Sen. Biden is concerned with how U.S. foreign policy is perceived in the Muslim world.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware and Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York tried to prove to an Iraq war veteran and his mother that they would be strong leaders by avoiding war with Iran.
After serving his third tour of duty in Iraq, Christopher Jackson said he was nervous that he'd be sent back to fight in Iran.
"I feel if we continue on the path we're at, that's where we will be at in Iran," Jackson said. "That's not what our troops need. Our troops need to come home now."
Biden told Jackson and his mother he thought a vote to categorize Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization was "completely counterproductive" and said it convinced the Muslim world that the war in Iraq is "really a war against Islam."
"The way to do that, ma'am, is to not ratchet up the winds of war here," Biden said.
Clinton said she did "oppose a rush to war" and said sanctioning Iran and the Revolutionary Guard was an important step to "getting to the diplomatic table with both carrots and sticks."
–CNN Associate Producer Lauren Kornreich
WASHINGTON (CNN) - When asked by CNN's John Roberts about his opposition to Nevada's Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository, Sen. Barack Obama, whose home state of Illinois gets 40 percent of its power from nuclear energy, said "I don't think nuclear power is necessarily our best option. It has to be part of our energy mix."
Obama said he supported the development of new ways to safely store nuclear energy, eliminating the need to transport nuclear waste across the country. Obama also said he supported charging polluting companies for their pollution output, with the money raised being reinvested in clean forms of energy.
- CNN Contributor Jamie Gray
Gov. Richardson worked on his birthday.
(CNN) - On the list of ways to spend one's 60th birthday, it's hard to imagine that standing on stage beside a group of tough political competitors and being judged by millions would crack the top ten. But New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson apparently didn't mind Thursday night in Las Vegas as he slugged it out for the Democratic presidential nomination six decades to the day after he was born in Pasadena, California.
A questioner from the audience took a moment to wish Richardson a happy birthday.
- CNN's Josh Levs
(CNN) - Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton opened Thursday night's Democratic debate in Las Vegas by joking that she was wearing an asbestos pantsuit. She needed it right out of the gate, as leading rivals Barack Obama and John Edwards turned their fire on her with their first answers.
Obama called the former first lady-turned-New York senator "a capable politician" who has run a "terrific" campaign - "But what the American people are looking for right now is straight answers to tough questions, and that is not what we've seen out of Senator Clinton on a host of issues."
Clinton shot back by citing her experience pushing for universal health care, accusing Obama of failing to support that goal with his own health care proposal. And she said Democrats will need a tested leader to advance their goals in 2008.
"The Republicans are not going to vacate the White House voluntarily," she said. "We have some big issues ahead of us and we need someone who is tested and ready to lead."
Edwards, meanwhile, said Clinton "continues to defend a system that does not work, that is broken, that is rigged and corrupt." Clinton responded by accusing him of taking cues "from the Republican playbook."
"For him to be throwing this mud and making these charges, I think really detracts from what we're trying to do here tonight," she said. "we need to put forth a positive agenda for America, telling people what we're going to do."
- CNN's Matt Smith
Rep. Kucinich took issue with John Edwards' record on trade.
(CNN) - Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio took a direct shot at fellow White House hopeful former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina at Thursday's CNN Democratic presidential debate.
"In the last debate, Hillary Clinton was criticized by John Edwards for some trade-related issue," said Kucinich. "But the fact of the matter is, John, you voted for China trade understanding that workers were going to be hurt. Now, you're a trial lawyer, you knew better."
When given the chance to respond, Edwards said, "I'm not sure what being a trial lawyer has to do with it."
Kucinich quickly shot back "product liability."
"Cute," Edwards responded before emphasizing the need to stop big corporations from lobbying the federal government.
- CNN Political Producer Xuan Thai
Sen. Clinton wants more oversight of Chinese imports.
(CNN) - No products should be imported into the U.S. from China unless they've been inspected by an independent group and "we're sure they're safe," said Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, during the CNN debate in Las Vegas Thursday.
"If we don't impose a third party independent investigative arm on our corporations that do business in China, as well as the Chinese government, we should not permit any items to be imported into our country," she said.
Clinton said the safety inspection of all U.S. imports "is something every parent should be worried about," and that toy, pet food and prescription drugs are not the only consumer products affected.
- CNN Political Assignment Editor Katy Byron
(CNN) - Asked in Thursday night's debate about Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's recent moves against democracy in his country - which included suspending the constitution - the Democratic hopefuls for the presidential nomination took a universally tough line, saying they would mount pressure on Musharraf to switch course.
For all, it was an opportunity to demonstrate a toughness in dealing with overseas leaders and a commitment to fundamental democratic principles.
Yet there was an important distinction among them: whether U.S. aid for Pakistan should be contingent on moves toward democracy.
Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware said he told Musharraf himself, and also said on the floor of the Senate, that certain military aid should be taken away "if he did not take off his uniform" - meaning renounce military control while remaining the nation's president. "I would use that leverage," he said.
But Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut said he disagrees with imposing such conditions, given how crucial Pakistan is in combating al Qaeda. "When you take the oath of office (for the presidency) January 20th, you promise to do two things: protect and defend the United States and protect yourselves from enemies foreign and domestic," he said.
Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York said she agrees that "the first step is to protect America."
She also said a democratic Pakistan would mean heightened security for the United States. "That's what is so tragic about this situation. After 9/11, President Bush had a chance to chart a different course both in Pakistan and Afghanistan and could have been very clear about what our expectations were. We are now in a bind. And it is partly, not completely, but partly a result of failed policies of the Bush administration."
- CNN's Josh Levs
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As the Democratic presidential candidates fought for the top spot during the CNN debate Thursday night, they did agree on one thing: Bring the troops home from Iraq.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio criticized his congressional colleagues for failing to end combat in Iraq and said he was the only candidate on stage to oppose the war from the start.
"They should tell President Bush, we're not going to give you another dime," Kucinich said. "We're not putting a bill on the floor. Bring 'em home now."
Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois said the current strategy has failed and it's time to concentrate on diplomacy with leaders in Iraq and throughout the region.
"That's why I'm going to bring this war to a close, that's why we can get our combat troops out within 16 months, that's why we have to initiate the kind of regional diplomacy - not just talking to our friends, but talking to our enemies," Obama said.
Related video: Kucinich: Bring troops home
- CNN Associate Producer Lauren Kornreich
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson had strong words about balancing core values like human rights with security at Thursday night's debate.
(CNN) - In response to a question about Pakistan, Democratic candidate Gov. Bill Richardson, D-New Mexico, said human rights come before national security.
"Security is more important than human rights. If I'm president, it's the other way around," he said.
Richardson emphasized Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's need to restore the constitution, the supreme court and let former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto run in a free election.
When asked to clarify by CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Richardson reaffirmed his position about security and said, "It's not just about what Halliburton wants in Iraq. It's also about our values and freedom, equality. Our strength is not just military and economic. Our strength as a nation is our values, quality, freedom, democracy, human rights. That's where we're strong."
- CNN's Adam P. Levy
(CNN) - Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware came out swinging for speaking time in Thursday night's Democratic debate. His first punch went straight to the top three presidential contenders: Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of South Carolina.
"This is not about experience, it's not about change. It's about action," Biden said. "Who among us is going to be able on day one to step in and end the war?"
Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, finished by emphasizing his 35 years of experience and his mission to improve relations with Pakistan but he asks, "Who among us knows what they're doing?"
- CNN's Emily Sherman