Mandatory credit: CNN
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: We are here in Iowa with voters who are ready to question the three Democratic candidates for president of the United States.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, the Democratic candidates on one stage in Iowa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Help me make it happen.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everybody ready to make a political revolution?
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ANNOUNCER: The final forum before the first presidential votes, just one week away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN O’MALLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Are you excited about the future?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley taking tough questions from voters on the hottest issues within their party and across the heartland.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I am not going to let the Republicans rip up Obamacare.
SANDERS: If a bank is too big to fail, it’s too big to exist.
O’MALLEY: We should make it hard for criminals to get guns and easy for all Americans to vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: With Iowa up for grabs, their differences are clearer, and mistakes are even higher.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: What we do not allow, Donald Trump and the others to divide us up. There is nothing, nothing that we cannot accomplish.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN Democratic town hall event, a chance for Iowa voters to drive the presidential debate with decision day around the corner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: We’re getting into that period before the caucus that I kind of call the “let’s get real” period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Iowans are choosing. The nation is watching. And candidates are trying to close the deal with voters right now.
CUOMO: All right. We are live at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, to hear from the Democratic presidential candidates and the people who matter most in this election, the voters.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, and, of course, here in Iowa, where we’re being seen on our CNN affiliates across the state.
We also want to welcome our servicemen and -women who are watching on the American Forces Network around the world, and to our listeners on the Westwood One Radio Network and Sirius XM Channel 116.
I’m Chris Cuomo. And we really are thrilled to have you all with us.
Now there have been debates. There have been interviews. Tonight, something different, a chance for the people who will decide to ask the questions themselves. As you know, the people of this state are the first in the nation to have a say on who will serve in the Oval Office.
We only have seven days left to make up their minds. In this hall tonight, Iowa voters who plan to attend the Democratic Caucuses next Monday night. They were invited by CNN and our partners, the Iowa Democratic Party and Drake University.
Audience members submitted questions to us. We have screened them to make sure they cover a variety of important issues, and they do. However, the candidates do not know what the questions will be.
Many of the voters joining us tonight are undecided. Some are leaning toward a particular candidate. Now in a bit, we’re going to talk with Governor Martin O’Malley and Secretary Hillary Clinton, but first, please welcome Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
SANDERS: Hi, Chris. How are you?
CUOMO: Good to see you, Senator. Busy day?
SANDERS: And my wife told me to button my coat but I think I’m too fat, so I’m going to keep it like this.
CUOMO: I’ll do the same then. I’ll do the same.
So do you remember when we first started talking about this election many months ago, you weren’t sure that you wanted to run. You were not sure, you said, that there was an appetite in this country to discuss the problems between rich and poor.
How surprised are you by #feelthebern and all that has followed?
SANDERS: Chris, our message has resonated much faster, much further than I thought it would.
And I think what the American people are perceiving is there is something very wrong in this country when ordinary Americans are working longer hours for lower wages, when we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth, and almost all new income and wealth is going to the top 1 percent.
And then on top of that, people see that that rigged economy is sustained by a corrupt, and I use that word advisedly, a corrupt campaign finance system that allows billionaires today to spend as much money as they want through Super PACs to elect the candidates of their choice. And, all over this country, and it’s not just Democrats, it is conservatives, it is Republicans, that are saying that is not what America is supposed to be about.
So, if you’re asking me why is it that our campaign has created the kind of momentum that it has, I think we are touching a nerve with the American people who understand that establishment politics is just not good enough. We need bold changes, we need a political revolution.
CUOMO: So, you have…
CUOMO: … You have centered your campaign on this idea of income inequality. Interestingly President Obama talking about the job just this morning says, “You do not have the luxury of focusing on just one thing when you’re President of the United States. You have to be able to handle many different priorities.”
Do you think you are up to the whole job?
SANDERS: President Obama is obviously right. Being president is an enormously difficult job. It’s a job that entails dealing with a million different issues. I think I have the background, I think I have the judgement to do that.
I would remind you, and remind the viewers that in 2002, when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney said we should go to war in Iraq, Bernie Sanders listened very carefully and I said no. I think that war is a dumb idea. I helped lead the opposition to that war.
And, if you go to my website, listen to what I said, and sadly enough — it gives me no joy. Much of what I feared would happen did happen. I do believe I have the background for the job.
CUOMO: Well, it is time for you to make the case.
CUOMO: Let’s do it with the people that will matter, the voters. The first question for you, Senator Sanders, comes from Gerry Ohde. She says she is an undecided voter. Gerry?
QUESTION: Yes, Senator, some of your detractors have called you a socialist on occasions, and you don’t seem too troubled by that, and sometimes embrace it. I wondered if you could elaborate on that…
SANDERS: … Sure…
QUESTION: … And just to show us what the comfort level you have your definition of it so that it doesn’t concern the rest of us citizens.
SANDERS: Well, what Democratic Socialism means, to me, is that economic rights, the right to economic security is — should exist in the United States of America. It means to me that there’s something wrong when we have millions of senior citizens today trying to get by on $11, $12,000 a year Social Security. It means there’s something wrong when the rich get richer, and almost everybody else gets poorer. It means there is something wrong, and government should play a role in making sure that all of our kids, regardless of their income, are able to get a higher education.
Which is why I’m calling for free tuition at public colleges and universities, and why we have to deal with this horrendous level of student debt that people are having.
Now, what’s going on in countries around the world, in Scandinavia, and in Germany. The ideas that I am talking about are not radical ideas. So, what Democratic Socialism means to me in its essence is that we cannot continue to have a government dominated by the billionaire class, and a congress that continues to work for the interest of the people on top while ignoring working families.
What this campaign is about, and what I believe, is creating a government that works for all of us, not just a handful of people on the top. That’s my definition of Democratic Socialism.
CUOMO: Next question. Renea Seagren. She’s a nurse, she says she’s undecided. She sees how healthcare plays out everyday. She has a concern for you. Please, Renea.
QUESTION: Senator Sanders, you have branded your program, your single payer health program as “Medicare for All”, and Medicare has a reputation of having some problems. Let me cite one example, a man in our clinic went into the Donut Hole in September and could not afford the $1,200 a month it would cost him for insulin. So, he had to decrease his dose to make his insulin stretch. So, what do you — why do you think that people would support your medicare for all program?
SANDERS: Well, I think people will support my medical — Medicare for All program because the United States today is the only major country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people as a right.
Now, I’m on the committee that wrote the Affordable Care Act, and I think the Affordable Care Act has done a lot of good things.
But yet we have 29 million people without any health insurance. Your point is there are seniors today — and I meet them every day — who cannot afford the outrageously high cost of prescription drugs because in America — everybody should know this — we pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.
Last year, while one out of five Americans cannot afford the prescriptions their doctors write, last year, the three major drug companies made $45 billion in profit because they spent hundreds of millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions.
So I believe we should draw in the rest of the world. I believe, as a principle, everybody should be entitled to health care as a right, comprehensive health care.
And, by the way, if we move toward a Medicare for all, not only do we cover the needs of all people, including that gentleman, we will save middle class people thousands of dollars a year on their health care bills, because now we pay, by far, per capita, much, much more than any other country on Earth.
It is time, in my view, for us to have the courage to take on the insurance companies, take on the drug companies and provide health care to all people at an affordable cost.
CUOMO: The criticism is…
CUOMO: The criticism is to pay for this, what you’re really asking for is one of the biggest tax hikes in history. And that is the criticism.
SANDERS: But, Chris, that is an unfair criticism for the following reason. If you are paying now $10,000 a year to a private health insurance company and I say to you, hypothetically, you’re going to pay $5,000 more in taxes — or actually less than that, but you’re not going to pay any more private health insurance, are you going to be complaining about the fact that I’ve saved you $5,000 in your total bills?
So it’s demagogic to say oh, you’re paying more in taxes. Let’s also talk about we are going to liminate — eliminate private health insurance premiums and payments not only for individuals, but for businesses, as well.
Again, we are the only country on Earth that allows private insurance companies to rip us off. We spend three times more than the British, 50 percent more than the French. We can do better than we’re doing right now.
CUOMO: But just to be clear, you are going to raise taxes to do this?
SANDERS: Yes, we will raise — we will raise the — we will raise taxes, yes, we will. But also let us be clear, Chris, because there’s a little bit of disingenuity out there, we may raise taxes but we are also going to eliminate private health insurance premiums for individuals and for businesses.
CUOMO: All right, next question.
Sean Collison (ph), law student at Drake, says he’s undecided.
What do you have?
SEAN COLLISON: I think you’ve introduced a lot of programs that could help a lot of people.
My question is realistically, how do we fund those programs?
COLLISON: Where can we reallocate or cut spending on other programs to…
SANDERS: Sean, great question and a very fair question.
And I start off with the premise that in the last 30 years, although my Republican friends don’t like the term, there’s been a massive redistribution of wealth in this country. It’s gone from working families, trillions of dollars, to the top one tenth of 1 percent.
So, yes, what this campaign is about is to say to profitable corporations who, in some years don’t pay a nickel in taxes, to the wealthiest people in this country who sometimes have an effective tax rate lower than truck drivers or nurses, yes, you are going to start paying your fair share of taxes.
Now how am I going to pay to make certain that public colleges and universities are tuition-free and we substantially lower interest rates on student debt?
I pay for that because we’re going to ask Wall Street to pay a tax on speculation. We are also believing, I believe that after the working families of this country bailed out Wall Street, maybe it’s their time to help the middle class of this country.
SANDERS: Now, I believe that we have an infrastructure that is crumbling. That’s roads, bridges, rail, airports, levies, dams. We all know what’s happening in Flint, Michigan. Water systems, wastewater plants.
I believe that if we end this absurdity of allowing corporations who make billions of dollars a year in profits to stash their money in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and other tax havens, we eliminate that, we’re going to bring $100 billion into the Treasury. That money goes into rebuilding our infrastructure, creating 13 million jobs in five years with a trillion dollar investment.
I have paid for all of our proposals.
CUOMO: Right. Senator, then the pushback becomes how you pay. Now, in this room, you’re preaching to the converted, somewhat, right? These are presumptively Democrats. But, you will hear people say that you’re paying for it is actually punitive. You’re going to punish people who make money, you’re going to punish the financial district, you’re going to punish and wind up changing the idea of an open and free economy because you’re going to punish them for speculating. Which means they won’t speculate as much, which means you won’t get as much activity.
And, if you do a checklist of how you pay for everything, what you’re doing is amassing the biggest government ever after President Clinton said the era of big government was over. It seems like Bernie Sanders is saying, Not only it’s over, I’m going to do it bigger than ever.
SANDERS: Alright, we got to put what I am doing in context. And, here’s the context. Today in America we have more income and wealth inequality than we have had since 1928. There has, Chris, been a massive transfer of wealth, I’m talking about trillions of dollars, from the pockets of working families into the hands of the top one-tenth of one percent. That’s a fact.
So, if you are telling me that at a time when — Wall Street’s recklessness, greed and illegal behavior brought this country to its knees, than I am going to say to them that they’re going to have to start paying their fair share of taxes. Fine, if that’s the criticism I accept it. I demand that Wall Street start paying its fair share of taxes.
Second of all…
CUOMO: … What about the idea that you’re bringing back the era of big government, and making it bigger than ever?
SANDERS: Again. I believe, and you know, Iowa has played a very interesting role in the fight for public education. And, for a 100 plus years, what we have believed public education to be is up to the twelfth grade. Free public education up to the twelfth grade. Guess what? The world has changed.
A college degree today is the equivalent of what a high school degree was 50 years ago. People want to criticize me, fine. I believe that every kid in this country who has the ability and the desire should be able to get a higher education regardless of the income of his family. And I will pay for that through a tax on Wall Street speculation.
CUOMO: They don’t criticize the goal, they criticize the method of how you achieve it. Give me a yes or no on that. Is the era of big government back with President Sanders?
SANDERS: The era of protecting the middle class, and working families is certainly something that I will make happen. I believe, for example, that when my Republican colleagues talk about cutting Social Security, I say that when you’re living on $12,000 a year in Social Security, no, we shouldn’t cut it. We should expand Social Security. And, we do that by lifting the cap on taxable income.
SANDERS: So, Chris, this is what I think. When we live in a nation of so much income and wealth inequality, where the top one tenth of 1% owns as much as the bottom 90%, when the 20 wealthiest people own more wealth than the bottom half of America, that is not, to me, what the American economy should be about. So, yes. People want to criticize me, OK. I will take on the greed of corporate America and the greed of Wall Street, and fight to protect the middle class.
CUOMO: Next question, Ron Edwards says he’s undecided. Ron, what’s your question for the Senator.
QUESTION: Senator, given the ongoing gridlock in Washington, and the continuing Republican resistance toward President Obama’s initiatives, and the likelihood that Republicans will win control over at least on house of Congress. As President, what specifically will you do to overcome the resistance, cure the gridlock, and garner the necessary support to implement your initiatives and actually get something done in Washington.
SANDERS: Great question. Let me answer it, if I might, in two ways.
I am probably the most progressive member in the U.S. Senate. But, I have over the years, not only in the Senate, but in the House, worked with Republicans when there was common ground. When I was in the House, in a number of years I got more amendments passed on the floor of the House working with Republicans than anyone else. That was number one.
Number two. In the Senate, just a couple of years ago, in a dysfunctional congress I worked with people like John McCain, people like Jeff Miller over in the House, to pass the most comprehensive Veterans Health Care legislation in the modern history of the United States of America.
I have worked with Republicans when there is common ground throughout my career. But, this is what I also want to say. But this is what I also want to say. In my view, you have a Congress today that is much more worried about protecting the interest of the wealthy and the powerful and making sure they get campaign contributions from the wealthy and the powerful.
If we are serious about rebuilding the American middle class, if we are serious about providing paid family and medical leave to all of our people, if we are serious about ending the disgrace of having so many of our children live in poverty, the real way to do it is to have millions of Americans finally stand up and say, enough is enough, for people to get engaged in the political process, to finally demand that Washington represent all of us, not just a handful of very wealthy people.
That’s the way you bring about real change.
CUOMO: Next question, Alexis Kulash, Drake University student, a Bulldog, leaning in favor of Hillary Clinton, but she wants to explain why.
SANDERS: Give me a shot here, Alexis.
ALEXIS KULASH, DRAKE UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Senator, recently you named Planned Parenthood and the Human Rights Campaign as part of the political establishment that you plan to take on. How are you going to fight for women’s rights more effectively than a female candidate with endorsements from organizations like these?
SANDERS: No, no, no. That’s not quite accurate. I have a 100 percent pro-choice voting record. In every speech that I give, what I say is not only do we stop the Republican efforts to try to defund Planned Parenthood, we should expand funding for Planned Parenthood.
SANDERS: Now what I said, what I said on a television program, and I did not say it well, is that sometimes the base of an organization looks at the world a little bit differently than the leadership.
So if you have 100 percent Planned Parenthood voting record, 100 percent pro-choice voting record, there are people who are asking, why is the leadership not either supporting Bernie Sanders or why are they, you know, opposing him?
And my point is that I will fight — these are great organizations. I met with Planned Parenthood. They do a fantastic job not only in defending women’s rights in general, but talking about sexuality in America.
They are a fantastic organization. Count me in as somebody who strongly supports them.
So this was simply a question of endorsement policy, not whether or not I strongly support these organizations. Do I have your vote yet?
CUOMO: Correct, she’s saying, as to the purpose of the question, not to whether or not you have her vote. I think she’s going to have to decide on that.
SANDERS: I know. I’m just kidding, but that is the difference. I support the organization.
CUOMO: Alexis, second aspect to your question though, right? You said then the first female president. How do you think that you would be as helpful to women as a woman president would?
What about that aspect? That’s what Hillary Clinton represents on one level to voters, that she would be the first female president, and there is something special in that, especially when it comes to women’s issues.
SANDERS: And of course, I understand that.
But I think if you look at my record in terms of fighting for women’s rights, I think there are very few members of Congress who have a stronger record. It’s 100 percent lifetime, and I’ve been there for a while.
In addition to that, you know, there have — as you know, women are making 79 cents on the dollar compared to men. That is nothing but old-fashioned sexism, and I am a strong advocate and will fight for pay equity for women.
I believe that — and it’s not only women, although it impacts women and women of color even greater, this level of pay inequality, inequity, is extraordinary. So we’re going to fight for pay equity, make sure that everybody earns the same amount for the same work.
Also, what we have got to do is people cannot make it on 8, 9, 10 bucks an hour. We have got to raise the minimum wage in this country to a living wage. That will impact all people. It will impact women more than men as we raise the minimum wage to 15 bucks an hour.
CUOMO: All right. So…
SANDERS: Well, one more point, one more point, Chris. I’m trying to win her vote. Leave me alone here.
SANDERS: All right. Hillary Clinton and I have a disagreement on a very important issue that impacts everybody, but especially women. I believe that we should expand Social Security benefits by lifting the cap on taxable income.
That will help millions of low-income seniors, especially women. Ask Hillary Clinton if she’s prepared to lift the cap on taxable income.
CUOMO: All right, Alexis, I want to put you a little bit on the spot. Now that you heard the answer —
CUOMO: — what do you think now — and he looks like that even when he’s happy, so don’t worry about his particular reactions.
CUOMO: So after the answer, where are you, same place, open-minded, what are you at?
ALEXIS: It definitely means I’m going to have some hard thinking to do in the next week, but it reassures me and it was a good plan to speak about.
SANDERS: Thank you very much.
CUOMO: Take progress where you find it.
All right, we’ll give Alexis some time to think, the rest of you as well.
We have more questions for Senator Sanders and his final pitch to these Iowa voters when we come back.
Stay with us.
CUOMO: Welcome back to the CNN Democratic Presidential Town Hall here at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
We’re here with Senator Bernie Sanders.
We’ve been talking about the issues.
You were working on a young woman there, trying to get her vote.
I have another woman. I think you’ve got some work left to do on.
Her name is Secretary Clinton.
She has an ad out now. You both put out big ads. I know how you feel about yours.
Let’s take a look at Secretary Clinton’s ad and get your take on it, Senator, right here in this room.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The world a president has to grapple with — sometimes you can’t even imagine. That’s the job and she’s prepared for it like no other, a tireless secretary of State, standing up against the abuse of women and girls, negotiating a cease-fire in Gaza, leading the diplomacy that keeps us out of war.
The presidency is the toughest job in the world and she’s the one leader who has what it takes to get every part of the job done.
HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’m Hillary Clinton and I approved this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: The argument is sure, Bernie’s got the heart, but I have the head. You have to be experienced, you have to know what to do.
CUOMO: Is Secretary Clinton simply better prepared for the job than you, sir?
Don’t leave. We have another 15 minutes.
SANDERS: No, this calls for a standing up response.
SANDERS: That’s all.
SANDERS: All right, let me shock everybody here. This is true. I’ve known Hillary Clinton for 25 years.
You know what?
I like Hillary Clinton and I respect Hillary Clinton. And Hillary Clinton has devoted her life to public service and I have tried, as I hope you all know, not to run a negative campaign, not to be attacking every other day, to keep this discussion on a high level, where we debate the issues facing this country.
SANDERS: And by the way, with a few exceptions, we’re doing a lot better than the Republicans in that regard.
SANDERS: But on the other hand, that’s not a very high bar to reach, so…
SANDERS: — all right.
But what is — what is this?
All right, what do I think?
Let me just give you a couple of examples.
The truth is that the most significant vote and issue regarding foreign policy that we have seen in this country in modern history was the vote on the war in Iraq. OK, that’s the fact.
I voted against the war in Iraq and if you go to my Web site, listen to the speech that I gave when I was in the House in 2002, saying, yes, it’s easy to get rid of a dictator like Saddam Hussein, but there’s going to be a political vacuum, there will be instability.
And it gives me no pleasure to tell that much of what I feared, in fact, happened.
Hillary Clinton voted for the war in Iraq.
All right, in terms of Wall Street, I fought against deregulation, led the opposition to doing away with the Glass-Steagall legislation. Unfortunately, my side lost. Wall Street became deregulated. The rest is history.
Wall Street has operated, in a very significant way in a fraudulent way, and obviously their greed and recklessness helped destroy our economy and create the worst recession since the Great Depression.
I led the effort against Wall Street deregulation. See where Hillary Clinton was on this issue.
In terms of climate change, which everybody here knows — and apparently everybody in the world knows except Republican candidates for president, is one of the great environmental crises facing this nation.
On day one, I said the Keystone Pipeline is a dumb idea.
SANDERS: OK. I think the Bakken Pipeline and pipelines in Vermont and New Hampshire are dumb. I think we’ve got to break our dependence on fossil fuel.
Why did it take…
SANDERS: Why did it take Hillary Clinton such a long time before she came into opposition to the Keystone Pipeline?
Trade policy — I have understood from day one that our trade policies have cost us — NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, millions of decent-paying jobs. I didn’t have to think hard about opposing the Transpacific Partnership.
SANDERS: It took Hillary Clinton a long time to come on board that.
SANDERS: In other words, yes, I do think I have the background and the judgment to take this very, very difficult job of being president of the United States.
CUOMO: One point of push back…
CUOMO: — we know we’re in the final stretch here. Intensity gets higher when you’re in the final stretch like we are right now.
CUOMO: But on January 19th, you were talking about Secretary Clinton’s experience argument and you referred to Dick Cheney. You said he had a lot of experience, too.
CUOMO: — referring to Dick Cheney when talking about Hillary Clinton not exactly the most high brow way to conduct the election…
CUOMO: — some might suggest.
SANDERS: — my — my only point was, look, Secretary Clinton was secretary of State of this country for four years. That is a lot of experience. There’s no debate about that. I was not secretary of State.
But, experience is important, but judgement is also important. And, my own point was in talking Dick Cheney, he had a lot of experience too. His policies with regard to foreign affairs was an absolute disaster. So, experience is important, but it is not the only thing. And, I would urge people to check out my views on foreign policy, how we deal with ISIS, and I think they will make a lot of sense to the people of Iowa, and the people of our country.
CUOMO: Let’s get a question. Carrie Crawford says she’s undecided. Mother of three grown kids. What is your question?
QUESTION: Hello, Senator Sanders. In light of the recent mass shootings, I’m intered to know how you’re going to make inroads with the powerful gun lobby to establish more effective gun control legislation.
And, the second part of my question is how will you support easier access to mental health care clinics.
SANDERS: Good. Excellent questions. Now, I have been attacked — in fact, this is an issue that Hillary Clinton has focused on, and that’s politics. And that’s fine.
Although, some of you might recall that back in 2007, when she was running against Barack Obama, she also focused on that issue. But she thought that Obama was too strong on gun issues. You may remember him referring to her as “Annie Oakley”, alright?
Today, Hillary Clinton’s running a lot of advertisements on gun issues. Interestingly enough, she’s running most of them in New Hampshire where she thinks it’ll work, not running so many of them in rural Iowa. Well, you can form your own judgement as to why that is the case.
To answer your question, in 1988 I ran Vermont’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. I ran as an Independent against a Democrat and a Republican. The gun lobby said vote for either the Democrat or the Republican, don’t vote for Bernie Sanders. This is 1988. Because Bernie thinks that we should not be selling military style assault weapons in the United States of America. Back in 1988. I lost that election by three percentage points. I cannot tell you that that was the only reason, but I had the gun groups working against me back then.
Since then, I have supported instant background checks, the expansion of instant background checks because I believe our job, if we’re going to end these horrific mass murders, or at least have some impact in lessening the occurrence of them, we have got to do our best to make sure that guns do not get into the hands of people who should not have them. Criminals, people with mental instability.
I believe as President Obama does that we got to deal with this gun show loophole, and that’s what he’s working on now with his executive order. People should not be able to circumvent the instant background check through the gun show, or through the Internet.
I believe that we should make a federal crime of the so-called, “Strawman Situation”, where people are buying guns legally, going through the instant background check, and then selling them to criminals.
CUOMO: Senator, address your shift on the issue regarding manufacturers and their liability…
SANDERS: … Here is the issue…
CUOMO: … Just to remind you guys. Tell them where you were first, and what you just said recently.
SANDERS: I voted for the bill, and the reason I voted for the bill is you got a bill which has a number of elements in it, among other things it has a section which says we should not be selling ammunition which will pierce policemans armor and protection. I think that’s a right thing.
It had a section in it which said that we want to have safety locks for children on guns. That makes sense to me.
It also had a provision in it which says the following — and people may disagree with me, this is my view. Is that if you are a small gun shop in Vermont, and I legally sell you a weapon, OK? You go out, buy that gun legally, and then you go out and kill somebody. I think the gun shop owner should not be held liable to your criminal act. That’s what I believe.
Now, within that bill also there was some onerous provision. Not good provisions. What happens if a gun manufacturer is selling a whole lot of guns into an area, far more guns than that area can consume? And, what happens if that gun owner — that gun manufacturer should know that those guns are going into criminal hands. Should that gun manufacturer be held liable? Yes, he should.
So, I am willing now to look at that legislation, maintain what was good in it, get rid of what is bad in it.
CUOMO: But, isn’t that, kind of, having it both ways? Like, either they have liability as a manufacturer, or they don’t. The first argument seems to make sense, why would they be exposed to liability that other manufacturers are not? But, are you..
… what was good in it, get rid of what is bad in it.
CUOMO: But isn’t that having it both ways? Like, either they have liability as a manufacturer or they don’t. The first argument seems to make sense. Why would they be exposed to liability that other manufacturers are not? But are you having it both ways?
SANDERS: I don’t think so, Chris. If you sell, if you are a small gun shop owner and you sell somebody a gun, legally, all right, you don’t do anything wrong. That’s what you do. You sell guns.
Somebody buys the gun and then goes out and kills somebody, do I think that gun shop owner should be held liable? I don’t.
CUOMO: What’s the difference between selling one or selling 1,000?
SANDERS: No, but the point is — ah, but here’s the point. If a gun shop owner should know, why should somebody be buying 1,000 guns? Somebody should be thinking that does not make a lot of sense. In that case, that gun shop owner or the gun manufacturer should be held liable, OK?
And that’s the issue that I want to — now you’re asking me also about mental health. When I talk about health care for all, I absolutely include in that the fact that mental health should be treated as part of health care, should be available to all people.
SANDERS: I get calls — I have gotten calls in my office, and I’m sure other senators have as well. This is the call. Somebody calls us up and said, I’m very worried about my brother. I’m worried what he might do to himself or, to answer your question, to somebody else. He may be homicidal. He may be suicidal.
We have searched desperately to find health care — mental health treatment for him. We cannot find mental health treatment which is affordable, which is accessible.
In my view, we have got to move in the direction of making sure that everybody in this country who has a mental health crisis gets health care when they need it, not two months from today.
CUOMO: Carrie, how do you feel about the answer?
CRAWFORD: I like the answer. That’s sufficient. Thank you very much.
SANDERS: Thank you.
CUOMO: Have a seat, Senator. I’m tired following you around there.
SANDERS: If you followed me around today, you’d be a lot more tired.
CUOMO: CNN today, your brother was on.
SANDERS: Excuse me?
CUOMO: Your brother was on CNN today.
CUOMO: Gave a great interview. He said that back in the day you were a great athlete. Is that true? And if so, what was the sport? I’m not saying I don’t believe it to be true. I’m saying, is it true and what was the sport?
SANDERS: You know families exaggerate a little bit. I was a very good athlete. I wouldn’t say I was a great athlete. I was a pretty good basketball player. My elementary school in Brooklyn won the borough championship.
SANDERS: Hardly worth mentioning, but we did, yes. And, yes, I did take third place in the New York City indoor one mile race. OK, well, you know, I would — I was a very good long-distance runner. I would say not a great runner, but I was captain of my track team and won a number of cross-country meets and certainly won a whole lot of races.
So good, very good, not great.
CUOMO: Right. Now this is what they call a bait and switch. I don’t really care about your athletic record.
CUOMO: If you were elected president, you are 75 now. You would be…
CUOMO: You are 74 going on 75. You are close to 75.
SANDERS: I’m going on 75. So are you! You’re going to be 75 some day.
CUOMO: That’s true. That’s true. You would be the oldest person elected president. You have medical records. You say you’re going to release them. Should you release them, to be fair to the voters of Iowa, before they vote?
SANDERS: Absolutely. They’re sitting — where are they, Jane? They’re on our table right now? All right. We will release them.
That’s my wife. Yes, of course, we’ll release them.
CUOMO: And you’re going to do it before Iowa?
SANDERS: Yes, sure.
And, you know, I am — you know, if there’s wood here, I would knock on it.
CUOMO: My head is close enough.
SANDERS: I have been blessed with good health and good endurance. And there’s nothing in the medical records that is going to surprise anybody. And we will get them out as soon as possible.
CUOMO: All right. Thank you for clarifying that.
Something else your brother said. He got emotional. He was saying, boy, would our parents be proud of the success that Bernie has had. You have to think about that as well. When you think about why you are doing this and what it means, what does it mean to you about what your parents would think if they saw you now?
SANDERS: That they wouldn’t believe it. I mean, we grew up — my dad came from Poland at the age of 17 without a nickel in his pocket, couldn’t speak English and he never made a whole lot of money.
And my brother and I and mom and dad grew up in a three-and-a-half-room rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn, New York. And we never had a whole lot of money.
And if you ask me, you know, Chris, this would be so unimaginable the fact that I’m a United States senator would’ve been beyond really anything that they would have thought possible. The fact that I am running for president of the United States, you know I do think about it and you know think they’re very proud. But it’s certainly something that I don’t think they ever believed would’ve happened.
CUOMO: You got 30 seconds. Tell the voters of Iowa what you want them to know.
SANDERS: Look, Hillary Clinton is a very good person. Martin O’Malley is a very decent guy. So I’m not — you know, this is not a — personal stuff.
It just seems to me that the crises that we face as a country today, and we didn’t even get into climate change to a significant degree: inequality, poverty in America, an obscene and unfair campaign finance system. These problems are so serious that we have got to go beyond establishment politics and establishment economics.
In my view we need a political revolution where millions of people stand up and say you know what, that great government of ours belongs to all of us, not just the few. That’s why I’m running for president. Thank you.
CUOMO: Sen. Sanders, thank you for taking the opportunity. Good luck to you in the Iowa caucuses next week.
All right. Our thanks to Sen. Sanders.
Coming up, Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley get their turns on stage. And our audience of Iowa voters is ready with a new slate of questions. Stay with us.
CUOMO: Welcome back to the CNN Democratic Presidential Town Hall here at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
This is the last best chance for the candidates to face Iowa voters and answer their questions directly before they caucus next Monday.
Now, we’ve heard from Senator Sanders.
In a bit, we’re going to hear from Secretary Clinton.
But right now, the floor belongs to former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.
MARTIN O’MALLEY (D-MD), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Chris, how are you?
CUOMO: Good to see you, Governor.
O’MALLEY: Good to see you, too, man.
O’MALLEY: I think.
O’MALLEY: Thanks a lot.
CUOMO: Have a seat, Gov.
O’MALLEY: Thank you.
CUOMO: How you feeling a week out?
O’MALLEY: I’m excited. It’s Iowa Caucus time. And Chris, I’ve seen this before. Once Iowans get into that decision-making pocket, none of the pollsters back East can tell you how it’s going to turn out.
O’MALLEY: And — and…
O’MALLEY: — I wish you could be out there with me. I have been campaigning the Iowa Caucus way. I’ve been to over 120 events and getting up on the chair, doing town halls like this.
And we’re seeing larger and larger crowds. And the — the beauty of the people of Iowa is they’re not intimidated by polls, they’re not intimidated by pundits and they have this birthright, they feel, to upset the apple cart.
And with only three of us in this Democratic primary, there’s only one of us who can still upset the apple cart. Come on, Iowa, right?
CUOMO: “The Des Moines Register.”..
CUOMO: — they gave the nomination — their endorsement to Secretary Clinton, OK. They gave their endorsement to her.
In it, they talk about you. And they say that you are, quote, “better suited as one of her cabinet secretaries than as president.”
What do you want to tell Iowans right now to prove that their state’s biggest paper is wrong?
O’MALLEY: Yes, well, this — the — this is what I have to say. Look, I’m in this, Chris, to win this. I’m running for president of the United States. And the reason I’m running is this.
Our country is facing big challenges. And we have deep divisions in our country. And we need a candidate who can actually pull us together, who can heal these divisions, who can get things done. That’s what I’ve done all my life. I’m not a divider. If I were, I would not have been able to accomplish the things we accomplished in a very troubled city or in our state through a recession.
And that’s what I believe the people of Iowa are looking for, a president who will move us forward, who will build on the good things that President Obama has done and actually take that job creation legacy and turn it into rising wages again for every American family.
That’s what we need. And we need new leadership to do that and break through the gridlock of Washington.
CUOMO: You mentioned President Obama. He was speaking this morning about the election a little bit more deeply than he has in the past.
And he was doing an analysis of Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders. And he referred to the senator as kind of this bright shiny new object and that has a fascination for people.
I thought you were supposed to be the bright, shiny new object in this.
CUOMO: What happened?
O’MALLEY: Well, look, I’m honored to be able to offer my candidacy in the company of Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders. If you look at our Democratic primary and the debates we’ve had, we’re certainly doing a much better job of speaking to the goodness within our country rather than to fear and anger and loathing like we’ve heard from Republicans.
CUOMO: Are you ready to make a case to the people?
CUOMO: All right…
CUOMO: — let’s take a question.
We have Joy Lassen (ph), a student at Iowa State University.
She’s originally from St. Louis. Her parents work in Ferguson.
She says she’s undecided.
What’s your question for the governor?
O’MALLEY: Is this Q&A time?
Am I allowed to stand?
CUOMO: You can do whatever you want.
O’MALLEY: I’m not capable of doing Q&A in Iowa…
CUOMO: Yes, please.
O’MALLEY: — from a seat.
CUOMO: Wherever you want to do it.
CUOMO: All right. I’ll take (INAUDIBLE).
JOY LASSEN: Good evening.
Your history as mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland show that you pushed for zero tolerance policing and felony punishments for low level drug offenders, which usually affects the black population.
How are you planning to ensure racial equality when your history in office contradicts your current platform to fight structural racism?
O’MALLEY: Yes, well…
O’MALLEY: Well, look, let’s talk about this. In 1999, our city of Baltimore had become the most violent, the most addicted and the most abandoned city in America. And when very few other people would step up who could bring us together and turn it around, I did.
And that year, and for about the 12 years leading up to that point, we were burying over 300 young, poor, black men every single year. And, yes, black lives matter. And I told the people of my city look, we did not have to accept the reality of 24/7 drug dealer occupation over our poor neighborhood. When you call from a poor neighborhood for a police service, they should respond the same way that they do in wealthier neighborhoods, black and white.
There are a lot of things we got right. There were a lot of lives that we saved. I promise to improve how we police the police. We actually did start closing down open air drug markets.
And in the course of my executive service both as mayor and as a governor, I never stop searching for the things that work so we can do more of them to save and redeem lives, and the things that don’t work so that we can stop doing them. So we greatly increased drug treatment. We saved hundreds and hundreds of lives from overdose deaths.
We started tracking discourtesy, excessive force. I drove down use of fatal police-involved — fatal police-involved shootings to three of their four lowest years in Baltimore history.
And as governor, I restored voting rights to 52,000 people. I repealed as a crime and decriminalized the possession of marijuana. I banned the box on people who are applying for state employment. And…
And not the first time, not the second time, but the third time, by bringing people together, including a few Republican votes, I made my state the first state south of the Mason Dixon Line to repeal the death penalty in America.
O’MALLEY: Look, it’s hard to appreciate at the time. But one true story, and quickly, Chris…
O’MALLEY: There is a family of seven people, a mom, dad and five kids who in East Baltimore were firebombed in their sleep and killed by a drug dealer. And the reason? Because they were picking up the phone and calling 911 and asking for relief for their kids from this sort of 24/7 drug dealer occupation.
Look, I think all of us have a responsibility. I know I feel a responsibility to constantly look for the things that work and the things that don’t work. By the end of my time as governor we had driven down violent crime to a 30-year low. And we had also driven down our incarceration rate to a 20-year low. You can do both of them at the same time by doing the things that work.
CUOMO: Next question, Dan Conick (ph). He owns small two businesses in Des Moines. He says he’s leaning toward Bernie Sanders, but he’s here to give you a shot. And he has a question.
What is it?
QUESTION: Hello. Yes. I’m a small business owner…
O’MALLEY: Tell me your name again.
QUESTION: Daniel Conick (ph). And I — you know you run the numbers and you try and figure out OK. Well at the end of the day when you’re spending as much on your health care every month as you do your mortgage. What ways would you choose to try to lessen that burden on the middle class and just you know small business owners like myself?
O’MALLEY: Look, I think we need to build upon the good things that President Obama has done with the Affordable Care Act. But no program ever came into existence in a perfect condition. So we have to improve it. And one of the ways I think we need to improve it is by covering those high value sort of early out-of-pocket expenses that people are experiencing.
What I hear from a lot of folks all over Iowa is that maybe while their premiums have leveled off, they’re paying more out-of-pocket, more — and their deductibles are higher. So we need to — we need to push the insurance companies to actually offer products that pay for those early, those first out-of-pocket expenses.
But let me take you up to a slightly larger and higher level, and it is this. Look, we need to — we need to change what it is that we actually pay for, to put wellness at the center.
In my own state we moved all 46 of our acute care hospitals out of fee-for-service and started paying them global payment for all of their Medicare and Medicaid patients. Why? Because the biggest driver of your high health insurance costs, and throughout our country, is the hospital costs at the center.
And we told our hospitals that if you reduce avoidable hospital readmissions, you can share in those savings. And the New England Journal of Medicine did an article about four weeks ago and said I’ll be damned, it actually works.
We can dial up wellness. We can reduce the expense here. And that’s the future, I believe. And every state has a role to play in moving that way because clearly we’re still paying too much for health insurance.
Our system’s called an all-payer system. We have a rate-setting commission. And we’re able to replace the institutional profitability. I mean, the hospitals aren’t going bankrupt by any means, but we’re able to put wellness at the center.
And that’s what we need to do as a country to bring down the high cost of health care.
CUOMO: Thank you, Daniel.
Another question for you, Gov. Jenna Bishop, she’s from Drake University. She says she’s undecided on which candidate she’s supporting. And she has a question about young voters for you.
O’MALLEY: Well, it’s still early, there are six days.
JENNA BISHOP, DRAKE UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL STUDENT: Hi, Governor. I’m 23 years old. And I care about a lot of issues, other than just the cost of college. So I’d like to know what issue you think should be most important to young voters and why.
O’MALLEY: Thank you. Great question.
I have put forward a plan for debt-free college within the next five years. And as the one candidate among the three of us with 15 years of executive experience, we went four years in a row in my state without a penny’s increase to college tuition. So you can check out my plan for that on my Web site, martinomalley.com.
But you know what I believe is the biggest issue that I think you should be concerned about as a young person who has more time on this planet than I do? And that is climate change.
O’MALLEY: Climate change is the greatest business opportunity to come to the United States in 100 years. And I am the first candidate in either party to put forward a plan to move us to a 100 percent clean electric energy grid by 2050, and create 5 million jobs along the way.
And this is another one of those instances, Chris, where Iowa is pointing the way forward. Look at what you have already done in your state. Thirty to 35 percent of your energy now comes from clean Iowa wind, which wasn’t there 15 years ago.
And you employ 5,000 people in the new industry, and the great thing about those big component parts you see rumbling down the highway on I-80 is they’re too darn big for it to make a whole lot of sense to import them from other countries.
So you have to build them here.
And it’s a big — and it’s a big differentiator among the three of us. I mean, we’re all — we’re all decent people, we all want to do the right thing for our planet, but there is a generational perspective here. And we’re not going to get to 100 percent clean electric grid with an “all of the above” strategy, any more than we got to the moon with an “all of the above” strategy.
It was an engineering challenge. And we are up top this as Americans. But incrementalism, half steps, splitting the loaf, that’s not going to get us. And that’s not what your generation wants. You want the straight truth and you want us to face our challenges fearlessly and make this new reality ours.
CUOMO: What works for you in that, Jenna, do you like the answer?
BISHOP: I think that’s great. I think the environment is huge, obviously, especially for those of us that are going to be living a lot of years, hopefully. So, thanks.
CUOMO: Hopefully we’ll still be there.
All right. Arnold Woods, he is the president of the Des Moines NAACP. He is an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam. And he says he is still undecided.
Your question, sir.
ARNOLD WOODS, PRESIDENT, DES MOINES NAACP: Yes, I am undecided. And the question I have is, because of the extreme number of our military personnel returning from war zones, combat zones with PTSD, what is your feeling towards reestablishing a military draft?
And for those who are not deemed worthy to go to military draft or to be drafted into the military, do you have any options for them where they can serve our country for a couple years prior to going to college?
O’MALLEY: Thank you.
I have put forward in your state 15 strategic goals to move our country forward again, to rebuild the truth of the American dream to get wages to go up, to make college more affordable and debt-free within the next five years, cut drug overdoses in half in the next 10 years, gun deaths in half in the next 10 years.
But one of the goals is to cut youth unemployment in half in the next three years. And I propose to do that by making national service a universal option for every kid in America, to serve their country in environmental restoration, or in public health, or in other avenues in addition to the military.
And I believe that that will not only allow our kids to go to college in a more affordable way, giving them an increased Pell grant benefit, but I also know that it will do a great deal to tap that goodness within the next generation and bring it forward, bring their ethic forward.
Let me talk a little bit about veterans because another one of our — my strategic goals is full employment for the veterans of ours who come home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
We do a very poor job of transitioning our veterans back to civilian life. And I have found, as a governor attacking this problem, that the key is employment. Talkingalking to our veterans about employment.
There is absolutely no hand-off between the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs, let alone our state departments of Veterans Affairs.
And, in fact, on the DD-214, the discharge form that veterans fill out, there’s not even a box on there for an email address. And a lot of our veterans become ghost people. We might catch up with them eventually at the hospital. We might catch up with them at a county jail.
We’re a better nation than this and we need to have a transition program so that none of our veterans slip through the cracks and we need to make the first goal so that we can then get to the Post-Traumatic Stress issues, mental health and other things.
The first goal needs to be for employment, because every person needs to be needed. And we need our veterans back here every bit as much as we needed them abroad.
CUOMO: We’ve got another question for you, Governor.
Deborah Plummer is from Drake University, undecided, has a question about the economy for you.
DEBORAH PLUMMER: Good evening, Governor.
My question is, do you have any specific plans to grow the economy at a rate that will increase job growth for those — so that those who are long-term unemployed or have fallen out of the workforce will have an opportunity to get back in?
O’MALLEY: Sure. Yes. The — let me talk a little bit about our economy.
Prior to President Obama’s good work — and he’s done great work. He saved us from a second Great Depression, from the recklessness and the greed on Wall Street. Our nation’s creating jobs again and we’re the only species on the planet without full employment, so jobs are important, right?
Without jobs, nothing works very well.
But here’s another thing that doesn’t work very well in America, unless it’s going in the right direction, and that is wages.
For the first time this side of World War II, 70 percent of us are earning the same or less than we did 12 years ago. So as I look at this, I believe that we need to first and foremost remember that our economy is not money. It is people. It is all of our people.
And we need to restore common sense wage and labor policies that make wages rise again. Things we used to do, Democrats and Republicans together all the time, like keeping the minimum wage above the poverty line, paying overtime pay for overtime work.
How about this, the long deferred promise of equal pay for equal work for men and women?
O’MALLEY: Making it easier for people to join labor unions instead of harder. And then…
O’MALLEY: And here’s another one to make wages go up instead of being a drag on wages, let’s get 11 million of our neighbors out of the underground shadow economy by passing comprehensive immigration reform…
O’MALLEY: — with a pathway to citizenship for all.
CUOMO: Governor, but there’s…
O’MALLEY: Chris, and two other brief ones on this.
I’m the first candidate in either party to put forward a new agenda for America’s cities. America’s cities are where we have some of the worst problems of structural unemployment and where we can do the most good with investments in mobility, mass transit, a new era of workforce housing, making our cities the leading edge to this clean green environment.
And then the third piece I come back to again is squaring our shoulders to climate change and training people to actually be part of the retrofitting and the distributed energy future that is America’s.
O’MALLEY: Governor, talk to the audience about points of contrast between you and Senator Sanders when it comes to the economic plan.
So much is made of him being a self-described Democratic socialist.
Do you see yourselves as that different from him when it comes to the economy?
O’MALLEY: You know, the — look, my story is not the story of the — of a Democratic conversion. My story is the story of a Democratic upbringing. And my parents taught me that the stronger we make our country, the more our country can give back to ourselves and to our children.
And so I believe in fair market American capitalism. And I also, as part of those 15 strategic goals, believe, as Woodrow Wilson believed, that freedom — economic freedom also means freedom from monopoly.
I would agree…
O’MALLEY: — I would actually agree with Senator Sanders in this sense, Chris. We have reached the point where there’s been such a concentration of corporate wealth and power in the hands of so few that it’s taking opportunity out of the homes of the many. And whenever that happens, there’s only two paths forward. And only one of them is good. And that is a sensible rebalancing based on the common good we share.
We need to push back on these concentrations of corporate power, Wall Street, big banks, but other places, as well.
You know, here in Iowa, a farmer told me that 12 years ago they used to have about a dozen packing houses. Now, they only have four or five. Hog farmers are more productive than ever, but they’re getting a lower price than ever.
Our economy is an ecosystem, you know? And the center of that ecosystem is a stronger middle class. In other words, the stronger we make our middle class, the more our economy grows. And, that’s what we’ve lose track of in these 30 years of trickle down economics. The more our workers earn, the more they spend, the more our economy grows.
I will say this though, Chris, I think that I do believe that the fundamentals of American capitalism are still strong. But we need to shake ourselves out of this trickle down nonsense. This is concentrate wealth, remove regulation, and keep wages low. Low wages for America is not an America that’s working. We nee wage policies…
O’MALLEY: … that make wages go up again.
CUOMO: The gentleman standing up on your right is Brian Carlson, he’s a student at Drake University. He says he’s leaning toward supporting Hillary Clinton. He says he wants to talk about discrimination in the workplace, and he has a question about it. What do you have?
QUESTION: Last years Supreme Court decision granting full marriage equality was truly monumental for the LGBT community across the nation.
But we still face a hard battle ahead, especially in the areas of employment and housing. In many states we still face discrimination. I was wondering what would you do as president to help us to acquire full equality in those areas on the federal level?
O’MALLEY: I believe that the genius of this American experiment of ours is that in every generation we take actions to include more people more fully in the economic, the social, and the political life our country. That’s the broader arc of American history. We’ve yet to arrive at a perfect union, but every generation we have the opportunity to make it a more perfect union.
In my own state we were one of the very first to pass at the ballot marriage equality. I also passed the Transgender Anti-Discrimination bill in the state of Maryland as well.
And, it’s interesting, you know? The common ground we found to get these things done was this. It’s really about our kids. It’s about all our kids. And, there was some people in Maryland who said we might not be able to pass marriage equality, and we made the argument all about the truth, that there is dignity in every child’s home, and every child’s home needs to be protected equally under the law.
One of the most powerful beliefs we share is our belief in the dignity of every person. That’s what’s motivated me, and the common good that we share. And, I will do everything in my power to move us forward as a nation, and make us more inclusive in every possible way I can across the board because that’s what makes us stronger as a country.
O’MALLEY: Thank you.
CUOMO: Governor, you were talking about farming earlier, and the status of it here in Iowa. We have a question for you about that. This is Jana Linderman, she’s President of the Iowa Farmers Union, she says she’s leaning toward Clinton, but she’s a fourth generation farmer and she has a question about the industry for you.
QUESTION: First, I just want to say that I love that you mention the problem of market concentration in the egg sector. Thank you so much for bringing up that point…
O’MALLEY: … Yeah, not good for family farms, is it?
QUESTION: Not, too great no. There’s not nearly as many of us as there used to be.
QUESTION: My question is about beginning farmers. I’m a beginning farmer. The average age of farmers in the United States right now is about 57 years old, and that number goes up a little bit each year. For beginning farmers, a group that includes a growing number of veterans, women farmers like me and other groups. We do have some opportunities with innovative business models that include more diversified farms, or sustainable farming practice, but there aren’t nearly enough of us. We know that a lot of farmers are going to be retiring in the next decade, and there aren’t enough people to replace them, so my question is after decades of rural outmigration, and farm consolidation, what can we do? What would you do to provide opportunities and invest in a new generation of family farms for the country?
O’MALLEY: Thank you.
O’MALLEY: I think this is a big part of the future for rural America, sustainable economies. The ability to consume and to grow, and to do that within the footprint of this place that we call home. So, I would like to work with congress, and I plan to work with congress, to do more in the Farm Bill to reduce the barriers of entry to new farmers as they start up. Huge capital costs that go into buying the land and buying the equipment. But it’s also what’s best for keeping our rural economies, and it’s best for America. So I’ve seen in my own state a whole movement to the “buy local” movement and the sort of farming that you describe. We need to do more as a nation to encourage young farmers to go into farming to reduce those barriers and those capital costs, even at the same time that we push back against the concentration monopoly power in the agricultural sector. And that’s what I intend to do.
QUESTION: Thank you.
O’MALLEY: Thank you.
CUOMO: All right. I have a question for you.
We know that you are working this whole state and you’re going for the goal. You’re in it to win it. I understand that. But you can make an argument that you are the most important person that we’re going to have in this room tonight, whether or not you win or not. Here’s why.
As you know, there is a 15 percent rule in a lot of these caucuses. So if you don’t have 15 percent of the caucuses in that room, those men and women have to go to a different candidate. So if you don’t have that and your followers now have to go to somewhere else, the people that support you, what is y our suggestion to them?
O’MALLEY: This sounds like a process question. Look, here’s my suggestion to them.
What I — I have put together a terrific organization, or we have put together a terrific organization all across this state, Chris. And one of the reasons why the polls back east can never figure out how the caucuses work is because it’s a very organic thing.
And so my message to the O’Malley supporters across this state is this. Hold strong at your caucus.
Hold strong at your caucus because America’s looking for a new leader. America’s scanning the horizon. We cannot be this fed up with our gridlocked, dysfunctional national politics and think that a resort to old ideologies or old names is going to move us forward. So I tell my people hold strong.
I know this is a tough fight. But I’ve always been drawn to a tough fight. I believe the toughness of the fight is the way the hidden god has of telling us we’re actually fighting for something worth saving.
Our country’s worth saving. The American dream is worth saving. This planet is worth saving. America needs new leadership. And I need the O’Malley supporters out there on caucus night to hold strong and move forward like Iowa does.
CUOMO: All right. Let’s bring in Benjamin Foladore (ph). He grew up in Iowa, is now a law student…
He says he’s leaning toward supporting you on Monday. And he has an important question for you.
QUESTION: Yes. So, Gov. O’Malley…
CUOMO: This is going to give you a chance to wrap up your main pitch. This is Benjamin Foladore (ph). We’ll give you 30 seconds, the same thing we gave to Sen. Sanders. But go ahead.
QUESTION: So, yes. Right on cue with that, you’re aware that national polls continue to show you trailing Sec. Clinton and Sen. Sanders.
So to those that are still you know undecided like me, or maybe just less informed about politics, on top of what you’ve already talked about, what’s the last thing that you would try to tell them to convince them that you are in fact the best candidate for the Democratic Party?
O’MALLEY: Thank you. This is what I would say. I would say that time and time again in the history of the state of Iowa, Iowa has found a way to sort through the noise and to sort through the national polls and to lift up a new leader for our country at times when that was critical and essential.
That’s what you did eight years ago when you lifted up Barack Obama to lead our country forward. And we need to build upon his good work by continuing to move forward.
And that I am the only — I am the only one of the three of us who has a track record not of being a divider, but of bringing people together to get meaningful things done: raising the living wage, making college more affordable, creating jobs, healing wounds and divisions. That’s what our country needs right now.
We are a great people. We are a generous and we are a compassionate people. And we are far better than the sort of fascist rhetoric that you hear spewed out by Donald Trump. The enduring symbol of our country is not the barbed wire fence. It is the Statue of Liberty. And we…
And so I’m not here to praise you, Iowa, I’m here to challenge you. Lift up a new leader, because you can change the course of this presidential race. You can shift this dynamic on caucus night. I know you can, I’ve seen you do it before.
There is nothing so divided about our national politics that it cannot be healed with the renewed faith in one another and new leadership. That’s what I have to offer. My candidacy is in your hands. Do with it as you will.
But I think it’s important in order to move our country forward that once again Iowa lift up a new leader so we that can make America the compassionate, generous, and inclusive place that we need it to be. Thanks.
CUOMO: Thank you, Governor.
O’MALLEY: Thank you.
CUOMO: Our thanks to Governor O’Malley.
Hillary Clinton is in the wings. She’s ready to face these Iowa voters, next.
CUOMO: Welcome back to the CNN Democratic presidential town hall here at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
As you’ve seen, tonight is something different. It is a chance for the voters of Iowa to question the candidates directly.
Next up, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
CLINTON: How are you?
CUOMO: Good to see you.
CLINTON: Great to see you!
CUOMO: Interesting weekend for you. Boston Globe endorsement. Demoin Register endorsement. Maybe the best accolade, President Obama gave an interview; talked about this race. Seemed to get more into it than he has in the past. He said your, quote “Wicked smart. Knows every policy inside and out.” Sounds like an endorsement.
CLINTON: (LAUGHING) Well, I was really touched and gratified when I saw that. You know, people here in Iowa remember we ran a really hard race against each other, and then I had the opportunity when he asked me to serve as a Secretary of State.
And, it not only was a great working relationship, but it turned into a real friendship, and he knows how hard the jobs is. He knows it first hand. So, I really appreciated what he said, and how he said it because it was a positive reflection on what we have to get done, and how hard it’s going to be, and therefore the stakes in the election are really high. And, I think that’s what voters are beginning to really tune in to starting here in Iowa.
CUOMO: He says also in there you get undue criticism, and he says, and by the way, I have some regrets about my campaign and some of the things we did. Was that surprising.
CLINTON: Yes, that was surprising.
CLINTON: You know, I really appreciated him saying that because he said that — he had that great line which I love. I think he said something like, you know, she had to do — he said I was like Fred Astaire and she had to do everything I had to do, only she was Ginger Rogers doing it backwards in high heels. And, I thought that was a really…
CLINTON: … A very cute (ph) remark.
But, you know, I understand that you get into the arena, and you are going to get pummeled, and pushed, and criticized. I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think it was absolutely necessary to try to build on the progress that we’ve made. That we’ve made under President Obama against great odds, and that we’ve got to do everything we possibly can not to let the Republicans rip away the progress and turn us backwards.
That would be such a loss for our country. We need to build on it, and go further, and that’s what I’m trying to do with my campaign in talking about all the issues that I think are on the minds of all the people I talk to across the state.
CUOMO: And you get to do that tonight. We’re going to get a question right from the voters. 2008 we’re talking about, here you are again, another election. Praise and promise coming your way, but another nail biter…
CLINTON: … Right…
CUOMO: … With a self-described socialist named Bernie.
CUOMO: How did that happen.
CLINTON: (LAUGHTER) Look, it’s a great country, despite what one of the Republicans says. It’s a great country, and we are all on the Democratic side having a spirited debate about the issues we care about. I’m so proud you’ve seen my two Democratic opponents, and the three of us have run a campaign talking about the differences we have on issues. That’s totally fair, that’s what we want you to know.
The other side is not talking issues, they’re talking insults. So, I’m proud of the campaign we’ve run, and what we’ve put out there before the American people.
And, it’s a tough campaign, and it should be because it’s the hardest job in the world. You have to pick a president, and a commander in chief, and you want to really vet the people that are running, and I’m really having a good time going around talking, and listening to folks. And, on Monday the people in Iowa get to be the first people in the world, Chris, to express an opinion about who should be president, and commander in chief, and what they want to see as our nominee to go up against the Republicans.
CUOMO: So, let’s do that right now. Let’s help them.
CUOMO: We have Taylor Gipple, Iowa native. First time caucus goer, leaning Sanders, but has a question for Secretary Clinton
CLINTON: (LAUGHING) Let me help you up here.
QUESTION: It feels like there is a lot of young people like myself who are very passionate supporters of Bernie Sanders. And, I just don’t see the same enthusiasm from younger people for you. In fact, I’ve heard from quite a few people my age that they think you’re dishonest, but I’d like to hear from you on why you feel the enthusiasm isn’t there.
CLINTON: Well, I think it really depends upon who you’re seeing and talking to. You know today in Oskaloosa I spent time with about 10 high school students who are enthusiastically working for me. I see young people across the state who are doing the same. But I’m totally happy to see young people involved in any way. That’s what we want.
And we want to have a good primary to pick a nominee. And then we want to have everybody join together to make sure we win in November, which after all is the purpose…
… of this whole campaign. And so…
You know look, I’ve been around a long time. People have thrown all kinds of things at me. And you know I can’t keep up with it. I just keep going forward.
They fall by the wayside. They come up with these outlandish things. They make these charges. I just keep going forward because there’s nothing to it. They throw all this stuff at me and I’m still standing.
But if you’re new to politics, if it’s the first time you really paid attention, you go oh my gosh, look at all of this. And you have to say to yourself, why are they throwing all of that?
Well, I’ll tell you why. Because I’ve been on the front lines of change and progress since I was your age. I have been fighting to give kids and women…
… and the people who are left out and left behind a chance to make the most out of their own lives. And I’ve taken on the status quo time and time again.
I have had many, many millions of dollars spent against me. When I worked on health care back in 1993 and 1994, and I don’t know if you were born then. I can’t quite tell.
But if you’d been around and had been able to pay attention, I was trying to get us to universal health care coverage, working with my husband.
Boy, the insurance companies, the drug companies, they spent millions. Not just against the issue, but against me. And I kept going.
And when we weren’t successful, I turned around and said at least we’re going to get health care for kids. And we got the Children’s Health Insurance Program working with both Democrats and Republicans. And eight million kids have insurance because of that today.
So you got to keep going. You can’t give up. You can never get knocked off course.
That’s my hope for you and for all the young people who are getting involved this first time. Don’t get discouraged. It’s hard. If it were easy, hey, there wouldn’t be any contest. But it’s not easy.
There are very different visions, different values, different forces at work. And you have to have somebody who is a proven, proven fighter. Somebody who has taken them on and won and kept going, and will do that as president. That’s why I hope you’ll reconsider. (LAUGHTER)
CUOMO: We have another voter for you to work on, Elena Deets (ph), and Iowa native, first-time caucus goer. She says she’s also leaning toward Bernie, but she’s giving you a chance with a question.
QUESTION: Sec. Clinton, earlier this month Vice President Joe Biden said you were a newcomer to the issue of income inequality, while praising Sen. Sanders for his authentic voice on the issue. How do we know that you will keep this issue a top priority?
CLINTON: Well, I have the greatest respect for the vice president. But I think it’s fair to say that I have a 40-year record of going after inequality. And not only economic inequality: racial inequality, sexist inequality, homophobic inequality. The kinds of things that go after people to put them down and push them back.
So since I was a young lawyer my first job in the Children’s Defense Fund, I took on the problem of juveniles in adult jails. What kind of inequality can you imagine that’s worse than that, taking a child and putting them in with adult prisoners? And we went right after that to change that.
I went after schools that were being turned into private schools that were really there because they wanted to escape integration in the south. I went by myself down to Alabama to do investigations because again, inequality stalks our education system.
I was on the Legal Services Corporation. I chaired the board. Inequality’s also about not being able to get a lawyer. You can’t afford them. You can’t stand up and have your voice heard and have your case adjudicated.
So I have a really long history of taking on all kinds of inequality. And when I went to Beijing in 1995 and said human rights were women’s rights and women’s rights were human rights that was a statement about inequality: economic inequality, education inequality, cultural inequality…
… every kind of inequality you can imagine.
Now, when you focus just narrowly on economic inequality, I’ve also been in that fight. I was in that fight during my husband’s administration. And let’s remember what happened there.
At the end of eight years, we not only had 23 million new jobs, what was most important is incomes grew for everybody, not just those at the top, more people were lifted out of poverty, incomes rose, in the middle and working people.
And today in Knoxville, in my town hall, I called on a man. He said, we never had it so good except when your husband was president. Because we tackled income equality and produced results, not talk, action. And that’s what I will do as president.
CUOMO: Another question for you. Secretary, Dick Goodson. He’s the chairman of the Des Moines Committee on Foreign Relations. He’s likely going to caucus for you next week, unless you mess it up right now…
CLINTON: OK. I’ll try not to.
CUOMO: Your question, sir.
DICK GOODSON, CHAIRMAN, DES MOINES COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Madam Secretary, before I ask my question, I have a quick comment, and that is that I was a lukewarm person for you before the Benghazi hearings, I watched all 11 hours, every second of it, and came away from that a gung ho supporter of yours.
CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you.
GOODSON: I woke up one night thinking that maybe I could see, if Donald Trump was sitting here, maybe he’d punch Gowdy out.
GOODSON: OK. Here’s the question, practically all of the comments that have been said for both — all three candidates tonight, about 99 percent, have been on some form of domestic policy.
And yet, you know, as the former wife of a president and as the secretary of state, that the president of the United States is going to just spend more than 50 percent of his or her time on foreign policy issues.
So therefore, I think it’s important for the public to kind of get a sense of where you may be coming from across the board philosophically. And the way I look at it is you could have a scale of say, one to 100 (sic), and on that scale, you would have none interventionist on one side at one, and total interventionist on the other side as 10.
As you think about all the issues that you’ve confronted as secretary of state, and then as the possibility of looking at issues into the future, where do you think you’ll land on that scale of one to 10?
CLINTON: I’ll tell you what. I want to start by saying thank you for asking about foreign policy because you’re absolutely right. In fact, President Obama in his interview said something about that. He said, you know, you don’t get to the pick the issues you work on when you’re president, a lot of them come at you.
They come in the door whether you open it or not, and even gave the example of working on a State of the Union, being at the desk in the Oval Office when one of his aids came in and said, the Iranians have just captured two of our naval vessels and have taken our sailors prisoner.
You can’t say, oh, OK, don’t bother me now, I’ll deal with that later. You have got to immediately be able to switch gears. You’ve got to do all aspects of the job.
So let me tell you how I think about it. I think it’s imperative you do your very best, every president, and certainly, I will, to avoid military action. It should be the last resort, not the first choice, to use diplomacy, even if it’s slow, boring, hard to continue to persist and be patient to get results.
And that you also should use the enormous capabilities that we have to project our values around the world, our cultural values, our freedoms, our human rights, and respect for the dignity of all people.
I want to give you two quick examples. When I became secretary of state, what President Obama and I found was that the Iranians were on their way to a nuclear weapons program. This despite all of the bluster from the George W. Bush-Dick Cheney administration.
They had mastered the nuclear fuel cycle. They had built covert facilities. And they had stocked them with centrifuges that were rapidly whirling along trying to create enough highly enriched uranium to have a weapon.
Now our choices were, oh, my gosh, just fulminate about it, or turn our backs and just figure out that somebody else is going to do something, or try to get up a new strategy. We chose the third.
We said, look, we’ve got to get the world behind us to force them to the negotiating table. So I spent 18 months putting together the coalition that imposed international sanctions on the Iranians that forced them, finally, to begin negotiating with us to get an end to their nuclear weapons program, to put a lid on it.
It took 18 months to get the sanctions. It took me about another year to travel around the world convincing other countries to actually obey the sanctions. And then I began the negotiations, testing whether the Iranians would actually come and seriously negotiate.
And then Secretary Kerry and the president did a great job bringing the agreement into fruition.
You cannot — you cannot imagine how tense it was because a lot of our friends and partners in the region basically just wanted to end that program by bombing them. Just bomb them. Send them back a couple of years. Just stop it.
I spent a lot of my time explaining to our friends why that was not a good idea.
And we got the negotiation successfully done. We did put the lid on.
So that’s how I thought about it.
Another quick example.
We had another unfortunate spate of rockets going from Gaza into Israel in 2012. I’m on the phone with the Israelis. They’re trying to knock them out of the sky with their missile defense system. But they’re still landing and everybody is really worried that, you know, one of them is going to hit a big group of people, take out a big building somewhere.
So the Israelis are telling me, look, we’ve got to go back in. We have to have a ground invasion again in Gaza.
I’m saying, no, please, don’t do that. Let’s try to figure out how do we resolve it?
We don’t think we can resolve it.
I flew from Cambodia, where I was with the president, to Israel, middle of the night, go see the Israeli cabinet, work with them on what they would accept as an offer, go see the Palestinian president, work with him to make sure he’d back it up, go back to Jerusalem, finalize the deal, fly to Cairo, meet with President Morsy, the Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt, hammer out the agreement, announce it at about an hour before the deadline that we were facing.
They got a cease-fire. There was no invasion. That’s what you have to do.
So every situation is different. So I want to make sure I stay as close as possible to the non-intervention. That’s why I say no American ground troops in Syria or Iraq. Special Forces, trainers, yes. Planes to bomb, yes. No ground forces.
Every part of this has to be done in accordance with our values, our interests and our security and partnership with other countries.
CUOMO: All right, two points of…
CUOMO: Secretary, two points of push back.
CUOMO: One general, one specific.
CUOMO: Your critics will say they see the Obama administration, of which you were, of course, a part as secretary of State…
CUOMO: — as a period where now things are less stable around the world, certainly in the war on terror.
Specifically, Senator Sanders, earlier tonight, said, yes, a lot of experience, but it doesn’t always translate into the best judgment. And he cited your vote on the war in Iraq.
How do you respond to those two criticisms?
CLINTON: Well, first of all, I have a much longer history than one vote, which I’ve said was a mistake because of the way that that was done and how the Bush administration handled it.
But I think the American public has seen me exercising judgment in a lot of other ways. And, in fact, when that hard primary campaign was over and I went to work for President Obama and he ended up asking me to be secretary of State, it was because he trusted my judgment.
And we worked side by side over those four years.
And think about where we were when he became president. As I just said, Iran on the way to a nuclear weapon, which would have destabilized the entire Middle East, created an arms race the likes of which we have never seen.
We had hundreds of thousands of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our best allies and friends in Europe and Asia were really put out with us because of the way they’d been treated by the Bush administration and were very skeptical that the United States was a good ally any longer and wanted to lead the world toward peace, prosperity and security.
I spent so much of my time getting back the confidence and the trust of our friends and allies around the world.
So I think we made a lot of progress.
Now, do we have a terrorist threat?
Yes. We had a terrorist threat on 9/11, before President Obama took office. Yes, we were attacked. So this is not something new. This is a long-term challenge. That’s why I’ve laid out a plan to defeat ISIS and the radical jihadist terrorist networks that I think has the best chance of achieving that.
There is no time in human history where everything is going well. And we now live in a very interconnected world where we know everything that is going on and where people look to the United States to help.
So we have to be leading. And that means we’ve got to be smart about how we try to assert our power so that it is constructive, makes a difference and does lead to greater peace and prosperity.
But I am very proud of my record as secretary of State and what we accomplished, not only on specific trouble spots, but advancing women’s rights, advancing gay rights, advancing religious freedom, Internet freedom and so many of the other values that we hold dear.
CUOMO: We have another question for you about the example that the United States provides.
On our left, Erin Tariq-Monir (ph), she’s an American Muslim from outside Des Moines. She served in the U.S. Air Force. She says she’s undecided. And she has a question.
QUESTION: Hi, Sec. Clinton. America today is formed by a very diverse group of people, and over the current horizon, Islamophobia and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
How can we make sure that the United States today is — that we protect the constitutional rights of all groups of people without marginalizing any one community? Specifically as a mother of three young children, as an American Muslim, how can I make sure that this country is the best place on earth to raise my family?
CLINTON: Thank you.
And thank you for your service in the military.
QUESTION: It’s my pleasure.
CLINTON: And one of the…
One of the most distressing aspects of this campaign has been the language of Republican candidates, particularly their frontrunner, that insults, demeans, denigrates different people. He has cast a wide net. He started with Mexicans. He’s currently on Muslims. But I found it particularly harmful the way he has talked about Muslims, American Muslims and Muslims around the world. And I have called him out continuously about that.
It’s not only shameful and contrary to our values to say that people of a certain religion should never come to this country, or to claim that there are no real people of the Muslim faith who share our values, and to have the kind of dismissive and insulting approach. It’s not only shameful and offensive, which it is. I think it’s dangerous. And it’s dangerous in several ways.
It’s dangerous because American Muslims deserve better. And now their children and they are the target of Islamophobia, of threats. I’ve met a number of parents who said their children are afraid to go to school because they are worried about how they will be treated.
And we cannot tolerate this. And we must stand up and say every person in this country deserves to be treated with respect. And we must stand up against the…
But there’s another element to this that I want to mention. I was recently in Minneapolis where I met with a big group of Somali-Americans. And I sat down and talked with them, and they shared some of the very same concerns you just did.
But they are also on the front lines of trying to protect their children from radicalization. They are in the front lines in Minneapolis of working with law enforcement to make sure that what they see and hear they report in case there are any problems.
We have to protect ourselves in America in a unified way. That means making sure our Muslim friends and neighbors are part of us. They are with us. They are on the front lines of defending themselves, their families, their children and all the rest of us.
And the same is true with Muslims around the world. We need a coalition that includes Muslim nations to defeat ISIS. And it’s pretty hard to figure out how you’re going to make a coalition with the very nations you need if you spend your time insulting their religion.
So we need to stand up…
… and point out how wrong this is.
CUOMO: All right. We have another question for you, secretary.
Maria Diaz (ph). Drake Law School student who says she’s deciding between you and Sen. Sanders.
Maria Diaz (ph), you have a question.
QUESTION: Good evening, secretary. Sec. Clinton, when you’re elected the next president of the United States, what will you say to Republican voters?
CLINTON: That I want to be the president for everyone. And I believe that is exactly what any president should do.
You know, Chris Cuomo’s father said one of the smartest things. He said many, many smart things about politics. But you might remember he said “you campaign in poetry, you govern in prose.”
You know, you can say all the kinds of things you want in a campaign. And we are drawing distinctions with the Republicans, and we should because I have very deep disagreements, as I just pointed out, with a lot of what they’re saying and doing.
But, once the election is over we must come together to work to solve the problems facing our country. That is what I did. I did it as a First Lady when I worked, as I said, to get the children’s health insurance program. I did it to reform the foster care and adoption system with one of the most partisan Republicans in the house, Tom DeLay. I did it when I was in the Senate.
And, nearly every Republican I served with co-sponsored legislation that I introduced, and we worked to pass. And, I did it as Secretary of State. Reaching out, talking with Republicans all the time about what we were doing, enlisting their support, getting their advice.
So, I know in order to deal with the problems I want to, to get the economy working, creating more good jobs, getting in comes rising, making sure we build on the affordable care act. Get costs down, but improve it, get to 100% coverage. Everything I want to do, I want to start from the belief that we can find common ground, and that is exactly what I intend to do.
And, I see my friend Tom Harkin sitting there, and he knows from his years in the Congress, you always have to hope you can find common ground. You got to bring people together like he did. The Americans With Disabilities Act, what an amazing accomplishment.
CUOMO: I have a question for you, as a point of push back. You were talking earlier about how it’s difficult to form a coalition with people who are being insulted at the same time. Let’s apply that to the Democrats and the Republicans.
CUOMO: You say you want to work with them, but you were quoted not too long ago, you were listing (ph) people that you saw as adversaries, NRA, health insurance companies, probably the Republicans.
CUOMO: They did not like that when you said that…
CLINTON: … Well…
CUOMO: … It makes them feel that, well, Secretary Clinton doesn’t like us. Why would she work with us? Understandable.
CLINTON: Yeah, well, Chris, it was kind of tongue-in-cheek, and I consider them more the adversaries because they are. They have their set of objectives, we have ours in the Democratic side. But, that’s why I gave you a short overview. I work with all of them.
You know, when I’m actually in office, they say really nice things about me.
CLINTON: We have a whole long list of the nice things they say, what a good colleague I am, how easy I am to work with, how willing I am to try to find common ground. And, then when I run, Oh my goodness it’s just unbelievable.
CLINTON: So, I have no — I have no problem in saying, yeah, we have political differences. We’re on opposite sides. But, we’re going to work as hard as we can, and here’s what I know about how to get that done.
It takes building relationships, and that is one of the hardest things to do in politics over ideological and partisan lines. So, I’m going to be just giving them all bear hugs whether they like it or not. We’re going to get together, we’re going to talk about what we can do. Maybe we can get something done together, if not, maybe I can find that slice of common ground to find somebody who will work with me on achieving a goal that we want.
So, that’s the way the process should work, constantly looking for ways to make a difference and putting together the coalitions within the congress to pass laws.
CUOMO: So, what is it inside you that can separate the human feeling of doing the Benghazi hearings, and then going back to that same group of people and saying, “OK, you know what? Let’s put that in the past.”
It sounds a little hard to do.
CLINTON: Well, I don’t know, I came out pretty well so I think it’d be very…
CLINTON: … It would be very gracious of me to go back and talk to them.
CUOMO: Alright, let’s get you another question. Zach Pieper, grew up in west Des Moines. He says he’s undecided. What’s your question for the Secretary.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, kind of on the same issue as the Bear Hugs. I think one thing that they might have a hard time bare hugging with the other side, and certainly a concern that a lot of Democratic voters have at this point, as far as going to the general election, and looking forward to working with Congress is the Benghazi issue. So, how are you planning on dealing with that going forward, not only in the general election, but also if you became President working with Congress.
CLINTON: Well, look. This is only still an issue because the Republicans want to keep it an issue.
CLINTON: They know it, I know it. And, I think it’s very easy to answer, and as the gentleman who stood up before said, if you watched any of it, I answered every question. And, at the end of it, the Chairman said, “No, we didn’t learn anything new.”
No, well, because there was nothing new to learn. Why? Because there had already been eight investigations. Most of them by Republicans in the Congress. The House Intelligence Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, and what did they conclude? That there were problems that night, but they were ones that we should look at not from the perspective of placing blame or pointing fingers. But how do we make sure that never happens again?
That is what I said immediately after it happened. That’s why I put together an independent board to tell me as secretary of State what I needed to know and what we could do to fix it. And I accepted all 29 of their recommendations. And we were on the way to implementing them when I left, and that has continued.
So I am well aware that for partisan political purposes this continues. But let me tell you why this makes me not — it makes me sad. It makes me sad because we’ve had terrorist attacks many times before in our country, haven’t we? And we’ve had American, both civilians and military personnel the subject of attacks.
When Ronald Reagan was president in 1983, our Marine barracks, our embassy were attacked in Beirut. More than 250 Americans were killed. The Democrats didn’t make that a partisan issue. We were horrified. We were heartsick that Americans doing the work they were sent to do, civilians and military, were murdered by terrorists.
So, the Democratic Congress worked with the Republican president to say what can we do? How do we fix this?
Fast forward. My husband was president. Al-Qaeda attacked two of our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Car bombs blew them up, killed 12 Americans and hundreds of Kenyans and Tanzanians.
Madeline Albright was secretary. She said we got to get to the bottom of this. She did the same as I did, commission an independent report. When the report came out she made it public. I made the report I commissioned public. That’s the only two times those reports have ever been made public.
So again, it was terrible. What can we do? How can we fix it? It wasn’t the subject of this kind of partisan, media-driven attack. People wanted to come together.
And even after 9/11 when nearly 3,000 Americans and others who were working in New York City, the Pentagon, on that plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, were killed, we formed a commission. We said what went wrong? What can we learn? And then we moved on to try and do better.
So look, I understand that they will try to make this an issue. I will continue to answer. And my best defense is the truth. And that’s what you will hear from now until I am elected president.
CUOMO: On that issue, the Des Moines Register, as we said earlier, gave you an endorsement.
Did it question your judgment, though, when it came to the email issue? They said, and you know this, but for the audience, in 2008 “when she says” — “when she makes a mistake she should just say so.” This weekend they said that’s a lesson that you have not learned. Yes, you apologized, but only when you needed to, not when you first could have. Fair criticism?
CLINTON: Well, I think that they’re — you know, look, I was delighted to get the Register’s endorsement. And it was a very generous one. And yes, I think that’s a fair criticism.
You know I had no intention of doing anything other than having a convenient way of communicating, and it turned out not to be so convenient. So again, we’ve answered every question and we will continue to do so.
But you know maybe being faster, trying to scramble around to find out what all of this means, I probably should have done that quicker.
CUOMO: You’re willing to say it was an error in judgment, you should’ve apologized…
CLINTON: No. I’m not willing to say it was an error in judgment because what — nothing that I did was wrong. It was not — it was not in any way prohibited. And so…
CUOMO: Not apologizing sooner I mean.
CLINTON: Well, apologizing sooner, as soon as you can. But part of the problem, and I would just say this as, not an excuse but just as an explanation.
When you’re facing something like that you got to get the facts. And it takes time to get the facts. And so when I said hey, take all my emails, make them public. That had never been done before, ever by anybody. And so we’ve been sorting our way through this because it is kind of a unique situation.
I’m happy people are looking at the emails. Some of them are you know, frankly a little embarrassing…
You know. You find out that sometimes I’m not the best on technology and things like that. But look, I think it’s great. Let people sort them through. And as we have seen there is a lot of — you know a lot of interest. But it’s something that took time to get done.
CUOMO: Earlier tonight we played Sen. Sanders your ad and asked him a question about it, one of the ads that you’re putting out here in the last run up to caucuses…
CUOMO: We’ll now do the same for you.
CUOMO: Here’s the senator’s ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(MUSIC PLAYING, “AMERICA” BY SIMON & GARFUNKEL)
SANDERS: I’m Bernie Sanders, and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: I think that’s great. I think that’s fabulous. I loved it.
CLINTON: You know, look, you campaign in poetry, you govern in prose. And we need a lot more poetry in this campaign and in our country. So, I applaud that. I love the feeling. I love the energy.
I obviously respect Senator Sanders greatly and appreciate what he has done in this campaign.
But I believe that I’m the better person to be the Democratic nominee, and to be the president and commander-in-chief of the country because…
CUOMO: Got another question for you. Brett Rosengren. He’s from Logan, Iowa. He’s going to school, works as a supervisor for a janitorial company, says he’s undecided, has a question.
BRETT ROSENGREN, STUDENT: Secretary Sanders — or, Clinton, sorry.
CLINTON: It’s OK.
ROSENGREN: I can see why they gave you this question. I just wanted to know which of our previous presidents has inspired you most and why.
CUOMO: You can only pick one. One you can pick.
CUOMO: Sorry, let me jump your question, one president, one.
CUOMO: Just one.
CLINTON: OK. Sorry, President Obama, sorry, Bill, Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln.
You know, I — wow, when I think about his challenges, they paled in comparison to anything we have faced or can imagine. You know, more Americans died in the Civil War than, you know, the wars of the 20th Century put together.
So here was a man who was a real politician. I mean, he was a great statesman, but he also understood politics. And he had to work to put together, you know, the support he needed to be able to hold the country together during the war.
And while he was prosecuting that war to keep the Union together, he was building America, which I found just an astonishing part of his legacy. The transcontinental rail system, land grant colleges, he was thinking about the future while in the middle of trying to decide which general he can trust to try to finish the war.
That’s what I mean, when you’ve got to do a lot of things at once, what could be more overwhelming than trying to wage and win a civil war?
And yet, he kept his eye on the future and he also tried to keep summoning up the better angels of our nature. You know, he was willing to reconcile and forgive. And I don’t know what our country might have been like had he not been murdered, but I bet that it might have been a little less rancorous, a little more forgiving and tolerant, that might possibly have brought people back together more quickly.
But instead, you know, we had Reconstruction, we had the re-instigation of segregation and Jim Crow. We had people in the South feeling totally discouraged and defiant. So, I really do believe he could have very well put us on a different path.
And, as I say, our challenges are nothing like what he faced, but let’s think ourselves about not only what we have to do right now, especially to get the income rising in America, especially to make college affordable, do something about student debt, keep health care growing until we get 100 percent coverage and so much else.
But let’s also think about how we do try to summon up those better angels, and to treat each other, even when we disagree, fundamentally disagree, treat each other with more respect, and agree to disagree more civilly, and try to be inspired by, I think, the greatest of our presidents.
CUOMO: Secretary Clinton…
CLINTON: Thank you.
CUOMO: … thank you very much for taking the opportunity.
CLINTON: Thanks, Chris. Great to see you.
CUOMO: Appreciate it, the pleasure is mine.
CLINTON: You doing OK?
CUOMO: Everything is great. Thank you.
CUOMO: We want to want thank Secretary Clinton, Governor O’Malley, and Senator Sanders, and everyone who made this town hall possible.
CUOMO: Our thanks to our partners, the Iowa Democratic Party, and Drake University, of course. And thank you all, our audience, for watching and participating.
The caucuses just one week from tonight. We’ll be here, CNN will have complete coverage. I’m Chris Cuomo in Des Moines, Don Lemon picks up our coverage right now.