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Text Of Democratic Debate (7)

KERRY: But here is what is important with respect to North Korea. I believe that between China, Japan and South Korea and our own interests, and the state of the economy in North Korea and their own interests, there is a deal to be struck.

And what is quite extraordinary is that this administration did not follow up on the extraordinary work of Bill Perry, of Bill Clinton, President Clinton, and the work that they did to actually get inspectors and television cameras into the Pyongyang reactor. Now they're gone.

This administration has made the world less safe because they were unwilling to continue that dialogue.

RATHER: Senator Edwards?

KERRY: I will go back immediately to that dialogue. And I believe we can avoid the very situation you describe.

BUMILLER: But, Senator Kerry, they did make some progress this weekend in those talks. How can you...

KERRY: Yes, but, Elizabeth, let me tell you something. The progress is so minimal, it is so slow, and it's begrudging. And they are not doing the kind of direct, head-to-head negotiations.

And I have said that I would put all of the issues of the peninsula on the table, not just the nuclear issue, but the economic, the human rights, the deployment of forces. There are major issues there...

RATHER: Senator Edwards, is this talking the question to death? And as president, would you be prepared to commit American military power to subdue North Korea under the circumstances I outlined?

EDWARDS: I would never take that option off the table.

I think the starting place, the starting place -- first of all, these negotiations that have just taken place, and John mentioned all of the countries -- Russia, in addition to that -- that were participating in these discussions, we need all of these countries involved.

But the problem is, we weren't leading the discussions. We were sitting in the background. The South Koreans were making proposals; others were making proposals. We weren't leading.

The reality is that this is a serious, serious threat. They have allowed this to get to crisis situation. I said that at the very beginning about the whole problem with Haiti. This is a pattern. This is not an isolated incident. This is a pattern.

Now we're in crisis, and now they're doing something. But why was Colin Powell not there? Why were we not seriously leading these negotiations?

What we need is we need to demand that they stop their nuclear weapons program. We need to have absolute ability to verify that that's occurring. And we need to be willing to give something in return.

KUCINICH: And in order to have credibility, in order to have credibility, John, we should be canceling our nuclear programs. We're building new nuclear weapons.

How can we tell North Korea, you shouldn't have a nuclear program...

BUMILLER: Let's move on...

RATHER: Sorry, I have to call a television time-out here.

KUCINICH: Dan, we have to work for nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear abolition.

And as president, I would meet with the leader of North Korea and assure him that we mean North Korea no harm; he can put away is weapons. We need to do that with the whole...

RATHER: Congressman, what I need to do is to point out that we need a two-minute drill here now. We're inside the two-minute mark. If we have a two-minute grill, please.

The fence or wall in the Middle East -- the Israelis say it's a fence, the Palestinians call it a wall.

Senator Kerry, what do you call it?

KERRY: A fence necessary to the security of Israel until they have a partner to be able to negotiate.

RATHER: Reverend Sharpton?

SHARPTON: I think it's a fence, but I think that we must keep Palestinian rights in mind.

And I think it will not work unless we have cooperation of all sides, and we not in any way, shape or form have an unbalanced Middle East policy that we've had so far.

RATHER: Fence or a wall?

EDWARDS: It is a fence, both symbolically and in reality. There are only a very few miles of it that are made of concrete.

And the Israelis have the right to protect themselves. And I agree that until we get to the place that they have a real partner, which America has to play an enormous role in, they're entitled to build the fence.

RATHER: Congressman?

KUCINICH: When Israel builds something on its territory, it's a fence. But when they build something on the Palestinians' territory, it's a wall.

And I think that we need to help bring the parties together, for peaceful coexistence and restart the peace talks.

RATHER: I want you to keep in mind, we have about a minute-15.

Ms. Bumiller?

BUMILLER: Really fast, on a Sunday morning, President Bush has said that freedom and fear have always been at war, and God is not neutral between them. He's made quite clear in his speeches that he feels God is on America's side.

Really quick, is God on America's side?

KERRY: Well, God will -- look, I think -- I believe in God, but I don't believe, the way President Bush does, in invoking it all the time in that way. I think it is -- we pray that God is on our side, and we pray hard. And God has been on our side through most of our existence.

BUMILLER: Senator?

EDWARDS: Well, there's a wonderful story about Abraham Lincoln during the middle of the Civil War bringing in a group of leaders, and at the end of the meeting one of the leaders said, "Mr. President, can we pray, can we please join in prayer that God is on our side?" And Abraham Lincoln's response was, "I won't join you in that prayer, but I'll join you in a prayer that we're on God's side."

SHARPTON: And I think that's the point...

BUMILLER: Reverend Sharpton?

SHARPTON: I think it's important we're on God's side, as I said earlier, that we must (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

But I also think we've got to heal this president from feeling like he and America is the same thing. God is on America's side. That does not mean He supports what George Bush...

RATHER: Fifteen seconds, Congressman.

KUCINICH: We need to break the spell of fear which is over this country. Remember where we come from as a country. When Francis Scott Key wrote that "Star-Spangled Banner," he made the connection when he said, "Does that star-spangled banner yet wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave?" The connection between democracy and courage.

I would call out the courage of the American people, and defend our rights, cancel the Patriot Act, reestablish the fullness of our democracy.

RATHER: Congressman and Senators, Reverend, our time is up. We want to thank the Democratic candidates for president, all of you, for joining us here today, and particularly for participating in this kind of discussion.

Senator John Kerry, Senator John Edwards, Congressman Dennis Kucinich and the Reverend Al Sharpton.

President James Madison once said, "A people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with knowledge." We hope we've added some of that this morning.

Thank you all very much.

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