Read the full transcript of the third 2020 Democratic Debate airing on Thursday night, Sept. 12, 2019, on ABC News.
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STEPHANOPOULOS: The stage is set. The field has been narrowed. For one night only, the top 10 candidates are here. Our Democratic primary debate starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is an ABC News special.
BIDEN: I will be a president for every American.
WARREN: This is our moment.
SANDERS: We are in a struggle for the future of this country.
HARRIS: We fight for our country. That’s the nature of who we are.
SANDERS: Right now we can act.
YANG: We’re in the midst of the greatest economic transformation.
BOOKER: We have overcome worse times and darker moments than this.
O’ROURKE: We will make the most of this moment that we have here together.
KLOBUCHAR: We are on a march together.
CASTRO: We’re going to win by being bold. We’re going to win by being fearless.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, here now, chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good evening, and welcome to Houston. We are live from Texas Southern University for tonight’s Democratic debate. The top 10 candidates are here. It’s going to start right now.
And on the stage, you see them. They have all met the criteria set by the Democratic National Committee. At least 10 others have not met the threshold. So, for the first time in this primary, a single debate in a single night with all the top candidates facing off.
It is a critical test for the candidates and their campaigns at a critical time for our country. They’re going to lay out their vision for the country, their records, their differences with President Trump and each other. And we’re going to do our best to bring you a lively, informative, and civil debate.
I’m joined here tonight by my ABC colleague, “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir, our national correspondent, Linsey Davis, and Jorge Ramos from our partner network, Univision.
RAMOS: George, thank you very much. We appreciate the opportunity to welcome Latinos across the country and to ask about Latinx issues during these challenging times.
Let me just give you a little translation here. I’m telling Latinos that, despite the fact that we are facing difficult times, this is our country, too. Linsey?
DAVIS: We are delighted to be on the beautiful campus of Texas Southern University, one of the largest historically black colleges and universities in the country. And here in the Health and Physical Education Building tonight, we are joined by a live audience of 3,500 people, most invited by the Democratic National Committee, and, of course, some of the brightest minds of the student body here at TSU. Go Tigers.
MUIR: We can feel the energy in the room, can’t we, Linsey? The rules of this debate are very basic tonight and have been agreed to by all the campaigns in advance. Candidates will have one minute, 15 seconds to answer a direct question and 45 seconds for a rebuttal or response as directed by one of the moderators. Candidates will each see green and yellow lights — there you see them right there — indicating how much time they have remaining. And when time is up, the light will turn red. Candidates who interrupt will be subject to having their time reduced later on.
But this is democracy, the great American experiment, and the candidates are here tonight to make their case.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The podium placement was based on their current standings in nationally recognized polls with the leading candidates in the center. All candidates have been told they can have one minute to make an opening statement. And we’re going to begin in reverse polling order with Secretary Julian Castro.
CASTRO: Good evening, y bienvenidos a Texas. Welcome to Texas.
It’s great to be here at TSU, home of the Tigers. You know, on January 20, 2021, at 12:01 p.m., we’re going to have a Democratic president, a Democratic House, and a Democratic Senate.
There will be life after Donald Trump. But the truth is that our problems didn’t start just with Donald Trump, and we won’t solve them by embracing old ideas. We need a bold vision: universal pre-K and universal health care, unleashing millions of new jobs in the clean energy economy, a tax system that rewards people who have to work for a living.
But first, we have to win. And that means exciting a young, diverse coalition of Americans who are ready for a bold future. That’s what Kennedy did, it’s what Carter did, it’s what Clinton did, it’s what Barack Obama did, and it’s what I can do in this race. Get back Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia, and Arizona, and finally turn Texas blue and say goodbye to Donald Trump.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Klobuchar?
KLOBUCHAR: Good evening, Texas Southern. I believe that what unites us up here, the 10 of us, is much stronger than what divides us. And I think that’s true of our country, too.
Now, I may not be the loudest person up here, but I think we’ve already got that in the White House.
Houston, we have a problem. This — we have a guy there that is literally running our country like a game show. He would rather lie than lead. I think we need something different.
I am someone that tells the truth. I don’t make promises that I can’t keep. I have people’s back. And I believe that to win, you bring people with you and that is how you govern, as well.
So, you’re going to hear a lot of ideas up here. Some will be great. But if you see that some of them seem a little off-track, I’ve got a better way. If you feel stuck in the middle of the extremes in our politics and you are tired of the noise and the nonsense, you’ve got a home with me, because I don’t want to be the president for half of America. I want to be the president for all of America.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Beto O’Rourke?
O’ROURKE: It’s an honor to be on this debate stage. It is wonderful to be back in Texas, in Houston, back here at TSU.
On August 3rd, in El Paso, Texas, two things became crystal clear for me, and I think produced a turning point for this country. The first is just how dangerous Donald Trump is, the cost and the consequence of his presidency.
A racism and violence that had long been a part of America was welcomed out into the open and directed to my hometown of El Paso, Texas, where 22 people were killed, dozens more grievously injured by a man carrying a weapon he should never have been able to buy in the first place, inspired to kill by our president.
The second is how insufficient our politics is to meet the threat that we have right now. The bitterness, the pettiness, the smallness of the moment, the incentives to attack one another and try to make differences without distinctions, mountains out of mole hills, we have to be bigger. We have to see clearly, we have to speak honestly, and we have to act decisively. That’s what I want to do for you as president of the United States. Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Cory Booker?
BOOKER: It was over 20 years ago that I was a law student and moved to inner city Newark, New Jersey, to serve as a tenants rights lawyer to try to address the challenges in my community. And I was sobered by them — the gun violence, the sub-standard housing.
But it was my greatest mentor, a woman named Ms. Virginia Jones, who challenged me. She said, boy, if all you see in this neighborhood is problems, that’s all there’s ever going to be. But if you’re stubborn and defiant and can put forth a vision that can unify people, then we can make transformative change. She was a church woman that said, without vision, the people will perish.
Well, that’s exactly what we did. We created extraordinary unity in our community, and we did things that other people think — thought was impossible.
That’s the story of America. At our best, we unify, we find common cause and common purpose. The differences amongst us Democrats on the stage are not as great as the urgency for us to unite as a party, not just to beat Donald Trump, but to unite America in common cause and common purpose. That’s why I’m running for president, and that’s how I will lead this nation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Entrepreneur Andrew Yang?
YANG: In America today, everything revolves around the almighty dollar — our schools, our hospitals, our media, even our government. It’s why we don’t trust our institutions anymore. We have to get our country working for us again, instead of the other way around. We have to see ourselves as the owners and shareholders of this democracy rather than inputs into a giant machine.
When you donate money to a presidential campaign, what happens? The politician spends the money on TV ads and consultants and you hope it works out. It’s time to trust ourselves more than our politicians.
That’s why I’m going to do something unprecedented tonight. My campaign will now give a freedom dividend of $1,000 a month for an entire year to 10 American families, someone watching this at home right now. If you believe that you can solve your own problems better than any politician, go to yang2020.com and tell us how $1,000 a month will help you do just that. This is how we will get our country working for us again, the American people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mayor Pete Buttigieg?
BUTTIGIEG: It’s original, I’ll give you that.
The American people are divided and doubtful at the very moment we need to rise to some of the greatest challenges we’ve ever seen. As a mayor of an industrial city coming back from the brink, as a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, I know what’s at stake in our national leadership.
We keep sending politicians to Washington asking them to fight for us, but then when they get there, they seem more interested in the part about fighting than the part about us. Good politics is supposed to be not about the day-to-day fights of the politicians, but about the day-to-day lives of Americans.
We just marked the anniversary of 9/11. All day today, I’ve been thinking about September 12th, the way it felt when for a moment we came together as a country. Imagine if we had been able to sustain that unity. Imagine what would be possible right now with ideas that are bold enough to meet the challenges of our time, but big enough, as well, that they could unify the American people. That’s what presidential leadership can do. That’s what the presidency is for. And that is why I’m asking for your vote.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Kamala Harris?
HARRIS: Thank you. It’s great to be back at TSU.
So I plan on spending tonight talking with you about my plans to address the problems that keep you up at night. But first, I have a few words for Donald Trump, who we all know is watching.
So, President Trump, you’ve spent the last two-and-a-half years full-time trying to sow hate and division among us, and that is why we’ve gotten nothing done. You have used hate, intimidation, fear, and over 12,000 lies as a way to distract from your failed policies and your broken promises. The only reason you’ve not been indicted is because there was a memo in the Department of Justice that says a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime.
But here’s what you don’t get: What you don’t get you is that the American people are so much better than this. And we know that the vast majority of us have so much more in common than what separates us, regardless of our race, where we live, or the party with which we’re registered to vote. And I plan on focusing on our common issues, our common hopes and desires, and in that way, unifying our country, winning this election, and turning the page for America.
And now, President Trump, you can go back to watching Fox News.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Bernie Sanders? Senator Sanders?
SANDERS: Let me be blunt and tell you what you don’t hear much about in Congress or in the media, and that is, it goes without saying that we must and will defeat Trump, the most dangerous president in the history of this country.
But we must do more. We must do more. We have got to recognize that this country is moving into an oligarchic form of society where a handful of billionaires control the economic and political life of this country. And as president, I am prepared to take them on.
Yes, we will raise the minimum wage to a living wage. Yes, we will finally make sure that every American has health care as a human right, not a privilege. And, yes, we will address the catastrophic crisis of climate change and transform our energy system away from fossil fuel.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Elizabeth Warren?
WARREN: So, I was born and raised in Oklahoma, but I’m sure glad to be in Texas tonight.
All three of my brothers served in military bases here in Texas. That was their ticket to the middle class. Me, I got my big opportunity about a half-mile down the road from here at the University of Houston, back when it cost $50 a semester.
For a price that I could pay for, on a part-time waitressing job, I got to finish my four-year degree and I became a special needs teacher. And after law school, my first big job was back here in Houston.
By then, I had two little kids, and when childcare nearly brought me down, my Aunt Bee moved in and saved us all.
The paths to America’s middle class have gotten a lot smaller and a lot narrower. Today, service-members are preyed upon by predatory lenders. Students are crushed by debt. And families cannot afford childcare.
I know what’s broken. I know how to fix it. And I’m going to lead the fight to get it done.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Vice President Joe Biden.
BIDEN: You know, when President Kennedy announced the moon shot, he used a phrase that sticks with me my whole life. He said, we’re doing it because we refuse to postpone. Well, I refuse to postpone one more minute spending billions of dollars on curing cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases which, if we invest in them, we can find cures.
I refuse to postpone giving single child in America, no matter their zip code, pre-K all the way through high school and beyond. I refuse to postpone any longer taking on climate change and leading the world in taking on climate change.
Look, this is the United States of America. There has never been a single solitary time when we’ve set our mind to something we’ve been unable to do it. We’re walking around with our heads down like woe is me. We’re the best-equipped nation in the world to take this on. It’s no longer time to postpone. We should get moving. There’s enormous, enormous opportunities once we get rid of Donald Trump.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Candidates, thank you. Several of you said you are more united than divided, and that is certainly true. All of you agree on one big thing, the goal of defeating President Trump, driving the country in a new direction. But out on the campaign trail, you have outlined big differences over how far to go and how fast to go.
And, Vice President Biden, the differences between you and the senators on either side of you tonight strike at the heart of this primary debate. Both senators Warren and Sanders want to replace Obamacare with Medicare for All. You want to build on Obamacare, not scrap it. They propose spending far more than you to combat climate change and tackle student loan debt. And they would raise more in taxes than you to pay for their programs.
Are senators Warren and Sanders pushing too far beyond where Democrats want to go and where the country needs to go?
BIDEN: That will be for the voters to decide that question. Let me tell you what I think. I think we should have a debate on health care. I think — I know that the senator says she’s for Bernie, well, I’m for Barack. I think the Obamacare worked. I think the way we add to it, replace everything that has been cut, add a public option, guarantee that everyone will be able to have affordable insurance, number one.
Number two, I think we should be in a position of taking a look at what costs are. My plan for health care costs a lot of money. It costs $740 billion. It doesn’t cost $30 trillion, $3.4 trillion a year, it turns out, is twice what the entire federal budget is. That’s before — exists now, without interest on the debt. How are we going to pay for it? I want to hear that tonight how that’s happened.
Thus far, my distinguished friend, the senator on my left, has not indicated how she pays for it. And the senator has, in fact, come forward and said how he’s going to pay for it, but it gets him about halfway there. There’s a lot of other things that need to be done.
I have a bold plan to deal with making sure we triple the money for at-risk schools that are Title I schools, from 15 to $45 billion a year. But I go down the line and these are things we’re talking about, I lay out how I can pay for it, how I can get it done, and why it’s better.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Warren, let me take that to you, particularly on what Senator Biden was saying there about health care. He has actually praised Bernie Sanders for being candid about his health care plan, that Senator — says that Sanders has been candid about the fact that middle class taxes are going to go up and most of private insurance is going to be eliminated. Will you make that same admission?
WARREN: So, let’s be clear about health care. And let’s actually start where vice president did. We all owe a huge debt to President Obama, who fundamentally transformed health care in America and committed this country to health care for every human being.
And now the question is, how best can we improve on it? And I believe the best way we can do that is we make sure that everybody gets covered by health care at the lowest possible cost. How do we pay for it? We pay for it, those at the very top, the richest individuals and the biggest corporations, are going to pay more. And middle class families are going to pay less. That’s how this is going to work.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Direct question. You said middle class families are going to pay less. But will middle class taxes go up to pail for pay for the program? I know you believe that the deductibles and the premiums will go down. Will middle class taxes go up? Will private insurance be eliminated?
WARREN: Look, what families have to deal with is cost, total cost. That’s what they have to deal with. And understand, families are paying for their health care today. Families pay every time an insurance company says, sorry, you can’t see that specialist. Every time an insurance company says, sorry, that doctor is out of network, sorry, we are not covering that prescription.
Families are paying every time they don’t get a prescription filled because they can’t pay for it. They don’t have a lump checked out because they can’t afford the co-pay. What we’re talking about here is what’s going to happen in families’ pockets, what’s going to happen in their budgets.
And the answer is on Medicare for All, costs are going to go up for wealthier individuals and costs are going to go up for giant corporations. But for hard-working families across this country, costs are going to go down and that’s how it should work under Medicare for All in our health care system.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Sanders, you were invoked by the vice president, also take on that question about taxes.
SANDERS: Well, Joe said that Medicare for All would cost over $30 trillion.
That’s right, Joe.
Status quo over 10 years will be $50 trillion. Every study done shows that Medicare for All is the most cost-effective approach to providing health care to every man, woman, and child in this country. I, who wrote the damn bill, if I may say so…
… intend to eliminate all out-of-pocket expenses, all deductibles, all co-payments. Nobody in America will pay more than $200 a year for prescription drugs, because we’re going to stand up to the greed and corruption and price-fixing of the pharmaceutical industry.
We need — we need a health care system that guarantees health care to all people as every other major country does, not a system which provides $100 billion a year in profit for the drug companies and the insurance companies.
And I’ll tell you how absurd the system is tonight on ABC, the health care industry will be advertising, telling you how bad Medicare for All is, because they want to protect their profits. That is absurd.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Vice president Biden…
KLOBUCHAR: If I could respond, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You get a response and then we’re going to broaden out the discussion.
BIDEN: OK, number one, my health care plan does significantly cut the costs of — the largest out-of-pocket payment you’ll pay is $1,000. You’ll be able to get into a — anyone who can’t afford it gets automatically enrolled in the Medicare-type option we have, et cetera.
But guess what? Of the 160 million people who like their health care now, they can keep it. If they don’t like it, they can leave. Number one.
Number two, the fact of the matter is, we’re in a situation where, if you notice, he hasn’t answered the question. This is about candor, honesty, big ideas. Let’s have a big idea. The tax of 2 percent that the senator is talking about, that raises about $3 billion. Guess what? That leaves you $28 billion short.
The senator said before, it’s going to cost you in your pay — there will be a deductible, in your paycheck. You’re going to — the middle class person, someone making 60 grand with three kids, they’re going to end up paying $5,000 more. They’re going to end up paying 4 percent more on their income tax. That’s a reality. Now, it’s not a bad idea if you like it. I don’t like it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, now I want everybody to keep to the time, but you did invoke both senators. I have to get responses from them…
BIDEN: Sure, no, that’s good.
STEPHANOPOULOS: … and then we will broaden it out.
Senator Warren, you go first.
WARREN: So, let’s be clear, I’ve actually never met anybody who likes their health insurance company.
I’ve met people who like their doctors. I’ve met people who like their nurses. I’ve met people who like their pharmacists. I’ve met people who like their physical therapists. What they want is access to health care. And we just need to be clear about what Medicare for All is all about.
Instead of paying premiums into insurance companies and then having insurance companies build their profits by saying no to coverage, we’re going to do this by saying, everyone is covered by Medicare for All, every health care provider is covered. And the only question here in terms of difference is where to send the bill?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Sanders.
SANDERS: Let us be clear, Joe, in the United States of America, we are spending twice as much per capita on health care as the Canadians or any other major country on earth.
BIDEN: This is America.
SANDERS: Yes, but Americans don’t want to pay twice as much as other countries. And they guarantee health care to all people. Under my Medicare for All proposal, when you don’t pay out-of-pocket and you don’t pay premiums, maybe you’ve run into people who love their premiums, I haven’t.
What people want is cost-effective health care, Medicare for All will save the average American substantial sums of money on his or her health care bill.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Klobuchar, you said in your opening statement you don’t — you want to represent the people stuck in the middle of the extremes. Who represents the extreme on this stage?
KLOBUCHAR: I think you know that I don’t agree with some of these proposals up here, George, so I’m talking about…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Which ones?
KLOBUCHAR: If I could — if I could respond to some of the proposals from my friends. First of all, Senator Sanders and I have worked valiantly to bring down the cost of pharmaceuticals. That was a Klobuchar-Sanders Amendment to allow for drugs to come in from less expensive countries like Canada.
We have worked to bring down the cost by fighting to allow 43 million seniors, that’s a bill I lead, to negotiate for better prices under Medicare. I figure that’s a lot of seniors and they should be allowed to get a better price.
But when it comes to our health care and when it comes to our premiums, I go with the doctor’s creed, which is, do no harm. And while Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill. And on page eight — on page eight of the bill, it says that we will no longer have private insurance as we know it. And that means that 149 million Americans will no longer be able to have their current insurance.
That’s in four years. I don’t think that’s a bold idea, I think it’s a bad idea. And what I favor is something that what Barack Obama wanted to do from the very beginning. And that is a public option. A non-profit choice that would bring down the cost of insurance, cover 12 million more people, and bring down the prices for 13 million more people. That is a bold idea.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Warren, page eight of the bill, she says, 149 people will lose their health insurance.
WARREN: I’m sorry.
STEPHANOPOULOS: She said, page eight of the bill, 149 million people will lose their health insurance.
KLOBUCHAR: Current health insurance.
BIDEN: One hundred forty-nine million.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Million, excuse me.
WARREN: So let’s be clear about this. People will have access to all of their doctors, all of their nurses, their community hospitals, their rural hospitals. Doctors won’t have to hire people to fill out crazy forms. They won’t have to spend time on the phone arguing with insurance companies. People who have sick family members won’t have to get into these battles.
What this is about is making sure that we have the most efficient way possible to pay for health care for everyone in this country. Insurance companies last year sucked $23 billion in profits out of the system. How did they make that money? Every one of those $23 billion was made by an insurance company saying no to your health care coverage.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mayor Buttigieg?
BUTTIGIEG: The problem, Senator Sanders, with that damn bill that you wrote, and that Senator Warren backs, is that it doesn’t trust the American people. I trust you to choose what makes the most sense for you. Not my way or the highway.
Now look, I think we do have to go far beyond tinkering with the ACA. I propose Medicare for all who want it. We take a version of Medicare, we make it available for the American people, and if we’re right, as progressives, that that public alternative is better, then the American people will figure that out for themselves. I trust the American people to make the right choice for them. Why don’t you?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Sanders, 45 seconds.
SANDERS: George, you talked about, was it 150 million people on private insurance? Fifty million of those people lose their private insurance every year when they quit their jobs or they go unemployed or their employer changes their insurance policy. Medicare for All is comprehensive health care. Covers all basic needs, including home health care.
It allows you to go to any doctor you want, which many private insurance company programs do not. So, if you want comprehensive health care, freedom of choice regarding doctor or hospital, no more than $200 a year for prescription drugs, taking on the drug companies and the insurance companies, moving to Medicare for All is the way to go.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Harris, you startled out co-sponsoring Senator Sanders’s bill, you now say you’re uncomfortable with it. Why?
HARRIS: I want to give credit first to Barack Obama for really bringing us this far. We would not be here if he hadn’t the courage, the talent, or the will to see us this far.
I want to give credit to Bernie. Take credit, Bernie. You know, you brought us this far on Medicare for All. I support Medicare for All, I always have, but I wanted to make the plan better, which I did.
Which is about offering people choice, not taking that from them.
So, under my Medicare for all plan, people have the choice of a private plan or a public plan, because that’s what people want. And I agree, we shouldn’t take choice from people.
But here’s the thing. Everybody on this stage, I do believe, is well intentioned and wants that all Americans have coverage and recognizes that right now 30 million Americans don’t have coverage. But at least five people have talked, some repeatedly on this subject, and not once have we talked about Donald Trump.
So let’s talk about the fact that Donald Trump came into office and spent almost the entire first year of his term trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. We all fought against it. And then the late, great John McCain, at that moment at about 2 o’clock in the morning, killed his attempt to take health care from millions of people in this country.
Fast forward to today, and what is happening? Donald Trump’s Department of Justice is trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. Donald Trump’s administration is trying to get rid of the ban that we placed on denying people who have pre-existing conditions coverage. Donald Trump is trying to say that our kids up to the age of 26 can no longer be on our plans.
And frankly, I think this discussion has given the American public a headache. What they want to know is that they’re going to have health care and cost will not be a barrier to getting it. But let’s focus on the end goal. If we don’t get Donald Trump out of office, he’s going to get rid of all of it.
BIDEN: George, 15 seconds? Fifteen seconds?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me get to Congressman O’Rourke and then bring you — go ahead, Mr. Vice President.
BIDEN: Fifteen seconds. Look, everybody says we want an option. The option I’m proposing is Medicare for all — Medicare for choice. If you want Medicare, if you lose the job from your insurance — from your employer, you automatically can buy into this. You don’t have — no pre-existing condition can stop you from buying in. You get covered, period.
And if you notice, nobody’s yet said how much it’s going to cost the taxpayer. I hear this large savings, the president thinks — my friend from Vermont thinks that the employer’s going to give you back if you negotiated as a union all these years, got a cut in wages because you got insurance. They’re going to give back that money to the employee?
SANDERS: As a matter of fact, they will in our bill.
BIDEN: Well, let me tell you something. For a socialist, you’ve got — for a socialist, you’ve got a lot more confidence in corporate America than I do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Sanders?
SANDERS: OK, one minute, George?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Go ahead.
SANDERS: All right. Two points. You got to defend the fact that today not only do we have 87 million people uninsured and underinsured, you got to defend the fact that 500,000 Americans are going bankrupt. You know why they’re going bankrupt? Because they suffered a terrible disease — cancer or heart disease.
Under my legislation, people will not go into financial ruin because they suffered with a diagnosis of cancer. And our program is the only one that does that.
BIDEN: I know a lot about cancer, let me tell you something. It’s personal to me. Let me tell you something. Every single person who is diagnosed with cancer or any other disease can automatically become part of this plan. They will not go bankrupt because of that. They will not go bankrupt because of that. They can join immediately.
And we’re talking four, six, eight, ten years, depending on who you talk about, before we get to Medicare for all. Come on. I’ve been there. You’ve been there. You know what it’s like. People need help now, hope now, and do something now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman O’Rourke?
O’ROURKE: Yeah. Thank you. Listen, I’m grateful that we all agree about the urgency of this challenge and the fact that Donald Trump is undermining the limited protections that we have right now.
But I also think we’re being offered a false choice between those who propose an all-or-nothing gambit, forcing tens of millions off of insurance that they like, that works for them, to force them onto Medicare, and others who want to, as the vice president does, incrementally improve what we have, which will still leave many, maybe millions uninsured and uncared for.
In a state like Texas, where the largest provider of mental health care services is the county jail system, we’ve got to do better. In my proposal, Medicare for America, says everyone who’s uninsured will be enrolled in Medicare. Everyone who’s insufficiently insured, cannot afford it, can move over to Medicare. And those, like members of unions who’ve fought for the health care plans that work for them and their families, are able to keep them. This is the best possible path forward.
BIDEN: You just described my plan (ph).
STEPHANOPOULOS: This is — health care is the top issue for everyone in the country. I want to make sure everyone gets one minute to respond. So, Secretary Castr, Andrew Yang, and then Senator Booker, you will get a minute.
CASTRO: Thank you. And, you know, I also want to recognize the work that Bernie has done on this. And, of course, we owe a debt of gratitude to President Barack Obama. Of course, I also worked for President Obama, Vice President Biden, and I know that the problem with your plan is that it leaves 10 million people uncovered.
Now, on the last debate stage in Detroit, you said that wasn’t true, when Senator Harris brought that up. There was a fact check of that, and they said that was true.
You know, I grew up with a grandmother who had type 2 diabetes, and I watched her condition get worse and worse. But that whole time, she had Medicare. I want every single American family to have a strong Medicare plan available.
If they choose to hold on to strong, solid private health insurance, I believe they should be able to do. But the difference between what I support and what you support, Vice President Biden, is that you require them to opt in and I would not require them to opt in. They would automatically be enrolled. They wouldn’t have a buy in.
That’s a big difference, because Barack Obama’s vision was not to leave 10 million people uncovered. He wanted every single person in this country covered. My plan would do that. Your plan would not.
BIDEN: They do not have to buy in. They do not have to buy in.
CASTRO: You just said that. You just said that two minutes ago. You just two minutes ago that they would have to buy in.
BIDEN: Do not have to buy in if you can’t afford it.
CASTRO: You said they would have to buy in.
BIDEN: Your grandmother would not have to buy in. If she qualifies for Medicaid, she would automatically be enrolled.
CASTRO: Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I mean, I can’t believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in and now you’re saying they don’t have to buy in. You’re forgetting that.
BIDEN: I said anyone like your grandmother who has no money.
CASTRO: I mean, look, look, we need a health care system…
BIDEN: She — you’re automatically enrolled.
CASTRO: It automatically enrolls people regardless of whether they choose to opt in or not. If you lose your job, for instance, his health care plan would not automatically enroll you. You would have to opt in. My health care plan would. That’s a big difference. I’m fulfilling the legacy of Barack Obama, and you’re not.
BIDEN: That’ll be a surprise to him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Andrew Yang?
YANG: Come on, guys.
BUTTIGIEG: This is why presidential debates are becoming unwatchable.
BUTTIGIEG: This reminds everybody of what they cannot stand about Washington, scoring points against each other, poking at each other, and telling each other that — my plan, your plan. Look, we all have different visions for what is better…
CASTRO: Yeah, that’s called the Democratic primary election, Pete. That’s called an election.
That’s an election. You know? This is what we’re here for. It’s an election.
KLOBUCHAR: Yes, but a house — a house divided cannot stand. And that is not how we’re going to win this.
YANG: Look, everyone, we know we’re on the same team here. We know we’re on the same team. We all have a better vision for health care than our current president.
And I believe we’re talking about this the wrong way. As someone who has run a business, I know that our current health care system makes it harder to hire people, makes it harder to give them benefits and treat them as full-time employees. You instead pretend their contractors. It’s harder to change jobs. It’s certainly harder to start a business.
The pitch we have to make to the American people is, we will get the health care weight off of your backs and then unleash the hopes and dreams of the American people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Booker…
YANG: Now, I am Asian, so I know a lot of doctors, and they tell me that they spend a lot of time on paperwork, avoiding being sued, and navigating the insurance bureaucracy. We have to change the incentives so instead of revenue and activity, people are focused on our health in the health care system.
And the Cleveland Clinic, where they’re paid not based upon how many procedures they prescribe — shocker — they prescribe fewer procedures, and patient health stays the same or improves. That is the pitch to the American people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Booker, close out this discussion.
BOOKER: Thank you very much. Look, there are a lot of people watching at home right now, listening to us that are afraid because they are in crisis. They don’t have health insurance. Their health insurance doesn’t go far enough. They can’t afford their prescription drugs.
Look, I’m clear in what I believe. I believe in Medicare for all. I believe it’s the best way to rationalize the system. But dear God, I know every one of my colleagues on this stage is in favor of universal health coverage and comes at this with the best of intentions.
And I’ll tell you, there is an urgency right now in this nation. Everybody feels it. And as a person who has an ideal, I know we cannot sacrifice progress on the altar of purity, because people in my community, they need help right now. They have high blood pressure right now. They have unaffordable insulin right now.
And this must be a moment where we as Democrats can begin to show that we cannot only stake and stand our ground, but find common ground, because we’ve got one shot to make Donald Trump a one-term president.
And we cannot lose it by the way we talk about each other or demonize and degrade each other. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. If I am the leader, I will work towards the ideal of health insurance, health coverage being a right for all Americans. But every single day, I’ll join with other Democrats to make progress happen in our nation for the people that are struggling and suffering today.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Candidates, thank you. Linsey Davis?
DAVIS: Thanks, George. Since we’re here at an HBCU, I’d like to start with young black voters. Several recent polls indicate their number-one concern is racism. This campus, this state, and this nation are still raw from that racially motivated attack on Latinos in El Paso.
Now, we know that the racial divide started long before President Trump and President Obama, but each of you on this stage has said that President Trump has made that divide worse. Congressman O’Rourke, coming to you first, why are you the most qualified candidate to address this divide?
O’ROURKE: You know, I called this out in no uncertain terms on August 3rd and every day since then. And I was talking about it long before then, as well.
Racism in America is endemic. It is foundational. We can mark the creation of this country not at the Fourth of July, 1776, but August 20, 1619, when the first kidnapped African…
… was brought to this country against his will and in bondage and as a slave built the greatness and the success and the wealth that neither he nor his descendants would ever be able to fully participate in and enjoy.
We have to be able to answer this challenge. And it is found in our education system, where in Texas, a 5-year-old child in kindergarten is five times as likely to be disciplined or suspended or expelled based on the color of their skin.
In our health care system, where there’s a maternal mortality crisis three times as deadly for women of color, or the fact that there’s 10 times the wealth in white America than there is in black America.
I’m going to follow Sheila Jackson Lee’s lead and sign into law a reparations bill that will allow us to address this at its foundation.
But we will also call out the fact that we have a white supremacist in the White House and he poses a mortal threat to people of color all across this country.
DAVIS: Secretary Castro, 45 seconds to respond.
CASTRO: Look, you know, I want to commend Beto for how well he has spoken to the passion and the frustration and the sadness after what happened in his hometown of El Paso. He’s done a great job with that.
Look, a few weeks ago, a shooter drove 10 miles inspired by this — 10 hours inspired by this president to kill people who look like me and people who look like my family. White supremacy is a growing threat to this country, and we have to root it out.
I’m proud that I put forward a plan to disarm hate. I’m also proud that I was the first to put forward a police reform plan, because we’re not going to have any more Laquan McDonalds or Eric Garners or Michael Browns or Pamela Turners or Walter Scotts or Sandra Bland, here from the Houston area. We need to root out racism, and I believe that we can do that, because that doesn’t represent the vast majority of Americans who do have a good heart. They also need a leader to match that, and I will be a president that matches that.
DAVIS: Senator Booker, you have said, quote, “The real question isn’t who is or isn’t a racist. It’s who is going to do something about it.” Senator, what do you plan to do about it?
BOOKER: Well, first and foremost, I want to hit that point, because we know Donald Trump’s a racist, but there is no red badge of courage for calling him that. Racism exists. The question isn’t who isn’t a racist. It’s who is and isn’t doing something about racism.
And this is not just an issue that started yesterday. It’s not just an issue that we hear a president that can’t condemn white supremacy. We have systemic racism that is eroding our nation from health care to the criminal justice system. And it’s nice to go all the way back to slavery, but dear God, we have a criminal justice system that is so racially biased, we have more African-Americans under criminal supervision today than all the slaves in 1850.
We have to come at this issue attacking systemic racism, having the courage to call it out, and having a plan to do something about it. If I am president of the United States, we will create an office in the White House to deal with the problem of white supremacy and hate crimes.
And we will make sure that systemic racism is dealt with in substantive plans, from criminal justice reform to the disparities in health care to even one that we don’t talk about enough, which is the racism that we see in environmental injustice in communities of color all around this country.
DAVIS: Mayor Buttigieg, you’ve been struggling with issues around race in your own community. You’ve also said that anyone who votes to re-elect President Trump is, at best, looking the other way on racism. Does that sort of talk alienate voters and potentially deepen divisions in our country?
BUTTIGIEG: I believe what’s deepened divisions in the country is the conduct of this president, and we have a chance to change all of that.
Look, systemic racism preceded this president, and even when we defeat him, it will be with us. That’s why we need a systemic approach to dismantle it. It’s — it’s not enough to just take a racist policy, replace it with a neutral one and expect things will just get better on their own. Harms compound. In the same way that a dollar saved compounds, so does a dollar stolen.
And we know that the generational theft of the descendants of slaves is part of why everything from housing to education to health to employment basically puts us in two different countries.
I have proposed the most comprehensive vision to tackle systemic racism in every one of these areas, marshaling as many resources as went into the Marshall plan that rebuilt Europe, but this time, a Douglass plan that we invest right here at home, to make sure that we’re not only dealing with things like the overincarceration of black Americans, but also black solutions, entrepreneurship, raising to 25 percent…
… the target for the federal government to do business with minority-owned businesses, investing in HBCUs that are training and educating the next generation of entrepreneurs.
We can and must do that. But that means transcending this framework that pits us against each other, that pits a single black mother of three against a displaced auto worker. Because when I — where I come from, a lot of times that displaced auto worker is a single black mother of three. We’ve got to say that…
… and bring people together.
DAVIS: Also a concern for people of color is criminal justice reform.
Senator Harris, you released your plan for that just this week. And it does contradict some of your prior positions. Among them, you used to oppose the legalization of marijuana; now you don’t. You used to oppose outside investigations of police shootings; now you don’t. You’ve said that you changed on these and other things because you were, quote, “swimming against the current, and thankfully the currents have changed.”
But when you had the power, why didn’t you try to effect change then?
HARRIS: So, there have been — there have been — I’m glad you asked me this question, and there have been many distortions of my record.
Let me be very clear. I made a decision to become a prosecutor for two reasons. One, I’ve always wanted to protect people and keep them safe. And second, I was born knowing about how this criminal justice system in America has worked in a way that has been informed by racial bias. And I could tell you extensively about the experiences I and my family members have personally had. But I made a decision that, if I was going to have the ability to reform the system, I would try to do it from the inside.
And so I took on the position that allowed me, without asking permission, to create one of the first in the nation initiatives that was a model and became a national model around people who were arrested for drugs and getting them jobs.
I created one of the first in the nation requirements that a state law enforcement agency would have to wear cameras and keep them on full-time.
I created one of the first in the nation trainings for a police officer on the issue of racial bias and the need to reform the system.
Was I able to get enough done? Absolutely not. But my plan has been described by activists as being a bold and comprehensive plan that is about ending mass incarceration, about taking the profit out of the criminal justice system. I plan on shutting down for-profit prisons on day one.
It will be about what we need to do to hold law enforcement, including prosecutors, accountable.
And finally, my plan is about making sure that, in America’s criminal justice system, we de-incarcerate women and children, that we end solitary confinement and that we work on keeping families intact.
And as president of the United States, knowing the system from the inside, I will have the ability to be an effective leader and get this job complete.
DAVIS: Thank you, Senator Harris.
Senator Klobuchar, during your eight years as a prosecutor in Minnesota, there were dozens of incidents where black men were killed by police. Critics say that too often you sided with police in these cases.
The ACLU’s legal director in Minnesota has said that you showed no interest in racial justice. Do you wish now that you had done more?
KLOBUCHAR: That’s not my record.
KLOBUCHAR: We are here at a historically black college. And I think of an alum of that college, Barbara Jordan, and something that she once said. She said, “What the people want is simple; they want a country as good as its promise.”
And that same can be said of the criminal justice system. So when I was there, the way we handled these police shootings, I actually took a stand to make sure outside investigators handled them. I took on our major police chief in Minneapolis.
But in the prosecutor’s office, they were handled with a grand jury. That’s how they were all handled across our state. I now believe it is better for accountability if the prosecutor handles them and makes those decisions herself.
That aside, I am proud of the work our staff did, 400 people in our office. The cases that came to us, the African-American community that came to us, they said there was no justice for their little kids.
There was a kid named Byron Phillips that was shot on his front porch. No one had bothered to figure out who did it. When I came into that office, we worked with the community groups; we put up billboards; we found the shooter and we put him in jail. We did the same for the killer of a little girl named Tyesha Edwards who was doing her homework at her kitchen table and was shot through the window.
What changes did we make? Go after white-collar crimes in a big way, diversity the office in a big way, work with the Innocence Project to make sure we do much better with eyewitness ID.
And as a senator and as your president, I will make sure that we don’t just do the First Step Act when it comes to criminal sentencing, that we move to the Second Step Act, which means the 90 percent of people that are incarcerated in local and state jails, let’s reduce those sentences for nonviolent offenders and let’s get them jobs and let them vote when they get out of prison.
DAVIS: Thank you, Senator Klobuchar.
You all believe that the war on drugs has put too many Americans behind bars.
Vice President Biden, you have a plan to release many nonviolent drug offenders from prison. Senator Booker says that your plan is not ambitious enough. Your response?
BIDEN: Well, first of all, let me say that, when I came back from law school, I had a job with a great — a big-time law firm. I left and became a public defender because my state was under siege when Dr. King was assassinated. We were occupied by the National Guard for 10 months.
I’ve been involved from the beginning. As a young congressman — as a young councilman, I introduced legislation to try to keep them from putting a sewer plant in a poor neighborhood. I made sure that we dealt with redlining; banks should have to lend where they operate, et cetera.
The fact of the matter is that what’s happened is that we’re in a situation now where there are so many people who are in jail and shouldn’t be in jail. The whole means by which this should change is the whole model has to change. We should be talking about rehabilitation.
Nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime. As — when we were in the White House, we released 36,000 people from the federal prison system. Nobody should be in jail for a drug problem. They should be going directly to a rehabilitation. We build more rehabilitation centers, not prisons.
We — I’m the guy that put in the drug courts to divert people from the criminal justice system. And so we have to change the whole way we look at this. When we put people in prison, we have to equip them that when they get out — nobody who got in prison for marijuana, for example, immediately upon being released — they shouldn’t be in there; that should be a misdemeanor. They should be out and their record should be expunged. Every single right should be returned.
When you finish your term in prison, you should be able not only to vote but have access to Pell grants, have access to be able to get housing…
… have access to be able to move along the way. I’ve laid out a detailed plan along those lines. And the fact is, we’ve learned so much more more…
DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.
BIDEN: Thank you.
DAVIS: Senator Booker, 45 seconds to respond.
BOOKER: Our criminal justice system is so savagely broken. There’s no difference in America between blacks, whites and Latinos for using drugs or dealing drugs. But if you are African-American, you are almost four times more likely to be arrested and incarcerated, destroying your lives.
And so much of this comes down to privilege. We have a criminal justice system that Brian Stephenson (ph) says treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent.
And so I have challenged this whole field. We can specifically and demonstrably now show that there are 17,000 people unjustly incarcerated in America, and all of us should come forward and say, when we are president of the United States; when I am president of the United States, we will release them.
And let me be specific. I joined together and led in the United States Senate the only major bipartisan bill to pass under this president, for criminal justice reform, that has already led to thousands of people coming out of jail.
If 87 members of the United States Senate says that these sentences are way too long, and we changed it, but we didn’t make it retroactive, we could literally point to the people that are in jail unjustly right now.
Everyone on this stage should say that we are going to give clemency to these 17,000 people. And I challenge you. Don’t just say a big statement; back it up with details of the people in prison right now looking for one of the most sacrosanct ideals of this nation, which is liberty and freedom. We need to reform this system and we must do it now. Every day we wait is too long.
DAVIS: Thank you, Senator Booker.
MUIR: Thank you, Linsey.
I want to turn to the deadly mass shootings here in this country. And of course we are all mindful tonight of where we stand. We are here in Texas tonight, where 29 people have lost their lives in just the last month alone, El Paso, which we’ve discussed; in Odessa. And I know there are survivors from El Paso right here in the hall tonight.
Vice President Biden, I do want to direct this to you, because we all remember Sandy Hook. Twenty-six people died in that school, 20 of them children. Those first graders would be in eighth grade today.
MUIR: At the time, there was a groundswell in this country to get something done. President Obama asked you to lead the push for gun control.
You have often pointed to your ability to reach across the aisle to get things done, but four months after Sandy Hook, a measure to require expanded background checks died on the Senate floor.
If you couldn’t get it done after Sandy Hook, why should voters give you another chance?
BIDEN: Because I got it done before. I’m the only one up here that’s ever beat the NRA –only one ever to beat the NRA nationally. I’m the guy that brought the Brady bill into — into focus and became law.
And so that’s number one. Number two, after Sandy Hook, a number of things happened. It went from a cause to a movement. Look what’s happened now. Mothers — the organization — mothers against violence — gun violence. We’ve seen what’s happened again. Now we have all these young people marching on Washington, making sure that things are going to change.
There has been a sea change. Those proposals I put forward for the president had over 50 percent of gun — of gun — of members of the NRA supporting them, and overwhelmingly the rest of the people supporting them. Now the numbers are much higher, because they realize what I’ve been saying and we’ve all been saying is correct.
Over 90 percent of the American people think we have to get assault weapons off the street — period. And we have to get buy-backs and get them out of their basements.
So the point is, things have changed. And things have changed a lot. And now what’s happening is — and, by the way, the way Beto handled — excuse me for saying Beto. What the congressman…
O’ROURKE: That’s all right. Beto’s good.
BIDEN: The way he handled what happened in his hometown is meaningful, to look in the eyes of those people, to see those kids…
… to understand those parents, you understand the heartache.
(UNKNOWN): But this is the problem.
BIDEN: We are ready to do this.
MUIR: Mr. Vice President…
(UNKNOWN): This is the problem.
O’ROURKE: Thank you.
MUIR: … you did bring up assault weapons here.
You did bring up assault weapons here, and many of you on this stage have talked about executive order.
Senator Harris, you have said that you would take executive action on guns within your first 100 days…
MUIR: … including banning imports of AR-15 assault weapons.
HARRIS: That’s right.
MUIR: President Obama, after Sandy Hook, more than 23 executive actions, and yet here we all are today.
In recent days former Vice President Biden has said about executive orders, “Some really talented people are seeking the nomination. They said ‘I’m going to issue an executive order.'” Biden saying, “There’s no constitutional authority to issue that executive order when they say ‘I’m going to eliminate assault weapons,'” saying, “you can’t do it by executive order any more than Trump can do things when he says he can do it by executive order.”
Does the vice president have a point there?
BIDEN: Some things you can. Many things you can’t.
MUIR: Let’s let the senator answer.
HARRIS: Well, I mean, I would just say, hey, Joe, instead of saying, no, we can’t, let’s say yes, we can.
BIDEN: Let’s be constitutional. We’ve got a Constitution.
HARRIS: And yes, we can, because I’ll tell you something. The way that I think about this is, I’ve seen more autopsy photographs than I care to tell you. I have attended more police officer funerals than I care to tell you. I have hugged more mothers of homicide victims than I care to tell you.
And the idea that we would wait for this Congress, which has just done nothing, to act, is just — it is overlooking the fact that every day in America, our babies are going to school to have drills, elementary, middle and high school students, where they are learning about how they have to hide in a closet or crouch in a corner if there is a mass shooter roaming the hallways of their school.
I was talking about this at one of my town halls, and — and this child who was eight years old, probably, came up to me — it was like it was a secret between the two of us, and he tugged on my jacket and he said, “I had to have one of those drills.”
It is traumatizing our children. El Paso — and, Beto, God love you for standing so courageously in the midst of that tragedy. You know, people asked me…
… in El Paso — they said, you know, because I have a long-standing record on this issue. They said, “Well, do you think Trump is responsible for what happened?”
And I said, “Well, look, I mean, obviously, he didn’t pull the trigger, but he’s certainly been tweeting out the ammunition.”
MUIR: Senator Harris, thank you.
Vice President Biden, do you still stand by what you said on an executive order?
BIDEN: No, what I said was — the question — speak to constitutional scholars. If in fact we could say, “By the way, you can’t own the following weapons, period; they cannot be sold anymore” — check with constitutional scholars. Now, you can say…
MUIR: Mr. Vice President, thank you.
Congressman O’Rourke, I want to get to you on this.
HARRIS: John, could I tell you what you could do in 100 days?
MUIR: I’m going to — I’m going to work down the row here. But I do want to come to Congressman O’Rourke, because I know this is personal to you. El Paso is your hometown. Some on this stage have suggested a voluntary buy-back for guns in this country.
You’ve gone further. You’ve said, quote, “Americans who own AR-15s and AK-47s will have to sell them to the government, all of them.” You know that critics call this confiscation. Are you proposing taking away their guns? And how would this work?
O’ROURKE: I am, if it’s a weapon that was designed to kill people on a battlefield…
If the high impact, high velocity round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your body, because it was designed to do that, so that you would bleed to death on a battlefield and not be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers.
When we see that being used against children, and in Odessa, I met the mother of a 15-year-old girl who was shot by an AR-15, and that mother watched her bleed to death over the course of an hour because so many other people were shot by that AR-15 in Odessa and Midland, there weren’t enough ambulances to get to them in time, hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.
We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.
MUIR: Congressman, thank you.
O’ROURKE: And I want to say this. I’m listening to the people of this country. The day after I proposed doing that, I went to a gun show in Conway, Arkansas, to meet with those who were selling AR-15s and AK-47s and those who were buying those weapons. And you might be surprised, there was some common ground there, folks who said, I would willingly give that up, cut it to pieces, I don’t need this weapon to hunt, to defend myself. It is a weapon of war.
So, let’s do the right thing, but let’s bring everyone in America into the conversation, Republicans, Democrats, gun-owners, and non-gun owners alike.
(UNKNOWN): May I make a point?
MUIR: Congressman, thank you. I want to bring in Senator Klobuchar on this, because you’ve often talked about your uncle and the proud hunters back home in Minnesota. So I wanted to get your response to Congressman O’Rourke tonight. Where do you stand on mandatory gun buybacks?
KLOBUCHAR: I so appreciate what the congressman’s been doing. And I want to remind people here that what unites us is so much bigger than what divides us.
Everyone up here favors an assault weapon ban. Everyone up here favors magazine limitations, which, by the way, would have made a huge difference if that was in place in El Paso, in that store, where all those ordinary people showed such extraordinary courage. And certainly in Dayton, Ohio, where in 30 seconds, one man guns down innocent people. The cops got there in one minute, and it still wasn’t enough to save those people. That’s what unites us.
You know what else unites us? And I’ll tell you this. What unites us is that right now, on Mitch McConnell’s desk, are three bills — universal background checks, closing the Charleston loophole, and passing my bill to make sure that domestic abusers don’t get AK-47s.
MUIR: Senator Klobuchar?
KLOBUCHAR: So if we want to get something done — and I personally think we should start with a voluntary buyback program. That’s what I think, David. But I want to finish this, because if you want action now, if you want action now, we got to send a message to Mitch McConnell. We can’t wait until one of us gets in the White House. We have to pass those bills right now to get this done.
MUIR: Senator Klobuchar…
KLOBUCHAR: Because we cannot spare another innocent life.
MUIR: Thank you. Thank you.
I want to turn to Senator Booker, because you have said just this week about guns and about the candidates on this stage, that the differences do matter. Those were your words.
You have argued, if you need a license to drive a car in this country, you should have a license to buy a gun. Gun-owners would not only have to pass a background check, they would have to obtain a federal license to buy a gun. This would require, as you know, Congress to pass legislation.
If Democrats can’t get universal background checks, how would you get this done? And can you name one Republican colleague of yours in the Senate right now who would be onboard with this idea?
BOOKER: So, background checks and gun licensing, these are agreed to by overwhelmingly the majority of Americans. Eighty-three percent of Americans agree with licensing. This is the issue.
Look, I grew up in the suburbs. It was about 20 years ago that I came out of my home when I moved to inner city Newark, New Jersey, and witnessed the aftermath of a shooting. It’s one of the reasons why shooting after shooting after shooting in neighborhoods like mine for decades, this has been a crisis for me. It’s why I was the first person to come out for gun licensing. And I’m happy that people like Beto O’Rourke are showing such courage now and coming forward and also now supporting licensing.
But this is what I’m sorry about. I’m sorry that it had to take issues coming to my neighborhood or personally affecting Beto to suddenly make us demand change. This is a crisis of empathy in our nation. We are never going to solve this crisis if we have to wait for it to personally affect us or our neighborhood or our community before we demand action.
You want to know how we get this done? We get this done by having a more courageous empathy, where people don’t wait for this hell to visit upon their communities. They stand up and understand the truth of what King said, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
I will lead change on this issue, because I have seen what the carnage creates in communities like mine, because we forget, national shootings, these mass shootings are tragedies, but the majority of the homicide victims come from neighborhoods like mine. Nobody has ascended to the White House that will bring more personal passion on this issue. I will fight this and bring a fight to the NRA and the corporate gun lobby like they have never seen before.
MUIR: Senator Booker, thank you. A quick follow-up, though, because Americans watching tonight know the reality of Congress in Washington. I asked do you have a Republican colleague in the Senate who would be onboard with this idea to get this done?
BOOKER: You know, if that was the attitude when Strom Thurmond had the longest filibuster ever on civil rights, if it was this idea that we can’t get it done because of the situation in the Senate, I’m looking to lead a movement. The number-one reason why governments are formed is to protect the citizenry.
Think about this. We have had more people die due to gun violence in my lifetime than every single war in this country combined, from the Revolutionary War until now. This is not a side issue to me. It is a central issue to me.
That is the kind of fight — because the majority of homicide victims — we have a mass shooting every single day in communities like mine. We must awaken a more courageous empathy in this country so that we stand together and fight together and overwhelm those Republicans who are not even representing their constituency. Because the majority of Americans, the majority of gun-owners agree with me, not the corporate gun lobby. It is time for a movement on this issue, and I will lead it.
BIDEN: Go beat them (ph).
MUIR: Senator Booker, thank you. Senator Warren, I want to come to you next, because you have actually said in recent days that there are things you can get done with Republicans in the Senate. What can you get done on gun control?
WARREN: So let’s start by framing the problem the right way. We have a gun violence problem in this country. The mass shootings are terrible, but they get all the headlines. Children die every day on streets, in neighborhoods, on playgrounds. People die from violence, from suicide and domestic abuse. We have a gun violence problem in this country.
And we agree on many steps we could take to fix it. My view on this is, we’re going to — it’s not going to be one and done on this. We’re going to do it, and we’re going to have to do it again, and we’re going to have to come back some more until we cut the number of gun deaths in this country significantly.
But here’s the deal. The question we need to ask is, when we’ve got this much support across the country, 90 percent of Americans want to see us do — I like registration — want to see us do background checks, want to get assault weapons off the streets, why doesn’t it happen? And the answer is corruption, pure and simple.
We have a Congress that is beholden to the gun industry. And unless we’re willing to address that head-on and roll back the filibuster, we’re not going to get anything done on guns. I was in the United States Senate when 54 senators said let’s do background checks, let’s get rid of assault weapons, and with 54 senators, it failed because of the filibuster.
Until we attack the systemic problems, we can’t get gun reform in this country. We’ve got to go straight against the industry and we’ve got to change Congress, so it doesn’t just work for the wealthy and well-connected, so it works for the people.
MUIR: Senator Warren, thank you. You bring up eliminating the filibuster, which means you would need simply a simple majority in a Republican Senate to get something done. I want to turn to Senator Sanders on this, because you’ve said before of this, if Donald Trump supports ending the filibuster, which he’s talked about himself, you should be nervous. Would you support ending the filibuster?
SANDERS: No. But what I would support, absolutely, is passing major legislation, the gun legislation the people here are talking about, Medicare for all, climate change legislation that saves the planet. I will not wait for 60 votes to make that happen, and you can do it in a variety of ways. You can do that through budget reconciliation law. You have a vice president who will, in fact, tell the Senate what is appropriate and what is not, what is in order and what is not.
But I want to get back to a point that Elizabeth made and that, in fact, in terms of gun issues, picking up on Cory and Beto and everybody else, what we are looking at is a corrupt political system, and that means whether it is the drug companies or the insurance companies or the fossil fuel industry determining what’s happening in Washington or, in this case, you’ve got an NRA which has intimidated the president of the United States and the Republican leadership.
I am proud — I am proud that, year after year, I had an “F” rating from the NRA. And as president, I will not be intimidated by the NRA.
MUIR: Senator Sanders, thank you.
HARRIS: May I respond…
RAMOS: We’ve been hearing a lot about what’s been happening here in Texas. Only a few weeks ago, the deadliest massacre of Latinos, Latinos, in modern U.S. history happened in this state, in El Paso. So the fear among Latinos — and you know this — is very real.
So let me start with an issue that is causing a lot of division in this country: immigration. Vice President Biden, as a presidential candidate, in 2008, you supported the border wall, saying, “Unlike most Democrats, I voted for 700 miles of fence.” This is what you said.
Then you served as vice president in an administration that deported 3 million people, the most ever in U.S. history. Did you do anything to prevent those deportations? I mean, you’ve been asked this question before and refused to answer, so let me try once again. Are you prepared to say tonight that you and President Obama made a mistake about deportations? Why should Latinos trust you?
BIDEN: What Latinos should look at is — comparing this president to the president we have is outrageous, number one. We didn’t lock people up in cages. We didn’t separate families. We didn’t do all of those things, number one.
Number two — number two, by the time — this is a president who came along with the DACA program. No one had ever done that before. This is the president that sent legislation to the desk saying he wants to find a pathway for the 11 million undocumented in the United States of America. This is a president who’s done a great deal. So I’m proud to have served with him.
What I would do as president is several more things, because things have changed. I would, in fact, make sure that there is — we immediately surge to the border. All those people who are seeking asylum, they deserve to be heard. That’s who we are. We’re a nation who says, if you want to flee, and you’re freeing oppression, you should come.
I would change the order that the president just changed, saying women who were being beaten and abused could no longer claim that as a reason for asylum.
And by the way, retrospectively, you know, the 25th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act is up. The Republican Congress has not reauthorized it. Let’s put pressure on them to pass the Violence Against Women Act. Now (inaudible) back…
RAMOS: Yeah, but you didn’t answer the question.
BIDEN: Well, I did answer the question.
RAMOS: No, did you make a mistake with those deportations?
BIDEN: The president did the best thing that was able to be done at the time.
RAMOS: How about you?
BIDEN: I’m the vice president of the United States.
RAMOS: Secretary CASTRO:, would you want to respond to Vice President Biden?
CASTRO: I mean, look…
RAMOS: And let me put this in context, because your party controlled the White House and Congress in 2009 and didn’t pass immigration reform, and this broke a promise made by President Barack Obama to Latinos. So why should voters trust Democrats now? I mean, now it is even more difficult, as you know, because you need Republican votes in the Senate. So are you willing, for instance, to give up DACA or give up a path to citizenship or even agree to build a wall in order to legalize 10.5 million undocumented immigrants?
CASTRO: Jorge, thank you very much for that question. And, look, I agree that Barack Obama was very different from Donald Trump. Donald Trump has a dark heart when it comes to immigrants. He built his whole political career so far on scapegoating and fearmongering and otherizing migrants, and that’s very different from Barack Obama.
But my problem with Vice President Biden — and Cory pointed this out last time — is every time something good about Barack Obama comes up, he says, oh, I was there, I was there, I was there, that’s me, too, and then every time somebody questions part of the administration that we were both part of, he says, well, that was the president. I mean, he wants to take credit for Obama’s work, but not have to answer to any questions. I mean…
RAMOS: Vice President Biden, you have — you have 45 seconds.
CASTRO: Let me just say…
BIDEN: That’s not what I said.
CASTRO: Let me just say…
BIDEN: That’s not what I said.
CASTRO: Jorge, let me just say that I would — I was the first candidate in early April to put forward an immigration plan. You know why? Because I’m not afraid of Donald Trump on this issue. I’m not going to back pedal. I’m not going to pretend like I don’t have my own vision for immigration.
So we’re not going to give up DACA. We’re not going to give up protections for anybody. I believe that on January 20, 2021, we’re going to have a Democratic president, we’re going to throw out Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn and have a Democratic Senate, and a Democratic House, and we’re going to pass immigration reform within the first 100 days.
RAMOS: Vice President, 45 seconds.
BIDEN: I did not say I don’t — I stand with Barack Obama all eight years, good, bad and indifferent. That’s where I stand. I did not say I did not stand with him.
RAMOS: OK, Senator Warren, hundreds of children have been separated from their parents at the border. And recently, in Mississippi, we saw the largest immigration raid in a decade.
You want ICE, the agency in charge of rounding up undocumented immigrants.
So how would you deal with the millions of immigrants who arrive legally but overstay their visas? And how would you stop hundreds of thousands of Central Americans who want to migrate to the U.S.?
WARREN: Well, I start with a statement of principles, and that is, in this country, immigration does not make us weaker, immigration makes us stronger.
I want to see us expand legal immigration and create a pathway to citizenship for our DREAMers, but also for their grandparents, and for their cousins, for people who have overstayed student visas, and for people who came here to work in the fields. I want to have a system that is a path to citizenship that is fair and achievable.
Down at the border, we’ve got to rework this entirely. A system right now that cannot tell the difference in the threat posed by a terrorist, a criminal, and a 12-year-old girl is not a system that is keeping us safer, and it is not serving our values.
RAMOS: Mr. Yang…
WARREN: We need — I want to add one more part on this, because I think we have to look at all the pieces. Why do we have a crisis at the border? In no small part because we have withdrawn help from people in Central America who are suffering.
We need to restore that help. We need to help establish and re-establish the rule of law so that people don’t feel like they have to flee for their lives. We have a crisis that Donald Trump has created and hopes to profit from politically. We have to have the courage to stand up and fight back.
RAMOS: Mr. Yang? It is true that in the last few years we have seen the most severe anti-immigrant measures, from putting kids in cages to limiting asylum for people fleeing gangs and domestic violence. But it is also true about 1 million immigrants enter the U.S. legally every year. So, are you willing to raise the number of legal immigrants from 1 million to 2 million per year? And should there be a merit system, as President Trump wants?
WARREN: So, yes — oh, I’m sorry. Did you me or…
YANG: It was me.
WARREN: Oh, he said it. OK. Sorry.
YANG: My — my father grew up on a peanut farm in Asia with no floor and now his son is running for president. That is the immigration story that we have…
… to be able to share with the American people.
If you look at our history, almost half of Fortune 500 companies were founded by either immigrants or children of immigrants. And rates of business formation are much higher in immigrant communities. We have to say to the American people, immigrants are positive for our economic and social dynamism, and I would return the level of legal immigration to the point it was under the Obama-Biden administration.
I think we have to compete for talent and I am the opposite of Donald Trump in many ways. He says, build a wall. I’m going to say to immigrants, come to America, because if you come here, your son our daughter can run for president. The water is great. And this is where you want to build a company, build a family, and build a life.
This country has been a magnet for human capital for generations. If we lose that, we lose something integral to our continued success. And that is where I would lead as president.
RAMOS: (SPEAKING SPANISH)
RAMOS: (INAUDIBLE) Pete, eight out of 10 Latinos in Texas for another mass shooter targeting them. This is according to a new Univision poll. President Trump has called Mexican immigrants rapists and killers, tried to ban Muslims from entering the country separated children from their parents.
He supporters have chanted, build a wall and send her back. Do you think that people who support President Trump and his immigration policies are racist?
BUTTIGIEG: Anyone who supports this is supporting racism.
The only people, though, who actually buy into this president’s hateful rhetoric around immigrants are people who don’t know any. We have an opportunity to build an American majority around immigration reform. In my community, a group of conservative Republicans rallied around an individual, a beloved local individual who was deported when he went into ICE to try to get his paperwork sorted out, because they never thought it would happen to him.
In some of the most conservative, rural areas of Iowa, I have seen communities that embraced immigration grow. And that’s why part of my plan for revitalizing the economies of rural America includes community renewal visas that would allow cities and towns and counties that are hurting not only for jobs but for population to embrace immigration as we have in my city.
You know, the only reason that South Bend is growing right now, after years of shrinking, is immigration. It’s one of the reasons we acted, not waiting for Washington, to create city-issued municipal IDs, so that people, regardless of immigration status in our city, had the opportunity to have the benefits of identification.
We have an opportunity to actually get something done. But we cannot allow this continue to be the same debate with the same arguments and the same clever lines often among the same people since the last real reform happened in the 1980s. We have to actually engage the American majority around the opportunities for not just growth in small communities, but our values. Values of welcome, values of faith that all argue for us to manage this humanely and in a way that marries our values with our laws.
RAMOS: (SPEAKING SPANISH)
In an interview eight months ago, you were asked to asked what to do with the so-called “over-stayers,” people who come with a visa and then stay. And you said, I don’t know. Do you have an answer now?
O’ROURKE: I do. And if you read the rest of that article in The Washington Post, I talked about harmonizing our entry/exit system with Mexico in the same way that we do with Canada. I think that could help us to keep a handle on visa over-stays.
But I think the larger question that we’re trying to get at is, how do we rewrite this country’s immigration laws in our own image? In the image of Houston, Texas, the most diverse city in the United States of America.
In the image of El Paso, Texas, one of the safest cities in the United States of America. Safe, not despite the fact that we are a city of immigrants, safe because we are a city of immigrants.
I will lead an effort to make sure that we rewrite our immigration laws in that way. Never cage another child. Make sure that there is accountability and justice for the seven lives lost under our care and our custody, but also face the fact that Democrats and Republicans alike voted to build a wall that has produced thousands of deaths of people trying to cross to join family or to work a job.
That we have been part of deporting people, hundreds of thousands just in the Obama administration alone, who posed no threat to this country, breaking up their families. Democrats have to get off the back foot, we have to lead on this issue, because we know it is right.
Legalize America, begin with those more than 1 million DREAMers, make them U.S. citizens right now in this, their true home country…
… and extend that to their parents, their sisters and their brothers, and ensure that we have a legal, safe, orderly system to come to this country and add to our greatness here.
RAMOS: Thank you. George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Jorge, thank you.
We’re going to take a quick break. When we come back, national security, foreign policy, homeland security, the impact on American jobs and U.S. troops.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Texas Southern University in Houston, the “Democratic Debate.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: Welcome back. We want to turn now to national security and the foreign policy issue that has such a direct impact here at home. The U.S. relationship with China, trade, and President Trump’s tariffs. We received more than 100 questions from viewers wanting to know how all of you are going to handle these tariffs.
And, Mr. Yang, let me begin with you. Would you repeal the tariffs on your first day in office? And if so, would you risk losing leverage in our trade relationship with China?
YANG: I would not repeal the tariffs on day one, but I would let the Chinese know that we need to hammer out a deal, because right now, the tariffs are pummeling producers and farmers in Iowa who have absolutely nothing to do with the imbalances that we have with China.
A CEO friend of mine was in China recently and he said that he saw pirated U.S. intellectual property on worker workstations to the tune of thousands of dollars per head. And he said, one, how can my workers compete against that? And, two, think about all the lost revenue to American companies.
So, the imbalances are real. But we have to let the Chinese know that we recognize that President Trump has pursued an arbitrary and haphazard trade policy that has had victims on both sides.
So, no to repealing the tariffs immediately, but yes to making sure we come to a deal that addresses the concerns of American companies and American producers.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mayor Pete, let me take that question — let me take that question to you, because you’ve seen President Trump’s tweets. He says what’s going to happen here is the Chinese are just going to wait him out so that they can get a Democrat who they can take advantage of.
How do you think about China? We’ve seen President Trump call President Xi both an enemy and a friend.
BUTTIGIEG: Well, the president clearly has no strategy.
You know, when I first got into this race, I remember President Trump scoffed and said he’d like to see me making a deal with Xi Jinping. I’d like to see him making a deal with Xi Jinping.
Is it just me, or was that supposed to happen in, like, April? It’s one more example of a commitment not made. When that happens on the international stage, people take note, not just our competitors, our adversaries, but also our allies take note of the inability of the United States to keep its word or follow through on its plans. And when that happens, there are serious consequences.
We saw it at the G7. The leaders of some of the greatest powers and economies of the world sitting to talk about one of the greatest challenges in the world, climate change, and there was literally an empty chair where American leadership could have been.
The problem is, this is a moment when American leadership is needed more than ever, whether it’s in Hong Kong, where those protesters for democracy need to know that they have a friend in the United States, or anywhere around the world where increasingly we see dictators throwing their weight around. The world needs America, but it can’t be just any America.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Would you repeal the tariffs?
BUTTIGIEG: I would have a strategy that would include the tariffs as leverage, but it’s not about the tariffs. Look, what’s going on right now is a president who has reduced the entire China challenge into a question of tariffs, when what we know is that the tariffs are coming down on us more than anybody else and there’s a lack of a bigger strategy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Klobuchar, you’ve actually supported the tariffs on steel.
KLOBUCHAR: What we’ve got right now, though, George, it’s not a focused tariff on steel. What he has done here, he has assessed these tariffs on our allies. He has put us in the middle of this trade war and he is treating our farmers and our workers like poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos. And if we are not careful, he is going to bankrupt this country.
One forecast recently says that it has already cost us 300,000 jobs, all right? There is soybeans that are mounting up in bins all over the Midwest, in my state of Minnesota and in Iowa.
So what I think we need to do is to go back to the negotiating table — that’s what I would do. I wouldn’t have put all these tariffs in place. And I wouldn’t have had a trade policy where on August 1st he announces he’s going to have tariffs on $300 billion of goods, on August 13th, he cuts it in half, a week later, he says he’s going to reduce taxes, the day after that, he says he’s going to do it.
The leaders of the world are watching this, and it undermines our strength as a nation. And, yes, we want fair trade, but we must work with the rest of the world. And he has made a mockery of focused trade policy, which I think means enforcement, like we’ve done in northern Minnesota, passing bills, getting President Obama to do more on that, so that our workers can benefit, so we are importing, exporting goods and making sure that it’s a competitive policy where our goal is that we are making things, inventing things, and exporting to the world. He is defeating that goal.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Secretary Castro, you actually, in one of the previous debates, identified China as the most serious national security threat to our country. I want to pick up on what Senator Klobuchar was saying. She said she would go back to the negotiating table. The question is, what do you do for leverage? Where do you get it?
CASTRO: Well, look, I agree with those who have said that this erratic, haphazard trade war is hurting American families. As Senator Klobuchar said, 300,000 American jobs. It’s estimated that it’s cost $600 to the average American family. Just a couple of days ago, 60 percent of Americans said that they believe that we’re in for a recession next year.
So when I become president, I would immediately begin to negotiate with China to ratchet down that trade war. We have leverage there. I also believe, though, that we need to return to a leader when it comes to things like human rights.
We have millions of Uighurs, for instance, in China that right now are being imprisoned and mistreated.
And in North Korea, this president is elevating a dictator. We need to stop that. We need to return to ensuring that America leads again on human rights. When it comes to this trade war, I would immediately begin ratcheting that trade war down. We have leverage in that discussion.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Warren, let me bring you in on this conversation. President Obama signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In part, it was designed to rein in China, to bring China into some kind of regulation. What do you think he got wrong?
WARREN: So our trade policy in America has been broken for decades, and it has been broken because it works for giant multinational corporations and not for much of anyone else. These are giant corporations that, shoot, if they can save a nickel by moving a job to a foreign country, they’ll do it in a heartbeat.
And yet for decades now, who’s been whispering in the ears of our trade negotiators? Who has shaped our trade policy? It’s been the giant corporations. It’s been their lobbyists and their executives.
The way we change our trade policy in America is, first, the procedures. Who sits at the table? I want to negotiate trade with unions at the table. I want to negotiate it with small farmers at the table. I want to negotiate it with environmentalists at the table. I want to negotiate with human rights activists at the table.
And you asked the question about leverage. If I can just respond to that one, the leverage, are you kidding? Everybody wants access to the American market. That means that we have the capacity to say right here in America, you want to come sell goods to American consumers? Then you got to raise your standards. You’ve got to raise your labor standards. You’ve got to raise your environmental standards…
… so our companies can compete on a level playing field. We can use trade not to undermine American workers and not to undermine American farms and not to undermine small businesses in this country. We can use trade to help build a stronger economy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Harris, how would your trade policy differ from President Obama’s?
HARRIS: Well, first of all, I have no criticism of that more than just looking at where we are now, which is we’ve got a guy in the White House who has been erratic on trade policy. He conducts trade policy by tweet, frankly born out of his fragile ego. It has resulted in farmers in Iowa with soybeans rotting in bins, looking at bankruptcy.
When we look at this issue, my trade policy, under a Harris administration, is always going to be about saying, we need to export American products, not American jobs. And to do that, we have to have a meaningful trade policy.
I am not a protectionist Democrat. Look, we need to sell our stuff. And that means we need to sell it to people overseas. That means we need trade policies that allow that to happen.
You asked earlier about China. It’s a complicated relationship. We have to hold China accountable. They steal our products, including our intellectual property. They dump substandard products into our economy. They need to be held accountable.
We also need to partner with China on climate and the crisis that that presents. We need to partner with China on the issue of North Korea. I am on — and I think the only person on this stage — the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Homeland Security Committee. We need a partner on the issue of North Korea.
But the bottom line is this. Donald Trump in office on trade policy, you know, he reminds me of that guy in “The Wizard of Oz,” you know, when you pull back the curtain, it’s a really small dude?
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. I’m not even going to take the bait, Senator Harris. But I am going to take…
HARRIS: Oh, George, it wasn’t about you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m going to take this to Senator Sanders right now.
SANDERS: Well, there is a reason — there is a reason why, in the last 45 years, the average American today, despite an explosion of technology and worker productivity, is not making a penny more than he or she made 45 years ago. And one of the reasons is that, for decades, we have had disastrous trade policies.
I got to say to my good friend, Joe Biden, Joe and I strongly disagree on trade. I helped lead the opposition to NAFTA and PNTR, which cost this country over 4 million good-paying jobs.
And what happened is people who had those jobs ended up getting other jobs making 50 percent of what they made in manufacturing.
So Trump, obviously, hasn’t a clue. Trump thinks that trade policy is a tweet at 3 o’clock in the morning. What we have got to do is develop a trade policy that represents workers, represents the farmers in the Midwest and elsewhere, who are losing billions right now because of Trump’s policy, a trade policy which understands that if a company shuts down in America and goes abroad, and then thinks they’re going to get online to get a lucrative federal contract, under Bernie Sanders, they got another guess coming.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Vice President Biden, he invoked your name.
BIDEN: Yeah, well, look, we’re either going to make policy or China’s going to make the rules of the road. We make up 25 percent of the world economy. We need another 25 percent to join us.
And I think Elizabeth — Senator Warren is correct. At the table has to be labor and at the table have to be environmentalists. The fact of the matter is, China — the problem isn’t the trade deficit, the problem is they’re stealing our intellectual property. The problem is they’re violating the WTO. They’re dumping steel on us. That’s a different issue than whether or not they’re dumping agricultural products on us.
In addition to that, we’re in a position where, if we don’t set the rules, we, in fact, are going to find ourselves with China setting the rules. And that’s why you need to organize the world to take on China, to stop the corrupt practices that are underway.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Booker, close out this round.
BOOKER: Sure. There’s one point we’re really missing on the stage right now, which is the fact that Donald Trump’s America first policy is actually an America isolated, an America alone policy.
BIDEN: Exactly right.
BOOKER: From trade to battling China to the global crisis of climate change, the challenges in the Middle East, he is pulling us away from our allies, out of the Iran deal, out of the Paris climate accords.
And on trade, he’s deciding to take on China, while at the same time taking on tariff battles with all of our allies. You literally have him using a national security waiver to put tariffs on Canada. Now, look, I’m the only person on this stage that finds Trudeau’s hair very menacing, but they are not a national security threat.
We cannot go up against China alone. This is a president that has a better relationship with dictators, like Duterte and Putin, than he does with Merkel and Macron. We are the strongest nation on the planet Earth, and our strength is multiplied and magnified when we stand with our allies in common cause and common purpose. That’s how we beat China. That’s how we beat climate change on the planet Earth, and that’s how American values are the ones that lead on issues of trade and workers’ rights.
MUIR: George, thank you. I want to turn now to our troops overseas and to America’s longest war in Afghanistan. U.S. talks with the Taliban are dead, according to the president. Secret talks at Camp David have been canceled before they could happen. Many of you have weighed in on that already, so I want to move past that tonight to what all of you have promised on the campaign trail.
Many of you on this stage have said you’d bring the troops home in your first term. Others have said in your first year. Senator Warren, we all know the presidency is much different from the campaign trail. President Obama wanted to bring the troops home. President Trump promised to bring the troops home. And you have said of Afghanistan, let’s help them reach a peace settlement. It is time to bring our troops home, in your words, starting right now. Would you keep that promise to bring the troops home starting right now with no deal with the Taliban?
WARREN: Yes. And I’ll tell you why. What we’re doing right now in Afghanistan is not helping the safety and security of the United States. It is not helping the safety and security of the world. It is not helping the safety and security of Afghanistan. We need to bring our troops home.
And then we need to make a big shift. We cannot ask our military to keep solving problems that cannot be solved militarily.
We’re not going to bomb our way to a solution in Afghanistan. We need to treat the problem of terrorism as a worldwide problem, and that means we need to be working with all of our allies, our European allies, our Canadian allies, our Asian allies, our allies in Africa and in South America. We need to work together to root out terrorism.
It means using all of our tools. It means economic investment. It means expanding our diplomatic efforts instead of hollowing out the State Department and deliberately making it so we have no eyes and ears in many of these countries. We need a foreign policy that is about our security and about leading on our values.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Warren, a quick follow on that, because top U.S. leaders, military leaders on the ground in Afghanistan told me you can’t do it without a deal with the Taliban. You just said you would, you would bring them home. What if they told you that? Would you listen to their advice?
WARREN: I was in Afghanistan with John McCain two years ago this past summer. I think it may have been Senator McCain’s last trip before he was sick. And I talked to people — we did — we talked to military leaders, American and local leaders, we talked to people on the ground and asked the question, the same one I ask on the Senate Armed Services Committee every time one of the generals comes through: Show me what winning looks like. Tell me what it looks like.
And what you hear is a lot of, “Uh,” because no one can describe it. And the reason no one can describe it is because the problems in Afghanistan are not problems that can be solved by a military.
I have three older brothers who all served in the military. I understand firsthand the kind of commitment they have made. They will do anything we ask them to do. But we cannot ask them to solve problems that they alone cannot solve.
We need to work with the rest of the world. We need to use our economic tools. We need to use our diplomatic tools. We need to build with our allies. And we need to make the whole world safer, not keep troops bombing in Afghanistan.
MUIR: Senator Warren, thank you.
I do want to stay on this, and I want to turn to Mayor BUTTIGIEG:, because you’re the only veteran on this stage. You served in Afghanistan. We heard in recent days from General Joseph Dunford, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said in recent days, “I’m not going to use the word withdrawal right now. It’s our judgment the Afghans need support to deal with the level of violence.” If he’s not even using the word withdrawal, would you put your promise to bring troops home in the first year on hold to follow the advice?
BUTTIGIEG: You know, I served under General Dunford, way under General Dunford, in Afghanistan.
And today, September 12, 2019, means that today you could be 18 years old, old enough to serve, and had not been alive on 9/11. We have got to put an end to endless war.
And the way we do it is see to it that that country will never again be used for an attack against our homeland, and that does not require an open-ended commitment of ground troops.
Let me say something else, because if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Afghanistan, from Afghanistan, it’s that the best way not to be caught up in endless war is to avoid starting one in the first place.
And so when I am president, an authorization for the use of military force will have a built-in three-year sunset. Congress will be required to vote and a president will be required to go to Congress to seek an authorization. Because if our troops can summon the courage to go overseas, the least our members of Congress should be able to do is summon the courage to take a vote on whether they ought to be there.
By the way, we also have a president right now who seems to treat troops as props, or worse, tools for his own enrichment. We saw what’s going on with flights apparently being routed through Scotland just so people can stay at his hotels?
I’ll tell you, as a military officer, the very first thing that goes through your mind, the first time you ever make eye contact with somebody that you are responsible for in uniform, is do not let these men and women down. This president is doing exactly that. I will not.
MUIR: Mayor Buttigieg, thank you.
I want to turn to Vice President Biden, because the concerns about any possible vacuum being created in Afghanistan, if you pulled the U.S. troops out, has been heightened by what we’ve seen in recent days on the ground in Iraq.
When you were vice president, President Obama turned to you to bring the troops home from Iraq. You have said on the campaign trail, quote, “I made sure the president turned to me and said, Joe, get our combat troops out of Iraq.” There was a major drawdown of U.S. troops, and then ISIS seized by some estimates 40 percent of the territory in Iraq. You then had to send thousands of troops back in. Was it wrong to pull out of Iraq that quickly? And did the move actually help ISIS take hold?
BIDEN: No, it wasn’t wrong to pull out. But I want to answer your Afghanistan question. I’ve been in and out of Afghanistan, not with a gun, and I admire my friend for his service. But I’ve been out of Afghanistan I think more than anybody on this — and it’s an open secret, you reported a long time ago, George, that I was opposed to the surge in Afghanistan.
The whole purpose of going to Afghanistan was to not have a counterinsurgency, meaning that we’re going to put that country together. It cannot be put together. Let me say it again. It will not be put together. It’s three different countries. Pakistan owns the three counties — the three provinces in the east. They’re not any part of — the Haqqanis run it. I will go on and on.
But here’s the point. The point is that it’s a counterterrorism strategy. We can prevent the United States from being the victim of terror coming out of Afghanistan by providing for bases — insist the Pakistanis provide bases for us to air lift from and to move against what we know.
We don’t need those troops there. I would bring them home. And Joe Dunford’s a fine guy, but this has been an internal argument we’ve had for eight years.
With regard to — with regard to Iraq, the fact of the matter is that, you know, I should have never voted to give Bush the authority to go in and do what he said he was going to do. The AUMF was designed, he said, to go in and get the Security Council to vote 15-0 to allow inspectors to go in to determine whether or not anything was being done with chemical weapons or nuclear weapons. And when that happened, he went ahead and went anyway without any of that proof.
I said something that was not meant the way I said it. I said — from that point on — what I was argued against in the beginning, once he started to put the troops in, was that in fact we were doing it the wrong way; there was no plan; we should not be engaged; we didn’t have the people with us; we didn’t have our — we didn’t have allies with us, et cetera.
And it was later, when we came into office, that Barack turned — the president turned to me and said, “Joe” — when they said we’ve got a plan to get out, he turned to the whole security and said, “Joe will organize this. Get the troops home.”
My son spent a year in Iraq, and I understand. It made — and we were right to get the combat troops out. The big mistake that was made, which we predicted, was that you would not have a circumstance where the Shia and the Kurds would work together to keep ISIS from coming — from moving in.
MUIR: Mr. Vice President, thank you.
I want to turn to Senator Sanders on this. Because the concern over Afghanistan is very similar to what we saw in Iraq when the troops came out. ISIS filled that vacuum.
What do you make of people out there who are worried that if we pull out U.S. troops too quickly from Afghanistan, it will create safe haven all over again, like the plotters of 9/11?
SANDERS: David, let me answer that, but let me just comment on something that the vice president said.
You talked about the big mistake in Iraq and the surge. The truth is, the big mistake, the huge mistake, and one of the big differences between you and me, I never believed what Cheney and Bush said about Iraq…
BIDEN: You’re right.
SANDERS: I voted against the war in Iraq
… and helped lead the opposition. And it’s sad to say — I mean, I, kind of, you know, had the feeling that there would be massive destabilization in that area if we went into that war.
As the former chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, I want to pick up on what Pete said. We cannot express our gratitude to all of the men and women who have put their lives on the line to defend them — defend us, who have responded to the call of duty. But I think, also, I am the only person up here to have voted against all three of Trump’s military budgets.
I don’t think we have to spend $750 billion a year on the military when we don’t even know who our enemy is.
I think that what we have got to do is bring this world together — bring it together on climate change, bring it together in fighting against terrorism. And make it clear that we as a planet, as a global community, will work together to help countries around the world rebuild their struggling economies and do everything that we can to rid the world of terrorism. But dropping bomb on Afghanistan and Iraq was not the way to do it.
MUIR: Senator Sanders, thank you.
I want to take this to Mr. Yang. You share the stage, as you know, when when we talk about troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the vice president, who was in the Situation Room, with senators who were on the Senate Armed Services, the Foreign Relations Committees, with an Afghanistan veteran who is on the stage tonight.
As you share the stage with these candidates, what makes you the most qualified on this stage to be commander in chief?
YANG: I’ve signed a pledge to end the forever wars. We’ve been in a state of continuous armed conflict for 18 years, which is not what the American people want. We have to start owning what we can and can’t do. We’re not very good at rebuilding countries.
And if you want proof, all you have to do is look within our own country of Puerto Rico.
We’ve spent trillions of dollars to unclear benefits, lost thousands of lives — and thank you, Pete, for your service. And the goal has to be to rebuild the relationships that have made America strong for decades.
I would lead our armed forces with restraint and judgment. What the American people want is simply a president who has the right values and point of view and they can trust to make the right decisions when it comes to putting our young men and women into harm’s way. And that’s what I would do as president.
MUIR: Mr. Yang, thank you.
RAMOS: Thank you very much.
(SPEAKING IN SPANISH) (ph)
You haven’t been asked about Latin America in the previous debates, so let’s begin. Senator Sanders, one country where many immigrants are arriving from is Venezuela. A recent U.N. fact-finding mission found that thousands have been disappeared, tortured and killed by government forces in Venezuela.
You admit that Venezuela does not have free elections, but still you refuse to call Nicolas Maduro a dictator — a dictator. Can you explain why?
And what are the main differences between your kind of socialism and the one being imposed in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua?
SANDERS: Well, first of all, let me be very clear. Anybody who does what Maduro does is a vicious tyrant. What we need now is international and regional cooperation for free elections in Venezuela so that the people of that country can make — can create their own future.
In terms of democratic socialism, to equate what goes on in Venezuela with what I believe is extremely unfair. I’ll tell you what I believe in terms of democratic socialism. I agree with goes on in Canada and in Scandinavia, guaranteeing health care to all people as a human right.
I believe that the United States should not be the only major country on earth not to provide paid family and medical leave.
I believe that every worker in this country deserves a living wage and that we expand the trade union movement.
I happen to believe also that what, to me, democratic socialism means, is we deal with an issue we do not discuss enough, Jorge — it’s not in the media and not in Congress. You’ve got three people in America owning more wealth than the bottom half of this country. You’ve got a handful of billionaires controlling what goes on in Wall Street, the insurance companies and in the media.
Maybe, just maybe, what we should be doing is creating an economy…
RAMOS: Thank you.
SANDERS: … that works for all of us, not 1 percent. That’s my understanding of democratic socialism.
RAMOS: Secretary, you wanted to say a quick response — 45 seconds?
CASTRO: Sure, thank you, Jorge. I’ll call Maduro a dictator, because he is a dictator.
And what we need to do is to, along with our allies, make sure that the Venezuelan people get the assistance that they need, that we continue to pressure Venezuela so that they’ll have free and fair elections, and also, here in the United States, offer temporary protected status, TPS, to Venezuelans.
That is something that the Trump administration has failed to do. For all of his big talk about supporting the Venezuelan-American community, he has failed. I will not.
I also believe that we need to do things like a 21st century Marshall plan for Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala…
… so that people can find safety and opportunity at home instead of having to make the dangerous journey to the United States. And under my administration, we’re going to put renewed focus on Latin America. It makes sense. They’re our neighbors and we have a lot of things in common. It also makes sense that, because we have a country like China that is going around the world to places like Africa and Latin America, making their own relationships, strengthening those, the United States needs to strengthen its partnerships in Latin America immediately.
RAMOS: Thank you, Senator.
CASTRO: And I will
RAMOS: Senator Booker, let me ask you about Brazil. After the recent fires in the Amazon, some experts suggested that eating less meat is one way to help the environment. You are a vegan since 2014. That’s obviously a personal choice, but President Trump and Brazil’s President Bolsonaro are concerned that climate change regulations could affect economic growth.
So should more Americans, including those here in Texas, and in Iowa…
… follow your diet?
BOOKER: Um (ph), you know, first of all, I want to say no. Actually, I want to translate that into Spanish. No.
Look, on — let’s just be clear. The factory farming going on that’s assaulting this corporate consolidation of the agricultural industry, one of the reasons why I have a bill to put a moratorium on this kind of corporate consolidation is because this factory farming is destroying and hurting our environment. And you see independent family farmers being pushed out of business because of the kind of incentives we are giving that don’t line up with our values. That’s what I’m calling for.
But I want to — I want to switch, because we don’t have — a crowded debate stage, we were talking about Afghanistan and Iraq. It annoys me that we had a conversation about our troops overseas and we didn’t say one word about veterans in our country.
We have a shameful reality in America that we send people off to war and they often come home with invisible wounds, hurts and harms. They’re disproportionately homeless. You hear stories about women waiting for months for gynecological care through the VA. It is very important that, as we — as a country, understand that we are not going to solve every problem with this outrageous increased militarism, that we also make sure that we stand up for the people that stood for us.
We end our national anthem with “home of the brave.” It’s about time we make this a better home for our bravest.
Congressman O’Rourke, Hurricane Harvey hit this town two years ago. And not only is the Amazon burning, Greenland is melting at a record pace. The last five years have been the hottest ever recorded. And we have a viewer’s question about this.
What meaningful action will you take to reverse the effect of climate change? And can we count on you to follow through if your donors are against it?
O’ROURKE: Yes, we will follow through, regardless of the political consequences or who it offends, because this is the very future of our planet and our ability for our children and grandchildren to be able to survive on it.
We will make sure that we get to net zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than the year 2050. That we are halfway there by 2030. That we mobilize $5 trillion over the next 10 years to do that. That we invest here in Houston, Texas, with pre-disaster mitigation grants to protect those communities that are vulnerable to flooding given the fact that this town has seen three 500-year floods in just five years, you’d like to think you’re good for 1,500 years, but you’re not. They’re coming faster and larger and more devastating than ever.
We’re also going to make sure that we free ourselves from a dependence on fossil fuels and embrace renewable wind and solar energy technology, as well as the high-paying, high-skill, high-wage jobs that come along with that. And that we’re going to pay farmers for the environmental services they want to provide. Planting cover crops, keeping more land under conservation, using no-till farming, regenerative agriculture can pull carbon out of the air and can drive it and sequester it into the soil.
That’s the way that we’re going to meet this challenge and we’re going to bring everyone into the solution.
RAMOS: Many of you want to comment. Let’s see if we can go very fast. Senator Klobuchar?
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.
This is the existential crisis of our time. It’s — you know that movie “The Day after Tomorrow”? It’s today. We have seen a warming in our world like never before. We’re seeing flooding in the Midwest, flooding in Houston, fires in the West. And I think having someone leading the ticket from the Midwest will allow us to talk about this in a different way and get it done.
On day one, I will get us back into the international climate change agreement. On day two, I will bring back the clean power rules that President Obama had worked on. On day three, I will bring back the gas mileage standards. You can do all that without Congress, which is good.
On day four, five, and six I will, working with Congress and mayors and business people all over the country, introduce sweeping legislation to get at that 2050 goal. And on day seven, you’re supposed to rest, but I won’t. This is what we need to do if we’re going to get at climate change. We have to take this on as a crisis that’s happening right now.
RAMOS: Senator Warren, should American foreign policy be based around the principle of climate change?
WARREN: Yes. We need to work on every front on climate change. It is the threat to every living thing on this planet and we are running out of time. Every time the scientists go back, they say, we have less and less time than we thought we had.
But that means we’ve got to use all the tools. One of the tools we need to use are our regulatory tools. I have proposed following Governor Inslee, that we, by 2028, cut all carbon emissions from new buildings. By 2030, carbon emissions from cars. And by 2035, all carbon emissions from the manufacture of electricity. That alone, those three, will cut our emissions here in the United States by 70 percent.
We can do this. We also need to help around the world to clean, but understand this one more time. Why doesn’t it happen? As long as Washington is paying more attention to money than it is to our future, we can’t make the changes we need to make. We have to attack the corruption head-on so that we can save our planet.
RAMOS: Senator Harris, 45 seconds.
HARRIS: When I think about this issue, it really is through the lens of my baby nieces who are one-and-a-half and three years old. When I look at what is going to be the world if we do nothing, when they turn 20, I am really scared. And when I’ve been in the United States Senate for now the last two-and-a-half years and I look at our counterparts, the Republicans in the United States Senate, they must be looking at their children and then when they look at the mirror, I don’t know what they see, but it’s a lack of courage.
And this is an issue that, yes, it represents a existential threat. It is also something that we can do something about. This is a problem that was created by human behaviors. And we can change our behaviors in a way that saves our planet. I’ve seen it happen in California.
I took on — as the attorney general of California, I ran the second-largest department of justice in the United States, second only to the United States Department of Justice. I took on the big oil companies and we saw progress. If any of you have been to Los Angeles, 20 years ago, you’ll remember, that sky was brown. You go there now, the sky is blue and you know why? Because leaders decided to lead and we took on these big fossil fuel companies.
We have some of the most important and strongest laws in the country and we made a difference. And my point being, I’ve done it before and I will lead as president on this issue because we have no time, the clock is ticking, but we need courage, and we need courageous leadership. We can get this done.
RAMOS: Mr. Yang?
YANG: So, to follow up on what Elizabeth said, why are we losing to the fossil fuel companies?
YANG: Why are we losing to the gun lobby and the NRA? And is answer is this, we all know, everyone on this stage knows that our government has been overrun by money and corporate interests. Now, everyone here has a plan to try to curb those corporate interests, but we have to face facts. Money finds a way.
Money will find its way back in. So, what is the answer? The answer is to wash the money out with people-powered money.
My proposal is that we give every American 100 “Democracy Dollars” that you can only give to candidates and causes that you like. This would wash out the lobbyist cash by a factor of eight to one. That is the only way we will win. And as someone running for president, I’ll tell you, there’s the people on one side and the money on the other, the only way for us to win is if we bring them together.
RAMOS: Thank you, Mr. Yang.
DAVIS: I’d like to have an academic discussion now about education.
Mr. Yang, we’ll stay with you. Here in Houston, the school district is facing yet another year of spending cuts. Like schools across the country, the system faces many challenges. One of them, thousands of students are leaving traditional public schools and going to charter schools.
You’re the most vocal proponent on this stage for charter schools. You have said that Democrats who want to limit them are, quote, “just jumping into bed with teachers unions and doing kids a disservice.” Why isn’t taxpayer money better spent on fixing traditional public schools?
YANG: Let me be clear, I am pro-good school. I’ve got a kid, one of my little boys just started public school last week and I was not there because I was running for president.
So, we need to pay teachers more, because the data clearly shows that a good teacher is worth his or her weight in gold.
We need to lighten up the emphasis on standardized tests, which do not measure anything fundamental about our character or human worth.
But here’s the big one. The data clearly shows that 65 to 70 percent of our students outcomes are determined outside of the school. We’re talking about time spent at home with the parents, words read to them when they’re young, stress levels in the house, income, type of neighborhood.
We’re putting money into schools, and educators know this, we’re saying you’re 100 percent responsible for educating your kids but you can only control 30 percent. They all know this. The answer is to put money directly into the families and neighborhoods to give our kids a chance to learn and our teachers a chance to teach.
DAVIS: Mayor Buttigieg, 45 seconds to respond.
BUTTIGIEG: Step one is appoint a secretary of education who actually believes in public education.
I believe in public education. And in order to strengthen it, some things are very complex, for preparing for a future where knowledge is at your fingertips, but we have got to teach more to do with critical thinking and social and emotional learning. Some of it is extremely simple, we have just got to pay teachers more. And we have got to lift up the teaching profession.
I always think of a story from South Bend of friends who hosted exchange students from Japan. They had a student one year who wanted to be a teacher. And they kept in touch with her when she went back to Japan and to college. She took the exam to try to become a teacher in a society that really regards teachers and compensates teachers well. And she came up just short.
So, you know what she did? Since she was academically good but couldn’t quite make the cut to be a teacher, she had a fall-back plan, she became a doctor. That is how seriously some countries treat the teaching profession. If we want to get the results that we expect for our children, we have to support and compensate the teaching profession. Respect teachers the way we do soldiers and pay them more like the way we do doctors.
DAVIS: Senator Warren, to use Mr. Yang’s term, are you just jumping into bed with teachers unions?
WARREN: You know, I think I’m the only person on this stage who has been a public school teacher.
I had wanted to be a public school teacher since I was in second grade. And let’s be clear in all the ways we talk about this, money for public schools should stay in public schools, not go anywhere else.
I’ve already made my commitment. I will — we will have a secretary of education who has been a public school teacher.
I think this is ultimately about our values. I have proposed a two-cent wealth tax on the top one-tenth of one percent in this country. That would give us enough money to start with our babies by providing universal child care for every baby age zero to five, universal pre-K for every three-year-old and four-year-old in this country…
DAVIS: Thank you, Senator.
WARREN: … raise the wages of every childcare worker and preschool teacher in this country, cancel student loan debt for 95 percent of the folks who’ve got it…
DAVIS: Thank you, Senator.
WARREN: … and strengthen our unions. This is how we build an America that reflects our values, not just where the money comes from with the billionaires and corporate executives.
DAVIS: Senator Harris, 45 seconds to respond.
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HARRIS: My first grade teacher, Mrs. Frances Wilson (ph), God rest her soul, attended my law school graduation. I think most of us would say that we are not where we are without the teachers who believed in us.
I have offered in this campaign a proposal to deal with this, which will be the first in the nation, federal investment, in closing the teacher pay gap, which is $13,500 a year. Because right now, in our public schools, our teachers, 94 percent of them are coming out of their own pocket to help pay for school supplies. And that is wrong.
I also want to talk about where we are here at TSU, and what it means in terms of HBCUs. I have, as part of my proposal that we will put $2 trillion into investing in our HBCUs for teachers, because…
Because — because, one, as a proud graduate of a historically black college and university, I will say — I will say that it is our HBCUs that disproportionately produce teachers and those who serve in these may professions, but also…
DAVIS: Thank you, Senator.
HARRIS: But this is a critical point, if a black child has a black teacher before the end of third grade, they’re 13 percent more likely to go to college.
If that child has had two black teachers before the end of third grade, they’re 32 percent more likely to go to college. So, when we talk about investing in our public education system, it is at the source of so much. When we fix it, that will fix so many other things. We must invest in the potential of our children…
DAVIS: Thank you, Senator.
Senator Sanders, 45 seconds.
HARRIS: … and I strongly believe you can judge a society based on how it treats its children. And we are failing on this issue.
DAVIS: Thank you, Senator.
SANDERS: Guess what?
You’re guessing, all right, here’s the answer. We are the wealthiest country in the history of the world. And yet, we have the highest child poverty rate of almost any country on earth. We have teachers in this country who are leaving education because they can’t work two or three jobs to support themselves.
Which is why, under my legislation, we’ll move to see that every teacher in America makings at least $60,000 a year.
What we will also do is not only have universal pre-K, we will make public colleges and universities and HBCUs debt-free. And what we will always also do, because this is an incredible burden on millions and millions of young people who did nothing wrong except try to get the education they need, we are going to cancel all student debt in this country.
DAVIS: Thank you, Senator. Thank you, Senator.
SANDERS: And we are going to do that by imposing a tax on Wall Street speculation.
DAVIS: Thank you, Senator.
Mr. Vice president, I want to come to you and talk to you about inequality in schools and race. In a conversation about how to deal with segregation in schools back in 1975, you told a reporter, “I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather, I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation, and I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.”
You said that some 40 years ago. But as you stand here tonight, what responsibility do you think that Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?
BIDEN: Well, they have to deal with the — look, there’s institutional segregation in this country. And from the time I got involved, I started dealing with that. Red-lining banks, making sure that we are in a position where — look, you talk about education. I propose that what we take is those very poor schools, the Title I schools, triple the amount of money we spend from 15 to $45 billion a year. Give every single teacher a raise, the equal raise to getting out — the $60,000 level.
Number two, make sure that we bring in to help the teachers deal with the problems that come from home. The problems that come from home, we need — we have one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today. It’s crazy.
The teachers are — I’m married to a teacher. My deceased wife is a teacher. They have every problem coming to them. We have — make sure that every single child does, in fact, have 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds go to school. School. Not daycare. School. We bring social workers in to homes and parents to help them deal with how to raise their children.
It’s not want they don’t want to help. They don’t — they don’t know quite what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the — the — make sure that kids hear words. A kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.
DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.
BIDEN: There’s so much we — no, I’m going to go like the rest of them do, twice over, OK?
Because here’s the deal. The deal is that we’ve got this a little backwards. And by the way, in Venezuela, we should be allowing people to come here from Venezuela. I know Maduro. I’ve confronted Maduro.
Number two, you talk about the need to do something in Latin America. I’m the guy that came up with $740 million to see to it those three countries, in fact, changed their system so people don’t have to chance to leave. You’re all acting like we just discovered this yesterday. Thank you very much.
DAVIS: Thank you very much.
CASTRO: Thank you very much. Well, that’s — that’s quite a lot.
CASTRO: But, you know — I grew up in one of those neighborhoods that folks have talked about and a neighborhood that was grappling with the legacy of segregation. In fact, in two public school districts that were involved in a 1973 Supreme Court case challenging how Texas financed its schools.
And I know that today our schools are segregated because our neighborhoods are segregated. Now, I have an education plan, like a lot of folks up here, that would pay teachers more, that would recruit diverse ranks of teachers, that would invest in our public schools, but I also believe that we have to connect the dots to uplift the quality of life to invest in housing opportunity, to invest in job opportunity, to invest in community schools that offer resources like parents able to go back and get their GED, and health care opportunities, and those things that truly ensure that the entire family can prosper.
Those are the types of things that we need to do, in addition to lifting up our public schools. You asked a second ago about charter schools. Look, it is a myth that charter schools are better than public schools. They’re not.
DAVIS: Thank you, Secretary.
CASTRO: And so while I’m not categorically against charter schools, I would require more transparency and accountability from them than is required right now.
DAVIS: Senator Booker, coming to you now. It was 65 years ago this year that the Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation in public schools. Yet for millions of students of color today, segregation remains a reality.
Nonwhite districts typically receive $2,200 less per student than those in white districts. This means older books, less access to computers, and often worse outcomes. What is your plan to address segregation? And I’m not just talking about the achievement gap, but I’m talking about the opportunity gap in education.
BOOKER: So, I’m hearing a lot of conversations on the stage that — and the way we talk about communities of color. Look, I live in a black and brown community below the poverty line. I’ve lived in public housing projects almost for a decade and saw the anguish of parents who are just so deeply frustrated that they don’t have a school that serves their genius.
I think I’m the only person on the stage — even though I had no formal authority as mayor to run a school system — I stepped up and took responsibility for our schools, and we produced results. A lot of folks here are talking about raising teacher salary. We actually did it in Newark, New Jersey.
And we didn’t stop there. Yeah, we closed poor-performing charter schools, but, dagnabbit, we expanded high-performing charter schools. We were a city that said we need to find local solutions that work for our community. The results speak for themselves. We’re now the number-one city in America for Beat the Odds schools, from high poverty to high performance.
Strategies like investing in our children work. And I’ll tell you this. I am tired of us thinking about these problems isolated, disconnected from other issues.
That’s why my friend, Secretary Castro, is 100 percent right. We are in the reality we are right now because, Mr. Vice President, of overtly racist policies, not 400 years ago, just in my lifetime, that were red-lining communities, disinvesting in communities, and more than just that, my kids are not only struggling with racial segregation and housing and the challenges of underfunded schools, but they’re also struggling with environmental injustice.
If you’ve talked to someone who’s a parent of a child has had permanent brain damage because of lead, you’ll know this is a national problem, because there’s over 3,000 jurisdictions in America where children have more than twice the blood lead levels of Flint, Michigan.
DAVIS: Thank you, Senator.
BOOKER: And so if I’m president of the United States, it is a holistic solution to education, from raising teacher salary, fully funded special education, but combatting the issues of poverty, combatting the issues of racial segregation, combatting the issues of a criminal justice system…
DAVIS: Thank you, Senator.
BOOKER: … that takes parents away from their kids, and dealing with environmental justice as a major pillar of any climate policy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Linsey. One final question coming up. We’ll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are now back now for a final round of questions. One question for each candidate. We’re going to go in reverse order from the opening statement.
And, candidates, the question is on the quality of resilience. No president can succeed without resilience. Every president confronts crises, defeats, and mistakes. So I want to ask each of you, what’s the most significant professional setback you’ve had to face? How did you recover from it? And what did you learn from it?
Vice President Biden?
BIDEN: I — I never counted any professional setback like I have as a serious setback. There’s things that are important. Things that are unimportant.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’re going to clear the protesters now. Just one minute.
Senator Biden, we’ll start the clock again.
BIDEN: I’m sorry.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’re sorry. Go ahead.
BIDEN: There’s setbacks, and there’s setbacks. And I think the most critical setback that can occur to anyone is to lose — well, my dad had an expression. He said, Joey, it’s not a question of succeeding, whether you get knocked down, it’s how quickly you get up. And he said, you never explain and never complain. And then he would go on to say that the only obligation that really matters, the most important thing, is family.
And so I was raised to believe that that was the center of everything, family, and could be judged on based how you treatment your family and how you went from there. And I — it took — you know, Kierkegaard said faith sees best in the dark. Right after I got elected, my wife and daughter were killed in an automobile accident, and my two sons were badly injured. And I just had been elected, not sworn in. And I lost my faith for a while. I came back.
And then later, when my son Beau came home from Iraq and — with a terminal disease, and a year later, year-and-a-half later, losing him was like losing part of my soul.
But the fact is that I learned that the way you deal with it is you deal with finding purpose, purpose in what you do. And that’s why I hope — I hope he’s proud of me today, because he wanted to make sure I didn’t run for president, but I stayed engaged, because when you get hit badly, whether you’re losing a job or you’re raising a family like my dad, where you have to make that longest walk up the stairs to tell your kid you can’t live here anymore, Dad lost his job, you know, we’ve all been through that, in some form or another.
And it just takes — it just — for me, the way I’ve dealt with it is finding purpose. And my purpose is to do what I’ve always tried to do and stay engaged in public policy. And — but there’s a lot of people been through a lot worse than I have who get up every single morning, put their feet one foot in front of another, without the help I had. There are real heroes out there. Some real heroes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Senator Warren?
WARREN: I mentioned earlier, I’ve known what I wanted to be since second grade. I wanted to be a public school teacher. And I invested early. I used to line my dollies up and teach school. I had a reputation for being tough but fair.
By the time I graduated from high school, my family didn’t have money for a college application, much less to send me off to four years at a university. And my story, like a lot of stories, has a lot of twists and turns. Got a scholarship, and then at 19, I got married, dropped out of school, took a minimum wage job, thought my dream was over.
I got a chance down the road at the University of Houston. And I made it as a special needs teacher. I still remember that first year as a special needs teacher. I could tell you what those babies looked like. I had 4- to 6-year-olds.
But at the end of that first year, I was visibly pregnant. And back in the day, that meant that the principal said to me — wished me luck and hired someone else for the job.
So, there I am, I’m at home, I got a baby, I can’t have a job. What am I going to do? Here’s resilience. I said, I’ll go to law school. And the consequence was — I practiced law for about 45 minutes and then went back to my first love, which was teaching.
But it let me get into fights. It gave me new tools. And the reason I’m standing here today is because I got back up, I fought back. I know what’s broken. I want to be in the fight to fix it in America. That’s why I’m here.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Senator.
SANDERS: Resilience, to me, means growing up in a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn, New York, the son of an immigrant who came to this country without a nickel in his pocket.
Professional resilience means to me, George, running for U.S. Senate in Vermont and getting 1 percent of the vote, running for governor and getting 2 percent of the vote, finally becoming mayor of Burlington, Vermont, with a 10-vote margin.
What resilience means to me is that throughout my political career, I have taken on virtually every powerful special interest in this country, whether it is Wall Street, whether it is the insurance industry, whether it is the pharmaceutical industry whose corruption and greed is killing people today, whether it is a military industrial complex or a prison industrial complex.
And I feel confident that given a lifelong record of taking on powerful special interests, of standing up for the working families of this country, that I will be able to take on the greed and corruption of the corporate elite and create a government and an economy that work for all of us, not just the 1 percent.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Senator Sanders.
HARRIS: You know, every office I’ve run for, whether it be district attorney or attorney general, I was told each time, it can’t be done. They said nobody like you has done it before, nobody’s ready for you. When I ran for D.A., I won and became the first black woman elected D.A. in a state of 40 million people, in San Francisco.
When I ran for attorney general of California, I was elected — because I didn’t listen. And I was the only black elected — woman black elected attorney general in the state — in the country.
And each time, people would say, it’s not your time, it’s not your turn, it’s going to be too difficult, they’re not ready for you, and I didn’t listen. And a part of it probably comes from the fact that I was raised by a mother who said many things that were life lessons for me, including don’t you let anybody ever tell you who you are. You tell them who you are.
And when I look around the town halls that we do in this race for president of the United States, and I look at the — the meetings that we do and the community meetings, and I see these little girls and boys, sometimes even brought by their fathers, and they bring them to me and I talk to them during these events, and they smile and they’re full of joy, and their fathers tell them, see, don’t you ever listen and let anybody ever tell you what you can or cannot be. You have to believe in what can be unburdened by what has been.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Harris, thank you very much.
BUTTIGIEG: You know, as a military officer serving under “don’t ask/don’t tell,” and as an elected official in the state of Indiana when Mike Pence was governor, at a certain point, when it came to professional setbacks, I had to wonder whether just acknowledging who I was, was going to be the ultimate career-ending professional setback.
I came back from the deployment and realized that you only get to live one life. And I was not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer, so I just came out. I had no idea what kind of professional setback it would be, especially because inconveniently it was an election year in my socially conservative community.
What happened was that, when I trusted voters to judge me based on the job that I did for them, they decided to trust me and re-elected me with 80 percent of the vote. And what I learned was that trust can be reciprocated and that part of how you can win and deserve to win is to know what’s worth more to you than winning.
And I think that’s what we need in the presidency right now. We have to know what we are about. And this election is not about any of us up here. It is not about this president, even though it’s hard to talk of anything else some days.
It’s about the people who trust us with their lives, a kid wondering if we’re actually going to make their schools safe when they’ve learned active shooter drills before they’ve learned to read, a generation wondering we will actually get the job done on climate change. And if we hold to that, then it doesn’t matter what happens to each of us professionally. Together, we will win a better era for our country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mayor Buttigieg, thank you.
YANG: I was an unhappy lawyer for five whole months and I left to start a business. And I’m going to share with you all one of the secrets to entrepreneurship. If you want to start something, tell everyone you know you’re going to do it. And then you don’t have a choice. You put your heart and soul into that. And even though I did that, my company flopped, had its mini-rise and maximum fall.
I lost investors, hundreds of thousands of dollars, still owed $100,000 in school debt. My parents still told people I was a lawyer. It was a little easier.
So I remember lying on my floor looking up wondering, how did it come to this? Eventually, I picked myself back up. I kept working in small growth companies for another 10 years and eventually had some success.
Then after I did have some success, I still remembered how hard it was, how isolating it was, how it feels like your friends no longer want to spend time with you. And so I spent seven years starting and running a nonprofit that helped train young entrepreneurs around the country, including Sean Nguyen (ph), who’s here in the audience tonight, who left his gilded Wall Street job to become a food entrepreneur in San Antonio. Sean, I hope I made the process a little bit easier for you than it was for me.
But the goal of my campaign is to make this an economy that allows us to live our human values and aspirations.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Yang.
BOOKER: So my biggest professional setback is embarrassing because a lot of folks know about it. I, with a bunch of tenant leaders in Newark, New Jersey, in 2002 took on the political machine and, boy, did they fight back. I had tires on my car slashed. Our campaign offices were broken into. My phones were tapped. It became a spectacle. And we lost that election.
And here’s a bit of advice to everybody. If you’re going to have a spectacular failure, have a documentary team there to capture it, because it made for an Oscar-nominated documentary called “Street Fight.” But then, unfortunately, another setback. It lost in the Oscars to a movie called “March of the Dagnab Penguins,” for crying out loud.
The people in my community, living in the projects, told me, don’t give up on the people and the people won’t give up on you. Create bigger and bolder coalitions, and you’re going to win. And you know what? We came back four years later and won the largest lopsided victory in our city’s history.
But more than that, the lesson was there. We didn’t give up. We were taking on America’s toughest problems, from crime to poverty, and we transformed our city, creating tens of thousands of new jobs, the biggest economic expansion in our city, and as I said before, turned around our school system.
There’s more work to do, but I haven’t given up on the people. I still live in that community. But this is a big lesson. My staff and my friends and my community told me, if you want to go fast, you may have won the mayor’s race, but that’s not what life is about. There’s an old African saying that says, if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.
The lesson I learned of resilience is to trust people, because the power of the people is always greater than the people in power. And the test of America right now is not a referendum on Donald Trump, it’s a referendum on us and who we are and who we’re going to be together. We need to use this moment in history to unite in common cause and common purpose, and then there’s nothing we can’t do together as a nation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Booker, thank you.
O’ROURKE: Thank you, George. Everything that I’ve learned about resilience I’ve learned from my hometown of El Paso, Texas. In the face of this act of terror that was directed at our community, in large part by the president of the United States, that killed 22 people and injured many more, we were not defeated by that, nor were we defined by that.
The very thing that drew that killer to us is the very thing that helps us set the example for the rest of this country. We don’t see our differences as disqualifying or dangerous. We see them as foundational to our success, to our strength, and to our security, and to our safety.
Yesterday, I was visiting with one of those victims. He’s the head coach of the Fusion. This is a girls soccer team of 10- and 11-year-old girls. His name is Luis. He was shot in the legs multiple times. He was shot in the side multiple times. He’s still healing from his wounds in the hospital, but from his hospital bed, he’s still trying to coach the Fusion girls soccer team.
Memo, his co-coach, is still fighting for his life right now at Del Sol Hospital. Those two men, Jessica and Marcella (ph), their wives, they exemplify resilience to me. And when we end this scourge of gun violence in this country, when we finally confront the racism that exists in America, when we’re defined not by our fears, but instead by our aspirations and our ambitions, it will be, in large part, I think, thanks to the example that El Paso has set.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman, thank you.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. My challenges and resilience have brought me up here. I grew up with a dad who struggled with alcoholism his whole life. And after his third DWI, he had a choice between jail and treatment. He chose treatment, with his faith, with his friends, with our family. And in his words, he was pursued by grace. And that made me interested in public service, because I feel like everyone should have that same right, to be pursued by grace.
I then got married. My husband’s out there somewhere, hopefully smiling, and our daughter. When our daughter was born, I had this expectation, we’re going to have this perfect, perfect birth, and she was really sick, and she couldn’t swallow. And she was in and out of hospitals for a year-and-a-half.
But when she was born, they had a rule in place that you got kicked out of the hospital in 24 hours. She was in intensive care, and I was kicked out. And I thought, this could never happen to any other mom again.
So I went to the legislature, our state legislator, not an elected official, a mom, and I advocated for one of the first laws in the country guaranteeing new moms and their babies a 48-hour hospital stay. And when they tried to delay the implementation of that law, I brought six pregnant friends to the conference committee so they outnumbered the lobbyists 2 to 1. And when they said, when should it take place, they all raised their hands and said now.
That is what motivated me to go into public service. And when I got to that gridlock of Washington, D.C., I got to work and pass over 100 bills, and I know a lot of my friends here from the left, but remember, I am from the middle of the country. And I believe, if we’re going to get things done, that we have to have someone leading the ticket with grit, someone who’s going to not just change the policies, but change the tone in the country, and someone who believes in America and believes it from their heart because of where they came from, that everyone should have that same opportunity.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator, thank you.
CASTRO: And thank you, George, to Jorge, to Linsey, and to David, and to all of y’all for tuning in tonight. In many ways, I shouldn’t be here on this stage. You know, Castro is my mother’s name and was my grandmother’s name before her. I grew up in a single-parent household on the west side of San Antonio, going to the public schools. Eventually, my brother, Joaquin, and I became the first in our family to become professionals.
And when I got home, I took a job at the biggest law firm in town. I was making $100,000 a year in the year 2000. A few months later, I got elected to the San Antonio City Council. And the city council at the time was only paying $1,040 a year, so everybody had another job. And my job was at the law firm.
Well, a few months after I got elected, the law firm got a client and the client wanted those of us on the city council to vote for a land deal. The land deal was that they wanted to build a golf course over our water supply, because we relied on an underground aquifer. I didn’t think the environmental protection plan was strong enough, so I wanted to vote against it and my constituents wanted me to vote against it.
But under the ethics rules for lawyers in Texas — because believe it or not, lawyers have ethics rules — you can’t just go against the interest of a client. So I was stuck.
On the one hand, I wanted to do the right thing. On the other hand, my livelihood, my student loans, my new house payment, my car payment, depended on me shutting up, being conflicted out.
So, one day, I walked into my law firm and I quit my job. And then I went and I voted against that land deal on the city council.
And, you know, it was the first test that I had, and I think back to that, because oftentimes we think of politics and you think of politics as dirty or corrupting. I wondered, before I went in it, whether it was change who I was. And I was proud that when that first test came that I stood up for the people that I was there to represent, and not for big special interests.
There’s nobody that gets tested more in a position of public trust than the president of the United States. This president has failed that test. But I want you to know that if you elect me president, I won’t. I won’t serve anybody except you and your family. And together, we can create an American that’s better than ever. Thank you very much.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thank you, Secretary Castro. Thank you to all of our candidates. It was a great debate. I think we learned a lot tonight thanks to you. Thanks to Texas Southern University for hosting us tonight. It was a great crowd, as well, tonight, thanks to you.
Thanks to everyone at home. The debate is over. Our coverage continues with Tom Llamas.
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