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CNN Live Event/Special

ServiceNation Presidential Candidates Forum

Aired September 11, 2008 - 20:00   ET


CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody, I'm Campbell Brown. Tonight, John McCain and Barack Obama live in a presidential forum focused on service. It gets under way in exactly one minute. We also want to welcome our viewers on CNN International tonight.
But first, the other big political story of the day, Sarah Palin's first major TV interview. She sat down with Charlie Gibson of ABC News. Around 5:00 p.m. today, ABC sent out this alert -- Governor Sarah Palin warns war may be necessary if Russia invades another country. In the interview, Palin said if the Republic of Georgia joins NATO and Russia attacks, then the U.S. could very well go to war.


CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS: Under the NATO treaty, wouldn't we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: Perhaps so. I mean, that is the agreement, when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.


BROWN: Last month, after Russia invaded Georgia, John McCain very clearly said he was opposed to U.S. military intervention. We're going to have much more on this after the forum.

We're also keeping an eye on Hurricane Ike, a massive storm taking aim at Houston. But right how, the presidential forum. The best political team on television is live blogging. You can join in at Follow along on the political ticker channel on Twitter. But let's go now to Time magazine's Rick Stengel and PBS' Judy Woodruff at Columbia University.

JUDY WOODRUFF, PBS: Good evening, and welcome to the ServiceNation presidential forum at Columbia University in New York City. I'm Judy Woodruff, with PBS' "Newshour With Jim Lehrer." ServiceNation is a network of groups reaching 100 million Americans and working to solve our challenges through national service and civic engagement. And we are delighted to have the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees with us tonight for a conversation on service.

We'd like to thank the presenting sponsors of the event -- AARP, Target and Time magazine, as well as the Carnegie Corporation of New York for their support.


Our co-moderator is Rick Stengel, the editor of Time magazine magazine, whose 2007 cover story, "The Case for National Service," ignited this movement. And Time's leadership on the issue continues this week, with a new cover story on national service.

Welcome, Rick.

RICHARD STENGEL, TIME MAGAZINE: Thank you so much, Judy.


Welcome again, everybody. Today is the seventh anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11. And we chose this day for a reason, because we believe it can be a day not only of national mourning and memory, but a day of national service. Whether that's tutoring kids after school, serving in the military, or volunteering for a faith- based organization, national service can help us solve national challenges.

Service is not red or blue. It's beyond party and partisanship.

John McCain served in the military for 26 years, nearly making the ultimate sacrifice for his country. After college, Barack Obama chose to work in the streets of Chicago to improve the lives of everyday people. Both of these men that we will hear from tonight are deeply committed to national service. We are honored to have them with us, together for the first time as their party's nominees.

The order of their appearance tonight was chosen by coin toss.

I am very pleased to welcome Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee for president of the United States.


WOODRUFF: Senator, welcome. Thank you very much.


Senator McCain. Senator McCain, thank you again for being with us.

You were at ground zero today with Senator Obama.

WOODRUFF: That day, 9/11, is still very fresh in the minds of people here in New York City and Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. But there's evidence that it's receding in the memory of many, many Americans. What are one or two of the most important things that you two you think should be done to keep this an enduring memory for America?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, I think commemoration on days like today are very important. I must say that both in Pennsylvania and I understand in Washington D.C., but I was in Pennsylvania earlier today, and the ceremonies that went on today, I think, serve to remind all Americans. But I think the best way to commemorate and the best way to show our appreciation for -- and love and sympathy for their families, for those who have sacrificed, is to serve our country. That's what this -- that's what this forum is all about, serving our country. That way, we can assure their families it will never happen again. That way, I think we can honor their service and sacrifice to our nation and remarkable acts of courage and compassion and love. And that's probably the best way to not only prevent a reoccurrence but keep their memory alive by protecting the lives of those fellow citizens who were unable to experience this first hand, but are in danger.

STENGEL: Senator, as recently as this past Sunday, you talked very openly about the fact that Americans should have been asked to do more than go shopping or traveling. What would you have done as president in those circumstances, to make people aware of what they should do as Americans, after 9/11?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I would have called them to serve. I would have created organizations ranging from neighborhood block watch to making sure that our nuclear power plants are secure, to immediately proposing to Congress legislation, such as Senator Evan Bayh and I proposed, service to country, to create additional organizations, to expand AmeriCorps, expand the Peace Corps, expand the military.

Obviously, we were facing a new threat. Obviously, we needed to, at that time, take advantage of the unity in the United States of America. We weren't Republicans on September 11th, we weren't Democrats, we were Americans. And I think that if we had asked for a concrete plan of action, both on the part of federal, state and local governments as well as by the Congress of the United States as well as, frankly, talking directly to the American people, on the need for us all to serve this nation, I think perhaps we -- but, you know, I have to tell you something, Rick. When I travel around this country, that spirit is still there in America. Today, we've seen Americans respond in a way that only Americans do. And I don't say that with any sense of superiority over any other group of people. I do believe we're a unique nation, and blessed with certain in alienable rights that we want to extend to the rest of the world. But I think that we probably still have that opportunity.

And when I say this, I don't want you to take it the wrong way. But Americans are so frustrated now with our government -- 84 percent of the American people think the country's headed in the wrong direction. The approval rating of Congress is down to 9 percent, I believe, down to blood relatives and paid staffers.


MCCAIN: And this is an opportunity, this is an opportunity to lead the nation and talk to the American people and reform our government and ask for more service.

WOODRUFF: Senator, do you -- what are there -- what are the obligations of citizenship, other than paying taxes? Should there be -- do you see service connected to what you're talking about in Washington and should there be something compulsory?

MCCAIN: I don't think so, Judy. I don't think -- because I think when you compel someone to do something, then you basically are in contradictions to the fundamental principle of having people wanting to serve and willing and eager to serve.

Americans are still eager to serve. Americans, when we look at all of the programs that we made available, almost all of them, in fact, all of them are oversubscribed by people who are volunteering. What's the most -- probably one of the lead organizations in America today?

MCCAIN: It's Teach for America. Where vastly -- thousands more are seeking to be part of that program, to go in the inner cities of America and teach children.

We're doing well in our military recruitment, could do better. We've got to do better on retention. But we have to expand the military.

So I believe Americans at this point, if you're digging for the pony, as I clearly am, are ready now to be inspired, they're ready to go. They understand the challenges that we have in this world. They see the Russian invasion of the little country called Georgia. They see the problems in Afghanistan growing larger.

They see a whole lot of things happening in the world that's going to require us to serve, and that opportunity has to be provided to them.

STENGEL: I want to touch on something you said in an earlier answer, that Americans have a very low self-regard for Washington right now. How is it though that we can try to inspire people into public service and even go to Washington at the same time candidates are running against Washington and dissing Washington at every opportunity?

MCCAIN: Because we have to reform government. We have to reform the way we're doing business. Look at Congress's activities since they came off their five-week vacation. They never miss a pay raise or a vacation or a recess.

And the point is that they see this gridlock, they want it reformed and they want it changed and they're ready for change. And I think they're ready to turn a page at the beginning of January. I think they're ready to say, OK.

And one thing we politicians crave, it's approval. And I think that if they saw us working together, the way that we did for a period of time after 9/11. Look, we presided over the biggest reorganization of government since the creation of the Defense Department, in the creation of the Department of Homeland Security.

We did do a lot of things right after 9/11. But it gradually eroded and now I think the American people are ready. They're ready to rally behind -- frankly, a new page to be turned in America's history. WOODRUFF: Senator, we have less than a minute in this block. But do you think the length of your service in Washington gives you a unique understanding of the changes that need to be made? Help us understand how that is.

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I wasn't elected "Miss Congeniality" again this year.


And the fact is, I fought them and fought them and fought them. And we have achieved some reforms. With Russ Feingold we achieved a landmark campaign finance reform bill. We did a number of things.

We enacted ethics and lobbying reform that wasn't nearly enough. I have fought against them. And there are allies there. We're not all the go-along-to-get-along crowd. And I know how it works and I know how to fix it and I know where the problems are. And so I'm confident we can fix it.

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Senator.

We'll be right back after this short break.



STENGEL: Senator, even as we sit here tonight, Hurricane Ike is bearing down on the Texas coast. What are the lessons that we learn from Hurricane Katrina, where we had the largest voluntary outpouring in American history? Aren't emergencies and disasters like this exactly why government needs to exist? What is the role of the private sector and what is the role of government?

MCCAIN: The role of government obviously is the primary role, and to protect our citizens and help them in times of emergency and distress. But also, I think there's a great role for faith-based organizations, volunteer organizations and the private sector.

I think we've got to involve more businesses and industries that routinely provide goods and services rather than rely on the federal government to do it. I don't think, frankly, if FedEx or Target or one of these organizations had been in charge, we wouldn't have had a truck full of ice ending up in Maine. They know where everything is. So we need to have -- we need to have that partnership.

But I also want to point out that faith-based organizations, as well as other volunteer organizations, did a magnificent job. There's a place called the Resurrection Baptist Church down in New Orleans. Thousands of volunteers from churches all over the country came and are still working in New Orleans, as we speak.

So the primary role is government, but we also need to have citizen involvement in a way which, as -- and to say the least, we all know, you need a better level of cooperation between federal, state and local government.

We saw that. We saw a dramatic improvement in this last threat we had. And our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Texas and the area that's threatened now. We pray God that it's minimal and we're ready to help. That's the primary responsibility of government.

WOODRUFF: Senator, it's been pointed out that for many people, to be able to do volunteer work, they are often people of some means, that can take a leave from their job or they may not need to work. Often, volunteer work, service is left to those who are more comfortable, whereas other people, especially young people, who want to do service, may graduate from college with a huge education debt. How do you balance it? MCCAIN: First of all, my experience has not been that the wealthiest people do the most volunteering. In fact, I think it is average citizens that do the most, in all due respect to rich people.


But the point -- it seems to me it's the average citizen that's the first to respond.

But I agree with you. We should provide, especially from a business standpoint -- if someone graduates from a fine institution or university, then we hope that the people that hire them would give them additional time to maybe go down and volunteer in a Habitat for Humanity or some other worthwhile cause.

But honestly, you know what I found? The busiest people are the busiest, and the busier they get, the busier they get, and the more time they find to help their neighborhood, their community and their fellow citizens.


WOODRUFF: So there's no need...

MCCAIN: ... I'm very pleased at the volunteer effort in America. I'm very pleased at what we've seen around this country, particularly as we're in difficult times. I think we can be proud of Americans.

And obviously, if we need to take some steps to encourage that or make it easier for them, I'm all for it.

STENGEL: Would you encourage corporations to give paid leave for service, which some companies are doing, like Timberland?

MCCAIN: If they want to, but I wouldn't force them to. If they want to do that, I would praise them, I would cite them as an example, but I don't think we can force that kind of thing.

STENGEL: Let's go to a different subject, a subject that's close to your heart. In "Faith of my Fathers," you write about how there has been a McCain who has fought in pretty much every American conflict going back 200 years. That's a huge legacy that was thrust on you. You talk about it being a little bit intimidating. What I wonder is, if you can talk personally about how that was conveyed to you as a boy and then how you conveyed that to your own children.

MCCAIN: Well, you know, a lot of times I don't talk too much publicly because I'm not a hero. I had the great honor of serving in the company of heroes. And in Hanoi I observed a thousand acts of courage compassion and love.

But I'd like to tell you that one day as a child, I said, gee, I'm going to be in military service. But it was just sort of something that was part of our tradition. And I rebelled against it.

I chronicled that, perhaps in too much detail. But it sort of was something that evolved. But then it was like a lot of young Americans, a lot of that glory was all about me. And it wasn't until I had the experience that I had that I realized that I belonged to my country and that my country saved me.

And I owed my country a great deal. And that change made me appreciate the fact that it's not about the individual, it's about the cause we serve. WOODRUFF: Senator, still on the subject of military, in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we know that recruiting has gotten harder. The qualifications for joining the Army have been lowered today. Thirty percent of new enlistees don't have high school diplomas. That's the highest percentage ever.

The percentage of young people who are either black, Hispanic, or who come from a lower income household is disproportionately high in the military. All this, while the sons and daughters of privilege, for the most part, your sons excluded, don't have to consider military service.

We have the greatest fighting army in the world, I think everyone would agree. But is there something about this picture that you think needs to change, this social imbalance?

MCCAIN: Well, I would remind you in the days of the draft that it was then most unfair because the lowest income Americans served and the wealthiest found ways of avoiding draft. I think the all- volunteer force is having difficulties recruiting and retaining because we're too small and we need to expand the size of our military and we need to do it as rapidly as possible.

And there are -- we have got to perhaps offer additional incentives. For a long time, years ago, the Navy and Air Force were losing pilots. So we paid them more and we had more of them stay in. Their first reason for serving is patriotism, but also, you have got to offer them incentives in order to do so.

And frankly, we're here in a wonderful institution. I'm proud that my daughter graduated from this school. But do you know that this school will not allow ROTC on this campus? I don't think that's right. Shouldn't the students here be exposed to the attractiveness of serving in the military, particularly as an officer?

So maybe -- maybe the -- I would hope that these universities...


MCCAIN: ... would re-examine -- I would hope that these universities would re-examine that policy of not even allowing people who come here to represent the military and other Ivy League schools and then maybe they will be able to attract some more.

Now that's not the heart of the problem. But I believe that we have the best-trained, most professional, best-equipped, bravest military we've ever had in our history today.

WOODRUFF: And we'll come back to this. We'll be right back after this break.


STENGEL: Let's stay on the subject of military. You authorized a really interesting military policy, and it was started out as a bill that you mentioned you and Evan Bayh co-sponsored and then you inserted in the Defense Appropriations Act that blends military and civilian service, the 18-24-18 policy, which I won't explain. But it's leading me to a larger question. Why wouldn't we have compulsory military service in America that has a civilian component? That if someone wants to opt out of military service, they can do their civilian service, like in your bill, and that it would become a unifying thing for America?

MCCAIN: Rick, first of all, I think that as much as I treasure our military service, there's lots of ways to serve our country, too. And I want to emphasize that. I know we're talking a lot about the military. But there's so many ways to serve this country and there's so many ways that are noble and wonderful, both at home and abroad. So I want to make that perfectly clear.

I think that it's very clear AmeriCorps has been one of the astonishing successes. Peace Corps, we've seen the success for a long time, because Jack Kennedy obviously originated it.

But we have seen these volunteer organizations succeed. And if we need to, whether it's connected to the military or not, provide them with sufficient reward and sufficient recognition.

You know, a lot of these young people are more proud of the fact that we recognize the ones walking around with the red jacket that say "City Year" than they are about the money.

MCCAIN: You know? I mean, that's what they're all about.

So I'd be glad to reward them as much as possible. But you want to be careful that the reason is not the reward of financial or other reasons, but the reward is the satisfaction of serving a cause greater than yourself. That would be fine with me. Finding new ways to serve. That's what this next few years should be all about.

WOODRUFF: Senator McCain, Senator Obama has put forward a national service plan to do some of the things you talked about, the two of you agree. But his has a price tag of around $3.5 billion. Is that an amount of money you'd be willing to spend? More, less? I mean, is that in the ballpark?

MCCAIN: I'd be glad to spend money. I don't think that should be the first priority in the kinds of benefits that are reaped from the kind of thing we're trying to seek.

I haven't agreed with all of what Senator Obama has proposed, but I think they're very good proposals there. Some of them are new, some of them are obviously not.

But I also want to emphasize there, it doesn't always have to be run by the government. That's why we also ought to understand that faith-based organizations, other volunteer organizations that are completely separate from the government, have nothing to do with the government, are amongst the most successful.

So let's not get entrapped by the idea that the government has to run these voluntary organizations and volunteer kinds of programs, because a lot of times the job can be done better with our encouragement.

WOODRUFF: So you're not in favor necessarily of a distinct government role?

MCCAIN: Oh, we have a distinct government role -- the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, all of these other organizations. But I want to be careful about expanding it when -- my philosophy is let's not have government do things that the private sector can do, or other organizations can do. That's just my theory of government.

So, look, I applaud Senator Obama's commitment to national service. And he makes a very strong case. And I look forward to joining him no matter what happens in November. This is a cause a lot bigger than anything to do with partisanship. STENGEL: Actually, speaking of that, I was going to ask an Internet question. We'll get back to that.

Governor Schwarzenegger in California has made service, the service czar in California a Cabinet-level appointment. If you were president, would you do the same and make service a Cabinet-level appointment, and would you perhaps ask Senator Obama to be a member of your Cabinet for national service?





Right now, as you know, there's an office in the White House, Freedom Corps Office. That office coordinates all these different organizations, which, rightly or wrongly, fall many times under different departments. I think if you have that person right down the hall from the Oval Office and you're working with that person on a daily basis, that's probably the most effective way to do it.

You know, every time we see a problem, we sort of let's create another Cabinet post. Now we have got so many members of the Cabinet that the Cabinet never meets, as you well know. So I'd rather see a powerful, influential, outstanding person sitting in that office who I could literally deal with every day.

WOODRUFF: Senator, at the Republican convention, a couple of speakers, most notably your running mate, vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, made somewhat derisive comments about Senator Obama's experience as a community organizer. I've heard you say you haven't taken that tone. So I guess my question is, are you saying to others in your campaign and your supporters that that's not the kind of language you want to hear?

MCCAIN: Well ...

WOODRUFF: How do you -- how are you approaching that?

MCCAIN: First of all, this is a tough business. Second of all, I think the tone of this whole campaign would have been very different if Senator Obama had accepted my request for us to appear in town hall meetings all over America, the same way Jack Kennedy and Barry Goldwater had agreed to do so. I know that, because I've been in enough campaigns.

Look, Governor Palin was responding to the criticism of her inexperience and her job as a mayor in a small town. That's what she was responding to.

Of course I respect community organizers. Of course I respect people who serve their community. And Senator Obama's record there is outstanding. And so I praise anyone who serves this nation in capacities that, frankly, we all know that could have been far more financially rewarding to individuals, rather than doing what they did.

WOODRUFF: Less significant than the work of a small-town mayor?

MCCAIN: I think a small-town mayor has very great responsibilities. They have a responsibility for the budget. They have hiring and firing of people. They have great responsibilities. They have to stand for election. I admire mayors.

I'm -- listen, mayors have the toughest job, I think, in America. It's easy for me to go to Washington and, frankly, be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have.

MCCAIN: So I admire mayors. I admire anyone who is willing to serve their community and their country. And that's what this is all about. And this is what today's all about. And we should set aside this partisanship, at least for this day, praise one another for our dedication to this country. That's what I do to Senator Obama.

(APPLAUSE) STENGEL: We have a less than a minute left in this segment. Here's a specific question about setting aside partisanship. Senator Kennedy and Senator Hatch, two old friends in the Senate, have sponsored a bipartisan bill on national service that I think among other things would triple the size of AmeriCorps and really put a lot of the strength of the federal government behind national service. As president, would you sign that bill?



MCCAIN: Of course. Our prayers are always with Ted Kennedy. I understand he's coming back in January. I greet that with mixed emotions. I love him.


I'm so happy, seriously, that Senator Kennedy is on the road to recovery. He's a lion of the Senate.

Look, I would sign that legislation. But I also want to caution again, government can't do it all. The essence of volunteerism starts at the grassroots level, does not start necessarily at the federal government level. So let's make sure we maintain the balance between federal involvement and encouragement of volunteerism and service to the nation, but also, let's not in any way stifle what already is going on and is very, very successful in America. And that's organizations that have no dependence whatsoever on our federal government and do such a great job for all of our citizens.

WOODRUFF: All right, Senator, we're going to take another break. We'll be right back.


WOODRUFF: Senator McCain, there's so much emphasis, of course, today on the younger generation giving. What about Baby Boomers and older folks? What should we be doing?

MCCAIN: Well, I think there are obviously organizations that we have in place for ability to serve, but we ought to really probably do a more and more effective job of utilizing the talents and experience of people who have had very successful lives and careers, and continue to motivate them to serve.

I think that's part of the proposals that have been made. And we do have the Senior Corps and other organizations. But the fact is that people are living longer and they're more active and vigorous. And I'm here to tell you that's a fact. And...






And so I -- Judy, I really believe that that is one of the under- utilized aspects of community service in America. And I think that would be one of the areas of emphasis really.

WOODRUFF: If I could just quickly follow-up. I asked partly because we got a number of online questions, and a woman named Giselle (ph) from Brooklyn, New York, she says: "With the staggering economy, how can people commit time to community service and still make ends meet?"

I know you said earlier, people of all income brackets, but what about those people who really do have to work to make...

MCCAIN: Our economy is broken. People are sitting around not worrying about volunteering but staying in their homes, keeping their job, affording to fill up their gas tank, we know that. Americans are hurting very badly. We have got to reform government. We've got to fix the economy. We have got to create jobs. But right now, we have to restore trust and confidence in government. If people don't trust the government, then they're not going to be as eager and willing to frankly be part of these programs that we are proposing and that we are hoping that people will volunteer and serve in.

So obviously, we have to fix our economy and get it going again and create jobs for Americans. But I think honestly that there are also Americans who are willing to volunteer their services no matter what.

But when people have a reasonable income and a reasonable future, obviously, they're going to volunteer more.

STENGEL: Let's talk about some folks who don't trust us. And that's a lot of countries overseas. You've talked about expanding the Peace Corps. You've also said, we shouldn't be sending money to countries that don't like us.

But should we be sending people, sending members of the Peace Corps to countries that don't like us, to help our esteem in the world, which of course has suffered since 9/11?

MCCAIN: Yes. And that's the best thing we can do...


... is expose the people in these countries to things we value, the things we stand for, the things we believe in. And there's no better representative of all that than Americans.

But also, I want to add, let's also have more people come here and be educated and trained and be exposed to the United States of America. We have found throughout the world, people that come and get educated here and return to the countries they came from as leaders, it's amazing.

And it establishes a base relationship that I think can also change the policies of a number of these countries that don't like us very much.

STENGEL: Would you give a green card to everybody, every foreign national who graduates with a Ph.D. in the sciences to stay in America?

MCCAIN: I certainly would do everything I can to keep those people in this country. I don't know if it would be an automatic green card, but I guarantee you that we'd love to have so many of these highly trained people stay in this country and ask any corporate executive in America, particularly those in the information technology business.

WOODRUFF: Senator, I want to come back to something you said earlier, I think you used the word exceptional and unique about being an American. On this 9/11, this special day, what -- help us understand what you think it means to be an American. And I don't mean that in the obvious way.

I mean, people who live in Canada, who live in Mexico, around the world feel special about their country, so what is it that's different about being in America? Are Americans better than people in some of these other countries? We hear the term "exceptionalism" about the United States.

MCCAIN: I do believe in American exceptionalism.

MCCAIN: And I think it was best articulated by our founding fathers. But I also think that my hero, Teddy Roosevelt, expressed it very well, and other leaders throughout our history.

We're the only nation I know in the world that really is deeply concerned about adhering to the principle that all of us are created equal and endowed by our creators with certain rights. And those we have tried to bring to the world. And we have not so much militarily, but through example, through leadership, through economic assistance.

Look at what we did for Europe after World War II, look at the continuous efforts we make throughout the world. Look at the efforts we're making to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa. There's a lot more America can do.

And I love these other countries, and I'm not trying to denigrate them. But I know of no other country in the world with the generosity of spirit and the concern for fellow human beings than the United States of America, and I think that goes back to our very beginnings.

WOODRUFF: Does that make America better than these other...?

MCCAIN: I think it makes us exceptional. I think it makes us exceptional in the kind of citizenry we have and the kind of service and sacrifice that we are capable of.

And I mean that in no disrespect to any other nation, our close and unique relationship with the British. I have -- I'm not trying to in any way denigrate any other nation, but it doesn't in any way diminish my pride in the history of this nation, which has literally shed our blood in all four corners of the earth many times in defense of someone else's freedom and have tried to further the principles of freedom and democracy everywhere in the world. I think we're dedicated to that proposition. And, frankly, I think we've done a pretty good job.

STENGEL: Now, let's talk about the framers for a second, because one of the things that they distrusted and disliked -- they called it faction, which they meant political parties. The framers didn't want to have political parties. George Washington hated the idea of political parties.

But now, we're in the midst of a campaign between two parties. And the tone of the campaign has gotten pretty ugly. You've talked from the beginning about running a different kind of campaign. So has Senator Obama. You both talked about a high-minded campaign.

What does this do to people who are interested in public service? I mean, there are lots of people who think, man, I can't run for office when this kind of thing is happening. What does that do? If we're here for service and what does that campaign tell us about that?

MCCAIN: First of all, I have said repeatedly, I think Senator Obama has inspired millions of Americans who otherwise wouldn't have been involved in the political process. That's just a fact.

And I believe that my record of service and my vision for the future has attracted people. I think you are going to see the biggest voter turnout in history in this election.

Has it been rough? Of course. And again, it isn't the final recipe or the only answer. I think Americans would be helped enormously if we stood on the stage together tonight and talked about national service, all four of us, rather than three and one going on and then the other.

And again, I hope that Senator Obama will accept my request. Let's go around America. Let's listen to hopes and dreams and aspirations of the American people and respond to them. I think that's the best and most effective way of getting everybody involved in this campaign.

WOODRUFF: Do you think it's naive of people to expect that politics could be a little less rough and tumble and even nasty?

MCCAIN: The people make the final judgment with their votes. They make the final judgment about campaigns and how we present ourselves to the American people. And I think that that will be the ultimate test of what kind of campaigns do we run.

I, again, think that it's very important that we focus on issues, we focus on challenges that America faces today, both domestically and national security wise. And I intend to do that. And there's 54 more days left. Who's counting?


STENGEL: By 2042, the United States of America will no longer be a majority white nation.


STENGEL: Robert Putnam, the sociologist, has written about how in communities that are diverse, there's actually less social capital, less trust. What can national service do to knit up America? And I'm sorry, we only have one minute left for such a complicated question.

MCCAIN: National service can do a great deal. National service can unite us, just as the military unite us, as we meet people and interface with people from all over the world.

But also let me say, look, the greatest thing that makes America exceptional is we have had wave after wave of people come to this country for the same reason -- they want to build a better life, they wanted freedom and they want to be part of America. So I don't accept that premise that somehow -- some of the most patriotic Americans that I've ever seen and the hardest working and most ready to serve this country and go in harm's way are those who just came here.

WOODRUFF: Senator...

MCCAIN: I'll never forget being at a ceremony in Baghdad last Fourth of July, where 160 some people who were green card holders got their citizenship, and they had been willing to serve in the military for an accelerated path to citizenship. That's how much they wanted to be part of this country. That was an exhilarating experience.

WOODRUFF: Senator John McCain, thank you very, very much.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

STENGEL: Thank you.

MCCAIN: Thank you.


WOODRUFF: As we -- as we thank -- as we thank Senator McCain very much for his participation, we want to welcome now the Democratic nominee for president of the United States, Senator Barack Obama.

MCCAIN: Good being with you today.


WOODRUFF: Senator, thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE) WOODRUFF: We'll be right back after a short break.



STENGEL: Senator Obama, welcome again. You must have some affiliation here.

OBAMA: Yes, I've got a slight home-court advantage here. This is my alma mater. And I want to thank...


Thank you.

I was saying, though, the neighborhood has changed. When I came here in 1980, you know, some of the apartments around here didn't look quite what they look like now. And I could afford them then. I don't think I can now.


STENGEL: Faculty housing is still great.

Today is 9/11. You were down at Ground Zero with Senator McCain. And we're going to ask a lot of the same similar questions that we asked of Senator McCain. And the first one we asked was, what does 9/11 mean to you? What's the significance of it? Where were you when it happened, for example?

OBAMA: Well, I was in Chicago. I was in the state legislature at the time. I still remember driving down Lake Shore Drive on my way to a committee hearing, downtown, and hearing the initial report. And there was still confusion whether it was an accident, what had happened.

By the time I got downtown, we started evacuating the buildings and then we all watched in horror on television. And like I think for most people, it is indelible. And it is a reminder not only of the terrible potential for evil in the world, but it's also a reminder of what America does at the toughest times, which is to come together.

And when I think of 9/11, I think of that spirit after the tragedy had occurred, how the outpouring of patriotism, emotion, volunteerism, the desire for service was in the minds of everyone.

And that was also a moment when the petty bickering and partisanship that comes to characterize our public life was set aside. And so the question is, how do we recreate that spirit, not just during times of tragedy, not just during 9/11, but how do we honor those who died, those who sacrificed, the firefighters, the police officers, how do we honor them everyday?

How does it reflect itself in our government? How does it reflect ourselves in how we conduct our own civic life? And my sense is that the country yearns for that. It's hungry for it. And what has been missing is a president in the White House that taps into that yearning in a serious way.

WOODRUFF: Well, Senator McCain actually agreed with that a few minutes ago. He said that if he had been president, he would have used that opportunity to ask the country to serve, to ask people to serve.

What's different about what you're saying?

OBAMA: Well, I'm not sure there is anything different. What I know is that had I been president at the time, and I have to say that the president did rally the nation in a speech at Ground Zero and subsequently.

We went after those who had attacked us, appropriately. But rather than tell the American people to shop, what I would have done is to say, now is the time for us to meet some great challenges.

We've been tested. And yet we have survived it. And we are going to be stronger than we were. And the way we're going to be stronger than we were is to tap into the feeling that everybody has been caught up in.

We're going to have a bold energy plan that says that we are going to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by 20 or 30 percent over the course of a decade or two.

We are going to ask all citizens to participate in that process, not just government, but each and every one of us are going to have -- are going to make commitments in terms of increasing fuel efficiency in our cars and homes, and the government is going to be in partnership with citizens to make that happen.

We are going to tap into this desire when it comes to first responders. One of the striking things, as you travel around the country, is the number of small towns and medium-sized towns that rely exclusively on volunteer firefighters.

OBAMA: And think about what we could have done all across the country as part of a homeland security initiative to organize groups around the country that could serve in those common ways.

And I would have asked very explicitly for young people to engage in community service and military service. I was listening earlier of the discussion about who serves in our military. I think that had the president very clearly said, this is not just going to be a war of a few of us, this is going to be an effort that mobilizes all of us, I think we would have had a different result.

STENGEL: What are, Senator Obama, the obligations of citizenship in a democracy? Basically, in America now, people vote, only about half of them, and they pay their taxes. And that's about where the bar is. What would you ask of people in what you call, I believe, active citizenship? How is that different than what we see now? OBAMA: America is the greatest country on earth. But it didn't just happen on its own. It's not a gift only, although it is a great blessing that we've received. It is also a responsibility. Part of what makes America work is the fact that we believe in individual responsibility and self-reliance, but we also believe in mutual responsibility, in neighborliness, in a sense that we are committed to something larger than ourselves.

Now, that can express itself in a whole range of ways, but what has built this country is people sense, through voluntary associations, but also through public service in government, that we have commitments that extend beyond our immediate self-interest, that aren't always motivated by profit, that aren't simply short-term, that we're thinking long-term, to the next generation.

Every bit of progress that we've made historically is because of that kind of active citizenship.

And as president, what I want to do is restore that sense of common mutual responsibility. And I think the American people are ready for it.

WOODRUFF: Give us some examples, specific examples of how you would do that. Because people listening will say, oh, it all sounds well and good, but how would you do that?

OBAMA: Well, let's talk very specifically about...

WOODRUFF: And we just have a minute left. OBAMA: OK. Well, it will carry over. But I put forward a very specific national service plan. And I'm glad to see that my dear friend, Senator Kennedy, as well as a fine senator, Senator Hatch, have come together and taken many of the similar elements -- they're going to be introducing it tomorrow.

One way of making sure that we encourage this kind of citizenship is to start early, to make sure that our young people in high school have community service opportunities. Making sure that our university students, in exchange for making college affordable, are giving something back.


In underserved communities, that they are teaching, that they are working in hospitals that need help.

I've got all kinds of other stuff, Judy, but I'll wait until after the break.

WOODRUFF: We are going to take a break. Thank you for announcing that. And we'll be right back.


STENGEL: Senator Obama, you do indeed have a comprehensive national service plan. It's mentioned in our magazine this week on national service.

But here's my question. Bill Clinton also had a very comprehensive national service plan. And he had to tailor a lot of what he had proposed with AmeriCorps and other policies because of the unions, because of teachers unions, because of public unions. Wouldn't you have to kind of cut back the scale of some of what you have done, or have you done that already to make sure that the unions will go for it?

OBAMA: I don't think so. Look, the spirit of unions is coming together because we are stronger together than we are individually. That's the idea behind the union movement.

And I think the times have changed since 1992. I think that people recognize, for example, that we can't continue an education system that fails so many of our young people. And we need an all hands on deck approach.

And I think not only teachers' unions, but teachers themselves recognize that if there are volunteers, if we have got retirees who are scientists and mathematicians, who are willing to come in the classrooms and provide additional help to young people and inspire them into different careers, I think that they're going to welcome it.

So, look, do I expect that my national service plan gets passed exactly as I proposed? Of course not. That's not the way legislation works. But I believe we're in one of those special moments, one of those defining moments, where the American people recognize that we are not on the right track. That our government is not working the way it should. That our economy is not working the way it should. And they expect leadership from Washington, but they understand that they have to be a part of the solution as well.

And I think that's why we have to seize this moment. And the next president is going to have to actively pursue these issues of service.

WOODRUFF: When we asked Senator McCain some of these questions, he said several times -- he said there is a government role in all of this, but he said we should be careful about how much we scale up and increase the role of government. I want to come back to something we raised with him. And that is, that those young people who are interested in the Peace Corps, Teach for America, not all of them can afford, frankly, to come out of school and take a very low-paying job, no matter how much they want to serve. What would be the responsibility of the government and others to make it easier?

Well, first of all, I think Senator McCain is right, that income does not determine whether or not people serve. You can go into small rural towns and people are really scraping by, and yet they are helping each other in all sorts of ways.

But what I agree is that the choices that we provide young people right now are too constrained.

OBAMA: You know, when I graduated from Columbia, I had a choice. I could pursue a lucrative career on Wall Street or go immediately to law school, or I could follow through on the inspiration that I had drawn from the civil rights movement and from the Kennedy era, and try to work in the community.

And I chose the latter, but it was tough. I made $12,000 a year plus car expenses in Chicago, working with churches, to set up job training programs for the unemployed and after-school programs for youth, trying to make the community better.

It was the best education I ever had. But ironically, it was harder for me to find that job than it was for me to find a job on Wall Street. And I think there are a lot of young people out there who are interested in making that same choice, and we should be encouraging them. The government's going to have a role.

Look, young people can't afford college right now. And one of my central platforms in this campaign is we're going to provide a $4,000 tuition credit every student, every year, but in exchange for giving something back. And so, young people of modest means, who are interested in going to college, this gives them an opportunity to serve and at the same time, pay for their college education. I think there are a lot of creative ways where we can provide opportunities than exist right now.

STENGEL: Now the role of government is something we talked a little bit about with Senator McCain. Republicans have traditionally said, and I'm thinking for example, of Newt Gingrich, who I know is not one of your advisers...


... but said that the problem with big government is it gets in this way of private initiative. And as government grew over generations, that in fact, it repressed public service and it repressed national service because there was no room for it anymore. Some Republicans worry, well, he's going to make such a big government, that won't even leave room for private initiative.

OBAMA: I think those are old arguments. Let's look to the future.

The fact is that we have to have government. When a hurricane strikes, as it did with Katrina, we have to have a FEMA that works, which by the way, means that we should be encouraging young people, the best and the brightest, to get involved as civil servants, to pursue careers of public service so we've got people who are trained in federal emergency management who are able to take on the job.

Now, that does not crowd out the Red Cross. That doesn't crowd out the thousands of church groups that went down there. What it means is that each area has a role to play.

The Peace Corps does not crowd out opportunities for service overseas. You've got churches and synagogues and mosques all across the country that are deeply involved in efforts to deal with HIV/AIDS and malaria and all sorts of public health issues. Yet, this is an area George Bush appropriately said, we're going to make a commitment as the wealthiest nation on earth to deal with the devastation of AIDS, and his PEPFAR program has been highly successful, working with not-for-profits, working with governments, working with both public and private in order to solve the problems.

So there are more than enough problems out there to deal with. And what is true is we don't need to set up bureaucracy. See, I would distinguish between a government assist in providing people avenues for service and a government bureaucracy in which the notion is that the only way you can serve is through some defined government program.

WOODRUFF: And I do want to pick up on that just briefly, because as we said earlier, tonight is not a night to focus on contrast between you and Senator McCain. But help us understand how you see the role of government in all of this differently from the way he does.

OBAMA: Well, you know, listening to his presentation, it sounds like he's interested in the AmeriCorps program and Peace Corps. I think it is terrific that we can garner some bipartisan support. That was not always the case.

I believe firmly that government should expand avenues of opportunity. I want to create an energy corps, a clean energy corps that can mobilize individual citizens to help create greater energy efficiency in our country. I want to mobilize seniors to get involved with their schools or their local hospital or health clinic.

So there are going to be a whole range of ways that we can do it. Some of that is going to cost money, but mostly it requires government providing these opportunities and these avenues and a president who is willing to inspire people to get involved and get outside of themselves. That's something we're doing in this campaign, and that's something I think I can do as president.

WOODRUFF: Senator Obama, we'll be right back after this break.



WOODRUFF: Senator Obama, one of the, of course, enormous consequences of 9/11 were the wars in Afghanistan and then Iraq. In the wake of those wars, today, the United States military is facing enormous challenges. Junior officers are leaving the Army in record numbers. The recent graduates of West Point leaving the Army.

What would you do as president to make serving and staying in the military more attractive to young men and women?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, as commander-in-chief, my job is to keep America safe. And that means insuring that we've got the best military on Earth. And that means having the best persons in uniform on Earth. We have that right now, but as a consequence of these wars, they have been strained incredibly. I think it's important for us to increase the size of our Army and our Marines so we can reduce the pace of tours that our young men and women are on.

I think it's important to work towards increasing military pay. I think the passage of the G.I. bill was extraordinarily important as a message to our men and women in uniform that when you serve our country, we will stand by you.

I think about my grandfather, who served in Patton's army in World War II. He joined after Pearl Harbor. And we were talking off- camera about where did I get this sense of service. I think about my grandparents' generation.

My grandfather, after Pearl Harbor, joined the military. My grandmother, who had just had a baby at Fort Leavenworth, stayed back and worked on a bomber assembly line. There was a total mobilization.

OBAMA: And when my grandfather came back, he came back to a G.I. bill that was going to pay for his college education and FHA loans that would help them purchase a home. There was that sense of sacred obligation that, frankly, we have lost during these last two wars.

I want to restore that.

But it's also important that a president speaks to military service as an obligation not just of some, but of many. You know, I traveled, obviously, a lot over the last 19 months. And if you go to small towns, throughout the Midwest or the Southwest or the South, every town has tons of young people who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's not always the case in other parts of the country, in more urban centers. And I think it's important for the president to say, this is an important obligation. If we are going into war, then all of us go, not just some.

STENGEL: To that end, to get the best and brightest into the military, this university, your alma mater, invited President Ahmadinejad of Iran to be here last year, but they haven't invited ROTC to be on campus since 1969. Should Columbia and elite universities that have excluded ROTC invite them back on campus?

OBAMA: Yes. I think we've made a mistake on that.


I recognize that there are students here who have differences in terms of military policy. But the notion that young people here at Columbia or anywhere, in any university, aren't offered the choice, the option of participating in military service, I think is a mistake.

That does not mean we disregard any potential differences in various issues that are raised by the students here, but it does mean that we should have an honest debate while still offering opportunities for everybody to serve, and that's something that I'm pretty clear about. WOODRUFF: You were saying a moment ago that you think there should be more young people serving in the military; we need a broader demographic cross-section. How do you do that short of a draft?

OBAMA: Again, I think that inspiring young people to serve is something that the president is uniquely positioned to do.

Now, it doesn't always have to be service in uniform. One of the things, that if you talk to our generals, they are desperate for, is a civilian counterpart to our military forces.

Our military is the best in the world, but they are asked to do so many different things because our civilian operations, our State Department, USAID have been underfunded, have atrophied.

And for us to say, serve in the military, but if that's not where you want to serve, learn a foreign language and go into the foreign service. And by the way, we will deploy you in some difficult areas, but that's part of what it means to be an American and to serve and to sacrifice.

We need agricultural specialists in places like Afghanistan. We need civil engineers that can do some of the work that currently our military officers are doing.

And so, I think a president who is consistently asking for young people to reach for something higher, something bigger than themselves, I think, will get enormous response.

STENGEL: We have only a couple minutes left in this segment. You mentioned last week on George Stephanopoulos' show that you'd actually considered signing up for the military yourself. And you seemed to imply that if there was a war going on, you might have been more inclined. Is there anything more important about serving in the military during wartime than peacetime?

OBAMA: Well, there's no doubt that if there are wars going on and some are being asked to sacrifice their lives, that I think you have to ask yourself, why them instead of you? And so I think there are special obligations during wartime.

But we need military -- we always have potential conflicts around the world, and our military has to remain strong and ready. And so I want to encourage military service, as well as other ways of serving, regardless of whether there's war or not.

But I do think that over the last several years, the fact that the burden has been shouldered by such a narrow group is a problem. And how we treat those young people, by the way, when they come home, continues to be a problem.

One of my components in terms of national service is having a veterans corps, where we are mobilizing citizens to pair up and provide support to our veterans who are coming home, making sure we have resources, making sure employers are reaching out to them, giving them opportunities to transition into civilian life much more effectively than they're getting right now.

WOODRUFF: Brief question, because I think we just have a minute.


WOODRUFF: This is from an online question from Gina (ph) in Bloomfield, Michigan. She says, "How possible would it be to give military-style benefits to non-military citizens who do national service work full-time?"

OBAMA: I think it depends on the kind of service that's being provided. As I said, if we are building the kind of foreign service and -- that is expeditionary, that is going into very difficult, dangerous areas, to carry out the civilian side of the work of helping a country like Afghanistan rebuild, then we should think about what are the benefits of that service? Oftentimes, those people are putting themselves at great harm. They are being deployed and are undergoing -- their families are undergoing similar sacrifices to the sacrifices that those serving in the military are.

But I do think that we have a special obligation for those who have put their lives at risk, who are risking life and limb on behalf of the security of America.

That does not mean that we can't provide other avenues of service. For example, I've said we desperately need teachers, math and science teachers in particular.

And so, for us to provide full scholarships for those who are willing to get their teaching certificate, get educated in these fields, and then be placed in some of the most underserved communities in the country, that's something that we should be willing to pay for, so that people who want to serve anyway at least can afford it.

WOODRUFF: We'll be right back with our last segment.



WOODRUFF: Senator Obama, this question of whether or not national service would be elevated to cabinet level position, among other things, Senator McCain said that if it were that, he would ask you to be his secretary. Would you ask him, if you were elected president, to run the national service...

OBAMA: Well, I mean, if this is the deal he wants to make right now, I...


... I am committed to appointing him to my cabinet of national service. Look, Senator...

WOODRUFF: Would you be willing to serve in his cabinet?

OBAMA: We've got a little work to do before we get to that point.


Senator McCain's service is legendary. And one of the wonderful things about this campaign, I think, is his ability to share that story and himself inspire a whole generation of young people to model what he did for this country.

And so I think that one of the primary objectives of my presidency would be to lift up the opportunities for service in a bipartisan fashion so that we take it out of politics.

Just very briefly, I want to give an example. There's a young man in Montana that I met named Matt Kuntz, who had been an infantry officer in the Army, was injured, was honorably discharged, got a law degree and was working in corporate law.

His half-brother served in the National Guard in Iraq, came back with post-traumatic stress disorder, was unable to get the counseling he needed and ended up committing suicide.

And Matt, having watched this painful process and trying to intervene, decided to quit his corporate law job, and decided that he was going to take it upon himself to create an advocacy group in Montana just around post-traumatic stress disorder for veterans.

And now Montana has the best post-traumatic stress disorder treatment programs for National Guardsmen. And Matt has continued now in the not-for-profit sector. I make this point because I never asked Matt whether he was Democrat or Republican. I never asked Matt whether he was liberal or conservative.

What I knew was that he had seen a wrong and was inspired to take action. And that kind of message, I think, is what has to be communicated each and every day by our president, by our political culture. And that's one of the reasons I'm running for president.


STENGEL: We asked Senator McCain the same question about Governor Palin's belittling being a community organizer. Did the Democrats in return belittle being a small-town mayor? Was she being unfair or was it hypocritical because Republicans actually say, hey, what people do in their private life is more important than public service?

OBAMA: Well, listen, we had an awful lot of small-town mayors at the Democratic Convention, I assure you. I meet them all the time. And I have -- the mayors have some of the toughest jobs in the country, because that's where the rubber hits the road. We yak in the Senate. They actually have to fill potholes and trim trees and make sure the garbage is taken away.

So, I was surprised by the several remarks around community organizing and belittling it. You know, when I think about the choice I made as a 23-, 24-year-old, to spend three years working with churches, to help people help themselves, no insult to the president of this fine institution, but it was the best education I ever had because it taught me that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when they're given a chance and when they're brought together.

And that's something I want to encourage for every young person. I want every young person around this country to recognize they will not fulfill their full potential until they hitch their wagon to something bigger.

Now that's not to say that we need talent in the private sector, we want talent in the private sector, but there are so many ways of serving voluntarily. You don't have to take the same path I did.

But that's something that -- that's a message I think everyone should want to encourage and I hope the Republicans want to encourage that as well.

WOODRUFF: Senator, picking up on this tone in the political campaigns, so much is said that's critical about people who are in Washington, the way Washington works, bureaucrats in Washington, how much responsibility do you think you and other presidential candidates this year -- though just the two of you major party candidates, have to change the rhetoric so that people who work in government, work in public service are respected?

OBAMA: I think you make an important point. Look, Washington is broken. My whole campaign has been premised from the start on the idea that we have to fundamentally change how Washington works. That the domination of special interests, the domination of lobbyists, the loss of a civic culture in Washington among public service has led to not only well-known disasters, like the mismanagement of the Katrina situation, but quiet disasters, where you've got entire agencies that have been hollowed out and you've got political appointees who aren't concerned with the mission of those organizations.

So we've got to transform Washington. And we've got to do some house cleaning. But what we also want to do is to remind young people that if it weren't for government, then we wouldn't have a Civil Rights Act. If it weren't for government, we would not have the interstate highway system. If it weren't for government, we would not have some of our parks and natural wilderness areas that are so precious to America.

And so part of my job, I think, as president, is to make government cool again.


And to say to young people, to say to young people, even as we're transforming Washington, come on, we want you. We want you to get involved at every level. And by the way, you don't even have to join government. Part of what we're going to do is create transparency and accountability in how government works so that you can be an active citizen holding your public servants and elected officials accountable. That's one other aspect of citizenship is paying attention to what's taking place. And part of what I've been thrilled about during the course of this campaign is how energized people have been, how interested people are. I mean, the viewership, both for the Democratic and Republican convention, broke all records. We have seen the kinds of volunteerism in our own campaign, in which by the way, we're channeling not just to work on our own campaign, we've had 1,000 hours of community service by our volunteers, not organized by us but organized by themselves. And that's the kind of opportunity that I think we have to tap into.

STENGEL: Now, you mentioned civic participation is at an all- time high. Basically, you mentioned voluntary associations before. Back in the 19th century, the famous French scholar...

OBAMA: De Tocqueville.

STENGEL: ... de Tocqueville came here and said, you know, America's voluntary associations make it unique and special.

OBAMA: Right.

STENGEL: Is volunteerism, is national service part of American exceptionalism? Is it part of what makes America special?

OBAMA: Yes. We have always balanced the tradition of individual responsibility and self-reliance with notions of community and love for country, in part because of voluntary associations. What it's done is it allowed people to exercise the freedom to determine the direction of their communities, but still recognizing that we are part of a common project, of creating a better life for the next generation. And that's something that's been lost.

But what we're seeing in this campaign is it's something people want to restore. It requires responsibilities.

Part of what is interesting about our campaign, for example, is that when young people come in, we work them like dogs. I mean, and they are given big responsibilities. One of the striking things, when you visit our troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, you've got 22-, 23-year- old, platoon leaders who are taking on life-and-death responsibilities and decision-making.

We sell too many of our citizens short. They want to be involved.

But we've got to start early. We've got -- and that's part of the reason why I want to make sure that we've got opportunities in high school, we've got opportunities in college, that we help schools create a civic education system that involves community service so that these values are transmitted to the next generation.

I would think parents would be thrilled to have their kids turn off the video game and get out there and do something. And you know what, it turns out the kids would appreciate it as well. WOODRUFF: Is there a president or administration that would be a model for you? Everybody talks about what John Kennedy asked the country to do. But John Kennedy or any other president?

OBAMA: Look, I think what Kennedy did at a time of enormous change was to look out into the horizon and say, this is where America needs to go.

OBAMA: Not just to the moon, but all sorts of new frontiers. And then he created structures like the Peace Corps to channel the idealism that he tapped.

I think Bill Clinton, in setting up AmeriCorps, again, created structures that tapped into idealism that was already there. I think it is right below the surface. And so my...

WOODRUFF: Any Republican president come to mind?

OBAMA: Well, Teddy Roosevelt, I think, was an activist president who understood how we mobilize our citizens. Means that we hold all our institutions accountable, public and private. And that's why, you know, one of the premises of our campaign from the start has been that change happens from the bottom up. It doesn't happen from the top down. It happens because the American people look up and they say, we imagine a world not as it is but as it should be, and we are willing to roll up our sleeves and put in the hard work to change this country, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, state by state. And that, I think, is the kind of president I would like to be is one that inspires more of that feeling and provides the avenues to express it.

WOODRUFF: Senator Barack Obama, thank you very much for joining us for this presidential candidate ServiceNation forum.


We appreciate it. Thank you very much.

OBAMA: Thank you so much. * BROWN: I'm Campbell Brown in the CNN New York studios. We are going to have reaction on tonight's Presidential Forum on Service coming up in just a moment. But we have some serious breaking news on Hurricane Ike to tell you about right now. This has become a monster storm, gaining strength off the Texas coast and changing course, heading straight for a direct hit on Houston, America's fourth largest city.

Tonight, the National Weather Service has put out an urgent warning that life-threatening flooding is likely along the shoreline of Galveston Bay. We have our people on the ground all through the storm's path, where literally millions of people are in danger from Ike. We begin with Anderson Cooper who is in Houston. I know at least a million people have advocated the Houston area today. What do you know? ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Campbell, the latest warnings are dire, as you mentioned, perhaps the strongest language I have ever heard in my years of hurricane coverage. For people in vulnerable areas, the message is this, "you stay and you die." Tonight, the National Weather Service has just put out this urgent warning that life-threatening flooding is likely along the shoreline of Galveston Bay. It says, quote, "persons not heeding evacuation orders in single family, one or two story homes, will face certain death," certain death.

We have never heard -- at least I have never heard that strong language in a National Weather Service warning like this. Nearly six million people live in the Houston Galveston Area. Tens of thousands of thousands are already on the road. The hurricane now a Cat Two, expected to grow stronger before coming ashore sometime late tomorrow or early Saturday. But it's the size, not the strength that has forecasters worried. Ike is now 700 miles in diameter. It is a huge amount of ocean that is being pushed around. The fear is that ocean will be pushed ashore.

We have folks all throughout the region, Campbell, covering this. Certainly, this kind of warning, which was just put out a short time ago, is something the likes of which we have not seen.

BROWN: Absolutely, Anderson. We are going to be checking back in with you in just a few minutes. As you heard, the biggest threat from Ike is in Galveston, Texas. CNN's Gary Tuchman is there for us tonight. Gary, do people appreciate the seriousness of this?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I will tell you, Campbell, people really don't know about the seriousness of this yet. Just like Anderson said, I have never heard words like this in my life, "certain death." We have been telling some people who haven't evacuated -- they should have evacuated because there was a mandatory evacuation order on this island of 57,000 people. Right between the Gulf of Mexico, behind me, to Galveston Bay, on the other side.

They're expecting, the National Weather Service, a storm surge up to 22 feet. This is a 17 foot wall I'm standing on, built decades ago, because this is the site where I'm standing, of the worst natural disaster in American history. One hundred eight years ago this week, between 6,000 and 8,000 people were killed when a hurricane came to Galveston.

Campbell, it took almost the same exact path.

BROWN: Are they trying to get word out? Obviously, they must be, to make sure these evacuations take place.

TUCHMAN: Here's how he word is getting out. We're telling people who are walking by. They say, you're kidding me. Most of these people say they're plan on leaving tomorrow before the heavy winds come. Hotels, restaurants that are still open, are telling people. The power is on. The weather is nice right now. So people are watching television, listening to the radio and hopefully getting the message. BROWN: Gary Tuchman for us tonight. Gary, thanks. We want to go to the CNN Severe Weather Center right now. Chad Myers is watching Ike. Chad, when is all this going to happen?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It probably happens between 10:00 tomorrow night and 2:00 am, that four hour period, somewhere between Sabine Pass and about Freeport. That puts Galveston and Houston right in the middle of the most likely area. It's still forecast to be stronger that what it is now. It's 100 miles per hour. It's forecast to be 120 as it makes land fall. That push, that wall of water that will come on shore, not like a tsunami, but wave after wave, will push 6 inches at a time.

And the water will just be coming up and coming up and coming up. By the time you know to get out, it's too late. You can't go anywhere. You just don't see this tsunami coming and you start running. It's a gradual effect as this thing comes on shore tomorrow night around Galveston.

We do expect Category Two wind gusts in Houston. Probably 90 mile per hour winds or more in the city of Houston, right through all those sky scrapers, probably glass breaking out of some of those buildings and structural damage there as well. Then down along in the bay, that's where the winds is really going to be strong. That's category three winds all along Galveston. Here's where the water is going to inundate Galveston Island, probably down towards Freeport, as well.

And the water piles in -- it piles in to Galveston Bay and the water goes up, all the way through Baytown, through Texas, Lead City, probably Bay View, really going to get water. It could be 15 to 20 feet of water in those towns. Most houses are what, only 10, 12 feet high. If you're only 10 feet off the ground or off the ocean, you going to have water in your house for sure. Campbell?

BROWN: All right, Chad. A lot to keep an eye on. Hoping tonight that people are starting to get word now. We will have much more on all of this when we come back. Anderson Cooper with more breaking news on what has become monster Hurricane Ike.

Also coming up, we are going to talk about the big political story of the day. Sarah Palin says if the Republic of Georgia joins NATO, and Russia attacks Georgia, the U.S. could go to war. That was part of an interview that took place today. We'll have that for you coming up next.


BROWN: We have breaking news tonight on monster Hurricane Ike. The National Weather Service is warning that residents who remain behind in some neighborhoods face, quote, "certain death." And Anderson Cooper has the very latest now from Houston. Anderson?

COOPER: Campbell, they're talking specifically about folks on Galveston Island, in one to two-story homes, also in some low-lying areas in the Houston area. We have seen long lines of people leaving the Galveston area, around the interstate, around Houston. Traffic has been congested throughout today. But folks in Houston proper, about four million people, are being told to just shelter in place, hunker down.

We've seen long lines in grocery stores, gas stations, people trying to stock up, not taking onto the roads in the numbers of the four million that were living here. They're going to be staying in place, but they're trying to evacuate as many as up to a million people in the coastal areas who need to get out of the path of the storm. That is a priority.

This kind of warning is not something we have seen before, this kind of language. Certain death is something -- I personally have never heard it from the National Weather Service in advance of a hurricane like this. Again, it's not just the size of the hurricane itself, the strength of it. It is the size, some 700 miles long. This thing is a monster storm. Right now, in Houston, as you can tell, it's incredibly hot, not raining at all. There's no sense of what is out there.

But people know this is coming. There's been a lot of news reports. And they're trying to get ready as best they can, Campbell.

BROWN: Anderson, thanks very much. We'll see you in just a few minutes at 10:00 eastern time.

We do want to turn now to today's top political story. Sarah Palin's first television interview as John McCain's running mate. She had a lot to say. So does our political panel tonight. Bay Buchanan, Republican strategist and former senior adviser to Mitt Romney's campaign joining us from Washington, CNN political analyst Roland Martin with me here, and CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley also in New York. Guys, thanks for joining us tonight.

Charlie Gibson today ask Sarah Palin a lot of questions on foreign policy. We want to highlight a couple. First Palin said if the Republic of Georgia joins NATO and Russia attacks, then the U.S. could very well go to war. Let's listen.


CHARLIE GIBSON, ABC ANCHOR: Within the NATO treaty, wouldn't we then have to go to war if Russia went into Georgia?

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Perhaps so. That is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help.


BROWN: Everyone's ears perked up when she made the statement. Roland, what's your take on it?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Folks' ears perked up because anytime you hear going to war, that's what happens. But look, I think the average person out there is probably saying, what in the world is NATO? They probably don't even understand what the rules of engagement are when it comes to NATO. So again that statement is probably going to get a lot of folks' attention. But you have to understand what they do and explain it, and that's hard to do that, frankly, in 10, 15 seconds.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: She's perfectly right about what the whole purpose of NATO is. That is all for one and one for all, regardless. But she went on in that very same question or prompted the next question to say it doesn't have to be war. We could do economic sanctions. We could do diplomatic sanctions. So the totality of the remark I think, in its context, if that is indeed what NATO is about, certainly was a valid foreign policy view.

MARTIN: As we know in politics, this campaign tells us context often gets ignored. People only focus on the narrow sound bites.

CROWLEY: But we do, Roland.

BROWN: He's like making his case for you tonight. Let me ask you about another issue, Bay, that came up. Gibson also asked Palin for her take on what is the hallmark of US foreign policy post-9/11. Let's listen to this.


GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON: What do you interpret it to be?

PALIN: His world view?

GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq War.

PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell-bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. With new leadership -- that's the beauty of American elections and democracy -- with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.

GIBSON: The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense. We have a right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?

PALIN: Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend or country.


BROWN: So, Bay, some people interpreted that exchange as her not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is. Is that a problem?

BAY BUCHANAN, FMR. MITT ROMNEY ADVISER: No, no, I think she was very clear. I thought it was an excellent response, quite honestly. She wasn't going to move into one section and find out it was the wrong thing. She gave an overview of what she felt the question was. When they defined the question, the key is that's her answer, was if there is an imminent threat -- with in an imminent threat, she did believe that we have the right to move, to take action, to go to war.

That I think is a distinction that made me very, very pleased.

MARTIN: Bay, Bay, to the reality, she was dancing in the sound bite. I understand your job is to clean it up. She didn't know. Once Charlie clarified it, then she expounded on it. But she didn't know the Bush Doctrine.

BUCHANAN: When somebody says the Bush Doctrine, it could mean a lot of things out there. I know all these pundits, we have always defined it as exactly what Charlie defined it, but that's not a serious problem here. She described what she thought Bush was doing, and she said whether she agreed with it or in the. She gave a very solid answer when we talked about preemptive.

BROWN: Candy, give me your take and overall how you think this will play.

CROWLEY: I think, first of all, that in rural Missouri, where I grew up, they are not going to wake up tomorrow morning over their Rice Krispees and say she doesn't know what the Bush Doctrine is. That's how these things play, the totality of these things play, what we choose to pull out played. And I think, honestly, people are going to see this through the prism of how they feel about Sarah Palin.

I think that she is now so relatively well known that the sides have begun to harden. Yes, there are those people in the swing area, but I think the people in the swing area are looking at the top of the ticket. I think it plays to the prism.

BROWN: Do you agree?

MARTIN: I agree. I guarantee you, she went back to her handlers and said, somebody ought to get me one of those cue cards, index cards on what the Bush Doctrine is. Bay, if that was Obama, you would be sitting here saying, look at him, he didn't know it.

BUCHANAN: Obama is the one that said maybe the U.N. should take action against Russia, not realizing they had veto power. So let's get real. I thought the interview was excellent. It showed she had real command. The way she spoke was well.

BROWN: We're out of time. We're going to talk about this a lot more tomorrow night. Bay Buchanan, Roland Martin, Candy Crowley, thanks very much to all of you guys. Appreciate it.

Again, breaking news tonight, monster Hurricane Ike threatening Houston and the Texas coast. We do want to go back to Chad Myers, in the CNN Severe Weather Center, to check in one more time on what we know and the timing. Chad, give us an update.

MYERS: What we know is there is going to be a large surge of water that is going to over wash any of these barrier islands. This water is going to get into the bay here, Galveston Bay. It is going to run back up through the bayous here, maybe through Baytown, probably over toward Bayview, and probably to Bay Cliff. Then all of this, this red area that you see here, this is catastrophic flooding, from this category two/maybe three hurricane.

Then after that, there is going to be a lot of wind damage. The wind is going to roll all the way up into Houston with probably category two hurricane wind gusts. That's 90 to 100 miles per hour. Here's what the damage is. The moderate damage, catastrophic damage and high damage here, expected here across parts of the area. Galveston right through here, all the way up into some of the low- lying areas that will be inundated with water; 66 percent or more of the homes will have major to moderate damage.

Even in Houston, we're looking at almost half the homes having moderate damage. You get back out to the west now, a little bit less than that. This is all going to depend on whether the track turns left or turns right. We're going to watch it for you here all night. Campbell?

BROWN: All right, Chad Myers, thanks.

Before we go, I just want to mention that Roland has been on the phone with family down in Texas, and they are getting ready. What are they saying?

MARTIN: One, they're staying. I'm born and raised in Houston, so my family is there. They're choosing not to go. You have to remember Hurricane Rita three years ago was predicted to be a Cat five. It fizzled out, it turned towards Beaumont.

BROWN: But you want to take that chance?

MARTIN: No, but just like here what happened with Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, what did they say, get out, don't chance it. A lot of people are saying, I don't know. It really turned last time. My family is staying. I'm not happy about it, and they know it. But again, I think when you factor in three years ago, people are saying I might say, let's hunker down.

BROWN: And they also say, to people who are in areas that are higher level, not low-lying area, stay, because we don't want a pile up on the interstate.

MARTIN: Because three years ago, it was a 17-hour to Dallas, which is only four hours away.

BROWN: OK, Roland, Candy, thanks, guys, for being here. That does it for us. Coming up next, Anderson Cooper with "AC 360."