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PBS Democratic Debate With Politico In California; Interview with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), About The Presidential Debate. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired December 19, 2019 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WARREN: I will change the rules now that put people in prison based on their birth sex identification rather than their current identification. I will do everything I can to make sure that we are an America that leaves no one behind.
ALCINDOR: Thank you, Senator Warren. Amna?
NAWAZ: Vice President Biden, let's turn now to Afghanistan. Confidential documents published last week by the Washington Post revealed that for years senior U.S. officials misled the public about the war in Afghanistan. As vice president...
BIDEN: Afghanistan, you said?
NAWAZ: Yes, sir, Afghanistan. As vice president, what did you know about the state of the war? And do you believe that you were honest with the American people about it?
BIDEN: The reason I can speak to this -- it's well-known, if any of you followed it, my view on Afghanistan -- I was sent by the president before we got sworn in to Afghanistan to come back with a report. I said there was no comprehensive policy available. And then I got in a big fight for a long time with the Pentagon because I strongly opposed the nation-building notion we set about.
Rebuilding that country as a whole nation is beyond our capacity. I argued from the very beginning that we should have a policy that was based on an antiterrorism policy with a very small footprint that, in fact, only had special forces to deal with potential threats from that territory to the United States of America.
The first thing I would do as president of the United States of America is to make sure that we brought all combat troops home, entered into a negotiation with the Taliban. But I would leave behind special forces in small numbers to be able to deal with the potential threat unless we got a real good negotiation accomplished to deal with terrorism.
That's been my position from the beginning. That's why I think Secretary Gates and some members of the Pentagon weren't happy with me. NAWAZ: Mr. Biden, the question was about your time in the White House, though.
BIDEN: I'm talking about the White House.
NAWAZ: In that Washington Post report, there's a senior national security official who said that there was constant pressure from the Obama White House to produce figures showing the troop surge was working, and I'm quoting from the report here, "despite hard evidence to the contrary." What do you say to that?
BIDEN: Since 2009, go back and look. I was on the opposite side of that with the Pentagon. The only reason I can speak to it now is because it's been published. It's been published thoroughly. I'm the guy from the beginning who argued that it was a big, big mistake to surge forces to Afghanistan, period. We should not have done it. And I argued against it constantly.
NAWAZ: Senator Sanders, you had your hand up.
SANDERS: Well, in all due respect to my -- Joe, Joe, you're also the guy who helped lead us into the disastrous war in Iraq. What we need to do is, I think, rethink -- and the Washington Post piece was very educational -- what we need to rethink is the entire war on terror.
We have lost thousands of our own men and women, brave soldiers. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people have been killed abroad or forced to leave their countries. It is time right now that we bring this world together to try to end these endless wars and address the root causes which are causing these wars.
NAWAZ: Senator Sanders, you do often point to your vote against the war in Iraq as evidence of your judgment on foreign policy, but you did vote for the war in Afghanistan. And as recently as 2015, you said you supported a continued U.S. troop presence there. Was that support a mistake?
SANDERS: Well, only one person, my good friend, Barbara Lee, was right on that issue. She was the only person in the House to vote against the war in Afghanistan. She was right. I was wrong. So was everybody else in the House.
But to answer your question, I don't think you do what Trump does and make foreign policy decisions based on a tweet at 3 a.m. in the morning or desert your long-time allies like the Kurds. I think you work with the international community. You remove all troops over a period of time, a short period of time, within one year.
NAWAZ: Thank you, Senator. Mayor Buttigieg, you served in this war, but I want to ask about your decision-making if you were elected commander-in-chief. You have pledged to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan within your first year as president, but the Taliban today control or contest more than half the country.
So should you as president still withdraw all those U.S. troops if the country could once again become a haven for terrorists?
BUTTIGIEG: We're going to leave one way or the other. The question is to make sure we do it well and not poorly. And of course, that has to respond to the conditions on the ground and the need for a political settlement.
But, you know, the other day, I was reunited with somebody that I'd served with over there. And the thing we were marveling at is how long it's been since we left.
I thought I was one of the last troops turning out the lights when I left years ago, and we're still there.
There may need to be some kind of limited special operations and intelligence capacity, the exact same kind of thing, by the way, that we actually had in Syria holding the line before the president yanked it out, leading to the road to chaos.
But what we know is that we cannot go on with these endless wars. And I'm glad that the name of Barbara Lee was mentioned, not only because of what she's talked about years ago. I believe that we had no choice but to go to Afghanistan after 9/11. But right now, she is one of the leaders of the effort to repeal and replace the authorization for the use of military force and the folks that I served with deserve that. They deserve the clarity of members of Congress being able to summon the courage to take an up-or-down vote on whether they ought to be there in the first place.
And when I am president, any time, if I am forced to deploy troops into war, any time we seek an authorization, it will have a three-year sunset, so that if there really does have to be a conversation about extending it, it has to be brought to Congress, brought to the American people, and those members of Congress have to take that tough up-or-down vote.
NAWAZ: Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
ALBERTA: Thanks, Amna.
Moving to health care, an issue that voters tell us every day is still the number-one priority for them, Senator Sanders, you've spent plenty of time discussing and defending the merits of your Medicare for all plan. But the reality is that if Republicans retain control of the U.S. Senate or even if Democrats win back a narrow Senate majority, your plan as constituted probably would not have the votes to pass Congress.
So the question, Senator, is, if Congress rejects your plan and the American people are looking to you for leadership on this issue, are there smaller specific measures that you would take immediately to expand coverage and decrease costs as president? SANDERS: Well, Tim, at a time when we're spending twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation, when 87 million people are uninsured or underinsured, when 30,000 people are dying each year because they don't get to a doctor when they should, and when a half a million people are going bankrupt because of the dysfunctional and cruel system that we currently have, you know what? I think we will pass a Medicare for all single-payer system, and I will introduce that legislation in my first week in office.
Now, to answer your question, I think when we go out to the American people and tell them that right now we have got to take on the greed and corruption of the pharmaceutical industry, for example, which in some cases charges us 10 times more for the same exact drug as is charged in this country, when the American people understand that Medicare for all expands Medicare to cover home health care, dental care, eyeglasses, and hearing aids, and does it at a cost far, far lower than what some of my opponents are talking about, you know what? We're going to have the American people behind us. We will have Congress behind us.
ALBERTA: Thank you, Senator Sanders.
Vice President Biden, I'd like to bring you in. You spent an awful lot of time 10 years ago trying to pass a bill far less ambitious than what Senator Sanders is talking about here. Is he being realistic?
BIDEN: I don't think it is realistic, but let me explain why. I introduced a plan to build on Obamacare. Remind everybody, 20 million people got insurance who didn't have it before. All people with pre- existing conditions were able to be covered. I could go on. We didn't get all that we wanted.
But now that it's been exposed, that taking it away has such dire consequences, I've added to the Obamacare plan the Biden initiative, which is a public option, Medicare if you want to have Medicare, reducing significantly the price of drugs, deductibles, et cetera, by -- made by underwriting the plan to a tune of about $750 billion, and making sure that we're able to cover everyone who is, in fact, able to be covered. Put your hand down for a second, Bernie, OK?
SANDERS: Just waving to you, Joe.
BIDEN: I know. I know.
SANDERS: Saying hello.
BIDEN: I know. So, look, it covers everybody. It's realistic. And most importantly, it lets you choose what you want. Here you have 160 million people who negotiated their health care plans with their employer, like many of you have. You may or may not like it. If you don't like it, you can move into the public option that I propose in my plan. But if you like it, you shouldn't have -- you shouldn't have Washington dictating to you, you cannot keep the plan you have.
ALBERTA: Thank you, Vice President Biden.
BIDEN: That's a...
ALBERTA: Senator Sanders, 45 seconds to respond.
SANDERS: Under Joe's plan, essentially we retain the status quo.
BIDEN: That's not true.
SANDERS: It is exactly true.
KLOBUCHAR: No, that's not right.
SANDERS: And but -- thank you. And, by the way, Joe, under your plan, you know, you asked me how are we going to pay for it? Under your plan, I'll tell you how we're paying for it right now. The average worker in America, their family makes $60,000 a year. That family is now paying $12,000 a year for health care, 20 percent of their income. Under Medicare for all, that family will be paying $1,200 a year, because we're eliminating the profiteering of the drug companies and the insurance companies and ending this byzantine and complex administration of thousands of separate health care plans.
ALBERTA: Senator Klobuchar, I'm going to come to you...
BIDEN: My name was mentioned.
ALBERTA: I'm going to come to you, but 45 seconds...
BIDEN: I'm the only guy that's not interrupted.
ALBERTA: Forty-five seconds for Vice President Biden.
BIDEN: I'm the only guy that's not interrupted here, all right? And I'm going to interrupt now. It costs $30 trillion. Let's get that straight, $30 trillion over 10 years. Some say it costs $20 trillion. Some say it costs $40 trillion.
The idea that you're going to be able to save that person making $60,000 a year on Medicare for all is absolutely preposterous. Sixteen percent of the American public is on Medicare now and everybody has a tax taken out of their paycheck now. Tell me, you're going to add 84 percent more and there's not going to be higher taxes? At least before he was honest about it.
BIDEN: It's going to increase personal taxes. There are going to be...
SANDERS: That's right, we are going to increase personal taxes. But we're eliminating premiums, we're eliminating co-payments, we're eliminating deductibles, we're eliminating all out-of-pocket expenses, and no family in America will spend more than $200 a year on prescription drugs.
ALBERTA: Senator Klobuchar...
SANDERS: ... our plan will save the average worker...
ALBERTA: Senator Klobuchar, we'd like to hear from -- we'd like to hear from you...
KLOBUCHAR: Whoa, guys, hey.
BIDEN: It's the first time I did this.
KLOBUCHAR: OK, that's true. I'll say this. First of all, Bernie, I promise, when I am your president, I will get our pharmaceutical bills done. And we have worked together on this time and time again. And I agree with you on that.
But where I disagree is, I just don't think anyone has a monopoly on bold ideas. I think you can be progressive and practical at the same time. That is why I favor a public option, which is a nonprofit option, to bring the cost down. And, yes, it does bring the costs down immediately for 13 million people, and then we'll expand coverage to 12 million people.
But here's the political problem. This fight that you guys are having isn't real. Your fight, Bernie, is not with me or with Vice President Biden. It is with all those -- bunch of those new House members, not every one by any means, that got elected in that last election in the Democratic Party. It is with the new governor, Democratic governor of Kentucky, that wants to build on Obamacare.
And the way I look at it, if you want to bridge -- build -- if you want cross a river over some troubled waters, you build a bridge, you don't blow one up. And I think that we should build on the Affordable Care Act.
SANDERS: She mentioned my name...
ALBERTA: Thank you, Senator Klobuchar. Senator Warren, we would like to bring you in.
SANDERS: Excuse me. She mentioned -- she took my name in vain.
SANDERS: She hurt my feelings. I am crushed. Can I respond?
KLOBUCHAR: I would never do that to you. I would never, never, never.
SANDERS: My fight, Amy...
ALBERTA: All right. Forty-five seconds, Senator Sanders.
SANDERS: All right. My fight, Amy, is not with the governor of Kentucky. My fight and all of our fights must be with the greed and corruption of the pharmaceutical industry, with the greed and corruption of the insurance industry. These guys last year made $100 billion in profit and tens of millions of Americans cannot afford to go to a doctor tonight.
The day has got to come -- and Joe is not talking about it, Amy is not talking about it -- the day has got to come, and I will bring that day about, when we finally say to the drug companies and the insurance companies, the function of health care is to provide it for all of our people in a cost-effective way, not to make massive profits for the drug companies and the insurance companies.
ALBERTA: Thank you, Senator Sanders. Senator Warren...
ALBERTA: We'd like -- we'd like to bring you into this discussion. The same question to you that I posed to Senator Sanders, if Congress rejects a Medicare for all proposal and you're the president, are there smaller specific measures that you could pursue with bipartisan support to decrease costs and expand coverage?
WARREN: So this is about costs. It's about costs on middle-class families. Last year, 36 million Americans didn't have a prescription filled because they couldn't afford it. And those are people with health insurance, as well. People who can't do the co-pays, people who can't do the deductibles, people who find out that the drug is not covered.
So here's how I approach this. I want to do the most good I can for the most people as quickly as possible. On day one, I'm going to attack the prices on commonly used drugs, like EpiPens and insulin, and bring down those prices.
The president can do that -- I love saying this -- all by herself. And I will do it. That's going to save families hundreds of millions of dollars.
And then in the first 100 days, because I found a way to pay for full health care coverage for everyone without raising taxes on middle- class families... ALBERTA: Thank you, Senator.
WARREN: ... I'm going to make available to people for a full health care coverage for 135 million people. It will be at no cost at all. And they can opt into that system.
ALBERTA: Thank you, Senator Warren.
WARREN: For others, it will be at a low cost. We have got to start moving and move fast.
ALBERTA: We do have to move on.
WARREN: We can do that -- we can do that on 50 votes.
ALBERTA: Thank you, Senator. Judy?
WOODRUFF: We are coming to the end of our time. A lot of hands up, we apologize for that.
But in the spirit of the season, I'd like to ask each one of you, is there someone else among these candidates that you would -- you have two options, one, a candidate from whom you would ask forgiveness for something maybe that was said tonight or another time, or -- or a candidate to whom you would like to give a gift. And I'm going to start with you, Mr. Yang.
WARREN: We can do a labor action and just all go on strike on this one, Andrew.
YANG: I don't think I have much to ask forgiveness for. You all can correct me on this. In terms of a gift, Elizabeth has done me the honor of starting to read my book.
YANG: I would love to give each of you a copy of my book.
It's about how we're going through the greatest economic transformation in our country's history, the fourth industrial revolution. It is grinding up our communities. And D.C. is out to lunch on this. Our media organizations are not covering it adequately. I wrote a book on it, and if you like data, this book is for you. This goes for the people at home, too, if you like data and books.
(LAUGHTER) WOODRUFF: Mayor Buttigieg. Mayor Buttigieg, ask forgiveness or give a gift?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, first of all, I love data and books, so I think we should all be excited about this. And come to think of it, I should probably send my book around more, too. Look...
YANG: Your publisher will thank you.
BUTTIGIEG: I think all of us will want the same thing at the end of the day. We know what a gift it would be to the future and to the country for literally anybody up here to become president of the United States compared to what we've got.
And we've got to remember, there are I don't know how many now -- we're up to 25 something have run for president in the Democratic president. The moment we've got a nominee, the 24 who aren't that nominee are going to have to rally around the one who does. Let's make sure there's not too much to ask forgiveness for by the time that day comes.
WOODRUFF: Senator Warren?
WARREN: I will ask for forgiveness. I know that sometimes I get really worked up, and sometimes I get a little hot. I don't really mean to.
What happens is, when you do 100,000 selfies with people...
... you hear enough stories about people who are really down to their last moments. You know, I met someone just last week in Nevada who said that he has diabetes and that he has access to a prescription because he's a veteran. But his sister has diabetes and his daughter has diabetes, and they simply can't afford insulin. So the three of them spend all of their time figuring out how to stretch one insulin prescription among three people.
When I think about what we could do if we get a majority in the House, a majority in the Senate, and get back the White House, we could make this country work for people like that man. And that's why I'm in this fight.
WOODRUFF: Vice President Biden?
BIDEN: I think everyone up here on this stage, and those who are not on this stage who've run, we owe them, because they're all pushing for the exact same thing. You're not the only one that does selfies, Senator. I've done thousands of them, thousands of them.
And the crew that follows me can tell you, there's not one line I go through that I don't have at least a half a dozen people come up and hug me and say, can you help me? I just lost my daughter 10 days ago. Can you help me? Tell me I'm going to be OK. Can you help me? I just lost -- and they go and lay out their problems.
My wife and I have a call list of somewhere between 20 and 100 people that we call at least every week or every month to tell them, I'm here. I give them my private phone number. They keep in touch with me.
The little kid who says, I can't talk, what do I do? I have scores of these young women and men who I keep in contact with. And the reason I would give everyone here a gift is because they want to do something like I do of making their lives better, because there's a lot of people who are hurting very, very, very badly.
WOODRUFF: Senator Sanders, forgiveness or a gift?
SANDERS: Well, I can give out any one of four books that I wrote.
But I think the gift that all of us need to give to the American people is a very, very different vision of the reality of the Trump administration. And the vision that we need to bring forth is to create a government and a nation based on love and compassion, not greed and hatred.
We need a vision which says that in our great country, all of our people should be able to earn a decent standard of living, have health care, have the ability to send their kids to college, regardless of their income. So we need a new vision which brings our people together around an agenda that works for all, not the Trump vision of dividing us up to benefit the billionaire class. That's my vision.
WOODRUFF: Senator Klobuchar?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I would ask for forgiveness any time any of you get mad at me. I can be blunt. But I am doing this because I think it is so important to pick the right candidate here. I do.
I think when you see what's going on around the country, yes, it's the economic check that Elizabeth and Bernie have so well pointed out on this stage, but there's something else going on here, and it is a decency check. It is a values check. It is a patriotism check.
When you see people -- and we've all had this happen -- that come to our meetings and say, you know, yeah, I voted for Donald Trump, but I don't want to do it again, because I want my kids to be able to watch the president on TV and not mute the TV. We have to remember as Democrats, and if I get worked up about this, it's because I believe it so much in my heart, that we have to bring people with us and not shut them out. That is the gift we can give America in this election.
WOODRUFF: Mr. Steyer?
STEYER: So, look, this is the holiday season. And what I'm hearing from every single one of these candidates is that they've gone around the United States and what they've seen from this administration and what they've seen from the Republican Party is cruelty towards the people of the United States for money.
So when I think about the gift that I'd like to give -- and I've seen that, too. I mean, I think it starts with cruelty when children are born and it goes right through life into pre-K, education, health care, a living wage. There is cruelty to working people, there is cruelty to seniors.
And so the gift that I would like to give everyone on this stage, which was the original question, is the gift of teamwork. Because the question up here is, how are we together going to change this framework? How are we together going to beat this corrupt and criminal president? How are we going to stand up for the people of the United States together, not by tearing each other down, but by supporting each other and by realizing that what we stand for is the true value of America? And as a team, that's how we're going to do it. And as Americans, we're going to come together to stand up for the original values -- freedom, equality, justice, teamwork.
WOODRUFF: That -- we are going to take a very short break. That does conclude our questions tonight here at Loyola Marymount University. We'll be back in just two minutes to hear the candidates' closing statements.
WOODRUFF: Welcome back to the PBS NewsHour Democratic debate with Politico. And now it's time for closing statements. Each have 60 seconds, beginning with Mr. Steyer.
STEYER: I'm different from everybody else on this stage, and here's why. I'm running because corporations have bought our government and we need to return power to the people. And for the last 10 years, that's exactly what I've been doing, taking on unchecked corporate power.
That's why I'm for term limits, because if we're going to have bold change, then we need new people in charge and new ideas. I'm the only person on this stage who's built a large, multibillion-dollar international business. I know how to grow prosperity. I can take on Mr. Trump on the economy and beat him.
I'm the only one on this stage who said climate is my number-one priority. It's a crisis we have to deal with, but it's also our greatest opportunity to create millions of good-paying union jobs across the country and clean up the air and water in the black and brown communities where it's so essential.
So if you want to break the corporate stranglehold, beat Mr. Trump on the economy, and solve our climate crisis, I can deliver. And I'm asking for your vote.
WOODRUFF: Mr. Yang. I'm sorry. My apology for interrupting.
YANG: I know what you're thinking, America. How am I still on this stage with them?
Our campaign is growing all the time because we are laser-focused on solving the real problems that got Donald Trump elected in the first place. I spent seven years helping create thousands of jobs in Detroit, Baltimore, New Orleans, and other cities, serving as an ambassador of entrepreneurship under President Obama, and I saw firsthand what many of you already know. Our country is falling apart.
Our senior citizens are working until the day they die. Our kids are addicted to smartphones or drugs. We're seeing record high levels of depression and suicides, overdoses. Our companies are recording record profits while our people are literally dying younger.
Our way of life is changing faster than ever, and the simple fact is this. Our politicians in D.C. succeed whether we the people succeed or fail. Washington, D.C., today is the richest city in our country. What do they produce? Bad decisions?
We need to get the money out of D.C. and into your hands, the hands of the American people. Join us at yang2020.com and help us rewrite the rules of the 21st century economy to work for us.
WOODRUFF: Thank you. Senator Klobuchar?
KLOBUCHAR: We have had quite a debate tonight, but I want to debate Donald Trump. This primary comes down to some simple questions. Who has the best ideas, the best experience? Mostly, who can beat Donald Trump, and how will she do it? So Donald Trump built his fortune on, over time, over $413 million that he got from his dad. My grandpa, he was an iron ore miner, a union member, who worked 1,500 feet underground, and he saved money in a coffee can in the basement to send my dad to a community college. That's my family trust.
And I figure if you are given opportunity, you don't go into the world with a sense of entitlement. You go into it with a sense of obligation, an obligation to lift people up instead of hoarding what you have for yourself.
Our politics right now, because of Donald Trump, are toxic. We need a leader who can bring people together and who can win that way. So if you are tired of the extremes in our politics and the noise and the nonsense, you have a home with me. If you want a bigger tent and a wider coalition and longer coattails, join me. We will win at amyklobuchar.com.
WOODRUFF: Thank you.
BUTTIGIEG: So the nominee is going to have to do two things: defeat Donald Trump and unite the country as president. It's a tall order. And in order to do it, we're going to need a nominee and a president who can respond to the crisis of belonging that is gripping our nation today. That means building up a politics that is defined not by who we exclude, not by who we reject, but by how many people we can call to this side.
I have seen so many people capable of forming that multiracial, multigenerational coalition. And I am seeing more and more people who maybe have not felt welcome in the Democratic Party before but belong here now because they're definitely not on board with what's going on in the Trump White House.
I am asking you to join me, to vote for me, to caucus for me, and to help us build that future defined not by exclusion, but by belonging.
WOODRUFF: Senator Warren?
WARREN: Did you call my name?
This is a dark moment in America, and yet I come here tonight with a heart filled with hope. All three of my brothers served in the military. They're all retired. They're all back in Oklahoma. One is a Democrat. Two are Republicans. But you know what unites my three brothers? Amazon. They are furious that Amazon reported $10 billion in profits and paid zero in taxes.
My brothers are part of why America is ready to root out corruption and fight back. And that gives us a base to work from. America is ready for a two cent wealth tax. It's supported by Republicans, Democrats, and independents. And it lets us invest in all of our children.
America is ready to expand Social Security payments and disability payments by $200 a month. And we can do it. You know, someone asked what this would mean. You just give somebody $200 a month, they asked me this in a town hall. And a lady who wanted it said, you know what it will mean to me? It will mean I can get a prescription filled and I can still buy toilet paper the same week. That's where Americans are right now.
I am not working for millionaires and billionaires. I'm here to work for the tens of millions of people across this country who are ready to build an America that won't just work for those at the top, but that will work for everyone.
WOODRUFF: Thank you, Senator.
SANDERS: For 45 years, Americans have been listening to great speeches. And at the end of the day, the average American worker is not making a nickel more than he or she did in real wages over those 45 years.
The truth is that real change always takes place -- real change -- always takes place from the bottom on up, never from the top on down. And that is why in this campaign I am so proud that we have over a million volunteers. We have some of the strongest grassroots organizations. We have raised more individual contributions than any candidate in American history.
Please join the political revolution at berniesanders.com. Let's defeat Trump. Let's transform this country. Thank you.
WOODRUFF: And finally, Vice President Biden.
BIDEN: I want to thank everyone listening seven days out from Christmas. Thank you very much.
Look, we all have big progressive plans. And the question is, who can deliver on those plans? And it seems to me, we have to ask ourselves three questions straight up and honestly. Who has the best chance, the most likely chance of defeating Donald Trump? Who is the one who's most likely to do that?
Number two, who can help elect Democrats to the United States Senate in states like North Carolina and Georgia and Arizona and other states? And thirdly, who can deliver legislatively? That requires you to look at our records. I have a significant record of getting significant things done, from Violence Against Women Act to the chemical weapons treaty, in foreign and domestic policy alike.
And so I think asking those questions, I believe, as you would expect, that I'm the most qualified to answer those three questions. But most of all, we've got to level with the American people. Don't play games with them. Tell them the truth and be authentic.
God bless you all, and may you have a great, great holiday season. And thank you guys for doing this, as well.
WOODRUFF: Thank you.
Thank you very much. And that concludes the PBS NewsHour-Politico debate. I do want to thank my colleagues here at the moderator table, Tim Alberta of Politico, Amna Nawaz and Yamiche Alcindor of the PBS NewsHour.
Thank you all for joining us. Please stick around and watch PBS for some analysis. Thank you to the candidates.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right. Hello, everyone, I'm Chris Cuomo. Here we are in Los Angeles on the final fight night of 2019. And now you can call it that. This has been the smallest debate stage yet with the highest stakes so far. It comes just 24 hours after the impeachment of the 45th president, Donald John Trump.
Seven candidates in near unison on him. But they had their differences and they did start to get after it, especially in the second half. Taxes, trade, leadership, relative strengths and weaknesses. A wild explosion over money in politics. So also to add one note that should be obvious to all, you were served well by the journalists there. Woodruff and the people who shared the desk with her asked smart questions. They held the candidates to those questions.
And they made sure there were answers with candor. And to all the candidates, you see them now taking pictures, Mayor Pete sticking around, it's very important after these debates to see candidates reaching out to their constituents, their teams, to see what they're projecting, how they feel about it. It's important to watch to the extent we can.
Everyone on that stage showed one thing that is a really precious commodity in our politics, they disagreed with decency. So who moved the needle, who didn't? The best are here to break it down for you. Dana Bash, Gloria Borger, Van Jones, David Axelrod. Now, we have been saying, Dana --
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Never mind.
CUOMO: Boy. Pretty mild up there, pretty mild, pretty nice. Second hour, it's like they went to their respective corners and they got told to start punching. But how they did it was different.
BASH: It was. Look, I mean, like we were talking about in the break, we were surprised and then it changed, that because we were so close to people going to the caucuses first and then voting later in New Hampshire and beyond, that they didn't try to, you know, point out the differences in a more detailed, more aggressive way. And they did.
CUOMO: They did.
BASH: And the thing that was most striking is that Pete Buttigieg, we all expected that he was going to take the incoming because he's on top in most polls in Iowa. He did get the incoming in the second half. But he also was ready for it. Every single issue that he was hit on, Elizabeth Warren on the fundraising, and other issues like his experience with Amy Klobuchar, he was ready, he hit back and then some.
CUOMO: Now I want you to pick up another point, Gloria, but also just a quick add, I haven't seen Joe Biden better than he was tonight.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.
CUOMO: In terms of his -- and again, you can hit me for saying this is too low a bar, but you know, and especially as the frontrunner. He was alert the entire time with a degree of acuity of what was going on around him. He was strong. He interrupted. And he gave very full- throated answers about why he deserved his place. I haven't seen it that well, yes.
BORGER: I think he was comfortable tonight. I hadn't seen him this comfortable in a debate. He was even joking around with Bernie, put your hand down, Bernie.
CUOMO: But tough, it was tough when he said it.
BORGER: But he was tough, and he said, you know, I don't usually do that. So, it was a different kind of Joe Biden from the one we've seen at the other debates who was more halting. Also I think his answer on the Iraq war and on the surge in Afghanistan in particular, and he might have thrown Obama under the bus a little bit on this, I don't know, David, if you agree, but he said look --
CUOMO: Well, he would know, that's the nice thing.
BORGER: It is a fact --- it is a fact that I was against the surge in Afghanistan.
CUOMO: The question is whether or not --
BORGER: He made that point very clearly.
CUOMO: It's whether it's true.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's 100 percent true. It was a very fair claim. He was probably the strongest voice against it in the administration. And as he said, I can only say that because it's now been reported, but that is absolutely right.
AXELROD: Now, that no one asked him the follow-up question, which is, why did the president do what he did and why couldn't you influence him to do something different.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There will be more time for that. But I tell you, Joe Biden tonight looked like a frontrunner. He fought like a frontrunner. He sounded like a frontrunner. And he deserves the credit. Every single criticism we've had of Joe, we come out here and we say he's all over the place, he's embarrassing. You know, he is having his -- had none of those tonight. And I think you got to give the guy credit.
AXELROD: And one of the reasons that's important is because, I do think as you get closer to the voting, people are starting to make flinty-eyed decisions about who is the safest choice, who is the person who we think can take on Trump. And the questions about Biden had to do with performance. He didn't seem comfortable, he didn't seem commanding in some of these previous debates. Tonight, he seemed all those things. He looked like, as Van said, and as the others have said here, he looked like a frontrunner.
CUOMO: What a study in contrast to our president. He said, I have the most reason on this stage to be angry for what they said about me, what they said about my son, but I have to get things done. That is not an answer that has any business coming out of the mouth of the president.
AXELROD: that was the best line.
BORGER: Here is another person that is interesting to me tonight, Elizabeth Warren. She knew, I think her campaign knew they had to do something to kind of shake things up a little bit, because she's going in the wrong direction in the polls. And so she started with Pete Buttigieg first. And now he'll be known as the wine cave candidate I guess for the rest of (inaudible).
CUOMO: I don't know, I thought he gave as good as he got.
BORGER: He did. But it was interesting to me to see her go on the attack that way. And then of course at the end, she apologized, when she -- both women, I might point out, Dana and I were talking about this when asked, forgiveness was the question, the women asked for forgiveness and the men decided --
BASH: The men said, buy my book.
CUOMO: You know what though -- the strength in the answer is that, again, it shows, and I thought I had it down as Warren's best moment of the night actually. Because she asked for forgiveness for her passion for wanting to fight for the stories she's heard. Forgiveness is not weakness. It's showing that you realize something about yourself.
Seeing it as a strength.
BORGER: And one more woman on the stage was passionate tonight, the other -- Klobuchar. She came out swinging, and again, at Buttigieg. Because he's the one -- he's standing in her way in Iowa in a big way. And she said, respect our experience, don't denigrate our experience, we've got years of experience up on this stage, why are you doing that. And then he shot right back at her about his experience in the war.
AXELROD: She actually -- I did think that Pete Buttigieg handled those challenges well. But she actually did what -- we talked earlier about the difficulty of getting into these one-on-ones on a multicandidate stage and she jumped in after their exchange on money and said, you know there are bigger things here and probably got some points for that.
Now, a few minutes later she was on his back about the un-experience question, and so some of that comity, some of the comity points she got, she gave back. But she had a very strong night.
BORGER: She did.
JONES: Look, you know, Pete got put in the fire. He got punched on hard by Elizabeth Warren. And Elizabeth Warren tagged him with this wine cave thing. I think that hurts Pete. But Pete did something that nobody's done to Elizabeth Warren effectively tonight. He said, you're a millionaire too, I'm the only guy up here who is not a millionaire.
CUOMO: And you had the same fundraisers that I'm having and you transferred the money to this campaign.
JONES: Now listen. When Elizabeth Warren comes after you, she's tough and she had him. You know, she had him dead to rights with the whole wine cave thing and he was to punch his way out of that. So, I think, that if you had a concern that Pete is too weak or too soft or too whatever, he proved himself tonight. But I think, Elizabeth Warren got him in terms of, if you look at what's trending, wine cave Pete is what is trending on my Twitter.
BASH: It is trending. I mean, we should also just say, and this is according to --
CUOMO: What does that mean on Twitter, he's got 700 people saying it? AXELROD: Well, it also means that Twitter -- that means there's a
particular universe of people on Twitter and that would be a resonant theme there. It doesn't necessarily mean it's a resonant theme among the larger Democratic electorate.
CUOMO: Until the rest of the media picks it up and makes it a story.
Go ahead, Dana.
BASH: Fact check, and that is -- that she said that this wine cave fundraiser was closed.
BASH: The whole thing, when they were writing from the sidelines on the debate stage, you had these press -- these fundraisers and they're closed.
BASH: The wine cave fundraiser, there was a press person there.
CUOMO: They had a pool feed coming out. So she was wrong in context. But that (inaudible), you know who also got stung tonight in a way I haven't seen, Bernie Sanders, because Bernie Sanders is talking about I'm the only one who wasn't for the war, and he got asked a great follow-up question by one of the PBS journalists where she asked him what about your vote for Afghanistan, what about in 2015, you're saying that it was good to be there. And I'll tell you what, I haven't never heard him have to answer that before and he didn't answer it well.
JONES: Hey, listen. These folks did a great job tonight. I mean, listen. All the debates have been good. I think we have fewer candidates, you have a better poll debate
BASH: That's exactly right.
JONES: They did really well tonight. But I'll tell you what. Andrew Yang, Andrew Yang --
CUOMO: Who said he was going to have a night?
JONES: I said he was going to have a night.
CUOMO: Oh, that's right.
JONES: Listen. Andrew Yang, he stood out. He showed knowledge, all statistics, character. He talked about Cory Booker, he talked about blacks and Latinos in a powerful way. And he showed creativity and I'm telling you, he's resonating in a way, he was the only person of color up there last night, he did an outstanding job. And Andrew Yang is nobody thought he would still be here. He's got to rise after tonight.
BORGER: You did.
JONES: Except for me.
CUOMO: He did a good job of taking the question about being the only member who was a minority, a person of color, and turning it into a larger exploration of what happens with other people in (inaudible).
AXELROD: He also has a very 21st century view of the economy. And it stands out.
CUOMO: Yes. Now, arguably you could say that we have not seen the Senator from Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, have the confidence that she had tonight. And the balance of what she's about and contrasting that with others. It would be great to ask her about it.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN), U.S. DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm here. I've appeared. What a surprise.
CUOMO: So, do you agree with the fact that it was a little different for you tonight, do you attribute that to fewer people or is there a confidence that you can ascribe to some other experience on the trail?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I think when you have fewer people, it gives you that chance to make your case. Make your case for your experience, but also make your case of how you're different than your opponents. And there were a few moments where I wish I could have chimed in. I think that you were just talking about the economy.
I really believe that no one on that stage was thinking big enough when they talked about their education plans. Big enough is, how do we connect our education system with what is happening right now in our economy? The fastest growing jobs are one and two-year degrees. So what we should be looking at, a shortage of home health care workers, a shortage of electricians. We don't have a shortage of MBA's, we have a shortage of plumbers.
So, my point is, why don't we focus on the dignity of work, helping people, increasing the minimum wage, and then making sure we're connecting our education system with our economy. So I like the debate, I like that we had more time to talk. And I mostly liked the fact that we covered some really important issues for this country.
CUOMO: There is also a study in contrast of how you guys disagreed with one another. I started off the coverage tonight by saying you showed that you could disagree with decency. That's at a premium in our politics. When you look to the left and the right on that stage, what is it that you feel in your head and your heart makes you better than anybody else up there?
KLOBUCHAR: I am first of all one of only two candidates up there from the Midwest. When you look at those states, we have to win, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, those are states that I can win. When you look at my record and what I've done there. The second thing, if you noticed up there, I'm someone that likes to
try to bring people together. That friendship I have with Bernie Sanders, it's not made up. I don't agree with him on a lot of stuff, which I said. But we have worked together for years. So I think in the end, when you look at who our candidate's going to be, to bring people in, it's someone like me. And that's my case.
CUOMO: So, let's see how the better brains saw it tonight.
AXELROD: Senator, you talk about bringing people in. You know, the one person who you didn't seem to be grooving with tonight particularly was Mayor Buttigieg. And he's the other person from the Midwest. And you went after him on his -- essentially his resume. Do you think he is qualified to be president of the United States?
KLOBUCHAR: Of course I do. And I have said that. But debates are about comparing yourselves to other people. And my point here is, first of all, I have the experience of actually getting the things done that he talks about. Secondly, I have the experience of not just winning but winning big. And I think that our Party better step back and think a lot, if we're going to put the person on top of our ticket that has not been able to win in a statewide race and then failed in a race for Democratic National Committee. I'm not running for head of the Democratic National Committee. I am running for head of the United States, for president of the United States.
AXELROD: What does that say about him that he will run for -- I'm trying to understand the point?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, it matters a lot because you want to have someone that can win that has been able to not just talk the talk of bringing in --
AXELROD: So your objection is that he lost for Democratic National Committee?
KLOBUCHAR: My objection is that we are making a decision about who is heading up our ticket. So why not look at someone that has a track record of actually winning --
KLOBUCHAR: -- and bringing in, in a statewide race, people from rural areas, suburban areas. And yes a fired up Democratic base. When I have headed up our ticket we had the highest voter turnout in the country. I think that matters. That was the experience issue have to be discuss. This is not just about who gives the most flowery speech. It just cannot be that is our (inaudible) right now.
JONES: Senator, do you think that there's a gender issue here? I have heard people say, you guys are the two Midwesterners. You have actually done so many things. I mean, it's actually -- it takes a long time to get through your whole list. Pete, we've all love Pete, but he is basically won in election and serve in the military. You think there's a gender issue here in terms of the people not seeing you as the person to get it done?
KLOBUCHAR: OK. Well, I have said this clearly in that last debate. The CNN debate. That I do think there's a double standard. Now that doesn't mean that he is not qualified. He is. But do I think that a woman who had lost the statewide race, lost the race for the DNC, was a mayor of a small town would be able to be the candidate to head up our ticket? I don't. But that's not my problem. My problem is convincing America that I can be that person. And so that is my case.
BORGER: But your problem is that Pete Buttigieg is running ahead of you in Iowa.
KLOBUCHAR: That is the problem.
BORGER: That is a problem. And you and he, you know, you sing form the same song book. You are both moderates, you're both saying you're not -- don't live in fly over country. You're in the Midwest. So, he is standing in your way.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, such as life. But it's my case to make. And it's my race to win. And so what I'm doing here with 46 days to go is surging. I got a text from someone the other day that said congratulations on your -- it was an autocrat problem. Congratulations on your insurgency in Iowa.
But the point is, in the last poll we were at 10 points. We're doubling our offices. In one of the last debates, we raised $2.1 million in six days that Amy Klobuchar.com. You can do this. And so many of our candidates, you know this, David that Barack Obama was not leading at this point.
AXELROD: I want to tell you, insurgencies are not bad. It will be good.
BASH: Well, I sort of bounce off Gloria was saying, even if you came from the moon and never seen or don't understand the politics of America or of primary process, and of Iowa in particular, it was clear that you see Pete Buttigieg as in the way to your path to doing one, two or three in the Iowa caucus.
KLOBUCHAR: Look, there are other people as well, that are ahead of me, right now. But I am surging. One thing I will note is the people that know their state belt. Those elected officials in Iowa. Elected -- former elected legislator, I am number one in terms of endorsement. Number one. That is a fact. And that is because they have gotten to know me, they know that I can win in their state. And that shows the kind of momentum we're seeing.
BASH: I also just to have to ask you. This is an observation that Gloria had so I'm just going to take ahead me (inaudible).
(CROSSTALK) BORGER: You can say it. Go ahead.
BASH: That you mentioned it on the air. Did you notice that the question at the end, would you like you can gift or you can ask for forgiveness. Two people asked for forgiveness.
KLOBUCHAR: Yes, who? (Inaudible) and me?
BASH: No. I noticed.
BASH: The men.
KLOBUCHAR: I wouldn't read that much into it. We come from very different perspective.
BORGER: Except you're women.
KLOBUCHAR: OK. But maybe we're humble and may be with the guy in the White House right now, maybe we need a little humbleness. Instead of the loudest voice or the biggest bank account heading up our ticket.
CUOMO: One question that I have had consistently in these debates, I feel like maybe tonight because there were less people. I thought it was best debate. Where everybody seems to be most on their game. It was the best look at each of you for what you are at your best. And that's good for the voters.
Do you guys think that collectively you have your head around what you're up against with the president? We, know senator, you have neve4You have never seen a politician at any level that you have been. Who has the kind of hold on his Party that this president has. I have never seen it and anybody and you guys are talking interior politics about health care. Granular differences and you have a man who is one of the biggest gorillas we have seen on the Campaign trail with a big stick. And you guys are playing badminton.
KLOBUCHAR: We are not. We are just making the case to our parties and to by the way independents and moderate Republicans about who is the best candidate to lead. And let's point out before we think that he is going to all these vote, what just happened this last month. In Virginia. Where we flipped the state House and the state Senate. With the first candidates all over that state. With Louisiana, where we reelected Democratic governor and Kentucky. Where we elected Democratic governor in Mitch McConnell's home turf. So when you look at what happened there --
CUOMO: But as you said up there Senator, those Democrats aren't talking the talk that is up on that stage.
KLOBUCHAR: But what happens there is Donald Trump goes to those two southern states the night before. My question is, where can we send him next? (CROSSTALK)
AXELROD: Are you concerned about the fact that you may have to be in Washington during the month of January? I mean, you are moving up in Iowa. And you're doing well, but it requires, as you know, that personal touch and you have been there more than anyone else. How much of a hindrance is it, if you get tied down as a juror in the impeachment trial.
KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, this is why I'm doing a 27 county tour starting tomorrow morning in the state of Iowa.
JONES: Good planning.
KLOBUCHAR: I just have to work double time and harder and then going to New Hampshire and to Nevada. But secondly, I think, the surrogates are going to help for me. These elected officials, my husband is great. He's out there somewhere. My daughter. And I was just at a leadership meeting with Senator Schumer and the U.S. Senate and I was the only one running for president in that room. And I made the strong case that we should do whatever it takes to make this trial fair. But to also make sure that we push for witnesses and evidence and a thorough trial.
BASH: Which makes it longer.
KLOBUCHAR: It didn't help me to say that, but it's what I believe.
BASH: But that makes it a longer trial for you.
JONES: I think that -- every single time, every single debate, after wards you come out here and you do a great. We always say, why didn't you that tonight? Tonight you did that on the stage.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you.
JONES: You were unbelievable. I'm trying to be your ability most of all to make sure people notice you're a Midwesterner, but also to take the fight to Pete Buttigieg.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, Van.
JONES: So, we have to stop saying that she does better after number four.
BORGER: Can I ask you one. Were you surprised that Joe Biden wouldn't commit to just running for one term?
KLOBUCHAR: I don't know. No, not really. I mean, you know, he's not going to limit his possibilities I suppose. It didn't surprise me that much.
BORGER: It didn't surprise you?
CUOMO: Do you think that you're going to have a Senate trial any time soon?
KLOBUCHAR: I think we will. I think at some point, they're just trying to work out how this is going to be handled.
CUOMO: How do you feel about the speaker not wanting to hand over the articles of impeachment yet?
KLOBUCHAR: I think she will. And I think she's simply trying figure out understandably what the rules are. And I said up on the debate stage, the president claims that he is so innocent, where are his witnesses? Where are all the president's men? Where's Mulvaney, who is the one that withheld the aid according to sworn testimony in order to get a foreign leader to look for dirt on one of his political opponents. And where is Bolton? Who asked --
AXELROD: How hard is it going to be for you to sit there quietly? As a juror. And not be able to ask the questions you want to ask?
KLOBUCHAR: Let me first say that, I'll be sitting with my friends. We have sat together for years. Sherrod Brown, Bob (inaudible) and Chris Coons. That's going to make it better.
Secondly. I have heard many times people say, well, you did so great in the Kavanaugh hearing or this hearing. So this will be great. You can ask questions. I said exactly right, David. Oh, no, we won't be able to ask questions. So, what we will do is we will submit questions, we will argue for strategy. We will make the case to the American public. I felt like today when we were ask the question how do you convince the public? That I was the only one that answered that question.
CUOMO: Would you be open to the Democrats making a deal on witnesses that, you know, you want a Biden or you want a Schiff. Schiff would be something obviously the Democrats should have an easier time supplying. We'll talk about that in exchange for. Do you think that there's any will like that?
KLOBUCHAR: I think, that is going to depend on the negotiation with the House manager. With the White House lawyer. And with the leaders in the Senate that set the rules.
CUOMO: Senator Amy Klobuchar, thank you very much. Best for the holidays for you and your family.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you, great to be on. All right, thanks.
CUOMO: I appreciate it. All right. So, we have Amy Klobuchar. She had a good night tonight. I think that can be said equally. Maybe that is about having fewer chairs and experience.
AXELROD: In fact she's gotten better as the debates went on. You know, people don't understand how challenging it is to run for president. To be on that stage, to get your message out. To deal with all of the pressure associated with it. You know, everybody thinks of Barack Obama as this uber politician. He struggled with those debates at the beginning and he learned to be become a better debater and he learned how to use that platform and so you see -- I thought everybody tonight, honestly could walk away feeling pretty good.
BORGER: Remember Obama, you're likable enough, Hilary. I mean that was --
AXELROD: Yes, I remember.
JONES: Ironically most improved though might go to Biden, who had more previous experience. But I just want to come back to this.
BORGER: But not on a stage like this.
Vice president, nobody ever challenged him. Right? This is a whole different --
CUOMO: Nobody came after him tonight either.
JONES: But let me tell you. (Inaudible). The reason the Biden is front runner and the reason that people see the (inaudible) in him, every question, he was able to bring it back around the jobs.