or a nursing home or hospital and have a decent standard of living and hope their kids will do better than they did.
That’s the American way. We built this country, not George W. Bush, and we’re going to take it back, starting on Monday night, January 19. ( Applause ) I used to come out and say, you know, sometimes I think Democrats around this country are almost as mad at the Democrats in Washington as the Republicans, and people would nod their heads because they knew that we were afraid. We don’t have to be afraid anymore. Now we know that the way to beat George Bush is to stand up to him.
I need your help. Monday, 6:30, at the caucuses, we need you to bring everybody you possibly can, because this is an election about whether we’re really going to have change or we’re going to let things go along. All the other folks are fine folks– if one of them wins I’m going to support him– but they aren’t going to change America, and America needs to be changed.
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS: This government is democracy. It doesn’t belong to that crowd of insiders and their lobbyists in Washington, D.C.; it belongs to you. And we’re going top restore the power in this democracy.
The very idea that a country of our wealth and our prosperity where we have millions of people working full time every single day, working for minimum wage and living in poverty. The very idea that in a country of our wealth, children are going to bed hungry — children don’t have the clothes they need to keep them warm — well, here’s what I say, in the country you and I are going to build together, we say no to millions of Americans working full-time living in poverty; we say no to children going to bed hungry; we say no to kids who don’t have the clothes to keep them warm.
You and I together, we are going to lift these families out of poverty. They are part of our America, and we are going to help them because it is the right and moral thing to do. (Applause) That’s why I want to help them. We still have in so many ways, and certainly over the last 30 years, two images around the world. We’ve got one, the one that all of us want to see, that America as this great beacon, this shining light on top of a hill that everyone looks up to, everyone respects, you know, this beacon of freedom, democracy, human rights, and then we’ve got George Bush’s vision, right? Yeah. America acting on its own, using it’s power, showing no respect for the rest of the world I saw someone just yell “bully” in the back of the room.
We can do something about that. You and I can do something about that together. We can build the kind of image that Americans would in fact be proud of, where, by the way, the American people are safer and more secure every day if we live in a world where America is lived up to and respected, aren’t they? Do we have any question about that? Of course we are. (Cheers and applause)
SEN. JOHN KERRY: To win against George Bush, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and company, it is imperative we have a nominee who has the credibility, the background and the ability to stand up to these people and make it clear that we Democrats know how to make our nation safe in a way that adheres to the great principles and values of our nation. It is imperative that we have a nominee who can convince the world that we have the ability to lead in a way that is true to our values, but in a way that also makes our nation safe.
George Bush has said he wants national security to be the issue of this campaign. You heard him say it, right? He wants preemption in the war on terror to be the issue of the campaign, and it makes sense that he wants that because he can’t talk about jobs, he can’t talk about the economy, he can’t talk about the environment, he can’t talk about children, he can’t talk about health care, so we’re going to see the politics of fear in 2004.
So, my friends, when you go to that caucus four days from now, three days, three and a half days, carry with you a sense of history. Remember that we are the party of hope and of optimism and of leadership. That’s how we’re going to win. We cannot offer just anger; we have to offer answers. We have to offer answers. And we cannot offer slogans; we have to offer solutions.
So when you go to the caucus on Monday, don’t go there to just send a message; go there to send America a President of the United States, because that’s what we need. And as you choose that president, I ask you to think about the totality of a life, about all the fights we fought, and if you will give me the privilege of being the nominee of our party, I will use every energy I have… and in 2004, Nov. 2, we will send George Bush back to Texas, and we will have earned the right to stand in front of our own sign that says “mission accomplished.” Thank you very, very much.
JIM LEHRER: More snapshots are still to come of course as the campaign continues. Still to come on the NewsHour tonight, Shields and Brooks, and the caucus issue in Iraq.