YouTube video

The deep divide between candidates is clear as they clash over issues appearing for the first time in presidential debates. With Jacqueline Luqman, Dharna Noor, and Marc Steiner as host

Story Transcript

MARC STEINER: Welcome to The Real News Network, and welcome back to our election … Election night, I’m sorry. It’s not election night at all. It will be soon inside my head. Welcome to our discussion of last night’s debate among the Democrats. This is our third segment, and we are joined by two of our correspondents here at The Real News, Jacqueline Luqman and Dharna Noor. I’m glad you both are here in the studio.


DHARNA NOOR: Thank you.

MARC STEINER: There’s so much to talk about in this. It was a really interesting evening, and we’re going to focus this segment on both climate change and foreign affairs. To kick it off, let’s look at what Andrew Corkery, our visual producer, put together around climate change and take a look at this and then we’ll discuss it.

ANDREW YANG: The truth is even we were to curb our emissions dramatically, the earth is still going to get warmer. This is going to be a tough truth, but we are too late. We are 10 years too late.

GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE: But climate change is not a singular issue, it is all the issues that we Democrats care about. It is health. It is national security. It is our economy, and we know this, middle ground solutions, like the vice president has proposed or mid-lean average size things are not going to save us.

JOE BIDEN: There is no middle ground about my plan. The fact of the matter is I call for the immediate action to be taken.

DANA BASH, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

JOE BIDEN: I also want to invest $400 billion.

DANA BASH: Thank you, sir.

JOE BIDEN: In research for new alternatives to deal with climate change.

DANA BASH: Mr. Yang, your response?

JOE BIDEN: And that’s bigger than any other purse.

DANA BASH: Would there be any place for fossil fuels including coal and fracking in a Biden administration?

JOE BIDEN: No, we would work it out. We would make sure it’s eliminated and no more subsidies for either one of those, any fossil fuel.

GOVERNOR JAY INSLEE: The time is up. Our house is on fire. We have to stop using coal in 10 years, and we need our president to do it or it won’t get done. Get off coal. Save this country and the planet.

SENATOR KAMALA HARRIS: We currently have a president in the White House who obviously does not understand the science. He’s been pushing science fiction instead of science fact. The guy thinks that wind turbines cause cancer, but what in fact they cause is jobs.

CONGRESSWOMAN KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: Why not have a green energy race with China? Why not have clean air and clean water for all Americans? Why not rebuild our infrastructure? Why not actually invest in the green jobs? That what the Green New Deal’s about.

CONGRESSWOMAN TULSI GABBARD: Long before there was ever a Green New Deal, I introduced the most ambitious climate change legislation ever in Congress, called the Off Fossil Fuels Act. That actually laid out an actionable plan to take us from where we are today to transition off of fossil fuels and invest in green renewable energy, invest in workforce training, invest in the kinds of infrastructure that we need to deal with the problems and the challenges that climate is posing to us today.

MARC STEINER: This is a really important issue and clearly having Governor Inslee on this panel really pushed the envelope a great deal last night. I think it will push it even more in this election because that is his singular issue, but he makes it an all-encompassing issue. Dharna, let me start with you and your analysis of what you saw, because you cover this climate, you run the climate bureau for us here. Why don’t you describe what you think you saw last night?

DHARNA NOOR: Yeah. I guess first of all, I was happy to see that it’s a very low bar, but I was happy to see climate change raised as an issue at all. I think it’s important to remember that when the Democratic party actually asked its voters what they wanted to hear about at these debates, climate change was the number one issue that came up and yet, we still only got 15, 16 minutes. I think it just again, shows the need for an entire debate devoted to climate change.

I agree that I think that Inslee is really … He’s pushing the ticket in a way that I think is really important. He’s laying the ground for really using regulation and maybe even the power of the public sector to phase out of fossil fuels by banning them, not just removing subsidies like Biden wants to do. That said, I do think it’s important to lift up some of his record in Washington where he’s governor. He has been very strong on his federal proposals, but he was also supporting an LNG plant in the state of Washington or two actually, I believe in the state of Washington until just a couple months ago. Emissions rose in Washington from 2012 to 2015. I don’t know. I’m really glad that he’s pushing the conversation, but I think really that means that everybody, even the most radical candidate, needs to do even more.

MARC STEINER: It seems to me, and one of the things about climate change for the entire population of this country, also has to do with you have to really get the conversation in a broad enough way so people all buy into it and understand it. Everything from talking about ending coal example, right? That scares workers.


MARC STEINER: Because they make a real living at coal and steel, and all the things we do. They’re the highest paying jobs in America, and you’re asking these people to quit their jobs, cut out their industry, and go work for $15 an hour installing solar. That just doesn’t work, and environmental justice issues, and involving communities of color, and poor communities that are battling all this environmental injustice in our country. The way they have to start framing it, I think to make this the issue that people can understand why, as Inslee said, is all encompassing.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: Yeah. I think that what I was looking for one of them to do that I didn’t see any of them do was connect all of these different issues, climate change and healthcare and climate justice and why proposals like the Green New Deal or moving to some program, some very large government-sponsored program that includes a component that is a transition from fossil fuel jobs to renewable energy jobs is desperately necessary, because Marc, when you brought up people who work in the coal industry feeling like their jobs are threatened, well, who are some of the sickest people in this country?


JACQUELINE LUQMAN: People who work in the coal and fossil fuel industries. One of the reasons they stay at those jobs is not necessarily always because they make so much money. It’s because of the health coverage they get to deal with the issues, the health issues that if they stay at these jobs for long enough, inevitably experience. If we can tie the need to get off coal to the reduction that people will see in their health issues, so they don’t need these health insurance plans that are offered by these fossil fuel industries that they know they have to offer to their employees or else their whole workforce would literally die. Right?

DHARNA NOOR: Yeah, 100%.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: If we can connect that and make it clear to people that this is beneficial … Getting off of fossil fuel is beneficial to your health, it will make you healthier, and you will get another … We’ll retrain you for a job in renewable energy. Maybe you won’t be making as much money on paper as you were making working in the coal mines for 20 years, but your renewable energy company also won’t have to subsidize a massive health insurance plan either, so you won’t lose any money. You will be here for your family. You’ll have your health, and you’re not going to go broke, and we save the country because we’re not saving the planet here, we’re saving ourselves.

MARC STEINER: Well, I think that this … I’ve had these debates before in different forms, and I think … Because one of the things that we do miss in these conversations, health is a huge issue. Clearly, I think it’s a huge issue in this, and I think you’re right about that, but the money is a big issue because people who work in the oil fields in Louisiana and Texas and people who work in oil fields in Wyoming are the highest paid workers in their communities and in West Virginia. They’re the highest paid workers in their communities.

You can’t live their lifestyle. You can’t take care of your children if you start working at the wages that you have in renewable because that’s part of the problem. We have this … We, unions, have lost power. Those industries are not unionized. Workers are not making a decent wage. As for the public option, it’s important for health, I think, but it’s a real issue, and I think that you’re not going to get the majority of working people in America to really buy in until you start saying that these are going to be … As people said last night, these are going to be union jobs paying union wages.


JACQUELINE LUQMAN: I’m sorry. Go ahead.

DHARNA NOOR: Oh, no. Go right ahead.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN:  This is also why we have to connect the argument for unions in this discussion as well. The issues surrounding climate change are not isolated issues. It’s not just we’re going to die in 10 years.

DHARNA NOOR: Yeah. For sure.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: That’s not it. It is healthcare. It is good union jobs. It is justice for marginalized communities. It is keeping fossil fuel plants and refineries out of poor communities, so that people can have a healthy environment to live and raise their children in. All of these arguments are connected. I was so waiting for somebody to make those connections last night, and nobody really did.

DHARNA NOOR: Yeah. Inslee said … He said, of course, all of these issues are connected, but where was the person … Him or somebody else, where was the person who in the conversation about immigration was going to inject the effects of the climate crisis and climate change into that conversation? The effects of the climate crisis on forced migration? Where is the person who was going to say, “Okay. We’re talking about criminalization, talk about the way that each of you would prohibit the criminalization of people who are protesting fossil fuels, including obviously a lot of the times, poor people, marginalized people, Native people, people of color of all sorts.” I think that it’s so easy to say, “Yes. This is not a singular issue,” and I’m really happy that somebody is finally saying that, especially in the face of someone like Joe Biden. But I think that in order to really take that to the next level, we need to bring the climate crisis into every single part of this debate. It can’t just be a 15-minute segment by itself. The climate crisis affects every facet of human life.

MARC STEINER: That’s a really important point too, I think that the problem with all these things especially climate as you’re talking is that they’re always isolated in talking about climate change and not connecting the dots for everybody, and that’s what they have to do, I think, exactly what you’re saying.

DHARNA NOOR: Yeah. To your point, I think it takes a real economic restructuring. I was pretty disappointed to hear Andrew Yang say that he thought that his UBI proposal would be a good climate justice plan, as in if we just give everybody money, they can have to money to move away from the places that are most affected by—

MARC STEINER: Higher up.

DHARNA NOOR: Yeah, exactly. Everyone is not going to be able to run away. Frankly, the UBI that he’s proposing would not be enough for everyone to be able to do that in the first place.

MARC STEINER: No, not on a thousand bucks a month. But with Yang last night, I’ll digress here for a moment before we start talking about foreign policy. He’s really interesting. He’s very bright, has a lot to say and I think people like his style, and he obviously walked out of that debate last night with a great deal, more support and interest than he had walking into that debate.


MARC STEINER: But he does become … I think as you’re alluding to this one note, Johnny, in some ways. Always coming back to his universal income. I think that’s his main piece along with a real issue, which is [inaudible] talk about is automation, artificial intelligence, replacing workers with machines and robots, and America is just not planning or dealing with that because basically capitalists don’t care.


JACQUELINE LUQMAN: Yeah. That’s true. I was amused at first, but then really disturbed by Yang’s answer to everything is UBI. UBI is a good idea. It’s necessary. I think it will address some issues, but it is not a magic bullet. It’s not going to fix everything.

DHARNA NOOR: It certainly won’t fix anything if it’s that low and triggers lower wages and I don’t know. I especially think that in the case of something that will affect every part of the world and in such deeply inequitable ways, to say that the UBI is a way to solve the climate crisis is just mind boggling to me, but …

MARC STEINER: Let’s switch gears here and go to foreign affairs, and this was also an interesting conversation I think took place. I think also it’s one of Tulsi Gabbard’s shining moments in this debate as well. Given that she is one of the few veterans on either stage last night or the night before. Let’s check this out.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: There are about 14,000 US service members in Afghanistan right now. If elected, will they still be in Afghanistan by the end of your first year in office?

SENATOR CORY BOOKER: Well, first of all, I want to say very clearly that I will not do foreign policy by tweet as Donald Trump seems to do all the time. A guy that literally tweets out that we’re pulling our troops out before his generals even know about it, is creating a dangerous situation for our troops in places like Afghanistan. I will bring our troops home, and I will bring them home as quickly as possible.

CONGRESSWOMAN TULSI GABBARD: This is about leadership. The leadership I will bring to do the right thing to bring our troops home within the first year in office, because they shouldn’t have been there this long. For too long, we’ve had leaders who have been arbitrating foreign policy from Ivory Towers in Washington without any idea about the cost and the consequence, the toll that it takes on our service members, on their families. We have to do the right thing, end these wasteful regime change wars, and bring our troops home.

JAKE TAPPER: Thank you. Thank you.

JOE BIDEN: I opposed the surge in Afghanistan. This is long overdue, we should’ve not in fact gone into Afghanistan.

JAKE TAPPER: Thank you. When you voted to go to war in Iraq as a US Senator?

JOE BIDEN: I did make a bad judgment trusting the president saying he was only doing this to get inspectors in and get the UN to agree to put inspectors in. From the moment shock and awe started, from that moment, I was opposed to the effort and I was outspoken as much as anyone at all in the Congress and administration.

JAKE TAPPER: I would like to bring in the person on the stage the person who served in Iraq, Congresswoman Gabbard, your response to what Vice President Biden just said?

CONGRESSWOMAN TULSI GABBARD: We were all lied to. This is the betrayal. This is the betrayal to the American people, to me to my fellow service members, we were all lied too. Told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The problem is that this current president is continuing to betray us. We were supposed to be going after Al-Qaeda. But over years now, not only have we not gone after Al-Qaeda, who is stronger today than they were in 9/11, our president is supporting Al-Qaeda.

MARC STEINER: That was tough.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: That was tough, and I expected nothing less from Gabbard because we know that she is very strongly anti-war. What I’m about to say is going to anger a lot of Gabbard’s supporters, but I think it needs to be said. It’s fine to be anti-war, and we need to end these wasteful endless wars, but when you’re talking about regime change and imperialism that the United States and its allies are involved in, what Gabbard said about politicians making decisions about these wars, and they don’t know the cost, yes, they do.

They know the cost. They know what’s going to happen with the soldiers that they send into war to fight them. They know what’s going to happen in the countries that they implement these actions in. That’s why they do it, and they literally don’t care because the return on their investment from the defense contractors and from the control of oil fields and mineral deposits in the countries that these politicians go to invade, that’s what they want. They’re not concerned about the human cost to the American soldiers. They’re not concerned about the fallout in American society from all of our resources going to prop up these wars, and they’re certainly not concerned about the brown and Muslim and other people that they’re affecting. I think her narrative is slightly off-center of what the reality is.

MARC STEINER: Except … Go ahead, Dharna.

DHARNA NOOR: No, no. Go ahead.

MARC STEINER: Except I think though that I don’t think you were incorrect at all, but I think that for the majority of American people watching Tulsi Gabbard say this, that meant a lot.


MARC STEINER: You know what I’m saying? Because it’s like some of it’s because what we do and think about and write about, we get into the weeds and stuff to look at the analysis, and most people just don’t. It’s because people’s live aren’t built around it, and they see what she is saying because their cousin, their brother, their sister was sent to fight or went over to fight and came back a wreck. We’ve seen what this stuff has done to our foreign policy, whether it’s George Bush and Iraq and what we did in Afghanistan, or whether it was Hilary Clinton and Obama and what they’ve done to Libya, and watching everything being torn asunder.

I think that it was Michael Bennet last night who had made an interesting point. I don’t think we have this particular clip, but what he said was … I think he was one of the people … Hickenlooper said it the night before which is that we need to pull out, but how do you leave the people whose lives were disrupted high and dry? That’s I think people who are anti-war or progressive on the spectrum don’t think about. Pulling out of Afghanistan, what happens to the women? What happens to the people of Afghanistan when you leave because you destroyed their country or Iraq? All of that. That is also something that we don’t fit into the equation when we try to figure out how we end the madness that we’ve created.

DHARNA NOOR: I also don’t think that anybody on the stage last night or the night before, whatever, say, “Okay. We’re pulling out,” and then it just happens overnight, like we’re sending a plane over and taking all the troops. I agree that it’s a blind spot, and I think that we could do more to flush out what it would look like to actually pull out troops, but I think first, we need a commitment from everybody to actually do so in the first place. Also, just a side note, really incredible to see somebody on the stage and this is obviously not an indorsement or anything, but really incredible to see somebody on the stage calling out the fact that the United States through Saudi Arabia and the UAE is actually working with Al-Qaeda. I thought that was pretty incredible, and of course, [crosstalk].

MARC STEINER: That’s important. Do you want to say more about that?

DHARNA NOOR: I think probably a lot of people have heard her say that, particularly maybe moderates who …

MARC STEINER: Hear, but don’t get it.

DHARNA NOOR: Right. Maybe even think that it’s a bit conspiratorial, but maybe people don’t realize the amount of reporting that shows the United States has worked with Saudi Arabia and the UAE to give American weapons to Al-Qaeda. It’s a, I think a well-documented fact and I’m sure that many people have heard her say that last night and thought that she was doing something on the level of like being a 9/11 truther or something.


DHARNA NOOR: But it’s, I think important to call out that that’s actually true.

MARC STEINER: I don’t know but this segment, I don’t know if we have this clip we talked … But I think it’s Michael Bennet when he was talking about the money. If we have it, we will put it up. We might not have it, but he said, “We had $5. trillion spent on these wars, these endless wars.” What that would mean if it was invested in this country, in poor communities, in workers, in our schools. That’s something that’s a really important point, I think to drive home.

DHARNA NOOR: Endless wars, by the way, a long time term that’s been used by a more radical veteran communities. I was pretty excited to see that people has adopted that language, this election cycle. Not to bring everything back to the climate crisis, but …

MARC STEINER: Oh, please bring it back.

DHARNA NOOR: But again, like the Pentagon, I feel like I’ve said this a billion times, and I apologize for being a broken record, but the Pentagon is the number one institutional emitter of greenhouse gases and the number one consumer of fossil fuels. I earlier was speaking about even Jay Inslee needing to be questioned and when my colleague Will and I were at Netroots Nation a few weeks ago in Philadelphia, I was able to ask him, you are going to take on …


DHARNA NOOR: Ask Jay Inslee.


DHARNA NOOR: Yeah. I said, “Governor Inslee, if you’re going to take on the climate crisis, will you also take on the military-industrial complex? Will this mean that you will remove funding from the military?” The military is such a huge contributor to the climate crisis. He basically gave a very wishy-washy answer. He didn’t seem to think that there was any need to do so, even though he did say that he would cut funding to the military. Again, I think all of the funding that’s going to these endless wars, to these forever wars as we’ve also seen them called, could fund all of the kinds of infrastructure that you’re talking about and something like a Green New Deal.

MARC STEINER: Right. Exactly, and something like a Green New Deal. Tying these knots together for people makes sense.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: Yeah, it does. To your point about being excited that establishment politicians or any politicians are on a debate stage on a national stage using the phrase endless wars, I was also … I will give her credit. Tulsi Gabbard saying regime change, saying the words, regime change. I understand that my analysis is way left. It’s way left of the Democrats, of all of them on that stage, so I’m going to take a view of, “Look, anything these establishment politicians say is always going to come up short to what I think the ideal really should be for us to be a thriving community nation of people,” but I also have to understand that you’re right, Marc. Most people in America are not even close to that. Most people in America are really looking at … They have two choices, Republican or Democrat. That’s really it. From that perspective, to have somebody on that stage say endless wars and regime change and then call out how much money we’re spending a year on those things. Then, it does like prick the imagination of people.


JACQUELINE LUQMAN: Even if they’re thinking, “Well, what does she mean that this president is helping Al-Qaeda?” People begin to start thinking and that’s where we can make an end road for the political education that I would like to see us engage more in.

DHARNA NOOR: Right. While it’s true, I think that the analysis that you are offering is obviously to the left of everybody on that stage, and many of the people who will be coming out and voting for anyone on that stage. I don’t think that these ideas are really unpopular. I don’t think that it’s unpopular amongst even … Whether you identify as a radical or a conservative or whatever, I don’t think it’s unpopular to say, “Stop spending money on wars where people abroad are getting harmed, where we’re getting harmed, we’re affecting the climate in ways that are irreparable.” I really don’t think that that’s too radical to inject into the political conversation in this moment.

MARC STEINER: As I said before in other conversations here in other places is that people buy into progressive ideas, it’s the labels they don’t like from the left and progressive worlds. Whether it’s Medicare for all, Pre-K and funding things for our children, and people want that, but so we have to understand that if they were smart, Democrats, they would go out and figure that out with their multi-racial coalition with men and women at the forefront together. They would figure that out. We’ll see if they do. With that, I want to thank both of you, Dharna Noor and  Jacqueline Luqman for being a part of this segment here.


DHARNA NOOR: Thank you so much.

MARC STEINER: We will continue our conversations about what happened last night in this debate. Coming up, we’ll look at impeachment and other issues that came up in this debate and how they might affect our future. You don’t want to miss that segment as well, and I’m Marc Steiner here for The Real News Network. Thank you all for joining us. Take care.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Dharna Noor is a staff writer at Earther, Gizmodo's climate vertical.

Jacqueline Luqman is a host and producer for TRNN. With more than 20 years as an activist in Washington, DC, Jacqueline focuses on examining the impact of current events and politics on Black, POC, and other marginalized communities in the US and around the world, providing a specific race and class analysis at the root of these issues. She is Editor-In-Chief and a co-host of the social media program Coffee, Current Events & Politics in Luqman Nation with her husband, and is active in the faith-focused progressive/left activist community.