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Mystery Debate Theater 2008

Once again the Mystery Debate Theater team of Andrew Kingsford, Tim Willette and Steve Rhodes gathered at Beachwood HQ . . . well, no, it was just me last night. Tim and Andrew are in Guam preparing for the upcoming primary there that we predict will decide the whole thing. So this episode of MDT 2008 is brought to you just by me.As always, this transcript has been edited for length, clarity and sanity.


GIBSON: So we're going to begin with opening statements, and we had a flip of the coin, and the brief opening statement first from Senator Obama.

OBAMA: You know, Senator Clinton and I have been running for 15 months now. We've been traveling across Pennsylvania for at least the last five weeks. And everywhere I go, what I've been struck by is the core decency and generosity of people of Pennsylvania and the American people.

But what I've also been struck by is the frustration. You know, I met a gentleman in Latrobe who had lost his job and was trying to figure out how he could find the gas money to travel to find a job. And that story, I think, is typical of what we're seeing all across the country.

STEVE: Well, did you give him gas money?


GIBSON: Governor Cuomo, an elder statesman in your party, has come forward with a suggestion. He has said, look, fight it to the end. Let every vote be counted. You contest every delegate. Go at each other right till the end. Don't give an inch to one another. But pledge now that whichever one of you wins this contest, you'll take the other as your running mate, and that the other will agree if they lose, to take second place on the ticket. So I put the question to both of you: Why not?

(Pause, laughter.)

Don't all speak at once. (Laughter.)

OBAMA: I think it's premature at this point for us to talk about who vice presidential candidates will be because we're still trying to determine who the nominee will be. But . . . I'm confident that both Senator Clinton's supporters and Senator Obama's supporters will be supporting the Democratic nominee when we start engaging in that general election.

STEVE: That's not what you've been saying. Or your wife.

GIBSON: Governor Cuomo made that suggestion because he's not so sure.

CLINTON: Well, Charlie, I'm going to do everything I possibly can to make sure that one of us takes the oath of office next January. I think that has to be the overriding goal, whatever we have to do.

GIBSON: Alright. I will let this go. I don't think Governor Cuomo has any takers yet.

STEVE: They should pledge to make McCain the vice president.


GIBSON: Talking to a closed-door fundraiser in San Francisco 10 days ago . . .

STEVE: Here we go. As if he doesn't have a scripted answer ready to go. Maybe about that guy in Latrobe who needed gas money . . .

GIBSON: . . . you got talking in California about small-town Pennsylvanians who have had tough economic times in recent years. And you said they get bitter, and they cling to guns or they cling to their religion or they cling to antipathy toward people who are not like them.

Now, you've said you misspoke; you said you mangled what it was you wanted to say. But we've talked to a lot of voters. Do you understand that some people in this state find that patronizing and think that you said actually what you meant?

OBAMA: Well, I think there's no doubt that I can see how people were offended.

STEVE: Because most people aren't as smart as I am!

OBAMA: The point I was making was that when people feel like Washington's not listening to them, when they're promised year after year, decade after decade, that their economic situation is going to change, and it doesn't, then politically they end up focusing on those things that are constant, like religion.

They end up feeling "This is a place where I can find some refugee. This is something that I can count on." They end up being much more concerned about votes around things like guns, where traditions have been passed on from generation to generation.

CLINTON: Well, I am the granddaughter of a factory worker from Scranton who went to work in the Scranton lace mills when he was 11 years old, worked his entire life there, mostly six-day weeks.

He was also very active in the Court Street Methodist Church. And he raised three sons and was very proud that he sent all of them to college.

I don't believe that my grandfather or my father, or the many people whom I have had the privilege of knowing and meeting across Pennsylvania over many years, cling to religion when Washington is not listening to them. I think that is a fundamental, sort of, misunderstanding of the role of religion and faith in times that are good and times that are bad.

And I similarly don't think that people cling to their traditions, like hunting and guns, either when they are frustrated with the government. I just don't believe that's how people live their lives.

Now, that doesn't mean that people are not frustrated with the government. We have every reason to be frustrated, particularly with this administration.

But I can see why people would be taken aback and offended by the remarks. And I think what's important is that we all listen to one another and we respect one another and we understand the different decisions that people make in life, because we're a stronger country because of that.

STEVE: There is no Cling America and Non-Cling America, there is only the United States of America!


STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Clinton, when Bill Richardson called you to say he was endorsing Barack Obama, you told him that Senator Obama can't win. I'm not going to ask you about that conversation. I know you don't want to talk about it.

STEVE: In fact, I'll only ask you about things you want to talk about. Any suggestions?

STEPHANOPOULOS: But a simple yes-or-no question: Do you think Senator Obama can beat John McCain or not?

CLINTON: Well, I think we have to beat John McCain, and I have every reason to believe we're going to have a Democratic president and it's going to be either Barack or me. And we're going to make that happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the question is, do you think Senator Obama can do that? Can he win?

CLINTON: Yes. Yes. Yes.

STEVE: But she's thinking No, No, No.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Obama, do yo think Senator Clinton can win?

OBAMA: Absolutely.

Let me just pick up on a couple of things that Senator Clinton said, though, because during the course of the last few days, you know, she's said I'm elitist, out of touch, condescending. Let me be absolutely clear. It would be pretty hard for me to be condescending towards people of faith, since I'm a person of faith and have done more than most other campaigns in reaching out specifically to people of faith, and have written about how Democrats make an error when they don't show up and speak directly to people's faith, because I think we can get those votes, and I have in the past.

The same is true with respect to gun owners. I have large numbers of sportsmen and gun owners in my home state, and they have supported me precisely because I have listened to them, and I know them well.

STEVE: In fact, I shot a man in Reno once . . .

OBAMA: So the problem that we have in our politics, which is fairly typical, is that you take one person's statement, if it's not properly phrased, and you just beat it to death. And that's what Senator Clinton's been doing over the last four days. And I understand that.

STEVE: Because I do it too.

OBAMA: And Senator Clinton's right. She has gone through this. You know, I recall when back in 1992, when she made a statement about how, what do you expect, should I be at home baking cookies?

STEVE: He didn't just say that.

OBAMA: And people attacked her for being elitist and this and that.

STEVE: He didn't just say that.

OBAMA: And I remember watching that on TV and saying, well, that's not who she is; that's not what she believes; that's not what she meant.

STEVE: Wink, wink.

OBAMA: And I'm sure that that's how she felt as well.

STEVE: He didn't just say that.

OBAMA: But the problem is that that's the kind of politics that we've been accustomed to. And I think Senator Clinton learned the wrong lesson from it, because she's adopting the same tactics.

STEVE: No he didn't.

OBAMA: What the American people want are not distractions.

STEVE: Like slyly insinuating ancient cookie-baking comments into the campaign.

CLINTON: Well, first of all, I want to be very clear. My comments were about your remarks. And I think that's important, because it wasn't just me responding to them, it was people who heard them, people who felt as though they were aimed at their values, their quality of life, the decisions that they have made.


GIBSON: Senator Obama, since you last debated, you made a significant speech in this building on the subject of race and your former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

STEVE: Hey, when I said we should have a conversation about race, I didn't mean, you know, like right now.

GIBSON: And you said subsequent to giving that speech that you never heard him say from the pulpit the kinds of things that so have offended people.

But more than a year ago, you rescinded the invitation to him to attend the event when you announced your candidacy. He was to give the invocation. And according to the reverend, I'm quoting him, you said to him, "You can get kind of rough in sermons. So what we've decided is that it's best for you not to be out there in public." I'm quoting the reverend. But what did you know about his statements that caused you to rescind that invitation?

OBAMA: Well -

GIBSON: And if you knew he got rough in sermons, why did it take you more than a year to publicly disassociate yourself from his remarks?

STEVE: Because I was so busy disassociating myself from Tony Rezko.

OBAMA: Well, understand that I hadn't seen the remarks that ended up playing on YouTube repeatedly.

STEVE: I was too busy looking at Hillary's sniper remarks playing on YouTube repeatedly.

OBAMA: This was a set of remarks that had been quoted in Rolling Stone magazine and we looked at them and I thought that they would be a distraction since he had just put them forward.

STEVE: You know, a distraction from my campaign message of hope and unity.

OBAMA: But, Charlie, I've discussed this extensively. Reverend Wright is somebody who made controversial statements but they were not of the sort that we saw that offended so many Americans. And that's why I specifically said that these comments were objectionable; they're not comments that I believe in. And I disassociated myself with them.

GIBSON: Senator Clinton, let me - I'm sorry, go ahead. Senator Clinton, let me follow up, and let me add to that. You have said that he would not have been my pastor, and you said that you have to speak out against those kinds of remarks, and implicitly by getting up and moving, and I presume you mean out of the church.

There are 8,000 members of Senator Obama's church. And we have heard the inflammatory remarks of Reverend Wright, but so too have we heard testament to many great things that he did. Do you honestly believe that 8,000 people should have gotten up and walked out of that church?

CLINTON: I was asked a personal question, Charlie, and I gave a personal answer. Obviously, one's choice of church and pastor is rooted in what one believes is what you're seeking in church and what kind of, you know, fellowship you find in church. But I have to say that, you know, for Pastor Wright to have given his first sermon after 9/11 and to have blamed the United States for the attack, which happened in my city of New York, would have been intolerable for me. And therefore I would have not been able to stay in the church, and maybe it's, you know, just, again, a personal reflection that regardless of whatever good is going on - and I have no reason to doubt that a lot of good things were happening in that church - you get to choose your pastor. You don't choose your family, but you get to choose your pastor. And when asked a direct question, I said I would not have stayed in the church.

OBAMA: Well, let me just respond to two things. Absolutely many of these remarks were objectionable. I've already said that I didn't hear them, because I wasn't in church that day. I didn't learn about those statements until much later.

But --

GIBSON: But you did rescind the invitation to him --

OBAMA: But that was on - that was on something entirely different, Charlie. That - that was on a different statement.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator, two questions. Number one, do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do? And number two, if you get the nomination, what will you do when those sermons are played on television again and again and again?

OBAMA: You know, George, look, if it's not this, then it would be something else. I promise you, if Senator Clinton got the nomination, there will be a whole bunch of video clips about other things. In a general election, we know that there are going to be all kinds of attacks launched and leveled. There have been quite a few leveled in this primary campaign.

And I have confidence in the American people that when you talk to the American people honestly and directly about what I believe in, what my plans are on health care, on energy, when they see my track record of the work that I've done on behalf of people who really need help, I have absolute confidence that they can rally behind my campaign.

And, you know, the notion that somehow that the American people are going to be distracted once again by comments not made by me but by somebody who is associated with me, that I have disowned, I think doesn't give the American people enough credit.

STEVE: I thought you could no more disown him than your grandmother.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You've disowned him?

OBAMA: The comments, comments that I've disowned.

GIBSON [to CLINTON]: I'm getting a little out of balance here. Do you want to take a few seconds, or do you want to go to the next question?

STEVE: No, let's stay on this question!

CLINTON: Well, I think, in addition to the questions about Reverend Wright and what he said and when he said it, and for whatever reason he might have said these things, there were so many different variations on the explanations that we heard. And it is something that I think deserves further exploration, because clearly what we've got to figure out is how we're going to bring people together in a way that overcomes the anger, overcomes the divisiveness and whatever bitterness there may be out there.

It is clear that, as leaders, we have a choice who we associate with and who we apparently give some kind of seal of approval to. And I think that it wasn't only the specific remarks, but some of the relationships with Reverend Farrakhan, with giving the church bulletin over to the leader of Hamas to put a message in. You know, these are problems, and they raise questions in people's minds.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Clinton, we also did a poll today, and there are also questions about you raised in this poll. About six in 10 voters that we talked to say they don't believe you're honest and trustworthy. And we also asked a lot of Pennsylvania voters for questions they had. A lot of them raised this honesty issue and your comments about being under sniper fire in Bosnia.

Here's Tom Rooney from Pittsburgh.

ROONEY: Senator, I was in your court until a couple of weeks ago. How do you reconcile the campaign of credibility that you have when you've made those comments about what happened getting off the plane in Bosnia, which totally misrepresented what really happened on that day? You really lost my vote. And what can you tell me to get that vote back?

CLINTON: Well, Tom, I can tell you that I may be a lot of things, but I'm not dumb. And I wrote about going to Bosnia in my book in 2004. I laid it all out there. And you're right. On a couple of occasions in the last weeks I just said some things that weren't in keeping with what I knew to be the case and what I had written about in my book. And, you know, I'm embarrassed by it. I have apologized for it. I've said it was a mistake. And it is, I hope, something that you can look over, because clearly I am proud that I went to Bosnia. It was a war zone.

General Wesley Clark is here in the audience with me as one of my major supporters. He and I were talking about it before I came out. You know, our soldiers were there to try to police and keep the peace in a very dangerous area. They were totally in battle gear. There were concerns about the potential dangers. The former president of Bosnia has said that he was worried about the safety of the situation.

So I know that it is something that some people have said, "Wait a minute. What happened here?" But I have talked about this and written about it. And then, unfortunately, on a few occasions I was not as accurate as I have been in the past.

But I know too that, you know, being able to rely on my experience of having gone to Bosnia, gone to more than 80 countries, having represented the United States in so many different settings gives me a tremendous advantage going into this campaign, particularly against Senator McCain.

So I will either try to get more sleep, Tom, or, you know, have somebody who, you know, is there as a reminder to me. You know, you can go back for the past 15 months. We both have said things that, you know, turned out not to be accurate. You know, that happens when you're talking as much as we have talked.

But you know, I'm very sorry that I said it. And I have said that, you know, it just didn't jibe with what I had written about and knew to be the truth.

STEVE: Live and learn from the master, Barack.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Obama, your campaign has sent out a cascade of e-mails, just about every day, questioning Senator Clinton's credibility.

STEVE: Isn't that just a distraction?

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you yourself have said she hasn't been fully truthful about what she would do as president. Do you believe that Senator Clinton has been fully truthful about her past?

OBAMA: Well, look, I think that Senator Clinton has a strong record to run on. She wouldn't be here if she didn't. And you know, I haven't commented on the issue of Bosnia. You know, I -

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your campaign has.

OBAMA: Of course, but -

STEVE: But I'm not aware of those comments.

OBAMA: Because we're asked about it. Sometimes that message is going to be imperfectly delivered, because we are recorded every minute of every day. And I think Senator Clinton deserves, you know, the right to make some errors once in a while.

STEVE: And I deserve the right to exploit those errors for political gain. That's what this campaign is all about.


"At a rally the same night, Mr Obama seemed to take a leaf out of his wife's book after she had introduced him, drawing a sharp contrast with Mrs Clinton, suggesting she was not truthful and was 'willing to say anything to get elected'."


NASH MCCABE, Latrobe: Senator Obama . . .

STEVE: Why didn't you give me gas money?

MCCABE: . . . I want to know if you believe in the American flag.

OBAMA: I am absolutely confident that during the general election that when I'm in a debate with John McCain, people are not going to be questioning my patriotism.

STEVE: Really? Just arrive in America, Barack?

OBAMA: And let me just make one last point on this issue of the flag pin. I have never said that I don't wear flag pins or refuse to wear flag pins.

STEVE: I just said "I decided I won't wear that pin on my chest."

OBAMA: This is the kind of manufactured issue that our politics has become obsessed with and, once again, distracts us from what should be my job when I'm commander in chief.

STEVE: And people who keep bringing it up are just bitter.


STEPHANOPOULOS: A gentleman named William Ayers . . .

STEVE: Oh Lord . . .

STEPHANOPOULOS: . . . he was part of the Weather Underground in the 1970s. They bombed the Pentagon, the Capitol and other buildings. He's never apologized for that. And in fact, on 9/11 he was quoted in The New York Times saying, "I don't regret setting bombs; I feel we didn't do enough."

An early organizing meeting for your state senate campaign was held at his house, and your campaign has said you are friendly. Can you explain that relationship for the voters, and explain to Democrats why it won't be a problem?

OBAMA: George, but this is an example of what I'm talking about. This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English in Chicago, who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis.

And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn't make much sense, George.

The fact is, is that I'm also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, who during his campaign once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions.

Do I need to apologize for Mr. Coburn's statements?

STEVE: A) You should apologize for being friends with him. B) Maybe if he holds a fundraiser for you.

OBAMA: Because I certainly don't agree with those either.

STEVE: Jesus, Coburn's gonna be pissed! How dare you equate me with Bill Ayers!

OBAMA: So this kind of game, in which anybody who I know, regardless of how flimsy the relationship is, is somehow - somehow their ideas could be attributed to me - I think the American people are smarter than that.

STEVE: Really? What country does he think he's living in?

CLINTON: Well, I think that is a fair general statement, but I also believe that Senator Obama served on a board with Mr. Ayers for a period of time, the Woods Foundation, which was a paid directorship position.

And if I'm not mistaken, that relationship with Mr. Ayers on this board continued after 9/11 and after his reported comments, which were deeply hurtful to people in New York, and I would hope to every American, because they were published on 9/11 and he said that he was just sorry they hadn't done more. And what they did was set bombs and in some instances people died. So it is - you know, I think it is, again, an issue that people will be asking about. And I have no doubt - I know Senator Obama's a good man and I respect him greatly but I think that this is an issue that certainly the Republicans will be raising.

OBAMA: I'm going to have to respond to this just really quickly, but by Senator Clinton's own vetting standards, I don't think she would make it, since President Clinton pardoned or commuted the sentences of two members of the Weather Underground . . .

STEVE: Snap!

OBAMA: . . . which I think is a slightly more significant act than me serving on a board with somebody for actions that he did 40 years ago.

When it comes to November, and people are going into the polling place, they're going to be asking, are we going to go through four more years of George Bush economic policies; are we going to go through four more years of George Bush foreign policy?

STEVE: Just like they did in 2004.


MANDY GARBER (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania): So, the real question is, I mean, do the candidates have a real plan to get us out of Iraq or is it just real campaign propaganda?

STEVE: It's propaganda. Next!


STEPHANOPOULOS: Yesterday, Senator McCain singled that the number one issue, in the general election campaign on the economy, is going to be taxes. And he says that both of you are going to raise taxes, not just on the wealthy but on everyone.

Two-part question: Can you make an absolute, read-my-lips pledge that there will be no tax increases of any kind for anyone earning under $200,000 a year?

And if the economy is as weak a year from now as it is today, will you - will you persist in your plans to roll back President Bush's tax cuts for wealthier Americans?

CLINTON: I am absolutely committed to not raising a single tax on middle class Americans, people making less than $250,000 a year.

OBAMA: Well, I not only have pledged not to raise their taxes, I've been the first candidate in this race to specifically say I would cut their taxes.

STEVE: I see your pledge and raise you a pander!

GIBSON: You have however said you would favor an increase in the capital gains tax. As a matter of fact, you said on CNBC, and I quote, "I certainly would not go above what existed under Bill Clinton, which was 28 percent."

It's now 15 percent. That's almost a doubling if you went to 28 percent. But actually Bill Clinton in 1997 signed legislation that dropped the capital gains tax to 20 percent.

OBAMA: Right.

GIBSON: And George Bush has taken it down to 15 percent.

OBAMA: Right.


GIBSON: I'm going to go to a commercial break. But I just want to come back to one thing you said, and I want to be clear. The question was about capital gains tax. Would you say, "No, I'm not going to raise capital gains taxes"?

CLINTON: I wouldn't raise it above the 20 percent if I raised it at all. I would not raise it above what it was during the Clinton administration.

GIBSON: "If I raised it at all." Would you propose an increase in the capital gains tax?

CLINTON: I don't want to raise taxes on anybody. I'm certainly against one of Senator Obama's ideas, which is to lift the cap on the payroll tax, because that would impose additional taxes on people who are, you know, educators here in the Philadelphia area or in the suburbs, police officers, firefighters and the like.

OBAMA: What I have proposed is that we raise the cap on the payroll tax, because right now millionaires and billionaires don't have to pay beyond $97,000 a year.

That's where it's kept. Now most firefighters, most teachers, you know, they're not making over $100,000 a year. In fact, only 6 percent of the population does. And I've also said that I'd be willing to look at exempting people who are making slightly above that.

GIBSON: But Senator, that's a tax. That's a tax on people under $250,000.

OBAMA: Well, no, look, let me -

STEVE: Busted!

OBAMA: - let me finish my point here, Charlie. Senator Clinton just said she certainly wouldn't do this; this was a bad idea. In Iowa she, when she was outside of camera range, said to an individual there she'd certainly consider the idea. And then that was recorded, and she apparently wasn't aware that it was being recorded.

STEVE: Maybe she was just being polite.

GIBSON: But there's a heck of a lot of people between $97,000 and $200(,000) and $250,000. If you raise the payroll taxes, that's going to raise taxes on them.

OBAMA: And that's - and that's - and that's why I've said, Charlie, that I would look at potentially exempting those who are in between.

STEVE: Or whatever. Whatever you want me to say, Charlie. I'm having a rough night.


GIBSON: Both of you were strong advocates for licensing of guns. Both of you were strong advocates for the registration of guns. Why don't you emphasize that now, Senator Clinton?

CLINTON: Well, Charlie, on Friday, I was with Mayor Nutter, who's here, in West Philadelphia at the YMCA there, to talk about what we could do together to bring down the crime rate that has ravaged Philadelphia.

And what I said then is what I have been saying, that I will be a good partner, for cities like Philadelphia, as president. Because I will bring back the COPS program, the so-called COPS program, where we had 100,000 police on the street, which really helped drive down the crime rate and also helped create better community relations.

I will also work to reinstate the assault weapons ban. We had it during the 1990s. It really was an aid to our police officers, who are now once again, because it has lapsed - the Republicans will not reinstate it - are being outgunned on our streets by these military- style weapons.

I will also work to make sure that police departments in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, across America get access to the federal information that will enable them to track illegal guns, because the numbers are astounding. Probably 80 percent of the guns used in gun crimes are in the hands of that criminal, that gang member - unfortunately, people who are sometimes, you know, mentally challenged - because it got there illegally. And under the Republicans, that information was kept from local law enforcement.

GIBSON: Senator Obama, the District of Columbia has a law, it's had a law since 1976, it's now before the United States Supreme Court, that prohibits ownership of handguns, a sawed-off shotgun, a machine gun or a short-barreled rifle. Is that law consistent with an individual's right to bear arms?

OBAMA: Well, Charlie, I confess I obviously haven't listened to the briefs and looked at all the evidence.

As a general principle, I believe that the Constitution confers an individual right to bear arms.

STEVE: As long as the individual's name is Militia.

OBAMA: But just because you have an individual right does not mean that the state or local government can't constrain the exercise of that right, and, you know, in the same way that we have a right to private property but local governments can establish zoning ordinances that determine how you can use it.

And I think that it is going to be important for us to reconcile what are two realities in this country.

STEVE: But how? He always talks about what we need to do; she tells us how she's going to do it.

GIBSON: But do you still favor the registration of guns? Do you still favor the licensing of guns?

And in 1996, your campaign issued a questionnaire, and your writing was on the questionnaire that said you favored a ban on handguns.

OBAMA: No, my writing wasn't on that particular questionnaire, Charlie.

STEVE: Busted.

OBAMA: As I said, I have never favored an all-out ban on handguns.

STEVE: Are you gonna believe me or my lying handwriting?

OBAMA: What I think we can provide is common-sense approaches to the issue of illegal guns that are ending up on the streets.

STEVE: For example? Name two. One?

OBAMA: We can make sure that criminals don't have guns in their hands.

STEVE: We can?

OBAMA: We can make certain that those who are mentally deranged are not getting a hold of handguns.


OBAMA: We can trace guns that have been used in crimes to unscrupulous gun dealers that may be selling to straw purchasers and dumping them on the streets.

STEVE: Aren't we already doing this?

OBAMA: The point is, is that what we have to do is get beyond the politics of this issue . . .

STEVE: On what planet?

OBAMA: . . . and figure out what, in fact, is working.

STEVE: Any ideas from your eight years as a state legislator representing a Chicago district?

OBAMA: Look, in my hometown of Chicago, on the South Side of Chicago, we've had 34 gun deaths last year of Chicago public school children.

And I think that most law-abiding gun owners all across America would recognize that it is perfectly appropriate for local communities and states and the federal government to try to figure out, how do we stop that kind of killing?

STEVE: Yes. And their answer has nothing to do with guns.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Clinton, you have a home in D.C. Do you support the D.C. ban?

CLINTON: You know, George, I want to give local communities the opportunity to have some authority over determining how to keep their citizens safe.

This case you're referring to, before the Supreme Court, is apparently dividing the Bush administration. You know, the Bush administration basically said, we don't have enough facts to know whether or not it is appropriate.

And Vice President Cheney who, you know, is a fourth special branch of government all unto himself - (laughter) - has actually filed a brief saying, oh, no, we have to, you know, we have to prevent D.C. from doing this.

So -

STEVE: She won't answer the question either.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But what do you think? Do you support it or not?

CLINTON: Well, what I support is sensible regulation that is consistent with the constitutional right to own and bear arms.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is the D.C. ban consistent with that right?

CLINTON: Well, I think a total ban, with no exceptions under any circumstances, might be found by the court not to be. But I don't know the facts.

STEVE: Shouldn't you?

GIBSON: Well, with all due respect, and I'm not sure I got an answer from Senator Obama. But do you still favor licensing and registration of handguns?

CLINTON: What I favor is what works in New York. You know, we have a set of rules in New York City and we have a totally different set of rules in the rest of the state. What might work in New York City is certainly not going to work in Montana. So, for the federal government to be having any kind of, you know, blanket rules that they're going to try to impose, I think doesn't make sense.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But Senator, you were for that when you ran for Senate in New York.

CLINTON: I was for - I was for the New York rules, that's right. I was for the New York rules because they have worked over time. And there isn't a lot of uproar in New York about changing them, because I go to upstate New York, where we have a lot of hunters and people who are collectors and people who are sport shooters; they have every reason to believe that their rights are being respected. You walk down the street with a police officer in Manhattan; he wants to be sure that there is some way of protecting him and protecting the people that are in his charge.


GIBSON: People are in trouble. And yet the whole world pays a whole lot more for gas than we do. What are you going to do about it?

CLINTON: Well, I met with a group of truckers in Harrisburg about a week and a half ago, and here's what I told them. Number one, we are going to investigate these gas prices. The federal government has certain tools that this administration will not use, in the Federal Trade Commission and other ways, through the Justice Department, because I believe there is market manipulation going on, particularly among energy traders. We've seen this movie before, in Enron, and we've got to get to the bottom to make sure we're not being taken advantage of.

Number two, I would quit putting oil into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and I would release some to help drive the price down globally.

And thirdly, if there is any kind of gas tax moratorium, as some people are now proposing -

GIBSON: Like John McCain.

CLINTON: - like John McCain, and some Democrats, frankly - I think Senator Menendez and others have said that we may have to do something, because when you get to $4-a-gallon gas, people are not going to be able to afford to drive to work. And what I would like to see us do is to say if we have that, then we should have a windfall profits tax on these outrageous profits of the oil companies, and put that money back into the highway trust fund, so that we don't lose out on repair and construction and rebuilding.

GIBSON: Very quickly, Senator Obama, I - the same thing. But we've heard from politicians for a long time we're going to end dependence on foreign oil. I just have a quote: "The generation-long growth in our dependence on foreign oil will be stopped dead in its tracks right now." That was Jimmy Carter in 1979.

STEVE: And everybody laughed at him.

OBAMA: I think many of the steps that Senator Clinton outlined are similar to the plans that we talked about. It is absolutely true that we've got to investigate potential price gouging or market manipulation. I have strongly called for a windfall profits tax that can provide both consumers relief and also invest in renewable energies.


GIBSON: Let's say you're at the convention in Denver, and you're talking to a group of 20 undecided superdelegates. How are you going to make the case to them why you're the better candidate and more electable in November?

CLINTON: Well, I say to them what I've said to voters across America - that we need a fighter back in the White House.

OBAMA: The bet I was making was a bet on the American people; that they were tired of a politics that was about tearing about each other down, but wanted a politics that was about lifting the country up; that they didn't want spin and PR out of their elected officials, they wanted an honest conversation.

STEVE: So I'm firing David Axelrod.


Beachwood Analysis
Obama had a terrible night. He looked depressed. He stumbled badly on questions I'm sure he was well-prepared for. He seemed, um, distracted. Clinton's debate and policy mastery continued, and she was the bright, happy one for a change. Gibson and Stephanopolous are actually miles better than Russert and Williams.


Catch up with the entire Mystery Debate Theater series.


Posted on April 17, 2008

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