Barack Obama in 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin

On Budget & Economy: Canít do anything at home with $12 billion a month on Iraq

The fact that weíre spending $12 billion every month in Iraq means that we canít engage in the kind of infrastructure improvements that are going to make us more competitive, we canít deliver on the kinds of health care reforms that Clinton and I are looking for. McCain is willing to have these troops over there for 100 years. The notion that we would sustain that kind of effort and neglect not only making us more secure here at home, more competitive here at home, allow our economy to sink.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Civil Rights: Hate crimes related to the immigration issue is unacceptable

Because immigration reform was used as a political football instead of a way of solving a problem, nothing happened. It is absolutely critical that we tone down the rhetoric when it comes to immigration, because there has been an undertone that has been ugly. Oftentimes, it has been directed at the Hispanic community. We have seen hate crimes skyrocket in the wake of the immigration debate, & that is unacceptable. We are a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, and we can reconcile those two things.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Foreign Policy: Meet with Cuban leaders only with agenda of US interests

Q: [to Clinton]: Would you meet with Raul Castro or not?

CLINTON: I would not meet with him until there was evidence that change was happening.

Q: [to Obama]: Presumably you would be willing to meet?

A: Thatís correct. Now, keep in mind that the starting point for our policy in Cuba should be the liberty of the Cuban people. And I think we recognize that that liberty has not existed throughout the Castro regime. And we now have an opportunity to potentially change the relationship between the US & Cuba after over half a century. I would meet without preconditions, although Sen. Clinton is right that there has to be preparation. It is very important for us to make sure that there was an agenda [including] human rights, releasing of political prisoners, opening up the press. And that preparation might take some time. But I do think that itís important for the US not just to talk to its friends, but also to talk to its enemies. In fact, thatís where diplomacy makes the biggest difference.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Foreign Policy: Cuba: Loosen restrictions now; normalization later

Q: Do you support normalizing relations with Cuba now?

A: As a show of good faith that weíre interested in pursuing a new relationship, Iíve called for a loosening of the restrictions on remittances from family members to Cuba, as well as travel restrictions for family members who want to visit their family members in Cuba. And I think that initiating that change in policy as a start could be useful, but I would not normalize relations until we started seeing some progress.

Q: But thatís different from your position back in 2003, when you called US policy toward Cuba a miserable failure.

A: I support the eventual normalization. And itís absolutely true that I think our policy has been a failure. During my entire lifetime, Cuba has been isolated, but has not made progress when it comes to the issues of political rights and personal freedoms. So I think that we have to shift policy. I think our goal has to be ultimately normalization. But thatís going to happen in steps.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Foreign Policy: Important to undo the damage of the last seven years

The Bush administration has done so much damage to American foreign relations that the president take a more active role in diplomacy than might have been true 20 or 30 years ago. If we think that meeting with the president is a privilege that has to be earned, that reinforces the sense that we stand above the rest of the world at this point in time. Itís important for us in undoing the damage that has been done over the last seven years, for the president to be willing to take that extra step.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Free Trade: Strong labor, safety, and environmental standards on trade

It is absolutely critical that we engaged in trade, but it has to be viewed not just through the lens of Wall Street, but also Main Street, which means weíve got strong labor standards and strong environmental standards and safety standards, so we donít have toys being shipped in the US with lead paint on them. There are also opportunities in our economy around creating a green economy. We send $1 billion to foreign countries every day because of our addiction to foreign oil. For us to move rapidly to cap greenhouse gases, generate billions of dollars that we can reinvest in solar and wind and biodiesel that can put people back to work. How do we get it done? The changes are only going to come about if weíre able to form a working coalition for change. It has to be a priority for whoever the next president is to be able to overcome the dominance of the special interests in Washington, to bring about the kinds of economic changes that Iím talking about.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Government Reform: Lobbyists & special interests have strangle-hold on agenda

Sen. Clinton and I have both offer detailed proposals to try to deal with [numerous problems]. Some of them are the same. Some, we have differences of opinion. But understand that what is lacking right now is not good ideas.

The problem we have is that Washington has become a place where good ideas go to die. They go to die because the lobbyists and special interests have a strangle-hold on the agenda in Washington. They go to die in Washington because too many politicians are interested in scoring political points rather than bridging differences in order to get things done.

And so the central premise of this campaign is that we can bring this country together, that we can push against the special interests that have come to dominate the agenda in Washington, that we can be straight with the American people about how weíre going to solve these problems and enlist them in taking back their government.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Government Reform: Consistently in favor of more disclosure around earmarks

Iíve been consistently in favor of more disclosure around earmarks. Keep in mind, a lot of these are worthy projects in our states. I have actively pursued projects that I think are important. But I want to make sure that theyíre not done in the dark of night, that theyíre not done in committee, that everybody stands up and says, ďthis is the kind of spending that I think is important.Ē I have consistently supported those efforts. I will push for those as president of the US.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Government Reform: Created a publicly searchable database on earmarks spending

Q: A recent report said you were responsible for $91 million in earmarks. You have refused to say where the money went.

A: No, thatís not true. Weíve actually disclosed all our earmarks. Weíll be happy to provide you with that information, because I believe very strongly in transparency. One of the things that I did was to pass a bill with Tom Coburn, very conservative Republican but a sincere fiscal conservative. We got together and created what we call Google for Government. Itís a searchable database, where every single dollar of federal spending is posted on the Internet, so that ordinary voters can take a look. If they see a bridge to nowhere being built, they know where itís going and who sponsored it. If they see a no-bid contract going to Halliburton, they can check that out, too. The idea is that we open up the process so that the American people can make judgments about whether or not government is doing what itís supposed to be doing with its taxpayer money.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Government Reform: Need a government that listens to the people again

My belief is the will of the voters, expressed in this long election process, is what ultimately will determine who our next nominee is going to be. What I think is most important to the voters is that we have a government that is listening to them again They feel as if theyíve been shut out. When I meet mothers who are trying to figure out how to get health care for their kids, itís not just the desperation of that single mom. Itís also that when they try to find some help, oftentimes theyíre hitting a brick wall. They donít get a sense that the debates that are happening in Washington right now relate to them at all. What they believe is that people are trying to get on TV and theyíre trying to score points and theyíre trying to win elections, and that theyíre not interested in knocking down the barriers that stand between the American people and their dreams. They want their government back, and thatís what I intend to provide them when Iím nominated for president of the US.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Health Care: My plan does more than anybody to reduce costs

Both Clinton and I want to set up a system in which any person is going to be able to get coverage that is as good as we have as members of Congress. We are going to subsidize those who canít afford it, and make sure that we reduce costs by emphasizing prevention. I want to make sure that weíre applying technology to improve quality, cut bureaucracy. I want to make sure that weíre reducing costs for those who already have health insurance. So we put in place a catastrophic reinsurance plan that would reduce costs by $2,500 per family per year. So weíve got a lot of similarities in our plan. Weíve got a philosophical difference: Clinton believes the only way to achieve universal health care is to force everybody to purchase it. My belief is that people donít have it is not because they donít want it but because they canít afford it. So I emphasize reducing costs. My plan does more than anybody to reduce costs, and there is nobody out there who wants health insurance who canít have it.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Health Care: My health plan does not leave 15 million people uncovered

There are legitimate arguments for why Clinton and others have called for a mandate, and Iím happy to have that debate. But the notion that I am leaving 15 million people out somehow implies that we are different in our goals of providing coverage to all Americans, and that is simply not true. We think that thereís going to be a different way of getting there. I admire the fact that Clinton tried to bring about health care reform back in 1993. She deserves credit for that. But she did it in the wrong way because it wasnít just the fact that the insurance companies, the drug companies were battling here, and no doubt they were. It was also that Clinton and the administration went behind closed doors, excluded the participation even of Democratic members o Congress who had slightly different ideas than the ones that Clinton had put forward. As a consequence, it was much more difficult to get Congress to cooperate. Iím going to do things differently. We have to open up the process.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Health Care: Adults will get health care as they can afford it

When Clinton says a mandate, itís not a mandate on government to provide health insurance, itís a mandate on individuals to purchase it. Massachusetts has a mandate right now. They have exempted 20% of the uninsured because they have concluded that that 20% canít afford it. There are people who are paying fines and still canít afford it, so now theyíre worse off than they were. They donít have health insurance and theyíre paying a fine. To force people to get health insurance, youíve got to have a very harsh penalty, and Clinton has said that we wonít go after their wages. The reason a mandate for children can be effective is weíve got an ability to make affordable health care available to that child, right now. There are no excuses. If a parent is not providing health care for that child, itís because the parentís not being responsible, under my plan. Those children donít have a choice. But adults are going to be able to see that they can afford it and will get it under my plan.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Homeland Security: Unacceptable to have veterans drive 250 miles to a hospital

The incredible burden that has been placed on the American people, starting with military families, and the fact that we still are not doing right by our veterans, that we still donít honor their service, that there are still homeless veterans, that we still donít screen properly for post-traumatic stress disorder and make sure that theyíre getting mental services that they need, that we are still having veterans in south Texas have to drive 250 miles to access a veterans hospital. Thatís unacceptable.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Immigration: Encourage every student to learn a second language

Q: Is there any down side to the US becoming a bilingual nation?

A: It is important that everyone learns English and that we have that process of binding ourselves together as a country. Every student should be learning a second language, because when you start getting into a debate about bilingual education, for example, now, I want to make sure that children who are coming out of Spanish-speaking households had the opportunity to learn and are not falling behind. If bilingual education helps them do that, I want to give them the opportunity. But I also want to make sure that English-speaking children are getting foreign languages because this world is becoming more interdependent and part of the process of Americaís continued leadership in the world is going to be our capacity to communicate across boundaries, across borders, and thatís something frankly where weíve fallen behind. Foreign languages is one of those areas that I think has been neglected. I want to put more resources into it.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Immigration: Need to look at different aspects of immigration reform

We need stronger border security. We are cracking down on employers that are taking advantage of undocumented workers because they canít complain if theyíre not paid a minimum wage and not getting overtime. Worker safety laws are not being observed. We have to make sure that doesnít lead to people with Spanish surnames being discriminated against. We have to require that undocumented workers go to the back of the line, so that they are not getting citizenship before those who have applied legally.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Immigration: Have border patrolled, surveillance, and deploy technology

Q: Do you think your vote on the border fence or the implementation of it was wrong?

A: The key is to consult with local communities, whether itís on the commercial interests or the environmental stakes of creating any kind of barrier. The Bush administration is not real good at listening. I will reverse that policy. There may be areas where it makes sense to have some fencing. Having border patrolled, surveillance, deploying effective technology, thatís going to be the better approach.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Immigration: Increasing the legal fees on immigrants is not helping

It is important that we fix the legal immigration system, because right now weíve got a backlog that means years for people to apply legally. Whatís worse is, we keep on increasing the fees, so that if youíve got a hard working immigrant family, theyíve got to hire a lawyer; theyíve got to pay thousands of dollars in fees. They just canít afford it. Itís discriminatory against people who have good character, but donít have the money. Weíve got to fix that. We have to improve our relationship with Mexico and work with the Mexican government so that their economy is producing jobs on that side of the border. The problem is that we have had an administration that came in promising all sorts of leadership on creating a US-Mexican relationship. Bush dropped the ball. He has been so obsessed with Iraq that we have not seen the kinds of outreach and cooperative work that would ensure that the Mexican economy is working not just for the very wealthy in Mexico, but for all people.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Immigration: Deporting 12 million people is ridiculous and impractical

The American people want fairness, want justice. They recognize that the idea that youíre going to deport 12 million people is ridiculous, that weíre not going to be devoting all our law enforcement resources to sending people back. But what they do also want is some order to the process. Weíre not going to be able to do these things in isolation. Weíre not going to be able to deal with the 12 million people who are living in the shadows and give them a way of getting out of the shadows if we donít also deal with the problem of this constant influx of undocumented workers. Thatís why comprehensive reform is so important. Something that we can do immediately that is very important is to pass the Dream Act, which allows children who through no fault of their own are here but have essentially grown up as Americans, allow them the opportunity for higher education. I do not want two classes of citizens in this country. I want everybody to prosper. Thatís going to be a top priority.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Principles & Values: Go beyond the divisions so that the government can work

If we canít inspire the American people to get involved in their government and if we canít inspire them to go beyond the racial divisions and the religious divisions and the regional divisions that have plagued our politics for so long, then we will continue to see the kind of gridlock and nonperformance in Washington that is resulting in families suffering in very real ways. Iím running for president to start doing something about that suffering, and so are the people who are behind my campaign.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Principles & Values: Life experiences taught me how to bring people together

Q: Iím wondering if you will describe the moment that tested you the most, that moment of crisis.

A: What I look at is the trajectory of my life because I was raised by a single mom. My father left when I was two, and I was raised by my mother and my grandparents. There were rocky periods during my youth, when I made mistakes & was off course. And what was most important, in my life, was learning to take responsibility for not only my own actions but how I can bring people together to actually have a impact on the world. Working as a community organizer with ordinary people, bringing them together and organizing them to provide jobs and health care, economic security to people who didnít have it, then working as a civil rights attorney to fight for those who were being discriminated against on the job. Itís the reason that I have the capacity to bring people together, and why I am determined to make sure that the American people get a government that is worthy of their decency and their generosity.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Principles & Values: Actions can be seen in 20 years of my public service

Actions do speak louder than words, which is why over the 20 years of my public service I have acted a lot to provide health care to people who didnít have it, to provide tax breaks to families that needed it, to reform a criminal justice system that had resulted in wrongful convictions, to open up our government and to pass the toughest ethics reform legislation since Watergate, to make sure that we create transparency to make sure that we create transparency in our government so that we know where federal spending is going and itís not going to a bunch of boondoggles and earmarks that are wasting taxpayer money that could be spent on things like early childhood education. If you talk to those wounded warriors at Walter Reed who, prior to me getting to the Senate, were having to pay for their meals and have to pay for their phone calls to their family while theyíre recovering from amputations, theyíve said that Iíve engaged not just in talk, but in action.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Principles & Values: People understand we must bring the country together

There is a fundamental difference between us in terms of how change comes about. Clinton of late has said: Letís get real. The implication is that the people whoíve been voting for me or involved in my campaign are somehow delusional. The 20 million people whoíve been paying attention to 19 debates and the editorial boards all across the country at newspapers who have given me endorsements, including every major newspaper here in the state of Texas. The thinking is that somehow, theyíre being duped, and eventually theyíre going to see the reality of things. They perceive reality of whatís going on in Washington very clearly. What they see is that if we donít bring the country together, stop the endless bickering, actually focus on solutions and reduce the special interests that have dominated Washington, then we will not get anything done. The reason that this campaign has done so well is because people understand that it is not just a matter of putting forward policy positions.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Principles & Values: Suggesting that I plagiarized Deval Patrick is silly

Q: Clinton accused you of plagiarism [of a speech by MA Gov. Deval Patrick]. How do you respond?

A: Itís not a lot of speeches. There are two lines in speeches that Iíve been giving over the last couple of weeks. Iíve been campaigning now for the last 2 years. Patrick is a national co-chairman of my campaign, and suggested an argument that I share, that words are important. Words matter. The implication that they donít I think diminishes how important it is to speak to the American people directly about making America as good as its promise. Barbara Jordan understood this as well as anybody. That I had plagiarized from somebody who was one of my national co-chairs who gave me the line and suggested that I use it is silly, and this is where we start getting into silly season, in politics, and people start getting discouraged about it. What we shouldnít be spending time doing is tearing each other down. We should be spending time lifting the country up.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Principles & Values: Wouldnít be running if I didnít think I was prepared

I wouldnít be running if I didnít think I was prepared to be commander-in-chief. My number one job as president will be to keep the American people safe. I will do whatever is required to accomplish that. I will not hesitate to act against those that would do America harm. That involves maintaining the strongest military on earth, which means that we are training our troops properly and equipping them properly, and putting them on proper rotations. There are an awful lot of families who have been burdened under two and three and four tours because of the poor planning of the current commander-in-chief, and that will end when I am president. It also means using our military wisely. On whether or not to go to war in Iraq, I showed the judgment of a commander-in-chief. Clinton was wrong in her judgments on that. That has significant consequences, because it has diverted attention from Afghanistan where al Qaeda, that killed 3,000 Americans, are stronger now than at any time since 2001.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Principles & Values: I have shown the right judgment to lead

Iíve heard from an Army captain who was the head of a rifle platoon supposed to have 39 men in a rifle platoon. He ended up being sent to Afghanistan with 24 men, because 15 of those soldiers had been sent to Iraq. As a consequence, they didnít have enough ammunition, they didnít have enough humvees. They were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped. Thatís a consequence of bad judgment. On going into Iraq originally, I said this is going to distract us from Afghanistan, fan the flames of anti-American sentiment, and cost us billions of dollars and thousands of lives and overstretch our military. I was right. On the question of Pakistan, Iíve said very clearly that we have put all our eggs in the Musharraf basket. That was a mistake. We should be going after al Qaeda and making sure that Pakistan is serious about hunting down terrorists, as well as expanding democracy. I was right.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On Tax Reform: Tax cut for seniors and those making $75,000 a year or less

Everywhere you go, you meet people who are working harder for less, wages and incomes have flatlined, people are seeing escalating costs of everything from health care to gas at the pump. In some communities, they have been struggling for decades now. This has to be a priority of the next president. We have to restore a sense of fairness & balance to our economy. Weíve got to stop giving tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas and invest those tax breaks in companies that are investing here in the US. We have to end the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy and to provide tax breaks to middle-class Americans and working Americans who need them. If you are making $75,000 a year or less, I want to give an offset to your payroll tax that will mean $1,000 extra in the pockets of ordinary Americans. Senior citizens making less than $50,000, you shouldnít have to pay income tax on your Social Security. We pay for these by closing tax loopholes and tax havens that are being manipulated.
Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

On War & Peace: $2.7 billion each week of Iraq spending is unsustainable

Q: You were opposed to the surge from the beginning. Were you wrong?

A: It is indisputable that weíve seen violence reduced in Iraq. Thatís a credit to our brave men and women in uniform. The 1st Cavalry of Fort Hood played an enormous role in pushing back al Qaeda out of Baghdad. We honor their service. But this is a tactical victory imposed upon a huge strategic blunder. When weíre having a debate with McCain, it is going to be much easier for the candidate who was opposed to the concept of invading Iraq in the first place to have a debate about the wisdom of that decision than having to argue about the tactics subsequent to the decision. Not only have we been diverted from Afghanistan, weíve been diverted from Latin America. We contribute our entire foreign aid to Latin America is $2.7 billion, approximately what we spend in Iraq in a week. It is any surprise, then, that youíve seen people like Hugo Chavez and countries like China move into the void, because weíve been neglectful of that.

Source: 2008 Democratic debate at University of Texas in Austin Feb 21, 2008

The above quotations are from Democratic debate, just prior to Texas primary, at the University of Texas in Austin, February 21, 2008, moderated by CNN's Campbell Brown and Univision. .
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