Lieberman for President, Inc. - "A Town Meeting with Joe Lieberman"
A half-hour forum filmed live-to-tape on Dec. 11, 2003 and aired on Saturday, Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. on WMUR. The audience was composed of undecided voters.
Sen. Lieberman fielded 11 questions:
1. "...Do you think the states should have the right to import drugs from Canada? Our governor is seeking a waiver from the U.S. Department of Health to do just that?"
2. "...You've been a real leader on the issue of climate change and global warming in particular with the McCain-Lieberman Stewardship Act. The essence of leadership is leading by example. As president what executive actions would you take both domestically and internationally to lead by example on this issue?"
3. "...I'm sitting here and I'm really upset, no I'm mad, about the endorsement Al Gore gave to John Dean [sic]. What can you do and what can you say to convince me to vote for you for president?"
4. "...I was wondering first of all where did you go to college and were you involved in politics in college and did you envisage this at all when you were in college?"
5. "...I'm serously ill, and I want to know what your opinion is and your views on medical marijuana."
6. "...What would you do as president to restructure that Social Security system?"
7. "... Jobs. We're losing them by the thousands. Here in Manchester, New Hampshire we just recently lost 500 jobs... What are you going to do about it when you become president?"
8. "...With all the noise this week on endorsements and polls, what separates you from Howard Dean?"
9. "... Could you elaborate on what you intend to do to help out middle class America?"
10. "...Several key pieces of legislation came up this fall. Do you feel that as voting members of the Senate and House, your first obligation should be to your constituents and go back to Washington and vote, or do you feel that you should be able to campaign in place of voting on key pieces of legislation?"
11. "... I'd like to ask
about your ideas about educating the children of our country and especially
including those with special needs."
[applause]. ANNOUNCER: Welcome to a town meeting with Joe Lieberman from Manchester, New Hampshire. And now, ladies and gentlemen, Joe Lieberman.
LIEBERMAN: Hey! [applause]. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you all very much for that warm welcome. It may be cold outside but it's real warm in here. Thank you all for joining us by television and welcome to this open town hall meeting. This is really what democracy is all about. It's a chance for me to tell you why I want to be president, and it's a chance for you the people to speak to me and ask me questions that are on your mind.
And it makes a point. This primary campaign in New Hampshire, this campaign for president is all about you, it's about your future, it's about your job security, your health care security, your educational and retirement security. It's about your values, it's about your future, it's about our country's future.
And it reminds us of something else too. It's not pundits that pick presidents, it's not pollsters that pick president, it's not even politicians, even ones that may be fairly famous that pick presidents. It is the people who pick presidents. You know that. [applause].
I know if there's any people in America who know that that's true, it's the voters right here in New Hampshire who have made a tradition of knocking down the predictions of the experts. So now let's go to you. We've only got a half hour so I want to ask you to ask your questions as briefly as you can and I'm going to give my answers as briefly as I can. Who's got the first question?
QUESTION: Do you think the states should have the right to -- my name's Richard [Norton?North phon.] from Manchester, New Hampshire. Do you think the states should have the right to import drugs from Canada? Our governor is seeking a waiver from the U.S. Department of Health to do just that?
LIEBERMAN: I absolutely do think that states and people should have the right to import drugs from Canada. [applause]. And I voted that way in the past. Obviously we want to make sure they're safe, but I couldn't believe it when on the recent prescription drug benefit bill, which was really not ending up to be a good bill for most seniors and that's why I voted against it, they actually put a prohibition against the importation of drugs from Canada.
There's something really wrong with our current system. And part of it is that we in America, when we buy drugs, are paying the entire cost of the prescription drug companies' research, their marketing and everything else the Canadians and people in a lot of other developed countries have price controls; they don't have to pay. We've got to put pressure on the drug companies to change that. So I, I know the governor here is a Republican, but in this case I admire what he's done; I support what he's done. It's the way--it's a kind of modern day Boston tea party. And in this case, we're throwing those-- [applause]. Right.
And then of course the ultimate answer is for us to pass a prescription drug benefit that provides coverage for every senior under Medicare and pass a health insurance reform that gives every American access to affordable health insurance that includes coverage for drug benefits. That's what I'm going to do as the next president of the United States. [applause]. I promise you that.
QUESTION: Senator Lieberman the people of New Hampshire care about the environment. You've been a real leader on the issue of climate change and global warming in particular with the McCain-Lieberman Stewardship Act. The essence of leadership is leading by example. As president what executive actions would you take both domestically and internationally to lead by example on this issue?
LIEBERMAN: Thanks for asking that question.
Look to me protecting the environment has been a passion and priority of my public life going back more than 30 years now. And it has to do with protecting not only the most beautiful parts of America that the good Lord has given us, the natural beauty and open spaces and wildlife, but it also has to do with protecting us, our health from air pollution and water pollution that makes people sick and actually ends people's lives prematurely. George Bush may say, he's into faith-based initiatives, but let me tell you when it comes to the environment, he has not protected the good Lord's earth or our health from environmental pollution. He's been the worst environmental president in the history of the United States of America. And I want to say to -- a Lieberman administration [is] gonna be a lot different from a Bush administration in a lot of ways, but none will be more like the change from night to day than environmental protection.
I'm going to issue executive orders that'll turn around some of the Bush administrative orders that have allowed power plants to pollute, that have pulled protection away--remember the original thing they did when they came in--froze a regulation that would hav elimited the mamount of arsenic in drinking water. If that wasn't the truth, you'd think I was making it up. I want to get America back in the leadership internationally, John McC- of stopping global warming.
One of the reasons people around the world think that America under George Bush is not their friend, not a responsible member of the community of nations is that we've pulled out of the global warming agreement. McCain and I have the best bill ever introduced in Congress on this. I want to get it passed when I'm president of the United States. We're going to enforce laws.
Look government can't do everything for everybody but one thing government
can do is pass, set up some rules and say to people if you're going to
pollute the environment, we're going to come down on you because that involves
protecting the public heatlh. You give me a chance a s president
and I'm going to protect our environment and make every American healthier.
You have my word on that. Thank you. [applause].
QUESTION: Good afternoon, Senator. I'm sitting here and I'm really upset, no I'm mad, about the endorsement Al Gore gave to John Dean [sic]. What can you do and what can you say to convince me to vote for you for president?
[siren in background] LIEBERMAN: Well first thanks for what you said. This has been quite a week and I just want to say a few things about it. [siren fades].
The first is that this campaign is not about Al Gore, it's about you. And again voters in New Hampshire are not going to let anybody tell them who they should vote for to be their next president. [applause]. They're going to make up their own minds. That's right. I want to assure you that I am more determined than ever to continue to fight for what's right for you. That's my job as a candidate for president; that will be my priority as the next president of the United States.
Final word. Something remarkable has happened. I mean I feel energized and raring to go in a way that I haven't since this happened. What I find as I go around New Hampshire, people are stopping me on the streets and saying stick with it friend, we're with you; you're the kind of guy who has the kind of values and will straight talk to us, a president who will trust us enough to level with us and that we can trust to do what's right for the country, whether it's politically easy or not. So I feel something building up here, and with your help it's going to build up to take us to a surprise in New Hampshire. [applause]. and then on to the White House. Thank you.
QUESTION: My name is Paul Richman [phon.]. I was wondering first of all where did you go to college and were you involved in politics in college and did you envisage this at all when you were in college?
LIEBERMAN: That's a very interesting question.
I went to Yale. I was born in Stamford, Connecticut. I went to the public schools there. I'm the first in my family to go to college, and I had this extraordinary opportunity to go to Yale University. It transformed my life. I began to get interested in making a difference. I mean sometimes people say to me, how did you get into politics? I'll do this real quickly 'cause it's a long story.
I think some of it came from the lessons I learned from my faith about the obligation we have to give back for the lives that we've been given, and I feel that particularly as an American, to try to make life better for other people. I was very excited by the election of President John F. Kennedy in 1960. I was 18 then, that fall when I went into college, and I got taken by his call to each of us to ask not what our country can do for us, but what we could do for our country.
My first involvement was not in elective politics, it was to go to Mississippi to fight for the right of African-Americans to vote. I marched with Dr. King in Washington for the march on jobs and freedom and I saw that change was possible 'cause those actions led to the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of the mid-60s. And I decided this is what I want to do.
At Yale we had the Political Union, where we debated, and I ended up--this is a disclosure that you know may hurt me with the media. I was the editor of the Yale newspaper and so I had the magnificent opportunity to write editorials you know and say we applaud, we decry, we condemn, you know we urge, but that's about as political as I got and I went from there and came out, ran for State Senator at the tender age of 27 against the incumbent State Senate Democratic majority leader 'cause I thought I could do a better job. And incidentally I was supported by a lot of students, one of whom was this big, tall bright likable kid from Yale Law School named Bill Clinton. [laughter, applause] We stayed friends for a long time and then right to this day. And 1991 when he decided to run for president, he called me up and he said you remember 1970 when I helped you get to be a state senator. I said yeah. He says you owe me one. [laughter]. So I was proud to be one of his first national supporters.
Anybody over here?
QUESTION: Hi Senator, my name is Linda Macia [phon.] and I'm serously ill, and I want to know what your opinion is and your views on medical marijuana.
LIEBERMAN: You know what. I'm glad you're here because you've asked me that three or four times and I told you I was going to look at the evidence and study it and give you an answer. I didn't know you were going to be here today, but I want to give you the answer, the conclusion I've come to.
I see that the Institute of Medicine, which is an independent group, has said, and most doctors say that they don't recommend the use of medical marijuana as the prefered treatment for pain associated with serious illness. They recommend a drug, a prescription drug called marinol. But the Institute of Medicine and the American Medical Association have said that there are cases, there are people who can't get the relief that they need from the prescription drug that's on the market and in that case they recommend the medical use of marijuana under a doctor's supervision. And to me that seems like the humane and sensible approach. So we're not talking about legalizing marijuana. I'm against that. We're talking about making limited use under a doctor's care of marijuana for for people who can't find relief from pain in any other accepted way. I'm glad I had the chance to answer that question. [applause].
I want to answer quickly the other question which I've been asked. Will you stop the DEA, Drug Enforcement Agency, raids on this. I've checked this. I've found that they're not numerous. There have been something like thirteen in the last couple of years. There were a couple under President Clinton. They've gone up in number under President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft. I give you this answer, and you've got to see what the particular case is. But you always want to enforce the law obviously, but you know in the priorities of what I would ask my Drug Enforcement Agency to do, cracking down on sick people using marijuana for medical purposes under the supervision of a doctor. No. That would not be priority.
Yes sir. [applause]. Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Paul Shultz [phon.] from Manchester. Senator. Social Security system. Eighty percent of the cost goes to operating costs and only 20 percent goes to the people that actually need it. What would you do as president to restructure that Social Security system?
LIEBERMAN: Well Paul, I got to go back and look at that. That number sounds wrong because in my understanding, and I promise you I will, and after the half hour's over we'll get your address and number and we'll call you back. My understanding about Social Security is that it's actually one of the most efficient programs we've got going, and it's one of the best things the federal government has done in the last century.
It has put a floor under senior Ameicans and disabled Americans that says you can't fall beneath that floor. Let me give you a stunning statistic. Today in America 10 percent of the elderly live under poverty line; that's bad enough. If God forbid Social Security ended, almost 50 percent of seniors in this country would fall under the poverty line.
So I'm going to do everything I can as president to protect Social Security
and [inaud.] the best thing we're going to do? We're going to end
the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush administration, which has put us
so far into debt, deeper debt than we've ever been before, and forced the
taking out of the Social Security fund of every penny left over after benefits
are paid, so there's nothing there for the years ahead. George Bush
has taken the Social Security surplus fund and made it into a slush fund
and as president I'm going to stop that practice and save Social Security.
QUESTION: Mike Lopez from Manchester. Senator. Jobs. We're losing them by the thousands. Here in Manchester, New Hampshire we just recently lost 500 jobs--
QUESTION: [inaud.] jobs. What are you going to do about it when you become president?
LIEBERMAN: The loss of jobs and job insecurity is right next to health care and health care insecurity, the number one question and source of anxiety and worry that I find among people here in New Hampshire and around the country. George Bush has really made a mess of this. He has a one-note economic policy. Tax cuts no matter whether you need 'em, no matter whether we can afford 'em, and no matter whether they work. And that's meant that hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money has gone to taxpayers making $250,000, a million, five million, who obviously don't need it. Three and a half million people have lost their jobs. Tens of thousands here in New Hampshire have lost their jobs. We've got to take back some of those tax cuts for the high income, give 'em to small businesses to begin to help them to create jobs.
Invest in innovation so we have new ideas that create new businesses, and maybe even new industries that create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. I made a proposal. I believe I'm the only candidate that made such a proposal. Let's create a new scholarship. It's a scholarship for workers. While you're working we're going to give you a scholarship up to $1,500 a year to take a course to upgrade your skills so your can fill some of those good high paying new jobs.
And manufacturing is bleeding now in America. We're losing jobs. And President Bush just sitting back and letting it happen. I've proposed a tax credit for manufacturers who keep jobs in America.
Now what about trade? Some of my Democratic opponents want to
rebuild the walls of protectionism. Never created a job. Bill
Clinton taught us that. Twenty two million new jobs created during
the 90s. Trade was an important part of it. But it's got two
parts. You got to fight to knock down barriers abroad so we can sell
stuff made here. That would be my slogan. Make it in America;
sell it abroad. And then secondly you've got to get tough, and I
will as president, with countries like China that are not playing fair
by the rules, stealing our patents, stealing our copyrights, and playing
with their currency so they get an automatic price advantage when they
come in here with their products, and that costs manufacturing jobs.
Bottom line. I've got a plan. You can read about it on my website.
And my goal and plan is to create 10 million new jobs in the first four
years of my presidency. We're going to put Americans back to work
when I'm president of the United States. [applause]. Thank
QUESTION: Jeff from Manchester. With all the noise this week on endorsements and polls, what separates you from Howard Dean?
LIEBERMAN: What separates me from Howard Dean? I was about to say Al Gore. [laughter]. Well, a lot. And this is what the campaign is about. Let me say first that I have great admiration for the way in which Howard has brought a lot of new activists into the party and created some energy. And I want to build on that and bring them into a larger force. But here's the point of it. Howard has said for a long time that he represents a particular wing of the Democratic party. We need more than one wing to get the Democratic bird to take off and fly to the Oval Office. We need to have all the wings of the Democratic party working together.
And I believe I'm the candidate to do that. I've been a lifelong Democrat, committed Democrat. Look at my record on social justice, civil rights, improving education, health care, retirement security. I'd compare my record on protecting the environment with anybody else in American public life and I'm real proud of that. Same on civil liberties and women's rights. So we can build on that. But then there are differences between Howard and me, and I've said it this week. And in some ways what happened this week clarifies the choice. And I believe I'm the candidate who will take this party and this country forward from where Bill Clinton brought us. And in so many different ways Howard Dean is going to take us back to where we were before Clinton transformed the party. Many of us worked with him on it. Reconnect it to the American people, got elected--which is what this is ultimately all about--and then governed for eight years with such progress and prosperity.
So there are big differences between us. That's what this campaign is about. And I offer myself as the candidate who can unite all the wings of the Democratic party, take that party forward, pick up Independents and disgruntled Republicans. And Lord I find a lot of moderate Republicans who've come up to me here in New Hampshire and around the country and say I don't want to vote for George Bush; I don't like his position on civil liberties, on environmental protection, on women's rights, but I'm not going to vote for any Democrat. I want someboody who works from the center out. And that's my promise to you, and that's my promise to my party. We're all in this, I think as Democrats, to deny George Bush a second term and to give America a fresh start. I'm going to do that together with you to unite our party and go forward and get elected in November of 2004. Thanks for that question. [applause]
LIEBERMAN: Robert, thank you.
QUESTION: I consider myself part of middle class America. I work hard but I don't have a lot of money. Could you elaborate on what you intend to do to help out middle class America?
LIEBERMAN: I sure will. Thank you. And look, I come from the middle class; I am part of the middle class. I've always believed that one of the great contributions that America has made to the world and to the idea of society and government is the middle class. We got so many problems in the world. We're never going to really be strong in the world unless we're strong at home. And we're never going to be strong at home unless we have a strong middle class. And here's the discomforting news. As I go around New Hampshire and around America, I've never seen the middle class more stretched and stressed than I see them today. Job insecurity, health care insecurity, worried about whether they can afford to send the kids to college, worried about retirement security, worried about taking care of a parent or a child. We've got to help.
And for me it begins with tax cuts for the middle class. I mean what better can we do than put more money into the pockets of hard working middle class families by giving them a tax cut that can help them pay all those bills that they're having trouble paying? [applause]. Thank you.
There's a real difference here and this does go back to the difference between Howard Dean and me. And the difference is that Howard Dean wants to repeal all the tax cuts of the last three years, including a lot of middle class tax cuts that a lot of us in Congress fought for, including repealing the child tax credit, the elimination of the marital tax penalty, the low income tax rates for middle class people. I don't want to do that. And not only do I want to hold those tax cuts, I'm the only one who's proposed a new tax cut for the middle clas, not just a tax cut without paying for it as George Bush would do, but one that we're going to pay for by closing corporate tax loopholes and raising taxes on the highest income Americans. [applause].
Bottom line, I give you this statistic. My tax program will leave $2,700 in the pockets and the bank accounts of an average middle income family of four here in New Hampshire. $2,700 that Howard Dean's tax program would take out. That's a big difference.
Obviously we want to--I've got a lot of programs you can find on the website about health insurance, about making college education affordable, but it begins with putting money in the pockets of hard working middle class families.
All right we got about--yes ma'am.
QUESTION: My name is [off mic.] Senator Lieberman several of your rivals are in the Senate and one in the House who are running for president or for the Democratic nomination. Several key pieces of legislation came up this fall. Do you feel that as voting members of the Senate and House, your first obligation should be to your constituents and go back to Washington and vote, or do you feel that you should be able to campaign in place of voting on key pieces of legislation?
LIEBERMAN: That's a very practical and real question. Look I've tried to do the best of both and I've asked for particular understanding from my constituents in Connecticut who seem proud that I have this first-ever opportunity for somebody from the small state of Connecticut to run for president. And I made this rule. If on any occasion I have reason to believe that my vote will make a difference, I'm going to get back there. And several times I've flown back. I've only missed one vote which was a last minute amendment where my vote would have made a difference--frankly I forget what it was about--wehre I wasn't there, and that's the way I've tried to balance it. And of course I feel that my experience in public office--State Senator, Attorney General, U.S. Senator--together with my new ideas and my willingness to say what I think is right, whether it's politically eary or not, ultimately that's going to make me a better president than any of the other Democrats and much better than George W. Bush. [applause].
WOMAN: We have just time for one or two more questions--
LIEBERMAN: You know it's hard to believe but we've only got time for one more question. That went really quickly.
QUESTION: Jane Drum [phon.] from Hampton Falls, and I'd like to ask about your ideas about educating the children of our country and especially including those with special needs.
LIEBERMAN: Yep. Nothing more important. Again George Bush has broken the promise. He said he wouldn't have any unfunded mandates. He signed the No Child Left Behind Act, then didn't put the money into it and what does that mean? It means teachers, school systems all over New Hampshire have the higher demands which are good for our kids, but not the money to pay for it, and it means they're either not delivering the quality education to our children or our local property taxes are being raised. I've said one of the first things I do when I repeal the high-end Bush tax cuts, invest it in fully funding IDEA, the special education, and No Child Left Behind. I want every child in America [applause starts] to have a first class education.
This is an important election. We have a critical choice to make.
We're talking here about the future of the greatest [music starts to fade
in] country in the world. I'm ready to be the president America needs.
I'm ready to do what I think is right for you whether it's politically
easy or not. I ask for your support. Call my campaign office.
Together we can make America's future better and safer. [applause].
"I'm Joe Lieberman and I approve this message."
"The preceding has been a paid political program. The views expressed
on this program are those of the advertiser and not of WMUR-TV."
|Notes and Observations. The question on medical marijuana was fostered by the Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana campaign. Lieberman's answer seems quite reasonable, but the group gave Lieberman an "F" in a mailing it produced in January 2004. Michael Kirshner, Production Manager for the Marijuana Policy Project explained that, "Most of the candidates' responses sound pretty reasonable until you look at the consistency (or lack thereof) of their responses over time. Also, our Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana campaign sought to pin the candidates down on a very specific question -- whether they would pledge to stop the DEA's raids on state-approved medical marijuana patients and providers -- and Lieberman was "better" than most at ducking the question." This is an example, and there are others such as AIDS funding, where in interest group campaign seeks elicit a very specific response from the candidates, and nothing less will do.|