tv Cory Booker CNN Presidential Town Hall CNN March 27, 2019 7:00pm-8:15pm PDT
to the -- and welcome to a cnn presidential democratic town hall with cory booker. i'm don lemon. senator booker made -- making history as the first black senator from new jersey. he is now pitching optimism as the best way to defeat president donald trump. you can applaud to that. tonight senator booker is going to take questions from democrats, from independents who say that they plan to participate in the democratic primaries or caucuses. also in our audience tonight, students, faculty, and staff from the city's two historically black universities, hbcu's clapland, and south carolina state. please welcome senator cor why h booker, everyone. get on up here.
how are you doing, brother? >> so good to see you. >> thank you. wow, look at the reception. you want to sit? >> sure. >> so this is the land of barbecue. >> it is. >> and you're a vegan. what's that like? >> what's that like? >> how has that been for new. >> it's been a great experience for me for well being. when you come from a family that literally owned a soul food restaurant, my mom and dad t may have caused some trouble. but now they understand that for health reasons, it's a good way to go. >> but you're not eating barbecue down here, right? maybe putting a little sauce on the vegetables. welcome. >> it's good to be here. >> so we're going to start off with our audience questions now. first one is tawania herbert, a health care professional from columbia. she's a supporter of yours. there she is. >> good evening. >> good evening, tawania. >> so even though you have proposed legislation and policies that positively impact our country, moving forward, many people just want to defeat
trump in 2020 and are critical of your approach for campaigning on love and unity. what do you say to those people? >> i am so grateful for this question because i do hear it from time to time, even from some of my friends. but let's just first say that we all agree about the urgency of this moment, to beat donald trump. now, you can applaud that definitely. [ applause ] and i'm uniquely qualified. i've gone up against titans, bullies, through my new jersey politics. in fact, i don't think anybody in this race has been through the kind of tough politics i've been through. there's even a documentary about it called "street fight." but we win this election not by showing the worst of who we are but by the best of who we are. you see, donald trump wants us to fight him on his terms. to me, that is not only a recipe for losing the election, it's a recipe for losing the ability to move this country forward.
[ applause ] we have to understand that what americans want is not to know what we're against. they want to know what we're for. and in this moral moment in this country where we're seeing moral vandalism from the highest office in the land, somebody who is twitter trash talking and trolling, this is a time that we as democrats have an opportunity not to go around and say, hey, we're going to beat republicans, but to stand up with the ideal of uniting americans. [ applause ] i believe very firmly that you can't lead the people if you don't love the people, all of the people. and we need that energy. we need that leadership. the only way to beat hate is not bringing more hate. it's by bringing love and hope and uniting people to solve the persistent injustices in our country. i'm going to do that, and that's ho actually how we are going to win. [ applause ]
>> she's from columbia. she's a program manager at the south carolina commission on education. what's your question? >> hi. the visibility of police brutality has increased because of video from dash cams and cell phones, and marijuana is now a legal and profitable business. these issues have disproportionately impacted people of color. what are usual thoughts on the disparate treatment in police everyo encounters for people of color and commuting the sentences of those currently in prison for marijuana-related offenses without retribution. >> wow, i can't tell you how grateful i am for this question because in this climate where many states are moving to legalize marijuana, i have a lot of frustrations as a person who understands exactly what you're saying. we fundamentally have different laws in this country that are treating people differently. now, look, there are still marijuana arrests. in 2017, there were more marijuana arrests in this
country than all violent crime arrests combined. and marijuana enforcement is disproportionately impacting black and brown communities. you don't see stop and frisks often on college campuses like stanford where i went, but you see them targeting communities for these types of arrests. let me give you an example. there is no difference in america between using and even selling marijuana between blacks and whites. but if you're african-american in this country, you're almost four times more likely to be arrested for that. and by the way, when you get arrested for marijuana in this country, it is like getting a lifetime sentence. imagine this. you now have a conviction for doing things that two of the last three presidents admitted to doing, and you leave now, and you can't get a business license. you can't get jobs. you can't get a loan from a bank. it's like a lifetime sentence, compressing your economic well being. that's why when i heard all of this about marijuana legalization, i fast put a bill into the senate called the marijuana justice act, which is
about decriminalizing marijuana on the federal level, letting the states do what they want, but very importantly, and i'm hoping all of us, when we talk about marijuana legalization or decriminalization, in the same breath we've got to talk about expunging the records of everyone who is still suffering. [ applause ] and so i talk about issues of bringing this country together, but it's not for a kumbaya moment. it's about bringing this country together to pursue the ideals of our nation, which is justice. right now we have a lot of injustice in our criminal justice system being borne by the poor, disproportionately, the minorities. if i am your president, i'm going to fight to have sane drug laws and make sure that we expunge the records of those people who are going through convictions and the aftermath from things like marijuana. >> so i have to ask you, senator, let's follow up on regine's question. considering where you lived, you lived in housing, and drugs were sold there.
would you consider mass pardons or commutations for federal marijuana offenses? >> absolutely. look, in america, one of my friends, brian stephenson, says that we have a criminal justice system that treats you better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent. we have a criminal justice system in this war on drugs that has resulted, whiby the way, in increase since 1980 alone of 500% in our prison population. 500%. while other countries were restoring their infrastructure, building mass transit, the one infrastructure we were building out is a new prison or jail every ten days between the time i was in law school and the time i was mayor of the city of newark. and this, again, is impacting communities of color because the war on drugs has been a war on people. and so as president of the united states, your job is to pursue justice, and what we see right now is so many folks suffering. now, i passed a comprehensive criminal justice reform bill with other senators on both
sides of the aisle. the first time since those horrible crime bills back in the 1990s, passed this legislation working across the aisle to move forward. you know who i brought to the state of the union was a guy who had a life sentence, a life sentence for being in possession of an amount of crack cocaine weighing less than a baseball. this is tragic, unjust, and violates our values. and one of my focuses as president of the united states will be to balancing the scales of justice and having a criminal justice system that reflects our highest ideals. >> rashad gaines is here. rashad gaines is from aiken, south carolina. he's the founder of black progressions and advocacy group and was a delegate for senator bernie sanders in the 2016 democratic national convention. >> i'm sorry. it's rashad? >> rashad gains. >> thank you for being here. >> thank you for having me, sir. many people feel that president obama was unable to fight race relations while in the white house due to the democrats losing the house, the senate, and governorships across the
country. if the cards were aligned the same way, how would you handle yourself during those times, and also how would you be different than president obama in dealing with race while in the white house? >> well, first of all, i'm not going to accept the premise that we can't continue to win elections and allow us to have the house and the senate. what we just saw in 2018 is extraordinary. we took back the house of representatives because many people who were not involved -- we had some of the highest record turnouts in my lifetime in a midterm election. and so if i'm president of the united states, i'm also leader of the democratic party, and i'm going to make sure that right after i'm elected to be united states president, i turn around and challenge us to in all 50 states, to build a democratic party that can win at all levels because i'm going to be very frank with you here in south carolina. we may have a president that's of the democratic party, but a lot of the problems here in south carolina, savage cuts to education, the failure --
[ applause ] -- the failure to expand medicaid, these things are happening because we're not taking back enough statehouses. by the way, these aren't partisan issues. you talk to americans, and we agree on so much more than our politics indicate. and so i'm going to be a leader of the party that fights to make sure that we are building a nationwide party that can win legislative seats, mayor's races, that can win congressional seats, and make sure we don't go into that valley where we lose the house or the senate. >> senator, i want to ask you more directly to his question, how will you be different in dealing with race in america than president obama? >> that's a very important second part of that question. look, i have spent my career being a person that has -- from the time i left law school, i live in an inner city community. i'm the only person in this race that lives in an inner city
black ask brown communind brown. they're rich in spirit, but they live in an area where the median income is about $14,000 per household. these are issues i've been fighting for my entire professional career, to make sure that the issues that we're struggling with in this country, that are racial disparities that exist throughout our system. in health care, a lot of americans don't know that maternal mortality rates, we lead the planet earth, but for black women, it's almost four times higher than white women. let's take something like asthma, the most common health reason why kids miss school in america in general. but you know that black youth are ten times more likely to die of asthma complications than white youth? so this is not something to me that i just talk about. my entire career has been about trying to balance these scales and address these disparities using creative ways. and in newark when i was mayor, we did it. we accomplished a lot of things to give -- to balance those
racial scales. so i have a particular expertise in dealing with these issues. as a united states senator, i've passed legislation from the criminal justice reform bill that i've already mentioned, even a bill with tim scott, your senator across the aisle, on something called opportunity zones to make sure areas of our country that have not gotten the investment in jobs they need, the lowest income areas, many of which are in this state, have different tax treatment to attract investment, to create jobs and opportunities in communities that have been denied that. so give me the chance to fight for all of america and to deal with these disparities that we have in our economy, in our health care, even in education. [ applause ] >> so an issue, senator, that has been a hot button issue on the campaign trail, reparations. would you be in favor of direct monetary payments to black americans who are descendants of slaves? >> can i tell you why i'm frustrated by this reparations conversation? it's because it's being reduced
to a broox to check on a presidential list when this is so much more of a serious conversation. so do i -- [ applause ] do i support legislation that is race conscious about balancing the economic scales? not only do i support it, but i have legislation that actually does it. in fact, i've got the only legislation, i think, in the entire congress that columbia university says would virtually eliminate the racial wealth gap in our country. it's something called baby bonds, which means that every child born in america would get a bond when they're birthed, $2,000 placed in it. and during the time every year of their life, depending on their family's income, they would have more money placed in it. the lowest income americans, by the time they reach 18 years old, would have upwards of $50,000, real wealth to invest in going to school or education, starting a business, buying a home. so the ideas i'm bringing to the table with very much conscious towards closing racial gaps is there, but let me go further than that. this is one of the things that
frustrates me about this conversation. since slavery in this country, our nation's original sin, we have had overt policies fueled by white supremacy and racism, but it didn't start with slavery. it went even beyond the reconstruction period to the jim crow period. many of the best ideas we've had in america that have ushered millions of americans into the middle class, blacks were systematically excluded from the g.i. bill to even social security is written to try to exclude the professions african-americans were in. even in my lifetime, you had red-lining. you had mortgage loan problems. in fact, my family, to move into new jersey from washington, d.c., had to get a white family to pose as them in order to buy the house i grew up in. so what i'm saying to you, and my frustration is we don't have a way of addressing head-on in this country the persistence of racism, the persistence of white
supremacy and impolice tlicit r bias. how do we talk about black protesters? they're thugs. you see it in our politics. willie horton and welfare queens. these tired tropes that still show up and allow things to happen like mass incarceration, which has implicit racial bias in our criminal justice system that hurts blacks. so i want to make sure we are dealing with the problem. that's why i support hr-40, which is a bill in the house that would bring together the best minds in america to deal with this issue. not only trying to right economic scales from past harms, but to make sure we are a country that creates a more beloved community where all dignity and humanity is affirmed of every single person. >> it's a complicated question. exactly. what are reparations, and i think that's part of the conversation. we're going to move on. i want to go to miriam birdsong. she's a retired nurse and educator from somerville, south carolina. she's also the first vice chair of the dorchester county democrats. >> thank you for your question. >> thank you, sir. after 43 years of working as a nurse, i now find that i'm
disabled. my medications and my physician costs are astronomical. i have medicare and private insurance, but they're expensive, and they still don't cover my costs. the current administration thinks that the free market is the best route for people. just put some money aside, they say, and it will cover my medical expenses. the problem is where is that money coming from? can you explain to us, sir, how you're going to help folks like me who have worked and paid into this system? how are we going to do this? >> thank you, miriam. thank you for that question. >> thank you. >> and your struggles, some days, i'm sure like a lot of americans you feel alone in it. but this is one of those things. all across our country there are people struggling with the same issues as you. in a system that is the most expensive system on the planet earth, we spend about 18% to 20% of our gdp on health care and we still have folks struggling to
get by because all that money we're spending doesn't go to patient care, doesn't go to support folks like you. this is a broken system, and we must fix it. if i'm your president, i'm going to make sure we deal with this. the ideal in our country is that everyone should have access to health care. health care is an american right, and the current system is definitely wrong [ applause ] i believe the best way to get there is by having medicare for all. but anybody who says that in politics, they need to get to some explaining because that's an ideal that we have to show a pathway to get there through practical things. they aren't going to make people's situations worse but help it get better. here's some things we can do in the first year should i be your president. number one, those drugs and expenses you're talking about, that is outrageous. too many americans put aside life-saving drugs because they can't afords them. we can drive those prices down doing common sense things that even republicans talk about but we're not getting done. those are things like using
medicare's bargaining power to drive down costs. that means allowing on a bill i wrote with senator sanders, and senator casey, allowing imports from other countries safely. and i'll tell you what, we're going to drive down drug prices by doing what other countries do. they simply say that if you're going to have a drug in their country and raise the price in their country higher than others, there are going to be penalties for that. if i'm president of the united states and you raise your drug prices higher than other countries, we're going to have a definitely penalty. we're going to take away your patent and let generics come in and undercut those prices. i'm going to give you within more example, and something again common sense. you know, on our way to getting to medicare for all, we could just lower medicare eligibility to 55, allowing people to have it as an option to buy into. even companies can use that as an option. what that's going to do is not only giving folks like you lower costs, but also for those folk who's are left in private pools b pulling older folks out, it's
going to make those healthier pools and drive down the costs. there are many common sense things we can do on our glide path to health care for everyone. the most important thing is to relieve the financial burden on too many families that are hurting in the most expensive system on the planet earth that fails to produce the kind of outcomes that this nation deserves for all of its citizens. >> senator, david alexander works for a health care non-proftd in columbia. it is focused on the aids epidemic. >> hello, senator booker. when you first ran for the u.s. senate, you accepted contributions to your campaign from the pharmaceutical industry. can we trust you to be tough on them when it comes to fighting the greed of this industry? shouldn't the government be required to engage in price negotiation with drug companies? >> david, you are talking to some of the same issues i just talked about. but first you asked me, which is really important, on an issue of trust. i am in politics because i was representing low-income folks.
it was a bunch of tenant leaders to elect me to my first office in newark. the map sits behind my desk so i never forget why i got into politics and who i'm fighting for. those people left out and who are often taken advantage of by powerful forces and interests. so when it comes to pharmaceutical companies, when i was mayor, i put together projects that lowered prescription drugs for my residents. i've made a declaration years ago before i was running for president that i would not take pharmaceutical executives' contributions. so let me give you this comm commitme commitment. i will not only not take pharmaceutical executive money, and i will not take lobbyists money. i'm going to tell you right now that i'm going to remember the people that put me in office in my very first race, and every single day i'm going to fight for folks like those in newark
and like those here in orangeburg. >> you said you pledge not to take pac money. do you regret taking corporate money in the past from pharmaceutical companies? >> look, i live in a pharmaceutical state and a lot of these data that's being thrown around the internet obscures the fact. there's a lot of folks that live in my city in low income neighborhoods that work for pharmaceutical companies, hundreds of thousands of jobs. that gets obscured, lumped into one number. i'm happy now that i'm one of the folks that's takes the citizens united pledge to have clean money and clean campaigns. president or not, this is the way to go. >> do you reget it or no? >> do i regret taking pharmaceutical executive money? i didn't need it, and i'm glad now i'm not taking it. >> let's bring in yvonne jones, a retired mental health counselor. >> hi. i believe the current president, the most corrupt and dangerous in history -- [ applause ] i believe he should be impeached
regardless of whether mueller's report provides a smoking gun, direct evidence of a crime. there are plenty of grounds for impeachment in plain sight, and in fact i think it would be a blow to our democracy if impeachment proceedings are not attempted. under what circumstances would you support impeachment, and how far will you go to make it successful? >> wow. [ applause ] >> so i understand your sense of urgency and even your sense of disgust about seeing what's coming from the white house. can't even condemn nazis. in the last budget, literally trying to cut from billions of dollars out of our medicare and medicaid programs after saying publicly that i wasn't going to cut them. it seems like every day that i wake up, it's not just the toxic twitter trolling and trash
talking. it's actually policies that are really hurting people. from a president who it seems like everybody around him now has been indicted or convicted of serious crimes, from his private lawyer to his campaign manager. so i understand the sense of urgency to get rid of him, but i'm going to tell you this. i'm going to wait for the mueller report to tuactually be released. you see now our attorney general wants to say, hey, we're going to give you the cliff notes version. no. you are a trump appointee. i don't need you to filter facts. i want to see it. [ applause ] and you see how they try to change the rules. when bill clinton, president bill clinton was impeached, that report, the starr report that was done on him, they released it the very next day publicly. it was in newspapers all across the land. we should see that report and make our decisions based upon that. but this is what i'm going to commit to you right now. i'm going to commit to you that we are going to beat donald trump, that we are going to have
this nation through the electoral process send him packing from the white house because i think there are a majority of americans who believe just like you do, and i look forward to having the opportunity to lead us to that victory. >> let me follow up on that. i want to get the language right. you call it the cliff notes version of the mueller report. the special counsel robert mueller said the investigation did not establish that members of the trump campaign conspired or coordinated with russia to influence the election. the attorney general, right, and rod rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, they cleared president trump on obstruction. so i'm just wondering does that take impeachment specifically off the table for new. >> i don't think we should come to any conclusions until we have seen the report. the public has a right to know what is in that report, and we should wait and make our conclusions after we have read it, not after it's been filtered through a trump appointee -- >> it sounds leike it's not off the table. >> again, i'm waiting for the results of that report. by the way, there are other investigations going on in the southern district of new york, in fact, all the way from california to new york, there
are folks investigating the potential criminal activity of this president. >> all right. >> we should see where that lead. >> good questions, right? >> great questions. >> you guys are great. okay. so stand by. we're going to be right back with more from cnn's democratic presidential town hall with senator cory booker live from orangeburg, south carolina. make sure you stay with us at home. i'm working to keep the fire going for another 150 years. ♪ to inspire confidence through style. ♪ i'm working to make connections of a different kind. ♪ i'm working for beauty that begins with nature. ♪ to treat every car like i treat mine. ♪ at adp we're designing a better way to work, so you can achieve what you're working for. ♪
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welcome back, everyone, to cnn's democratic presidential town hall with senator cory booker. we're live in orangeburg, south carolina. so we're going to get back to the audience in a moment, but i want to talk to you about your personal story, okay? >> please. >> you've been on my mind all week because i've been reading your book. >> you texted me about that, yeah. >> here's what i want to tell you. you did your ancestry. >> yes. >> and i did mine. you got further back in your ancestry than i was able to because you know many african-americans can't go back further than 1870. >> and that's because the first time african-americans were included in the census. >> right. so in your family lines, they include salaves, slave owners,
native americans, and a confederate soldier. the most important thing you learned in exploring your ancestry. >> when i was a kid, i used to hear songs about the pilgrims and the first settlers and always felt like that didn't include me. but to find that, you know, slaves have been in this country since 1619 and to be able to go back generations into slavery, and then he found out i have ancestry that he traced a direct line to ancestors that arrived here in 1640. and so it was a profound expansion of my understanding not only about my family but about our country. there were all, i thing -- we were all caught in an -- we are far more interwoven as a country than we know. and to see that about us was really inspiring to me to kind of continue to try to let folks know the lines that divide us are not as strong as the ties that bind us. >> it was amazing to have white relatives reach out and say, i'm your cousin. >> my grandfather from louisiana, literally he was a lot lighter skinned than his brothers and sisters.
skip went back and tested the dna of white families and found my mom's first half cousin. it was an amazing reunion in the show. >> you would be the first unmarried president in over 130 years. what are the odds that we would see a wedding in the white house? [ applause ] >> i am -- >> would you guys like that. >> i am worried about where this is going. is this cnn or tmz? >> it's cnn. you guys want to know, right? >> yeah! >> there you go. they want to know. >> i have an incredible girlfriend. she's just simply amazing, and i am hopeful as is my mother. >> and that is rosario dawson. >> yes. >> so you've been dating -- you called her. you said recently that she'd be an incredible first lady. >> well, i want you to know that let's not get ahead of this. right now she is an incredible girlfriend. i'm very lucky to be in a relationship with someone who is just so incredibly special, but
more importantly has taught me so much in a very short period of time. >> i ask you because you've been very open about it as has she. how did you guys meet? >> we had a meeting once at a political fund-raiser for ben jealous, who was running for governor. i was trying to help him out, but she didn't give me the time of day. so we met again, and i had one of those really awkward experiences. i'm a united states senator, and i had to get up the courage to walk up to her and ask her for her phone number. and this doesn't make me nervous, but that made me nervous. >> and? >> she gave me the phone number, yes. [ applause ] >> all right. i'm sure you would like to get back to the -- >> i would like to get back to the policy, please. >> okay. >> please. so we have cnn/tmz. >> but we do have serious stuff we want to talk about. i think it's important we get back to our audience. my next question is from rachel morey. she's a stay at home mom. she's from north carolina. rachel?
>> hello. >> hi, rachel. >> i was terrified to send my daughter to school when she began kindergarten this year. it's devastating that my 6-year-old had to be taught how to hide and stay quiet in case someone came to her school to shoot people. how can we talk about being free in this country when we have to leave each day in fear of gun violence in schools, places of worship, concerts, and even from law enforcement? what is your plan to ensure our safety and freedoms? >> rachel, thank you for that question. that fear you're feeling is something that we see in americans now who fear going to their house of worship, who fear going to a concert, and it is so horrific that in america, we have in the aggregate a mass shooting every day because dozens of people are shot and killed. i am frustrated with politicians who all the best they can muster is to give thoughts and prayers.
enough of that. enough of that [ applause ] and i'm telling you right now, we as americans on most of the core issues, on so many of them, we actually agree. gun owners and non-gun owners agree we need to have universal background checks and close so many of those loopholes. and the nra does not represent their membership because their membership agrees with closing those loopholes. if i'm your president, we're going to bring the fight to the nra who wants to represent corporate gun owners, manufacturers, more than they want to represent the people because this is what they're doing to americans. they're defending loopholes like that loophole that if a man is convicted of beating his wife, he can find a loophole to go out and buy a gun and murder her. they're defending not their membership, but loopholes, like the loophole that says that someone on the terrorist no-fly list in our country can still go to a gun show and buy weapons or that somebody that's convicted
of a violent crime can still find a loophole to go and buy a weapon. now, i am -- i live in newark, and my mayor is doing a great job in lowering crime, but there are shootings. i think i'm the only person in this race that has shootings on this black. sha haud smith was killed with an assault rifle on my block last year, on the top of the block where i live. and this is very personal to so many of us. me, because i'm a black man, and black males are 6% of the nation's population. but they make up the majority of homicide victims in this country. i am tired of going to funerals where parents are burying their children. [ applause ] and so i am going to bring a fight. we are going to bring a fight like the nra has never seen if they're going to defend corporate gun manufacturers more than represent the people. we are going to bring that fight on every level necessary.
i'm a guy that's taken on tough fights before and won them, and this is one that we are going to win together. [ applause ] >> that is a very important issue that will be lots to talk about as you get closer to the election. i want to turn now and talk about the green new deal. >> yes. >> a sweeping proposal. it's going to fight climate change and overhaul to transition to clean energy. i want to bring in mary wright, after office manager from myrtle beach, south carolina. >> thank you, sir. this week, representative sean duffy mocked efforts to combat climate change as elitist fantasy. but being from a coastal town, i've seen the devastating damage increasingly intense hurricanes can inflict on low-income communities and communities of color in particular. so i would like to ask would you support the green new deal, especially if nuclear power options were included? >> so first of all, i already support the green new deal. this resolution of bold vision is what we need, and we come from a country that put forward bold visions like the president who said we're going to go to
the moon. folks didn't attack him and say, wait a minute. that sounds irresponsible. what kind of rocket? no. people leaned in and said, i'm inspired by that vision. let's make it into something real we can implement, and we in america did it. so right now i believe having been a mayor that dealt with these issues, that there are so many things that we can do and turn into legislation to deal with the planetary crisis. because he says that this is elitist fantasy. well, i say look at the military reports. i read what the military is preparing for for 20, 25 years from now. when i'm younger than the current president about. we have a country that is preparing through its military to deal with planetary crisis, with famines and refugee problems, with the kind of extremism that comes when people are so desperate because the climate is changing and they have no hope and no opportunity. if the military takes this seriously, then this country's leadership should take it seriously too and do bold things. so let me give you some
pragmatic things real quick. when i was mayor, i found out we can environmentally retrofit buildings, lower our carbon footprint, create good union jobs and apprenticeship programs. there are so many win-win-wins for us like that if we do a real infrastructure plan, if we double down on research and development. and i agree with you. nuclear has to be part of this solution. next-generation nuclear is so much safer, uses spent fuel rods. there's a way to go about this in a bold, comprehensive way to get us back to being a country that leads on the planet earth and doesn't follow. that's why one of the first things i do, should i be president, will be rejoining the paris climate accords to make sure that america is partnering with others on the planet to deal with this problem. [ applause ] >> so you say you support the green new deal. >> yes. >> okay. just this week in the senate, a vote came up. you voted present instead of yes. i know that members of your party say -- >> we all joined together to do
that. >> that mitch mcconnell is playing politics with the vote. so if you support it, then why not just vote yes? >> because i don't need to play on mitch mcconnell's terms, who until recently failed to admit there was a crisis. and the cynicism that they're showing by not putting real plans on the senate floor to deal with this crisis, things again, that americans agree on. so much i'm trying to remind people in this campaign that we have common pain, be it climate change or health care. democrats, republicans, independents, we have a common pain, but we've lost our sense of common purpose. mitch mcconnell is not showing any ideas or unifying the senate to move forward when there's a lot of territory to do that. i will not play his cynical, political games. i'm going to be a leader that actually puts real solutions into legislation to deal with the climate crisis. >> all right, senator. theresa jennings. she's an elementary school principal from right here in orangeburg. >> good evening, senator. >> good evening. >> my question is do you believe there should be some type of reform to the electoral college, or should it remain as it is?
>> teresa, thank you for the question. i believe very simply that in presidential elections, the person with the most votes should be the president of the united states. [ applause ] but i want to tell you for us ever to get to a point where we can address that issue, we have got to win this next election under the rules that are there now. so it's nice to hear all this conversation going on, but we have about 595 days to win this election, and the way we're going to do it is by getting a lot of folks off the sidelines. democracy is not a spectator sport, okay? folks got to get active and get engaged because you as an african-american woman, i want you to know you are the best voting demographic in america. [ applause ] trust me, my mom lives in las vegas, reminds me of that every single day. but i'll tell you this. even people who are voting at 60%, 70%, that's not enough. we've got to let the african-american women inspire
gen xers and millennials, inspire all of us, because i believe if more people vote, our democracy is better. you know how i know that? it's because i see the way cynical republicans are trying to make it harder and harder for people to vote, especially african-americans. [ applause ] and so the cure for these anti-democratic, the cure for these anti-democratic problems is not to surrender. it's to get up, get involved, get engaged, and let's change it together. >> we've got more to come. we're going to be right back with more from cnn's democratic presidential town hall with senator cory booker live from orangeburg, south carolina, so make sure you stay with us. jus. a place miles from the beaten path. overcoming twists and turns, ups and downs.... whatever life throws. a place to always strive for.
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chase? >> yes. senator, under the current administration, we have seen the rights of the lgbtq community chipped away. trump has banned transgender people from serving in our military. he's announced plans to slash global aids/hiv funding in the 2020 budget, and his administration supports discrimination of the lgbtq people under the guise of religious liberty. what will you do to right these wrongs and improve the life for lgbtq americans? >> so, chase, i'm very conscious when i walk onto that senate floor. all the people that had to fight to give me the rights for my generation of african-americans. and the folks who marched for my rights and fought for my rights with a full rainbow of america. they were black, white, christian, jewish, you name it, including day, straight, and trans americans. and knowing we are not free because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. true freedom is not achieved until everyone has justice.
to live in a nation where you have a president doing such harm to lgbtq students, let me tell you one thing you didn't name. this is one of the reasons i fought so hard against betsy devos being the secretary of education. it's because she has gutted the civil rights division of the department of education, pulling back protections for lgbtq kids. we now live in a country where 30% of lgbtq kids report not going to school because of fear, because of fear. we need to be a nation that protects all of its residents and most people will be shocked to know that in the united states of america, in the majority of our states, people who can post on there about their gay marriage up on their website, the next day if they go to work, they can be fired just because they're gay with no legal recourse whatsoever. this is injustice. and if we swear an oath to liberty and justice for all, we must fix this. that's why i'm a original co-sponsor of the equality act.
i don't need to wait to be president to fight for the rights of my brothers and sisters in this country. [ applause ] but directly to your question, if i am president of the united states, i will reverse these decisions that donald trump made, starting with allowing transgender patriots to serve in our military. and then i will take on the larger fight of uniting this country like we did for civil rights, for workers' rights, for women's rights. i will unite this country in the fight to make sure that lgbtq americans and all americans have justice and equality under the law. [ applause ] >> senator, i'm sure you're aware of what's going on in chicago, the prosecutors just dropped all the charges against jussie smollett, who is accused of staging a hate crime against himself in january. you originally said that it was a modern day liynching before saying you needed more information. you know the mayor of chicago states it was a hoax. he's calling it a whitewash of justice. is that what happened here?
>> i don't know all the details in the prosecutor's decision. i know that's going to come out. what we've got to know is this is happening in a larger context where hate crimes in this country are on a rise, where white supremacist violence is on the rise. if you look at the majority of terrorist attacks since 9/11, the majority have been done by homegrown right wring supremist groups and the majority have been white supremacist groups. so i know this issue is being discussed a lot. but why aren't we discussing the rise in anti-semitic acts, the
rise in violence and islamophobic acts, the rise in racism? and for donald trump to cut funding from the justice department to investigate, i mean he talks about terrorism all the time. but to cut funding to investigate these domestic terrorist groups, these white supremacist groups, is making us less safe. and for him to fail even to condemn nazis or even to talk about white supremacy as a problem in this country, to me, that is being complicit in the
violence that is happening, and i find that unacceptable and repugnant. i will be a president that faces the threats to this country, including violence coming from right-wing extremist groups. >> jen godman is from fort mills south carolina. she oversees a nonprofit that helps children with autism and is a supporter of yours. >> you very adamantly opposed betsy devos for the secretary of you once gave a speech for the american federation for children. what is your current position on that topic? >> i'm really grateful for that question because a lot of misleading information is out there. i was mayor of the city of newark and before that i lived in high rise projects for about eight years and saw what shouldn't happen in america which are parents struggling to send their children to schools and begging for other options. as a local leader i was going to
find options to serve the 55,000 or so kids in my community, and we found a lot of ways to make sure the great public education i got growing up in one section of new jersey we got for all our kids and we produced results. and i fought for excellent schools. in fact i fought to close low performing charter schools. and we created for our local community, which believes one size doesn't fit all, and now in newark we made national news. we are the number one city in all of america for beat the odds schools. high poverty, high performance. and if you're a black kid in newic, which is a majority of our kids, your chance to beat the wealthiest suburb went up 300%. and my record and vision for public education is the reason why when i ran for senate they endorsed me.
you talked about your beautiful child who has autism. well, as senator and especially when i become president, should i become president, i'm going to make sure that we support public schools by fully funding special needs education. right now it's funded about 18%. we're up to 40%, and we make sure public schools aren't starved of resources, which are making parents desperate to find other options. >> so senator, how do you respond to people who say charter schools aren't worth it, they erode public schools for everyone? >> look, i think the people in south carolina have a case to make. some of tease laws are written by lawmakers who control legislators, and there are areas in new jersey even that many of us joined together to stop. because in a rural area and one public school doesn't work. i say again and again local leaders need to find the best
solutions for public education that work for them. whether it's charter or district, local leaders have to support it. on the federal level, your president, my goal is that everyone in america regardless of zip code has a great public school. and we do that by funding our public schools. and god, we do that by supporting our public schoolteachers, forgiving their debt, increasing their salaries and making sure we're drawing more people into the profession. >> a student at south carolina state university and also a recipient of the daca program offering protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the u.s. illegally by their parents. >> when the trump administration took away daca, tps rights many students like me were left in limbo in deportation. >> first of all, i am grateful
for your question. we need to be a country that has immigration laws that reflect our common values. and to take dreamers, for example, who are americans in every way except for a piece of paper. and they're entrepreneurs, first responders, they're teachers. i have a dreamer in my state who i brought down to washington, d.c. who she started a tech platform that employs hundreds of people. and so to create an environment where they're suffering stress and anxiety and worry right now that they may face deportation, that is so un-american and works against our economic interests. you're question was how do i permanently help that? when i become president immediately i'm going to reserve trump's actions and gives those daca folks a pathway to citizenship. we need comprehensive immigration reform and you know that. it's for people with tpa status in thus country now facing
immigration. i.c.e. agents make many of our communities less safe because of ooez raids at school and courthouses. i have local police in my state telling me now they're afraid to come forward and even report crimes that are necessary to create a safer environment for us all. the kind of thing going on, it is a direct abuse to our values. we would be the nation that wants to be a light of moral strength to all of this country, that we should be a nation that separates children from families, puts children in cages, makes our community and country less safe, less economically secure, and ultimately un-american. this nation that was built so much on immigration, i will change that as your president, afirm our values and create an immigration system that keeps us safe and works in accordance to our values as well. >> we're going to be back with more with senator cory booker live from orangeburg, south
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welcome back, everyone. we're live in orangeburg, south carolina. reverend james vegan is a pastor here in orangeburg. reverend james vegan. all right. >> you are. i'm not. i am a pastor here in town and in my faith tradition we keep partisan politics out of the pull pit. but as a citizen and a person of faith i do have my own opinions and i find president trump's whole demeanor and most of his policies to be abhorrent or should be to persons of faith. so i'd like to ask you can you share with us how your own faith would influence you as president? >> thank you for that question. i want to say up front i'm a person that often says before you tell me about your religion show it to me in how you treat
other people. i was raised in a church where my mom taught sunday school and i'll never forget learning that verse that faith without work is dead. i would rather hang out with a nice atheist than a mean christian any day of the week. and so -- so thank you for asking me about my faith. you asked and i will share the foundation of my life was being raised in a faith with god. but i was taught faith and foremost was humility before god. you look at your brother or sister regardless of their faith or background with a conviction of love. love thigh neighbor. and love is not easy, and it really bothers me that when folks think of being loving and kind, i'll tell you to be strong you don't need to be cruel. to be tough, you don't need to
be mean. and so i believe in that radical love of all people. i believe that the bible talks more about poverty, about greeting the stranger, about being there for the convicted far more than it talks about the kind of toxic stuff you often hear the president spewing out there. and our immigration policy violates not only american values but the values of our faith and traditions. and i'll tell you what, i have learned from faithful people that -- that -- and i'll never forget the faithful woman who was lieutenant president of the projects i lived in who really taught me that hope is the active conviction that despair will not have the last word. and with president trump's fist muslim ban i remember running out to the airport where i saw the first concourse of americans yelling out and chanting patriotic slogans and one of the
best fights i ever saw was a bunch of jewish-americans with cheering and dancing. fundamental to islam, to christianity, to the torah, the ideal of creating a loving community. there's a song sung during the high holidays. may my house be a house of prayer for many nations. we are the united states of america. we were not formed as a theocracy but on the ideal many of us in our diversity can create one strong whole. eplurb e pluribus unum.
>> i want to bring in katelyn, an assistant professor at the university of south carolina. she currently supports her colleague kirsten gillibrand. >> by the way, i love kirsten gillibrand. you should see the teasing e-mails, text messages weave going back and forth. and she talks a lot about me being vegan but when i go to her house she cooks some of the best food i've had in d.c. >> last month i made my first payment on my student loans and i'll be making those payments for the next 12 years. if elected what are your plans for the higher education system and how could we ensure that future generations can obtain a kwoilt education without incurring a debt. >> it surpassed credit card debt, auto lobe debt, and it is changing the culture of an
entire generation who are putting aside buying their first home, starting businesses, even getting married at the same time because of crushing student debt. at the same time other countries are lowering the cost of college. here in the united states of america it's over 52%. and here's the most offensive part of this, the federal government is profiting off of the backs of our students. the student loan program makes billions of dollars. i'm going to end that and we are going to go towards a system of debt-free college, free community college and make sure that certain professions like teachers -- if you're willing to teach or be a school professional especially in communities like orangeburg or newark, we are going to forgive your debt. but let me say finally because this the mistake where people say, talk about college. do you know we cannot have a system that supports the 35% of americans who go to college, and i want to get that number up,
but the majority of our kids don't go to college. so you often hear all this talk about free college, and this is why i'm just as determined. in fact, my very first piece of legislation when i became a senator is to have apprenticeship programs. if i am president of the united states we will do what our competitive nations are doing which are having robust apprenticeship programs for kids. if you're a person that's older, older, 45, 50 and somehow you lose your job, well this country should say to you there's a place for you as well to gets midcareer apprenticeship programs where you continue to earn money to retrain you for the skills for your other job. what i worry about when you hear people talking about free college and a lot of plans, i want to know how you're going to pay for that.
we can pay for my plan by rolling back those toxic trump tax cuts and making sure we're investing. and we need to make sure that the pathways we're investing on are for the kind of education we need in this country, which is for everybody. it may not be a four-year college. you may need to get training in computer program, advansz manufacturing, the medical professionals. those people shouldn't have to reach in their pocket and work two jobs. right now there's millions of jobs in america where you have people complaining they can't find folks to fill them. other countries are doing that. we should actually set the standard in this program for apprenticeship programs. >> as i mentioned at the top of the show that we are in orangeburg, which is home to two hbcu, histtorically black colleges. so on that topic i want to brick in deon, he went to college at
south carolina state university. >> thanks, don. senator, hbcus are important to most of us here today but there are many people who want to do away with them. additionally states disproportionately fund hbcus compared to other universities -- >> we actually fund them less than -- >> yes, less. what is your plan to protect our hbcus? >> first of all i want you to know and i'm grateful for this question because i am here because of hbcus. my mom is graduate of fisc and my dad north carolina central university. i'm actually the grandson. my grandparents on my mother's side met at hbcu arkansas pine bluff. america needs to know this, the majority of black teachers, doctors, the majority of black lawyers, the majority of black
generals are produced by our hbcu. and if you believe in diversity and inclusion, hbcus are not just for african-americans. they make america stronger and more reflective. so as a senator i've been fighting and winning battles to better fund hbcus. i mentioned aearlier tonight there are about 50 hbcus in opportunity zones. i fought for funding, for scholarships to hbcus. i do a united negro college fund to help raise funds. if i'm president i'm going to prioritize because of what they do for america and because my mama wouldn't have it any other way. >> mom is important. i want to bring in now christian holmes. she's studying social work. >> hi, senator booker. how do you plan to fix social security so us millennials can
retire someday? >> amen. so fixing social security is not as complicated as people make it, and you see a lot of republicans thinking about trying to prioritize social security or doing thing that would deny benefits. and it's not even adequate right now. there are 7 million seniors rights now that effectively live below poverty because their social security checks don't go enough. it is unfair you're paying a higher percentage of your income into social security than somebody who's paying a million dollars. we need to make sure we create a fairer more progressive social security tax situation so if you're making a million dollars you're paying more into that system. that alone, having changes on that cap to social security would more fully fund social security. i want to see it expanded for the lowest income folks. and the attack on the dignity of work in this country, people who
work full time jobs are barely staying afloat. they actually can't even afford -- 40 plus percentage of americans, they're two flat tires away from missing a rental payment or having to sell something. that is outrageous. we need to get back to putting the dignity in work. we need to support union labor to make sure that people can have retirement security. this is crisis that's coming in our country. but we can avoid it with a president that will priors retirement security for all americans. >> yes or no do you promise to not cut social security for -- >> i will not cut social security. >> he served 12 years in the army, sergeant. >> you are in a very good club mere. yes we are.
as a united states veteran the veterans affairs health system has faced many challenges over the years. and yet they're still affecting hundreds of thousands of veterans. sometimes veterans are prescribed more medicine with is a problem in itself and then gibbon very little care. having said that how would you address it and fix the problem? >> first of all, i want to thank you for your service and your whole family. because when a veteran serves, the whole family serves with them. and i want to use very strong language here and i want you to hear me when i say that the way we treat veterans in this country is a national shame. and we have a country right now where we say in our songs that we're the home of the brave. but when our brave come home they don't get adequate housing, adequate health care. just the suicide rate among
veterans alone shows you we're not doing enough to support their mental health care as well. and so i will change it from a nation that seem tuesday be able to find trillions of dollars to send people over to war but sudden suddenly -- we're going to make sure our resources especially our medical resources have real support. women who are veterans having to wait weeks and weeks just to get gi care. i was the chief executive of the city of newark running about a million dollar opposition. when i was mayor i said i'm not going to wait for other people. the buck stops with me and we created new jersey's first ever one stop, an office for our vet toons come to because too often these services are disjointed, disconnected. i said just come to city hall and we are going to find an
array of services and pull them tgether to serve you. these are the kind of efficiencies i'm going to bring should i be elected. because i'm going to make sure that we live up to the promise we make to veterans. if you're willing to stand and serve, and your family, we are a country that doesn't just get the resources necessary for you to be the best trained fighting force on the planet worth, but when you get home this is the best nation there is for supporting veterans. and the final thing i want to say which is really important is this is not just about supporting veterans. veterans want to continue to serve and continue to lead. and if you give veterans the resources they need whether it's to start businesses or be involved in counseling other veterans, they are able to lead in ways that will inspire folks and you know other veterans like that. that's the kind of leader i'm going to be supporting. >> sticking to your experience as a mayor, i want to bring in robert, the owner and head coach of a fitness center in charleston. >> hey, welcome senator booker.
you actually touched on this in the last question but i'm hoping you can expand a little bit. why is executive experience so important for someone seeking the presidency, and how did your time as the mayor of newark prepare you for that job? >> well, first of all i'm grateful for that question and it's very clear you are involved in fitness. >> he's the only one here in a short sleeve shirt. >> and i believe you should register your guns. look, i wasn't just a chief executive of just a city, i was the chief executive of a struggling city that had 60 years of losing population, losing an economic base. and i governed that city through the worst economic crisis over a lifetime, and what did we do there? we were able to turn our city dramatically around. we brought super markets into food deserts. we brought busines b