Candidate Forum

This is being moderated by Keith Olbermann and airs from 7:00 to 8:30 tonight EDT on MSNBC. Every Democratic candidate except Mike Gravel is participating.

6:53: The candidates parade in and greet Olbermann, as Tucker Carlson wraps up the pre-show with more talk of the decline of organized labor. Chris Matthews joins in and talks about what Edwards has at stake. The endorsement of labor could be the one thing that could help Edwards overcome the money deficit compared to Clinton and Obama. Matthews also talks about NAFTA and Bill Clinton pushing it through, talking more about Edwards talking points from yesterday’s speech. I’m pretty certain at this point that Matthews is for Edwards. Matthews talks about what it means for manufacturing to come back. Matthews points out that the winners in free trade are doing better than the losers. I’m blown away by this analysis.

6:59: Matthews seems bored.

7:00: And away we go from Soldier Field. Olbermann greets us, and hopefully his mother will not get hurt by an inadvertant jab. From left to right, Richardson, Obama, Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Edwards, and Kucinich. John Sweeney talks about the AFL-CIO and says nothing for minutes.

7:03: Back to Olbermann. It’s a multiple part debate with questions in the second part coming from labor members. A minute is spent talking about how little time they have.

7:04: Question for Dodd about what should not be funded to afford road reconstruction. Panders to the audience and then talks about cutting spending on Iraq and defense, specifically missle defense. Pretty liberal stuff from Dodd. Dodd is also screaming for some reason.

7:06: Clinton gets the second question on infrastructure. Clinton manages to thank everyone without pandering. She talks about building infrastructure, including ports. And how it affects homeland security. Links the bridge to Katrina and 9/11, and also mentioned digital infrascture.

7:08: Obama talks about security and repeats that he thinks America is not safer since 9/11, another shot at Clinton. Talks about Iraq being wrong and Al Qaeda rebuilding; gives the short version of his security speech. Says that would save enough money to make infrastructural changes others referred to.

7:10: Biden talks about infrastructural bill he sponsored in 1992. And talks about how many poor tunnels are on the east coast and need to be repaired as Clinton nods. Talks about the need to rebuild and put America back to work. Biden says he can’t wait to debate Giuliani on homeland security. Talks about the 9/11 commission not being funded.

7:12: Edwards gets his first question and thanks every single labor member in America. Edwards says the infrasctural change needs to happen and that its a question of who can do that. Edwards refers to lobbyist money and what he said at the YearlyKos forum (not really related to the question, but clearly another shot at Clinton).

7:14: Kucinich is asked if the government should build stadiums like Soldier Field. Kucinich says the approach should be to buy the team, not build the stadium. On infrastructure, Kucinich talks about a bill he has in Congress. Doesn’t really say what it does. Concludes by saying its time to get out of NAFTA and the WTO.

7:16: Obama is asked if he regreted supporting public financing of Soldier field. He says he does not, based on the jobs it created.

7:17: Bill Richardson is asked if selling toll roads is the answer. He says it is not. He then talks about his support from unions, making a joke about still taking their money (I found it humorous). He thne talks about building infrastructure and finding creative solutions.

7:18: How would Clinton fix NAFTA? Says its hurt American workers in the ‘way it was implemented.’ Doesn’t say who it was that implemented it poorly. Says that globalization should not be a race to the bottom, but lifting everyone up. Says Bush has not enforced trade agreements. Cites vote against CAFTA and voting against fast track authority for Bush. Says a source of new jobs through renewable energy is key.

7:20: Everyone else on NAFTA. Richardson says trade agreements need to acknowledge labor standards, and get rid of union busting attorneys. Obama says that NAFTA can be amended with labor standards. Calls for labor involvement in these agreements, and a president needs to be separated from corporate lobbyists. Another shot at Clinton, but he kind of rambles. Biden jokes about how much time Obama got, then says presidents need to create jobs… and then completely agrees with Obama. Dodd also agrees, but adds that jobs need to stay here. Dodd talks about banning outsourcing. He again touts (sort of in an over the top fashion) about being a union guy. Edwards says fix NAFTA, but says it was negotiated by insiders, not by people who understand labor. He then says he will never be on Fortune magazine being the candidate of corporations. Another big shot at Clinton. Kucinich says he would withdraw from NAFTA or the WTO. Ends by appealing for applause.

7:26: Clinton gets a response to Edwards and says she is ‘taking it all in.’ Touts her history fighting the right and says if anyone wants to win ‘I’m your girl.’

7:27: Obama is asked about cheaper products from globalization. Says jobs are more important than cheaper goods. Says it is a question of who the president is representing in trade. Says special interests are what needs to be checked.

7:28: Is China an ally or adversary? Richardson says a ’strategic competitor.’ Says its important to confront them on currency manipulation, workers rights, human rights, and the Sudan. But also points out common interests …. and is cut off for time. Obama says China is a competitor and needs to be confronted when necessary, and also China can’t be America’s bankers. Biden says China ‘holds the mortgage on our house.’ Says America is in debt almost a trillion dollars to China. Clinton agrees with Biden and takes the time to tout the Clinton surplus of the 90s. Also talks about tougher standards for food as she ends with raising her voice to a yell. Dodd says competitor, but to not delude ourself with ignoring the Chinese military buildup. Says its important to get access to Chinese shelves. Edwards agrees with everyone, and human rights abuses. Edwards talks about Chinese toys getting recalled and getting country of origin labelling. Kucinich says that MFN status was the time. He also says America dug a hole to China.

7:36: If you withdraw from Iraq and Al Qaeda takes over, what then? Richardson talks his plan for withdrawing and ends up talking about greenhouse gases. Obama says the only way is prevention and bringing the fight to where Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Biden says his detailed plan is the solution to prevent America from having to go back to Iraq. Clinton touts her three point plan to get out of Iraq, including putting pressure on the Iraqi government. Also says a diplomatic effort is key, but fighting Al Qaeda whereever is key. Dodd talks about remember the troops fighting. Dodd talks about a slow withdrawal and then says diplomacy is key. Says we should not sell arms to Saudi Arabia if they are not supporting us in Iraq. Edwards says an immediate partial withdrawal and regional stability. Talks about planning for the possibility but does not really say what his plan is. Kucinich talks about withdrawing forces and cutting funding. He completely ignores the question, bu tin fairness they all seemingly did.

7:43: Obama is asked how long it took for him to decide how to vote on the war spending bill. He said it was difficult and it’s important to start bringing thme out responsibly, but says he wanted the troops funded. Says that unless minds of Republicans are changed, nothing can be done on Iraq, and that is what he was worried about. Clinton gets the same question, and it is noted that she voted after Obama. She says the war is George Bush’s war, and says it wsa important to send a message to Republicans, and it was a tough vote because she didn’t want to hurt the troops.

7:45: Dodd is asked about his ‘confusing and confused’ statements about what Obama said. Dodd said that while Musharraf is no Jefferson, he’s the only thing preventing Pakistan from being an Islamist nuclear state, Strongly disagrees with Obama. Obama gets a follow up and says that those who are criticizing him made the biggest foreign policy blunder of our lifetime. Says Dodd did not read his speech and says that it’s common sense to act on Al Qaeda intelligence. Obama gets cut off for time, but gets a rousing line of applause. Clinton criticizes Obama for speculating on hypotheticals (but does not say why). Clinton says its wrong to telegraph this action, even if its the right action, because it hurts Musharraf. Says you should not say everything you think… and gets heavy boos for it. Dodd talks about his mistake on the Iraq vote in 2002 but says it has nothing to do with unilateral action in Pakistan. Obama clarifies what he said and talks about working with Pakistan first, and that the biggest threat to America is in northwest Pakistan. More candidates try to jump in, but instead, it’s another commercial break.

7:54: The wife of a mining accident victim last year refers to the Utah accident, and asks what would the candidates do to improve security. Biden says to implement mining safety measures brielfy, but spends most of his time saying its already the policy of America to go into Pakistan if there is actionable intelligence. He gets booed.

7:57: What can be done to restore rights of workers to form a union. Kucinich touts his membership in the AFL-CIO, and say union membership is a basic right.

7:58: Question to Richardson from an Iraq war veteran who lost his job when it was outsourced. Richardson shows good command by knowing where that town is (Newton, IA). Richardson says there’s a need to fully fund veteran health especially with Iraq and Afghanistan. Also says he would give a health care card so veterans can get care anywhere.

8:00: Question for Dodd, why his daughter who is fighting in Iraq had to buy her own armor and spend double the amount of time deployed. Dodd touts his time in the national reserves in the 1960s. Dodd attacks Republicans in the Senate for blocking reform on the issue.

8:01: Question for Edwards from someone who lost his pension and health care when LTV went under. Large applause from those attending, including Edwards and all the candidates. Edwards says its emblematic with what is wrong with America. He says that pensions need to be protected, and there needs to be universal health care so it does not have to be bargained. Says that America needs to understand how important labor is and he can do that. Touts his experience on the picket line. Olbermann tries to interrupt, Edwards objects and gets a laugh. That was his chance and he said everthing he had to say.

8:04: Question for Clinton on pensions. Says that bankrupcy can not be an escape from pensions. Touts her and Dodd’s reforms on mine reform. Says she would sign employee free choice act. It’s hard for me to escape how much she is yelling .She concludes by touting her support from the NY AFL-CIO.

8:05: A citizen who was an immigrant from Argentina who is asked about a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Says employers are taking advantage of workers, but that a pathway to citienship is possible, but must be earned through waiting and paying a fine. Finishes with talking about working with former LTV workers when it closed, after agreeing with Edwards that its important to look at where someone has been.

8:08: Biden is asked about nurse shortages. Biden talks about getting 100,000 new horses, and the need to insure children and catastrophic accidents while working for universal health care plan. Biden concludes with a long and loud look at his record. Seems to be a sharp attack on Edwards for walking on picket lines while running for president. Is Biden Clinton’s attack dog?

8:10: Kucinich talks about his health care plan.

8:11: Edwards responds to Biden by referring to walking 200 picket lines. Talks about what he believes in America – pensions and union rights and no scabs. General stuff. Edwards admits not much organized labor is from North Carolina, but adds again that it is important to tell America about unions. Biden tries to jump in, and is booed again.

8:13: Question for Dodd about how to make companies invest in energy. He talks about health care, and gets booed for going off topic. He then talks about his energy plan, mentioning specifics. Nothing he says excites the crowd at all.

8:15: Question for Clinton. Talks about green technology and education, specifically curriculum reform.

8:20: Job description for VP. Richardson says it would not be Dick Cheney but someone who can step in. Clinton is asked about her statement about lobbyists, but why do they make so much money. She talks at length about reform in Washington, avoiding the question. Then talks about fighting against special interests her whole life, and her record speaks for itself. Obama is asked about lobbyists bundling for him. Obama says federal registered lobbyists do not bundle for him. And that he’s running for working people. Edwards draws a dinstinction, and calls wht lobbyists fdo as bribing and says it needs to end. Says the Democratic party has to stand up. Biden is asked if he would appoint a Republican to run the DoD or DHS. Says he would consider it if people across the aisle were reasonable. Was the Dept. Homeland Security a good idea in retrospect with no terroist attacks on US soil since 9/11. Says America is not safer because of people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Says terror is a tactic not a philosophy. Also cited the right to organize, which was controversial when DHS was created. Kucinich when asked what the Democratic Congress has done, says he is trying to lead Congress, not follow, citing bills he sponsored. Obama is asked if he would honor Barry Bonds. Obama joked about Bonds taking a while, and says that he met Hank Aaron and that there’s enough cynicism in sports. Obama declines to answer when pushed. Clinton is asked about Katrina (talk about night and day in terms of toughness of questions after the Bonds one), and talks about rebuilding New Orleans. Biden is asked if he would end no bid contractsand simply says yes.

8:29: Is the presidential race too long? Richardson says yes, but its important to bring the country together. Says he represents change, experience, and electability. Obama says campaigns are too long and cost too much and are affected too much by insiders. Says it is important to mobilize for change. Biden says he would not be bothered, and its only starting early because of frustration with Bush. Clinton says she would be too busy to notice, working on health care (which she previously promised would be done by the end of her second term). Uses the broom and vacuum cleaner line to clean washington. Dodd points out that if this were a parliamentary system, George W. Bush would be gone. Concludes with an appeal for America to work. Edwards talks about public campaign finance reform. Edwards then talks about the man who could not speak for 50 years because he could not an afford an operation. Concludes with talking abou tconfronting the drug companies. Kucinich says he is the Seabiscuit of this campaign who is going ot scare off competitors. Funny, but only funny because he will not win. Kucinich is basically a parody of himself at this point.