(Reuters) - Democratic presidential contenders held their opening debate ahead of 2008 primaries on Thursday in Orangeburg, South Carolina.
Following are some comments from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (New York), Sen. Barack Obama (Illinois), former Sen. John Edwards (North Carolina) and Gov. Bill Richardson (New Mexico). Sen. Christopher Dodd (Connecticut), Sen. Joseph Biden (Delaware), former Sen. Mike Gravel (Alaska) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) also participated in the debate.
* “The American people have spoken. ... Now we can only hope the president will listen,” Clinton said, responding to a question on the Iraq war. “We will fund our troops and protect them. We will limit the number of days they will be deployed and we will start to bring them home.”
“If this president does not get us out of Iraq, when I’m president I will.”
* “This war is a disaster. We must end this war,” Richardson said on Iraq. “I would withdraw all of our troops by the end of this calendar year ... I would convene a security conference, and I would invite Iran and Syria.”
* “I am proud that I did not support this war from the start,” Obama said. “... The American people ... are telling me it’s time for us to come home. ... There’s no military solution to this. There’s got to be a political solution.”
* “One of the things we definitely need in our next president is someone who can restore the trust bond between the American people and the president,” said Edwards, “... and between the president and the rest of the world.”
“I was wrong to vote for this war,” Edwards said.
“We have more tools available to us than bombs.”
* “The real question is are we going to be able to leave Iraq and leave behind something other than chaos,” said Biden. “... You’ve got to decentralize Iraq, to give the regions control over their own destiny.”
* “I intend to take America in a different direction, rejecting war as an instrument of policy,” Kucinich said. “... I’d open up relations with Syria and Iran.”
* “We should just plain get out,” Gravel said of Iraq. “It’s their country. They’re asking us to leave.”
* “I take it as a perverse form of flattery,” Clinton said of Republicans who say they welcome her candidacy. “If they weren’t worried they would not be so vitriolic in the opposition to me.”
* “This decision by the Supreme Court is actually a perfect example of what will be at stake in this election,” Edwards said of the recent decision to ban certain kinds of abortion.
* “The first thing I’d do is deal with bureaucracy and inefficiency in our health care system,” said Richardson, who estimated 30 percent of current health spending is squandered. “We need to focus more on deterring diseases like diabetes.”
* “I’m in favor of ... getting 12 million or so immigrants out of the shadows,” Clinton said, explaining her support for immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.
* “We ought to ask Americans to be patriotic about something other than the war,” Edwards said to a question on America’s energy dependence and the threat from global warming. “We ought to ask them to conserve.”
* “We haven’t secured our borders, our ports, our mass transit systems,” Clinton said about the threat of terrorism. “... This administration has consistently tried to hype the fear without delivering on the promise of making America safer.”
* “We should be planning for a post-Castro Cuba,” Richardson said.
* “Iran possessing nuclear weapons will be a major threat to us and to the region. ... If we have nuclear proliferations around the world that is a profound threat to the security of the United States,” Obama said of the threat from Iran.”
“I’m not planning to nuke anybody right now,” he later joked when pressed whether he would take military action against Iran off the table.
* “They ought to be able to have those loving relationships sanctioned,” Dodd said on gay civil unions. “... I believe civil unions are appropriate and proper. I don’t support same sex marriage.