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Paula Zahn Now
Politics & Religion: Democratic Presidential Candidates on Faith
Aired June 04, 2007 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Glad to have you with us.
In this special hour, as Wolf just said, we're going to continue the conversation on faith and politics. Religion such a vital part of so many voters' lives, we thought you would like to hear from more of those Democratic presidential candidates.
I will be talking with Senators Christopher Dodd and Joseph Biden, as well as Governor Bill Richardson and Representative Dennis Kucinich. All four of them are Roman Catholic.
First, though, I want to look back at the extraordinarily candid and revealing hour we just witnessed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If I have had a day in my 54 years where I haven't sinned multiple times, I would be amazed.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have got a stake in other people. And I have got a set of responsibilities towards others, not just towards myself.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had a grounding in faith that gave me the courage and the strength to do what I thought was right, regardless of what the world thought.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: And our own Soledad O'Brien moderated the candidate forum in Washington. It was organized by the Reverend Jim Wallis. That's Soledad. You will see Jim here shortly.
Mr. Wallis is the head of Sojourners, a social justice ministry.
There he is with his mike off, and the author of "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It."
Let's go back to Soledad O'Brien right now.
So, Soledad, I was not...
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: ... not surprised at all to hear Hillary Clinton talk about her faith in such a personal way, although she said she wasn't raised to wear it on her shirtsleeve.
What else struck you about what you heard tonight?
O'BRIEN: You know, that's an interesting question.
And, actually, earlier, Reverend Wallis and I were talking about exactly what -- what we would take away from this evening. And I think, certainly, as a layperson, to hear for the first time some of the candidates, frankly, talking I thought fairly openly and freely about -- about things that are very personal was -- was different and very interesting.
And, again, I -- I think that these are all things that shape the candidate as a human being. And they're running for president. Also, we haven't seen in Democrats before as much an embracing of -- of their faith.
Barack Obama wrote on article, an excellent article, about that, actually. And it was kind of the start of a maybe underscoring for Democrats. This is important for the voting public. So, I think, from a layperson's position, and one who had the -- the true good fortune of getting to ask some of those questions, it was really illuminating to hear not just policy, which you hear in a lot of debates, but -- but kind of the what happened behind that.
And I will bring in Reverend Wallis, of course, as the -- much more knowledgeable about the Scripture and so forth.
I would be curious to know your -- your take on -- at how the candidates did, as we like to assess these kinds of conversations after they happen.
JIM WALLIS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "SOJOURNERS": Well, Soledad, I thought we were off to a good start tonight, I mean, finally, a better conversation about faith and values.
We have had a very narrow, restricted conversation, as if there are only one or two religious issues.
O'BRIEN: Why do you think that is?
WALLIS: Well, because I think we -- it's been a bifurcated conversation. It's been a narrow conversation.
And this is part of a larger event, this forum tonight. Last night, we had this -- well, we had a revival last night. And half the crowd was, like, under 30. And we had a powerful Hispanic evangelical preacher. And he started with the words of Jesus, the first words of Jesus: "The spirit of the lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor."
Now, Soledad, that is a religious issue.
O'BRIEN: We will see how the conversation goes on from here. As you say, we have got many, many months, and it truly is only the beginning. Paula, we will send it right back to you in New York.
ZAHN: All right. Appreciate it, you two, Soledad O'Brien, Reverend Jim Wallis.
We have also brought together a special panel tonight to reflect on what we're hearing from these candidates tonight.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson ran for president in 1984 and 1988, CNN's faith and values correspondent Delia Gallagher, and CNN contributor Roland Martin.
Reverend Jackson, I want to start with you this evening.
We're talking about electing the commander in chief here. Why is it, in your mind, even relevant that voters know whether these candidates have any personal relationship with God, whether they pray, and what they pray for?
REVEREND JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: Well, it's important to know that we live in our faith. We live under the law, and that, actually, we live under the Constitution, not under a Bible. However, what laws will they enact that will help people realize the urgency of defend the poor and deliver the needy?
For example, people who have faith, the abolitionists, their faith was to end slavery. The advocates were to justify slavery by saying that blacks were the cursed descendants of Ham of. So, what is the substance of one's faith that leads to public policy that in -- that is, in fact -- that represents a kind of -- a kind of love ethic.
ZAHN: And, Roland Martin, I'm hearing what Reverend Jackson is saying, but you hear from folks, as I do: Wait. We're -- we're not Christians. We don't really care what their article of faith is, these candidates that are running.
Do you understand some of the skepticism about how some of these candidates use this as a political tool?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Of course.
You know, in 2004, Howard Dean made the comment, when he said that, up north, we don't really talk about faith. Yet, when he went down South, he said, I want to talk more about faith.
And, so, that's been one of the problems with Democrats.
I think the whole issue of faith, Paula, is that some people view their faith as being a part of who they are. And there are others who view their faith as being the essence of who they are. So, there are people who make the decisions through the prism of faith. And I think that's what the difference is.
It's, what is the decision-making process? For so many of us, we hope that, when people make life -- life-changing decisions, that they're doing so with some sort of understanding of the implications. And, so, Hillary Clinton talked about that when you -- when you make a decision, in terms of when you pray for, what do you pray for?
And, so, that's why it's vital. Again, the question is, is your faith a part of you who are or the essence of who you are? It's a big difference.
ZAHN: Big difference.
ZAHN: And how authentic that faith is, Delia Gallagher, and which I'm...
DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN FAITH AND VALUES CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
ZAHN: I'm wondering tonight how many votes you think might have been influenced by what listeners out there and viewers heard from these candidates.
GALLAGHER: I think there's some curiosity about private faith, and whether you're a churchgoing person, and how you were raised, and so on.
But the larger question, in terms of voters, is getting those value voters. And they're concerned about, how does your faith translate into your voting on issues? And, traditionally, of course, those issues have been on abortion, on gay marriage. Those are the standard, traditional value-voter issues.
That's a bloc of voters that's not going to be swayed, probably, by the Democrats coming out and talking about faith, because, at the end of the day, they're going to say, well, where do they stand on the issues?
ZAHN: Have -- do you think -- Democrats have been too timid about talking about their faith, Reverend Jackson, if it is, in fact, authentic faith?
JACKSON: Well, it is.
You know, but, in Birmingham, Alabama, the leaders of the evangelicals had a press conference, said Dr. King should not be in Birmingham; he was there stirring up the people and agitating.
The letter in Birmingham, again, was written to those faithful leaders whose -- whose substance of their faith was to advocate racial segregation. He said, that was immoral. He challenged the substance of their faith. That's why I say faith is important.
MARTIN: He spoke to white evangelicals, right.
MARTIN: He spoke to white evangelicals. He asked -- white evangelicals is who he was speaking to. That's the difference there.
JACKSON: Well, those are the persons who had a press conference saying he should not be in Birmingham...
JACKSON: ... and he was there stirring up the people.
He said, his faith did not -- should not be bifurcated by race, that his faith obligated him to fight for the freedom of all people, and to go beyond race and gender, and to have -- and say, if a law is -- if a law does not apply to all, it's an unjust law.
ZAHN: All right.
JACKSON: And, so, he talked about -- on faith and law, faith and law.
ZAHN: Gentlemen, what I want to move you back to is some of -- of what the candidates had to say tonight, for the folks who missed it, in the last hour.
And this was on a very specific question about what they pray for.
Let's listen together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWARDS: I can tell you that it is a part of my daily prayer to -- when I pray, to ask the lord to give me the strength to see the difference between what I want to do and what he wants me to do, and to give me the strength to do his will, and not my will.
And those things are in conflict on a regular basis in every human being on the planet. And I think it's a huge challenge for all of us to try to draw that distinction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: And, then, of course, we heard, Reverend Jackson, Hillary Clinton say that, occasionally, her prayers are frivolous, that she prays to lose weight, and then she moves on to far more substantial things about how to make a difference in this world of ours.
JACKSON: (AUDIO GAP) important not to trivialize faith, but, you know, Jesus makes it kind of clear for those of the Christian religion.
And I think that those of us who are Christian have to be informed by our values, not just by ideology, good news to the poor, to set the captive free, to heal the broken-hearted.
So, if you -- if you have all this faith, to vote against child care, you have faith, but you vote against -- but you vote tax cuts for the very wealthy and job cuts for the very poor, somehow, your faith, it does not have substance that matters to people in public policy.
MARTIN: And, Paula, I think that was one of the points that Delia made, when she talked about that we have come to understand evangelicals as being focused on this whole issue of abortion and homosexuality.
Part of the issue is that, that's why I make the distinction between white and African-Americans. African-Americans, historically, out of the civil rights movement, have seen those issues in the faith prism.
The problem with Democrats is, they have been unable to articulate the faith issue in terms of child care, in terms of education. That's where they have struggled. They have to define faith in public policy in their own way, but they keep being drawn into this issue as faith is being only about abortion and homosexuality.
The other piece is, they don't have a constituency that's really driving this issue outside. If you really say, where's the -- where are the progressive faith leaders, you don't see a huge groundswell. They have to become more vocal. That's going to be critical for Democrats to effectively mix faith and public policy.
ZAHN: There was a very interesting question posed of Senator Obama.
ZAHN: Sorry, Senator Jackson -- I mean Reverend Jackson. I want to get to what Senator Obama had to say about evil in this world.
Let's listen to this part of the forum right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I do think there's evil in the world.
I think that, when planes crash into buildings and kill innocents, there's evil there. I think violence and cruelty, wherever it's perpetrated, expresses evil in the world. And I think that all of us have an obligation to speak to that and act against that forcefully.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: So, if you start on the campaign trail actively talking about Satan and -- and the role Satan has...
GALLAGHER: That's a good -- that's a good -- that's a -- well, evil is a good one to go with, because a lot of people can join that -- join that bandwagon, and say, yes, these are evil things.
ZAHN: Do you join the bandwagon or is it alienating? It -- it...
GALLAGHER: I think a lot of -- certainly, a lot of religious voters can -- can -- can agree with the fact that there is evil in the world. I think that's a -- that's a pretty common denominator for a lot of religious people.
ZAHN: They buy that, but...
ZAHN: ... if you take it a step further and say, it's Satan...
GALLAGHER: Well, but -- but it goes...
ZAHN: ... overpowering God...
ZAHN: ... that's a different issue.
But it goes back also to what Roland was speaking about earlier, that this is an effort on the part of some Democrats and on the part of the evangelical left, if we want to say, to say that there are other values in the world that they want to bring out and discuss, and that to be a values voter, or to be somebody who -- who has values doesn't necessarily mean you only stick to these issues.
And that's an argument that's going on within the evangelical world and within other religious organizations.
ZAHN: Reverend, I have got to leave it there.
Reverend Jesse Jackson, Delia Gallagher, Roland Martin, thank you all. I'm going to check back with you after we hear some of the other presidential candidates tonight.
And now for the candidates themselves.
Senator Joe Biden of Delaware is standing by to discuss faith in politics. Did he blame God when he went through a terrible personal tragedy?
And, later, I will be talking with Senator Chris Dodd, Governor Bill Richardson, and Congressman Dennis Kucinich.
We will be right back.
ZAHN: And welcome back.
Tonight, we're devoting the hour to faith, values and politics.
And we're talking some of the most important moral issues of our time with Democratic presidential candidates. My guests this hour are four candidates who just happen to be Roman Catholic, Senator Chris Dodd, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Governor Bill Richardson, and, up first, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware.
Welcome to the Catholic hour, Senator.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's nice to be here, Paula.
ZAHN: Unfortunately, I can't hear the Senator.
I hope you will be...
BIDEN: Can you hear me?
ZAHN: ... at some point this evening.
I'm going to attempt to ask you my first question, Senator, and, hopefully, be able to hear you.
BIDEN: All right.
ZAHN: You had an enormous tragedy strike your life when you lost your first wife and your daughter in a tragic accident.
Did you blame God for your loss?
BIDEN: Well, I have to admit to you, initially, I did.
See, I have been raised -- born and raised a Catholic. It's part of my culture, as well as my religious faith. And I found I was -- I was really angry. And, for about eight or nine months, I couldn't understand how that could happen.
But my mom has an expression. Out of everything terrible, something good will happen, if you look hard enough for it, and God sends no cross that you cannot bear.
And it took a while, but, with a lot of help and rejuvenation of my faith, I was able to deal with it. And a lot of other people have dealt with things worse than I have.
ZAHN: So, your faith was never tested so badly that you gave up on God? It was tested. You were angry.
BIDEN: Well, I temporarily did. I was angry. I came out, and I can remember -- I wish I could say I was a better man, but I remember looking up at the Capitol dome and saying, God, why did you -- you know, I was really, really angry.
And it's one of the only -- it's the only public conversation I have ever had with God. And I'm not proud of it. But -- but I was angry.
ZAHN: You say it's the only public conversation you have ever had with God.
I know some candidates are more open about -- others about talking about their prayer and -- and how they communicate with God.
Do you pray every day?
BIDEN: Well, I do. I actually say the rosary every day.
But, you know, the thing is, I was raised in a tradition, eight years with the nuns, four years with the priests. We learned a lot about the Pharisees. And we -- we worried about those people who -- we were taught about the people who only talk to God, and they're the only ones that know God, and the ones who talk about talking to God.
It's always been as part of my sort of Irish Catholic culture that -- that it was not something that you talked about. It's something you did. Everything was judged by your deeds. What did you do? Your deeds would speak. As Lincoln said, to paraphrase him, you know, don't -- don't judge my religion by my words. Judge whether I have religion by my deeds.
ZAHN: Let's move on to the concept of forgiveness, which is key in your religion.
ZAHN: When it comes to the 9/11 hijackers, will you ever be capable of forgiving them for what they did?
BIDEN: You know, I wish I were a better Catholic. The answer to -- the God's honest truth is, I have not been able to come to that conclusion yet.
I have forgiven things that have happened to me, but it's -- in a sense, it's harder to forgive these major, major, major impositions of brutality on humanity. And I find it much more difficult. It's easier to forgive when you're hurt. I imagine it's your experience as well. Hard to forgive when you hurt your child -- your child is hurt.
So, I find it counterintuitive, but I have difficulty on forgiving that.
ZAHN: Do you think God takes sides, let's say, for example...
ZAHN: ... in this war in Iraq and in this war on terror?
BIDEN: No, I -- I don't think take -- I don't think God takes sides.
But I do think there is -- it's not moral relativism. I think there's good and there's bad. There's evil and there's not. Those engaging in the brutal elimination of women and children, suicide bombers, I think God -- I think there's a royal -- I think there's a place in hell for them.
But those who believe that the Sharia should be the law of the land, that -- that is, the Koran, you know, their religion, they think God is on their side.
Every country -- let's think how many people have died in the name of God, based on the wars, the religious wars, we have had. So, I think -- I think we should pray not that God is on our side, but we're on God's side.
ZAHN: We just heard the co-host of this forum earlier this evening saying that people of faith should never be in the pocket of anybody's political party, that they should be perceived as the ultimate swing vote.
But, historically, a lot of those votes have gone to Republican candidates. Why has that happened?
BIDEN: Well, the truth of the matter is, it hasn't gone in my faith. Mainstream Protestants and Catholics, up until very recently, have overwhelmingly voted for my party.
And -- but I think, look, my dad used to have an expression: Don't tell me what your values are. Show me your budget.
BIDEN: Show me your deeds.
And I think that one of the problems we Democrats have had is, we have not come off as not being people of faith. We have come off as being almost agnostic.
And we are a spiritual nation. We are a nation that was founded upon -- the only nation I can think that was founded upon the notion that there is a -- a -- that there is a God. We hold these truths self-evident, that all men are created equal, et cetera.
And, so, I think, what has happened with the Democratic Party, there's been this reluctance, in the face of the evangelical, judgmental movement on the far right in the past, of even invoking religion, for fear of being put in the same category. But we're a spiritual nation. We're a nation of faith.
ZAHN: Well, we appreciate your sharing some of that with us tonight.
Senator Joe Biden, thanks...
BIDEN: Thank you.
ZAHN: ... again for your time.
We are devoting this special hour to conversations with some of the presidential candidates about faith and politics.
In just a minute, I'm going to ask New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson about the most important person in his religious life, and, a little bit later on, Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Dennis Kucinich.
We will be right back. Please stay with us.
ZAHN: Welcome back to this special hour devoted to religion, faith, and politics.
We're hearing tonight from Democratic presidential candidates and where they stand on some of the most important moral issues of our time.
We just heard from Senator Joe Biden. I will also be speaking with senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Dennis Kucinich.
My next guest is New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who, like the other three candidates with me tonight, is a Roman Catholic.
Welcome back. Good to see you.
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D-NM), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Paula. Nice to be with you.
ZAHN: Thank you.
I know you have talked quite openly about your faith and the influence your grandmother had on you. And you said, "My abuelita also made sure I said my prayers in Spanish every night before going to bed."
Do you still pray every day?
RICHARDSON: Yes, I pray. And I consider myself a good Catholic.
From my grandmother and my Catholic faith, I believe I have gotten my sense of social justice, which basically is protecting those that are poor, that have been left behind. And I'm inspired policy- wise whenever I am pressed to push legislation like increasing the minimum wage, doing something about child poverty, insuring kids under 5.
I think that's part of my values. That's part of my faith. I also believe, Paula, protecting this planet and -- and finding ways to -- to make sure that we don't end up in -- in a sea of greenhouse gas emissions that are going to destroy God's creation is also part of a value that I have.
But, again, I don't...
ZAHN: And those issues that you have just mentioned are -- clearly are in keeping with Catholic teachings. But the -- the one big area of division is where you stand on abortion. You are pro- choice.
Do you ever worry that, when you meet your maker, you're going to have to defend yourself?
RICHARDSON: Well, I am comfortable with that decision.
I -- I don't like abortions. If I'm president, I will have a national goal to reduce abortions. I believe very strongly that we have got to promote initiatives to reduce abortions, to promote adoptions, to find ways also that we promote sexual education and family planning.
So, I believe this is a matter between a woman and her God. It's not a matter for politicians to decide. I respect the leadership of the pope and my archbishop, who disagrees with me. But I think he is tolerant of my view, as long as I continue to -- to advance policies of social justice as a human being.
And I believe government can be a catalyst, Paula, to initiate that social justice, to stand up for those that have been left behind. I believe, also, as a candidate for president, it's important that we bring people together, that we heal this country that is deeply divided, that we be optimistic and patriotic about the country. And I believe that's a matter of values, too.
ZAHN: One of those divisive areas is the area of homosexuality.
You are opposed to gay marriage. You have been quoted as saying: "I'm just not there yet. I'm a Catholic. I think marriage is between a man and a woman."
As a Catholic, do you personally think homosexuality is a sin?
RICHARDSON: No. It isn't a sin.
And, actually, when you look at many gay couples, they're families. They're individuals that shouldn't be discriminated because of sexuality orientation. They love each other. They're promoting family values of love.
And my view is that I believe in civil unions, protecting against those that are discriminated against, hate -- initiatives like hate crimes that -- that prevent discrimination of human beings. So, I'm comfortable with that position, too, because I think that...
ZAHN: The pope is not comfortable with that position, Governor Richardson.
RICHARDSON: Well, I know that. And I -- I respect the pope very much. And I'm sorry we're in conflict in some of these issues.
But, on the basic values of my church, which is to help those that have been left behind, to be just, to be kind, to think of ourselves as a family, to find values such as healing and ways that we as human beings can can -- can work together, I feel very comfortable with what I have done and what my values on those issues are. ZAHN: Do you think much about heaven?
RICHARDSON: Do I think -- no, because I live every day in a very full way.
RICHARDSON: I -- I barely think about the next day. But my point is that I pray. I -- I'm somebody that believes very strongly in communion. I try to take communion.
You know, my grandmother, my abuelita (ph), used to give me a little Crucifix when I was playing baseball. And she'd put it in my pocket of my baseball uniform. And I used to play with it and thinking it would bring me good luck.
And she said it will bring you good luck. And so I just remember that she very strongly instilled in me the fact that having a special communication with God, having him near you, is something that will help you. And I always keep that.
ZAHN: Governor Bill Richardson, thank you so much for joining us tonight. Really appreciate your thoughts.
ZAHN: And when our forum on religion, faith, and politics continues, I'll ask Senator Chris Dodd if he feels pressured to wear his religion on his sleeve.
And then a little bit later on, outspoken antiwar congressman, Dennis Kucinich.
ZAHN: Our focus tonight, faith, religion and politics with Democratic presidential candidates. All the candidates with me tonight happen to be Roman Catholic. We've heard from Senator Joe Biden and Governor Bill Richardson. I'll also be speaking with Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Joining me now, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut.
Always good to see you, welcome.
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D-CT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good to see you, Paula.
ZAHN: You can't hit any campaign stop today without a politician talking about their faith. Do you feel the pressure to wear your faith on your sleeve?
DODD: No, I don't. And I think that can be a mistake. If it's not natural, if it isn't something you do regularly, I think you ought to beware. If people sense this is somehow you're using the language because you think it's the political thing to do, it will hurt you, in my view. It has to be natural enough. ZAHN: But don't you acknowledge it can get you votes?
DODD: Well, I don't -- necessarily get you votes, I think it tells who you are as a person. My spiritual home is the Catholic faith, that's the faith I was raised in. The church that I attend on Sundays. My wife is a Mormon. And so we're raising two daughters who have been baptized in the Catholic Church and blessed in the Mormon faith.
And obviously as they grow older, they're attending both and they're going to have to form some decisions about that. But the idea, I see it in terms of faith. It informs my decisions, it informs my politics. It doesn't define them. And that may be a distinction with some people in a sense.
I was raised to believe that you have an obligation. I joined the Peace Corps back in the 1960s. Faith had a lot to do with that. The idea of giving back. I was raised in a family that believed very strongly in that. That this was part of your Catholic social teaching.
You had an obligation to reach out and help other people. So my faith is more along those lines than rather lecturing people about their behavior, although I find the coarseness in our society, the violence on television, on video games, and the like, in music, is something that as a president, I would try and engage the country in more of a conversation about because I worry about what that contributes to and what that leads to in our society.
ZAHN: Let's talk a little bit about the disconnect between being a Catholic and some of your own personal views. Homosexuality. The Catholic Church opposed to it, but you're in favor of civil unions. Let's remove the human rights issue part of that equation. Do you think that homosexuals are sinners?
DODD: No, I don't. And I use this example. I have two wonderful daughters, a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old. They may grow up with a very different sexual orientation than their parents.
How do I want my two daughters treated as adults if they have a different sexual orientation? When it comes to their jobs, their relationships they have, their military service possibly, their retirement.
I think most people, if they ask themselves that question, the question that I've asked myself, that my wife and I have asked, I think they come to a very different set of conclusions about how people ought to be treated.
And here to make a characterization that someone is a sinner because what I believe is a matter of nature, not environment in the sense is something that ought to be treated differently.
My faith believes that people ought to be treated fairly and right, that they ought not be discriminated against or harmed in any way. So I'm comfortable with... ZAHN: How do you reconcile that with the church's teachings?
DODD: Well, they're talking about -- some do. I don't think it's necessarily as universal as you think. And I don't necessarily believe in the long run that that's an act of faith and morals, in a sense. I think it's a question of how you treat people. How should people be accepted or not accepted? And I don't think my faith believes that people ought to be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation.
ZAHN: Do you take communion?
DODD: Yes, I do.
ZAHN: And you are a pro-choice candidate.
ZAHN: The Catholic Church does not believe in abortion. It views it as murder. How do you reconcile that view with your Catholic upbringing?
DODD: Well, abortion isn't something that I take any great joy in occurring. I think it ought to be a rare, safe, and legal. That has been my position on it for years. And we ought to be working together on how we reduce the incidence of abortion. Why not do more to help out in terms of expanding the opportunities for adoption, giving people other choices.
We've been screaming at each other about abortion now for 34 years. It's about time, with the law being what it is, that we try and reduce the number of incidents of it, provide the kind of support for families and women so they're not confronted with only that choice.
That hasn't happened enough, in my view.
ZAHN: The pope was highly critical of some Mexican politicians who were taking Communion and basically wants them banned from taking Communion because of their view on abortion. They also happen to be pro-choice. How would you feel if you were told that you could no longer take Communion because of your views abortion?
DODD: Well, again, I think the pope, as I read it, also backed up a little bit from that. And there are some who have taken that position. Others don't. I don't think it's as universal in that thinking as some would suggest. And again, I have an obligation here as a public official to uphold the Constitution of the United States, the laws of the land here.
I am an American. I'm a Catholic. I'm proud of both of those relationships. But my obligation as a United States senator is to uphold what the law of the land is. And the law of the land under Roe versus Wade allows the people to make that choice.
If that's the only debate we have, then we don't get very far on this. If you truly think we ought to have a reduced number of abortions in the country, which I agree with, then why don't we try to take some steps together despite our differences in opinion on this issue, and do some things that would reduce that from occurring.
ZAHN: Senator Dodd, I've got to leave it there tonight. Thank you so much for dropping by. Appreciate it.
DODD: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: And we have one more candidate to hear from tonight, Congressman Dennis Kucinich. His opposition to the Iraq War is at the center of his campaign. I'm going to ask him, is God on our side? We'll be right back.
ZAHN: Tonight we're speaking with Democratic presidential candidates about faith, values and politics. And we've heard so far from senators Chris Dodd and Joe Biden and Governor Bill Richardson already. Joining me now, Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. Like the others here tonight, he's a Roman Catholic.
Thanks for joining us tonight.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you very much, Paula. Appreciate it.
ZAHN: Our pleasure. You have been very outspoken about your opposition to the war and have even called for a Department of Peace. Is killing ever justified?
KUCINICH: I know there is theology that says there is, but my approach is this, that I believe that we have an obligation to send forth our truth and our love. And I think that we can create a world where love triumphs and not hate.
And killing is an extension of a type of thinking which always sees the world in warring camps, sees the world in terms of us versus them, whoever they are. I view the world as one. I see the world as interconnected and interdependent.
And I act on that in trying to find ways of promoting peace and social and economic justice, which answers the claims of all people.
ZAHN: How do you think God views this war on Iraq?
KUCINICH: You know, you answered the question in the intro -- you asked the question in the intro, is God on our side? I'd say are we on God's side? Do we really live the principles that we believe of truth and of social and economic justice, of love?
I mean, these are things that -- these are spiritual values. And so I think that a nation such as America which lives its spiritual truths, the spiritual truths that underpin the founding of this country, is a nation that will set war aside, that will beat its swords into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks. And that's what animates my belief that America can support a Department of Peace and non-violence where we work to make non- violence an organizing principle in our society. Where you take the teachings of Christ, of Gandhi, of Dr. King, and of other religious leaders and you make that part of the everyday practice in America.
Where we address the issues of domestic violence, spousal abuse, child abuse, violence in the schools, racial violence, violence against gays, and all of the symptoms (ph) of our society that show that we are separate from each other and look for ways to address those so that we can heal this country.
And the hand I would bring to the White House would be a healing hand.
ZAHN: And, Congressman, given what you've just said, then, how do you view the sacrifice of the men and women who've already lost their lives in Iraq and those that continue to face death every day?
KUCINICH: Their sacrifices are pure. Their sacrifices are an expression of their love of country. And we should honor all of those who would serve our country and would be willing to put their lives on the line.
However, those who would be president have a higher responsibility never to cause the lives of the men and women who serve this country to be put in jeopardy for anything except the defense of our country. And frankly...
ZAHN: And that's not what's happening in this war in Iraq. So are you demeaning their service by saying what you're saying?
KUCINICH: No, that is not what is happening at all. No, not at all. To the contrary, what I'm saying is that their sacrifice has to be honored under all circumstances. But those who have sent them, sent them not for -- not under honorable conditions.
We have -- we're in Iraq based on lies. And, you know, the Bible has a line that says that which is crooked cannot be made straight. Nothing will ever be made straight about our presence in Iraq. We must leave Iraq.
We must bring our troops home. And we must work to achieve a kind of reconciliation with the people of Iraq, with the people of the world and within our own country for -- in order to establish truth once again and make that truth the single principle upon which our country is based.
ZAHN: Let's talk about individual truths. Do you think there is too much emphasis on the personal faith of those of you who are running for president?
KUCINICH: I think that it's important for people to not just talk about their faith, but to live the principles which animate their faith. And I think that when all of us do that, the country will be better served. So I don't think there could ever be too much emphasis on it. As a matter of fact, I think the founders intended America to be a country which celebrated spiritual principles. They didn't want church and state to be together. They wanted separation of church and state and I support that.
But separation of church and state was never meant to separate us from spiritual values. Let us live our spiritual values.
ZAHN: One last question for you, sir, before we have to quit. You talk about living the principles that animate your faith. And yet you are a practicing Catholic and your views on abortion and gay marriage -- or gay unions is in direct opposition to what your church teaches. How do you reconcile that?
KUCINICH: Well, actually, we -- as president I want to unite this country on the issue of abortion in this way. We need to do everything we can to make abortion less necessary. And we do that through pre-natal care, post-natal care, childcare, universal health care, a living wage, creating circumstances that make it less likely abortion will occur.
I think our nation can be united along that. And with respect to those who happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, these are God's children. They should have the same rights. Our Constitution does not provide any -- for any differences to be established. Doesn't provide for a two-tiered system of justice.
Everyone should be equal under the law. So of course I support marriage equality for all.
ZAHN: I have no right to let the interview go on any longer, because we have to hit a commercial break. Congressman Dennis Kucinich, thank you so much for being with us tonight.
ZAHN: Appreciate it.
(STOCK MARKET REPORT)
ZAHN: So what do my faith and politics panelists think now that they've heard from some of the Democratic candidates tonight? We'll ask them in just a minute.
And then coming up at the top of the hour, newly-paroled suicide doctor, Jack Kevorkian is tonight's guest on "LARRY KING LIVE." We'll be right back.
ZAHN: And time to check back in with members of tonight's panel. Reverend Jesse Jackson, faith and values correspondent Delia Gallagher, and CNN contributor Roland Martin.
I wanted to start off now by replaying a very small part of an answer of former Senator John Edwards when asked about whether he is a sinner. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'd have a very hard time telling you one thing, one specific sin. I...
EDWARDS: If I've had a day -- I turned 54 years old this Sunday, and if I've had a day in my 54 years when I haven't sinned multiple times, I would be amazed. I believe I have. I sin every single day. We're all sinners. We all fall short which is why we have to ask for forgiveness from the lord. I can't -- to try to identify one particular sin that was worse or more extreme than the others, the list is too long.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: So, Roland Martin, did that answer serve candidate Edwards well?
MARTIN: Well now, of course. Because it speaks to the most critical issue, is that we all sin. And so when try to define it to one or two things, it's very difficult. And so again, I think he did a good job of answering that question.
ZAHN: And what difference does that really make to voters do you think, Roland, at the end of the day?
MARTIN: Well, it makes a difference because he's simply being honest and he's putting this in the proper perspective. And that is, you have a GOP who tries to say, you're a sinner, you're a sinner, you're a sinner, but never owns up to the reality of where they actually exist in their faith. They too are sinners. And no one sin is bigger than the other, despite what they say is in their Bible.
ZAHN: It was interesting tonight to hear a number of the candidates talk with a little bit of reluctance about their faith. Hillary Clinton saying, I wasn't raised in a way that we talked openly about our faith, wore it on our shirtsleeves. And Senator Chris Dodd said the same thing, which was why I was surprised to hear Senator Joe Biden say this about praying every day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I actually say the Rosary every day, but, you know, the thing is, I was raised in the tradition eight years with the nuns, four years with the priest, and it's part of sort of my Irish-Catholic culture that it was not something that you talked about. It's something you did. Everything was judged by your deeds.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAHN: I wasn't surprised to hear him talk about being judged by your deeds, but I don't think I've remembered him saying publicly that he said the Rosary.
GALLAGHER: And that's a big deal, too. I mean, that's no small- time prayer. It takes a good 10 or 15 minutes. That's a very devotional Catholic prayer. You know...
GALLAGHER: Right, Roland?
MARTIN: Very true.
GALLAGHER: I mean, that's serious business. And I think a lot of...
MARTIN: First 25 years of my life. Yes, that's right.
GALLAGHER: Yes. Catholics will resonate with that, saying the Rosary every day. I think, you know, some of them might say, well, Joe, you know, if you want to talk about deeds, well, let's look at your voting record. I mean, that's going to be the more important thing than saying the Rosary every day. But I think he didn't hurt himself by volunteering that information.
ZAHN: Reverend Jackson, I want to move on to the issue of poverty, which also dominated the last hour. And Senator Edwards has called poverty the greatest moral issue of our time. And Senator Obama said that America has an empathy deficit. Do you ever see poverty trumping some of these other divisive issues like gay marriage and abortion rights?
JACKSON: Well, faith, you know, without works is dead. And you determine a tree by the fruit it bears. And if you take the mission statement, am I going to preach the Gospel, good news to the poor or to heal the sick, to set the captives free?
So you measure your politics by how you treat the poor, how you -- I was hungry, you fed me or you did not. I was naked and you clothed me or you did not. I was in jail, you visited me or you did not.
So faith without works is dead. And so faith must manifest itself in public policy. And there are those that have strong faith whose policies are so anti-poor.
MARTIN: And, Paula, that's the opening for Democrats. And I think a lot of the candidates really did not speak to that issue when you were asking them the questions. They flat-out should have nailed it and gone beyond abortion and homosexuality. That's how they're going to succeed.
ZAHN: Quick final thought, Delia?
GALLAGHER: Well, I think they tried that. That's exactly what the whole point was. And we'll see how successful they were.
ZAHN: We'll continue to track this stuff in poll after poll, won't we? Of course, the only poll that counts is quite a ways off. A lot could happen between now and Election Day. Reverend Jackson, Delia Gallagher, Roland Martin, thank you all. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Thanks so much for joining us. Please tune in tomorrow night when the Republican presidential candidates get their chance to square off. It will be just like the Democratic debate, except with Republicans, for two hours live from New Hampshire. It all starts tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. Thanks again for dropping by.
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