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Roland Martin's Debate This

Aired July 27, 2007 - 20:00   ET


ROLAND MARTIN, CNN ANCHOR: Guilty unless proven innocent? NFL star Michael Vick supposedly gets a day in court, but it seems the court of public opinion has already spoken.
Plus, a hot week in politics. Clinton and Obama continue to slug it out. Will one of them back down?

And faith matters, but should it drive public policy?

This is Roland Martin.

I'm Roland Martin. Welcome to DEBATE THIS!.

NFL star Michael Vick faces up to six years in prison if convicted on some pretty heinous federal charges related to dogfighting. The operative word here is if. It seems like most people think he is guilty. And we haven't even had a trial, which is set for November 26.

But look at what happened to him so far. Vick's been barred from the Atlanta Falcons' training camp. Just this afternoon, we learned that Nike is suspending his contract and won't sell any more products with Vick's name, and Reebok is suspending sales of Vick's football jersey, calling the allegations -- quote -- "too disturbing to ignore."

Talk about piling on.

With me now, prominent defense attorney and prosecutor Mickey Sherman.

Mickey, what's going on here? You are a defense attorney. What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, it is supposed to work that way. But, when you have certain charges -- and it's not ones you think -- it is not murder, rape or robbery or kidnapping. It is somehow people who are accused of child pornography or child molestation, and cruelty to animals, especially dogs. They don't seem to enjoy that same presumption.

People are so just enraged at the mere thought that they might be guilty, and all the B-roll that we show pictures of Michael Vick, the dogs being tortured, certainly not by him in those pictures, but it just gets people absolutely crazy. He loses endorsement contracts.

You didn't see this with Kobe Bryant. I don't even think you saw this so quickly with O.J. But when you're talking about cruelty to animals, people turn just a deaf ear to that presumption of innocence.

MARTIN: And, see, that's what I'm trying to understand. O.J. was accused of murdering two people. Kobe Bryant was accused of rape. Kobe Bryant was not suspended from the NBA. He would go play until the trial, and then he would go back to the court at nighttime.

I don't understand why -- and, again, I'm not saying that dogfighting is good. I'm believe that it is absolutely pathetic. But we're talking about a guy who they want kick out of the league and want him to frankly lose his job.

SHERMAN: Did you see the demonstrations outside the courthouse when he was being arraigned? You didn't see anything like that for anybody else. These people there, it was close a lynch mob. And I don't believe it a racial thing. I don't believe it's because he is a celebrity.

People have no tolerance for anybody who harms a dog. You can kidnap their children, you can kill your wife or your girlfriend or your ex-wife, and you're not going to get the same touchstone points as when you are cruel to a dog or at least they believe you were cruel to a dog.

MARTIN: But, Mickey, here's what I don't understand. All we have heard is from the prosecutor.


MARTIN: We have not heard anything from the defense in terms of explaining this. And, so, people refuse to give him the benefit of the doubt. And last time I checked, it is called the Constitution.

SHERMAN: Right. And they're not supposed to give press conferences.

But in this kind of a situation, this is more of a spin issue than a legal issue. I think what Michael Vick needs to do, frankly, even though it's against all -- maybe not the regulations and the laws, but common sense perhaps, but he has to got get out. He's got to make a statement, whether he is with his lawyer or not. He's got to do some kind of spin control here.

They don't need Johnnie Cochran. They need Howard Rubenstein. They need somebody to turn around the public image of Michael Vick. He should immediately be doing something to make that image a little bit softer.

MARTIN: Yes, but, Mickey, no one wants to talk to the guy. No one wants to be around him. The NFL said, you can't come to training camp. We know what's going to happen next. He's more than likely going to be suspended for the upcoming season. He is simply a pariah. No one wants needs to be near him. Do you actually think that's going to happen?

SHERMAN: No, I do think -- I think he is very likely going to lose his contract. They have the morality clause. And plus what NFL team, whether it's Atlanta or anybody else, wants to incur the wrath of PETA members or dog lovers, which is 98 percent of the American public, standing outside their stadiums protesting? They don't need the aggravation.

Michael Vick is probably a hell of a ballplayer, but they just don't need the ill will. He has got to do something to diffuse that. I think he is going to make a deal fairly soon. It's going to include volunteer work. It's going to include some type of enormous contribution, both energy wise and monetary wise, to the prevention of the cruelty to animals. I think that's where it's going to go.

MARTIN: But, Mick, do you actually think he's going to serve some jail time?

SHERMAN: I don't think so. Bottom line is, he still didn't kill anybody. He is still a first offender. And even though there's an enormous public outcry, I got to believe that any judge or jury is going to recognize the fact that he is going to be punished enough by losing the big bucks, by losing the $130 million, by having just a tremendous fall from grace. I mean, to put him in jail is overkill.

MARTIN: Well, not only that. Jamal Lewis, who played for the Ravens, he was found guilty in federal court of helping a friend with a drug deal. He served time. Ray Lewis was on trial for double murder and then, of course, he pleaded. He got off as well. None of those guys were suspended.

And, so, hopefully, we will have a good resolution to this. But as you said, it is not looking good for Michael Vick.


MARTIN: He faces a very difficult future.

SHERMAN: It is tough.

MARTIN: Mickey, I certainly appreciate it, sir. Thanks a bunch.

SHERMAN: My pleasure.

MARTIN: Thank you.

Sports and politics, folks, have always gone hand in hand. And it sure feels like a heavyweight boxing match between the top two Democratic contenders. Things got superheated this week, after a question at the CNN YouTube debate over a meeting of world leaders who are not quite on our Christmas card list.

The question exposed the first big rift between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He said he would meet with them. She said she wouldn't. But it didn't end there. The real fight was just beginning.


MARTIN (voice-over): Round one, the punches really start flying on Tuesday. Hillary takes another shot at Obama's answer.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I thought that was irresponsible and frankly naive.


MARTIN: Obama slugs back, bringing up Hillary's vote for the Iraq war.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If anything's irresponsible and naive, it was authorizing George Bush to send 160,000 young American men and women into Iraq.


MARTIN: Obama opens up round two with a combination.

OBAMA: I don't want to continuation of Bush/Cheney. I don't want Bush/Cheney-lite.

MARTIN: Hillary jabs back.

CLINTON: I have been called a lot of things in my life, but I have never been called George Bush, or Dick Cheney, certainly.

MARTIN: Round three. Folks, this thing's going the distance. And, finally, another fighter is climbing into the ring.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have had two good people, Democratic candidates for president, who have spent their time attacking each other, instead of the attacking problems that this country has faced.

MARTIN: Hey, John, it is about time. Remember, you're in this fight, too.


MARTIN: Joining me to discuss these issues and more are two of the nation's top radio talk show hosts, Joe Pagliarulo, a conservative radio host out of Houston and San Antonio, my native state of Texas.


MARTIN: And Rachel Maddow, a self-described liberal.

Or is it now progressive? We will do that a minute.


MARTIN: A host for Air America Radio.

OK, all three of us have radio shows. What did you make of this? I thought it was great. I mean, I love it.


RACHEL MADDOW, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It's great for Barack Obama. It's great for Hillary Clinton. It's great for Democratic voters. This is the right fight at the right time. I think this -- I'm very enthusiastic about the fight. I'm glad they're stoking it.

MARTIN: Well, Joe, I got tired of these guys patting each other on the back, saying you're great and wonderful and singing kumbaya.


MARTIN: To finally to see some fisticuffs, I think it was important for the voters to see them engaged.

PAGLIARULO: Yes. Well, I agree with you.

First of all, the YouTube debate was excellent, but it's what we do every day. We take calls every day.

MARTIN: Real people.

PAGLIARULO: Real people, talking to real people about real topics every single day.

By the way, Obama and Hillary have been going at it for a while, with the David Geffen stuff, who said what about me, who made a video about me that looks like "1984." Now, all of a sudden, yes, I am going to go and talk to all the world leaders because Ronald Reagan did it. He left out the part that Ronald Reagan had nukes aimed at Gorbachev.

MARTIN: You're right.

PAGLIARULO: And she says, I am not going to talk to them.

This is good for the process. I have got to tell you something. I watched these guys the other night and they were too nice to each other. I wish they would have done it that night, instead of waited until the next day.

MARTIN: Good point.

But how nasty is this going to get? Because, again, we are about six months out. Clinton is up. Obama needs to really cut into her lead.


MADDOW: It is not going to get that nasty.

MARTIN: Really?

MADDOW: And that's part of the reason why I think it's important. It's not going to get that nasty. How far has it gone so far?

There was a little sarcasm yesterday from Hillary Clinton, where she said, what happened to the politics of hope? That doesn't count as nasty. I think right now if they were nominated to be their party's pick for president right now, either of them one could still pick the other at V.P. And it's not going to get nastier than that, because they know that's the most likely outcome.

MARTIN: I don't think for a second it's going to be like Bush and McCain in South Carolina. But I do believe, though, that they're going to really go at it, because Obama, he has to do that, because, again, he has raised a lot of money, but he has not been able to cut into that lead.

PAGLIARULO: Here's what I want from Obama. I want the man to fight back, because I like how he communicates. I like how he expresses himself. I kind of like to sit there and watch the guy talk.

But I'm sick and tired of him apologizing or somebody on his campaign apologizing to Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is not -- to Obama, he -- shouldn't be the person that he's looking up to. This should be a contemporary. And he needs to fight back. He needs to get nasty. He needs to get MADDOW: . And I don't think they're going to go anywhere near picking each other for running mate, depending on who's who. I don't think that would ever happen, because I think they couldn't win if they were together on the same ticket.

MADDOW: I think we have got a long time to go before they start getting nasty. Barack Obama's best chance is to hit her from the left. Hillary Clinton is running a campaign of inevitability. She's already thinking about the general election.

MARTIN: Of course.

MADDOW: Every time he hits her from the left, she says, yes, sure, make me look more conservative. Assuage the minds, the worried minds, of all those people out there in America who think I'm the face of liberalism. The fight is great for her.


MARTIN: Yes, but this is also the person who stood in the debate who said, I'm not really liberal. I think it is more progressive.

I'm sitting at home laughing, going, stop it. You are a liberal, Senator Clinton.

PAGLIARULO: By the way, this fight is not great for her, because, the more she fights with somebody, the more she shows her true colors.

The only way to that she has a chance to win this nomination, in my humble opinion -- and I know how wrong I am -- the only way she has a chance of winning this is if she picks her husband as the running mate. Right now, it's starting to look like Bill Clinton is running for president. That's what she is doing. This fight is going to take her way off track...


MADDOW: ... that is running right now is Elizabeth Edwards. And right now she's winning. She's winning.

MARTIN: But, Rachel, what about that? She runs away from being a liberal. I mean, does that bother you?

MADDOW: No. Listen, her saying I'm a progressive instead of a liberal? She's saying, I'm a progressive. That is great.


PAGLIARULO: Yes, but I'm progressive. I'm a guy who leans to the right. You guys took the word?

MADDOW: Oh, come on. All of the guys in the Republican -- are saying, I'm the real conservative.

Well, you can't be the conservative because you have too many wives. Well, you can't be the conservative because you didn't used to be anti-abortion.


PAGLIARULO: That's a perfect impression of Giuliani. That sounded great, just like him.



MADDOW: On the left, it's progressive or liberal? I don't care about that.


MARTIN: I have got to ask you guys this, OK? John Edwards, he answered the question about world leaders. It takes him three days to get into this fight. I'm going, hey, guy, you're in third, fourth place in New Hampshire. You might want to speak up.


PAGLIARULO: His hair looked great, though. His hair looked really good that night.


MADDOW: He gave a speech today in which he said, we ought to all be disappointed about the way that Obama and Clinton are going after each other.

MARTIN: That's so weak.

PAGLIARULO: Yes. That was weak.


MADDOW: I'm thinking, I'm so happy we're not talking about a scandal or fund-raising or who has hired who or who did what in some other job a lifetime ago. Let's talk about policy. This is great for everybody.

MARTIN: Yes, but the bottom line is, with Edwards, he is losing ground. Sure, he is leading in Iowa. But I just think it was a weak response. His campaign has been fading. His poverty message, frankly, has not been resonating. And I'm like, guy, wake up, please.


PAGLIARULO: He's worth $30, $40, $50 million. He wants to start taxing people double if make over $200,000 a year. Could you live on $200,000 a year in New York City and feel rich? I don't think so.

This guy is running as a socialist. And he's also -- he's trying to get poor people to vote for him.


PAGLIARULO: I'm sorry. Last time I checked, the poor people aren't the ones who are lining up -- lining his pockets for his campaign.

MADDOW: No, listen, what John Edwards has done has been underestimated by people who say, like, oh, that's commie pinko socialism stuff.


PAGLIARULO: I said socialism. I didn't say commie pinko.


MADDOW: Fine. Not a commie pinko, but a socialist. We will draw the line there.


MADDOW: But, listen, he gave that speech. He gave a big economic speech this week that got no play at all because of this fight going on between Obama and Clinton. But Edwards taking on poverty as a moral issue does resonate with people left, right, and center.


MARTIN: Rachel, I agree. But I must say, I will vote for the toughest Edwards. That will be Elizabeth.


MARTIN: Now, I got to do the Republicans, because, look, no one is wrapping their arms around George W. Bush.


MARTIN: Poll numbers terrible, one point away from Richard Nixon in terms of the worst poll ratings.

Are they going to treat George W. Bush, the Republican candidates, like the Democrats did when Bill Clinton had this drama with Monica Lewinsky?

PAGLIARULO: Yes. And I don't think they should.

But, by the way, George Bush is doubling the Congress, the congressional approval rating, just to let you know, at 28 percent.


MARTIN: They're at about 14 percent.


PAGLIARULO: Last time I checked, the D's are running Congress right now.

MARTIN: Joe, when have we ever liked Congress? Come on. Let's just be honest.

MADDOW: When's the last time people gave Congress an 80 percent approval rating?

MARTIN: Right.

PAGLIARULO: I gave them one right before you guys took over in 2006.


PAGLIARULO: The bottom line is, yes, they probably will run away from George W. Bush. Will it be as big a mistake as Al Gore made with Clinton? It might be, because, whether you like him or not, whether you hate the guy, and he can't communicate, he is the leader of this party right now. He's the one in the Oval Office.


MARTIN: Hey, he's the leader of the party, but he's not quite leading. It would be nice if he actually tells the attorney general, can you please tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

Rachel, 10 seconds to wrap it up.

MADDOW: With Alberto Gonzales and with Bush's approval ratings right now, people are looking for a clear alternative. Whoever is going to define themselves as something that is a departure from the existing White House, whether they're a Republican or a Democrat, is going to take off.

MARTIN: Mike Gravel, Tom Tancredo, I want to see them take it on.



MARTIN: Joe Pagliarulo, Rachel Maddow, I certainly appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

PAGLIARULO: All right, Roland.

MADDOW: Thanks, Roland.

MARTIN: Folks, coming up next, why aren't women more excited about voting for one of their own?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because it is Hillary Clinton.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's Hillary Clinton.


MARTIN: Why does Hillary Clinton seem to have a woman problem?

And who were the real stars of the CNN YouTube debate? You will meet them a little later on.


MARTIN: In the summer of 1984, I was 15 years old. No lie. I was 15.

One evening, while attending a family gathering in Dallas, about 30 family members sat in front of the TV to watch then presidential candidate Jesse Jackson make an amazing and unforgettable at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco.


MARTIN (voice-over): I was overcome with emotion. I felt pride, excitement. I felt energized.


JESSE JACKSON, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: With courage and initiative, leaders change things.


MARTIN: Someone like me had a chance to be president of the United States. The African-American community was galvanized by his candidacy. The same thing happened for women that year, when the Democrats became the first and so far only major party to nominate a woman for vice president.

Geraldine Ferraro's speech was electrifying.


GERALDINE FERRARO (D), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Dreams can come true for all of us.



MARTIN: Fast-forward to 2007. Senator Hillary Clinton is the first female candidate to have a serious shot at the presidency.

CLINTON: I am proud to be running as a woman, and I am excited that I may be able finally to break that hardest of all glass ceilings.

MARTIN: But it's a glass ceiling that women around the globe broke years ago, Margaret Thatcher in Britain, Golda Meir in Israel, Indira Gandhi in India, Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan, Corazon Aquino in the Philippines.

Yes, Hillary Clinton is ahead in the polls right now. But I really don't sense the kind of buzz, excitement or pride in her candidacy that I felt about Jesse Jackson or Catholics had for John F. Kennedy, Italian-Americans for Mario Cuomo, and Jewish Americans for Joe Lieberman.




MARTIN: In a nation that preaches equality for women around the world, why aren't women caught up in a wave of excitement? Why isn't Senator Clinton connecting with her natural base?


MARTIN: All right, time to put that question to a panel of very accomplished women, Democratic strategist Julie Roginsky, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University, and Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez.

Ladies, does Hillary Clinton have a woman problem?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: She sure does. If you think of the fact that she should probably be getting two-thirds of the women's vote, and she's getting less than 50 percent. And there's a lot of different reasons for that.

Some people say she's too liberal. They don't know which Hillary it is. It is Martha Stewart or "Mommie Dearest"? You really don't know what personality you have got.


MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICS AND AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: I don't think there's any reason to think she would be getting two-thirds of women voters.

Part of the thing about women voters is that women are a very diverse group of people. There are black women, Latinas. There are rich and poor women. There are stay-at-home moms, working moms. Women are in fact about 50/50 split between the Democratic and Republican Party. It's men who tend to have the gender gap.


JULIE ROGINSKY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: And look at how far we have come along. I'm actually proud to say that as women, we don't just look at whether somebody is a woman. And hopefully the African- Americans won't look at Barack Obama just as an African-American. I hope that we have come further than Jesse Jackson being just a black candidate.


MARTIN: Julie, Julie, Julie.


ROGINSKY: Roland, let me just...


MARTIN: While males have been 43 out of 43 for the presidency. I would think women would be saying, we have a shot for a woman for to be president?


HARRIS-LACEWELL: I think there are some women who would like to see a woman president who would not like to know anything about her husband or her father.


HARRIS-LACEWELL: In other words, being a feminist, in other words, caring about women in positions of power, because they would bring something to the table that women in the population need, is not just about a woman who's ridden her husband's coattails to the presidency.

MARTIN: Julie?

ROGINSKY: I'm just happy that she is qualified.

And, listen, to be honest with you, whether she is a woman or she's a man, I would support the person that I think is going to do the best job for me. Yes, I happen to be a woman, but I happen to be a lot of other things, in addition to being a woman. And I would vote for the person that is most in line with my views, the same way I would think you would vote for whoever is in line with your views.


ROGINSKY: Are you voting straight Barack Obama because of your ethnicity?


MARTIN: No. Here's the deal, though.


MARTIN: Right. But, see, now, you make a great point.


MARTIN: It is that really a big difference in terms of, is it more powerful in terms of gender -- more powerful in terms of ethnicity as opposed to gender?


ROGINSKY: Of course it is.


ROGINSKY: ... 43 out of 43, as you said, have been white men.


MARTIN: Go ahead.

ROGINSKY: We have got Barack Obama, African-American male. We have got Hillary Clinton, a white woman. So, they would be groundbreakers either way. But I'm hopeful that we have come further along in this society, that we're not just looking at somebody because of their race or their ethnicity or their sexual orientation.


HARRIS-LACEWELL: ... of why race and gender are so different. Because there are no women's churches. There are no women's organizations that are historical in the way that race is.


HARRIS-LACEWELL: In other words, during Jim Crow, black men and women sat together on the back of the bus. White women were part of the process of enslaving black men and women.

So, the history of America is that women have been on both sides. In other words, to be a woman is only one part of it. Race has been much more determinative as a political identity. (CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Leslie, you are shaking your head.


SANCHEZ: That completely discounts the whole feminist movement of the 1970s.

ROGINSKY: Absolutely right.

SANCHEZ: The Equal Rights Amendment and all those efforts that Hillary Clinton very much bears the cross for on that.


SANCHEZ: She says that that is very much part of her heritage. This woman cannot make up her mind. Is she going to share cookie recipes with you or is she somebody who is going to use her maiden name?

And that's the distinction. There's two main issues. A lot of folks think she is too liberal. She comes from the feminist left. And the second part is, people are tired of the Clinton legacy. They're saying, are we going to get kind of the after-parts of a Clinton administration? Is it going to be more controversial..


HARRIS-LACEWELL: As a black feminist woman who bakes cookies, I think it ought to make that sort of...


MARTIN: Chocolate chip, please.

HARRIS-LACEWELL: Chocolate chip cookies.


HARRIS-LACEWELL: I find it odd to make that argument.

In other words, I think women voters are much more savvy than that. I don't think the question is whether or not, you know, she is either using her maiden name or baking cookies. I think the question is whether or not she is a candidate that represents either a working woman or a stay-at-home mom.


MARTIN: ... whole feminine issue? Elizabeth Edwards brought that up in terms of she is not feminine enough.

ROGINSKY: I think that is so insulting. What is feminine?

(CROSSTALK) ROGINSKY: Is it dressing up in frilly aprons? What is feminine?

MARTIN: Wait a minute. Even today, in "The Washington Post," she reacted to this whole notion of her showing some cleavage on the floor of the Senate. And some people said, wait a minute. We haven't quite seen that from Senator Clinton.


ROGINSKY: Oh, listen, Leslie and I talk about this all the time. We have gone on TV and we have sometimes been very aggressive with each other and other times. And, you know, hopefully, we dress like women, but sometimes we may not.


ROGINSKY: I don't dress like a man, but let me finish my point.


ROGINSKY: My point is this. I'm not sure what being feminine is.

All I know is that she is a very accomplished human being. She's done a lot. The fact that she happens to be a woman, yes, is part of her identity, as it's part of mine, as it's part of all of ours. But I'm really hopeful that we can move away from this notion of Hillary Clinton, woman, vs. Obama, black man, and move on to whoever the best candidate is.


HARRIS-LACEWELL: Women voters, like men voters, actually tend to vote for powerful, masculine figures. Again, as you pointed out, most...


MARTIN: Geraldine Ferraro caught a lot of heat in 1984 over that issue.


HARRIS-LACEWELL: Our presidents have been the tallest white guy running, consistently, the tallest, most manly white guy running.


HARRIS-LACEWELL: And largely on the vote of women voters who are making that choice. So, there's no reason to think that all of a sudden women in wartime would want a feminine president.

MARTIN: Leslie, real quick.

SANCHEZ: Real quickly, look at why that story is played. She's doing the triangulation. She's trying to say, look at me. I'm trying to show my full feminine side, and they're attacking me because I'm a woman.

That's a political ploy that Hillary Clinton is trying to do. She's learned it from the best.


MARTIN: I need each one of you, real quick, to give me one piece of advice that you would say, Senator Clinton, here's my advice to you on what you should do to capture more female votes.


ROGINSKY: Senator Clinton, keep going. You are doing a great job as a strong woman. Hopefully, as somebody who is a strong woman myself, I would love to see more women out there like that.

MARTIN: Melissa.

HARRIS-LACEWELL: Well, it's hard to give this piece of advice, but I would have to say, Hillary Clinton, I don't think you can win in the general election. The Electoral College map shows you can't. Why don't you run as vice president for John Edwards or Barack Obama?

MARTIN: For John Edwards or Obama? Oh.


MARTIN: Leslie.


SANCHEZ: I think the biggest problem is, nobody knows who Hillary Clinton really is. They think she's a panderer. Politically, she will say and do anything. And people want to know who she is, so they can make a choice.


MARTIN: Well, I tell you both. One of the things, she's going to have to appeal to young women, 18 to 29, are not necessarily endorsing her campaign. And it's very interesting that she is not appealing to them. She needs to come up with some way to talk to those women, because they are the next generation.

And, if she does win, they are going to voting again in four years. It might be a problem.

ROGINSKY: But they don't vote in the primaries.


MARTIN: I understand.

But, again, they're trying their best here.

(CROSSTALK) SANCHEZ: Whoever the Republican nominee is going to be a white old Republican guy.


MARTIN: Fully understand.

Julie Roginsky, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, and Leslie Sanchez, I certainly appreciate it.

Thank you.

When we come back, everyone in the presidential campaign is talking him up, him, God. How is he, or she...


MARTIN: ... or she shaping policy in the campaign, as well as the country?

And, later, some of the people demanding answers to the questions the media elites, well, are afraid to ask.


MARTIN: Welcome back to DEBATE THIS!.

Let's find out what the top stories of the day are with Erica Hill at CNN Center in Atlanta. Hey, Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey Roland, good to be here with you tonight. The latest out of NASA today, really leaving a lot of people wondering what is going on at the space agency. A new report today revealing two U.S. astronauts have been sent on missions drunk. The newly released findings on NASA'S medical and psychological screening process says crew members cleared to fly even though flight surgeons and other astronauts raised red flags about their conditions.


SHANA DALE, NASA DEP ADMINISTRATOR: We will act immediately on the more troubling aspects of this report with respect to alcohol use and the anecdotal references of resistance by agency leadership to accepting advice or criticisms about the fitness and readiness of individuals for space flight.


HILL: NASA says it has adopted am interim policy which bars astronauts from consuming alcohol 12 hours before flying.

A terrible accident this afternoon in Phoenix, Arizona, two news helicopters collided while covering a police chase. Both crashed and burned. Four people were killed. Those choppers belonged to CNN affiliates KTVK and KNXZ. No one on the ground was hurt, police eventually caught that driver they were chasing. They may charge him in connection with the deaths in those helicopter crashes.

Vice President Cheney's pacemaker needs some new batteries so he's going to have that surgery tomorrow in Washington. Mr. Cheney's history of heart troubles includes four heart attacks, bypass surgery, and angioplasty.

At least 13 people dead, more than 60 wounded after a suicide bombing in Pakistan's capital, today. Seven of the dead are police officers. That bombing happened at a hotel a quarter mile from Islamabad's Red Mosque. Where police an rioters have been clashing all day.

Boy, stocks, had another rocky day today. The Dow dropping more than 200 points, still though, the government saying today that America's economic growth picked up in the second quarter of the year. And the next time you pick up a bottle of Aquafina water, might want to read the fine print. Pepsi-Cola, which bottles the H2O says starting next year, the bottled water will begin carrying labels that clearly state, Roland, this is just regular tap water.

MARTIN: Oh, hold up! Wait a minute! All this time we've been spending our money buying Aquafina water and it's tap water?

HILL: It is tap water. Now, they say it's been on the bottle the whole time, but see it's listed as PWS. Did you know what that meant?


HILL: You want to give it a guess?

MARTIN: Sounds like a shoe store.

HILL: Yeah, it does sound like a shoe store. It's public water supply, but now they're going to write it out. Apparently Nestle going to do the same thing, but Coca Cola, which makes Dasani, says, you know what, it's says on there that it's purified, so people should know that it's not from a source or some fancy island I the South Pacific.

MARTIN: That's unbelievable. I mean, I'm sitting here spending all this money, I'm thinking I'm buying regular water. OK, all right.

HILL: There you go. Just get it at the tap. It's cheaper that way.

MARTIN: Gotcha. I'm just going to walk around with a jug and just walk next to a faucet, fill it up and have fun.

HILL: Perfect.

MARTIN: Thanks Erica, I certainly appreciate it.

All right folks, up next, the most popular guy in the presidential campaign, he isn't on the ballot. So, exactly what is God's role in politics? Later, the stars of the Democratic debate, do Republicans have the guts to answer their questions?


MARTIN: Welcome back to DEBATE THIS. One of the big questions of this week's CNN/YouTube debate dealt with Senator John Edwards' opposition to gay marriage because of his faith. Asking the question, was the Reverend Reggie Longcrier. I was surprised, because one, he's a 58-year-old Black guy and two, he's a Christian pastor from the South, Hickory, North Carolina.

Now, look, most Americans are against gay marriage, and that's especially so among African-Americans. What about the reverend's point of faith impacting public policy?


JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do I believe and do I personally support gay marriage? The honest answer to that is I don't. But, I think it is absolutely wrong as president of the United States for me to have used that faith-basis as a basis for denying anybody their rights. And I will not do that when I am president of the United States.


MARTIN: Let's see what a couple of my faithful comrades have to say. Irshad Manji is here tonight, she's the author of "The Trouble with Islam Today," and creator of the PBS documentary, "Faith without Fear." Also with me, Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League.

Irshad, I don't buy what John Edwards said. How can you be against gay marriage because of your faith knowing full well that if Congress passed a bill, you likely wouldn't sign it because it's against your faith. Bill, what do you make of this -- his answer?

WILLIAM DONAHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: I thought it was preposterous. He would make more sense if he come out and said, listen, I'm in favor of gay marriage. But this idea that he was struggling, this pained feigned idea of listening to my wife, but you know -- if you haven't made up your mind about the institution of marriage, then you know, quite frankly, I don't think you should be running for president of the United States. I'll go that far. Independent of faith, the American people want a straight answer and what they got is a guy...


DONAHUE: Who can't even figure out where he stands on gay marriage.

MANJI: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. First of all, straight answer, no pun intended. But, that being said, you guys are making the classic mistake, if I many be so bold, of reducing our politicians to mere caricatures, to mascots, to cardboard cutouts. Here's a guy who is legitimately saying, look I'm struggling with this issue. If we want our politicians to be authenticate, why do we punish them when they express their ambivalences?

MARTIN: Irshad. He wasn't struggling. What that was was a way for him to say: I'm feeling your pain, I understand. But I'm still going to vote against it.

DONAHUE: It was a wicked wash in the gay community. That's what he's basically saying, you know, give me six months, I'll catch up with my wife. He was dishonest in what he was doing.

MANJI: Maybe. Why...

DONAHUE: He's politically opportunistic.

MANJI: Wait a minute. Why is being on a journey of sorts, albeit it publicly, --

DONAHUE: A journey on marriage?


DONAHUE: Not talking here about jaywalking. We're talking about marriage.

MANJI: No, come on. Come on.

MARTIN: But he's not on a journey, because he's been very consistent by saying, and he said it that night: I am against gay marriage because of my faith.

Now, but do you actually believe, though -- look, we got a president in the White House who talked about being a compassionate conservative, talked about his faith, and frankly he has put a lot of his policies within a faith prison (sic).


MARTIN: Do you have a problem with that?

MANJI: Putting it in a faith prism?

MARTIN: Absolutely.

MANJI: No. But what I have a problem with is imposing faith on public policy. And I happen to think Joe Biden had the great answer of the night, which is that for him faith shapes values, but reason dictates the outcomes or the conclusions. Every major religion has a great reason, tradition. And it's about time, Roland, that somebody's president tapped into that tradition.

MARTIN: Bill, that was a Catholic talking. You buying his answer?

DONAHUE: Listen, as far as I'm concerned, yes, faith and reason, that's what Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, talk about. We want somebody in the White House how has a religiously informed conscience. That doesn't mean you go checking the catechism when you go for a vote.

MANJI: Right, exactly.

DONAHUE: But, you know why this is tricky business? If you try to say, like Giuliani is trying to say: don't ask me about that. It's between me and my God. The American people want a little bit more than that. We don't want some fundamentalist type of Bible thumping kind of answer, but we want somebody who is sincere. This is the minefield for these candidates. Are you sincere or are you opportunistic in pitching the God talk to the faithful?

MARTIN: Speaking of God talk. Irshad, look, the reality is, when a person is elected, when they swear on the Bible in the case of Congressman Ellison, they swear on the Koran, they are swearing to uphold the Constitution. And we saw it in Alabama with Judge Roy Moore, he wanted that monument of the 10 Commandments but he had to uphold the law. What happens when the Bible and the Constitution collide?

MANJI: Well, let me tell you something as a non-American, as a Canadian. I can tell you just from the perspective of world opinion that the way in which an American president treats the separation of faith and politics, very much influences what happens outside of America. Other countries' leaders then get to say, if that line is blurred, well, America, the great beacon of Democracy, the great beacon of secularism, they don't take that distinction seriously, why should we?

So, look, you know what? American presidents have to be very conscious that what happens in the United States affects a whole lot more outside of the United States.

MARTIN: Look. Well, you speak from that point of view, as you being a Muslim, you being lesbian, now trust me, there are now some Muslims who are really not happy, you know, with your position.


MANJI: You got to tell me, brother? You got to tell me? You better duck when you're in front of me. OK. That's how angry a lot of Muslims are with me, sure.


DONAHUE: Let me just say something about my religion, here. If you want to wear your religion on your sleeve, like Kerry tried to say, I'm a devout Catholic, every time he opened his mouth, and then you find out you stiffed the Catholic Church on every public policy issue, that's a problem.

Look, Geraldine Ferraro was the biggest disaster of them all in 1984. She said there are two legitimate Catholic positions on abortion. Sorry, folks. When it comes to genocide, discrimination, serial killing, abortion, there is one legitimate position in the Catholic Church and it's to be against the killing of unborn children. You can't try to sell it that way. So, you've got to be sincere in how you approach it. I'm not saying you have to be off goose stepping with the Catholic Church on everything, but be careful how much you sell that.

MANJI: You know what I find...

MARTIN: Look, wait...

MANJI: Hold on a second. What I find so interesting is that you keep accusing Edwards of being insincere, being opportunistic. The two women, the lesbians...

He hired two anti-Catholics who I got rid of...

MARTIN: Hold on a second. Hold on a second. You know, if it's anti-Catholic then it must be, you know, completely bad in your eyes. That's all you're reducing it to.


DONAHUE: Racism...

MARTIN: And trust me, after my recent comment about the pope...

MANJI: Hold on a second.

MARTIN: I have been called anti-Catholic, even though I was raised a Catholic.

MANJI: The point I'm trying to make here is, that the two women who asked the gay marriage question, lesbians themselves, they actually acknowledge that even though they disagreed with Edwards' position, they still gave him credit for being honest. So listen, Bill, if it's good enough for the lesbians, why isn't as good enough for you?

DONAHUE: Well, I don't take the lesbians as my best (INAUDIBLE) of anything, let me tell you.

MANJI: Oh, that's just (INAUDIBLE) and you know what? I don't take Catholics as my standard of anything. What I take is human beings. All right? and all of our complexities.

DONAHUE: I take reason.

MARTIN: Well, I will say this. First of all, when we get done, we'll all pray together. But the one thing I am glad about, I am glad to see Democrats finally not run from the faith issue. This is the first time in a long time they are spending considerable amount of time dealing with faith as a part of the campaign and I believe that is a good thing. That's been one of the biggest criticisms they had for quite sometime. Irshad Manji, Bill Donahue, I certainly appreciate it. Thanks so much.

MANJI: God bless. MARTIN: All right, thousands of you posted questions on-line for this ground baking -- groundbreaking debate. In just a bit on DEBATE THIS, we've got the people behind some of the greatest hits.

And, Iraq weighs heavily on our hearts. But what are you prepared to do to bring our troops home?


MARTIN: You guys have heard me on CNN constantly say we need to hear more issues other than the war and abortion. Thankfully, we got just that courtesy of a CNN/YouTube debate.


LORI HARFENIST, YOUTUBE QUESTIONER: I have my own ideas on how to solve the current immigration problems, but I'd love to hear yours.

ZENNI ABRAHAM, YOUTUBE QUESTIONER: Are you going to hire your friends to run key government divisions? Or are you going to hire the best and the brightest?

LUCAS BROWN EYES, YOUTUBE QUESTIONER: UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was accepted in the dream college, but I can't afford the $50,000 a year. How will you make college affordable?

KIM FRIEDRICH, YOUTUBE QUESTIONER: Hi. My name is Kim. I'm 36 years old and hope to be a future breast cancer survivor from Long Island. What would you, as president, do to make low cost or free preventive medicine available for everybody in this country?


MARTIN: Joining me now, the four people you just saw asking those YouTube questions. Kim Friedrich, a working mom who's battling breast cancer; Lucas Brown Eyes, and award winning film student; Zenni Abraham, CEO of Sports Business Simulations, and Lori Harfenist, a TV producer from New York.

Now Kim, I got to start with you. You got lots of attention worldwide as a result of your question.

FRIEDRICH: Yes, I did.

MARTIN: And a lot of people were shocked when you took your wig off. What led you to say: I need to do this, to get this point across?

FRIEDRICH: Actually it was anger at Senator Edwards and his wife. The day that Mrs. Edwards, that they had that press conference that she had cancer again, I heard one thing out of it. In 48 hours, she went from thinking she had an unrelated problem to cancer, to finding out that she might have cancer to having tests, to having biopsy, to having treatment all in 48 hours. I was home having -- recovering from my biopsy at the time and what took me four months, that's what they did in 48 hours, because I didn't have health insurance.

MARTIN: You know what? We got a lot of questions in this debate dealing with healthcare, and that's really personal to me, because like a lot of folks, in 2000, covered the Democratic National Convention, my appendix ruptured, in the hospital five days, $70,000 and frankly, I ended up having to file for bankruptcy because the healthcare bills were absolutely phenomenal.

Kim, you talked about the anger. Lucas, talk about that, because a lot of folks were angry.


MARTIN: In the questions, they were really upset.

BROWN EYES: Well, that's because the people who feel like they're not heard are angry. If you don't feel like you're being heard, you're going to be angry. And YouTube allowed them to speak. So naturally, you're going to get a lot of anger. Like my generation, I'm going to college and a lot of my friends are angry because they can't afford to go to college, so they're going to a college that isn't their first choice, they're going to a community when they can't afford it and they're angry about it, which prompted me to make my video.

ABRAHAM: His anger came out as humor.


MARTIN: Now, that was good, that was good. Now Laura, talk about that. This whole issue of this YouTube debate. Has it really advanced the political process? Do you think it really changed anything?

HARFENIST: I think it did because I think it got people really thinking that they can actually make a difference for a change. I know, for myself, before I even voted I felt completely apathetic because politics seems over here, everyone seems the same. This forum really allowed people to, you know, come into more -- all the candidates in a more natural vernacular, they lost the finger pointing a lot, which I really appreciated. Unfortunately it's back, right now.

But, I was happy to see that it made it feel approachable. I think young people are going to start voting a lot more because they feel like, wow, you know what? I can actually make a difference.

MARTIN: And we saw a large spike in terms of the 18-49 demo, really watching, now.

Zenni, let's talk about this debate, took place four days ago.

ABRAHAM: That's right.

MARTIN: People are still talking about it.

ABRAHAM: That's right.

MARTIN: I mean, it's amazing.

ABRAHAM: But you know what's interesting about the debate, it's not just that people are still talking about it, but it's the first that we have had a television debate and an Internet presentation of the debate inform the national conversation. For example, you know about the Senator Obama, Senator Clinton spat.

MARTIN: Yeah, and it's still going on.

ABRAHAM: But something else, though, there have been five different videos that have presented different views that Senator Clinton has given on the same subject and accused her of flip-flopping and so now it's starting to change in a way, such that by next week we're going to have a different conversation and that's because of YouTube and it's fascinating what's happening.

MARTIN: So many folks are logging on and people are really talking about it and that's what's important to me, the fact that we're getting people involved in this campaign, because I'm sick of the media, frankly, folks, my colleagues keep saying, oh, this is so long, you think, like that. This is for the presidency, the commander in chief.


MARTIN: I mean, give me a break. We spend more time picking a car than we do for the president.


HARFENIST: I thing that's the country's really sick of the way that everything is. Everyone wants to feel proud of being an American again, and our foreign policy and you know, rally behind the presidency and this is our opportunity to do it, so we should definitely start now.

FRIEDRICH: Yeah well, people are tired of the president just being an automaton, too. Just saying the same things over and over again and it just seems like they don't even mean it anymore. I want to see the real people. I want to see what they really think and what they really believe.

ABRAHAM: You know what's interesting, and this has to be brought out, is that next debate, the Republican debate, you're only going to see two of them. So, I think the Republicans are afraid -- they didn't come to the NAACP convention...

FRIEDRICH: I hope not.

Yeah. I mean, but Kim, how do you feel about that? I mean, you have 10 Republican candidates, only two have said, yeah, I'll be happy to show up. In fact, Mitt Romney even criticized the debate saying, well, he didn't want to get asked a question about a snowman. I mean, as if your question was simply about -- a snowman. As if the other questions were considered to be meaningless. How does that make you feel?

FRIEDRICH: Well, actually, I think it's funny. I think it's funny that a rival network that's a minion of the Republican party, if you can beg that phrase, they accuse the Democrats of being scared because they wouldn't be on their channel. And it seems like the Republicans are running scared of people -- actual, real people. And that's what we are.

ABRAHAM: Especially African-Americans.


HARFENIST: Absolutely, it speaks for itself. You know? If you don't want answer questions that real people are putting out there -- you know -- it speaks volumes for...

MARTIN: Would that affect your decision to vote for a Republican candidate if they chose not to show up for the September 17 CNN/YouTube debate?

BROWN EYES: Extremely because YouTube, this whole debate got me into politics. I registered to vote because of this.

MARTIN: I mean, this is your first election? Your first time you vote?

BROWN EYES: This is my first time to vote. I just turned 18. Now, this has got so many of my friends to actually start watching the debates. You know? Everyone's talking about it and if the Republicans don't show up, that's going to be a big, like, what?

ABRAHAM: And you won't vote for them.

BROWN EYES: I won't. I'll be like, what are you so afraid of? Why are you afraid of hearing what we have to say?

MARTIN: I'll tell you what. I certainly appreciate the fact that all of you stepped out there, put your questions out there, and hopefully more people will get engaged, because again, this is the commander in chief and there, frankly, is no more important decision that we can make, than we choose a president of the United States.

I thank all of you. Kim Friedrich, Lori Harfenist, Lucas Brown Eyes, and Zenni Abraham. Thanks a lot.

ABRAHAM: I have the brown eyes.

MARTIN: I appreciate that. Folks, you can catch the CNN/YouTube debate again this weekend Saturday and Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Now, I want to -- want you to think about this. More Americans have died in Iraq than who died in 9/11. Coming up, what are you prepared to do about it?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MARTIN: Christopher Kube (ph) and Loron Wilson (ph). Two men from different worlds, one from Michigan, the other from New York. Both joined the Army when they were 17 as a way to make better lives for themselves and their families. Both brave men recently came home. No, not to hugs and kisses, but to the sound of "Taps" after their humvees were hit by roadside bombs.

Yet, what exactly did they die for in Iraq? We now know there were no weapons of mass destruction. The president says we've afflicted damage on al Qaeda, the actual culprits behind 9/11. Well the National Intelligence Estimate says the terror group is stronger than ever, in large part due to the Iraq war, their best recruitment tool ever.

And the Democrats? They control Congress, but haven't been able to find a way to get us out. More than 3,600 U.S. soldiers are dead. Tens of thousands of Iraqis lives lost. Now, that's the human cost, the dollar cost of budget busting, $2 billion a week. But the president says, be patient, give the surge a chance.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi parliament is taking august off because it's too hot. America, look at those faces. Very young men and women, all killed in the last few weeks, their families left to grieve.

Mr. President, enough with the changing battle plans and rationales for your administration. Bring our troops home. Let the Iraqis determine their own fate. Maybe their government will finally get serious about the job after we leave.

Sir, the mission has been accomplished. Please, let the troops be welcomed home with open arms, and not a goodbye kiss on a casket.

I'm Roland Martin, have a good evening.