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Ballot Box '08
Aired January 1, 2008 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm John King in Concord, New Hampshire.
You've been listening there to Senator Joe Biden, Democrat of Delaware, making his case to voters in Independence, Iowa, recently. Senator Biden, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
All day long on the CNN "Ballot Bowl," we're showing you unfiltered exposure to the candidates, both Democrats and Republicans. Many more coming up in the hours ahead, including Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator John Edwards, on the Democratic side. Rudy Giuliani on the Republican side.
Now though, I want to turn things back over to my colleague, Suzanne Malveaux. She's with the CNN Election Express in Des Moines, Iowa -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, hey, John.
We want to welcome you back to an extraordinary political event here on CNN. We are talking about the "Ballot Bowl," a chance to actually get all of the candidates and those talking directly to the voters.
It is a unique opportunity. It will be live and unfiltered.
The reason is simple -- just a couple days away from that critical Iowa caucuses. And these voters we'll be getting to you in high school gyms, small-town diners, even in people's living rooms.
All of this throughout the day, coming up.
The "Ballot Bowl" is starting right now with the best political team on television.
Joining us -- and we are going to take you to a number of reporters. Our John King we just spoke with, as well as many, many others.
Mitt Romney is running neck and neck with Mike Huckabee in Iowa. Right now Romney is talking to people at a house party, so we are going to be going to that shortly.
But many of the different events and subjects that will be covered here guiding us across Iowa, the best political team on television. So we will have -- we will talk about John Edwards. That one, of course, coming up. He talked about taking on the big corporations and avoiding some of the money from special interests.
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have so much work to do in this country, so much work to do and so much opportunity in front of us. We look at what's happening in America today, and what is happening is there's some very powerful forces that stand between you and the America that you deserve.
There are very powerful forces, well-financed forces, that stand between your children's future and the kind of future they should have. That's what this campaign is about. That's what this election is about.
Are we faced with enormous substantive issues? Yes, we are -- the war in Iraq, universal health care, energy, global warming, poverty, taxes, trade. There are enormous substantive issues facing this country, but the reality is this -- unless and until we actually take the country, the democracy back on behalf of the American people, unless and until you have a president of the United States who's willing to stand up with some backbone and guts and fight and stand up to these corporate interests and stand up to those that are preventing America from getting what it needs, nothing will change.
EDWARDS: Now, I'm very proud of the fact that I've never, in my entire time in public life, taken money from Washington lobbyists or PACs.
EDWARDS: You also cannot bring about, in my judgment, the change that this country so desperately needs either if you take their money or if you say, we're going to sit at the table with insurance companies, drug companies, and they're going to compromise their power away, that they're just going to give their power away voluntarily. It is a fantasy. It will never happen.
I'll tell you, when they give up their power, the insurance companies, drug companies, oil companies, when they give up their power is when we take their power away from them. That's when they'll give up their power.
EDWARDS: And you look at what's at stake. Look at what's at stake.
I met a man named James Lowe (ph) just a few months ago. He's 51 years old. James was born with a cleft palate. Because he had his cleft palate, he couldn't speak.
He could have been fixed with a simple -- his problem could have been fixed with a simple operation, but James had no health care coverage. Therefore, he couldn't get the operation. Finally, somebody came along and fixed his problem when he was 50 years old. James Lowe (ph) lived for 50 years in America not able to speak because he had no health care coverage. And I thought to myself, when he told me his story, how long are we going to let insurance companies, drug companies, their lobbyists run this country?
America belongs to us. James Lowe (ph) finally got his voice. Now it's time for the American people to get their voice.
EDWARDS: And Elizabeth always says -- and she's right -- that this is all personal for me. When I speak about these things, they come from my gut. They come from inside me. Everything that drives me every day toward the presidency is what I want to do on behalf of people like James Lowe (ph), on behalf of the that Elizabeth, Mary and I met this morning living in that shelter who deserve a decent life, on behalf of my own parents.
I had this experience just a couple of weeks ago of going back to the house that I was brought home to when I was born in a little mill village in South Carolina, a two-room house. My parents were with me.
A two-room house. Right up the street is where my grandmother, who I loved dearly and helped raise me, lived, and my grandfather. And I still remember -- because she would take care of us because my parents were both working -- I still remember my grandmother leaving -- cooking for us, leaving that house with her apron on, making her way over to the mill to work her shift. And then she'd come back home.
And my grandfather, who was partially paralyzed, would drag his leg alongside him and make his way over to the mill to work his shift. It was usually the third shift, and then make his way home.
And my father, who's like many of your parents, my father, who went to work every day six, sometimes seven days a week, in the mills for 36 years. Thirty-six years. Hard, tedious work.
Why did they do it? Why did my grandparents do it? Why did my parents do it?
Why did your parents do it? Why did your grandparents do it?
I'll tell you why they did it. They did it so that you could have a better life. They did it to make sure that they did what all the generations before them had done, which is to make sure their children had a better life and that they left America better than they found it.
That is the heart and soul of what America is. It is the promise of America, that all of us are going to make certain that our kids have a better life.
That's why my dad went in that mill every day for 36 years. I still remember when I was young -- because my father never got to go to college -- that he was trying to better himself.
I remember coming down in the morning, early in the morning, 5:00 in the morning, and seeing my dad sit in front of the television taking instructional courses on public television, trying to do better in the mill so he could have a better job in the mill. These are the people that I grew up with, and these are the people that deserve somebody to fight for them.
You know, I grew up like a lot of you. I grew up in tough neighborhoods, in mill villages and in mill towns. I still remember when I was young -- I was about 4 or 5 years old -- I got into a fight -- we fought a lot in those days.
I got into a fight, came home bloodied. And my father sat me down bloody, teary. My father sat me down and he said, "Listen, son. Don't ever start a fight. I don't want to hear that you're out there starting fights. But you never, ever walk away from a fight."
And tomorrow I want you to go out there, I want you to go out there tomorrow -- I want you to go out there tomorrow and find that kid who kicked your butt and I want you to kick his butt. And the next day I want you to fight with everything you've got.
And I want you to know after I -- at the beginning I was fighting for myself, literally for survival, for self-preservation. But then I spent 20 years in courtrooms doing the same thing for people just like you.
And I listened to these stories from people who say, well, we're going to sit at the table with drug companies, insurance companies, oil companies, and they're going to give their power to us. They'll just give it away.
Listen -- I know these people. I spent 20 years in courtrooms battling them, fighting them. And it's just like me saying I'm going to walk into the courtroom with some child that I represent, which I did a lot, and on the other side of the army of corporate lawyers and all the money in the world arrayed behind them, and I just walk over to them and say, you know, why don't you just give us what we want?
We're good people. We're nice. We're decent people. Why don't you just give us what we want?
They would have laughed out loud at me. I'll tell you when they gave us what we want -- when we won they gave us what we want. And that's exactly...
EDWARDS: ... exactly what we have.
MALVEAUX: That was Senator John Edwards speaking recently in Des Moines.
This is the CNN "Ballot Bowl" with the presidential candidates. They are live, raw, and unfiltered.
Coming up, Hillary Clinton makes a play for votes. We'll hear from her live in Ames, Iowa.
And it's your money. Fred Thompson talks about it shortly.
Also, the day's headlines from CNN's Kyra Phillips.
You're watching CNN's "Ballot Bowl 2008" from the best political team on television.
MALVEAUX: Welcome back to the CNN "Ballot Bowl."
We are listening to the candidates in their own words throughout the day. We will go live to a Hillary Clinton rally in Ames, Iowa, shortly.
But first, Rudy Giuliani is on the spot. CNN affiliate WMUR sitting down with him at a Merrimack diner in Manchester, New Hampshire, where the first question from the voters was a fastball.
RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How are you? How you doing? Good morning.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you?
GIULIANI: What would you like to know?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How about those Red Sox?
GIULIANI: Congratulations. Congratulations.
As an American League fan, I'm happy for the Red Sox. I always like to see the American League do well. It tells me the Yankees are better that way.
Joe Torre is a close personal friend, so the Joe Torre part is a personal part. I'm going to miss him.
He was the Yankee manager in '96. That was the first Yankee championship since '78. I was the mayor then.
The Yankee championship was kind of symbolic of the comeback of New York City. Sometimes I kid around and say I'm going to put Joe Torre on my ticket as a vice presidential candidate, but he comes from Brooklyn. But he comes from Brooklyn, too.
I was very unusual. I was a Yankee fan in Brooklyn. Not by choice, by my father's design.
My father came from Manhattan, my mother from Brooklyn. My father was required to live in Brooklyn because of my mother's family. She wanted him to -- she wanted to live with her family, so he always resented it. And he secretly made me a Yankee fan.
Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio. And by the time I was able to go out and play with the other kids, I was in Yankee uniforms and they were throwing me in the mud.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hate to change the subject...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... but I would like to know what your favorite reading material is, what you like to read.
GIULIANI: I guess I've always liked reading history the most, and biographies. And that comes from my mom.
My mom was a -- my mom was frustrated teacher, meaning she wanted to be a teacher all her life. She got interrupted by the depression.
She was -- my mother was very, very smart, and very well-read. I always thought I got -- I was her only real student, and she loved teaching. And she was very good at it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What made you decide to go into law? I mean, once you got there, what made you decide to want to be a mayor?
GIULIANI: Well, I graduated high school, I was going to go into the seminary. I was going to join the Monford (ph) Fathers Seminary. And then I changed my mind about -- about a third of the way through that summer and I decided I wanted to go to college and go into pre- med.
I took some kind of aptitude test where you press these little things. And I sat with my advisor and he said, "You have real aptitude for reasoning, logic and reasoning, and maybe you should think about law."
I started thinking. I know so much about what's wrong with New York City. Maybe I should be -- maybe I should run for mayor.
I never tried to be in the hands of one person giving me the view of the organization. I used to require my commissioners to come to city hall with their deputies, never alone. This idea that you want people around you to just tell you what you want to hear, you have to be stupid to want that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?
GIULIANI: I think probably the thing that I'm proudest of is changing around the spirit of New York City. Not -- the specific things that we got right. Even the specific things that we got wrong, because you make mistakes.
I think ultimately what a leader, a political leader, has to do is to get people to believe in themselves. And I even think that that was the most important thing we did to help the city get ready for what we didn't know was going to happen, which was September 11th.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the interviews that you conducted, somebody asked you, what are you doing for yourself? You know, how do you keep yourself going in the midst of this tragedy? And I remember that you talked about certainly faith and family, but you also said that you went back and reread some of the history and some of the other leaders that had faced crises.
GIULIANI: While I was on the street still dealing with it, I kept thinking, I'm going to have to explain this to my people. I'm going to have to explain it to them, I'm going to have to give them a framework to deal with this because they're going to be -- they're going to be lost. Just like I am to some extent.
And so my mind immediately got to, well, who has gone through something like this before? And my first thought was nobody.
What was it about Churchill, what did he say, do, what did he do, and how did he act? And the conclusion I came to, reading those pages, which I can summarize quickly -- I mean, there are a lot of things -- is he became defiant.
And I thought, well, I'm going to have to find a way to do that for the people of New York, and that's why I kept appealing to them to keep, you know -- keep moving forward. There were only two places that I relaxed from September 11 until the day I left office, which was four months later. And one was watching baseball. The Yankees were in the world series that year with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
And the other was watching my son's freshman football games. He played freshman football then. I'd be standing there -- it was like a surreal experience -- I'd be standing there at St. Joseph's High School watching my son play football and all of the kids just trying to tackle each other, and it would say to me, life is -- it's not normal right now, life is not normal right now for so many people and for me, but it's going to get back to normal.
Maybe it's a great microcosm of how life ultimately should be. You know, we play by rules and the best person wins and, you know, that, so I guess -- and then it's, you know, also just plain fun.
MALVEAUX: You've been listening to former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani speaking to New Hampshire voters.
This is the CNN "Ballot Bowl" with the presidential candidates. It is raw and unfiltered.
Coming up, Hillary Clinton speaks in Ames, Iowa, and a new poll puts her back on top here in Iowa.
John McCain looks ahead to New Hampshire, where we'll hear him speak live. Also, the days headlines from CNN's Kyra Phillips.
You're watching CNN's "Ballot Bowl 2008" from the best political team on television.
MALVEAUX: I'm Suzanne Malveaux with the CNN Election Express in Des Moines, Iowa.
Just two days to go until the Iowa caucuses. More of the CNN "Ballot Bowl" coming up, candidates in their own words, including live coverage of Hillary Clinton making her closing argument to Iowa voters.
But first, a quick check of the day's top stories.
MALVEAUX: Our "CNN NEWSROOM" returns tomorrow. But today you are watching "Ballot Bowl 2008." It is the political plays of the day from Iowa two days before the caucuses.
Coming next, Hillary Clinton live in Ames, Iowa. Our Candy Crowley will give us a preview.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Candy Crowley in Ames, Iowa, where the CNN "Ballot Bowl" continues.
Behind me you see the crowd waiting for Hillary Clinton, expected to speak here shortly. While we await that, we want to go back to Suzanne in Des Moines.
MALVEAUX: Thanks, Candy.
And we understand that Concord, New Hampshire, our own John King is caught up with another presidential candidate -- John?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, thank you. I'm in Concord, just in front of the statehouse here, the state capitol here in New Hampshire. And I said earlier that John McCain was the only candidate in New Hampshire. Mark me wrong on that score. Another one of the Republican contenders, Congressman Duncan Hunter is here and he joins us live. Congressman, let me begin by asking you about this, the headline in the "Union Leader" here today, the newspaper. As things now stand, you will not be included in a Republican debate this coming weekend. I assume that does not sit well.
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I read about that this morning in the paper as we're campaigning. We just did three hours of talk radio. But in my 26 years in politics, I've got a motto -- don't whine, stay focused, continue mission.
So we're out talking about a strong national defense, enforceable borders, building that border fence, bringing back high-paying manufacturing jobs to places like New Hampshire. I think we're making a lot of ground. What I worry about is things that I can change. If they have rules that say that we don't get to make this next debate, we'll be out campaigning on the streets doing lots of television, lots of radio.
We just now started our media campaign in New Hampshire and we've got direct mail going out. So I feel good about the campaign. You know, if they didn't include us in this thing, that's the way show business is. You keep on charging.
KING: Let's talk a little bit about that, because you're here for the duration. You're not going back to Iowa. You have decided to try to plant your flag here in New Hampshire, not in the state of Iowa. Talk a little bit about how difficult it is. You're well-known in Washington. You were chairman of the Armed Services Committee, a very well-known figure in Washington. When you're running for president, you're that congressman guy. There are other candidates who are better know, who are able to raise more money. Tell us a little bit about the frustrations and maybe the upside of being one of the underdogs.
HUNTER: Well John, it is a big country. The first thing you realize when you run nationally, you look down as you're flying over the country, you see hundreds of thousands of homes. And you think, I've got to communicate with each of those people, or at least a large number of them. There's hundreds of millions of people you've got to contact.
But actually it's a great experience, and it's a privilege. It's been very, I think, worthwhile to talk about national defense, enforceable borders. I built that border fence in San Diego that worked so well. I wrote the law that takes it across the southwest. I think I still have a chance to win this thing. I think there's some daylight out there because nobody has surged into a commanding lead.
And so even though we have been outspent probably by the next guy by 10 to 1 and probably by people like Governor Romney by 300 or 400 to 1, we have a great message and I think the first 10 debates that we did do have been very good for me. I've gotten a good bump out of those debates. A lot of people know me who didn't know me six months ago. So I'm optimistic. And this is a great life. It's a great privilege to run for the presidency of the United States, and I think we've got the message this year, enforceable borders, strong national defense.
In fact, I'm the only guy, Democrat or Republican, who has ever chaired a security committee. I know about nuclear weapons. I know about Pakistan. I know what it takes to keep the country safe. So it's a good message. It's a little chilly out here, a little change from good old San Diego weather.
KING: Last saw you in San Diego after the wildfires in your district. It is a little different out here. We need to go. But let me ask you quick, if it's not Duncan Hunter, you've looked at these candidates. You know the other candidates. You have debated them many times as you say, who would you pick?
HUNTER: Well listen, let's not leave this optimistic atmosphere that I'm trying to create here. I think I've got a good chance to win. I like all of these guys. They're good guys. I've gotten to know them over the debates. They've all got strengths, some weaknesses. You know, in terms of character, I've stood next to Mike Huckabee at a lot of the debates. He has got great character. I like that a lot.
But I still that that I've got the right message -- strong national defense, enforceable borders, a big issue this year, and bringing back the industrial base of this country that presently we're fracturing, sending offshore to places like China. This state, New Hampshire, has lost 13,000 high-paying manufacturing jobs to China alone. That's kind of a sleeper issue with the people of this country. It's not a social issue. It's not a sexy issue. But jobs in the industrial base of America, I think are very connected to you're long-term economic and national security.
KING: We will keep an eye on you in the final week here in New Hampshire. Thanks for braving the snow with us. Congressman Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, his district right along the Mexican border. So the climate here a little bit different than Duncan Hunter is used to. But he'll be campaigning here, as he says, for the duration in New Hampshire. I think we'll go back now to Des Moines, Iowa, and Suzanne Malveaux.
MALVEAUX: Thanks, John. You're watching Ballot Bowl 2008. The political plays of the day from Iowa two days from the caucuses.
Coming next, Hillary Clinton live in Iowa. We'll take you to Ames where she's making her closing arguments to the voters of Iowa.
Plus, Senator John McCain talks about the economy as the CNN Ballot Bowl continues.
KING: Welcome back to the CNN Ballot Bowl. I'm John King live in Concord, New Hampshire, standing out front of the state capitol building. All day long, we are bringing you the candidates in their own words, unfiltered, the Democrats and the Republicans campaigning in Iowa. The caucuses just two days away. Here in New Hampshire, the lead-off presidential primary just one week away.
Tight races, remarkably tight races on both the Democratic and Republican side. Here in this state later today -- you just heard from Congressman Duncan Hunter, one of the long shot Republicans. Soon you'll hear live from Senator John McCain. Remember, he stunned George W. Bush here in New Hampshire back in 2000. He's hoping to be the comeback kid in this 2008 campaign. John McCain focusing most of his time here in New Hampshire where he has a deep support network. But he did go to Iowa this past week trying to so see if he can pull off a surprise finish there. For John McCain, third place in Iowa would be a very big deal. Let's listen to Senator McCain campaigning recently in Des Moines.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ma'am, I'm going to give you some straight talk. We're in a global economy, America has, because of this information technology revolution that we are in, we've created millions of jobs and we've had a very strong economy for a long period of time. A lot of these jobs are never coming back. The textile mills, a number of others are not coming back.
But there's two things that we can do -- one is maintain our technological lead, which means that we are the greatest exporter, the greatest innovator, the greatest importer, the strongest economy in the world, and we can continue that.
I will open every market in the world to our agricultural products here in Iowa. That's the smartest, most efficient, best producer of agricultural products in the world reside in Iowa and the Midwest of the United States of America. And I will open those markets to their products.
But we also have to make sure that we take care of those who are left behind, and that's where we have failed. We have failed to take care of the worker who's left behind because that job has gone overseas. And we need to put in education and training programs that work. There's six federal programs today. None of them work. Put them in that work so that when someone loses their job in Detroit, when someone loses their job in the textile mill of South Carolina or here in Iowa, that we give them a chance to get back into the economy.
And that is going to the community colleges. Community college should design and implement training programs so people can meet the job needs of the local community. We can do that.
And I'll tell you what else I would even do. If someone loses a high-paying job and the only alternative is a much lower-paying job, I would be willing to compensate that worker at least for a period of time for the difference between the job that they lost and the job that they have to get. That's better than putting them into a permanently unemployed status and losing their chance for a better America.
I will do everything that I can and I know there's a lot of things that do to take care of the displaced workers, but I cannot enact protectionism. I will not and I'm a student of history and I believe that protectionism has had always disastrous effects on the economy and sometimes the world. I thank you very much for your question. Yes, ma'am?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, senator. I need to hear what you have to say about the North American union.
MCCAIN: You know, I keep hearing about this North American union, and I know that there's stuff on the Internet about it. But I want to look you in the eye and tell you -- I've been in the Congress for a long time. I know of no Congress that could ever be convened nor any president under any circumstances that would approve of dissolving our boundaries between the United States and Canada and the United States and Mexico. I promise you there will be no North American union when I'm president of the United States. I promise you that. I promise you.
Someone very eager, go ahead. Yes, sir? Real quick. He finally showed up. He's on a work release program. Finally showed up, good, good, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator, we appreciate your efforts to save the taxpayers money. Why should taxpayers' money be spent to fund outrageous retirement plans and health benefits for elected politicians and how do you feel about term limits?
MCCAIN: First of all, we don't neglect either to vote ourselves pay raises, as you know. May I finally add since the 1980s, I have given my pay raises to charity. And when I think I earn it, I will take it anyway. I think it's -- it contributes to the cynicism that people have about Congress today, that they think we live different lives.
And when you look at some of those benefits, certainly that's the case. Now, we did put ourselves under the regular Social Security system some years ago, but all I can tell you is that it's not an accident that the approval rating of Congress is in the teens, 14, whatever you say.
It's down so low, it's down to blood relatives and paid staffers. Can't get any lower. Look, the only thing I have against term limits is that I see people like Dick Lugar, for example. He's been in the Senate for a long time, one of the most respected people in America on national security issues and others. I think to arbitrarily say that he has to leave, I don't think is correct.
What we need to do, in my view, is have a better gerrymandering or redistricting and do away with the gerrymandering. In Arizona, we have adopted a procedure where retired judges and other respected officials do the redistricting, not the political parties.
If you had more competition, then I think you would see less pressure towards the issue of term limits. It's my recollection that the state of California has 53 members of Congress and I've forgotten how many members of their assembly. They did such a great job, not only that but gerrymandering that a couple of years ago, every single one of them were reelected. It's marvelous to have that kind of servants.
So I think you need to really -- I'll be glad to sign that for you, sir. So I think we need to have more balanced districts that are more competitive than rather than them being lifetime seats in some respect.
I understand that. Could I just say, my friends, I'm asking for your vote. I'm asking for your vote because I believe that the transcendent challenge of the 21st century is radical Islamic extremism. I believe my life and my experience and my knowledge and my judgment qualifies me to serve you.
I wouldn't be seeking this office if it were not for that challenge that I think we face. I'm grateful you would come out this morning. It's great to be back, and I look forward to seeing you all at the caucuses. Again, I'm greatly honored that so many of you would come out and greet me so warmly this morning.
And I just want to tell you, as president of the United States, there will be times when you strongly disagree with me, but it won't be because I have taken any political position. It is because I've done what I think is the right thing. I will never let you down. Thank you very much and thank you for being here.
KING: The unique style and dry sense of humor of Senator John McCain of Arizona there campaigning in Iowa earlier this week. That's in Des Moines. He'll be here in New Hampshire later today and we'll bring it to you live on the CNN Ballot Bowl.
Also coming up -- Senator Hillary Clinton campaigns in Iowa, Senator Barack Obama and Senator John Edwards as well. All three of the top Democratic candidates campaigning in the state of Iowa today, just 48 hours before the lead-off presidential caucuses. Followed one week from then by the campaign here, the kick-off primary here in the state of New Hampshire. All day long, the candidates in their own words unfiltered. Stay with us. You're watching the CNN Ballot Bowl.
CROWLEY: I am Candy Crowley in Ames, Iowa. Welcome again to the CNN Ballot Bowl. We are about two minutes away from seeing Hillary Clinton here in Ames, where she will push home her drive to say that she is both the agent of change and the person with the most experience to make that change happen. We, of course, will bring this to you live as the Ballot Bowl continues. Now we want to go back to John King in New Hampshire.
KING: Thank you, Candy. I'm John King outside of the state capitol in Concord, New Hampshire. A spectacular New Year's Day in New Hampshire with one week from today the lead-off primary. While we wait for Senator Clinton, we're also standing by to hear from another leading Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, the senator from Illinois.
But for now, let's dip in again and listen to one of the Republican contenders for president, former Senator Fred Thompson speaking in Coralville, Iowa.
FRED THOMPSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I could limit the bills that Hillary Clinton could introduce to maybe one a year.
Well, I mentioned the debt. It's an important question, and it's an important issue. As I said, we owe about $9 trillion, and it's going up. And what that means is that we're dependent on a lot of people in a lot of ways, people by our dollars. Our dollar is going down right now. It fluctuates.
We have to be careful when that happens because we don't want people who own our currency to dump it on the market and have no confidence in our dollar and so forth. We wouldn't have that big a problem if we didn't have that big of a debt. But it's out there so we have to be mindful of things like what the Chinese are thinking about it and others are thinking about it, that it would be best if we didn't have to worry about things like that so much.
It all gets back to one fundamental problem, and that is the level of spending that this nation does. In a Democratic society, the number one challenge for a democracy's people is to restrain themselves after they learn that they've got the keys to their own treasury.
Because you're always going to have politicians out there saying, I'll do this for you, I'll do that for you, I'll do the other for you, I've got a program that's only going to cost this much for you, it costs three times as much. Guess who that is? We know who it is.
The temptation is going to be always to say, yeah, that's great. They're going to do this for me; they're going to do that for me. That's why you always have got to have somebody stand up and say, we've got to draw the line. We can't go down this road this way this long and somebody's got to pay for this.
It's either us or our kids, and they don't have a seat at the table. It's a moral issue as well as an economic issue so we -- we're locked into a situation now that's kind of beneath the radar screen, and I alluded to it earlier. It is unsustainable.
You don't hear as much about it now because our deficit really is within historical norms, you might say, in terms of a percentage of our economy.
But if you look -- and the projections you know include things such as we're going to spend less on national defense once this Iraq thing is over. Baloney. We're not going to spend less on national defense. It would be irresponsible to. We can't do that.
With the kind of challenges we've got out there facing us and the rebuilding we need to do with our intelligence and our military, that's not going to happen, No. 1. But all of these projections, we're going to do this, we're going to do that, and everybody projects what the deficit is going to be.
What they don't tell you is the next year after their projections. We fall off the table because we're spending through the Social Security surplus, we're getting older as a society because of the blessings we have received.
Health care costs continue to go up, and all of that equals an entitlement situation that cannot be sustained. I say, let's take the easy part first. Social Security is the easiest part because it doesn't depend on the price of a particular good.
We can set up an individual private account for folks and have the government -- have them contribute to their own savings for their own retirement, not have to depend on the government or a system that most people think is going to go bankrupt because, in fact, it is. And kids have no confidence in it. Let the government match that at different levels along the years, and they he can make a lot of money off that money.
At the end of the day, the average worker will have a few thousand dollars of his own and the government will benefit from it, too, and save trillions of dollars over a 75-year period. It will be actuarially sound if you do one other thing, and that is re-index the retirement benefits to inflation so that dollar for dollar everybody gets the same thing and always will. It increases with inflation.
What we're promising now is that into the future, we'll be paying retirees a lot more than what current retirees get because politicians always, you know, like to promise more than they can deliver. We can't keep that commitment. It can't be done. It will take everything we've got, including national defense, to keep that commitment.
So let's do some common-sense things. Let's say, OK, let's swap that for a commitment what we can keep. You get dollar -- everybody gets dollar for dollar the same thing. Future retirees, inflation goes up, their benefits go up. Everybody else's does, too.
We can match inflation. We can match inflation. But let's have people not be totally dependent on the government but let's let the government's parts be something that's sustainable, not just for us but for our kids and our grandkids. My plan wouldn't touch anybody on Social Security today or even close to retirement age, but it would sustain it for the future. And that's what this is all about. It's every generation's obligation to leave this place a little better than we found it.
KING: Senator Fred Thompson speaking there in Coralville, Iowa, one of the Republican candidates we're bringing you today as part of the CNN Ballot Bowl. As you have a score sheet for all the bowl championship series football games, maybe you need one for all the presidential candidates as we continue our live and taped unfiltered coverage today of the candidates in their own words. When we are back, Hillary Clinton has just started speaking at a Democratic presidential event in Ames, Iowa. We will take you there live. Stay with us, you're watching the CNN Ballot Bowl.
CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley in Ames, Iowa where the CNN Ballot Bowl continues, where we are giving you all of the candidates unedited and in their own words. So as promised, Hillary Clinton from Ames, Iowa.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Those of you who are still deciding, those of you who have never caucused before will decide that you've got to be part of taking our country back.
You know, everyone running for president is talking about change. We all want change. We desperately need change. Our country yearns for the right kind of change. You know, some people think you get change by demanding it and some people think you get change by hoping for it. I think you get change by working really, really hard every single day in order to make life better for each other.
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