Election 2020 Debate

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper talks to reporters after the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Colorado presidential candidate John Hickenlooper was on stage in Detroit Tuesday night for the second round of debates of Democratic presidential candidates.

Here's what he had to say (except for a few stray asides or reaction comments), according to a "rush" transcript provided by debate host CNN. Also included are some immediate responses to what Hickenlooper had to say. The text has been lightly edited for clarity.

The debate was moderated by Dana Bash, Don Lemon and Jake Tapper at the Fox Theatre in Detroit.


HICKENLOOPER: Last year Democrats flipped 40 Republican seats in the House, and not one of those 40 Democrats supported the policies of our front-runners at center stage.

Now, I share their progressive values, but I'm a little more pragmatic. I was out of work for two whole years until I started what became the largest brew pub in America. And I learned the small -- small business lessons of how to provide service and teamwork and became a top mayor, and as governor of Colorado created the number one economy in the country.

We also expanded health care and reproductive rights. We attacked climate change head-on. We beat the NRA. We did not build massive government expansions.

Now, some will promise a bill tonight or a plan for tonight. What we focused on was making sure that we got people together to get things done, to provide solutions to problems, to make sure that we -- that we worked together and created jobs. That's how we're going to beat Donald Trump. That's how we're going to win Michigan and the country.



TAPPER: Governor Hickenlooper, I'd like to hear what you say about Senator [Elizabeth] Warren's suggestion that those people on the stage who are not in favor of Medicare for All lack the political will to fight for it.

HICKENLOOPER: Well, obviously, I disagree with that as much as I respect both of the senators to my right. You know, it comes down to that question of Americans being used to being able to make choices, to have the right to make a decision. And I think proposing a public option that allows some form of Medicare that maybe is a combination of Medicare Advantage and Medicare, but people choose it, and if enough people choose it, it expands, the quality improves, the cost comes down, more people choose it, eventually, in 15 years, you could get there, but it would be an evolution, not a revolution.  

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor. Senator Warren?

WARREN: You know, we have tried this experiment with the insurance companies. And what they've done is they've sucked billions of dollars out of our health care system. And they force people to have to fight to try to get the health care coverage that their doctors and nurses say that they need.

Why does everybody -- why does every doctor, why does every hospital have to fill out so many complicated forms? It's because it gives insurance companies a chance to say no and to push that cost back on the patients. That's what we have to fight.


HICKENLOOPER (in a response to a question for the candidates about decriminilizing immigrant border crossings): I agree that we need secure borders. There's no question about that. And the frustration with what's going on in Washington is they're kicking the ball back and forth. Secure the borders, make sure whatever law we have doesn't allow children to be snatched from their parents and put in cages. How hard can that be?

We've got -- I don't know -- on the two debate nights, we've got 170 years of Washington experience. Somehow it seems like that should be fairly fixable.


HICKENLOOPER (In a response to a question for the candidates on how to stop what Lemon called "this epidemic of gun violence": Well, this is the fundamental nonsense of government, another thing - another place where, despite our best efforts, we can't seem to make any progress. You know, when I went to the - to the movie theater in Aurora in 2012, and saw that footage of what happened at that crime scene, I'll never forget it. And we decided, you know, that we were going to go out and take on the NRA, and we passed as a purple state. We passed universal background checks. We limited magazine capacity. We did the basic work that for whatever reason doesn't seem to be able to get done in Washington.


TAPPER: In poll after poll Democratic voters say that they want a candidate who can beat President Trump, more than they want a candidate who agrees with them on major issues. Governor Hickenlooper, you ran a Facebook ad that warned "socialism is not the answer." The ad also said, "don't let extremes give Trump four more years." Are you saying that Senator Sanders is too extreme to beat President Trump?

HICKENLOOPER: I'm saying the policies of -- this notion that you're going to take private insurance away from 180 million Americans who, many of them don't want to give -- many of them do want to get rid of it, but some don't -- many don't.

Or you're going to -- the Green New Deal make sure that every American's guaranteed a government job if they want, that is a disaster at the ballot box, you might as well FedEx the election to Donald Trump.

I think we've got to focus on where Donald Trump is failing, you know, the world malpractice, and this is interesting -- I always thought it was doctors or lawyers, it's -- you know negligent, improper, illegal professional activity for doctors, lawyers or public officials, Google it, check it out.

Donald Trump is malpractice personified, we've got to point that out. Why is it soybean farmers in Iowa need 10 good years to get back to where they were two years ago? Where's the small manufacturing jobs that are supposed to come back?

Why are we lurching from one international crisis to another? All things that he promised American voters, we've got to focus on that -- and the economy, and jobs, and training, so that we can promise a future for America that everybody wants to invest it.

TAPPER: Thank you Governor. Senator Sanders, you are a proud Democratic Socialist. How do you respond to Governor Hickenlooper?

SANDERS: Well, the truth is that every credible poll that I have seen has me beating Donald Trump -- including the battleground states of Michigan, where I won the Democratic primary; Wisconsin, where I won the Democratic primary; and Pennsylvania.

And the reason we are going to defeat Trump, and beat him badly, is that he is a fraud and a phony and we're going to expose him for what he is. The American people want to have a minimum wage which is a living wage, $15 an hour. I've helped lead that effort.

The American people want to pay reasonable prices for prescription drugs, not the highest prices in the world. I've helped lead the effort for that as well.

TAPPER: Thank you Senator. Governor Hickenlooper, I want to bring you back to respond.

HICKENLOOPER: So again, I think if we're going to force Americans to make these radical changes, they're not going to go along -- throw your hands up.

SANDERS: All right --

HICKENLOOPER: Oh-ho, I can do it. But you haven't implemented the plans, us governors and mayors are the ones, we have to pick up all the pieces when suddenly the government's supposed to take over all these responsibilities, and there's no preparation, the details aren't worked. You can't just spring a plan on the world and expect it to succeed --

SANDERS: John --

TAPPER: Senator Sanders?

SANDERS: John, I was a mayor and I helped transform my city -- I have some practical experience. Second of all, interestingly enough, today is the anniversary of Medicare -- 54 years ago under Lyndon Johnson of the Democratic Congress, they started a new program after one year 19 million elderly people in it.

Please don't tell me that in a four year period we cannot go from 65 down to 55, to 45, to 35 -- this is not radical. This is what virtually every other country on Earth runs. We are the odd dog out.


BASH: We've been asking voters to weigh in on what they'd most like to hear Democrats debate. Among the topics they told us they're most interested in [is] the climate crisis. [Bash asked various candidates if the "Green New Deal" is a realistic plan to combat climate change.]

Governor Hickenlooper, you take issue with the Green New Deal. Please respond.

HICKENLOOPER: Well, I think the guarantee for a public job for everyone who wants one is a classic part of the problem. It's a distraction.

I share the urgency of everyone up here. We have to recognize -- I mean, everyone's got good ideas. What we do in this country is no better than just a best practice, right? It's what we do here is a best practice and a template, but it's got to be done all over the world.

So we've got to be building bridges right now with people like China, who were cheating on international agreements and stealing intellectual property. We need to work on that, but not with a tariff system. We need every country working together if we're going to really deal with climate change in a realistic way.


LEMON: Governor Hickenlooper, why are you the best nominee to heal the racial divide in America?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, the core value behind this entire country's history is working towards a more perfect union, that all people are created equal. And we've fallen far away from that. I think the job is incumbent on any one of us to make the convincing case that we can deliver an urban agenda that represents progress in schools.

In Colorado, when I was mayor, we got universal pre-K for every kid in the urban city. We did major police reform 10 years before Ferguson -- why is it now that five years after Ferguson we still don't have anything?

How do we get affordable housing? We created a scholarship fund for every kid -- you've got to deliver a vision like that for the whole country.


LEMON (posing a question to various candidates): President Trump's tariffs have boosted the U.S. steel industry but hurt auto manufacturers like those here in Michigan, which could drive up the cost of cars. As president, would you continue President Trump's steel tariffs?

HICKENLOOPER: " ... There is a way of looking at trade that is therapeutic. The bottom line is, you talk to any economist, there is not a single example in history where a trade war had a winner. Trade wars are for losers. And the bottom line is we've got to recognize, let's negotiate a better trade deal. But you're not going to win against China in a trade war when they've got 25 percent of our total debt. And step back and look it. Here's Trump gives a giant tax cut and at the same time -- so we're paying in tariffs about $800 to $1,200 per household and then we give this incredible tax cut to the rich. Essentially what's happening is now he's transferred that tax obligation onto the middle class. That's what's outrageous. But tariffs are not the solution.


TAPPER: Senator Sanders, President Trump has argued that the United States cannot continue to be the, quote, "policeman of the world." You said the exact same thing on a debate stage in 2016. If voters are hearing the same message from you and President Trump on the issue of military intervention, how should they expect that you will be any different from him?

SANDERS: Trump is a pathological liar. I tell the truth. We have been in Afghanistan I think 18 years, in Iraq 16 or 17 years. We have spent $5 trillion on the war on terror. And there are probably more terrorists out there now than before it began. We're going to spend -- the Congress passed -- and I will not vote for -- a $715 billion military budget, more than the 10 next countries combined.

What we need is a foreign policy that focuses on diplomacy, ending conflicts by people sitting at a table, not by killing each other. As president of the United States, I will go to the United Nations and not denigrate it, not attack the U.N., but bring countries together in the Middle East and all over the world to come to terms with their differences and solve those problems peacefully. The United States cannot be the policeman of the world.

TAPPER: Thank you, Senator. Governor Hickenlooper, how do you respond to Senator Sanders' vision for America's role in the world?

HICKENLOOPER: Well, we share the recognition of the incredible costs. People don't realize that half the soldiers that fought in Iraq and Afghanistan were National Guard. And so I went and sent them off on their deployments, big, you know, noisy hangers, but I also mourned with their families when they didn't come back. We are able now to -- I call it constant engagement. But we should have an international diplomatic approach where we're talking to everybody, because if we're going to deal with climate change and cyber security and nuclear proliferation, we've got to be talking to everybody. And tariff wars don't work. They're for losers.


TAPPER (after asking candidates whether they would withdraw all U.S. servicemembers from Afghanistan during their first year in office as president): Governor Hickenlooper, .... you've said that you're open to keeping some servicemembers in Afghanistan beyond your first term.

HICKENLOOPER: I look at it as a humanitarian issue. ... If we completely pull our troops out of there, you're going to see a humanitarian disaster that will startle and frighten every man, woman, and child in this country. And I don't think -- I mean, we have troops in over 400 different locations around the world. Most of them are small, they're peacekeeping, they're not greatly at risk.

We're going to have to be in Afghanistan. Look at the progress that's happened in that country. We're going to turn our backs and walk away from people that have risked their lives to help us and build a different future for Afghanistan and that part of the world?



HICKENLOOPER: Thank you. And what a night. I've loved it.

I'd like to ask every American to imagine that you are facing life-threatening surgery tomorrow. Would you choose a doctor who had a track record of proven success, who'd actually done the work, or someone who had just talked about it? That's the question we're facing in this primary.

I've actually got a track record as small-business owner, as a mayor, and as a governor. We expanded health care in Colorado. We got near universal coverage. We fought climate change directly. We beat the NRA. And for the last three years, we've been the number-one economy in the country. We can wrap all that out.

I'm as progressive as anybody up on this stage, but I'm also pragmatic. And I've done the things that most of these other people are just talking about. And I know I can get results. And I can lead the people of this country towards a stronger, a healthier, and a more secure future, and defeat Donald Trump and return this country to its glory.

Thank you.






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