2004 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
GEORGE W. BUSH & JOHN KERRY
THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE
CORAL GABLES, FL • SEPTEMBER 30, 2004
MR. LEHRER: Good evening from the University of Miami Convocation
Center in Coral Gables, Fla. I'm Jim Lehrer of "The
NewsHour" on PBS, and I welcome you to the first of
the 2004 presidential debates between President George W.
Bush, the Republican nominee, and Senator John Kerry, the
These debates are sponsored by the Commission on Presidential
Debates. Tonight's will last 90 minutes following detailed
rules of engagement worked out by representatives of the
candidates. I have agreed to enforce their rules on them.
The umbrella topic is foreign policy and homeland security,
but the specific subjects were chosen by me, the questions
were composed by me, the candidates have not been told what
they are nor has anyone else.
For each question there can only be a two-minute response,
a 90-second rebuttal and, at my discretion, a discussion
extension of one minute. A green light will come on when
30 seconds remain in any given answer, yellow at 15, red
at 5 seconds and then flashing red means time's up. There
is also a backup buzzer system if needed. Candidates may
not direct a question to each other, there will be two-minute
closing statements but no opening statements.
There is an audience here in the hall but they will remain
absolutely silent for the next 90 minutes except for now
when they join me in welcoming President Bush and Senator
Good evening, Mr. President, Senator Kerry. As determined
by a coin toss, the first question goes to you, Senator Kerry.
You have two minutes.
Do you believe you could do a better job than President
Bush in preventing another 9/11-type terrorist attack on
the United States?
MR. KERRY: Yes, I do. But before I answer further, let me
thank you for moderating. I want to thank the University
of Miami for hosting us. And I know the president will join
me in welcoming all of Florida to this debate. You've been
through the roughest weeks anybody could imagine. Our hearts
go out to you, and we admire your pluck and perseverance.
I can make America safer than President Bush has made us.
And I believe President Bush and I both love our country
equally, but we just have a different set of convictions
about how you make America safe. I believe America is safest
and strongest when we are leading the world and when we are
leading strong alliances. I'll never give a veto to any country
over our security, but I also know how to lead those alliances.
This president has left them in shatters across the globe,
and we're now 90 percent of the casualties in Iraq and 90
percent of the costs. I think that's wrong, and I think we
can do better.
I have a better plan for homeland security. I have a better
plan to be able to fight the war on terror by strengthening
our military, strengthening our intelligence, by going after
the financing more authoritatively, by doing what we need
to do to rebuild the alliances, by reaching out to the Muslim
world, which the president has almost not done, and beginning
to isolate the radical Islamic Muslims, not have them isolate
the United States of America.
I know I can do a better job in Iraq where I have a plan
to have a summit with all of the allies, something this president
has not yet achieved, not yet been able to do to bring people
to the table.
We can do a better job of training the Iraqi forces to defend
themselves and I know that we can do a better job of preparing
All of these and especially homeland security, which we'll
talk about a little bit later.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety-second rebuttal.
MR. BUSH: I too thank the University of Miami and say our
prayers are with the good people of this state who've suffered
Sept. 11 changed how America must look at the world. And
since that day our nation has been on a multipronged strategy
to keep our country safer. We've pursued Al Qaeda wherever
Al Qaeda tries to hide. Seventy-five percent of known Al
Qaeda leaders have been brought to justice. The rest of them
know we're after them.
We've upheld the doctrine that said if you harbor a terrorist
you're equally as guilty as the terrorist - the Taliban no
longer in power, 10 million people have registered to vote
in Afghanistan in the upcoming presidential election.
In Iraq we saw a threat and we realized that after Sept.
11 we must take threats seriously before they fully materialize.
Saddam Hussein now sits in a prison cell. America and the
world are safer for it.
We continue to pursue our policy of disrupting those who
proliferate weapons of mass destruction. Libya has disarmed.
The A.Q. Khan network has been brought to justice.
And as well we're pursuing a strategy of freedom around
the world. Because I understand free nations will reject
terror. Free nations will answer the hopes and aspirations
of their people. Free nations will help us achieve the peace
we all want.
MR. LEHRER: New question, Mr. President. Two minutes. Do
you believe the election of Senator Kerry on Nov. 2 would
increase the chances of the U.S. being hit by another 9/11-type
MR. BUSH: I don't believe it's going to happen. I believe
I'm going to win because the American people know I know
how to lead. I've shown the American people I know how to
lead. I have - I understand everybody in this country doesn't
agree with the decisions that I've made. And I've made some
tough decisions. But people know where I stand. People out
there listening know what I believe. And that's how best
it is to keep the peace.
This nation of ours has got a solemn duty to defeat this
ideology of hate. And that's what they are, this is a group
of killers who will not only kill here but kill children
in Russia. That will attack unmercifully in Iraq hoping to
shake our will. We have a duty to defeat this enemy. We have
a duty to protect our children and grandchildren.
The best way to defeat them is to never waver, to be strong,
to use every asset at our disposal. It's to constantly stay
on the offensive. And at the same time spread liberty. And
that's what people are seeing now is happening in Afghanistan.
Ten million citizens have registered to vote. It's a phenomenal
statistic. That if given a chance to be free they will show
up at the polls. Forty-one percent of those 10 million are
In Iraq, no doubt about it, it's tough. It's hard work.
It's incredibly hard. You know why? Because an enemy realizes
the stakes. The enemy understands a free Iraq will be a major
defeat in their ideology of hatred. That's why they're fighting
They showed up in Afghanistan when they were there because
they tried to beat us and they didn't. And they're showing
up in Iraq for the same reason. They're trying to defeat
us and if we lose our will we lose. But if we remain strong
and resolute we will defeat this enemy.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety-second response, Senator Kerry.
MR. KERRY: I believe in being strong and resolute and determined.
And I will hunt down and kill the terrorists wherever they
are. But we also have to be smart, Jim. And smart means not
diverting your attention from the real war on terror in Afghanistan
against Osama bin Laden and taking it off to Iraq where the
9/11 commission confirms there was no connection to 9/11
itself and Saddam Hussein. And where the reason for going
to war was weapons of mass destruction, not the removal of
This president has made, I regret to say, a colossal error
of judgment. And judgment is what we look for in the president
of the United States of America.
I'm proud that important military figures are supporting
me in this race. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
John Shalikashvili. Just yesterday General Eisenhower's son,
General John Eisenhower endorsed me. Adm. William Crowe,
Gen. Tony McPeak, who ran the Air Force war so effectively
for his father, all believe I would make a stronger commander
And they believe it because they know I would not take my
eye off of the goal, Osama bin Laden. Unfortunately, he escaped
in the mountains of Tora Bora. We had him surrounded. But
we didn't use American forces, the best trained in the world,
to go kill him. The president relied on Afghan warlords that
he outsourced that job to. That's wrong.
MR. LEHRER: New question, two minutes, Senator Kerry. Colossal
misjudgments, what colossal misjudgments, in your opinion,
has President Bush made in these areas?
MR. KERRY: Well, where do you want me to begin? First of
all, he made the misjudgment of saying to America that he
was going to build a true alliance, that he would exhaust
the remedies of the United Nations and go through the inspections.
In fact, he first didn't even want to do that. And it wasn't
until former Secretary of State Jim Baker and General Scowcroft
and others pushed publicly and said, you've got to go to
the U.N., that the president finally changed his mind - his
campaign has a word for that - and went to the United Nations.
Now once there, we could have continued those inspections.
We had Saddam Hussein trapped.
He also promised America that he would go to war as a last
resort. Those words mean something to me, as somebody who's
been in combat: last resort. You've got to be able to look
in the eyes of families and say to those parents, "I
tried to do everything in my power to prevent the loss of
your son and daughter.'' I don't believe the United States
did that. And we pushed our allies aside. And so today we
are 90 percent of the casualties and 90 percent costs - $200
billion, $200 billion that could have been used for health
care, for schools, for construction, for prescription drugs
And it's in Iraq. And Iraq is not even the center of the
focus on the war on terror. The center is Afghanistan where,
incidentally, there were more Americans killed last year
than the year before, where the opium production is 75 percent
of the world's opium production, where 40 to 60 percent of
the economy of Afghanistan is based on opium, where the elections
have been postponed three times. The president moved the
troops there, he's got 10 times the number of troops in Iraq
than he has in Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden is. Does
that mean that Saddam Hussein was 10 times more important
than Osama bin - than, excuse me - Saddam Hussein more important
than Osama bin Laden? I don't think so.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety-second response, Mr. President.
MR. BUSH: My opponent looked at the same intelligence I
looked at and declared in 2002 that Saddam Hussein was a
grave threat. He also said in December of 2003 that anyone
who doubts that the world is safer without Saddam Hussein
does not have the judgment to be president. I agree with
him. The world is better off without Saddam Hussein.
I was hoping diplomacy would work. I understand the serious
consequences of committing our troops into harm's way. It's
the hardest decision a president makes. So I went to the
United Nations. I didn't need anybody to tell me to go to
the United Nations. I decided to go there myself. And I went
there hoping that once and for all the free world would act
in concert to get Saddam Hussein to listen to our demands.
They passed a resolution that said disclose, disarm or face
serious consequences. I believe when an international body
speaks, it must mean what it says. But Saddam Hussein had
no intention of disarming. Why should he? He had 16 other
resolutions and nothing took place. As a matter of fact,
my opponent talks about inspectors. The facts are that he
was systematically deceiving the inspectors. That wasn't
going to work. That's kind of a pre-Sept. 10 mentality, the
hope that somehow resolutions and failed inspections would
make this world a more peaceful place. He was hoping we'd
turn away. But there's, fortunately, others beside myself
who believed that we ought to take action; we did. The world
is safer without Saddam Hussein.
MR. LEHRER: New question, Mr. President. Two minutes. What
about Senator Kerry's point, the comparison he drew between
the priorities of going after Osama bin Laden and going after
MR. BUSH: Jim, we've got the capability of doing both. As
a matter of fact, this is a global effort. We're facing a
group of folks who have such hatred in their heart they'll
strike anywhere, with any means. And that's why it's essential
that we have strong alliances, and we do. That's why it's
essential that we make sure that we keep weapons of mass
destruction out of the hands of people like Al Qaeda, which
But to say that there's only one focus on the war on terror
doesn't really understand the nature of the war of terror.
Of course we're after Saddam Hussein - I mean bin Laden.
He's isolated. Seventy-five percent of his people have been
brought to justice. The killer in, the mastermind of the
Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, is in prison. We're
But the front on this war is more than just one place. The
Philippines. We've got help, we're helping them there to
bring, to bring Al Qaeda affiliates to justice there.
And of course Iraq is a central part of the war on terror.
That's why Zarqawi and his people are trying to fight us.
Their hope is that we grow weary and we leave. The biggest
disaster that could happen is that we not succeed in Iraq.
We will succeed. We've got a plan to do so. And the main
reason we'll succeed is because the Iraqis want to be free.
Had the honor of visiting the Prime Minister Allawi. He's
a strong, courageous leader. He believes in the freedom of
the Iraqi people. He doesn't want U.S. leadership, however,
to send mixed signals, to not stand with the Iraqi people.
He believes, like I believe, that the Iraqis are ready to
fight for their own freedom. They just need the help to be
trained. There will be elections in January. We're spending
reconstruction money. And our alliance is strong. That's
the plan for victory. And when Iraq is free America will
be more secure.
MR. LEHRER: Senator Kerry, 90 seconds.
MR. KERRY: The president just talked about Iraq as a center
of the war on terror. Iraq was not even close to the center
of the war on terror before the president invaded it. The
president made the judgment to divert forces from under Gen.
Tommy Franks from Afghanistan before the Congress even approved
it, to begin to prepare to go to war in Iraq.
And he rushed to war in Iraq without a plan to win the peace.
Now that is not the judgment that a president of the United
States ought to make. You don't take America to war unless
you have a plan to win the peace. You don't send troops to
war without the body armor that they need.
I've met kids in Ohio, parents in Wisconsin, places, Iowa,
where they're going out on the Internet to get the state-of-the-art
body gear to send to their kids. Some of them got them for
birthday presents. I think that's wrong. Humvees, 10,000
out of 12,000 Humvees that are over there aren't armored.
And you go visit some of those kids in the hospitals today
who were maimed because they don't have the armament.
This president just, I don't know if he sees what's really
happening there. But it's getting worse by the day. More
soldiers killed in June than before. More in July than June.
More in August than July. More in September than in August.
And now we see beheadings. And we've got weapons of mass
destruction crossing the border every single day. And they're
blowing people up. And we don't have enough troops there.
MR. BUSH: Can I respond?
MR. LEHRER: Let's do one of these one-minute extensions.
You have 30 seconds.
MR. BUSH: Thank you, sir. First of all, what my opponent
wants you to forget is that he voted to authorize the use
of force. And now says it's the wrong war at the wrong time
at the wrong place.
I don't see how you can lead this country to succeed in
Iraq if you say wrong war, wrong time, wrong place. What
message does that send our troops? What messages does that
send our allies? What message does that send the Iraqis?
No, the way to win this is to be steadfast and resolved
and to follow through on the plan that I just outlined.
MR. LEHRER: Thirty seconds, Senator.
MR. KERRY: Yes, we have to be steadfast and resolved. And
I am. And I will succeed for those troops now that we're
there. We have to succeed. We can't leave a failed Iraq.
But that doesn't mean it wasn't a mistake of judgment to
go there and take the focus off of Osama bin Laden. It was.
Now we can succeed. But I don't believe this president can.
I think we need a president who has the credibility to bring
the allies back to the table and to do what's necessary to
make it so America isn't doing this alone.
MR. LEHRER: We'll come back to Iraq in a moment. But I want
to come back to where I began on homeland security. This
is a two-minute new question, Senator Kerry. As president,
what would you do specifically in addition to or differently
to increase the homeland security of the United States than
what President Bush is doing?
MR. KERRY: Jim, let me tell you exactly what I'll do. And
there are a long list of things. First of all, what kind
of mixed message does it send when you've got $500 million
going over to Iraq to put police officers in the streets
of Iraq and the president is cutting the cops program in
America? What kind of message does it send to be sending
money to open firehouses in Iraq but we're shutting firehouses,
who are the first responders here in America? The president
hasn't put one nickel - not one nickel - into the effort
to fix some of our tunnels and bridges and most exposed subway
systems. That's why they had to close down the subway in
New York when the Republican convention was there. We haven't
done the work that ought to be done.
The president - 95 percent of the containers that come into
the ports, right here in Florida, are not inspected. Civilians
get onto aircraft and their luggage is X-rayed, but the cargo
hold is not X-rayed. Does that make you feel safer in America?
This president thought it was more important to give the
wealthiest people in America a tax cut rather than invest
in homeland security. Those aren't my values. I believe in
protecting America first. And long before President Bush
and I get a tax cut - and that's who gets it - long before
we do, I'm going to invest in homeland security and I'm going
to make sure we're not cutting cops programs in America and
we're fully staffed in our firehouses and that we protect
the nuclear and chemical plants.
The president, also unfortunately, gave in to the chemical
industry, which didn't want to do some of the things necessary
to strengthen our chemical plant exposure. And there's an
enormous undone job to protect the loose nuclear materials
in the world that are able to get to terrorists. That's a
whole other subject.
But I see we still have a little bit more time. Let me just
quickly say, at the current pace, the president will not
secure the loose material in the Soviet Union, former Soviet
Union, for 13 years. I'm going to do it in four years. And
we're going to keep it out of the hands of terrorists.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety-second response, Mr. President.
MR. BUSH: I don't think we want to get to how he's going
to pay for all these promises. It's like a huge tax gap and
- anyway, that's for another debate.
My administration has tripled the amount of money we're
spending on homeland security to $30 billion a year. My administration
worked with the Congress to create the Department of Homeland
Security so we could better coordinate our borders and ports.
We've got 1,000 extra borders and ports. We've got 1,000
extra Border Patrol on the southern border, more than 1,000
on the northern border. We're modernizing our borders. We
spent $3.1 billion for fire and police - $3.1 billion.
Now, we're doing our duty to provide the funding, but the
best way to protect this homeland is to stay on the offense.
You know, we have to be right 100 percent of the time, and
the enemy only has to be right once to hurt us. There's a
lot of good people working hard. And by the way, we've also
changed the culture of the F.B.I. to have counterterrorism
as its No. 1 priority. We're communicating better. We're
going to reform our intelligence services to make sure that
we get the best intelligence possible. The Patriot Act is
vital - it's vital that the Congress renew the Patriot Act,
which enables our law enforcement to disrupt terrorist cells.
But again, I repeat to my fellow citizens, the best way
to protect you is to stay on the offense.
MR. LEHRER: Yes, 30 seconds.
MR. KERRY: The president just said the F.B.I. changed its
culture. We just read on the front pages of America's papers
that there are over a hundred-thousand hours of tapes unlistened
to. On one of those tapes may be the enemy being right the
And the test is not whether you're spending more money.
The test is are you doing everything possible to make America
safe. We didn't need that tax cut. America needed to be safe.
MR. BUSH: Of course we're doing everything we can to protect
America. I wake up every day thinking about how best to protect
America. That's my job. I work with Director Mueller of the
F.B.I. He comes into my office when I'm in Washington every
morning talking about how to protect us. There's a lot of
really good people working hard to do so. It's hard work
But again I want to tell the American people: We're doing
everything we can at home, but you better have a president
who chases these terrorists down and brings them to justice
before they hurt us again.
MR. LEHRER: New question, Mr. President. Two minutes. What
criteria would you use to determine when to start bringing
U.S. troops home from Iraq?
MR. BUSH: Uh, let me first tell you that the best way for
Iraq to be safe and secure is for Iraqi citizens to be trained
to do the job. And that's what we're doing. We've got a hundred
thousand trained now, 125,000 by the end of this year, over
200,000 by the end of this year. That is the best way.
We'll never succeed in Iraq if the Iraqi citizens do not
want to take matters into their own hands to protect themselves.
I believe they want to. Prime Minister Allawi believes they
And so the best indication about when we can bring our troops
home, which I really want to do-but I don't want to do so
for the sake of bringing them home, I want to do so because
we've achieved an objective-is to see the Iraqis perform,
is to see the Iraqis step up and take responsibility.
And so the answer to your question is when our generals
on the ground and Ambassador Negroponte tells me that Iraq
is ready to defend herself from these terrorists, that elections
will have been held by then, that there's stability and that
they're on their way to, you know, a nation of, that's free.
And I hope it's as soon as possible. But I know putting
artificial deadlines won't work. My opponent at one time
said, well, get me elected, I'll have them out of there in
six months. That's, you can't do that and expect to win the
war on terror.
My message to our troops is thank you for what you're doing.
We're standing with you strong. We'll give you all the equipment
you need. And we'll get you home as soon as the mission's
Because this is a vital mission. A free Iraq will be an
ally in the war on terror. And that's essential. A free Iraq
will set a powerful example in the part of the world that
is desperate for freedom. A free Iraq will help secure Israel.
A free Iraq will enforce the hopes and aspirations of the
reformers in places like Iran. A free Iraq is essential for
the security of this country.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety seconds, Senator Kerry.
MR. KERRY: Thank you, Jim. My message to the troops is also
thank you for what they're doing. But it's also help is on
the way. I believe those troops deserve better than what
they are getting today.
You know, it's interesting, when I was in a rope line just
the other day coming out here from Wisconsin a couple of
young returnees were in the line, one active duty, one from
the Guard. And they both looked at me and said, "We
need you. You've got to help us over there.''
Now I believe there's a better way to do this. You know
the president's father did not go into Iraq into Baghdad
beyond Basra. And the reason he didn't is he said, he wrote
in his book because there was no viable exit strategy. And
he said our troops would be occupiers in a bitterly hostile
land. That's exactly where we find ourselves today. There's
a sense of American occupation.
The only building that was guarded when the troops went
into Baghdad was the oil ministry. We didn't guard the nuclear
facilities. We didn't guard the foreign office where you
might have found information about weapons of mass destruction.
We didn't guard the borders.
Almost every step of the way our troops have been left on
these extraordinarily difficult missions. I know what it's
like to go out on one of those missions where you don't know
what's around the corner. And I believe our troops need other
allies helping. I'm going to hold that summit. I will bring
fresh credibility, a new start. And we will get the job done
MR. BUSH: Jim.
MR. LEHRER: All right, go ahead, yes, sir.
MR. BUSH: I think it's worthy for a follow-up if you don't
MR. KERRY: Let's change the rules we can have a-
MR. LEHRER: We can do 30 seconds each here.
MR. BUSH: All right. My opponent says help is on the way,
but what kind of message does that say to our troops in harm's
way? Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time. That's not a message
a commander in chief gives. Or this is a great diversion.
As well, help is on the way, but it's certainly hard to
tell it when he voted against the $87 billion supplemental
to provide equipment for our troops. And then said he actually
did vote for it before he voted against it. It's not what
a commander in chief does when you're trying to lead troops.
MR. LEHRER: Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.
MR. KERRY: Well, you know when I talked about the $87 billion
I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. But the president
made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?
I believe that when you know something's going wrong you
make it right. That's what I learned in Vietnam. When I came
back from that war I saw that it was wrong. Some people don't
like the fact that I stood up to say no. But I did. And that's
what I did with that vote. And I'm going to lead those troops
MR. LEHRER: All right, new question, two minutes, Senator
Kerry. Speaking of Vietnam, you spoke to Congress in 1971
after you came back from Vietnam and you said, "How
do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?''
Are Americans now dying in Iraq for a mistake?
MR. KERRY: No, and they don't have to, providing we have
the leadership that we put-that I'm offering. I believe that
we have to win this. The president and I have always agreed
on that. And from the beginning I did vote to give the authority
because I thought Saddam Hussein was a threat, and I did
accept that intelligence.
But I also laid out a very strict series of things we needed
to do in order to proceed from a position of strength. And
the president, in fact, promised them. He went to Cincinnati
and he gave a speech in which he said, "We will plan
carefully. We will proceed cautiously. We will not make war
inevitable. We will go with our allies.''
He didn't do any of those things. They didn't do the planning.
They left the planning of the State Department in the State
Department desks. They avoided even the advice of their own
general, General Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, said,
you're going to need several hundred-thousand troops. Instead
of listening to him, they retired him.
The terrorism czar, who has worked for every president since
Ronald Reagan, said invading Iraq in response to 9/11 would
be like Franklin Roosevelt invading Mexico in response to
Pearl Harbor. That's what we have here.
And what we need now is a president who understands how
to bring these other countries together to recognize their
stakes in this. They do have stakes in it. They've always
had stakes in it. The Arab countries have a stake in not
having a civil war. The European countries have a stake in
not having total disorder on their doorstep.
But this president hasn't even held the kind of statesman-like
summits that pull people together and get them to invest
in those stakes. In fact, he's done the opposite. He pushed
When the secretary general, Kofi Annan, offered the United
Nations, he said, "No, no, we'll go do this alone.''
To save for Halliburton the spoils of the war, they actually
issued a memorandum from the Defense Department saying, if
you weren't with us in the war, don't bother applying for
any construction. That's not a way to invite people.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety seconds.
MR. BUSH: That's totally absurd. Of course the U.N. was
invited in. And we support the U.N. efforts there. They pulled
out after Sergio de Mello got killed. But they're now back
in helping with elections.
My opponent says we didn't have any allies in this war?
What's he say to Tony Blair? What's he say to Aleksander
Kwasniewski of Poland. I mean you can't expect to build alliances,
when you denigrate the contributions of those who are serving
side by side with American troops in Iraq.
Plus, he says the cornerstone of his plan to succeed in
Iraq is to call upon nations to serve. So what's the message
going to be? Please join us in Iraq for a grand diversion?
Join us for a war that is the wrong war at the wrong place
at the wrong time. I know how these people think. I deal
with them all the time. I sit down with the world leaders
frequently and talk to them on the phone frequently. They're
not going to follow somebody who says this is the wrong war
at the wrong place at the wrong time. They're not going to
follow somebody who's core convictions keep changing because
of politics in America.
And finally, he says we ought to have a summit where there
are summits being held. Japan is going to have a summit for
the donors. There's $14 billion pledged and Prime Minister
Koizumi is going to call countries to account to get them
to contribute. And there's going to be an Arab summit of
the neighborhood countries and Colin Powell helped - helped
set up that summit.
MR. LEHRER: Thirty seconds, Senator.
MR. KERRY: The United Nations, Kofi Annan, offered help
after Baghdad fell, and we never picked them up on that and
did what was necessary to transfer authority and to transfer
reconstruction. It was always American-run.
Secondly, when we went in there were three countries: Great
Britain, Australia and the United States. That's not a grand
coalition. We can do better.
MR. LEHRER: Thirty seconds, Mr. President.
MR. BUSH: Well, actually you forgot Poland. And now there's
30 nations involved-standing side by side with our American
troops. And I honor their sacrifices. And I don't appreciate
it when a candidate for president denigrates the contributions
of these brave, brave soldiers. It's-you cannot lead the
world if you do not honor the contributions of those who
are with us. He called them the coerced and the bribed. That's
not how you bring people together.
Our coalition is strong, it'll remain strong for my-so long
as I'm the president.
MR. LEHRER: New question, Mr. President. Two minutes. You
have said there was a "miscalculation'' of what the
conditions would be in post-war Iraq. What was the miscalculation?
And how did it happen?
MR. BUSH: No, what I said was that because we achieved such
a rapid victory more of the Saddam loyalists were around.
Other words, we thought we'd whip more of them going in.
But because Tommy Franks did such a great job in planning
the operations, we moved rapidly. And a lot of the Baathists
and Saddam loyalists laid down their arms and disappeared.
I thought we would, they would stay and fight. But they didn't.
And now we're fighting them now.
It's-and it's hard work. I understand how hard it is. I
get the casualty reports every day. I see on the TV screens
how hard it is. But it's necessary work.
And I'm optimistic. See, I think you can be realistic and
optimistic at the same time. I'm optimistic we'll achieve.
I know we won't achieve if we send mixed signals. I know
we're not going to achieve our objective if we send mixed
signals to our troops, our friends, the Iraqi citizens.
We've got a plan in place. The plan says there'll be elections
in January, and there will be. The plan says we'll train
Iraqi soldiers so they can do the hard work, and we are.
And it's not only just America, but NATO is now helping,
Jordan's helping train police, U.A.E. is helping train police.
We've allocated $7 billion over the next months for reconstruction
efforts. And we're making progress there.
And our alliance is strong. I just told you there's going
to be a summit of the Arab nations. Japan will be hosting
We're making progress. It is hard work. It is hard work
to go from a tyranny to a democracy. It's hard work to go
from a place where people get their hands cut off or executed
to a place where people are free. But it's necessary work.
And a free Iraq is going to make this world a more peaceful
MR. LEHRER: Ninety seconds, Senator Kerry.
MR. KERRY: What I think troubles a lot of people in our
country is that the president has just sort of described
one kind of mistake. But what he has said is that even knowing
there were no weapons of mass destruction, even knowing there
was no imminent threat, even knowing there was no connection
of Al Qaeda, he would still have done everything the same
way. Those are his words.
Now I would not. So what I'm trying to do is just talk the
truth to the American people and to the world. The truth
is what good policy is based on. It's what leadership is
The president says that I'm denigrating these troops. I
have nothing but respect for the British and for Tony Blair
and for what they've been willing to do. But you can't tell
me that when the most troops any other country has on the
ground is Great Britain with 8,300. And below that the four
others are below 4,000. And below that there isn't anybody
out of the hundreds. That we have a genuine coalition to
get this job done.
You can't tell me that on the day that we went into that
war and it started it wasn't principally the United States
of America and Great Britain and one or two others. That's
And today we are 90 percent of the casualties and 90 percent
of the costs. And meanwhile North Korea has gotten nuclear
weapons. Talk about mixed messages. The president is the
one who said we can't allow countries to get nuclear weapons.
They have. I'll change that.
MR. LEHRER: New question, Senator Kerry, two minutes. You
have repeatedly accused President Bush, not here tonight
but elsewhere before, of not telling the truth about Iraq,
essentially, of lying to the American people about Iraq.
Give us some examples of what you consider to be his not
telling the truth.
MR. KERRY: Well, I've never ever used the harshest word
as you did just then and I try not to. I've been - but I'll
nevertheless tell you that I think he has not been candid
with the American people. And I'll tell you exactly how.
First of all, we all know that in his State of the Union
message he told Congress about nuclear materials that didn't
exist. We know that he promised America that he was going
to build this coalition. I just described the coalition.
It is not the kind of coalition we were described when we
were talking about voting for this.
The president said he would exhaust the remedies of the
United Nations and go through that full process. He didn't.
He cut it off, sort or arbitrarily. And we know that there
were further diplomatic efforts under way. They just decided
the time for diplomacy is over and rushed to war without
planning for what happens afterwards.
Now he misled the American people in his speech when he
said we will plan carefully. They obviously didn't.
He misled the American people when he said we'd go to war
as a last resort. We did not go as a last resort. And most
Americans know the difference.
Now this has cost us deeply in the world. I believe that
it is important to tell the truth to the American people.
I've worked with those leaders the president talks about.
I've worked with them for 20 years, for longer than this
president. And I know what many of them say today and I know
how to bring them back to the table.
And I believe that a fresh start, new credibility, a president
who can understand what we have to do to reach out to the
Muslim world to make it clear that this is not - you know,
Osama bin Laden uses the invasion of Iraq in order to go
out to people and say America has declared war on Islam.
We need to be smarter about how we wage a war on terror.
We need to deny them the recruits. We need to deny them the
safe havens. We need to rebuild our alliances. I believe
that Ronald Reagan, John Kennedy and others did that more
effectively. And I'm going to try to follow in their footsteps.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety seconds, Mr. President.
MR. BUSH: My opponent just said something amazing. He said
Osama bin Laden uses the invasion of Iraq as an excuse to
spread hatred for America. Osama bin Laden isn't going to
determine how we defend ourselves. Osama bin Laden doesn't
get to decide. The American people decide. I decided. The
right action was in Iraq. My opponent calls it a mistake.
It wasn't a mistake. He said I misled on Iraq. I don't think
he was misleading when he called Iraq a grave threat in the
fall of 2002. I don't think he was misleading when he said
that it was right to disarm Iraq in the spring of 2003. I
don't think he misled you when he said that, you know, if
- anyone who doubted whether the world was better off without
Saddam Hussein in power didn't have the judgment to be president.
I don't think he was misleading.
I think what is misleading is to say you can lead and succeed
in Iraq if you keep changing your positions on this war,
and he has. As the politics change, his positions change.
And that's not how a commander in chief acts.
I-let me finish. The intelligence I looked at was the same
intelligence my opponent looked at. It's the very same intelligence.
And when I stood up there and spoke to the Congress, I was
speaking off the same intelligence he looked at to make his
decision to support the authorization of force.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety-30 seconds. We'll do a 30-second here.
MR. KERRY: I wasn't misleading when I said he was a threat.
Nor was I misleading on the day that the president decided
to go to war when I said that he had made a mistake in not
building strong alliances and that I would have preferred
that he did more diplomacy.
I've had one position, one consistent position: that Saddam
Hussein was a threat, there was a right way to disarm him
and a wrong way. And the president chose the wrong way.
MR. LEHRER: Thirty seconds, Mr. President.
MR. BUSH: The only consistent about my opponent's position
is that he's been inconsistent. He changes positions. And
you cannot change positions in this war on terror if you
expect to win. And I expect to win. It's necessary we win.
We're being challenged like never before, and we have a
duty to our country and to future generations of America
to achieve a free Iraq, a free Afghanistan and to rid the
world of weapons of mass destruction.
MR. LEHRER: New question, Mr. President. Two minutes. Has
the war in Iraq been worth the cost in American lives: 1,052
as of today?
MR. BUSH: Every life is precious. Every life matters. You
know my hardest, the hardest part of the job is to know that
I committed the troops in harm's way and then do the best
I can to provide comfort for the loves ones who lost a son
or a daughter or husband and wife.
And, you know, I think about Missy Johnson, fantastic young
lady I met in Charlotte, N.C., she and her son, Brian. They
came to see me. Her husband, P.J., got killed-been in Afghanistan,
went to Iraq. You know, it's hard work to try to love her
as best as I can knowing full well that the decision I made
caused her, her loved one to be in harm's way.
I told her, after we prayed and teared up and laughed some,
that I thought her husband's sacrifice was noble and worthy.
Because I understand the stakes of this war on terror. I
understand that we must find Al Qaeda wherever they hide,
we must deal with threats before they fully materialize,
and Saddam Hussein was a threat, and that we must spread
liberty because in the long run the way to defeat hatred
and tyranny and oppression is to spread freedom.
Missy understood that. That's what she told me her husband
understood. So you say was it worth it? It wasn't-it's-every
life is precious. That's what distinguishes us from the enemy.
But I think it's worth it, Jim. I think it's worth it because
I think, I know in the long term a free Iraq, a free Afghanistan
will set such a powerful example in a part of the world that's
desperate for freedom. It will help change the world. That
we can look back and say we did our duty.
MR. LEHRER: Senator, 90 seconds.
MR. KERRY: I understand what the president it talking about
because I know what it means to lose people in combat. And
the question, Is it worth the cost?, reminds me of my own
thinking when I came back from fighting in that war. And
it reminds me that it is vital for us not to confuse the
war-ever-with the warriors. That happened before.
And that's one of the reasons why I believe I can get this
job done. Because I am determined for those soldiers and
for those families, for those kids who put their lives on
the line. That is noble. That's the most noble thing that
anybody can do. And I want to make sure the outcome honors
Now we have a choice here. I've laid out a plan by which
I think we can be successful in Iraq: with a summit, by doing
better training faster, by cutting - by doing what we need
to do with respect to the U.N. and the elections. There's
only 25 percent of the people in there. They can't have an
election right now. The president's not getting the job done.
So the choice for America is you can have a plan that I've
laid out in four points, each of which I can tell you more
about or you can go to johnkerry.com and see more of it;
or you have the president's plan, which is four words: more
of the same. I think my plan is better. And my plan has a
better chance of standing up and fighting for those troops.
I will never let those troops down. And we'll hunt and kill
the terrorists wherever they are.
MR. LEHRER: All right, sir, go ahead, 30 seconds.
MR. BUSH: Yeah, I understand what it means to be the commander
in chief. And if I were to ever say this is the wrong war
at the wrong time at the wrong place, the troops would wonder
how could I follow this guy? You cannot lead the war on terror
if you keep changing positions on the war on terror. And
say things like well, this is just a grand diversion. It's
not a grand diversion. This is an essential that we get it
right. And so I, I, the plan he talks about simply won't
MR. LEHRER: Senator Kerry, you have 30 seconds. Then a new
MR. KERRY: Secretary of State Colin Powell told this president
the Pottery Barn rule, if you break it you fix it. Now if
you break it, you made a mistake. It's the wrong thing to
do. But you own it. And then you've got to fix it and do
something with it. Now that's what we have to do. There's
Soldiers know over there that this isn't being done right
yet. I'm going to get it right for those soldiers because
it's important to Israel, it's important to America, it's
important to the world. It's important to the fight on terror.
But I have a plan to do it. He doesn't.
MR. LEHRER: Speaking of your plan, new question, Senator
Kerry, two minutes. Can you give us specifics in terms of
a scenario, timelines, etc., for ending major U.S. military
involvement in Iraq?
MR. KERRY: The timeline that I've set out, and again, I
want to correct the president because he's misled again this
evening on what I've said. I didn't say I would bring troops
out in six months. I said if we do the things that I've set
out and we are successful we could begin to draw the troops
down in six months.
And I think a critical component of success in Iraq is being
able to convince the Iraqis and the Arab world that the United
States doesn't have long-term designs on it. As I understand
it we're building some 14 military bases there now. And some
people say they've got a rather permanent concept to them.
When you guard the oil ministry but you don't guard the
nuclear facilities the message to a lot of people is maybe
well, maybe they're interested in our oil.
Now the problem is that they didn't think these things through
properly. And these are the things you have to think through.
What I want to do is change the dynamics on the ground. And
you have to do that by beginning to not back off of Fallujah
and other places and send the wrong message to the terrorists.
You have to close the borders. You've got to show you're
serious in that regard. But you've also go to show that you're
prepared to bring the rest of the world in and share the
I will make a flat statement. The United States of America
has no long-term designs on staying in Iraq. And our goal
in my administration would be to get all of the troops out
of there with the minimal amount you need for training and
logistics as we do in some other countries in the world after
a war to be able to sustain the peace.
But that's how we're going to win the peace. By rapidly
training the Iraqis themselves. Even the administration has
admitted they haven't done the training. Because they came
back to Congress a few weeks ago and asked for a complete
reprogramming of the money. Now what greater admission is
there, 16 months afterwards, oops, we haven't done the job.
We've got to start to spend the money now. Will you guys
give us permission to shift it over into training?
MR. LEHRER: Ninety seconds.
MR. BUSH: There's 100,000 troops trained: police, guard,
special units, border patrol. There's going to be 125,000
trained by the end of this year. Yeah, we're the job done.
It's hard work. Everybody knows it's hard work because there's
a determined enemy that's trying to defeat us.
Now, my opponent says he's going to try to change the dynamics
on the ground. Well, Prime Minister Allawi was here, he is
the leader of that country. He's a brave, brave man. And
when he came, after giving a speech to the Congress, my opponent
questioned his credibility. You can't change the dynamics
on the ground if you've criticized the brave leader of Iraq.
One of his campaign people alleged that Prime Minister Allawi
was like a puppet. That's no way to treat somebody who's
courageous and brave, that is trying to lead his country
The way to make sure that we succeed is to send consistent
sound messages to the Iraqi people that when we give our
word, we will keep our word. That we stand with you. That
we believe you want to be free. And I do. I believe that
the 25 million people, the vast majority, long to have elections.
I reject this notion. And I'm not suggesting that my opponent
says it, but I reject the notion that some say that if you're
Muslim, you can't be free, you don't deserve freedom. I disagree,
strongly disagree with that.
MR. LEHRER: Thirty seconds.
MR. KERRY: I couldn't agree more that the Iraqis want to
be free and that they could be free. But I think the president,
again, still hasn't shown how he's going to go about it the
right way. He has more of the same.
Now, Prime Minister Allawi came here and he said the terrorists
are pouring over the border. That's Allawi's assessment.
The national intelligence assessment that was given to the
president in July said: Best-case scenario, more of the same
of what we see today; worst-case scenario, civil war.
I can do better.
MR. BUSH: Yeah, let me -
MR. LEHRER: Yes, 30 seconds.
MR. BUSH: The reason why Prime Minister Allawi said they're
coming across the border is because he recognizes that this
is a central part of the war on terror. They're fighting
us because they're fighting freedom. They understand that
a free Afghanistan or a free Iraq will be a major defeat
for them. And those are the stakes. And that's why it is
essential we not leave. That's why it's essential we hold
the line. That's why essential we win. And we will under
my leadership. We're going to win this war in Iraq.
MR. LEHRER: Mr. President, new question, two minutes. Does
the Iraq experience make it more likely or less likely that
you would take the United States into another pre-emptive
MR. BUSH: I would hope I never have to. Understand how hard
it is to commit troops. I never wanted to commit troops.
I never - when I was running - when we had the debate in
2000, never dreamt I'd be doing that, but the enemy attacked
us, Jim, and I have a solemn duty to protect the American
people, to do everything I can to protect us.
I think that by speaking clearly and doing what we say and
not sending mixed messages, it is less likely we'll ever
to use troops. But a president must always be willing to
use troops, as a last resort. I was hopeful diplomacy would
work in Iraq. It was falling apart. There was no doubt in
my mind that Saddam Hussein was hoping that the world would
turn a blind eye. And if he had been in power - in other
- we just said, let's the inspectors work or let's - you
know, hope to talk him out, maybe the 18th resolution would
work, he'd have been stronger and tougher and the world would
have been a lot worse off. There's just no doubt in my mind.
We would rue the day had we - if Saddam Hussein been in power.
So we use diplomacy every chance we get, believe me. And
I hope to never have to use force. But by speaking clearly
and sending messages that we mean what we say, we've affected
the world in a positive way. Look at Libya. Libya was a threat.
Libya is now peacefully dismantling its weapons programs.
Libya understood that America and others will enforce doctrine.
And the world is better for it.
So to answer your question, I would hope we never have to.
I think by acting firmly and decisively it'll - it's less
likely use - it's less likely we have to use force.
MR. LEHRER: Senator Kerry, 90 seconds.
MR. KERRY: Jim, the president just said, extraordinarily
revealing and, frankly, very important in this debate. In
answer to your question about Iraq and sending people into
Iraq he just said, the enemy attacked us. Saddam Hussein
didn't attack us. Osama bin Laden attacked us. Al Qaeda attacked
us. And when we had Osama bin Laden cornered in the mountains
of Tora Bora, 1,000 of his cohorts with him in those mountains,
with American military forces nearby and in the field, we
didn't use the best trained troops in the world to go kill
the world's No. 1 criminal and terrorist. They outsourced
the job to Afghan warlords who only, a week earlier, had
been on the other side fighting against us, neither of whom
trusted each other. That's the enemy that attacked us, that's
the enemy that was allowed to walk out of those mountains.
That's the enemy that is now in 60 countries with stronger
He also said Saddam Hussein would have been stronger. That
is just factually incorrect. Two-thirds of the country was
a no-fly zone when we started this war. We would have had
sanctions. We would have had the U.N. inspectors. Saddam
Hussein would have been continually weakening. If the president
had shown the patience to go through another round of resolution,
to sit down with those leaders, say, What do you need? What
do you need now? How much more will it take to get you to
join us? We'd be in a stronger place today.
MR. BUSH: First, listen -
MR. LEHRER: Thirty seconds.
MR. BUSH: Of course I know Osama bin Laden attacked us.
I know that. And secondly, to think that another round of
resolutions would have caused Saddam Hussein to disarm, disclose,
is ludicrous, in my judgment. It just shows a significant
difference of opinion. We tried diplomacy, we did our best.
He was hoping to turn a blind eye and, yes, he would have
been stronger had we not dealt with him. He had the capability
of making weapons and he would have made weapons.
MR. LEHRER: Thirty seconds, Senator.
MR. KERRY: Thirty-five to 40 countries in the world had
a greater capability of making weapons at the moment the
president invaded than Saddam Hussein. And while he's been
diverted with 9 out of 10 active duty divisions of our army,
either going to Iraq, coming back from Iraq or getting ready
to go, North Korea has gotten nuclear weapons and the world
is more dangerous. Iran is moving towards nuclear weapons.
And the world is more dangerous. Darfur has a genocide. The
world is more dangerous. I'd have made a better choice.
MR. LEHRER: New question, two minutes, Senator Kerry. What
is your position on the whole concept of pre-emptive war?
MR. KERRY: The president always has the right and always
has had the right for pre-emptive strike. That was a great
doctrine throughout the cold war. And it was always one of
the things we argued about with respect to arms control.
No president through all of American history has ever ceded
and nor would I the right to pre-empt in any way necessary
to protect the United States of America.
But if and when you do it, Jim, you've got to do it in a
way that passes the test. That passes the global test where
your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're
doing what you're doing. And you can prove to the world that
you did it for legitimate reasons.
Here we have our own secretary of state who's had to apologize
to the world for the presentation he made to the United Nations.
I mean we can remember when President Kennedy and the Cuban
missile crisis sent his secretary of state to Paris to meet
with de Gaulle. And in the middle of the discussion to tell
them about the missiles in Cuba he said, here, let me show
you the photos. And de Gaulle waved him off and said, no,
no, no. The word of the president of the United States is
good enough for me. How many leaders in the world today would
respond to us as a result of what we've done in that way?
So what is at test here is the credibility of the United
States of America and how we lead the world. And Iran and
North Korea are now more dangerous. Now whether pre-emption
is ultimately what has to happen or not I don't know yet.
But I'll tell you this as president I'll never take my eye
of that ball.
I've been fighting for proliferation-antiproliferation the
entire time I've been in the Congress. And we've watched
this president actually turn away from some of the treaties
there were on the table. You don't help yourself with other
nations when you turn away from the global warming treating,
for instance. Or when you refuse to deal at length with the
United Nations. You have to earn that respect. And I think
we have a lot of earning back to do.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety seconds.
MR. BUSH: Let me-I'm not exactly sure what you mean: passes
the global test. You take pre-emptive action if you pass
a global test? My attitude is you take pre-emptive action
in order to protect the American people. That you act in
order to make this country secure.
My opponent talks about me not signing certain treaties.
Let me tell you one thing I didn't sign and I think it shows
the difference of our opinion, the difference of opinions.
And that is I wouldn't join the International Criminal Court.
This is a body based in The Hague where unaccountable judges,
prosecutors, could pull our troops, our diplomats up for
trial. And I wouldn't join. And I understand that in certain
capitals of, around the world that that wasn't a popular
move. But it's the right move not to join a foreign court
that could, where our people could be prosecuted. My opponent
is for joining the International Criminal Court.
I just think trying to be popular kind of in the global
sense, if it's not in our best interest, makes no sense.
I'm interested in working with other nations and do a lot
of it. But I'm not going to make decisions that I think are
wrong for America.
MR. LEHRER: New question, Mr. President. Do you believe
that diplomacy and sanctions can resolve the nuclear problems
with North Korea and Iran, taking them in any order you would
MR. BUSH: North Korea first, I do. Let me say I certainly
hope so. Before I was sworn in the policy of this government
was to have bilateral negotiations with North Korea. And
we signed an agreement with North Korea that my administration
found out that was not being honored by the North Koreans.
And so I decided that a better way to approach the issue
was to get other nations involved, just besides us. And in
Crawford, Tex., Jiang Zemin and I agreed that the, a nuclear-weapons-free
North Korea peninsula was in his interest and our interest
and the world's interest. And so we began a new dialogue
with North Korea, one that included not only the United States
but now China. And China's got a lot of influence over North
Korea. In some ways more than we do.
As well we included South Korea, Japan and Russia. So now
there are five voices speaking to Kim Jong Il, not just one.
And so if Kim Jong Il decides again to not honor an agreement
he's not only doing injustice to America, be doing injustice
to China as well.
And I think this will work. It's not going to work if we
open up a dialogue with Kim Jong Il. That's what he wants.
He wants to unravel the six-party talks or the five-nation
coalition that's sending him a clear message.
On Iran, I hope we can do the same thing: continue to work
with the world to convince the Iranian mullahs to abandon
their nuclear ambitions. We've worked very closely with the
foreign ministers of France, Germany and Great Britain, who
have been the folks delivering the message to the mullahs
that if you expect to be part of the world of nations, get
rid of your nuclear programs. The I.A.E.A. is involved. There's
a special protocol recently been passed that allows for instant
inspections. I hope we can do it. And we've got a good strategy.
MR. LEHRER: Senator Kerry, 90 seconds.
MR. KERRY: With respect to Iran, the British, French and
Germans were the ones who initiated an effort, without the
United States regrettably, to begin to try to move to curb
the nuclear possibilities in Iran. I believe we could have
done better. I think the United States should have offered
the opportunity to provide the nuclear fuel, test them, see
whether or not they were actually looking for it for peaceful
purposes. If they weren't willing to work a deal then we
could have put sanctions together. The president did nothing.
With respect to North Korea, the real story: We had inspectors
and television cameras in the nuclear reactor in North Korea.
Secretary Bill Perry negotiated that under President Clinton.
And we knew where the fuel rods were. And we knew the limits
on their nuclear power. Colin Powell, our secretary of state,
announced one day that we were going to continue the dialogue
and work with the North Koreans. The president reversed him,
publicly, while the president of South Korea was here. And
the president of South Korea went back to South Korea bewildered
and embarrassed because it went against his policy. And for
two years, this administration didn't talk at all to North
Korea. While they didn't talk at all, the fuel rods came
out, the inspectors were kicked out, the television cameras
were kicked out and today there are four to seven nuclear
weapons in the hands of North Korea.
That happened on this president's watch. Now that, I think,
is one of the most serious sort of reversals or mixed messages
that you could possibly send.
MR. LEHRER: I want to make sure-
MR. BUSH: I-
MR. LEHRER: Yes sir, we-but in this one minute, I want to
make sure that we understand - that the people watching here
understand the differences between the two of you on this.
You want to continue the multinational talks. Correct?
MR. BUSH: Right.
MR. LEHRER: And you want - you're willing to do it.
MR. KERRY: Both. I want bilateral talks which put all of
the issues from the armistice of 1952, the economic issues,
the human rights issues, the artillery disposal issues, the
D.M.Z. issues and the nuclear issues on the table.
MR. LEHRER: And you're opposed to that, sir. Right?
MR. BUSH: The minute we have bilateral talks, the six-party
talks will unwind. It's exactly what Kim Jong Il wants. And
by the way, the breach on the agreement was not through plutonium.
The breach on the agreement is highly enriched uranium. That's
what we caught him doing. That's where he was breaking the
Secondly he said - my opponent said he'd work to put sanctions
on Iran. We've already sanctioned Iran. We can't sanction
them anymore. There are sanctions in place on Iran.
And finally, we were a party to the convincing - to working
with Germany, France and Great Britain to send their foreign
ministers into Iran.
MR. LEHRER: New question, two minutes. Senator Kerry, you
mention Darfur, the Darfur region of Sudan, 50,000 people
have already died in that area, more than a million are homeless.
It has been labeled an act of ongoing genocide, yet neither
one of you or anyone else connected with your campaigns or
your administration that I can find has discussed the possibility
of sending in troops. Why not?
MR. KERRY: Well, I'll tell you exactly why not, but I first
want to say something about those sanctions on Iran. Only
the United States put the sanctions on alone. And that's
exactly what I'm talking about. In order for the sanctions
to be effective, we should have been working with the British,
French and Germans and other countries. And that's the difference
between the president and me. And there, again, he sort of
slid by the question.
Now, with respect with Darfur, yes, it is a genocide. And
months ago, many of us were pressing for action. I think
the reason that we're not saying send American troops in
at this point is several fold. No. 1, we can do this through
the African Union, providing we give them the logistical
support. Right now all the president is providing is humanitarian
support. We need to do more than that. They've got to have
the logistical capacity to go in and stop the killing. And
that's going to require more than is on the table today.
I also believe that it is - one of the reasons we can't
do it is we're overextended. Ask the people in the armed
forces today. We've got guards in reserves who are doing
double duties. We've got a backdoor draft taking place in
America today. People with stop-loss programs where they're
told you can't get out of the military. Nine out of our 10
active duty divisions committed to Iraq one way or the other,
either going, coming or preparing. So this is the way the
president has overextended the United States.
That's why, in my plan, I add two active-duty divisions
to the United States Army, not for Iraq but for our general
demands across the globe. I also intend to double the number
of special forces so that we can do the job we need to do
with respect to fighting the terrorists around the world.
And if we do that, then we have the ability to be able to
respond more rapidly.
But I'll tell you this, as president, if it took American
forces to some degree to coalesce the African Union, I'd
be prepared to do it because we could never allow another
Rwanda. It's a moral responsibility for us in the world.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety seconds.
MR. BUSH: Back to Iran just for a second. It was not my
administration that put the sanctions on Iran. That happened
long before I arrived in Washington, D.C.
In terms of Darfur, I agree it's genocide. And Colin Powell
so stated. We've committed $200 million worth of aid. We're
the leading donor in the world to help the suffering people
there. We will commit more over time to help. We were very
much involved at the U.N. on the sanction policy of the Bashir
government in the Sudan. Prior to Darfur Ambassador Jack
Danforth had been negotiating a north south agreement that
we would hope would have brought peace to the Sudan.
I agree with my opponent that we shouldn't be committing
troops. That we ought to be working with the African Union
to do so. Precisely what we did in Liberia. We helped stabilize
the situation with some troops. And when the African Union
came we moved them out.
My hope is that the African Union moves rapidly to help
save lives. Fortunately, the rainy season will be ending
shortly which will make it easier to get aid there and help
the long-suffering people there.
MR. LEHRER: New question, President Bush. There are clearly,
as we have heard, major policy differences between the two
of you. Are there also underlying character issues that you
believe, that you believe are serious enough to deny Senator
Kerry the job as commander in chief of the United States?
MR. BUSH: Whew. That's a loaded question. First of all,
I admire Senator Kerry's service to our country. I admire
the fact that he is a great dad. I appreciate the fact that
his daughters have been so kind to my daughters in what has
been a pretty hard experience for I guess young girls seeing
their dads out there campaigning.
I admire the fact that he's served for 20 years in the Senate.
Although I'm not so sure I admire the record.
I won't hold it against him that he went to Yale. Nothing
wrong with that.
My concerns about the senator is that in the course of this
campaign I've been listening very carefully to what he says.
And he changes positions on the war in Iraq. Changed positions
on something as fundamental as what you believe in your core,
in your heart of hearts is right for, in Iraq.
You cannot lead if you send mixed messages. Mixed messages
send the wrong signals to our troops. Mixed messages send
the wrong signal to our allies. Mixed messages send the wrong
messages to the Iraqi citizens. And that's my biggest concern
about my opponent.
I admire his service. But I'm, I just know how this world
works. And that in the counsels of government there must
be certainty from the U.S. president. Of course, we change
tactics when need to but we never change our beliefs, the
strategic beliefs that are necessary to protect this country
and the world.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety-second response, Senator.
MR. KERRY: Well, first of all, I appreciate enormously the
personal comments the president just made, and I share them
with him. I think only if you've - if you're doing this,
and he's done it more than I have in terms of the presidency,
can you begin to get a sense of what it means to your families.
And it's tough. And so I acknowledge - his daughters, I've
watched them, I've chuckled a few times at some of their
MR. BUSH: Trying to put a leash on them.
MR. KERRY: Well, I know- I've learned not to do that. And
I have great respect and admiration for his wife. I think
she's a terrific person-
MR. BUSH: Thank you.
MR. KERRY: -and a great first lady. But we do have differences.
I'm not going to talk about a difference of character. I
don't think that's my job or my business. But let me talk
about something that the president just sort of finished
up with. Maybe someone would call it a character trait, maybe
somebody wouldn't. But this issue of certainty: It's one
thing to be certain, but you can be certain and be wrong.
It's another to be certain and be right or be certain and
be moving in the right direction or be certain about a principle
and then learn new facts and take those new facts and put
them to use in order to change and get your policy right.
What I worry about with the president is that he's not acknowledging
what's on the ground. He's not acknowledging the realities
of North Korea, he's not acknowledging the truth of the science
of stem cell research or of global warming and other issues.
And certainty sometimes can get you in trouble.
MR. LEHRER: Thirty seconds.
MR. BUSH: Well, I think - listen I fully agree that, uh,
that one should shift tactics and we will. In Iraq our commanders
have got all the flexibility to do what is necessary to succeed.
But what I won't do is change my core values because of politics
or because of pressure. And it is, ah, it's one of the things
I've learned in the White House is that there's enormous
pressure on the president and you cannot wilt under that
pressure otherwise the world won't be better off.
MR. LEHRER: Thirty seconds.
MR. KERRY: I have no intention of wilting. I've never wilted
in my life. And I've never wavered in my life. I know exactly
what we need to do in Iraq and my position has been consistent.
Saddam Hussein is a threat. He needed to be disarmed. We
needed to go to the U.N. The president needed the authority
to use force in order to be able to get him to do something
because he never did it without the threat of force. But
we didn't need to rush to war without a plan to win the peace.
MR. LEHRER: New question. Two minutes, Senator Kerry. If
you are elected president, what will you take to that office
thinking is the single-most serious threat to the national
security of the United States?
MR. KERRY: Nuclear proliferation. Nuclear proliferation.
There are some 600-plus tons of unsecured materials still
in the former Soviet Union, in Russia. At the rate that the
president is currently securing that it'll take 13 years
to get it.
I did a lot of work on this. I wrote a book about it several
years ago, maybe six or seven years ago, called "The
New War," which saw the difficulties of this international
And back then we intercepted a suitcase in a Middle Eastern
country with nuclear materials in it. And the black market
sale price was about $250 million.
Now there are terrorists trying to get their hands on that
stuff today. And this president, I regret to say, has secured
less nuclear material in the last two years, since 9/11,
than we did in the two years preceding 9/11.
We have to do this job. And to do the job you can't cut
the money for it. The president actually cut the money for
it. You have to put the money into it and the funding and
And part of that leadership is sending the right message
to places like North Korea. Right now the president is spending
hundreds of millions of dollars to research bunker-busting
nuclear weapons. The United States is pursuing a new set
of nuclear weapons. It doesn't make sense.
You talk about mixed messages: We're telling other people
you can't have nuclear weapons but we're pursuing a new nuclear
weapons that we might even contemplate using.
Not this president. I'm going to shut that program down.
And we're going to make it clear to the world we're serious
about containing nuclear proliferation. And we're going to
get the job of containing all of that nuclear material in
Russia done in four years. And we're going to build the strongest
international network to prevent nuclear proliferation.
This is the scale of what President Kennedy set out to do
with the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. It's our generation's equivalent
and I intend to get it done.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety seconds, Mr. President.
MR. BUSH: Actually, we've increased funding for, for dealing
with nuclear proliferation. About 35 percent since I've been
Secondly, we've set up what's called the - well, first of
all, I agree with my opponent that the biggest threat facing
this country is weapons of mass destruction in the hands
of a terrorist network. And that's why we've put proliferation
as one of the centerpieces of a multiprong strategy to make
the country safer.
My administration started what's called the proliferation
security initiative. Over 60 nations involved with disrupting
the transshipment of information and or weapons of mass destruction
materials. And we're, been effective.
We busted the A.Q. Khan network. This was a proliferator
out of Pakistan that was selling secrets to places like North
Korea and Libya. We convinced Libya to disarm, it's a essential
part of dealing with weapons of mass destruction and proliferation.
I tell you another way to help protect America in the long
run is to continue with missile defenses. And we've got a
robust research and development program that has been ongoing
during my administration. We'll be implementing a missile
defense system relatively quickly. and that is another way
to help deal with the threats that we face in the 21st century.
My opponent is opposed to the missile defenses.
MR. LEHRER: Just for this one-minute discussion here, is
it - just for whatever seconds it takes: so it's correct
to say that if somebody's listening to this, that both of
you agree - if you're re-elected, Mr. President, and if you
are elected, the single most serious threat you believe -
both of you believe is nuclear proliferation.
MR. BUSH: I do - in the hands of a terrorist enemy.
MR. KERRY: Weapons of mass destruction, nuclear proliferation.
But again, the test of the difference between us: the president's
had four years to try to do something about it. And North
Korea's got more weapons. Iran is moving toward weapons.
And at his pace it'll take 13 years to secure those weapons
I'm going to do it in four years and I'm going to immediately
set out to have bilateral talks with North Korea.
MR. LEHRER: Your response to that.
MR. BUSH: Yeah, I, again, I can't tell you how big a mistake
I think that is to have bilateral talks with North Korea.
It's precisely what Kim Jong Il wants. It'll cause the six-party
talks to evaporate. It means that China no longer is involved
in convincing, along with us, for Kim Jong Il to get rid
of his weapons. It's a big mistake to do that. We must have
China's leverage on Kim Jong Il, besides ourselves. And if
you enter bilateral talks, they'll be happy to walk away
from the table. I don't think that'll work.
MR. LEHRER: All right, Mr. President, this is the last question.
MR. LEHRER: All right. Mr. President, this is the last question
and two minutes. It's a new subject, new question and it
has to do with President Putin and Russia. Did you misjudge
him or are you - do you feel that what he is doing in the
name of anti-terrorism by changing some democratic processes
MR. BUSH: No, I don't think it's O.K. and said so publicly.
I think that there needs to be checks and balances in a democracy.
And made that very clear, that by consolidating power in
a central government, he's sending a signal to the Western
world and United States that perhaps he doesn't believe in
checks and balances. And I've told him that.
He's also a strong ally in the war on terror. He is, listen,
they went through a horrible situation in Beslan where these
terrorist gunned down young school kids. But it's nature
of the enemy. By the way, that's why we need to be firm in
resolve in bringing them to justice. It's precisely what
Vladimir Putin understands as well.
I've got a good relation with Vladimir. And it's important
that we do have a good relation because that enables me to
better comment to him and to better to discuss with him some
of the decisions he makes. I found that in this world, that
it's important to establish good personal relationships with
people so that when you have disagreements, you're able to
disagree in a way that is effective. And so I've told him
my opinion. I look forward to discussing it more with him
as time goes on.
Russia's a country in transition. Vladimir's - is going
to have to make some hard choices, and I think it's very
important for the American president, as well as other Western
leaders, to remind him of the great benefits of democracy,
that democracy will best, uh, help the people realize their
hopes and aspirations and dreams. And I will continue working
with him over the next four years.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety seconds, Senator Kerry.
MR. KERRY: Well, let me just say quickly that I had an extraordinary
experience of watching, up close and personal, that transition
in Russia because I was there right after the transformation
and I was probably one of the first senators, along with
Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire, former senator, to go
down into the K.G.B. underneath Treblinka Square and see
reams of files with names in them. And it sort of brought
home the transition to democracy that Russia was trying to
I regret what's happened in these past months. And I think
it goes beyond just the response to terror.
Mr. Putin now controls all the television stations. His
political opposition is being put in jail.
And I think it's very important for the United States, obviously,
to have a working relationship that is good. This is a very
important country to us, and we want a partnership.
But we always have to stand up for democracy. As George
Will said the other day, freedom on the march, not in Russia
Now, I'd like to come back for a quick moment if I can to
that issue about China and the talks because that's one of
the most critical issues here - North Korea. Just because
the president says it can't be done, that you'd lose China,
doesn't mean it can't be done.
I mean this is the president who said there were weapons
of mass destruction, said mission accomplished, said we could
fight the war on the cheap; none of which were true.
We can have bilateral talks with Kim Jong Il and we can
get those weapons at the same time as we get China because
China has an interest in the outcome too.
MR. LEHRER: Thirty seconds, Mr. President.
MR. BUSH: You know my opinion on North Korea. I can't say
it any more plainly.
MR. LEHRER: Right, well, what - he used the word truth again.
MR. BUSH: Pardon me?
MR. LEHRER: Talking about the truth of the matter. Used
the word truth again. Did that raise any hackles with you?
MR. BUSH: I'm a pretty calm guy. I mean, I don't take it
personally. But, you know, look, we looked at the same intelligence.
And came to the same conclusion. That Saddam Hussein was
a grave threat. And I don't hold it against him that he said
grave threat. I don't, I'm not going to go around the country
saying he didn't tell the truth when he looked at the same
intelligence I did.
MR. KERRY: It was a threat. That's not the issue. The issue
is what you do about it. The president said he was going
to be build a true coalition, exhaust the remedies of the
U.N. and go to war as a last resort. Those words really have
to mean something. And unfortunately, he didn't go to war
as a last resort. Now we have this incredible mess in Iraq,
two hundred billion dollars. It's, it's not what the American
people thought they were getting when they voted.
MR. LEHRER: All right. That brings us to closing statements.
And as, and again as determined by a coin toss, Senator Kerry,
you go first and you have two minutes.
MR. KERRY: Thank you, Jim, very much. Thank you very much
to the university again. Thank you, Mr. President.
My fellow Americans, as I said at the very beginning of
this debate, both President Bush and I love this country
very much. There's no doubt, I think, about that. But we
have a different set of convictions about how we make our
country stronger here at home and respected again in the
I know that for many of you sitting at home, parents of
kids in Iraq, you want to know who's the person who could
be a commander in chief who can get your kids home and get
the job done and win the peace - and for all the rest of
the parents in America who are wondering about their kids
going to a school or anywhere else in the world what kind
of world they're going to grow up in - let me look you in
the eye and say to you: I defended this country as a young
man in war and I will defend it as president of the United
But I have a difference with this president. I believe we're
strongest when we reach out and lead the world and build
strong alliances. I have a plan for Iraq. I believe we can
be successful. I'm not talking about leaving. I'm talking
about winning. And we need a fresh start, a new credibility,
a president who can bring allies to our side.
I also have a plan to win the war on terror - funding homeland
security, strengthening our military, cutting off finances,
reaching out to the world, again, building strong alliances.
I believe America's best days are ahead of us because I
believe that the future belongs to freedom, not to fear.
That's the country that I'm going to fight for. And I ask
you to give me the opportunity to make you proud. I ask you
to give me the opportunity to lead this great nation so that
we can be stronger here at home, respected again in the world
and have responsible leadership that we deserve. Thank you
and God bless America.
MR. LEHRER: Mr. President, two minutes.
MR. BUSH: Thank you very much tonight, Jim. Thank you, senator.
If America shows uncertainly or weakness in this decade,
the world will drift toward tragedy. That's not going to
happen so long as I'm your president. In the next four years,
we will continue to strengthen our homeland defenses, we
will strengthen our intelligence gathering services, we will
reform our military - military will be an all-volunteer army.
We will continue to stay on the offense. We will fight the
terrorists around the world so we do not have to face them
here at home. We'll continue to build our alliances. I'll
never turn over America's national security needs to leaders
of other countries as we continue to build those alliances.
And we'll continue to spread freedom. I believe in the transformational
power of liberty. I believe that a free Iraq is in this nation's
interests. I believe a free Afghanistan is in this nation's
interests, and I believe both a free Afghanistan and a free
Iraq will serve as a powerful example for millions who plead
in silence for liberty in the broader Middle East.
We've done a lot of hard work together over the last three
and a half years. We've been challenged and we've risen to
those challenges. We've climbed the mighty mountain. I see
the valley below, and it's a valley of peace. By being steadfast
and resolute and strong, by keeping our word, by supporting
our troops, we can achieve the peace we all want.
I appreciate your listening tonight. I ask for your vote.
And may God continue to bless our great land.
MR. LEHRER: And that ends tonight's debate. A reminder,
the second presidential debate will be week from tomorrow,
Oct. 8, from Washington University in St. Louis. Charles
Gibson of ABC will moderate a town hall type event. Then
on Oct. 13 from Arizona State University in Tempe, Bob Schieffer
of CBS News will moderate. And an exchange on domestic policy
that will be similar in format to tonight. Also, this coming
Tuesday at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland,
the vice presidential candidates, Vice President Cheney and
Senator Edwards, will debate with my PBS colleague Gwen Ifill
moderating. For now, thank you, Senator Kerry, President
Bush. From Coral Gables, Fla., I'm Jim Lehrer. Thank you
and good night.
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