October 2, 2008
The Biden-Palin Vice Presidential Debate
GOV. PALIN AND SEN. BIDEN PARTICIPATE IN A VICE PRESIDENTIAL
CANDIDATES DEBATE, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI
SEN. JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR. (DE)
DEMOCRATIC VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE
GOV. SARAH PALIN, (AK)
REPUBLICAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE
GWEN IFILL, MODERATOR
[*] IFILL: Good evening from Washington University in St. Louis,
Missouri. I'm Gwen Ifill of "The NewsHour" and "Washington Week" on
PBS. Welcome to the first and the only 2008 vice presidential debate
between the Republican nominee, Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, and
the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden of Delaware.
The Commission on Presidential Debates is the sponsor of this
event and the two remaining presidential debates. Tonight's
discussion will cover a wide range of topics, including domestic and
foreign policy matters.
It will be divided roughly into five-minute segments. Each
candidate will have 90 seconds to respond to a direct question and
then an additional two minutes for rebuttal and follow-up. The order
has been determined by a coin toss.
The specific subjects and questions were chosen by me and have
not been shared or cleared with anyone on the campaigns or on the
commission. The audience here in the hall has promised to remain
very polite, no cheers, applause, no untoward outbursts, except
right at this minute now, as we welcome Governor Palin and Senator
PALIN: Nice to meet you.
BIDEN: It's a pleasure.
PALIN: Hey, can I call you Joe?
PALIN: Thank you.
Thank you, Gwen. Thank you. Thank you.
IFILL: Welcome to you both.
As we have determined by a coin toss, the first question will go
to Senator Biden, with a 90-second follow-up from Governor Palin.
The House of Representatives this week passed a bill, a big
bailout bill -- or didn't pass it, I should say. The Senate decided
to pass it, and the House is wrestling with it still tonight.
As America watches these things happen on Capitol Hill, Senator
Biden, was this the worst of Washington or the best of Washington
that we saw play out?
BIDEN: Let me begin by thanking you, Gwen, for hosting this.
And, Governor, it's a pleasure to meet you, and it's a pleasure
to be with you.
I think it's neither the best or worst of Washington, but it's
evidence of the fact that the economic policies of the last eight
years have been the worst economic policies we've ever had. As a
consequence, you've seen what's happened on Wall Street.
If you need any more proof positive of how bad the economic
theories have been, this excessive deregulation, the failure to
oversee what was going on, letting Wall Street run wild, I don't
think you needed any more evidence than what you see now.
So the Congress has been put -- Democrats and Republicans have
been put in a very difficult spot. But Barack Obama laid out four
basic criteria for any kind of rescue plan here.
He, first of all, said there has to be oversight. We're not going
to write any check to anybody unless there's oversight for the -- of
the secretary of Treasury.
He secondly said you have to focus on homeowners and folks on
Thirdly, he said that you have to treat the taxpayers like
investors in this case.
And, lastly, what you have to do is make sure that CEOs don't
benefit from this, because this could end up, in the long run,
people making money off of this rescue plan.
And so, as a consequence of that, it brings us back to maybe the
fundamental disagreement between Governor Palin and me and Senator
McCain and Barack Obama, and that is that the -- we're going to
fundamentally change the focus of the economic policy.
We're going to focus on the middle class, because it's -- when
the middle class is growing, the economy grows and everybody does
well, not just focus on the wealthy and corporate America.
IFILL: Thank you, Senator.
PALIN: Thank you, Gwen. And I thank the commission, also. I
appreciate this privilege of being able to be here and speak with
You know, I think a good barometer here, as we try to figure out
has this been a good time or a bad time in America's economy, is go
to a kid's soccer game on Saturday, and turn to any parent there on
the sideline and ask them, "How are you feeling about the economy?"
And I'll bet you, you're going to hear some fear in that parent's
voice, fear regarding the few investments that some of us have in
the stock market. Did we just take a major hit with those
Fear about, how are we going to afford to send our kids to
college? A fear, as small-business owners, perhaps, how we're going
to borrow any money to increase inventory or hire more people.
The barometer there, I think, is going to be resounding that our
economy is hurting and the federal government has not provided the
sound oversight that we need and that we deserve, and we need reform
to that end.
Now, John McCain thankfully has been one representing reform. Two
years ago, remember, it was John McCain who pushed so hard with the
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reform measures. He sounded that warning
People in the Senate with him, his colleagues, didn't want to
listen to him and wouldn't go towards that reform that was needed
then. I think that the alarm has been heard, though, and there will
be that greater oversight, again thanks to John McCain's bipartisan
efforts that he was so instrumental in bringing folks together over
this past week, even suspending his own campaign to make sure he was
putting excessive politics aside and putting the country first.
IFILL: You both would like to be vice president.
Senator Biden, how, as vice president, would you work to shrink
this gap of polarization which has sprung up in Washington, which
you both have spoken about here tonight?
BIDEN: Well, that's what I've done my whole career, Gwen, on
very, very controversial issues, from dealing with violence against
women, to putting 100,000 police officers on the street, to trying
to get something done about the genocide in -- that was going on in
And I -- I have been able to reach across the aisle. I think it's
fair to say that I have almost as many friends on the Republican
side of the aisle as I do the Democratic side of the aisle.
But am I able to respond to -- are we able to stay on the -- on
IFILL: You may, if you like.
BIDEN: Yes, well, you know, until two weeks ago -- it was two
Mondays ago John McCain said at 9 o'clock in the morning that the
fundamentals of the economy were strong. Two weeks before that, he
said George -- we've made great economic progress under George
Nine o'clock, the economy was strong. Eleven o'clock that same
day, two Mondays ago, John McCain said that we have an economic
That doesn't make John McCain a bad guy, but it does point out
he's out of touch. Those folks on the sidelines knew that two months
IFILL: Governor Palin, you may respond.
PALIN: John McCain, in referring to the fundamental of our
economy being strong, he was talking to and he was talking about the
American workforce. And the American workforce is the greatest in
this world, with the ingenuity and the work ethic that is just
entrenched in our workforce. That's a positive. That's
encouragement. And that's what John McCain meant.
Now, what I've done as a governor and as a mayor is (inaudible)
I've had that track record of reform. And I've joined this team that
is a team of mavericks with John McCain, also, with his track record
of reform, where we're known for putting partisan politics aside to
just get the job done.
Now, Barack Obama, of course, he's pretty much only voted along
his party lines. In fact, 96 percent of his votes have been solely
along party line, not having that proof for the American people to
know that his commitment, too, is, you know, put the partisanship,
put the special interests aside, and get down to getting business
done for the people of America.
We're tired of the old politics as usual. And that's why, with
all due respect, I do respect your years in the U.S. Senate, but I
think Americans are craving something new and different and that new
energy and that new commitment that's going to come with reform.
I think that's why we need to send the maverick from the Senate
and put him in the White House, and I'm happy to join him there.
IFILL: Governor, Senator, neither of you really answered that
last question about what you would do as vice president. I'm going
to come back to that...
... throughout the evening to try to see if we can look forward,
Now, let's talk about -- the next question is to talk about the
subprime lending meltdown.
Who do you think was at fault? I start with you, Governor Palin.
Was it the greedy lenders? Was it the risky home-buyers who
shouldn't have been buying a home in the first place? And what
should you be doing about it?
PALIN: Darn right it was the predator lenders, who tried to talk
Americans into thinking that it was smart to buy a $300,000 house if
we could only afford a $100,000 house. There was deception there,
and there was greed and there is corruption on Wall Street. And we
need to stop that.
Again, John McCain and I, that commitment that we have made, and
we're going to follow through on that, getting rid of that
PALIN: One thing that Americans do at this time, also, though, is
let's commit ourselves just every day American people, Joe Six Pack,
hockey moms across the nation, I think we need to band together and
say never again. Never will we be exploited and taken advantage of
again by those who are managing our money and loaning us these
dollars. We need to make sure that we demand from the federal
government strict oversight of those entities in charge of our
investments and our savings and we need also to not get ourselves in
debt. Let's do what our parents told us before we probably even got
that first credit card. Don't live outside of our means. We need to
make sure that as individuals we're taking personal responsibility
through all of this. It's not the American peoples fault that the
economy is hurting like it is, but we have an opportunity to learn a
heck of a lot of good lessons through this and say never again will
we be taken advantage of.
BIDEN: Well Gwen, two years ago Barack Obama warned about the sub
prime mortgage crisis. John McCain said shortly after that in
December he was surprised there was a sub prime mortgage problem.
John McCain while Barack Obama was warning about what we had to do
was literally giving an interview to "The Wall Street Journal"
saying that I'm always for cutting regulations. We let Wall Street
run wild. John McCain and he's a good man, but John McCain thought
the answer is that tried and true Republican response, deregulate,
So what you had is you had overwhelming "deregulation." You had
actually the belief that Wall Street could self-regulate itself. And
while Barack Obama was talking about reinstating those regulations,
John on 20 different occasions in the previous year and a half
called for more deregulation. As a matter of fact, John recently
wrote an article in a major magazine saying that he wants to do for
the health care industry deregulate it and let the free market move
like he did for the banking industry.
So deregulation was the promise. And guess what? Those people who
say don't go into debt, they can barely pay to fill up their gas
tank. I was recently at my local gas station and asked a guy named
Joey Danco (ph). I said Joey, how much did it cost to fill your
tank? You know what his answer was? He said I don't know, Joe. I
never have enough money to do it. The middle class needs relief, tax
relief. They need it now. They need help now. The focus will change
with Barack Obama.
IFILL: Governor, please if you want to respond to what he said
about Senator McCain's comments about health care?
PALIN: I would like to respond about the tax increases. We can
speak in agreement here that darn right we need tax relief for
Americans so that jobs can be created here. Now, Barack Obama and
Senator Biden also voted for the largest tax increases in U.S.
history. Barack had 94 opportunities to side on the people's side
and reduce taxes and 94 times he voted to increase taxes or not
support a tax reduction, 94 times.
Now, that's not what we need to create jobs and really bolster
and heat up our economy. We do need the private sector to be able to
keep more of what we earn and produce. Government is going to have
to learn to be more efficient and live with less if that's what it
takes to reign in the government growth that we've seen today. But
we do need tax relief and Barack Obama even supported increasing
taxes as late as last year for those families making only $42,000 a
year. That's a lot of middle income average American families to
increase taxes on them. I think that is the way to kill jobs and to
continue to harm our economy.
BIDEN: The charge is absolutely not true. Barack Obama did not
vote to raise taxes. The vote she's referring to, John McCain voted
the exact same way. It was a budget procedural vote. John McCain
voted the same way. It did not raise taxes. Number two, using the
standard that the governor uses, John McCain voted 477 times to
raise taxes. It's a bogus standard it but if you notice, Gwen, the
governor did not answer the question about deregulation, did not
answer the question of defending John McCain about not going along
with the deregulation, letting Wall Street run wild. He did support
deregulation almost across the board. That's why we got into so much
IFILL: Would you like to have an opportunity to answer that
before we move on?
PALIN: I'm still on the tax thing because I want to correct you
on that again. And I want to let you know what I did as a mayor and
as a governor. And I may not answer the questions the way that
either the moderator or you want to hear, but I'm going to talk
straight to the American people and let them know my track record
also. As mayor, every year I was in office I did reduce taxes. I
eliminated personal property taxes and eliminated small business
inventory taxes and as governor we suspended our state fuel tax. We
did all of those things knowing that that is how our economy would
be heated up. Now, as for John McCain's adherence to rules and
regulations and pushing for even harder and tougher regulations,
that is another thing that he is known for though. Look at the
tobacco industry. Look at campaign finance reform.
IFILL: OK, our time is up here. We've got to move to the next
question. Senator Biden, we want to talk about taxes, let's talk
about taxes. You proposed raising taxes on people who earn over
$250,000 a year. The question for you is, why is that not class
warfare and the same question for you, Governor Palin, is you have
proposed a tax employer health benefits which some studies say would
actually throw five million more people onto the roles of the
uninsured. I want to know why that isn't taking things out on the
poor, starting with you, Senator Biden.
BIDEN: Well Gwen, where I come from, it's called fairness, just
simple fairness. The middle class is struggling. The middle class
under John McCain's tax proposal, 100 million families, middle class
families, households to be precise, they got not a single change,
they got not a single break in taxes. No one making less than
$250,000 under Barack Obama's plan will see one single penny of
their tax raised whether it's their capital gains tax, their income
tax, investment tax, any tax. And 95 percent of the people in the
United States of America making less than $150,000 will get a tax
Now, that seems to me to be simple fairness. The economic engine
of America is middle class. It's the people listening to this
broadcast. When you do well, America does well. Even the wealthy do
well. This is not punitive. John wants to add $300 million, billion
in new tax cuts per year for corporate America and the very wealthy
while giving virtually nothing to the middle class. We have a
different value set. The middle class is the economic engine. It's
fair. They deserve the tax breaks, not the super wealthy who are
doing pretty well. They don't need any more tax breaks. And by the
way, they'll pay no more than they did under Ronald Reagan.
PALIN: I do take issue with some of the principle there with that
redistribution of wealth principle that seems to be espoused by you.
But when you talk about Barack's plan to tax increase affecting only
those making $250,000 a year or more, you're forgetting millions of
small businesses that are going to fit into that category. So
they're going to be the ones paying higher taxes thus resulting in
fewer jobs being created and less productivity.
Now you said recently that higher taxes or asking for higher
taxes or paying higher taxes is patriotic. In the middle class of
America which is where Todd and I have been all of our lives, that's
not patriotic. Patriotic is saying, government, you know, you're not
always the solution. In fact, too often you're the problem so,
government, lessen the tax burden and on our families and get out of
the way and let the private sector and our families grow and thrive
and prosper. An increased tax formula that Barack Obama is proposing
in addition to nearly a trillion dollars in new spending that he's
proposing is the backwards way of trying to grow our economy.
IFILL: Governor, are you interested in defending Senator McCain's
health care plan?
PALIN: I am because he's got a good health care plan that is
detailed. And I want to give you a couple details on that. He's
proposing a $5,000 tax credit for families so that they can get out
there and they can purchase their own health care coverage. That's a
smart thing to do. That's budget neutral. That doesn't cost the
government anything as opposed to Barack Obama's plan to mandate
health care coverage and have universal government run program and
unless you're pleased with the way the federal government has been
running anything lately, I don't think that it's going to be real
pleasing for Americans to consider health care being taken over by
the feds. But a $5,000 health care credit through our income tax
that's budget neutral. That's going to help. And he also wants to
erase those artificial lines between states so that through
competition, we can cross state lines and if there's a better plan
offered somewhere else, we would be able to purchase that. So
affordability and accessibility will be the keys there with that
$5,000 tax credit also being offered.
IFILL: Thank you, governor. Senator?
BIDEN: Gwen, I don't know where to start. We don't call a
redistribution in my neighborhood Scranton, Claymont, Wilmington,
the places I grew up, to give the fair to say that not giving Exxon
Mobil another $4 billion tax cut this year as John calls for and
giving it to middle class people to be able to pay to get their kids
to college, we don't call that redistribution. We call that fairness
number one. Number two fact, 95 percent of the small businesses in
America, their owners make less than $250,000 a year. They would not
get one single solitary penny increase in taxes, those small
BIDEN: Now, with regard to the -- to the health care plan, you
know, it's with one hand you giveth, the other you take it. You know
how Barack Obama -- excuse me, do you know how John McCain pays for
his $5,000 tax credit you're going to get, a family will get?
He taxes as income every one of you out there, every one of you
listening who has a health care plan through your employer. That's
how he raises $3.6 trillion, on your -- taxing your health care
benefit to give you a $5,000 plan, which his Web site points out
will go straight to the insurance company.
And then you're going to have to replace a $12,000 -- that's the
average cost of the plan you get through your employer -- it costs
$12,000. You're going to have to pay -- replace a $12,000 plan,
because 20 million of you are going to be dropped. Twenty million of
you will be dropped.
So you're going to have to place -- replace a $12,000 plan with a
$5,000 check you just give to the insurance company. I call that the
"Ultimate Bridge to Nowhere."
IFILL: Thank you, Senator.
... I want to get -- try to get you both to answer a question
that neither of your principals quite answered when my colleague,
Jim Lehrer, asked it last week, starting with you, Senator Biden.
What promises -- given the events of the week, the bailout plan,
all of this, what promises have you and your campaigns made to the
American people that you're not going to be able to keep?
BIDEN: Well, the one thing we might have to slow down is a
commitment we made to double foreign assistance. We'll probably have
to slow that down.
We also are going to make sure that we do not go forward with the
tax cut proposals of the administration -- of John McCain, the
existing one for people making over $250,000, which is $130 billion
this year alone.
We're not going to support the $300 billion tax cut that they
have for corporate America and the very wealthy. We're not going to
support another $4 billion tax cut for ExxonMobil.
And what we're not going to also hold up on, Gwen, is we cannot
afford to hold up on providing for incentives for new jobs by an
energy policy, creating new jobs.
We cannot slow up on education, because that's the engine that is
going to give us the economic growth and competitiveness that we
And we are not going to slow up on the whole idea of providing
for affordable health care for Americans, none of which, when we get
to talk about health care, is as my -- as the governor characterized
The bottom line here is that we are going to, in fact, eliminate
those wasteful spending that exist in the budget right now, a number
of things I don't have time, because the light is blinking, that I
won't be able to mention, but one of which is the $100 billion tax
dodge that, in fact, allows people to take their post office box
off- shore, avoid taxes.
I call that unpatriotic. I call that unpatriotic.
BIDEN: That's what I'm talking about.
PALIN: Well, the nice thing about running with John McCain is I
can assure you he doesn't tell one thing to one group and then turns
around and tells something else to another group, including his
plans that will make this bailout plan, this rescue plan, even
I want to go back to the energy plan, though, because this is --
this is an important one that Barack Obama, he voted for in '05.
Senator Biden, you would remember that, in that energy plan that
Obama voted for, that's what gave those oil companies those big tax
breaks. Your running mate voted for that.
You know what I had to do in the state of Alaska? I had to take
on those oil companies and tell them, "No," you know, any of the
greed there that has been kind of instrumental, I guess, in their
mode of operation, that wasn't going to happen in my state.
And that's why Tillerson at Exxon and Mulva at ConocoPhillips,
bless their hearts, they're doing what they need to do, as corporate
CEOs, but they're not my biggest fans, because what I had to do up
there in Alaska was to break up a monopoly up there and say, you
know, the people are going to come first and we're going to make
sure that we have value given to the people of Alaska with those
And those huge tax breaks aren't coming to the big multinational
corporations anymore, not when it adversely affects the people who
live in a state and, in this case, in a country who should be
benefiting at the same time. So it was Barack Obama who voted for
that energy plan that gave those tax breaks to the oil companies
that I then had to turn around, as a governor of an energy-producing
state, and kind of undo in my own area of expertise, and that's
IFILL: So, Governor, as vice president, there's nothing that you
have promised as a candidate that you would -- that you wouldn't
take off the table because of this financial crisis we're in?
PALIN: There is not. And how long have I been at this, like five
weeks? So there hasn't been a whole lot that I've promised, except
to do what is right for the American people, put government back on
the side of the American people, stop the greed and corruption on
And the rescue plan has got to include that massive oversight
that Americans are expecting and deserving. And I don't believe that
John McCain has made any promise that he would not be able to keep,
BIDEN: Again, let me -- let's talk about those tax breaks. Barack
Obama -- Obama voted for an energy bill because, for the first time,
it had real support for alternative energy.
When there were separate votes on eliminating the tax breaks for
the oil companies, Barack Obama voted to eliminate them. John did
And let me just ask a rhetorical question: If John really wanted
to eliminate them, why is he adding to his budget an additional $4
billion in tax cuts for ExxonMobils of the world that, in fact,
already have made $600 billion since 2001?
And, look, I agree with the governor. She imposed a windfall
profits tax up there in Alaska. That's what Barack Obama and I want
We want to be able to do for all of you Americans, give you back
$1,000 bucks, like she's been able to give back money to her folks
But John McCain will not support a windfall profits tax. They've
made $600 billion since 2001, and John McCain wants to give them,
all by itself -- separate, no additional bill, all by itself --
another $4 billion tax cut.
If that is not proof of what I say, I'm not sure what can be. So
I hope the governor is able to convince John McCain to support our
windfall profits tax, which she supported in Alaska, and I give her
credit for it.
IFILL: Next question, Governor Palin, still on the economy. Last
year, Congress passed a bill that would make it more difficult for
debt-strapped mortgage-holders to declare bankruptcy, to get out
from under that debt. This is something that John McCain supported.
Would you have?
PALIN: Yes, I would have. But here, again, there have -- there
have been so many changes in the conditions of our economy in just
even these past weeks that there has been more and more revelation
made aware now to Americans about the corruption and the greed on
We need to look back, even two years ago, and we need to be
appreciative of John McCain's call for reform with Fannie Mae, with
Freddie Mac, with the mortgage-lenders, too, who were starting to
really kind of rear that head of abuse.
And the colleagues in the Senate weren't going to go there with
him. So we have John McCain to thank for at least warning people.
And we also have John McCain to thank for bringing in a bipartisan
effort people to the table so that we can start putting politics
aside, even putting a campaign aside, and just do what's right to
fix this economic problem that we are in.
It is a crisis. It's a toxic mess, really, on Main Street that's
affecting Wall Street. And now we have to be ever vigilant and also
making sure that credit markets don't seize up. That's where the
Main Streeters like me, that's where we would really feel the
IFILL: Senator Biden, you voted for this bankruptcy bill. Senator
Obama voted against it. Some people have said that mortgage- holders
really paid the price.
BIDEN: Well, mortgage-holders didn't pay the price. Only 10
percent of the people who are -- have been affected by this whole
switch from Chapter 7 to Chapter 13 -- it gets complicated.
But the point of this -- Barack Obama saw the glass as half-
empty. I saw it as half-full. We disagreed on that, and 85 senators
voted one way, and 15 voted the other way.
But here's the deal. Barack Obama pointed out two years ago that
there was a subprime mortgage crisis and wrote to the secretary of
Treasury. And he said, "You'd better get on the stick here. You'd
better look at it."
John McCain said as early as last December, quote -- I'm
paraphrasing -- "I'm surprised about this subprime mortgage crisis,"
Number two, with regard to bankruptcy now, Gwen, what we should
be doing now -- and Barack Obama and I support it -- we should be
allowing bankruptcy courts to be able to re-adjust not just the
interest rate you're paying on your mortgage to be able to stay in
your home, but be able to adjust the principal that you owe, the
principal that you owe.
That would keep people in their homes, actually help banks by
keeping it from going under. But John McCain, as I understand it --
I'm not sure of this, but I believe John McCain and the governor
don't support that. There are ways to help people now. And there --
ways that we're offering are not being supported by -- by the Bush
administration nor do I believe by John McCain and Governor Palin.
IFILL: Governor Palin, is that so?
PALIN: That is not so, but because that's just a quick answer, I
want to talk about, again, my record on energy versus your ticket's
energy ticket, also.
I think that this is important to come back to, with that energy
policy plan again that was voted for in '05.
When we talk about energy, we have to consider the need to do all
that we can to allow this nation to become energy independent.
It's a nonsensical position that we are in when we have domestic
supplies of energy all over this great land. And East Coast
politicians who don't allow energy-producing states like Alaska to
produce these, to tap into them, and instead we're relying on
foreign countries to produce for us.
PALIN: We're circulating about $700 billion a year into foreign
countries, some who do not like America -- they certainly don't have
our best interests at heart -- instead of those dollars circulating
here, creating tens of thousands of jobs and allowing domestic
supplies of energy to be tapped into and start flowing into these
very, very hungry markets.
Energy independence is the key to this nation's future, to our
economic future, and to our national security. So when we talk about
energy plans, it's not just about who got a tax break and who
didn't. And we're not giving oil companies tax breaks, but it's
about a heck of a lot more than that.
Energy independence is the key to America's future.
IFILL: Governor, I'm happy to talk to you in this next section
about energy issues. Let's talk about climate change. What is true
and what is false about what we have heard, read, discussed, debated
about the causes of climate change?
PALIN: Yes. Well, as the nation's only Arctic state and being the
governor of that state, Alaska feels and sees impacts of climate
change more so than any other state. And we know that it's real.
I'm not one to attribute every man -- activity of man to the
changes in the climate. There is something to be said also for man's
activities, but also for the cyclical temperature changes on our
But there are real changes going on in our climate. And I don't
want to argue about the causes. What I want to argue about is, how
are we going to get there to positively affect the impacts?
We have got to clean up this planet. We have got to encourage
other nations also to come along with us with the impacts of climate
change, what we can do about that.
As governor, I was the first governor to form a climate change
sub-cabinet to start dealing with the impacts. We've got to reduce
emissions. John McCain is right there with an "all of the above"
approach to deal with climate change impacts.
We've got to become energy independent for that reason. Also as
we rely more and more on other countries that don't care as much
about the climate as we do, we're allowing them to produce and to
emit and even pollute more than America would ever stand for. So
even in dealing with climate change, it's all the more reason that
we have an "all of the above" approach, tapping into alternative
sources of energy and conserving fuel, conserving our petroleum
products and our hydrocarbons so that we can clean up this planet
and deal with climate change.
IFILL: Senator, what is true and what is false about the causes?
BIDEN: Well, I think it is manmade. I think it's clearly manmade.
And, look, this probably explains the biggest fundamental difference
between John McCain and Barack Obama and Sarah Palin and Joe Biden
-- Governor Palin and Joe Biden.
If you don't understand what the cause is, it's virtually
impossible to come up with a solution. We know what the cause is.
The cause is manmade. That's the cause. That's why the polar icecap
Now, let's look at the facts. We have 3 percent of the world's
oil reserves. We consume 25 percent of the oil in the world. John
McCain has voted 20 times in the last decade-and-a-half against
funding alternative energy sources, clean energy sources, wind,
The way in which we can stop the greenhouse gases from emitting.
We believe -- Barack Obama believes by investing in clean coal and
safe nuclear, we can not only create jobs in wind and solar here in
the United States, we can export it.
China is building one to three new coal-fired plants burning
dirty coal per week. It's polluting not only the atmosphere but the
West Coast of the United States. We should export the technology by
investing in clean coal technology.
We should be creating jobs. John McCain has voted 20 times
against funding alternative energy sources and thinks, I guess, the
only answer is drill, drill, drill. Drill we must, but it will take
10 years for one drop of oil to come out of any of the wells that
are going to begun to be drilled.
In the meantime, we're all going to be in real trouble.
IFILL: Let me clear something up, Senator McCain has said he
supports caps on carbon emissions. Senator Obama has said he
supports clean coal technology, which I don't believe you've always
BIDEN: I have always supported it. That's a fact.
IFILL: Well, clear it up for us, both of you, and start with
PALIN: Yes, Senator McCain does support this. The chant is
"drill, baby, drill." And that's what we hear all across this
country in our rallies because people are so hungry for those
domestic sources of energy to be tapped into. They know that even in
my own energy-producing state we have billions of barrels of oil and
hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of clean, green natural gas. And
we're building a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipeline which is
North America's largest and most you expensive infrastructure
project ever to flow those sources of energy into hungry markets.
Barack Obama and Senator Biden, you've said no to everything in
trying to find a domestic solution to the energy crisis that we're
in. You even called drilling -- safe, environmentally-friendly
drilling offshore as raping the outer continental shelf.
There -- with new technology, with tiny footprints even on land,
it is safe to drill and we need to do more of that. But also in that
"all of the above" approach that Senator McCain supports, the
alternative fuels will be tapped into: the nuclear, the clean coal.
I was surprised to hear you mention that because you had said
that there isn't anything -- such a thing as clean coal. And I think
you said it in a rope line, too, at one of your rallies.
IFILL: We do need to keep within our two minutes. But I just
wanted to ask you, do you support capping carbon emissions?
PALIN: I do. I do.
IFILL: OK. And on the clean coal issue?
BIDEN: Absolutely. Absolutely we do. We call for setting hard
targets, number one...
IFILL: Clean coal.
BIDEN: Oh, I'm sorry.
IFILL: On clean coal.
BIDEN: Oh, on clean coal. My record, just take a look at the
record. My record for 25 years has supported clean coal technology.
A comment made in a rope line was taken out of context. I was
talking about exporting that technology to China so when they burn
their dirty coal, it won't be as dirty, it will be clean.
But here's the bottom line, Gwen: How do we deal with global
warming with continued addition to carbon emissions? And if the only
answer you have is oil, and John -- and the governor says John is
Well, why did John vote 20 times? Maybe he's for everything as
long as it's not helped forward by the government. Maybe he's for
everything if the free market takes care of it. I don't know. But he
voted 20 times against funding alternative energy sources.
IFILL: The next round of -- pardon me, the next round of
questions starts with you, Senator Biden. Do you support, as they do
in Alaska, granting same-sex benefits to couples? BIDEN: Absolutely.
Do I support granting same-sex benefits? Absolutely positively.
Look, in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no
distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint
between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple.
The fact of the matter is that under the Constitution we should
be granted -- same-sex couples should be able to have visitation
rights in the hospitals, joint ownership of property, life insurance
policies, et cetera. That's only fair.
It's what the Constitution calls for. And so we do support it. We
do support making sure that committed couples in a same-sex marriage
are guaranteed the same constitutional benefits as it relates to
their property rights, their rights of visitation, their rights to
insurance, their rights of ownership as heterosexual couples do.
IFILL: Governor, would you support expanding that beyond Alaska
to the rest of the nation?
PALIN: Well, not if it goes closer and closer towards redefining
the traditional definition of marriage between one man and one
woman. And unfortunately that's sometimes where those steps lead.
But I also want to clarify, if there's any kind of suggestion at
all from my answer that I would be anything but tolerant of adults
in America choosing their partners, choosing relationships that they
deem best for themselves, you know, I am tolerant and I have a very
diverse family and group of friends and even within that group you
would see some who may not agree with me on this issue, some very
dear friends who don't agree with me on this issue.
But in that tolerance also, no one would ever propose, not in a
McCain-Palin administration, to do anything to prohibit, say,
visitations in a hospital or contracts being signed, negotiated
But I will tell Americans straight up that I don't support
defining marriage as anything but between one man and one woman, and
I think through nuances we can go round and round about what that
But I'm being as straight up with Americans as I can in my non-
support for anything but a traditional definition of marriage.
IFILL: Let's try to avoid nuance, Senator. Do you support gay
BIDEN: No. Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil
side what constitutes marriage. We do not support that. That is
basically the decision to be able to be able to be left to faiths
and people who practice their faiths the determination what you call
The bottom line though is, and I'm glad to hear the governor, I
take her at her word, obviously, that she think there should be no
civil rights distinction, none whatsoever, between a committed gay
couple and a committed heterosexual couple. If that's the case, we
really don't have a difference.
IFILL: Is that what your said?
PALIN: Your question to him was whether he supported gay marriage
and my answer is the same as his and it is that I do not.
IFILL: Wonderful. You agree. On that note, let's move to foreign
IFILL: You both have sons who are in Iraq or on their way to
Iraq. You, Governor Palin, have said that you would like to see a
real clear plan for an exit strategy. What should that be, Governor?
PALIN: I am very thankful that we do have a good plan and the
surge and the counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq that has proven to
work, I am thankful that that is part of the plan implemented under
a great American hero, General Petraeus, and pushed hard by another
great American, Senator John McCain.
I know that the other ticket opposed this surge, in fact, even
opposed funding for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Barack Obama
voted against funding troops there after promising that he would not
PALIN: And Senator Biden, I respected you when you called him out
on that. You said that his vote was political and you said it would
cost lives. And Barack Obama at first said he would not do that. He
turned around under political pressure and he voted against funding
the troops. We do have a plan for withdrawal. We don't need early
withdrawal out of Iraq. We cannot afford to lose there or we're
going to be no better off in the war in Afghanistan either. We have
got to win in Iraq.
And with the surge that has worked we're now down to presurge
numbers in Iraq. That's where we can be. We can start putting more
troops in Afghanistan as we also work with our NATO allies who are
there strengthening us and we need to grow our military. We cannot
afford to lose against al Qaeda and the Shia extremists who are
still there, still fighting us, but we're getting closer and closer
to victory. And it would be a travesty if we quit now in Iraq.
BIDEN: Gwen, with all due respect, I didn't hear a plan. Barack
Obama has offered a clear plan. Shift responsibility to Iraqis over
the next 16 months. Draw down our combat troops. Ironically the same
plan that Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq and George Bush are now
negotiating. The only odd man out here, only one left out is John
McCain, number one. Number two, with regard to Barack Obama not --
quote -- "funding the troops," John McCain voted the exact same way.
John McCain voted against funding the troops because of an amendment
he voted against had a timeline in it to draw down American troops.
And John said I'm not going to fund the troops if in fact there's a
timeline. Barack Obama and I agree fully and completely on one
thing: You've got to have a time line to draw down the troops and
shift responsibility to the Iraqis.
We're spending $10 billion a month while Iraqis have an $80
billion surplus. Barack says it's time for them to spend their own
money and have the 400,000 military we trained for them begin to
take their own responsibility and gradually over six months -- 16
months, withdrawal. John McCain -- this is a fundamental difference
between us, we will end this war. For John McCain, there's no end in
sight to end this war, fundamental difference. We will end this war.
PALIN: Your plan is a white flag of surrender in Iraq and that is
not what our troops need to hear today, that's for sure. And it's
not what our nation needs to be able to count on. You guys opposed
the surge. The surge worked. Barack Obama still can't admit the
We'll know when we're finished in Iraq when the Iraqi government
can govern its people and when the Iraqi security forces can secure
its people. And our commanders on the ground will tell us when those
conditions have been met. And Maliki and Talabani also in working
with us are knowing again that we are getting closer and closer to
that point, that victory that's within sight.
Now, you said regarding Senator McCain's military policies there,
Senator Biden, that you supported a lot of these things. In fact,
you said in fact that you wanted to run, you'd be honored to run
with him on the ticket, and that's an indication I think of some of
the support that you had at least until you became the VP pick here.
You also said that Barack Obama was not ready to be commander in
chief. And I know again that you opposed the move that he made to
try to cut off funding for the troops and I respect you for that. I
don't know how you can defend that position now, but I know that you
know especially with your son in the National Guard and I have great
respect for your family also and the honor that you show our
military. Barack Obama though, another story there. Anyone I think
who can cut off funding for the troops after promising not to is
IFILL: Senator Biden?
BIDEN: John McCain voted to cut off funding for the troops. Let
me say that again: John McCain voted against an amendment containing
$1 billion, $600 million that I had gotten to get MRAPS, those
things that are protecting the governor's son and pray god my son
and a lot of other sons and daughters.
He voted against it. He voted against funding because he said the
amendment had a time line in it to end this war, and he didn't like
that. But let's get straight who has been right and wrong. John
McCain and Dick Cheney said when I was saying we would not be
greeted as liberators, we would not - this war would take a decade,
not a day, not a week, not six months, we would not be out of there
quickly. John McCain was saying the Sunnis and Shias got along with
each other without reading the history of the last 700 years. John
McCain said there would be enough oil to pay for this. John McCain
has been dead wrong. I love him. As my mother would say, god love
him, but he's been dead wrong on the fundamental issues relating to
the conduct of the war. Barack Obama has been right. There are the
IFILL: Let's move to Iran and Pakistan. I'm curious about what
you think starting with you Senator Biden. Which is the greater
threat, a nuclear Iran or an unstable Afghanistan? Explain why.
BIDEN: Well, they're both extremely dangerous. I always am
focused, as you know Gwen, I have been focusing on for a long time,
along with Barack on Pakistan. Pakistan already has nuclear weapons.
Pakistan already has deployed nuclear weapons. Pakistan's weapons
can already hit Israel and the Mediterranean. Iran getting a nuclear
weapon would be very, very destabilizing. They are more than - they
are not close to getting a nuclear weapon that's able to be
deployed. So they're both very dangerous. They both would be game
changers. But look, here's what the fundamental problem I have with
John's policy about terror instability. John continues to tell us
that the central war in the front on terror is in Iraq. I promise
you, if an attack comes in the homeland, it's going to come as our
security services have said, it is going to come from al Qaeda
planning in the hills of Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's where they
live. That's where they are. That's where it will come from. And
right now that resides in Pakistan. A stable government needs to be
established. We need to support that democracy by helping them not
only with their military but with their governance and their
There have been 7,000 madrasses built along that border. We
should be helping them build schools to compete for those hearts and
minds of the people in the region so that we're actually able to
take on terrorism. And by the way, that's where bin Laden lives and
we will go at him if we have actionable intelligence.
IFILL: Governor, nuclear Pakistan, unstable Pakistan, nuclear
Iran? Which is the greater threat?
PALIN: Both are extremely dangerous, of course. And as for who
termed that central war on terror being in Iraq, it was General
Petraeus and al Qaeda, both leaders there and it's probably the only
thing that they're ever going to agree on, but that it was a central
war on terror is in Iraq. You don't have to believe me or John
McCain on that. I would believe Petraeus and that leader of al
An armed, nuclear armed especially, Iran is so extremely
dangerous to consider. They cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear
weapons period. Israel is in jeopardy of course when we're dealing
with Ahmadinejad as a leader of Iran. Iran claiming that Israel is,
he termed it, a stinking corpse, a country that should be wiped off
the face of the earth. Now a leader like Ahmadinejad who is not sane
or stable when he says things like that is not one whom we can allow
to acquire nuclear energy, nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong
Il, the Castro brothers, others who are dangerous dictators are ones
that Barack Obama has said he would be willing to meet with without
preconditions being met first.
An issue like that taken up by a presidential candidate goes
beyond naivete and goes beyond poor judgment. A statement that he
made like that is downright dangerous, because leaders like
Ahmadinejad who would seek to acquire nuclear weapons and wipe off
the face of the earth an ally like we have in Israel should not be
met with without preconditions and diplomatic efforts being
IFILL: Governor and senator, I want you both to respond to this.
Secretaries of State Baker, Kissinger, Powell, they have all
advocated some level of engagement with enemies. Do you think these
former secretaries of state are wrong on that?
PALIN: No, and Dr. Henry Kissinger especially. I had a good
conversation with him recently. And he shared with me also his
passion for diplomacy. And that's what John McCain and I would
engage in also. But again, with some of these dictators who hate
America and hate what we stand for, with our freedoms, our
democracy, our tolerance, our respect for women's rights, those who
would try to destroy what we stand for cannot be met with just
sitting down on a presidential level as Barack Obama had said he
would be willing to do. That is beyond bad judgment. That is
No, diplomacy is very important. First and foremost, that is what
we would engage in. But diplomacy is hard work by serious people.
It's lining out clear objectives and having your friends and your
allies ready to back you up there and have sanctions lined up also
before any kind of presidential summit would take place.
BIDEN: Can I clarify this? That's just simply not true about
Barack Obama. He did not say sit down with Ahmadinejad.
BIDEN: The fact of the matter is, it surprises me that Senator
McCain doesn't realize that Ahmadinejad does not control the
security apparatus in Iran. The theocracy controls the security
apparatus, number one.
Number two, five secretaries of state did say we should talk with
and sit down.
Now, John and Governor Palin now say they're all for -- they have
a passion, I think the phrase was, a passion for diplomacy and that
we have to bring our friends and allies along.
Our friends and allies have been saying, Gwen, "Sit down. Talk.
Talk. Talk." Our friends and allies have been saying that, five
secretaries of state, three of them Republicans.
And John McCain has said he would go along with an agreement, but
he wouldn't sit down. Now, how do you do that when you don't have
your administration sit down and talk with the adversary?
And look what President Bush did. After five years, he finally
sent a high-ranking diplomat to meet with the highest-ranking
diplomats in Iran, in Europe, to try to work out an arrangement.
Our allies are on that same page. And if we don't go the extra
mile on diplomacy, what makes you think the allies are going to sit
The last point I'll make, John McCain said as recently as a
couple of weeks ago he wouldn't even sit down with the government of
Spain, a NATO ally that has troops in Afghanistan with us now. I
find that incredible.
IFILL: Governor, you mentioned Israel and your support for
IFILL: What has this administration done right or wrong -- this
is the great, lingering, unresolved issue, the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict -- what have they done? And is a two-state solution the
PALIN: A two-state solution is the solution. And Secretary Rice,
having recently met with leaders on one side or the other there,
also, still in these waning days of the Bush administration, trying
to forge that peace, and that needs to be done, and that will be top
of an agenda item, also, under a McCain-Palin administration.
Israel is our strongest and best ally in the Middle East. We have
got to assure them that we will never allow a second Holocaust,
despite, again, warnings from Iran and any other country that would
seek to destroy Israel, that that is what they would like to see.
We will support Israel. A two-state solution, building our
embassy, also, in Jerusalem, those things that we look forward to
being able to accomplish, with this peace-seeking nation, and they
have a track record of being able to forge these peace agreements.
They succeeded with Jordan. They succeeded with Egypt. I'm sure
that we're going to see more success there, also.
It's got to be a commitment of the United States of America,
though. And I can promise you, in a McCain-Palin administration,
that commitment is there to work with our friends in Israel.
BIDEN: Gwen, no one in the United States Senate has been a better
friend to Israel than Joe Biden. I would have never, ever joined
this ticket were I not absolutely sure Barack Obama shared my
But you asked a question about whether or not this
administration's policy had made sense or something to that effect.
It has been an abject failure, this administration's policy.
In fairness to Secretary Rice, she's trying to turn it around now
in the seventh or eighth year.
Here's what the president said when we said no. He insisted on
elections on the West Bank, when I said, and others said, and Barack
Obama said, "Big mistake. Hamas will win. You'll legitimize them."
What happened? Hamas won.
When we kicked -- along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of
Lebanon, I said and Barack said, "Move NATO forces in there. Fill
the vacuum, because if you don't know -- if you don't, Hezbollah
will control it."
Now what's happened? Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the
government in the country immediately to the north of Israel.
The fact of the matter is, the policy of this administration has
been an abject failure.
And speaking of freedom being on the march, the only thing on the
march is Iran. It's closer to a bomb. Its proxies now have a major
stake in Lebanon, as well as in the Gaza Strip with Hamas.
We will change this policy with thoughtful, real, live diplomacy
that understands that you must back Israel in letting them
negotiate, support their negotiation, and stand with them, not
insist on policies like this administration has. IFILL: Has this
administration's policy been an abject failure, as the senator says,
PALIN: No, I do not believe that it has been. But I'm so
encouraged to know that we both love Israel, and I think that is a
good thing to get to agree on, Senator Biden. I respect your
position on that.
No, in fact, when we talk about the Bush administration, there's
a time, too, when Americans are going to say, "Enough is enough with
your ticket," on constantly looking backwards, and pointing fingers,
and doing the blame game.
There have been huge blunders in the war. There have been huge
blunders throughout this administration, as there are with every
But for a ticket that wants to talk about change and looking into
the future, there's just too much finger-pointing backwards to ever
make us believe that that's where you're going.
Positive change is coming, though. Reform of government is
coming. We'll learn from the past mistakes in this administration
and other administrations.
And we're going to forge ahead with putting government back on
the side of the people and making sure that our country comes first,
putting obsessive partisanship aside.
That's what John McCain has been known for in all these years. He
has been the maverick. He has ruffled feathers.
But I know, Senator Biden, you have respected for them that, and
I respect you for acknowledging that. But change is coming.
IFILL: Just looking backwards, Senator?
BIDEN: Look, past is prologue, Gwen. The issue is, how different
is John McCain's policy going to be than George Bush's? I haven't
heard anything yet.
I haven't heard how his policy is going to be different on Iran
than George Bush's. I haven't heard how his policy is going to be
different with Israel than George Bush's. I haven't heard how his
policy in Afghanistan is going to be different than George Bush's. I
haven't heard how his policy in Pakistan is going to be different
than George Bush's.
It may be. But so far, it is the same as George Bush's. And you
know where that policy has taken us.
We will make significant change so, once again, we're the most
respected nation in the world. That's what we're going to do.
IFILL: Governor, on another issue, interventionism, nuclear
weapons. What should be the trigger, or should there be a trigger,
when nuclear weapons use is ever put into play?
PALIN: Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be all, end all
of just too many people in too many parts of our planet, so those
dangerous regimes, again, cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear
Our nuclear weaponry here in the U.S. is used as a deterrent. And
that's a safe, stable way to use nuclear weaponry.
But for those countries -- North Korea, also, under Kim Jong-il
-- we have got to make sure that we're putting the economic
sanctions on these countries and that we have friends and allies
supporting us in this to make sure that leaders like Kim Jong-il and
Ahmadinejad are not allowed to acquire, to proliferate, or to use
those nuclear weapons. It is that important.
Can we talk about Afghanistan real quick, also, though?
PALIN: OK, I'd like to just really quickly mention there, too,
that when you look back and you say that the Bush administration's
policy on Afghanistan perhaps would be the same as McCain, and
that's not accurate.
The surge principles, not the exact strategy, but the surge
principles that have worked in Iraq need to be implemented in
Afghanistan, also. And that, perhaps, would be a difference with the
Now, Barack Obama had said that all we're doing in Afghanistan is
air-raiding villages and killing civilians. And such a reckless,
reckless comment and untrue comment, again, hurts our cause.
That's not what we're doing there. We're fighting terrorists, and
we're securing democracy, and we're building schools for children
there so that there is opportunity in that country, also. There will
be a big difference there, and we will win in -- in Afghanistan,
IFILL: Senator, you may talk about nuclear use, if you'd like,
and also about Afghanistan.
BIDEN: I'll talk about both. With Afghanistan, facts matter,
The fact is that our commanding general in Afghanistan said today
that a surge -- the surge principles used in Iraq will not -- well,
let me say this again now -- our commanding general in Afghanistan
said the surge principle in Iraq will not work in Afghanistan, not
Joe Biden, our commanding general in Afghanistan.
He said we need more troops. We need government-building. We need
to spend more money on the infrastructure in Afghanistan.
Look, we have spent more money -- we spend more money in three
weeks on combat in Iraq than we spent on the entirety of the last
seven years that we have been in Afghanistan building that country.
Let me say that again. Three weeks in Iraq; seven years, seven
years or six-and-a-half years in Afghanistan. Now, that's number
Number two, with regard to arms control and weapons, nuclear
weapons require a nuclear arms control regime. John McCain voted
against a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty that every
Republican has supported.
John McCain has opposed amending the Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty with
an amendment to allow for inspections.
John McCain has not been -- has not been the kind of supporter
for dealing with -- and let me put it another way. My time is almost
Barack Obama, first thing he did when he came to the United
States Senate, new senator, reached across the aisle to my
colleague, Dick Lugar, a Republican, and said, "We've got to do
something about keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of
They put together a piece of legislation that, in fact, was
serious and real. Every major -- I shouldn't say every -- on the two
at least that I named, I know that John McCain has been opposed to
extending the arms control regime in the world.
PALIN: Well, first, McClellan did not say definitively the surge
principles would not work in Afghanistan. Certainly, accounting for
different conditions in that different country and conditions are
certainly different. We have NATO allies helping us for one and even
the geographic differences are huge but the counterinsurgency
principles could work in Afghanistan. McClellan didn't say anything
opposite of that. The counterinsurgency strategy going into
Afghanistan, clearing, holding, rebuilding, the civil society and
the infrastructure can work in Afghanistan. And those leaders who
are over there, who have also been advising George Bush on this have
not said anything different but that.
PALIN: Well, our commanding general did say that. The fact of the
matter is that again, I'll just put in perspective, while Barack and
I and Chuck Hagel and Dick Lugar have been calling for more money to
help in Afghanistan, more troops in Afghanistan, John McCain was
saying two years ago quote, "The reason we don't read about
Afghanistan anymore in the paper, it's succeeded.
Barack Obama was saying we need more troops there. Again, we
spend in three weeks on combat missions in Iraq, more than we spent
in the entire time we have been in Afghanistan. That will change in
a Barack Obama administration.
IFILL: Senator, you have quite a record, this is the next
question here, of being an interventionist. You argued for
intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo, initially in Iraq and Pakistan
and now in Darfur, putting U.S. troops on the ground. Boots on the
ground. Is this something the American public has the stomach for?
BIDEN: I think the American public has the stomach for success.
My recommendations on Bosnia. I admit I was the first one to
recommend it. They saved tens of thousands of lives. And initially
John McCain opposed it along with a lot of other people. But the end
result was it worked. Look what we did in Bosnia. We took Serbs,
Croats and Bosniaks, being told by everyone, I was told by everyone
that this would mean that they had been killing each other for a
thousand years, it would never work.
There's a relatively stable government there now as in Kosovo.
With regard to Iraq, I indicated it would be a mistake to -- I gave
the president the power. I voted for the power because he said he
needed it not to go to war but to keep the United States, the UN in
line, to keep sanctions on Iraq and not let them be lifted.
I, along with Dick Lugar, before we went to war, said if we were
to go to war without our allies, without the kind of support we
need, we'd be there for a decade and it'd cost us tens of billions
of dollars. John McCain said, no, it was going to be OK.
I don't have the stomach for genocide when it comes to Darfur. We
can now impose a no-fly zone. It's within our capacity. We can lead
NATO if we're willing to take a hard stand. We can, I've been in
those camps in Chad. I've seen the suffering, thousands and tens of
thousands have died and are dying. We should rally the world to act
and demonstrate it by our own movement to provide the helicopters to
get the 21,000 forces of the African Union in there now to stop this
IFILL: Thank you, senator. Governor.
PALIN: Oh, yeah, it's so obvious I'm a Washington outsider. And
someone just not used to the way you guys operate. Because here you
voted for the war and now you oppose the war. You're one who says,
as so many politicians do, I was for it before I was against it or
vice- versa. Americans are craving that straight talk and just want
to know, hey, if you voted for it, tell us why you voted for it and
it was a war resolution.
And you had supported John McCain's military strategies pretty
adamantly until this race and you had opposed very adamantly Barack
Obama's military strategy, including cutting off funding for the
troops that attempt all through the primary.
And I watched those debates, so I remember what those were all
But as for as Darfur, we can agree on that also, the supported of
the no-fly zone, making sure that all options are on the table there
America is in a position to help. What I've done in my position
to help, as the governor of a state that's pretty rich in natural
resources, we have a $40 billion investment fund, a savings fund
called the Alaska Permanent Fund.
When I and others in the legislature found out we had some
millions of dollars in Sudan, we called for divestment through
legislation of those dollars to make sure we weren't doing anything
that would be seen as condoning the activities there in Darfur. That
legislation hasn't passed yet but it needs to because all of us, as
individuals, and as humanitarians and as elected officials should do
all we can to end those atrocities in that region of the world.
IFILL: Is there a line that should be drawn about when we decide
to go in?
BIDEN: Absolutely. There is a line that should be drawn.
IFILL: What is it? BIDEN: The line that should be drawn is
whether we A, first of all have the capacity to do anything about it
number one. And number two, certain new lines that have to be drawn
internationally. When a country engages in genocide, when a country
engaging in harboring terrorists and will do nothing about it, at
that point that country in my view and Barack's view forfeits their
right to say you have no right to intervene at all.
The truth of the matter is, though, let's go back to John
McCain's strategy. I never supported John McCain's strategy on the
war. John McCain said exactly what Dick Cheney said, go back and
look at Barack Obama's statements and mine. Go look at joebiden.com,
contemporaneously, held hearings in the summer before we went to
war, saying if we went to war, we would not be greeted as liberator,
we would have a fight between Sunnis and Shias, we would be tied
down for a decade and cost us hundreds of billions of dollars.
John McCain was saying the exact opposite. John McCain was lock-
step with Dick Cheney at that point how this was going to be easy.
So John McCain's strategy in this war, not just whether or not to
go, the actual conduct of the war has been absolutely wrong from the
PALIN: I beg to disagree with you, again, here on whether you
supported Barack Obama or John McCain's strategies. Here again, you
can say what you want to say a month out before people are asked to
vote on this, but we listened to the debates.
I think tomorrow morning, the pundits are going to start do the
who said what at what time and we'll have proof of some of this,
but, again, John McCain who knows how to win a war. Who's been there
and he's faced challenges and he knows what evil is and knows what
it takes to overcome the challenges here with our military.
He knows to learn from the mistakes and blunders we have seen in
the war in Iraq, especially. He will know how to implement the
strategies, working with our commanders and listening to what they
have to say, taking the politics out of these war issues. He'll know
how to win a war.
IFILL: Thank you, governor.
Probably the biggest cliche about the vice-presidency is that
it's a heartbeat away, everybody's waiting to see what would happen
if the worst happened. How would -- you disagree on some things from
your principles, you disagree on drilling in Alaska, the National
Wildlife Refuge, you disagree on the surveillance law, at least you
have in the past. How would a Biden administration be different from
an Obama administration if that were to happen.
BIDEN: God forbid that would ever happen, it would be a national
tragedy of historic proportions if it were to happen.
But if it did, I would carry out Barack Obama's policy, his
policies of reinstating the middle class, making sure they get a
fair break, making sure they have access to affordable health
insurance, making sure they get serious tax breaks, making sure we
can help their children get to college, making sure there is an
energy policy that leads us in the direction of not only toward
independence and clean environment but an energy policy that creates
5 million new jobs, a foreign policy that ends this war in Iraq, a
foreign policy that goes after the one mission the American public
gave the president after 9/11, to get and capture or kill bin Laden
and to eliminate al Qaeda. A policy that would in fact engage our
allies in making sure that we knew we were acting on the same page
and not dictating.
And a policy that would reject the Bush Doctrine of preemption
and regime change and replace it with a doctrine of prevention and
cooperation and, ladies and gentlemen, this is the biggest ticket
item that we have in this election.
This is the most important election you will ever, ever have
voted in, any of you, since 1932. And there's such stark
differences, I would follow through on Barack's policies because in
essence, I agree with every major initiative he is suggesting.
PALIN: And heaven forbid, yes, that would ever happen, no matter
how this ends up, that that would ever happen with either party.
As for disagreeing with John McCain and how our administration
would work, what do you expect? A team of mavericks, of course we're
not going to agree on 100 percent of everything. As we discuss ANWR
there, at least we can agree to disagree on that one. I will keep
pushing him on ANWR. I have so appreciated he has never asked me to
check my opinions at the door and he wants a deliberative debate and
healthy debate so we can make good policy.
What I would do also, if that were to ever happen, though, is to
continue the good work he is so committed to of putting government
back on the side of the people and get rid of the greed and
corruption on Wall Street and in Washington.
I think we need a little bit of reality from Wasilla Main Street
there, brought to Washington, DC.
PALIN: So that people there can understand how the average
working class family is viewing bureaucracy in the federal
government and Congress, and the inaction of Congress.
Just everyday, working-class Americans saying, you know,
government, just get out of my way. If you're going to do any harm
and mandate more things on me and take more of my money and income
tax and business taxes, you're going to have a choice in just a few
weeks here on either supporting a ticket that wants to create jobs
and bolster our economy and win the war or you're going to be
supporting a ticket that wants to increase taxes, which ultimately
kills jobs, and is going to hurt our economy.
BIDEN: Can I respond? Look, all you've got to do is go down Union
Street with me in Wilmington or go to Katie's Restaurant or walk
into Home Depot with me where I spend a lot of time and you ask
anybody in there whether or not the economic and foreign policy of
this administration has made them better off in the last eight
years. And then ask them whether there's a single major initiative
that John McCain differs with the president on. On taxes, on Iraq,
on Afghanistan, on the whole question of how to help education, on
the dealing with health care.
Look, the people in my neighborhood, they get it. They get it.
They know they've been getting the short end of the stick. So walk
with me in my neighborhood, go back to my old neighborhood in
Claymont, an old steel town or go up to Scranton with me. These
people know the middle class has gotten the short end. The wealthy
have done very well. Corporate America has been rewarded. It's time
we change it. Barack Obama will change it.
PALIN: Say it ain't so, Joe, there you go again pointing
backwards again. You preferenced your whole comment with the Bush
administration. Now doggone it, let's look ahead and tell Americans
what we have to plan to do for them in the future. You mentioned
education and I'm glad that you did. I know education you are
passionate about with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and
god bless her. Her reward is in heaven, right? I say, too, with
education, America needs to be putting a lot more focus on that and
our schools have got to be really ramped up in terms of the funding
that they are deserving. Teachers needed to be paid more. I come
from a house full of school teachers. My grandma was, my dad who is
in the audience today, he's a schoolteacher, had been for many
years. My brother, who I think is the best schoolteacher in the
year, and here's a shout-out to all those third graders at Gladys
Wood Elementary School, you get extra credit for watching the
Education in America has been in some sense in some of our states
just accepted to be a little bit lax, and we have got to increase
the standards. No Child Left Behind was implemented. It's not doing
the job though. We need flexibility in No Child Left Behind. We need
to put more of an emphasis on the profession of teaching. We need to
make sure that education in either one of our agendas, I think,
absolute top of the line. My kids as public school participants
right now, it's near and dear to my heart. I'm very, very concerned
about where we're going with education and we have got to ramp it up
and put more attention in that arena.
IFILL: Everybody gets extra credit tonight. We're going to move
on to the next question. Governor, you said in July that someone
would have to explain to you exactly what it is the vice president
does every day. You, senator, said, you would not be vice president
under any circumstances. Now maybe this was just what was going on
at the time. But tell us now, looking forward, what it is you think
the vice presidency is worth now.
PALIN: In my comment there, it was a lame attempt at a joke and
yours was a lame attempt at a joke, too, I guess, because nobody got
it. Of course we know what a vice president does.
BIDEN: They didn't get yours or mine? Which one didn't they get?
PALIN: No, no. Of course, we know what a vice president does. And
that's not only to preside over the Senate and will take that
position very seriously also. I'm thankful that the Constitution
would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that
vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate and
making sure that we are supportive of the president's policies and
making sure too that our president understands what our strengths
are. John McCain and I have had good conversations about where I
would lead with his agenda, and that is energy independence in
America and reform of government over all, and then working with
families of children with special needs. That's near and dear to my
heart also. And in those arenas, John McCain has already tapped me
and said, that's where I want you, I want you to lead. And I said, I
can't wait to get and there go to work with you.
BIDEN: Gwen, I hope we'll get back to education because I don't
know any government program that John is supporting, not early
education, more money for it. The reason No Child Left Behind was
left behind was the money was left behind, we didn't fund it. But we
can get back to that I assume.
With regard to the role of vice president, I had a long talk, as
I'm sure the governor did with her principal, in my case with
Barack. And let me tell you what Barack asked me to do. I have a
history of getting things done in the United States Senate. John
McCain would acknowledge that. My record shows that on controversial
issues. I would be the point person for the legislative initiatives
in the United States Congress for our administration. I would also,
when asked if I wanted a portfolio, my response was, no. But Barack
Obama indicated to me he wanted me with him to help him govern. So
every major decision he'll be making, I'll be sitting in the room to
give him my best advice. He's president, not me, I'll give my best
And one of the things he said early on when he was choosing, he
said he picked someone who had an independent judgment and wouldn't
be afraid to tell him if he disagreed. That is sort of my
reputation, as you know. So I look forward to working with Barack
and playing a very constructive role in his presidency, bringing
about the kind of change this country needs.
IFILL: Governor, you mentioned a moment ago that the Constitution
might give the vice president more power than it has in the past. Do
you believe as Vice President Cheney does, that the Executive Branch
does not hold complete sway over the office of the vice presidency,
that it it is also a member of the Legislative Branch?
PALIN: Well, our founding fathers were very wise there in
allowing through the Constitution much flexibility there in the
Office of the Vice President. And we will do what is best for the
American people in tapping into that position and ushering in an
agenda that is supportive and cooperative with the president's
agenda in that position. Yeah, so I do agree with him that we have a
lot of flexibility in there, and we'll do what we have to do to
administer very appropriately the plans that are needed for this
And it is my executive experience that is partly to be attributed
to my pick as V.P. with McCain, not only as a governor, but earlier
on as a mayor, as an oil and gas regulator, as a business owner. It
is those years of experience on an executive level that will be put
to good use in the White House also.
IFILL: Vice President Cheney's interpretation of the vice
BIDEN: Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice
president we've had probably in American history. The idea he
doesn't realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role
of the vice president of the United States, that's the Executive
Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that.
Everyone should understand that.
And the primary role of the vice president of the United States
of America is to support the president of the United States of
America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought,
and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time
when in fact there's a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.
The only authority the vice president has from the legislative
standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote. He has no
authority relative to the Congress. The idea he's part of the
Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to
aggrandize the power of a unitary executive and look where it has
gotten us. It has been very dangerous.
IFILL: Let's talk conventional wisdom for a moment. The
conventional wisdom, Governor Palin, with you, is that your Achilles
heel is that you lack experience. Your conventional wisdom against
you is that your Achilles heel is that you lack discipline, Senator
Biden. What id it really for you, Governor Palin? What is it really
for you, Senator Biden? Start with you, governor.
PALIN: My experience as an executive will be put to good use as a
mayor and business owner and oil and gas regulator and then as
governor of a huge state, a huge energy-producing state that is
accounting for much progress towards getting our nation energy
independence and that's extremely important.
But it wasn't just that experience tapped into, it was my
connection to the heartland of America. Being a mom, being one who
is very concerned about a son in the war, about a special needs
child, about kids heading off to college, how are we going to pay
those tuition bills? About times and Todd and our marriage in our
past where we didn't have health insurance and we know what other
Americans are going through as they sit around the kitchen table and
try to figure out, how are they going to pay out-of-pocket for
health care? We've been there also so that connection was important.
But even more important is that worldview that I share with John
McCain. That worldview that says that America is a nation of
exceptionalism. And we are to be that shining city on a hill, as
President Reagan so beautifully said, that we are a beacon of hope
and that we are unapologetic here. We are not perfect as a nation.
But together, we represent a perfect ideal, and that is democracy
and tolerance and freedom and equal rights. Those things that we
stand for that can be put to good use as a force for good in this
John McCain and I share that, and you combine all that with being
a team with the only track record of making a really, a difference
in where we've been and reforming, and that's a good team, it's a
BIDEN: You're very kind suggesting my only Achilles heel is my
lack of discipline.
BIDEN: Others talk about my excessive passion. I'm not going to
change. I have 35 years in public office. People can judge who I am.
I haven't changed in that time.
And, by the way, a record of change -- I will place my record and
Barack's record against John McCain's or anyone else in terms of
fundamental accomplishments. Wrote the crime bill, put 100,000 cops
on the street, wrote the Violence Against Women Act, which John
McCain voted against both of them, was the catalyst to change the
circumstance in Bosnia, led by President Clinton, obviously.
Look, I understand what it's like to be a single parent. When my
wife and daughter died and my two sons were gravely injured, I
understand what it's like as a parent to wonder what it's like if
your kid's going to make it.
I understand what it's like to sit around the kitchen table with
a father who says, "I've got to leave, champ, because there's no
jobs here. I got to head down to Wilmington. And when we get enough
money, honey, we'll bring you down."
I understand what it's like. I'm much better off than almost all
Americans now. I get a good salary with the United States Senate. I
live in a beautiful house that's my total investment that I have. So
I -- I am much better off now.
But the notion that somehow, because I'm a man, I don't know what
it's like to raise two kids alone, I don't know what it's like to
have a child you're not sure is going to -- is going to make it -- I
I understand, as well as, with all due respect, the governor or
anybody else, what it's like for those people sitting around that
kitchen table. And guess what? They're looking for help. They're
looking for help. They're not looking for more of the same.
PALIN: People aren't looking for more of the same. They are
looking for change. And John McCain has been the consummate maverick
in the Senate over all these years.
He's taken shots left and right from the other party and from
within his own party, because he's had to take on his own party when
the time was right, when he recognized it was time to put
partisanship aside and just do what was right for the American
people. That's what I've done as governor, also, take on my own
party, when I had to, and work with both sides of the aisle, in my
cabinet, appointing those who would serve regardless of party,
Democrats, independents, Republicans, whatever it took to get the
Also, John McCain's maverick position that he's in, that's really
prompt up to and indicated by the supporters that he has. Look at
Lieberman, and Giuliani, and Romney, and Lingle, and all of us who
come from such a diverse background of -- of policy and of
partisanship, all coming together at this time, recognizing he is
the man that we need to leave -- lead in these next four years,
because these are tumultuous times.
We have got to win the wars. We have got to get our economy back
on track. We have got to not allow the greed and corruption on Wall
And we have not got to allow the partisanship that has really
been entrenched in Washington, D.C., no matter who's been in charge.
When the Republicans were in charge, I didn't see a lot of progress
there, either. When the Democrats, either, though, this last go-
around for the last two years.
Change is coming. And John McCain is the leader of that reform.
BIDEN: I'll be very brief. Can I respond to that?
Look, the maverick -- let's talk about the maverick John McCain
is. And, again, I love him. He's been a maverick on some issues, but
he has been no maverick on the things that matter to people's lives.
He voted four out of five times for George Bush's budget, which
put us a half a trillion dollars in debt this year and over $3
trillion in debt since he's got there.
He has not been a maverick in providing health care for people.
He has voted against -- he voted including another 3.6 million
children in coverage of the existing health care plan, when he voted
in the United States Senate.
He's not been a maverick when it comes to education. He has not
supported tax cuts and significant changes for people being able to
send their kids to college.
He's not been a maverick on the war. He's not been a maverick on
virtually anything that genuinely affects the things that people
really talk about around their kitchen table.
Can we send -- can we get Mom's MRI? Can we send Mary back to
school next semester? We can't -- we can't make it. How are we going
to heat the -- heat the house this winter?
He voted against even providing for what they call LIHEAP, for
assistance to people, with oil prices going through the roof in the
So maverick he is not on the important, critical issues that
affect people at that kitchen table.
IFILL: Final question tonight, before your closing statements,
starting with you, Senator Biden. Can you think of a single issue --
and this is to cast light for people who are just trying to get to
know you in your final debate, your only debate of this year -- can
you think of a single issue, policy issue, in which you were forced
to change a long-held view in order to accommodate changed
BIDEN: Yes, I can. When I got to the United States Senate and
went on the Judiciary Committee as a young lawyer, I was of the view
and had been trained in the view that the only thing that mattered
was whether or not a nominee appointed, suggested by the president
had a judicial temperament, had not committed a crime of moral
turpitude, and was -- had been a good student.
And it didn't take me long -- it was hard to change, but it
didn't take me long, but it took about five years for me to realize
that the ideology of that judge makes a big difference.
That's why I led the fight against Judge Bork. Had he been on the
court, I suspect there would be a lot of changes that I don't like
and the American people wouldn't like, including everything from Roe
v. Wade to issues relating to civil rights and civil liberties.
And so that -- that -- that was one of the intellectual changes
that took place in my career as I got a close look at it. And that's
why I was the first chairman of the Judiciary Committee to
forthrightly state that it matters what your judicial philosophy is.
The American people have a right to understand it and to know it.
But I did change on that, and -- and I'm glad I did.
PALIN: There have been times where, as mayor and governor, we
have passed budgets that I did not veto and that I think could be
considered as something that I quasi-caved in, if you will, but
knowing that it was the right thing to do in order to progress the
agenda for that year and to work with the legislative body, that
body that actually holds the purse strings.
So there were times when I wanted to zero-base budget, and to cut
taxes even more, and I didn't have enough support in order to
But on the major principle things, no, there hasn't been
something that I've had to compromise on, because we've always
seemed to find a way to work together. Up there in Alaska, what we
have done is, with bipartisan efforts, is work together and, again,
not caring who gets the credit for what, as we accomplish things up
And that's been just a part of the operation that I wanted to
participate in. And that's what we're going to do in Washington,
D.C., also, bring in both sides together. John McCain is known for
doing that, also, in order to get the work done for the American
IFILL: Let's come full circle. You both want to bring both sides
together. You both talk about bipartisanship. Once again, we saw
what happened this week in Washington. How do you change the tone,
as vice president, as number-two?
BIDEN: Well, again, I believe John McCain, were he here -- and
this is a dangerous thing to say in the middle of an election -- but
he would acknowledge what I'm about to say.
I have been able to work across the aisle on some of the most
controversial issues and change my party's mind, as well as
Republicans', because I learned a lesson from Mike Mansfield.
Mike Mansfield, a former leader of the Senate, said to me one day
-- he -- I made a criticism of Jesse Helms. He said, "What would you
do if I told you Jesse Helms and Dot Helms had adopted a child who
had braces and was in real need?" I said, "I'd feel like a jerk."
He said, "Joe, understand one thing. Everyone's sent here for a
reason, because there's something in them that their folks like.
Don't question their motive."
I have never since that moment in my first year questioned the
motive of another member of the Congress or Senate with whom I've
disagreed. I've questioned their judgment.
I think that's why I have the respect I have and have been able
to work as well as I've been able to have worked in the United
States Senate. That's the fundamental change Barack Obama and I will
be bring to this party, not questioning other people's motives.
PALIN: You do what I did as governor, and you appoint people
regardless of party affiliation, Democrats, independents,
Republicans. You -- you walk the walk; you don't just talk the talk.
And even in my own family, it's a very diverse family. And we
have folks of all political persuasion in there, also, so I've grown
up just knowing that, you know, at the end of the day, as long as
we're all working together for the greater good, it's going to be
But the policies and the proposals have got to speak for
themselves, also. And, again, voters on November 4th are going to
have that choice to either support a ticket that supports policies
that create jobs.
You do that by lowering taxes on American workers and on our
businesses. And you build up infrastructure, and you rein in
government spending, and you make our -- our nation energy
Or you support a ticket that supports policies that will kill
jobs by increasing taxes. And that's what the track record shows, is
a desire to increase taxes, increase spending, a trillion-dollar
spending proposal that's on the table. That's going to hurt our
country, and saying no to energy independence. Clear choices on
IFILL: Governor Palin, you get the chance to make the first
PALIN: Well, again, Gwen, I do want to thank you and the
commission. This is such an honor for me.
And I appreciate, too, Senator Biden, getting to meet you,
finally, also, and getting to debate with you. And I would like more
opportunity for this.
I like being able to answer these tough questions without the
filter, even, of the mainstream media kind of telling viewers what
they've just heard. I'd rather be able to just speak to the American
people like we just did.
And it's so important that the American people know of the
choices that they have on November 4th.
I want to assure you that John McCain and I, we're going to fight
for America. We're going to fight for the middle-class, average,
everyday American family like mine.
I've been there. I know what the hurts are. I know what the
challenges are. And, thank God, I know what the joys are, too, of
living in America. We are so blessed. And I've always been proud to
be an American. And so has John McCain.
We have to fight for our freedoms, also, economic and our
national security freedoms.
It was Ronald Reagan who said that freedom is always just one
generation away from extinction. We don't pass it to our children in
the bloodstream; we have to fight for it and protect it, and then
hand it to them so that they shall do the same, or we're going to
find ourselves spending our sunset years telling our children and
our children's children about a time in America, back in the day,
when men and women were free.
We will fight for it, and there is only one man in this race who
has really ever fought for you, and that's Senator John McCain.
IFILL: Thank you, Governor. Senator Biden.
BIDEN: Gwen, thank you for doing this, and the commission, and
Governor, it really was a pleasure getting to meet you.
Look, folks, this is the most important election you've ever
voted in your entire life. No one can deny that the last eight
years, we've been dug into a very deep hole here at home with regard
to our economy, and abroad in terms of our credibility. And there's
a need for fundamental change in our economic philosophy, as well as
our foreign policy.
And Barack Obama and I don't measure progress toward that change
based on whether or not we cut more regulations and how well CEOs
are doing, or giving another $4 billion in tax breaks to the Exxon
Mobils of the world.
We measure progress in America based on whether or not someone
can pay their mortgage, whether or not they can send their kid to
college, whether or not they're able to, when they send their child,
like we have abroad -- or I'm about to, abroad -- and John has as
well, I might add -- to fight, that they are the best equipped and
they have everything they need. And when they come home, they're
guaranteed that they have the best health care and the best
You know, in the neighborhood I grew up in, it was all about
dignity and respect. A neighborhood like most of you grew up in. And
in that neighborhood, it was filled with women and men, mothers and
fathers who taught their children if they believed in themselves, if
they were honest, if they worked hard, if they loved their country,
they could accomplish anything. We believed it, and we did.
That's why Barack Obama and I are running, to re-establish that
certitude in our neighborhoods.
Ladies and gentlemen, my dad used to have an expression. He'd
say, "champ, when you get knocked down, get up."
Well, it's time for America to get up together. America's ready,
you're ready, I'm ready, and Barack Obama is ready to be the next
president of the United States of America.
May God bless all of you, and most of all, for both of us,
selfishly, may God protect our troops.
IFILL: That ends tonight's debate. We want to thank the folks
here at Washington University in St. Louis, and the Commission on
There are two more debates to come. Next Tuesday, October 7th,
with Tom Brokaw at Belmont University in Nashville, and on October
15th at Hofstra University in New York, with Bob Schieffer.
Thank you, Governor Palin and Senator Biden. Good night,