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Democrats Face Voter Questions in New Format

Democratic presidential hopefuls fielded questions directly from the voters Monday in a debate sponsored by CNN and the video sharing Web site YouTube. A reporter and political analyst discuss the candidates' answers and new debate format.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    It was yet another candidates' forum, but last night, the questions came from Internet-savvy Democrats.

  • REMY MUNASIFI, McLean, Virginia:

    My taxes put some kids through college, I can't afford to send myself. Now, tell me, if you were elected president, what would you do to help?

  • GWEN IFILL:

    YouTube, the wildly successful Internet video-sharing service, joined with CNN to host the debate at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. CNN screened 3,000 submissions. The ones that aired ranged from serious and emotional…

  • CHARITY WOODS, South Carolina:

    Hi, these are my grandmothers. Both of them suffered from diabetes and ultimately died of massive heart attacks. This is my mother. She suffers from diabetes, and she's also had a heart attack.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    … to cheeky and irreverent.

  • SNOWMAN:

    I've been growing concerned that global warming, the single most important issue to the snowmen of this country, is being neglected.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Although the candidates never questioned each other directly, their differences were on full display, especially on foreign policy. One video questioner, a mother whose son is deploying to Iraq for a second time, asked if Democrats are putting politics before conscience when it comes to the war.

  • MOTHER OF SOLDIER DEPLOYED IN IRAQ:

    Is the reason that we are still in Iraq, and seemingly will be for some time, due to the Democrats' fear that blame for the loss of the war will be placed on them by the Republican spin machine?

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Senator Hillary Clinton said the Bush administration is to blame.

    SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), New York: … in fact, I asked the Pentagon a simple question: Have you prepared for withdrawing our troops? In response, I got a letter accusing me of being unpatriotic, that I shouldn't be asking questions. Well, one of the problems is that there are a lot of questions that we're asking, but we're not getting answers from the Bush administration.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Senator Barack Obama countered that Senator Clinton, who originally voted for the war, shares some of that blame.

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: I think it's terrific that she's asking for plans from the Pentagon, and I think the Pentagon response was ridiculous. But what I also know is that the time for us to ask how we were going to get out of Iraq was before we went in. And that is something that too many of us failed to do.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Clinton and Obama sparred more than once, when he suggested that, as president, he would meet with leaders in Syria, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela.

  • SEN. BARACK OBAMA:

    And the reason is this: that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration, is ridiculous.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Responding to Obama, Clinton took a harder line, saying any leader who agreed to such a meeting might be used for "propaganda purposes."

  • SEN. HILLARY CLINTON:

    I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Another questioner asked about the difficulty of removing troops from Iraq.

  • YOUTUBE QUESTIONER:

    How do we pull out now? And isn't it our responsibility to get these people up on their feet? I mean, do you leave a newborn baby to take care of himself? How do we pull out now?

  • GWEN IFILL:

    New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson said he would do it in six months.

    GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), New Mexico: This is critically important: 100 American troops are dying every month, and this war is a quagmire. It's endless.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Senator Joe Biden rejected that as unrealistic.

    SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), Delaware: There's not a single military man in this audience who will tell this senator he can get those troops out in six months if the order goes today. Let's start telling the truth.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Unlike in previous debates, more questions were devoted to domestic issues, like taxes and health care.

  • YOUTUBE QUESTIONER:

    Hi, my name is Kim. I'm 36 years old and hope to be a future breast cancer survivor from Long Island.