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Debate
Debate sponsored by WTTW and the City Club of Chicago
Alan Keyes & Barack Obama
October 26, 2004

First, we go to tonight's forum for the candidates for the United States Senate. Here's Phil Ponce. Phil?

PHIL PONCE, MODERATOR: Thanks, Bob. Here with me in Studio A are two groups of people. First, in the audience, are members and guests of the City Club of Chicago. The City Club is helping to underwrite tonight's forum.

With me, here at this table, are the two major-party candidates who want to be Illinois' next United States senator. They are Republican Alan Keyes, and Democrat Barack Obama.

And, a quick note on procedure. This is not a formal debate. There are no opening or closing statements, and answers will not be timed. The candidates will not necessarily be asked the same questions. Our goal is to better inform our audience about the candidates and the issues. We have a limited amount of time, so we've asked the candidates to be succinct. If they begin to make a speech, they know I will cut them off.

Mr. Keyes, as you know, three hundred and eighty tons of powerful explosives are missing from a weapons installation in Iraq. Senator Kerry is calling it "one of the great blunders of the war in Iraq." You've been generally supportive of the war, but what would you say has been the greatest blunder of the war?

ALAN KEYES, ILLINOIS U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Hmm. Well, I'm not sure, in my opinion, there has been any egregious blundering. I think that there could have been a greater effort, over the beginning of our efforts there, to bring in others. I would have brought others in on the political side of the equation, to help deal with the business of putting together an Iraqi government. I think that could still be done.

But, I think it's absolutely imperative that we keep the security dimensions of the Iraqi war under the control of the United States, so that we can pursue what ought to be our main objectives, which is to make sure that Iraq does not become a base for terrorist activity, that we are able to make sure a government does not come to power that will aid and abet terrorism, that we are able to do what's necessary to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the hands of terrorists.

Those national security goals are the proper goals of our effort, and I think we ought to be looking to the Iraqi people and to the international community to help deal with the political dimensions of establishing a stable government there.

PONCE: Senator Obama, you have been critical of the decision to go to war, but what would you grant has been the biggest success?

BARACK OBAMA, ILLINOIS U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, I think that the initial military was extraordinarily successful in moving into Iraq, and I think that it exceeded all expectations, even those of us, like myself, who expected the military to be successful, the initial incursion into Iraq, were stunned and impressed by how efficient our military and our brave fighting forces were in executing it.

But, going back to your previous question, I think that three hundred and eighty tons of explosives that are now being used on roadside bombs is an enormous error, particularly when the Bush administration had been warned by the Atomic Energy Commission.

I mean, in past debates, Ambassador Keyes has suggested that somehow I'm na´ve to question how we've gone about this war in Iraq. It strikes me that this administration has been na´ve throughout. It was na´ve in terms of thinking that we'd be greeted as liberators in Iraq. It's been na´ve in thinking that somehow this would actually diminish recruitment for terrorism. In fact, it's accelerated it. It's been na´ve with respect to how difficult it's gonna be to secure the peace, and it strikes me that, unfortunately, our troops and our taxpayers are suffering from those errors.

PONCE: Mr. Keyes, naivetÚ on the part of the administration, on those counts?

KEYES: Well, I think we mustn't rush to judgment, because what I'm hearing, and the media suggests, [is] that, with respect to these tons of explosives, it's still not clear what the chain of possession was, and whether or not it was, in fact, after the United States took possession that we lost track of these explosives.

I also think that all Americans are gonna look at the larger picture of whether or not we have taken steps that have effectively stopped Saddam Hussein from delivering weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. The probability of that is zero.

Whether we have in fact established a base that allows us effectively to recruit the kind of intelligence that we need to deal with this situation in Iran, in Syria, and elsewhere.

Whether we have discouraged other terrorist-sponsoring states, or potentially terrorist-sponsoring states, like Syria, like Libya, from continuing with their activities in a way that could result in death for Americans.

And, I also think we have to keep in mind that the kind of things we are doing in Iraq and in Afghanistan are only part of the effort we must make against terror, which is to carry the war to the terrorists themselves, by every means necessary, to find their cells and to wipe them out before they hit Americans.

And I think that is part of the effort that does require both intelligence and discretion, and it is going forward.

PONCE: Along those lines, Mr. Obama, name a key vulnerability or weakness that you see in homeland security that you, as a senator, would address.

OBAMA: Well, I think, our inspections of ports. We are currently inspecting 3% of all incoming cargo. We could load up a cargo container--a terrorist could load up a cargo container and drive it straight into the middle of the Loop without significant risk of them being inspected. Our chemical plants are still unsecured, despite the fact that we know how vulnerable they are. Our nuclear plants remain unsecured. There are a whole host of domestic priorities that have been neglected by this administration.

And I have to say that, going back to the issue of Iraq, it is simply not true that Saddam Hussein was providing weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. There's been no evidence that that was the case, and this incursion into Iraq has resulted in a situation in which terrorist recruits are up. It's been acknowledged, now, by the Pentagon, that the estimates of how many insurgents are active in Iraq is far higher. Terrorist attacks, worldwide, have gone up. They're the highest in twenty years.

And, the notion that somehow we are less vulnerable in the United States as a consequence of spending two hundred billion dollars and sacrificing thousands of lives is simply not borne out by the facts.

PONCE: This is area that both of you have covered, throughout the course of your campaign. Let's move on to Israel. Mr. Keyes, what role do you think the Israeli-Palestinian conflict plays in fueling potential terrorism against the United States?

KEYES: Oh, I think that we have seen in the Middle East, unhappily, that in the context of the ongoing Arab hostility to Israel, it has become an incubator of terrorism. But I think that was partially because of the response that was there from the rest of the world, including some previous administrations, the Europeans, and others, who allowed terrorists with the blood still dripping from their hands to sit down at so-called tables of "peace negotiations," in order to collect the ill-gotten gains that they had achieved by going after innocent lives.

KEYES: I think that's a great mistake. I think the Bush administration has followed--

PONCE: The real question was--if I may interrupt, the real question was, to what extent is the unresolved nature of the conflict fueling potential terrorism against the United States? That's what I meant to ask.

KEYES: No, that's not the real question. The real question is whether or not, by making concessions to terrorists over the course of several decades, we in fact helped to create the mentality that has then led to a widespread and global threat from terrorism.

If we had made it clear, as the Bush administration has, that we will not negotiate with those who practice terrorism, then perhaps we wouldn't have encouraged the adoption of terrorism as a strategic weapon on the part of some Palestinian groups, some in the Arab world, who think that they have gotten away with it. They have reaped rewards from it. They have killed innocent lives in Israel, on the Achille Lauro, at the Olympic Games, and at each stage, we were willing to go forward with a process that then rewarded them for this terrorist death.

I think the real question is whether or not we shouldn't have started to say "no" to terrorism long before we did. Then, maybe, we wouldn't have been struck on September 11.

PONCE: Mr. Obama, your thoughts on the role Israel plays in the potential motivation of potential terrorists against the United States.

OBAMA: Well, I think that the ideology--the death cult that's perverted one of the world's great religions--doesn't need an excuse like Israel to engage in the kind of violence that people like bin Laden have engaged in.

I think that, obviously, to the extent that we can arrive at a peaceful settlement in the Middle East, that would be helpful in draining some of the anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment that exists there.

But we've gotta take more steps than that. I mean, one of the concerns I have, for example, is that we have not been particularly aggressive in promoting the establishment of secular schools in the Middle East, that would be, would counteract, the madrasas that are, basically, the only education that young, Islamic men are receiving in places like Pakistan.

So, there are a whole host of issues that, I think, we're gonna have to grapple with. This is a battle of ideas, and not simply a military battle, that we're engaged in in the Middle East, and I think that one of the tragedies of the Bush administration is, they've been very neglectful of that second leg of the battle.

PONCE: Let me ask you this, though, along those lines. Today, the Knesset voted--strong vote of support to Prime Minister Sharon's plan to withdraw settlements from Gaza. Is that a sign that the administration's support of Mr. Sharon is well placed?

OBAMA: Well, I think that Mr. Sharon took a enormous risk, and a appropriate risk, in that particular circumstance, because what you've seen is a failure of the Palestinian leadership to clamp down on the sort of terrorist activities that had been taking place.

And, for the Israeli government to take this sort of unilateral step, I think, is entirely appropriate in terms of protecting their people.

Ultimately, what we're gonna have to see is the Arab peoples and the Palestinian people develop the sort of legitimate political leadership that is able to negotiate in a non-violent fashion, and have the will to clamp down on terrorism in a way that has not been done.

KEYES: What I--

PONCE: Let's move on. Let's move on to--

KEYES: What I find it hard to understand--

PONCE: Go ahead.

KEYES: --is, over the course of time, you have criticized the Bush administration time and again for a so-called "failure to engage in the peace process," when, in point of fact, when they withdrew and refused to deal with terrorist elements immediately after they had attacked and killed innocent Israelis, they were, in fact, pursuing the very goal you claim you want to pursue--because the way to discourage terrorist strategies is to make sure that nobody benefits from terrorist strategies.

And that means that you have to be willing to back away from negotiations with those who are sponsoring terrorism, aiding and abetting terrorists, refusing to condemn terrorists, and who think that they can sit down at the negotiating table and reap the rewards of terrorism.

And if you're not willing to make those hard decisions, and stay out of the process, when it serves the interests of the terrorists, then you're not serious--

PONCE: Mr. Obama?

KEYES: --in fact--

OBAMA: Ah--

KEYES: --about changing the ways they behave.

OBAMA: I'm not clear about what Mr. Keyes is referring to. I know that when he was ambassador in an administration that was engaged in the Middle East peace process, that his administration, as well as every subsequent administration, has felt that the United States has an appropriate role in seeing if it can move the process forward.

And I think that for us to suggest, somehow, that we should abdicate responsibility entirely in the Middle East makes no sense whatsoever.

PONCE: Let's move on to a domestic question, and it's a question that anyone who has an automobile is aware of now, and that is, the price of gasoline. With gasoline prices as high as they are, Mr. Keyes, what would you, as a senator, do to push--would you, as a senator, push--to require greater fuel efficiency from the auto makers?

KEYES: I think that the real question, when you have high gasoline prices, is to ask why the prices are high.

Right this moment, I think that's kinda hard to explain, because we don't see, anywhere that I can tell, in the world, where there is a problem with production or other things, so we'd need to examine that.

But, over the long term? I think we need to develop proper alternative fuels. I think we need to develop ethanol. We need to push on the research, where breakthroughs are occurring, to get hydrogen from ethanol.

PONCE: Are you talking about mandates from the government?

KEYES: We will be able, by pushing on that kind of research--yes, with support of government funding, we'll be able to have a win for our farmers, in the agricultural sector, to improve the profitability of their product. We'll be able to have a win on the environment, because hydrogen, for instance, is more clean-burning. We'll be able to have a win on national security, because we will stop feeding dollars to Arab states who use those dollars to fund schools where people are taught to engage in terrorism, and use those dollars to support the cadre and infrastructure of terrorism.

So, I think it's very important that we move ahead, and we do so vigorously and urgently, to develop a plan that will get us away from our dependence on oil, as the primary resource, and move us down the road that I think is going to be the twenty-first century pattern.

PONCE: Any disagreement, Mr. Obama?

OBAMA: Well, I think one of the tragedies of this administration, after 9/11, is that we did not move more aggressively on conservation as a strategy, in addition to developing alternative fuels.

I think that increasing fuel efficiency standards makes sense. We could save as much, in terms of our fuel, if we increased our CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards, fuel efficiency standards, as much as we would from getting Alaska drilling going immediately. And that's been the Bush strategy, as essentially drilling in Alaska, increasing production for oil and gas companies, subsidizing them to the tune of twenty billion dollars, as opposed to thinking about how, not only, we can develop alternative fuels, but also how can we conserve energy and increase the sort of efficiencies that are available right now, but have not been invested in.

PONCE: Let's move on to something that's related, and that is the issue of the deficit. Mr. Keyes, name one program you would cut to help shrink the deficit.

KEYES: Before I go there, one of the things that amazes me, is that folks who always talk about how they care about jobs for people in Illinois, and then they will move down policy roads, like CAFE standards, that would further damage the manufacturing and industrial base of our own state.

It makes no sense to me that we are going to take this country down a road that will damage our ability to maintain an expanding economy--without need, by the way--when, by achieving a proper balance between what's needed to create jobs, like Anwar exploration, and what's needed to sustain our productivity, and then put behind the kind of research that will make new breakthroughs in the energy area, put behind that the money that will then, again, provide more jobs and more opportunity for our people.

So, I think these are kinda contradictory. We want more government control that will restrict expanding horizons of opportunity, and then claim that we want to have more jobs for our people. It doesn't work.

PONCE: All right. Leads to a broader question. Mr. Obama, what do you see as the role of government?

OBAMA: This is where we have a significant philosophical difference, I think--myself, and Mr. Keyes.

I think that the proper role of government is to do things we can't do as well individually as we can do collectively And that includes protecting our environment. That includes building our roads. That includes the national defense. And it also includes caring for people who are having difficulty caring for themselves, and expanding opportunity for children who may be born in situations in which they don't have opportunity.

And, as far as I can tell, Mr. Keyes has a very different philosophy. His attitude is that government is consistently the problem. And I think that government sometimes is the problem, but sometimes government can actually help, in terms of providing people the opportunities they need, and can correct market failures where they occur.

PONCE: Mr. Keyes?

KEYES: Well, if I can correct the understanding--I guess I am not obsessed with government, and that's the difference between myself and Barack Obama.

I think that the first mission of the United States wasn't government. It was self-government. It was the ability of people to do for themselves.

And in the business, for instance, of caring for themselves, of raising strong families, of producing businesses that will provide jobs--this is something the American people do very well, and I think the role of government is to second their motion.

Government doesn't have an independent role of the people of this country. It is, in areas where it can support and facilitate their activity, it should do so, in areas that involve, for instance, opening up our frontiers and building the infrastructure that was necessary to support that opening--makes very good sense.

Opening up scientific frontiers, such as we've been talking about with ethanol, and hydrogen--it makes very good sense. Providing the kind of support for our infrastructure and transportation and other areas--it makes very good sense.

But when you come in, as Barack Obama was just suggesting, and you start saying that "we can better handle the problem of helping families that are in poverty"--it turns out government doesn't do that better, because there's a moral dimension to that problem, where you need to give the help without undermining the incentive of people to work, without undermining the incentive of people to get married and stay married, which turns out to be one of the most important things they can do to get out of poverty.

These are things that have a moral dimension that cannot easily be addressed by bureaucrats and impersonal policies. You need to have communities. You need to have churches. You need to have synagogues. You need to have the organizations that can--

OBAMA: Let me, let me, let me, let me, let me say this.

KEYES: --walk with people, on an emotional and spiritual basis.

OBAMA: You know, when a child doesn't have health insurance, they don't need a lecture; they need health insurance.

(laughter)

OBAMA: When you have families that don't have housing, despite the fact that they're working full-time--and there's not a single metropolitan area in the entire nation in which someone who's working minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom apartment and put a roof over the heads of their families--then, they need something concrete. They may have exemplary morals, and they may be doing everything that they can to support their children, but they've hit hard times. And, in those situations, I think government has a appropriate role in making sure that some of those needs are met, so that people can ultimately do for themselves.

KEYES: Nobody disagrees about that, but the actual, factual record shows that the way in which we went about providing that help laid down rules and regulations that, for instance, penalized people when they got married and deprived them, for instance, of their welfare; drove fathers and males out of the home so they wouldn't play their proper role.

Government did that, with stupid regulations that did not, in fact, take account of the moral dimensions of the help we should be providing people. Sometimes--

OBAMA: And Mr. Keyes is exactly right about that.

KEYES: If I may say so, you want to help folks, but the notion that you don't want to, quote, "lecture" them--to act as if the moral dimension of life, the kind of things that encourage people to meet their responsibilities to their spouses and to their children, to walk in a way that is disciplined and self-respectful, to teach the children that they have to have respect for the parents, and that people in a family have to work together--I know government can't do that. But I know that churches, and people working within their spiritual communities, can.

So, if government wants to work with these problems, it should work through the institutions that represent the moral identity and culture of the people. It should not work through the kind of impersonal, bureaucratic approaches that have dominated the socialistic mentality of the--

(Moderator and Obama attempt to interrupt)

KEYES: --last several decades.

OBAMA: No, I'm sorry, Phil, because I'm trying to get a little equal time here--

(laughter)

PONCE: Ladies and gentlemen, please refrain. Thank you.

OBAMA: I don't even disagree with what Mr. Keyes just said, which is why I've been responsible, in this state, for one of the most successful welfare reform programs in the country (we've cut the welfare rolls in half); that's why I've emphasized things like child support, providing mechanisms to hold fathers responsible for their children.

Part of the problem, in a lot of these debates, is you've got conservatives who will paint this boogeyman of liberalism, which dredges up every error that's been made throughout the sixties or seventies that had been cured, significantly, over the last decade, will suggest that, somehow, people who are interested in government providing some assistance to people who are on hard times are, somehow, engaging in "socialism," and that is completely off-point, because what we're talking about is not socialistic programs.

Mr. Keyes considers Social Security "socialism." He's called it a "socialistic program." I think that Social Security is what has lifted about half of the senior citizens in our society out of poverty, and I think that is a good investment, on the part of all of us because, when senior citizens are in poverty, not only do they suffer, but the entire community suffers.

KEYES: I--

PONCE: How about the issue of the responsibility, or the role of government, in working with institutions to promote, sort of, a moral impulse?

OBAMA: Well, here's where I think we may find some agreement, and that is that some of the most successful government programs that are taking place right now are run through community development corporations.

I started, I came to Chicago working with churches on the far south side of Chicago, and when those organizations set up a not-for-profit organization--and they've got a set of values that motivate and animate what they do--then, oftentimes, they can be much more successful in substance-abuse programs, in programs for children, in building affordable housing.

So, to the extent that we can be wise about how we use market incentives for programs, to the extent that we're working with community-based agencies and organizations that are closer to the ground than a distant and remote federal government, then I think that makes a lot of sense.

KEYES: Well, I think--

PONCE: Mr. Keyes, let's move on, please.

KEYES: Well, I think--no, I think this is a very critical point.

PONCE: No. No, sir. Let's move on. Sir? We're moving on. We're moving on.

United Airlines just announced that it is adding six hundred and fifty telephone reservation jobs in India, and cutting jobs in this country. What, specifically, can you do, in the United States Senate, to keep jobs in Illinois?

KEYES: I think the most important thing that we have to do is, deal with the results of these unfair trade agreements that have been destroying the manufacturing base in Illinois, that have eliminated close to 20% of the manufacturing jobs in the state since 1998.

I think that these things are the kinds of things that, with my background in international relations and my background in multilateral affairs, I know exactly why we're not getting good results--because the multilateral fora are biased against our interests, because other countries can gang up on the United States, with some of the most privileged and better-performing ones hiding behind the less-developed ones, to get deals at the multilateral table that they could never get at the bilateral table, get concessions from us we wouldn't otherwise make, refuse to make concessions, in the multilateral environment, we would otherwise get.

So, I think it's gonna be very important to have somebody representing Illinois who will step into the United States Senate from Day One, with the background and experience, already, to command the respect of his colleagues, as he addresses this underlying problem which has to do with how we are approaching this complex issue of international affairs, but doing it in a way that's based on actual experience, and hands-on understanding of what some of the failings are with, for instance, the whole concept of free trade.

Barack Obama went to the Chicago Development Council and said he thought free trade was a good idea. I don't think it is. I don't think it's a good thing, because it's a false notion which is based on having Americans, who have to build into the price of their products the price of freedom, of union organization, of representative government where you can get safety and health regulations--

PONCE: All right, let's get Mr. Obama in this.

KEYES: We're competing with slave labor from China, and it's just not right.

PONCE: Mr. Obama, beat on your position on jobs for Illinois.

OBAMA: There are a couple of things that we can do. I think that we do need to enforce our trade agreements more effectively. When China devalues its currency by 40%, that has to be challenged within the World Trade Organization. It's not something that's being done. Right now, we have a tendency for our federal government to negotiate our trade agreements on behalf of multinational corporations, and not on behalf of workers and communities that are getting hard hit.

The second thing is, we have to change our tax code. We've got a tax code right now that provides tax incentives to companies that are moving overseas. We need to close those loopholes and give tax breaks to companies that are investing here at home.

We have to invest in infrastructure, because part of the problem that we have right now is that, not only are jobs moving overseas because those countries are getting more skilled, but they're also getting improved infrastructure.

For example, in Brazil, you've got locks and dams that have been invested in that are far superior to what we've got here in Illinois. That doesn't make sense, and we've got to invest there.

And, finally, we've got to invest in human capital, which is critical. Our children have to improve their performance in math and science for us to keep jobs here.

But there's one point that I've got to make, and that is that Mr. Keyes' basic suggestion is tariffs, as a solution to this--building a moat around America. I don't think that's an effective strategy. I think that, Number One, globalism is here to stay. Number Two, I think that we have enormous export reliance, here within the state of Illinois. We are the second-leading exporter of agricultural products, of all the fifty states, and we would suffer tremendously from the sort of tariff wars that, I think, Mr. Keyes would be proposing.

PONCE: Mr. Keyes, a quick response.

KEYES: Nobody has ever suggested tariff wars. We have certain--

OBAMA: You've suggested tariffs.

KEYES: Of course I have, because under the GATT agreement, for instance--

OBAMA: Well, there you go.

KEYES: --certain kinds of tariffs are quite allowable, in order to achieve greater balance of trade.

We need to creatively use the tools that are available to us. Saying we should rely on these multilateral organizations, where the deck is stacked against us, which can circumvent what ought to be the proper judgment of our own legislators whom we elect, responsible to us, and we should rely on their judgment to be fair to us, when we've seen what they do to the United States in other respects?

I think we have to keep sovereign control of our own economic destiny. And "globalism" should not imply that we are going to dilute the sovereignty of the United States when it comes to defending our manufacturing base, and when it comes, by the way, to winning a better deal for our farmers. The notion that they have been getting something wonderful out of this "free trade" nonsense is absurd.

Oh, sure. The other countries--Japan, and so forth--they've crack the door a little bit, but guess what? They haven't stuck their heads out, yet. And our farmers aren't yet getting access to the rich markets that they ought to have fair access to as a result of these agreements, and it's time we started to ask why, and stopped kowtowing to these multilateral mechanisms our fundamental interests for workers and farmers alike.

PONCE: Thank you. Let's move to the question of education. Mr. Obama, you've said that you consider education as the most important civil rights issue facing America today. Currently, your children are in private schools. If you're elected to the Senate, will you send them to public schools?

OBAMA: Well, my children currently go to the lab school at the University of Chicago where I teach, and my wife works, and we get a good deal for it. But, so--

(laughter, applause)

OBAMA: --it depends on whether we move or not. And that, obviously, hinges on the election and what's gonna happen. We're gonna choose the best possible education for our children, as I suspect all parents are gonna try to do. And that's part of the reason why, consistently when I've been in the state legislature, I've tried to promote those kinds of reforms that would improve what I think is an inadequate performance by too many public schools, all across the state.

PONCE: But you're against vouchers, as a senator.

OBAMA: I am.

PONCE: You have the means, to have a choice--

OBAMA: Absolutely.

PONCE: --for your children. What about the families that don't have the means? Is it fair for them--

OBAMA: What they--no--

PONCE: --not to have a choice?

OBAMA: --what they need is more money in their pockets.

And that's why I've supported programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit, that provides tax relief to low-income families, so that they can use that money any way that they want, including sending their kids into private schools.

PONCE: Is that enough of a help, Mr. Keyes?

KEYES: I'm sorry, y'all--I do not see the day when every American family is going to be employed by the University of Chicago so they, too, can have a choice.

(laughter)

KEYES: I think that we had better get there a little sooner than that. And I think that the way we get there sooner than that, is to let the money we spend on education follow the choice of the parents, so every family in Illinois--whether they are rich or poor--will be able to have the same scope to do what they think is best for their children.

I do not understand why we should believe it right to imprison the parents of people with less means in failing public schools, when, and then--oh! "I'll let them have a little more money, so they can go on paying twice for education"? Paying with the taxes, and paying as well with money they have to dig into their pocket to earn?

One of the most touching things [that] happened to me when I got to Illinois, was talking to a father who had worked hard to send his daughter to a private school--he was a worker over at Ford, the Ford plant--and we were sitting there in the restaurant talking about this, and in the middle of it, he tells me that his son had died in a drive-by shooting. And I'm looking at this man, whose heart was utterly broken, and thinking to myself that, for all that, he was still willing to make the extra effort, to make sure that his daughter got the best.

I don't think it should be that hard. I don't think it should be that hard. We have the wherewithal and, in addition to everything else, if we adopted a proper voucher program, we would equalize the scandalous inequities in education that occur in Illinois because of the funding mechanism that leaves some kids stuck in poor districts.

Give every parent the same amount that they'll be able to spend on their child, and you can bet, in faith schools and parochial schools and other, non-government schools, they'll be able to get better results for less money than we're getting right now.

PONCE: Thank you. A real quick response, before we move on--and we have to.

OBAMA: Right now, 90% of our school children go to public schools. Some of those schools are doing a good job. Some of them are not. It is absolutely critical that as we move, for example, in charter schools and encourage competition in public schools, that we don't blow up the public school system--which, essentially, is what Mr. Keyes advocates.

I mean, he has talked about eliminating all federal aid to public schools, the Department of Education. That is a 10% to 12% reduction in our school systems. Eighty percent of our schools, right now, are in deficit spending. Eighty percent. And, the kinds of proposals Mr. Keyes suggests would essentially, over time, drain money from the public school system, without any commitment that we would, in fact, create the kind of private school system on a parallel track, that would enable the children that he talks about from actually getting a better education.

We need to lift all boats. The public schools were fine, for most of the people in this audience, and worked very well. And, the notion that, somehow, the public schools can't work today, I think is erroneous. I haven't given up on the public schools.

PONCE: Gentlemen, I have, I have--Gentlemen. No, gentlemen--

KEYES: He made a false statement. I have not advocated eliminating all public monies for education, never did, never have--

OBAMA: Mr. Keyes, that's not true.

KEYES: --don't believe it, and--

OBAMA: You're on record as saying it.

KEYES: I am not.

OBAMA: Yes, you are. We'll show you--

KEYES: And the truth of the matter--

KEYES: The truth of the matter is, it's not a matter of whether we spend as a public, but whether we spend cost-effectively. And the notion that this drains money from public schools--

PONCE: All right. Thank you.

KEYES: --is not true. If you examine the case in Wisconsin and elsewhere, the more general the voucher program, the more general the choice was, the better the performance we got out of--

OBAMA: That is simply--that, that--

PONCE: Gentlemen? Gentlemen?

OBAMA: That is not the case.

PONCE: I now want to get to a section which, for want of a better term, I call the "quick hit" section. "Yes" or "no" answers, only. Partial privatization of Social Security for younger workers--yes or no?

OBAMA: No.

KEYES: Yes.

PONCE: Casino gambling in Chicago? Yes or no?

OBAMA: No.

KEYES: No.

PONCE: Drilling in the Alaskan wilderness?

OBAMA: Yes.

KEYES: Yes.

PONCE: "Yes?"

OBAMA: Oh, I'm sorry. Pardon me.

(laughter and applause)

OBAMA: I appreciate that, Phil. We had already talked about that. You were going a little too fast.

PONCE: (laughs)

OBAMA: You were going too fast.

PONCE: I thought we were about to make news here, Mr. Obama.

OBAMA: Almost. No!

PONCE: (laughs) All right. Fine. The answer withdrawn. Cars, that your family owns?

OBAMA. Chrysler. Is that right?

(laughter)

OBAMA: Don't remember what it's called.

PONCE: One Chrysler?

OBAMA: One Chrysler.

PONCE: Mr. Keyes?

KEYES: Lincoln and Ford.

PONCE: Reinstatement of the draft? Yes or no?

OBAMA: No.

KEYES: Universal service, also including non-military alternatives, yes.

PONCE: OK. Let's move on to a political question, for want of a better term. The U.S. Senate is a deliberative body, Mr. Keyes. Can you give an example, in your public life, of where you've compromised for the greater good?

KEYES: Oh, I think I have done it all the time. I think one of the things I've changed my mind on in a major way was free trade. I was once a big advocate of free trade, as most conservatives are, but I found that the facts were simply against me.

PONCE: I'm not talking about a change of mind. I'm talking about a compromise.

KEYES: Well, I think that, in the course of my negotiations in the United Nations, I had to compromise all the time, in order to produce agreements with other countries. In the context of the north-south dialogue, I had to compromise on language, for instance, where they didn't want us to include a reference to the private sector in resolutions in the United Nations. They'd never done it, before I got there. Isn't that amazing?

And so we compromised, and allowed them to mention "public, private, social, cooperative, or mixed." We got a list of about five different things, but I got "private sector" in there.

So, those kinds of compromises were quite commonplace, where you insist, at the end of the day, that you want to push your point, so that people will know that it's there, but you're also open to allowing others to express their views.

PONCE: Mr. Obama, as a senator, what would your first piece of legislation be, that you would propose?

OBAMA: You know, what I'd like to see is a continuing expansion of the children's health insurance programs--something I'm very proud we expanded here in the state of Illinois. Twenty thousand children have health insurance they didn't have. I think we can make sure that every child in America that doesn't have health insurance, has basic care.

PONCE: Mr. Keyes, because of your deep commitment to Christianity, what do you say to citizens of Illinois who are of other faiths, who might be concerned about your ability to represent them?

KEYES: Oh, I don't think there's need for such concern. I take very seriously the great American principles that we all have in common, starting with the Declaration of Independence, which says we are, all of us, created equal and endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.

If folks listen carefully--and that means you can't do it with the newspapers; you have to actually listen to what I say--to the arguments I make on public policy issues, they will find that, in every case, I reach my conclusions based on the civic principles that are the common ground of American self-government.

Yes, they are compatible and in harmony with my faith because, in point of fact, if I had to take a position that was contrary to my conscience, I wouldn't be able to be a politician. These people who say, "Well, I think abortion is wrong, but I've got to stand for a public policy that pursues it," are people who would say, I don't know, "Sex outside of marriage is wrong, but I'm going to be a porno star."

You can't have it both ways. You can't engage in activities that are contrary to your conscience if you're a Christian, so I advocate the positions that are in harmony with my conscience, but I argue for those positions on the basis of American principles that I have carefully studied, and that I apply in every case.

I can make that case with abortion. I do make that case with traditional marriage. I think that you can make such civic arguments, based on the common principles that we all share as Americans, in order to make clear--because we have a moral identity as a people. There are moral principles involved in the foundations of American government, and we can reason from them to proper moral conclusions.

PONCE: Mr. Obama, you've said that your religious faiths, your religious faith, dictates that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Would you elaborate on that?

OBAMA: Well, what I believe is that marriage is between a man and a woman, but what I also believe is that we have an obligation to make sure that gays and lesbians have the rights of citizenship that afford them visitations to hospitals, that allow them to be, to transfer property between partners, to make certain that they're not discriminated on the job. I think that bundle of rights are absolutely critical.

PONCE: Excuse me, but as far as, why? What in your religious faith calls you to be against gay marriage?

OBAMA: Well, what I believe, in my faith, is that a man and a woman, when they get married, are performing something before God, and it's not simply the two persons who are meeting.

But that doesn't mean that that necessarily translates into a position on public policy or with respect to civil unions. What it does mean is that we have a set of traditions in place that, I think, need to be preserved, but I also think we need to make sure that gays and lesbians have the same set of basic rights that are in place.

And I was glad to see, for example, that the president today apparently stated that he was in favor of civil unions. This may be a reversal of his position but I think it's a healthy one. I think, on this, President Bush and I disagree, apparently, with Mr. Keyes on this, because I think that that kind of basic ethic of regard towards all people, regardless of sexual orientation, is a valuable thing.

PONCE: Let me ask you, let me interrupt and ask you a very quick follow-up question. Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?

OBAMA: No. I don't. I--I--I--

PONCE: You think it's innate.

OBAMA: I think that, for the most part, it is innate. I think that, obviously, it may vary in certain circumstances, but I think that it is something that is a part of their identity. Now--but--

PONCE: That being the case, Mr. Obama--that being the case, if something is not a choice, if something is innate, then why isn't it a civil right, and why isn't your support of--

OBAMA: Well, I think that--

PONCE: --civil unions, as opposed to marriage--

OBAMA: --I think that--

PONCE: --does that amount to "separate, but equal"?

OBAMA: No. I think there are a whole host of things that are civil rights, and then there are other things--such as traditional marriage--that, I think, express a community's concern and regard for a particular institution.

PONCE: So, marriage is not a civil right, as far as you're concerned.

OBAMA: I don't think marriage is a civil right, but I think that being able--

PONCE: Is it a human right?

OBAMA: But I think that being able to transfer property is a civil right. I think not being--

PONCE: Do you think marriage is a human right?

OBAMA: I think that not being able to, not being discriminated against is a civil right. I think making sure that we don't engage in the sort of gay-bashing that, I think, has unfortunately dominated this campaign--not just here in Illinois, but across the country--I think, is unfortunate, and I think that that kind of mean-spirited attacks on homosexuals is something that the people of Illinois generally have rejected.

PONCE: Mr. Keyes, on the Channel 7 debate last Thursday night, you said, and I'm quoting you, "Where procreation is, in principle, impossible, marriage is irrelevant." You went on to say it was irrelevant, and not needed. What about marriage between people that are well beyond their child-bearing age? "Irrelevant"? "Not needed"?

KEYES: No, it's simply a misunderstanding. The word "in principle" means, "relating to the definition of." Not, "relating to particular circumstances." So, if an apple has a worm in it, the worm is not part of the definition of the apple. It doesn't change what the apple is, in principle. So, the fact--

PONCE: It retains its "appleness."

KEYES: Can I--can I--

(audience laughs)

KEYES: It pertains, it retains--no. To act as if concepts are laughable means that you want to be irrational. Human beings are--

PONCE: No, I'm asking you, sir. You said--

KEYES: Excuse me. Let me finish.

PONCE: You said, you said it was "not needed."

KEYES: Human beings reason by means of concepts and definitions. We also make laws by means of definitions. And if you don't know how to operate with respect for those definitions, you can't make the law.

An individual who is impotent, or another who is infertile, does not change the definition of marriage in principle, because between a man and a woman in principle, procreation is always possible, and it is that possibility which gave rise to the institution of marriage in the first place as a matter of law--

PONCE: To eighty-year-olds, it's still possible, "in principle."

KEYES: But when it is impossible in principle, as between two males or two females, you're not talking about something that's just incidentally impossible. It's impossible in principle.

And that means that, if you say that that's a marriage, you are saying marriage can be understood, in principle, apart from procreation. You have changed its definition in such a way as, in fact, to destroy the necessity for the institution, since the only reason it has existed in human societies and civilizations was to regulate, from a social point of view, the obligations and responsibilities attendant upon procreation.

So, when you start playing games in this way, you are actually acting as if the institution has no basis, independent of your own arbitrary whim. And, if you don't mind my saying so, that's what we just heard.

We heard something that wasn't based on reasoning. It wasn't based on logic. It was based on vague feelings--

PONCE: Sir? It was based on your quote last Thursday night.

KEYES: No, no. I don't mean that. I'm not talking about me.

(laughter)

PONCE: Oh, I see.

KEYES: I am talking about what Senator Obama just went through--

PONCE: Got it.

KEYES: --in terms of explaining his position.

My position is based upon an effort, as conscientiously as I can, to reason through the challenge that we face, when dealing with the most important, fundamental institution of our social life and civilization. We can't afford--for instance, in civil unions--

PONCE: We've got to move on. We've got to move on.

OBAMA: But, hold on, Phil--

PONCE: All right.

OBAMA: --because he suggests that my position is illogical. Now, this is somebody who, just last week, suggested that the fact that gays and lesbians adopted children would inevitably lead to incest. There's no logic involved in that. That's pure vicious attack against homosexuals. It applies no more to gays and lesbians who've adopted children than it does to heterosexuals who've adopted children.

And then Mr. Keyes will then back off, and say, "Well, you didn't quite catch the comma there, and the qualifier here, and the coda there," but the fact of the matter is, is that it was a mean-spirited attack, intended to suggest that there is some connection between homosexuality and incest. There was no logical basis for that. That was simply an assertion, on his part.

KEYES: Would you mind? Can I do that?

PONCE: Please. Go right ahead.

KEYES: Because it's actually very simple. I have, over here, two females--you know, I didn't talk about adoption--those two females are intent on having, quote, "having" a child, which they cannot have, obviously, unless you involve a male.

The procedures that are used now, by many lesbian couples, are procedures that mask the identity of the father, so it will not be known. OK? So it will not, and cannot, be known, who is the father of that child.

PONCE: Isn't that true, in many adoptions?

KEYES: No, no--excuse me. I just said that a conscious, willful effort was made so that you could not know who was the biological father.

Once you have made that effort, you produce a child who cannot know who its father is. Cannot know that.

Now, if you don't know, and have no way of ascertaining, who your father is, then you can't know who your sisters and brothers are, obviously. And if you can't know who your sisters and brothers are, there is no way you could avoid having sexual relations with them [as a broad hypothetical, multiplying this example across society]. So, logically speaking--

PONCE: And--

OBAMA: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

(laughter)

KEYES: Excuse me. Excuse me. I know that Senator Obama sometimes has a hard time getting from A to B, but from A to B is a simple, logical step, which I believe most people in the state of Illinois have the common sense to see.

In order to make an informed judgment, you must have the knowledge needed to avoid the consequence, and in that particular case, the knowledge is not available.

PONCE: Quick response, Mr. Obama.

KEYES: It is quite logical.

OBAMA: I mean, according to Mr. Keyes, then, that would be true of any adoptions, where they often don't know who their parents are. It would be true any time an infertile couple gets a sperm donor to help them have a child. I think your logic wasn't that complicated. It was just wrong.

(laughter)

KEYES: Well, see--

PONCE: Ladies and gentlemen, please.

KEYES: The wonderful thing that one learns, when one deals actually with logic and philosophy, is that, when I have a point proven over here, the fact that that same point applies in an entirely different circumstance does not prove the error of my logic. It simply proves--

OBAMA: It does prove it when you say that it's inevitable that they're gonna have (inaudible), which is what you said.

KEYES: It simply proves--excuse me. It simply proves that that logic may or may not exist elsewhere. If I have ascertained that a mistake is made over here, telling me that the same mistake may also be made over here, doesn't invalidate the logic which identified the mistake. And that's where you're having a problem.

OBAMA: No, because you said it was inevitable, and that was entirely wrong.

PONCE: Mr. Obama, tell us about a time in your life when you experienced racism, and what you learned from it.

OBAMA: Well, I think there are multiple circumstances. I think that any child growing up in this country who is an African American at some point has been called racial epithets. I think there have been frequent situations where I've been in settings in which it was assumed I was "the help." I remember, actually, when I first got out of law school, and was being recruited by a major law firm here in Chicago, and had been invited to a fancy dinner, and as I'm walking by, wearing what I thought was a pretty nice suit, anyway--

(laughter)

OBAMA: --somebody turns to me and says, "Can I have more tea?"

You know, I think every African American has some experiences like that, but I think those experiences have slowly and gradually diminished over time, thanks to the enormous efforts of parents and grandparents and others who made sacrifices in this society, and I am entirely optimistic that my children will experience an America that is less conscious of race, and is less focused on the sort of discriminatory activity that's taken place in the past.

PONCE: Mr. Keyes, you've said that you and Mr. Obama are from the same race, but not from the same heritage. Do you feel that you are more personally in touch with African Americans than he, because you are a descendant of slaves?

KEYES: I simply observed a fact. I didn't make any conclusions from that fact. I wouldn't do so.

And I thought it was rather strange, in the last debate that we had, that, when I talked about the effect of my heritage on my outlook--for instance, in dealing with the issue of abortion, one of the reasons I'm so intensely interested is because there's a disproportionate impact of abortion on the black community, that threatens to reduce the numbers of black people in a way that will be quite demographically drastic, over the course of the twenty-first century.

I did misspeak a little last time, because I had said more black babies were being aborted than were being born. In fact, I think the ratio is 55% live births, 45% abortions--but you know, that's still pretty bad, and it leads to a situation, over time, that's gonna be awful for the black community.

So, I think that it has an effect on one's outlook, because you look back to a heritage where things like the Declaration of Independence were critically important to making progress in the battle against slavery and in the battle for civil rights.

The thought that we would discard it--that we would, for the sake of, I don't know, sexual license and other things, be talking about the world as if the Declaration didn't apply to our babies in the womb--strikes me as a devastating loss, because I know how important it was to the progress of justice, in the course of our history.

So, that's simply a matter of how that heritage influences what I have focused on in life, what I consider to be terribly, critically important questions of justice, how I look at the present situation, in terms of the plight of the black community. I do look at the larger picture, sometimes, because I think it's well and good that we concentrate on helping people get jobs, and education, and do the things that are needed to meet the challenges of the present time, but if something's going on that's gonna, overall, lead to genocide--

PONCE: Thank you, Mr. Keyes.

KEYES: --against the community in the long term, we'd better deal with that, too. . . .

PONCE: Quick hits, yes or no. Federal funding to research new lines of embryonic stem cells, Mr. Obama?

OBAMA: Yes.

KEYES: No.

PONCE: Should the display of the Ten Commandments be allowed in government buildings, yes or no?

OBAMA: I think it depends. I think it depends on whether or not it's a historical building, in which case, there's not a clear message of religion sent, or if it's one of these new, large signs that are being erected in front of the courts, like what happened in Alabama, which Mr. Keyes supports.

PONCE: All right. Mr. Keyes? Quick answer.

KEYES: Of course--because the federal government, through the judges or anybody else, has absolutely no constitutional authority whatsoever to interfere with the states in this matter, and it's provable on the basis of the clear, plain, non-interpreted language of the Constitution. The idea that it requires separation of church and state, that can be imposed on the states, is simply a lie.

OBAMA: This is something that I do have to address, because Mr. Keyes repeats this all the time. You know, he suggests that the separation of church and state is, somehow, an argument that he's having with liberal judges out here. He's not having an argument with liberal judges. He's having an argument with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Thomas Jefferson coined the term, "a wall of separation." Now, what he'll fall back on is suggesting that, even if there was a wall of separation, it would only apply to the federal government--but the fact of the matter is, we've incorporated the Bill of Rights into, to apply to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. That's the reason that the states can't ban this program, any more than the federal government can.

PONCE: All right.

KEYES: No, no, no. You're not going--

PONCE: Yes.

KEYES: You're not going to leave that on the table.

PONCE: Yes, yes I am. Yes, I am.

KEYES: First of all--

PONCE: Mr. Keyes, quick hit.

KEYES: I'll do it quickly. I'll do it quickly--

PONCE: All right.

KEYES: --but it's not fair that he should imply something entirely untrue. "Congress shall make no law establishing religion" applies to the federal government. The Tenth Amendment says, "All those powers not delegated to the United States or prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states, respectively, and to the people."

By the articles of the Bill of Rights, therefore, it is one of the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States to be free from federal interference on this issue of religious establishment. That's plain--

PONCE: OK. That's enough. That's enough.

KEYES: --from the text of the documents.

PONCE: Yes or no, eliminate the electoral college?

OBAMA: Yes.

PONCE: Yes?

KEYES: No.

OBAMA: I think, at this point, this is breaking down.

PONCE: All right. Thank you. Mr. Keyes, a few weeks ago, in this very studio, you told an audience of High School students that, no matter the outcome, you planned to live in Illinois after the campaign. What, specifically, do you plan to do here?

KEYES: I don't understand. I'm concentrating on my campaign, and I'm not worried about what I do in the event that I lose the election. What I plan to do is get a house, represent the people of this state to the best of my ability in the United States Senate, and make sure the voice of their heart and conscience is, once again, felt in the counsels of America as they were in the past, in such a way as to uphold the Declaration, defend innocent life, and promote the real interests of our workers and farmers through effective, competent representation.

PONCE: Mr. Obama, where would you have your primary residence?

OBAMA: You know, we haven't decided yet. First, I've got to win an election. And, after that, my priority is gonna be making sure I've got as much time as possible with my wife and children.

PONCE: Speaking of that, how does one balance the demands of something that is going to be, should you win, as consuming as the Senate, with that of a young father, to young children?

OBAMA: It's an extraordinarily difficult thing. It's like, the hardest thing about politics and, the main way I manage it is just having an extraordinary wife who carries more than her load. And, part of my task is just making sure I'm providing her support, as well as spending as much time when I'm not working, with my children, as possible.

PONCE: How does campaigning affect your family, Mr. Keyes? You left Maryland.

KEYES: I think the most important thing is that my wife and I do have a strong bond, and that we share a common faith. We know that, at the end of the day, if we are walking the walk that God wants us to walk, and if we prayerfully consider what we're doing, He will provide us with the strength, and the aid, and the wisdom, and the discernment, to deal with our children and our family in a way that will not damage them for the future, and will help us to do the work He wants us to do.

And we're also supported and have been, throughout our lives, by a lot of people who are interested in what we do, support the kind of things we are working for, who understand what it does to the family, and who pray for us intensely. And we feel, and are thankful for, those prayers every day of our lives.

PONCE: Mr. Obama, last Thursday night on WLS, you said that, if elected, you would be independent of the mayor. The United States Attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, has been involved in major investigations of corruption at City Hall. Are you willing to take a pledge that, if the circumstances arose where you would have a voice in the matter, you would fight to keep the current U.S. Attorney?

OBAMA: Yes. I think that Patrick Fitzgerald has done a good job. I think that's one of the better decisions that Peter Fitzgerald made when he was in office. I think we could have found an independent U.S. Attorney from Illinois, as well, but I think the person he selected has done an excellent job, and I think he deserves reappointment.

PONCE: Mr. Keyes, you've run for the U.S. Senate twice before. You've run for the presidency twice, and have never come close to being elected. At what point does it cease to become a useful exercise?

KEYES: I think that what you're doing when you stand before your fellow citizens to run for office is not about power, and it's not about office. It's simply about standing, with integrity, for the truth that will best serve the people, the country, and your own children in the future of America. And I believe that's all that I'm about.

And when I am running for office, even as now, I don't get up every day thinking about what's going to serve my ambition, and what serves some useful purpose, in that cynical way. If I have presented to people, as honestly as I can, things that I believe will help them to improve their understanding of the foundations of our way of life, to improve the way in which we maintain our liberty and our free institutions, to improve the way we apply those principles in order to secure our prosperity for the future and our strength and security in the world, then everything I do, at every stage of my public life--win, lose, or draw--makes a good contribution to the life of my country.

And that's all I care about. Because, along the way, as they say, you can do a lot of good--and it's up to God, at the end of the day, to decide in what way He is going to bless the effort.

But I am sure of one thing--as long as I walk the walk that He outlines and the path He wants me to go down, I will do good, and I will be happy with the result, because the only thing I really care about is whether or not, at the end of the day, I win the one judgment that matters most to me in the world, and that is when He admits me home to the kingdom, and the place that He prepares for all those who have faith in His Son.

PONCE: Mr. Keyes, among other things, at times in our history, the United States Senate has been known for great statesmanship. I know this has been a contentious campaign, but I'd like each of you to take, to talk something about, to tell us something you admire about your opponent. You can take a minute, if you can fill up a minute.

(laughter)

KEYES: Well, I think he has proven to be someone who has been able to make a strong and favorable impression, on a personal level, on folks. I think that he did so in his speech at the Democratic National Convention, and I think that he's also, obviously, made a powerful impression on the media elites in Illinois, and in other places.

(laughter)

KEYES: I think that that is, obviously, something that required talents and abilities. I also think that, during the course of the debates we've had, he's shown himself to be both courteous and somebody who, as I've watched other debates around the country, is able to engage substantively on the issues--at a level that, I think, has been helpful in clarifying the differences between us.

PONCE: And let's hear from Mr. Obama.

OBAMA: Well, I think that Mr. Keyes is extraordinarily intelligent, and passionate in presenting his views. And no one doubts that. He also, by the way, has a nice singing voice, which--

(laughter)

OBAMA: --we've heard on a couple of occasions. But I have enormous respect, I think, for Mr. Keyes in the consistency with which he presents his views and what is obviously the heartfelt passion of those views. I disagree with some of them, but there aren't many people who are better, who can better articulate those particular positions.

PONCE: And that will have to be the final word. Alan Keyes, Barack Obama, thank you for being here.

And again, our thanks to the City Club of Chicago for helping to make this forum possible. For our Chicago-area viewers, please stay tuned with us for an extended edition of Chicago Tonight, including post-debate analysis, and live coverage of the press conferences the candidates are about to have in a different part of the building. Bob Sirott and Elizabeth Brackett will be keeping an eye on all of that. But for now, I'm Phil Ponce. Thank you for watching. And now, a round of applause for our two candidates.

(applause)
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