Democratic Debate Fields Frank YouTube Questions Video questions submitted via the Web site YouTube shook up the usual campaign debate for Democratic contenders. Questions included lesbians asking about gay marriage; parents with sons in Iraq asking about the war; and a snowman asking about global warming.
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Democratic Debate Fields Frank YouTube Questions

Hear NPR's Mara Liasson

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.


NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson was there.

MARA LIASSON: Unidentified Man #1: I'm wondering, since this is such a revolutionary debate, that if you as politicians can do something revolutionary, and that is to actually answer the questions that are posed to you tonight versus beating around the bush, so to speak. That would be wonderful.

LIASSON: The videos were homemade but they got right to the point. Barry Mitchell from Philadelphia pushed the Democrats to go beyond the easy chorus of end the war now.

BARRY MITCHELL: Are we watching the same blankin' war? I certainly wasn't a big fan of the invasion/liberation. It sickens me to hear about soldiers wounded and getting killed daily, not to mention innocent Iraqis. But how do we pull out now? The government is shaky, bombs daily. And isn't our responsibility to get these people up on their feet?

LIASSON: Although the Democrats are united on ending the war, they don't agree on how to get out. Here's Senator Joseph Biden.

JOSEPH BIDEN: You know we can't just pull out now. Let's get something straight. It's time to start to tell the truth. The truth of the matter is, if we started today, it would take one year - one year - to get 160,000 troops physically out of Iraq logistically.

LIASSON: But New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson wants out - lock, stock and barrel.

BILL RICHARDSON: There's a difference between the senators and me on when we get our troops out. I've been very clear - six months but no residual forces.

LIASSON: Since she cast her vote to authorize the war, Senator Hillary Clinton has moved steadily to align herself with the anti-war sentiment in her party. But last night she said she was for a safe, orderly and careful withdrawal, which may mean a slower one than some Democrats want.

HILLARY CLINTON: You know, I have done extensive work on this, and the best estimate is that we can probably move a brigade a month if we really accelerated; maybe a brigade and a half or two a month. That is a lot of months.

LIASSON: Senator Barack Obama took the opportunity to remind voters that he opposed the war from the beginning, and Clinton did not.

BARACK OBAMA: The time for us to ask how we were going to get out of Iraq was before we went in, and that is something that too many of us failed to do. We failed to do it.

LIASSON: When Obama says we, he means she. The candidates were also asked about whether they would be willing to meet, without pre-conditions, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Cuba and North Korea. Here's Senator Obama.

OBAMA: I would, and the reason is this - that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration, is ridiculous.

LIASSON: Senator Clinton got the question next.

CLINTON: Well, I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous, diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are. I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes.

LIASSON: Unidentified Man #2: Hello, Democratic candidates. I've been growing concerned that global warming, the single most important issue to the snowmen of this country, is being neglected.

LIASSON: There was the woman who wanted to know, if elected, would the candidates agree to be paid minimum wage, and the cancer patient who took off her wig to reveal a head-turned-bald by chemotherapy. And there was this.

MARY: Hi, my name is Mary.

JEN: My name is Jen.

MARY: And we're from Brooklyn, New York. If you were elected president of the United States, would you allow us to be married to each other?

LIASSON: Only one of the candidates gave them the answer they wanted to hear - Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich.

DENNIS KUCINICH: Mary and Jen, the answer to your question is yes.

LIASSON: Then there was the guy who sang his question about taxes.

INSKEEP: (Singing) My taxes put some kids through college; I can't afford to send myself. Now, tell me, if you were elected president, what would you do to help?

LIASSON: Unidentified Man #3: (Singing) Pay taxes on my land. Every year y'all make me pay...

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