Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Democratic Presidential Debate Takes Place In Los Angeles, California. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired December 19, 2019 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[20:00:00]

CUOMO: So, do you have to wonder if the Democrats know what fight they're getting into, and what way to win it. So, 30 seconds left. We see these two men in the middle here. Do we believe at the end of the night Dana, it's about one of these two that we're talking about.

BASH: Maybe not.

CUOMO: Right.

BASH: I think it's more likely than not that you're going to see Elizabeth Warren there, that it could be here.

CUOMO: Time to expand the opening of that lens because this is going to be a wide open engagement tonight. We are ready for the PBS Newshour Politico Democratic Debate, the sixth one now.

JUDY WOODRUFF, DEBATE MODERATOR: Good evening and welcome to the PBS "NewsHour" "Politico" Democratic Presidential Debate.

From Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, I'm Judy Woodruff.

And I am joined tonight --

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you.

I'm joined tonight by my fellow moderators, "Politico" chief political correspondent Tim Alberta.

(APPLAUSE)

PBS "NewsHour" senior national correspondent Amna Nawaz.

(APPLAUSE)

And PBS "NewsHour" White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor.

(APPLAUSE)

And, now, please greet tonight's candidates.

They are: businessman Andrew Yang.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Former Vice President Joe Biden.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

And businessman Tom Steyer.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

Welcome to all, and we will be right back to begin the debate.

(MUSIC)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look at what's happening to the American workers -- they're being stifled. It has to end.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We are the only major country on earth not to guarantee healthcare to all people.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They want what it takes to be part of America's middle class. Everybody deserves a living wage in this country.

MAYOR PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The proposals I'm putting forward would make me the most progressive president in my lifetime.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The people are tired of the extremes in our politics, they've got a home with me.

TOM STEYER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have a broken government in Washington, D.C.

ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we need is a new voice and a new set of solutions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

ANNOUNCER: This is the PBS "NewsHour" "Politico" Democratic Debate.

Now, live from Los Angeles, Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: Welcome back.

A quick reminder to have rules for this debate. Each candidate has one minute and 15 seconds to answer direct questions from the moderators, and 45 seconds to answer rebuttal and follow-up questions.

Tonight's podium order on the stage was determined by an average of recent polls.

And let's begin.

To the candidates -- last night, at this hour, the House of Representatives voted for only the third time in American history to impeach a president. Every one of you was in favor of this action. But unlike 1974 and President Nixon, congressional Democrats have, so far, not convinced a strong majority of Americans to support impeachment of President Trump.

Why do you think that is, and what can you say or do differently in the coming weeks to persuade more Americans that this is the right thing to do?

I want to ask all of you to respond, but to begin with Vice President Biden.

BIDEN: You know, Judy, it was a constitutional necessity for the House to act as it did. And, you know, Trump's response to suggest that only half of the American people want to see him thrown out of office now, I find, is dumbing down the presidency beyond what I even thought he would do. You know, is it any wonder that if you look at the international polling that's been done, that the Chinese leader is rated above American -- the American president or that Vladimir Putin congratulated him saying, stand fast and, in fact, it was a mistake to impeach him.

You know, we need to restore the integrity of the presidency, the office of the presidency, and it's about time we get that underway. My job and I think the job of all of us up here is to, in fact -- well, that's not true, some are going to actually be voting in the Senate -- but my job is just to go out and make the case why he doesn't deserve to be president of the United States for another four years.

WOODRUFF: Senator Sanders, why do you think more people are not in support of impeachment and what else can you do?

SANDERS: Well, Judy, what I would say is that we have a president who is a pathological liar.

[20:05:00] We have a president who is running the most corrupt administration in the modern history of this country, and we have a president who is a fraud, because during his campaign, he told working people one thing, and he ended up doing something else.

I believe, and I will personally be doing this in the coming weeks and months, is making the case that we have a president ho has sold out the working families of this country, who wants to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid after he promised he would not do that, and who has documentedly lied thousands of times since he is president.

And the case is to be made is -- yes, certainly, I disagree with Trump on virtually all of his policies, but what conservatives, I think, understand is that we cannot have a president with that temperament who is dishonoring the presidency of the United States.

WOODRUFF: Senator Warren, why do you think --

(APPLAUSE)

WOODRUFF: -- why do you think more Americans don't agree that this is the right thing to do? And what more can you say?

WARREN: So, I see this as a constitutional moment. Last night, the president was impeached, and everyone now in the Senate who has taken a constitutional oath to uphold our Constitution -- and that doesn't mean loyalty to an individual, it doesn't mean loyalty to a political party, it means loyalty to our country -- and that vote will play out over the next several weeks.

But the way I see this is we've now seen the impact of corruption, and that's what's clearly on the stage in 2020, is how we are going to run against the most corrupt president in living history.

You know, this president has made corruption originally his argument that he would drain the swamp, and, yet, he came to Washington, broke that promise, and has done everything he can for the wealthy and the well-connected, from tax breaks to ambassadorships.

We have to prosecute the case against him, and that means we need a candidate for president who can draw the sharpest distinction between the corruption of the Trump administration and a Democrat who is willing to get out and fight not for the wealthy and well-connected but to fight for everyone else. That's why I'm in this race.

(APPLAUSE)

WOODRUFF: Senator Klobuchar -- Senator Klobuchar, what argument can you make to persuade more Americans this is the right thing?

KLOBUCHAR: Let me make the case to the American people. As a wise judge said, the president is not king in America, the law is king. And what James Madison once said when he was speaking out at the Constitutional Convention -- and, by the way, I think he's a pretty good size for a president, he was five-foot-four. (LAUGHTER)

And what he said, he said the reason that we have these impeachment articles in the Constitution, that the provisions are in there, is because he feared that a president would betray the trust of the American people for a foreign power. That is what happened here.

Watergate -- this is a global Watergate. In the case of Watergate, a paranoid president facing election looked for dirt on a political opponent. He did it by getting people to break in. This president did it by calling a foreign leader to look for dirt on a political opponent.

And I would make this case: as we face this trial in the Senate, if the president claims that he is so innocent, then why doesn't he have all the presidents men testify? Richard Nixon had his top people testify.

(APPLAUSE)

We should be hearing from Mulvaney, who is the one under oath. Witnesses have said that Mulvaney is the one that said, OK, we're going to withhold this aid to a fledgling democracy to get dirt on a political opponent.

We should hear from Bolton who told his own staff to go see a lawyer after they met with the president. That is the case.

If President Trump thinks he should not be impeached, he should not be scared to put forward his own witnesses.

WOODRUFF: Mayor Buttigieg --

(APPLAUSE)

WOODRUFF: Mayor Buttigieg, what additional argument can you make to the American people?

BUTTIGIEG: At the end of the day, this is beyond public opinions. This is beyond polls. This is beyond politics.

The president left the House with no choice, and I think a lot of us are watching this process, watching Washington go through the motions, and not expecting much but a foregone conclusion when it gets to the Senate.

We cannot give in to that sense of helplessness, because that's what they want. They want us to be taken in by that cynicism to where we give up on the process altogether.

[20:10:00]

Meanwhile, their allies are laughing all the way to the bank, as we see policies that let giant corporations -- some of which made billions in profits, pay not just zero, but as we've recently learned negative taxes -- all the while they block policies that would actually boost wages for working Americans.

Here's the good news: it's up to us. No matter what happens in the Senate, it is up to us in 2020. This is our chance to refuse to be taken in by the helplessness, to refuse and reject the cynicism.

That is what this presidential election is about. It is what my campaign is about: our opportunity in 2020, no matter what happens in Washington, as a country, to change the course of this nation for the better.

(APPLAUSE)

WOODRUFF: Mr. Yang, what more --

(APPLAUSE)

YANG: I'm over here.

WOODDRUFF: Mr. Yang, what more can you say (ph) to the American people?

(CROSSTALK)

YANG: Judy --

WOODRUFF: I'm sorry, Mr. Steyer. I'm sorry.

STEYER: Well, let me remind everyone that I'm the person who started the Need to Impeach Movement over two years ago because I --

(APPLAUSE)

STEYER: -- because I believe what counts here is actually the American people's opinion. Over eight and a half million signed that petition and dragged Washington into the idea that, actually, the most corrupt president in American history -- it's not a question of political expediency, it's not a question of political tactics, it's a question of right and wrong.

So, now, when we look at what's going on, I actually agree with Senator Klobuchar. The question here is, if we want the American people to understand what's going on, we need to have the administration officials testify on TV so we can judge.

The court that counts here is the court of public opinion. The American people deserve to see the truth of these administration officials testifying under oath so we can make up our mind. If we want Republican senators to do the right thing, we need their constituents to see the truth on TV and tell them, get rid of this guy or we'll get rid of you.

That's what I believe in. I'm a believer in the grassroots as an outsider, getting the American people's voice to count. That's who I trust and that's who I trust now.

WOODRUFF: Mr. Yang? (APPLAUSE)

YANG: It's clear why Americans can't agree on impeachment, we're getting news from different sources, and it's making it hard for us even to agree on basic facts. Congressional approval rating, last I checked, was something like 17 percent, and Americans don't trust the media networks to tell them the truth.

The media networks didn't do us any favors by missing a reason why Donald Trump became our president in the first place. If your turn on cable network news today, you would think he's our president because of some combination of Russia, racism, Facebook, Hillary Clinton, and emails all mixed together.

But Americans around the country know different. We blasted away 4 million manufacturing jobs that were primarily based in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri. I just left Iowa -- we blasted 40,000 manufacturing jobs there.

The more we act like Donald Trump is the cause of all our problems, the more Americans lose trust that we can actually see what's going on in our communities and solve those problems.

What we have to do is we have to stop being obsessed over impeachment, which, unfortunately, strikes many Americans like a ball game where you know what the score is going to be, and actually start digging in and solving the problems that got Donald Trump elected in the first place. We have to take every opportunity to present a new positive vision for the country, a new way forward to help beat him in 2020 because, make no mistake, he'll be there at the ballot box for us to defeat.

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Mr. Yang.

(APPLAUSE)

WOODRUFF: Let's turn now to an issue that is on the minds of all Americans, and that is the economy.

Senator Sanders, today, the House of Representatives voted for a new bipartisan trade agreement among the United States, Canada and Mexico. It was supported by union-friendly leaders like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and big labor groups like the AFL-CIO. They say it is going to be a big job creator.

Senator, my question is, will you support this deal? And, if not, why not?

SANDERS: Judy, you're talking to somebody who, unlike some of my colleagues here, voted against NAFTA, voted against PNTR with China -- two agreements that cost us over 4 million decent-paying jobs.

Now, I don't agree with the -- your statement that people think this is going to be a great job creator. This is a modest improvement over what we have right now. It would allow, hopefully, Mexican workers to organize into unions, independent unions and be able to negotiate decent contracts.

But at the end of the day, in my view, it is not going to stop outsourcing.

[20:15:00]

It is not going to stop corporations from moving to Mexico, where manufacturing workers make less than $2 an hour.

What we need is a trade policy that stands up for workers, stands up for farmers. And, by the way, the word "climate change," to the best of my knowledge, is not discussed in this new NAFTA agreement at all, which is an outrage. So, no, I will not be voting for this agreement, although it makes some modest improvements.

WOODRUFF: Senator Klobuchar?

KLOBUCHAR: I have a different view. I'll go with my friend, Sherrod Brown, who has voted against every trade agreement that's come in front of him, and he's voting for this, and I am, too.

And the reason I am voting for it is that I believe that we have a change with this agreement. I would not have voted for the agreement that President Trump put forward, but we've got better labor standards, better environmental standards, and a better deal when it comes to the pharmaceutical provision, which I also opposed.

Ninety-five percent of our customers are outside of our borders. And we have to make sure that we have trade agreements that are more fair, because if we can encourage work made in America, every time you hold something in your hand that says "Made in America," it is the ingenuity of our workers, it is the quality of a product, it is equality of our workers, and it is the hopes and dreams of the American people.

I think this agreement -- while Senator Sanders is correct, there are some issues with it -- is much better than the one originally proposed. And for those farmers in the Midwest and for those people that have been hurt by the fact that we will not have a trade segment with Mexico and with Canada and the United States, I think that this is a much better deal.

WOODRUFF: All right, we can pull some of your -- I see some other hands up. I want to move to the next question, and you can bring in, I think, your points with this.

This one I'm going to initially address to Vice President Biden, and that is the overall U.S. economy right now looks strong. The unemployment rate is at historic lows. Unemployment among African- Americans is down. The markets are booming. Wages, while not growing as much as many would like, they're still doing about as well as they were in the Obama-Biden era.

My question to you, Mr. Vice President, is what is your argument to the voter watching this debate tonight who may not like everything President Trump does but they really like this economy and they don't know why they should make a change.

BIDEN: Well, I don't think they really do like the economy. Go back and talk to the old neighborhoods and middle-class neighborhoods you grew up in. The middle class is getting killed. The middle class is getting crushed. And the working class has no way up as a consequence of that.

You have, for example, farmers in the Midwest, 40 percent of them couldn't pay their bills last year. You have most Americans, if they received a bill for $400 or more, they'd have to sell something or borrow the money.

The middle class is not as behind the eight ball. We have to make sure that they have an even shot. We have to eliminate a significant number of these god-awful tax cuts that were given to the very wealthy. We have to invest in education. We have to invest in health care. We have to invest in those things that make a difference in the lives of middle-class people so they can maintain their standard of living.

That's not being done. And the idea that we're growing -- we're not growing. The wealthy, very wealthy are growing. Ordinary people are not growing. They are not happy with where they are. And that's why we must change this presidency now.

(APPLAUSE)

WOODRUFF: Mayor Buttigieg, is that your -- is that your assessment?

BUTTIGIEG: Yes. Where I live, folks aren't measuring the economy by how the Dow Jones is looking. They're measuring the economy by how they're doing. When you're doing the bills at the end of the month at your kitchen table, and you find that even if your wages have gone up, it's not nearly going as fast as the cost of health and housing.

This economy is not working for most of us, for the middle class, and -- I know you're only ever supposed to say middle class and not poor in politics, but we've got to talk about poverty in this country. There is not one county in the United States of America where someone working full-time at the minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom apartment. In most places, not even a one-bedroom apartment.

The biggest problem in our economy is simple: People are not getting paid enough. That is not the result of some mysterious cosmic force. It's the result of bad policy. And we've got to change it by raising wages and empowering workers.

(APPLAUSE)

WOODRUFF: Mr. Yang? Mr. Yang?

YANG: GDP and corporate profits are at record highs in America today. Also at record highs? Depression, financial insecurity, student loan debt.

(APPLAUSE)

Even suicides and drug overdoses.

[20:20:00]

It has gotten so bad that our life expectancy as a country has declined for the last three years because suicides and drug overdoses have overtaken vehicle deaths for the first time in American history.

The fact is, this unemployment rate and GDP have very little relationship with people's lived experience on the ground. If you're a recent college graduate, you have a 40 percent chance of doing a job that doesn't require a college degree. That doesn't show up in the headline unemployment rate, nor does all of the families that are working two or three jobs to get by.

(APPLAUSE)

WOODRUFF: Senator Warren, you have your hand up.

WARREN: I do.

WOODRUFF: And I have a question for you.

WARREN: Well, I want to answer this question.

WOODRUFF: Go ahead. Go ahead.

WARREN: Because here's the problem. I'm proud to stand on a stage with Democrats who understand that a rise in GDP, rise in corporate profits is not being felt by millions of families across this country. I'm proud to stand on a stage with people who see that America's middle class is being hollowed out and that working families and poor people are being left behind.

What we need to talk about, though, is why that has happened. And the answer is we've got a government that works great for those with money and doesn't work for much of anyone else. We have a government that works great for giant drug companies, just not for someone trying to fill a prescription. Works great for people who want to make money on private prisons and private detention centers at our border, just not for the people whose lives are torn apart.

Works great for giant oil companies that want to drill everywhere, but not for the rest of us who see climate change bearing down upon us.

(APPLAUSE)

And when you see a government that works great for the wealthy and the well-connected and for no one else, that is corruption, pure and simple. And we need to call it out for what it is.

(APPLAUSE)

WOODRUFF: I want -- I want, Senator Sanders, if you would, a brief response, and then I have another question.

SANDERS: Look, here's the response. Trump goes around saying the economy is doing great. Do you know what real inflation accounted for wages went up last year? 1.1 percent. That ain't great.

Tonight, while three people own more wealth than the bottom half of America, 500,000 Americans, including 30,000 veterans, are sleeping out on the streets. Today in America, we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on Earth, more income and wealth inequality than since the 1920s. We need an economy that works for working families, not just the 1 percent. That is what our campaign is about.

(APPLAUSE)

WOODRUFF: Senator Warren, I have a question for you. Every candidate on the stage has proposed tax increases on the wealthy. But you have especially ambitious plans that, apart from health care, would hike taxes an additional $8 trillion over the decade, the biggest tax increase since World War II. How do you answer top economists who say taxes of this magnitude would stifle growth and investment?

WARREN: Oh, they're just wrong.

(APPLAUSE)

Let's start with a wealth tax. The idea of a two-cent tax on the great fortunes in this country, $50 million and above. For two cents, what can we do? We can invest in the rest of America. We can provide universal childcare, early childhood education for every baby in this country, age 0 to 5, universal pre-K for every 3-year-old and 4-year- old, and raise the wages of every childcare worker and preschool teacher.

We can do even more for our public schools, for college graduates. We can cancel student loan debt. But think about the economic impact of that. You leave two cents with the billionaires, they're not eating more pizzas, they're not buying more cars. We invest that 2 percent in early childhood education and childcare, that means those babies get top-notch care. It means their mamas can finish their education. It means their mamas and their daddies can take on real jobs, harder jobs, longer hours.

WOODRUFF: And...

WARREN: We can increase productivity in this country. And we can start building this economy from the ground up. That's how we build it in small towns. That's how we build it in rural America. And that's how we built it in urban America. An economy that works, not for Wall Street, but that works for Main Street.

WOODRUFF: Brief answers -- brief responses from Mr. Steyer and Mr. Buttigieg.

(APPLAUSE)

STEYER: So let me say that I agree with Senator Warren in much of what she says. I've been for a wealth tax for over a year.

[20:25:00] I'm in favor of undoing all the tax breaks for rich people and big corporations that this administration has put through.

(APPLAUSE)

And in addition, I've talked about equilibrating the taxes on passive investment income, which would allow us to cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans by 10 percent.

But there's something else going on here that I think is really important, and that's this. We know Mr. Trump is going to run on the economy. I built a business over 30 years from scratch. We're going to have to take him on, on the economy in terms of growth, as well as economic justice. We're going to have to be able to talk about growth, prosperity across the board for everyone in America.

My experience building a business, understanding how to make that happen, means I can go toe-to-toe with Mr. Trump and take him down on the economy and expose him as a fraud and a failure. And I think that's different from the other people on this stage. I think we need a different, unconventional way of attacking a different, unconventional president who actually went after the best-prepared candidate in American history and beat her.

WOODRUFF: Mayor Buttigieg?

BUTTIGIEG: We're also being -- right now, I think we're being offered a false choice that you either have to go all the way to the extreme or it's business as usual. Yes, we must deliver big ideas and, yes, taxes on wealthy individuals and on corporations are going to have to go up.

We can also be smart about the promises we're making, make sure they're promises that we can keep without the kind of taxation that economists tell us could hurt the economy.

It's why, for example, I've proposed that we make college free for 80 percent of Americans. But it doesn't have to be free for the top. If you're in that top 10 percent, how about you pay your own tuition and we save those dollars for something else that we could spend them on that would make a big difference, whether it's infrastructure, childcare, housing, health?

On issue after issue, we've got to break out of the Washington mindset that measures the bigness of an idea by how many trillions of dollars it adds to the budget or the boldness of an idea by how many fellow Americans it can antagonize.

WOODRUFF: We're going to take a short break and we'll be right back in two minutes with questions from my fellow moderators.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Live from Los Angeles, the PBS NewsHour/Politico Democratic...

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Live from Los Angeles, the PBS NewsHour/Politico Democratic debate continues. Once again, Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: Welcome back to the PBS NewsHour/Politico Democratic presidential debate. The next question is from Tim Alberta of Politico.

[20:30:00]

ALBERTA: Thanks, Judy. Candidates, good evening. We're going to talk about climate now. Senator Klobuchar, many scientists say that even if the U.S. reduced its carbon footprint to zero by the year 2050, the damage will have been done, that climate change will have made certain places in the U.S. unlivable.

So knowing this, would you support a new federal program to subsidize the relocation of American families and businesses away from places like Miami or Paradise, California, perhaps, Davenport, Iowa, because we know these places are going to be hit time and time again?

KLOBUCHAR: Well, I don't -- I very much hope we're not going to have to relocate entire cities, but we will probably have to relocate some individual residents.

And the problem right now is that this climate change is an existential crisis. And you are seeing it here in California with the fires that you just had. You saw it in Northern California, as was mentioned with Paradise. And the most moving video from that to me was the 30-second video of that dad driving his little girl through the lapping fires with his neighborhood burning behind him and singing to her to calm her down.

We cannot wait to act. There is an Ojibway saying that great leaders make decisions not for this generation, but seven generations from now. This president doesn't keep his decisions for seven minutes.

(APPLAUSE)

So what I think we need to do, get back into the international climate change agreement. I will do that on day one. On day two, bring back the clean power rules. On day three, the gas mileage standards. I see the governor of California, who's been working so hard to get those done, defied every step of the way by the Trump administration. And then introduce sweeping legislation to put a price on carbon and build a fridge to the next century, which means we must upgrade our buildings and our building standards.

ALBERTA: Thank you, Senator Klobuchar.

Mr. Steyer, would you support such a new federal program, again, to help subsidize the relocation of these families?

STEYER: Look, I am hoping that we, in fact, will do what I'm suggesting, which is declare a state of emergency on day one of my presidency. I have made this -- I believe I'm the only person here who will say unequivocally this is my number-one priority.

I know that we have to deal with this crisis. I know that we have to deal with it from the standpoint of environmental justice. I've been working on this for more than a decade. I've taken on oil companies and beaten them on environmental laws. I've pushed clean energy across this country. I've prevented pipelines and I've prevented fossil fuel plants.

But what I know is this: Not only can we clear up the air and water in the black and brown communities where our pollution is concentrated, this is also the opportunity to create literally millions of middle- class union jobs, well-paid, across the United States of America.

Our biggest crisis is our biggest opportunity. And if we don't declare a state of emergency on day one, I don't understand how we go to the people around the world to lead the coalition that has to happen and that only America can lead.

Look, this is a generational question. I have a lot of respect for the people on this stage. I know everybody is worried about this. But, for instance, I would call on Mayor Buttigieg to prioritize this higher because the people in his generation understand that this is a crisis that we have to go on right now, but it's also...

ALBERTA: Thank you, Mr. Steyer.

STEYER: ... the greatest opportunity to rebuild and reinvent America.

ALBERTA: Thank you, Mr. Steyer. Mr. Buttigieg, 45 seconds to respond.

(APPLAUSE)

BUTTIGIEG: Well, I've made clear that this will be a topic of day one action. And this is not theoretical for me. I live in one of those river cities that you're talking about. Not only that, I live right by the river. My neighborhood flooded in the second of two once in a millennium floods that we had in two years. Do the math on that. So I know what's at stake.

And it's why I insist that we act with a carbon tax and dividend with massive increases in renewable research, on renewable energy, energy storage, and carbon storage. But bigger than that, we have to summon the energies of the entire country to deal with this.

I've seen politicians in Washington saying the right thing about climate change as long as I've been alive, all these plans we have to get carbon neutral by 2050. And I think most or all of us have one. Their impact is multiplied by zero unless something actually gets done.

ALBERTA: We'd like to switch...

BUTTIGIEG: And that is why I want to make sure that our vision for climate includes people from the autoworker down the block from me in South Bend to a farmer a few minutes away so that they understand that we are asking, recruiting them to be part of the solution, not beating them over the head and telling them they're part of the problem.

ALBERTA: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. We'd like to switch gears slightly.

Vice President Biden, I'd like to ask you. Three consecutive American presidents have enjoyed stints of explosive economic growth due to a boom in oil and natural gas production.

[20:35:00]

As president, would you be willing to sacrifice some of that growth, even knowing potentially that it could displace thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers in the interest of transitioning to that greener economy?

BIDEN: The answer is yes. The answer is yes, because the opportunity -- the opportunity for those workers to transition to high-paying jobs, as Tom said, is real. We're the only country in the world that's ever taken great, great crises and turned them into enormous opportunities.

I've met with the union leaders. For example, we should, in fact, be making that -- making sure right now that every new building built is energy contained, that it doesn't leak energy, that, in fact -- we should be providing tax credits for people to be able to make their homes turn to solar power, where -- there's all kinds of folks out here, right here in California, who are now on the verge of having batteries that are about the size of the top of this podium that you can store energy when, in fact, the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining.

We have enormous opportunities. For example, you talk about, would we relocate people who, in fact, were in a position where they lost their home? We have to not rebuild to the standard that existed before when we talk about when we come in and help people. We have to rebuild with the standard that exists today.

For example, we shouldn't build another new highway in America that doesn't have charging stations on it. We have an opportunity to put 550,000 charging stations so that we own the electrical vehicle market, creating millions of jobs for people installing them, as well as making sure that we own the electric vehicle market. There are so many things we can do, and we have to make sure we explain it to those people who are displaced, that their skills are going to be needed for the new opportunities.

ALBERTA: Thank you, Vice President Biden.

(APPLAUSE)

Senator Sanders?

SANDERS: Tim, in all due respect, your question misses the mark. It is not an issue of relocating people in towns. The issue now is whether we save the planet for our children and our grandchildren.

(APPLAUSE) The issue, as you should know, what the scientists are telling us is they have underestimated the threat and severity of climate change. You're talking about the Paris agreement, that's fine. Ain't enough. We have got to -- and I've introduced legislation to do this -- declare a national emergency.

The United States has got to lead the world. And maybe, just maybe, instead of spending $1.8 trillion a year globally on weapons of destruction, maybe an American president, i.e. Bernie Sanders, can lead the world, instead of spending money to kill each other, maybe we pool our resources and fight our common enemy, which is climate change.

ALBERTA: Thank you, Senator Sanders. Thank you, Senator Sanders.

(APPLAUSE)

Senator Warren, a new question to you, Senator Warren. Many of our Western allies rely heavily on nuclear energy because it's efficient, affordable, and virtually carbon-free. And many climate experts believe that it's impossible to realize your goal of net zero emissions by the year 2050 without utilizing nuclear energy. So can you have it both ways on this issue?

WARREN: So I see right now is we've got to get the carbon -- we've got to stop putting more carbon into the air. We've got to get the carbon out of the air and out of the water. And that means that we need to keep some of our nuclear in place.

I will not build more nuclear. I want to put the energy, literally, and the money and the resources behind clean energy and by increasing by tenfold what we put into science, what we put into research and development. We need to do what we do best, and that is innovate our way out of this problem and be a world leader.

But understand, the biggest climate problem we face is the politicians in Washington who keep saying the right thing but continue to take money from the oil industry, continue to bow down to the lobbyists, to the lawyers, to the think-tanks, to the bought-and-paid-for experts.

America understands that we've got to make change and we're running out of time, that climate change threatens every living thing on this planet. But getting Congress to act, you know, they just don't want to hear it. And if we don't attack the corruption first, if we don't attack the corruption head-on, then we're not going to be able to make the changes we need to make on climate, on gun safety, on drug pricing, on all of the big problems that face us.

ALBERTA: Thank you.

WARREN: We need a Washington that doesn't just work for the rich and the powerful. We need one that works for our families.

(APPLAUSE)

ALBERTA: Thank you, Senator. Senator Klobuchar, and then I would like to bring in Mr. Yang and Mr. Steyer for follow-ups.

KLOBUCHAR: Yeah, I want to add to what Elizabeth said. So the way we tackle corruption is by winning big in this election.

[20:40:00]

And the way we take on climate change in a big way is by, yes, talking about what's happening on the coasts, as I just did, but also talking about what's happening in the Midwest, where I'm from. It's not flyover country to me. I live there.

And what we are seeing there is unprecedented flooding. We're seeing an increase, 50 percent increase in homeowners insurance over the last few years. And when we make these changes, we have to make clear to people that when we put a price on carbon, that that money is going to come back to those areas where people are going to be hurt, where jobs are going to change, and to make them whole with their energy bills.

When you make the case like that, you bring in the Midwestern votes. You win big. And I think the best way to do it is by putting someone at the top of the ticket who is from the Midwest.

(APPLAUSE)

ALBERTA: Mr. Yang, Mr. Yang, 45 seconds, on the issue of nuclear energy.

YANG: Well, first, we should obviously be paying to relocate Americans away from places that are hit by climate change. We're already doing it. We relocated a town in Louisiana that became uninhabitable because the sea levels rose. And we know that town is not alone. That's playing out in coastal areas around the country.

The question is, do you leave that town on its own to fend for itself? Or do you come together as a country and say, we need to protect our people from climate change?

Part of my plan is literally called "move people to higher ground," because that's what we need to do. And that's literal and figurative. Here in California, it's forest fires and forest management.

On nuclear power, I agree with the research. We need to have everything on the table in a crisis situation, which this is. Other countries have had success with nuclear power. And the next generation thorium reactors have a wealth of potential. Thorium is not radioactive the way uranium is. It doesn't last as long. And you can't make a weapon out of it. If we're going to innovate our way out of this, as...

ALBERTA: Thank you, Mr. Yang.

YANG: ... Elizabeth is saying, then we have to have nuclear on the table.

ALBERTA: Thank you, Mr. Yang. The last word climate to you, Mr. Steyer.

STEYER: Look, the point about nuclear power is, it's not at the stage in the United States where it's competitive on price. It has a lot of risks to it in terms of disasters. And we have no ability to store the toxins that come out of it and last 100,000 years.

We actually have the technology that we need. It's called wind and solar and batteries. So, in fact, what we need to do, we can do. We've got to stop taking a look at this as something that we can't do, because we can do this, and we can do it in a way that creates, rebuilds this country on an accelerated basis, creates millions of union jobs, and we come at it from the standpoint of environmental justice.

This is our greatest opportunity to reinvent this country, to actually take on the biggest challenge in history and succeed together. You want to pull the country together with all this partisanship? Let's take on the biggest challenge in history and succeed together as a nation. That's what pulls people together.

ALBERTA: Thank you, Mr. Steyer. Amna?

(APPLAUSE)

NAWAZ: Thanks, Tim.

Vice President Biden, you've been reassuring voters that things will return to normal once President Trump leaves office, that Republicans will have what you call an epiphany and come to the table to work with a Biden administration. But given everything that you have seen from current Republicans, what evidence is there that things will change?

BIDEN: Look, I didn't say return to normal. Normal's not enough. Normal -- in fact, we have to move beyond normal, whether it's health care, the environment, whatever it is. We have to build on what we had started in our administration, and that's been interrupted very badly, number one.

Number two, with Trump out of the way, it's not going to change things in a fundamental way. But what it will do is it will mean that we're in a position where he's not going to be able to intimidate the base, his base is not going to be able to intimidate those half a dozen Republicans we may need in other things.

I refuse to accept the notion, as some on this stage do, that we can never, never get to a place where we have cooperation again. If that's the case, we're dead as a country. We need to be able to reach a consensus. And if anyone has reason to be angry with the Republicans and not want to cooperate it's me, the way they've attacked me, my son, and my family. I have no -- no -- no love.

(APPLAUSE)

But the fact is, we have to -- we have to be able to get things done. And when we can't convince them, we go out and beat them like we did in the 2018 election in red states and in purple states. (APPLAUSE)

NAWAZ: Thank you, Mr. Biden.

Mr. Yang, I want to switch topics to you, Mr. Yang, a new question. The Democratic Party relies on black, Hispanic, and Asian voters, but you are the only candidate of color on the stage tonight, and the entire field remains overwhelmingly white. What message do you think this sends to voters of color?

YANG: It's both an honor and disappointment to be the lone candidate of color on the stage tonight. I miss Kamala, I miss Cory, though I think Cory will be back.

(APPLAUSE)

[20:45:00]

I grew up the son of immigrants, and I had many racial epithets used against me as a kid. But black and Latinos have something much more powerful working against them than words. They have numbers. The average net worth of a black household is only 10 percent that of a white household. For Latinos, it's 12 percent. If you're a black woman, you're 320 percent more likely to die from complications in childbirth.

These are the numbers that define race in our country. And the question is, why am I the lone candidate of color on this stage? Fewer than 5 percent of Americans donate to political campaigns. You know what you need to donate to political campaigns? Disposable income.

(APPLAUSE)

The way that we fix it -- the way we fix this is we take Martin Luther King's message of a guaranteed minimum income, a freedom dividend of $1,000 a month for all Americans. I guarantee, if we had a freedom dividend of $1,000 a month, I would not be the only candidate of color on this stage tonight.

(APPLAUSE)

NAWAZ: Thank you, Mr. Yang.

Senator Sanders, I do want to put the same question to you, Senator Sanders. What message do you think...

SANDERS: I will answer that question, but I wanted to get back to the issue of climate change for a moment, because I do believe this is the existential issue.

NAWAZ: Senator, with all respect, this question is about race. Can you answer the question as it was asked?

(APPLAUSE)

SANDERS: I certainly can. Because people of color, in fact, are going to be the people suffering most if we do not deal with climate change.

(APPLAUSE)

And by the way, we have an obligation up here, if there are not any of our African-American brothers and sisters up here, to speak about an economy in which African-Americans are exploited, where black women die three times at higher rates than white women, where we have a criminal justice system which is racist and broken, disproportionately made up of African-Americans and Latinos and Native Americans who are in jail.

So we need an economy that focuses on the needs of oppressed, exploited people, and that is the African-American community.

NAWAZ: Thank you, Senator.

Yamiche?

ALCINDOR: Thank you, Amna.

Senator Klobuchar, here in California, people who identify as Hispanic, black, Asian, or multiracial represent a majority of the population, outnumbering white residents. The United States is expected to be majority nonwhite within a generation. What do you say to white Americans who are uncomfortable with the idea of becoming a racial minority, even if you don't share their concerns?

KLOBUCHAR: I say this is America. You're looking at it. And we are not going to be able to succeed in the world if we do not invite everyone to be part of our economy.

Our Constitution says that we strive for a more perfect union. Well, that's what we are doing right now. And to me, that means, one, that everyone can vote, and that includes our communities of color. This action that's been taken by this president and his people and his governors all over the country is wrong. They have made it harder for African-Americans to vote, as one court said, discriminated with surgical precision.

What would I do? As one of the leaders on voting in the U.S. Senate, one, stop the purging. As Stacey Abrams said, you know, you do not stop having your right to assemble if you don't go to a meeting for a year. Because you don't go to a church or a synagogue or a mosque for three months, you don't lose your right to worship. You shouldn't lose your right to vote.

(APPLAUSE)

I would pass as president my bill to register every kid in this country when they turn 18 to vote. That would make all of these discriminatory actions in these states go away. And I would stop the gerrymandering, in addition to the agenda of economic opportunity, because as Martin Luther King said, what good is it to integrate a lunch counter if you can't afford a hamburger?

(APPLAUSE) ALCINDOR: Thank you, Senator. Let's now turn to the issue of foreign policy and the Middle East. Senator Sanders, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently declared that the United States believes Israeli settlements in the West Bank do not violate international law. That broke decades-long U.S. precedent. How would you respond to Israeli expansion of settlements? Would you link that to foreign aid to Israel?

SANDERS: Israel has -- and I say this as somebody who lived in Israel as a kid, proudly Jewish -- Israel has the right not only to exist, but to exist in peace and security.

But what -- but what U.S. foreign policy must be about is not just being pro-Israel.

[20:50:00]

We must be pro-Palestinian, as well.

(APPLAUSE)

And whether, in my view -- we must understand that right now in Israel we have leadership under Netanyahu, who has recently, as you know, been indicted for bribery, who, in my view, is a racist -- what we need is a level playing field in terms of the Middle East, which addresses the terrible crisis in Gaza, where 60 percent or 70 percent of the young people are unemployed.

So what my foreign policy will be about is human rights, is democracy, is bringing people together in a peaceful way, trying to negotiate agreements, not endless wars with trillions of dollars of expenses.

ALCINDOR: Thank you, Senator.

Mayor Buttigieg?

BUTTIGIEG: What we are seeing in the Middle East and around the world are the consequences of this president's failure, this president's refusal to lead. It's particularly disturbing in the case of Israel because he has infused domestic politics, making U.S. foreign policy choices in order to effectively interfere in Israeli domestic politics, acting as though that somehow makes him pro-Israel and pro- Jewish, while welcoming white nationalists into the White House.

But it's not only in the Middle East that we see the consequences of the disappearance of U.S. leadership. We see among our allies and among our adversaries case after case where the world is making plans on what to do, ignoring the United States, because we're no longer considered reliable.

It's not just the mockery at a cocktail party on the sidelines of a conference. It's the looks on the faces of the leaders at the U.N. as they looked at the United States president with a mixture of contempt and pity.

As an American, I never again want to see the American president looked at that way by the leaders of the world. The world needs America right now. But it can't be just any America. It has to be one that is actually living up to the values that make us who we are: supporting peace, supporting democracy, supporting human rights, and supporting stability around the world.

(APPLAUSE)

ALCINDOR: Thank you, Mayor Buttigieg.

Senator Warren, President Obama pledged to close the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay but could not. Forty prisoners remain there. Last year, U.S. taxpayers paid $540 million to keep Guantanamo open. Would you pledge to finally close the detention facility? And if elected, how will you do it?

WARREN: Yes. It is time to close this detention facility. It not only costs us money, it is an international embarrassment.

We have to be an America that lives our values every single day. We can't be an America that stands up and asks people to fight alongside us, as we did with the Kurds in fighting ISIS, and then turn around in the blink of a tweet and say that we're turning our backs on the people who stood beside us. After that, who wants to be an ally of the United States?

We have to be an America that understands the difference and recognizes the difference between our allies, the people who will work alongside us, and the dictators who would do us harm.

And we need to treat our allies better than we treat the dictators. That needs to be our job as an America.

(APPLAUSE)

We have -- we have the finest military on Earth. All three of my brothers served. And we have people on this stage who have served, and I am deeply grateful for that. Our military is strong and important, but we need to be an America that relies on our State Department, that relies on diplomacy, that relies on our economic power and that relies on working together with the rest of the world to build a world that is sustainable environmentally and economically for everyone.

ALCINDOR: Thank you. Thank you, Senator Warren.

Vice President Biden, why couldn't you close Guantanamo Bay? Why couldn't the Obama administration close Guantanamo Bay?

BIDEN: We attempted to close Guantanamo Bay, but you have to have congressional authority to do it. They've kept it open. And the fact is that we, in fact, think it's greatest -- it is an advertisement for creating terror.

Look, what we have done around the world in terms of keeping Guantanamo open or what Trump has done by no longer being an honest broker in Israel, there's no solution for Israel other than a two- state solution. It does not exist. It's not possible to have a Jewish state in the Middle East without there being a two-state solution.

And he has played to all the same fears and all the prejudices that exist in this country and in Israel. Bibi Netanyahu and I know one another well. He knows that I think what he's doing is outrageous.

[20:55:00]

What we do is, we have to put pressure constantly on the Israelis to move to a two-state solution, not withdraw physical aid from them in terms of their security.

And lastly, I think that...

ALCINDOR: Thank you, Vice President Biden.

BIDEN: ... Senator Warren is correct. We have led by not the example of our power, but the power of our example. And the example we're demonstrating now is horrible. It's hurting us badly.

ALCINDOR: Thank you, Vice President Biden. Judy?

(APPLAUSE)

WOODRUFF: I want to turn to another part of the world, and that's China. Mayor Buttigieg, you have said that you think China presents more of a challenge than do your fellow candidates believe. The U.S. clearly wants China's cooperation on human rights, on climate change, on North Korea, on terrorism. And yet Americans are appalled by China's record on human rights, including the detention of over a million Muslim Uighurs. Should the U.S., is my question, do more than protest and issue sanctions? Should the U.S., for example, boycott the 2022 Beijing Olympics?

BUTTIGIEG: I think that any tool ought to be on the table, especially diplomatic, economic, and social tools, like what you're describing.

Look, for the president to let it be known that his silence, whether it's on the rounding up of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang, putting them into camps, or the aspirations of the people of Hong Kong for democracy, for him to let China know that his silence can be purchased is trashing American values.

The reality is that there's a lot more to the relationship with China than who's selling more dishwashers. Yes, we need a much smarter trade policy. We also have to acknowledge what's going on over there: the use of technology for the perfection of dictatorship.

That is going to require a stronger than ever response from the U.S. in defense of democracy. But when folks out there standing up for democracy hear not a peep from the president of the United States, what message is that sending to the Chinese Communist Party?

The message I will send is that if they perpetrate a repeat of anything like Tiananmen Square, when it comes to Hong Kong, they will be isolated from the free world, and we will lead that isolation diplomatically and economically. (APPLAUSE)

WOODRUFF: Mr. Steyer, many Americans have been moved in the last months by the protests of the people of Hong Kong. It is Chinese territory, but what could you, would you do as president if the Chinese government moved in militarily?

STEYER: Look, there is a temptation, particularly for this president, to try and answer that on a bilateral -- in a bilateral way. The way the United States should be reacting in Hong Kong is by gathering our coalition of democracy- and freedom-loving partners and allies to push back.

In fact, when we're making moral statements around the world, it should not be us threatening and trying to be the world's policeman. It should be us leading on a value-driven basis with the other people who share our values and want to change the world.

We actually can't isolate ourselves from China. In fact, we have to work with them as a frenemy. People who disturb us, who we disagree with, but who, in effect, we are linked to in a world that is ever getting closer. And, in fact, if we are going to treat climate as the threat that it is, we are going to have to partner with the Chinese. They are going to have to come along with us. They're going to have to trust us. And together we're going to have to solve this problem.

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Mr. Steyer.

STEYER: So the ability to say what's off the table -- we need a good relationship with them and we're going to have to work with them going forward under all circumstances.

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Mr. Steyer.

Vice President Biden, on China, we now know that China is engaged in an unprecedented military build-up. They have just launched a new aircraft carrier. There are new signs of their disturbing espionage campaign here inside the United States. There are a number of disturbing signs from the Chinese.

National security scholars have long warned about the historical precedent that when there's a ruling power and a rising power, there's likely to be a war. Is the U.S. on a collision course with China?

BIDEN: It's not...

WOODRUFF: What steps could you take as president?

BIDEN: It's on a collision course with China, but not for war. What we have to make clear is that we, in fact, are not going to abide by what they've done. A million Uighurs, as you pointed out, Muslims, are in concentration camps. That's where they are right now. They're being abused. They're in concentration camps.

And what we started in our administration that Trump stopped, we should be moving 60 percent of our sea power to that area of the world to let, in fact, the Chinese understand that they're not going to go any further. We are going to be there to protect other folks.

[20:59:00]

END