2004 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
GEORGE W. BUSH & JOHN KERRY
THE SECOND PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE
ST. LOUIS, MO • OCTOBER 8, 2004
MR. GIBSON: Good evening. From the Field
House at Washington University in St. Louis, I'm Charles
Gibson of ABC News and "Good Morning America." I
welcome you to the second of the 2004 presidential debates
between President George W. Bush, the Republican nominee,
and Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee. The debates
are sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates.
Tonight's format is going to be a bit different. We have
assembled a town hall meeting. We're in the Show Me State,
as everyone knows Missouri to be. So Missouri residents will
ask the questions. The 140 citizens were identified by the
Gallup Organization as not yet committed in this election.
Now earlier today, each audience member gave me two questions
on cards like this, one they'd like to ask of the president,
the other they'd like to ask the senator. I have selected
the questions to be asked and the order. No one has seen
the final list of questions but me, certainly not the candidates.
No audience member knows if he or she will be called upon.
Audience microphones will be turned off after a question
is asked. Audience members will address their question to
a specific candidate. He'll have two minutes to answer. The
other candidate will have a minute and a half for rebuttal,
and I have the option of extending discussion for one minute
to be divided equally between the two men. All subjects are
open for discussion.
And you probably know the light system by now. Green light
at 30 seconds. Yellow at 15. Red at 5, and flashing red means
you're done. Those are the candidates' rules. I will hold
the candidates to the time limits forcefully but politely,
And now please join me in welcoming with great respect President
Bush and Senator Kerry. Gentlemen, to the business at hand.
The first question is for Senator Kerry and it will come
from Cheryl Otis, who is right behind me.
Q. Senator Kerry, after talking to several coworkers and
family and friends, I asked the ones who said they were not
voting for you why. They said that you were too wishy-washy.
Do you have a reply for that?
MR. KERRY: Yes, I certainly do. But let me just first, Cheryl,
if you will, I want to thank Charlie for moderating, I want
to thank Washington University for hosting us here this evening.
Mr. president, it's good to be with you again this evening,
Cheryl, the president didn't find weapons of mass destruction
in Iraq, so he's really turned his campaign into a weapon
of mass deception. And the result is that you've been bombarded
with advertisements suggesting that I've changed a position
on this or that or the other.
Now the three things they try to say I've changed position
on are the Patriot Act. I haven't, I support it. I just don't
like the way John Ashcroft has applied it. And we're going
to change a few things. The chairman of the Republican Party
thinks we ought to change a few things.
No Child Left Behind Act. I voted for it. I support it.
I support the goals. But the president has underfunded it
by $28 billion. Right here in St. Louis, you've laid off
350 teachers. You're $150, excuse me, I think it's a little
more, about $100 million shy of what you ought to be under
the No Child Left Behind Act to help your education system
here. So I complain about that. I've argued that we should
fully fund it. The president says I've changed my mind. I
haven't changed my mind. I'm going to fully fund it.
So these are the differences. Now the president has presided
over the economy. We've lost 1.6 million jobs. First president
in 72 years to lose jobs. I have a plan to put people back
to work. That's not wishy-washy. I'm going to close the loopholes
that actually encourage companies to go overseas. The president
wants to keep them open. I think I'm right and I think he's
wrong. I'm going to give you a tax cut. The president gave
the top 1 percent of income earners in America got $89 billion
last year. More than the 80 percent of people who earn $100,000
or less all put together. I think that's wrong. That's not
wishy-washy, and that's what I'm fighting for, you.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. president, a minute and a half.
MR. BUSH: Charlie, thank you. Thank our panelists. And senator,
thank you. And thanks Washington U. as well.
I can see why people at your workplace think he changes
positions a lot. Because he does. He said he voted for the
$87 billion, and voted against it right before he voted for
it. That sends a confusing signal to people.
He said he thought Saddam Hussein was a grave threat and
now said it was a mistake to remove Saddam Hussein from power.
Now I can see why people think that he changes position quite
often. Because he does.
You know, for a while he was a strong supporter of getting
rid of Saddam Hussein. He saw the wisdom, until the Democratic
primary came along. And Howard Dean, the antiwar candidate,
began to gain on him. He changed positions.
I don't see how you can lead this country in a time of war,
in a time of uncertainty if you change your mind because
He just brought up the tax cut. Remember, we increased that
child credit by $1,000, reduced the marriage penalty, created
a 10 percent tax bracket for the lower income Americans.
That's right at the middle class. He voted against it. And
yet he tells you he's for a middle-class tax cut.
You've got to be consistent when you're the president. There's
a lot of pressures. And you've got to be firm and consistent.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. president, I would follow up, but we have
a series of questions on Iraq. And so I will turn to the
next questioner. The question for President Bush, and the
questioner is Robin Dahle. Can you get a microphone, Robin?
Q. Mr. president, yesterday in a statement you admitted
that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction but justified
the invasion by stating, I quote, "He retained the knowledge,
the materials, the means and the intent to produce weapons
of mass destruction and could have passed this knowledge
to our terrorist enemies.'' Do you sincerely believe this
to be a reasonable justification for invasion when this statement
applies to so many other countries, including North Korea?
MR. BUSH: Each situation's different, Robin. And obviously
we hope that diplomacy works before you ever use force. The
hardest decision a president makes is ever to use force.
After 9/11, we had to look at the world differently. After
9/11, we had to recognize that when we saw a threat, we must
take it seriously before it comes to hurt us. In the old
days, we'd see a threat and we could deal with it if we felt
like it or not.
But 9/11 changed it all. I vowed to our countrymen that
I would do everything I could to protect the American people.
That's why we're bringing Al Qaeda to justice; 75 percent
of them have been brought to justice. That's why I said to
Afghanistan, "I\if you harbor a terrorist, you're just
as guilty as the terrorist." And the Taliban is no longer
in power, and Al Qaeda no longer has a place to plan.
And I saw a unique threat in Saddam Hussein - as did my
opponent - because we thought he had weapons of mass destruction.
And the unique threat was that he could give weapons of mass
destruction to an organization like Al Qaeda, and the harm
they inflicted on us with airplanes would be multiplied greatly
by weapons of mass destruction. And that was a serious, serious
threat. So I tried diplomacy, went to the United Nations.
But as we learned in the same report I quoted, Saddam Hussein
was gaming the oil-for-food program to get rid of sanctions.
He was trying to get rid of sanctions for a reason. He wanted
to restart his weapons programs.
We all thought there was weapons there, Robin. My opponent
thought there was weapons there. That's why he called him
a grave threat. I wasn't happy when we found out there wasn't
weapons, and we've got an intelligence group together to
figure out why. But Saddam Hussein was a unique threat, and
the world is better off without him in power.
And my opponent's plans lead me to conclude that Saddam
Hussein would still be in power and the world would be more
dangerous. Thank you, sir.
MR. GIBSON: Senator Kerry, a minute and a half.
MR. KERRY: Robin, I'm going to answer your question. I'm
also going to talk, respond to what you asked, Cheryl, at
the same time.
The world is more dangerous today. The world is more dangerous
today, because the president didn't make the right judgments.
Now the president wishes that I had changed my mind. He wants
you to believe that.
Because he can't come here and tell you that he's created
new jobs for America. He's lost jobs. He can't come here
and tell you that he's created health care for Americans.
Because one point - what, we've got five million Americans
who have lost their health care - 96,000 of them right here
in Missouri. He can't come here and tell you that he's left
no child behind because he didn't fund No Child Left Behind.
So what does he do? He's trying to attack me. He wants you
to believe that I can't be president. And he's trying to
make you believe it because he wants you to think I change
Well, let me tell you, straight up, I've never changed my
mind about Iraq. I do believe Saddam Hussein was a threat.
I always believed he was a threat - believed it in 1998 when
Clinton was president. I wanted to give Clinton the power
to use force if necessary. But I would have used that force
wisely. I would have used that authority wisely, not rush
to war without a plan to win the peace. I would have brought
our allies to our side. I would have fought to make certain
our troops had everybody possible to help them win the mission.
This president rushed to war, pushed our allies aside, and
Iran now is more dangerous. And so is North Korea with nuclear
weapons. He took his eye off the ball, off of Osama bin Laden.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. president, I do want to follow up on this
one because there were several question from the audience
along this line.
MR. BUSH: [inaudible] ... rebuttal.
MR. GIBSON: Well I was going to have you do the rebuttal,
but you go ahead. You're up.
MR. BUSH: Remember the last debate? My opponent said that
America must pass a global test before we used force to protect
ourselves. That's the kind of mindset that says sanctions
were working. That's the kind of mindset that said let's
keep it at the United Nations and hope things go well. Saddam
Hussein was a threat because he could have given weapons
of mass destruction to terrorists enemies. Sanctions were
not working. The United Nations was not effective at removing
MR. GIBSON: Senator?
MR. KERRY: The goal of the sanctions was not to remove Saddam
Hussein. It was to remove the weapons of mass destruction.
And Mr. president, just yesterday the Duelfer report told
you and the whole world, they worked. He didn't have weapons
of mass destruction, Mr. president. That was the objective.
And if we had used smart diplomacy, we could have saved $200
billion and an invasion of Iraq. And right now Osama bin
Laden might be in jail or dead. That's the war against terror.
MR. GIBSON: We're going to have another question now on
the subject of Iraq. And I'm going to turn to Anthony Baldi
with a question for Senator Kerry. Mr. Baldi?
Q. Senator Kerry, the U.S. is preparing a new Iraq government
and will proceed to withdraw U.S. troops. Would you proceed
with the same plans as President Bush?
MR. KERRY: Anthony, I would not. I have laid out a different
plan, because the president's plan is not working. You see
that every night on television. There's chaos in Iraq. King
Abdullah of Jordan said just yesterday or the day before
you can't hold elections in Iraq with the chaos that's going
Senator Richard Lugar, the Republican chairman of the Foreign
Relations Committee, said that the handling of the reconstruction
aid in Iraq by this administration has been incompetent.
Those are the Republican chairman's words. Senator Hagel
of Nebraska said that the handling of Iraq is beyond pitiful,
beyond embarrassing. It's in the zone of dangerous.
Those are the words of two Republicans, respected, both
on the Foreign Felations Committee. Now I have to tell you,
I would do something different. I would reach out to our
allies in a way that this president hasn't. He pushed them
away, time and again. Pushed them away at the U.N., pushed
them away individually.
Two weeks ago, there was a meeting of the North Atlantic
Council, which is the political arm of NATO. They discussed
the possibility of a small training unit or having a total
takeover of the training in Iraq. Did our administration
push for the total training of Iraq? No. Were they silent?
Yes. Was there an effort to bring all the allies together
around that? No. Because they've always wanted this to be
an American effort.
They even have the Defense Department issue a memorandum
saying don't bother applying for assistance or for being
part of the reconstruction if you weren't part of our original
coalition. Now that's not a good way to build support and
reduce the risk for our troops and make America safer. I'm
going to get the training done for our troops. I'm going
to get the training of Iraqis done faster. And I'm going
to get our allies back to the table.
MR. BUSH: Two days ago in the Oval Office, I met with the
finance minister from Iraq. He came to see me. And he talked
about how optimistic he was and the country was about heading
toward elections. Think about it. They're going from tyranny
to elections. He talked about the reconstruction efforts
that are beginning to take hold. He talked about the fact
that Iraqis love to be free. He said he was optimistic when
he came here. Then he turned on the TV and listened to the
political rhetoric, and all of a sudden he was pessimistic.
This is a guy who, along with others, is taking great risks
for freedom. And we need to stand with him.
My opponent says he has a plan. Sounds familiar because
it's called the Bush Plan. We're going to train troops, and
we are. We'll have 125,000 trained by the end of December.
We're spending about $7 billion. He talks about a grand idea.
Let's have a summit. We're going to solve the problem in
Iraq by holding a summit. And what is he going to say to
those people that show up to the summit? Join me in the wrong
war at the wrong time at the wrong place? Risk your troops
in a war you've called a mistake?
Nobody is going to follow somebody who doesn't believe we
can succeed and somebody who says the war where are is a
mistake. I know how these people think. I meet with them
all the time. I talk to Tony Blair all the time. I talk to
Silvio Berlusconi. They're not going to follow an American
president who says follow me into a mistake.
Our plan is working. We're going to make elections and Iraq
is going to be free and America will be better off for it.
MR. GIBSON: You want to follow up, Senator?
MR. KERRY: Yes, sir, please. Ladies and gentlemen, the right
war was Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan. That was the right
place, and the right time was Tora Bora, when we had him
cornered in the mountains.
Now everyone in the world knows that there were no weapons
of mass destruction. That was the reason Congress gave him
the authority to use force, not after excuse to get rid of
the regime. Now we have to succeed. I've always said that.
I have been consistent. Yes, we have to succeed, and I have
a better plan to help us do it.
MR. BUSH: First of all, we didn't find out he didn't have
weapons until we got there. And my opponent thought he had
weapons. And told everybody he thought he had weapons.
And secondly, it's a fundamental misunderstanding to say
that the war on terror is only Osama bin Laden. The war on
terror is to make sure that these terrorist organizations
do not end up with weapons of mass destruction. That's what
the war on terror's about. Of course we're going to find
Osama bin Laden. We've already got 75 percent of his people.
And we're on the hunt for him. But this is a global conflict
that requires firm resolve.
MR. GIBSON: The next question is for President Bush, and
it comes from Nicky Washington.
Q. Thank you. Mr. president. My mother and sister traveled
abroad this summer. And when they got back they talked to
us about how shocked they were at the intensity of aggravation
that other countries had with how we handled the Iraq situation.
Diplomacy is obviously something that we have to really work
on. What is your plan to repair relations with other countries
given the current situation?
MR. BUSH: No, I appreciate that. I - listen, I - we got
a great country. I love our values. And I recognize I've
made some decisions that have caused people to not understand
the great values of our country.
I remember when Ronald Reagan was the president. He stood
on principle. Some might have called that stubborn. He stood
on principle standing up to the Soviet Union. And we won
that conflict. Yet at the same time he was very - we were
very unpopular in Europe because of the decisions he made.
I recognize that taking Saddam Hussein out was unpopular.
But I made the decision because I thought it was in the right
interest of our security.
You know, I've made some decision on Israel that's unpopular.
I wouldn't deal with Arafat because I felt like he had let
the former president down, and I don't think he's the kind
of person that can lead toward a Palestinian state. And people
in Europe didn't like that decision. And that was unpopular,
but it was the right thing to do.
I believe Palestinians ought to have a state. But I know
they need leadership that's committed to a democracy and
freedom, leadership that'd be willing to reject terrorism.
I made a decision not to join the International Criminal
Court in The Hague, which is where our troops can be brought
in front of a judge, an unaccounted judge. I don't think
we ought to join it. That was unpopular. And so what I'm
telling you is that sometimes in this world you make unpopular
decisions because you think they're right.
We'll continue to reach out. Listen, there's 30 nations
involved in Iraq, some 40 nations involved in Afghanistan.
People love America. Sometimes they don't like the decisions
made by America. But I don't think you want a president who
tries to become popular and does the wrong thing. You don't
want to join the International Criminal Court just because
it's popular in certain capitals in Europe.
MR. GIBSON: Senator Kerry, a minute and a half.
MR. KERRY: Nicky, that's a question that's been raised by
a lot of people around the country. Let me address it but
also talk about the weapons the president just talked about,
because every part of the president's answer just now promises
you more of the same over the next four years.
President stood right here in this hall four years ago,
and he was asked a question by somebody just like you, "Under
what circumstances would you send people to war?' And his
answer was with a viable exit strategy and only with enough
forces to get the job done. He didn't do that. He broke that
promise. We didn't have enough forces. General Shinseki,
the Army chief of staff, told him he was going to need several
hundred thousand, and guess what? They retired General Shinseki
for telling him that.
This president hasn't listened. I went to meet with the
members of the Security Council in the week before we voted.
I went to New York. I talked to all of them to find out how
serious they were about really holding Saddam Hussein accountable.
I came away convinced that if we worked at it, if we were
ready to work at letting Hans Blix do his job and thoroughly
go through the inspections. That if push came to shove, they'd
be there with us. But the president just arbitrarily brought
the hammer down and said: "Nope, sorry, time for diplomacy
is over. We're going. He rushed to war without a plan to
win the peace.''
Ladies and gentlemen, he gave you a speech and told you
he'd plan carefully, take every precaution, take our allies
with us. He didn't. He broke his word.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. president.
MR. BUSH: I remember sitting in the White House looking
at those generals, saying do you have what you need in this
war? Do you have what it takes? I remember going down to
the basement of the White House the day we committed our
troops as last resort. Looking at Tommy Franks and the generals
on the ground. Asking them do we have the right plan with
the right troop level? And they looked me in the eye and
said, yes, sir, Mr. president.
Of course, I listened to our generals. That's what a president
does. A president tests the strategy and relies upon good
military people to execute that strategy.
MR. GIBSON: Senator?
MR. KERRY: You rely on good military people to execute the
military component of the strategy. But winning the peace
is larger than just the military component. General Shinseki
had the wisdom to say you're going to need several hundred
thousand troops to win the peace. Military's job is to win
the war. The president's job is to win the peace.
The president did not do what was necessary. Didn't bring
in enough nations. Didn't deliver the help. Didn't close
off the borders. Didn't even guard the ammo dumps. And now
our kids are being killed with ammos right out of that dump.
MR. GIBSON: The next question is for Senator Kerry, and
it comes from over here from Randee Jacobs.
Q. Iran sponsors terrorism and has missiles capable of hitting
Israel and southern Europe. Iran will have nuclear weapons
in two to three years time. In the event that U.N. sanctions
don't stop this threat what will you do as president? In
the event that U.N. sanctions don't stop this threat, what
will you do as president?
MR. KERRY: I don't think you can just rely on U.N. sanctions,
Randee. But you're absolutely correct. It is a threat. It's
a huge threat. And what's interesting is it's a threat that
has grown while the president has been preoccupied with Iraq
where there wasn't a threat. If he'd let the inspectors do
their job and go on, we wouldn't have 10 times the number
of forces in Iraq that we have in Afghanistan chasing Osama
Meanwhile, while Iran is moving toward nuclear weapons,
some 37 tons of what they call yellowcake, the stuff they
use to make enriched uranium. While they're doing that, North
Korea has moved from one bomb, maybe, maybe to four to seven
bombs. For two years, the president didn't even engage with
North Korea, did nothing at all while it was growing more
dangerous. Despite the warnings of people like former Secretary
of Defense William Perry, who negotiated getting television
cameras and inspectors into that reactor. We were safer before
President Bush came to office.
Now they have the bombs, and we're less safe. So what do
we do? We've got to join with the British and the French,
with the Germans who have been involved in their initiative.
We've got to lead the world now to crack down on proliferation
as a whole. But the president's been slow to do that even
in Russia. At his pace, it's going to take 13 years to reduce
and get ahold of all the loose nuclear material in the former
Soviet Union. I've proposed a plan that can capture it and
contain it and clean it within four years. And the president
is moving to the creation of our own bunker-busting nuclear
weapon. It's very hard to get other countries to give up
their weapons when you're busy developing a new one. I'm
going to lead the world in the greatest counterproliferation
effort. And if we have to get tough with Iran, believe me,
we will get tough.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. president, minute and a half.
MR. BUSH: That answer almost made me want to scowl. He keeps
talking about let the inspectors do their job. It's naïve
and dangerous to say that. That's what the Duelfer report
showed. He was deceiving the inspectors.
Secondly, of course we've been involved with Iran. I fully
understand the threat. And that's why we're doing what he's
suggested we do. Get the Brits, the Germans and the French
to go make it very clear to the Iranians that if they expect
to be a party to the world to give up their nuclear ambitions.
We've been doing that.
Let me talk about North Korea. It is naïve and dangerous
to take a policy that he suggested the other day, which is
to have bilateral relations with North Korea. Remember, he's
the person who's accusing me of not acting multilaterally?
He now wants to take the six-party talks we have - China,
North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Japan and the United States
- and undermine them by having bilateral talks. That's what
President Clinton did. He had bilateral talks with the North
Koreans, and guess what happened. He didn't honor the agreement.
He was enriching uranium. That is a bad policy.
Of course, we're paying attention to these. That's a great
question about Iran. That's why in my speech to the Congress
I said there's an axis of evil, Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
And we're paying attention to it. And we're making progress.
MR. GIBSON: We're going to move on, Mr. president, with
a question for you. And it comes from Daniel Farley. Mr.
Q. Mr. president, since we continue to police the world,
how do you intend to maintain a military presence without
reinstituting a draft?
MR. BUSH: Yeah, great question, thanks. I hear there's rumors
on the Internets that we're going to have a draft. We're
not going to have a draft, period. The all-volunteer Army
works. It works particularly when we pay our troops well.
It works when we make sure they've got housing, like we have
done in the last military budgets. And all-volunteer Army
is best suited to fight the new wars of the 21st century,
which is to be specialized and to find these people as they
hide around the world. We don't need mass armies anymore.
One of the things we've done is we've taken the - we're
beginning to transform our military. And by that I mean we're
moving troops out of Korea and replacing them with more effective
weapons. We don't need as much manpower on the Korean Peninsula
to keep a deterrent. In Europe, we have massed troops as
if the Soviet Union existed and was going to invade into
Europe. But those days are over with. And so we're moving
troops out of Europe and replacing it with more effective
So the answer to your question is we're withdrawing, not
from the world. We're drawing manpower so they can be stationed
here in America. So there's less rotations. So life is easier
on their families and, therefore, more likely to be - will
be more likely to be able to keep people in the all-volunteer
One of the most important things we're doing in this administration
is transformation. There's some really interesting technologies.
For example, we're flying unmanned vehicles that can send
real-time messages back to stations in the United States.
That saves manpower, and it saves equipment. It also means
that we can target things easier and move more quickly, which
means we need to be lighter and quicker and more facile and
Forget all this talk about a draft. We're not going to have
a draft so long as I'm the president
MR. GIBSON: Senator Kerry, a minute and a half.
MR. KERRY: Daniel, I don't support a draft. But let me tell
you where the president's policies have put us. The president
- and this is one of the reasons why I'm very proud in this
race to have the support of Gen. John Shalikashvili, former
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Adm. William Crowe,
former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. Tony McPeak,
who ran the air war for the president's father and did a
brilliant job, supporting me; Gen. Wes Clark, who won the
war in Kosovo, supporting me, because they all - General
Baaka, who was the head of the National Guard, supporting
me. Why? Because they understand that our military is overextended
under the president. Our Guard and Reserves have been turned
into almost active duty. You've got people doing two and
three rotations. You've got stop-loss policies, so people
can't get out when they were supposed to. You've got a backdoor
draft right now.
And a lot of our military are underpaid. They - these are
families that get hurt. It hurts the middle class. It hurts
communities, because these are our first responders, and
they're called up and they're over there, not over here.
Now, I'm going to add 40,000 active-duty forces to the military,
and I'm going to make people feel good about being safe in
our military and not overextended, because I'm going to run
a foreign policy that actually does what President Reagan
did and President Eisenhower did and others. We're going
to build alliances. We're not going to go unilaterally. We're
not going to go alone, like this president did.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. president, let's extend for a minute --
MR. BUSH: Let me just, well, I got--
MR. GIBSON: Let's talk about an issue of--
MR. BUSH: I got to answer this.
MR. GIBSON: Well, exactly. And with reservists being held
on duty and some soldiers--
MR. BUSH: No, let me answer what he just said about--
MR. GIBSON: Well, I wanted to get into the issue about the--
MR. BUSH: --going it alone. You tell Tony Blair we're going
alone. Tell Tony Blair we're going alone. Tell Servio Berlusconi
we're going alone. Tell Aleksander Kwasniewski we're going
alone. We've got 30 countries there. It denigrates an alliance
to say we're going alone, to discount their sacrifices. You
cannot lead an alliance if you say, you know, you're going
alone. And people listen. They're sacrificing with us.
MR. GIBSON: Senator.
MR. KERRY: Mr. President, countries are leaving the coalition,
not joining. Eight countries have left it. If Missouri -
just given the number of people from Missouri are in the
military over there were a country, it would be the third
largest country in the coalition, behind Great Britain and
the United States. That's not a grand coalition. Ninety percent
of the casualties are American; 90 percent of the costs are
coming out of your pockets. I could do a better job, my plan
does a better job and that's why I'll be a better commander
MR. GIBSON: The next question, Senator Kerry is for you.
And it comes from Ann Bronsing, who I believe is over in
Q. Senator Kerry, we have been fortunate that there have
been no further terrorist attacks on American soil since
9/11. Why do you think this is? And if elected, what will
you do to assure our safety?
MR. KERRY: Thank you very much, Ann. I've asked in my security
briefings why that is. And I can't go into all the answers,
etc. But let me say this to you. This president and his administration
have told you and all us it's not a question of when - excuse
me, not a question of if, it's a question of when. We've
been told that. The when I can't tell you. Between the World
Trade Center bombing in what was it, 1993 or so, and the
next time was five years, seven years. These people wait.
They'll plan. They plot. I agree with the president that
we have to go after them and get them wherever they are.
I just think I can do that far more effectively. Because
the most important weapon in doing that is intelligence.
You've got to have the best intelligence in the world. And
in order to have the best intelligence in the world, to know
who the terrorists are and where they are and what they're
plotting, you've got to have the best cooperation you've
ever had in the world.
Now to go back to your question, Nicky, we're not getting
the best cooperation in the world today. We've got a whole
bunch of countries that pay a price for dealing with the
United States of America now. I'm going to change that. And
I'm going to put in place a better homeland security effort.
Look at it, 95 percent of our containers coming into this
country are not inspected today. When you get on an airplane
your bag is X-rayed, but the cargo hold isn't X-rayed. Do
you feel safer?
This president in the last debate said that would be a big
tax gap if we did that. Ladies and gentleman, it's his tax
plan. He chose a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans over
getting that equipment out into the homeland as fast as possible.
We have bridges and tunnels that aren't being secured. Chemical
plants, nuclear plants that aren't secured. Hospitals that
are overcrowded with emergency rooms. If we had a disaster
today could they handle it? This president chose a tax cut
over homeland security. Wrong choice.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. President?
end of 14th add, pick up here with 15th
MR. KERRY: x x x x tax cut over homeland security. Wrong
Q. Mr. President.
MR. BUSH: That's an odd thing to say since we've doubled
- tripled the homeland security budget from $10 billion to
$30 billion. Listen, we'll do everything we can to protect
the homeland. My opponent's right, we need good intelligence.
That's also a curious thing for him to say since right after
1993 he voted to cut the intelligence budget by $7.5 billion.
The best way to defend America in this war - in this world
we live in is to stay on the offense. We've got to be right
100 percent of the time here at home. And they've got to
be right once. And that's the - that's the reality. And there's
a lot of good people working hard. We're doing the best we
possibly can to share information. That's why the Patriot
Act was important.
The Patriot Act it vital, by the way. It's a tool that law
enforcement now uses to be able to talk between each other.
My opponent says he hadn't changed his positions on it. No,
but he's for weakening it.
I don't think my opponent has got the right - right view
about the world to make us safe. I really don't. First of
all I don't think he can succeed in Iraq. And if Iraq were
to fail it'd be a haven for terrorists - and there'd be money.
And the world would be much more dangerous. I don't see how
you can win in Iraq if you don't believe we should be there
in the first place. I don't see how you can lead troops if
you say it's the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong
time. I don't see how the Iraqis are going to have confidence
in the American president if all they hear is that it was
a mistake to be there in the first place.
This war is a long, long war. And it requires steadfast
determination and it requires a complete understanding that
we not only chase down Al Qaeda but we disrupt terrorist
safe havens as well as people who could provide the terrorists
Q. I want to extend for a minute, Senator. I'm curious about
something you said. You said it's not when, but if. You think
it's inevitable? Because the sense of security is a very
basic thing with everybody in this country worried about
MR. KERRY: Well the president and his experts have told
America that it's not a question of if, it's a question of
when. And I accept what the president has said. These terrorists
are serious, they're deadly and they know nothing except
trying to kill. I understand that. That's why I will never
stop at anything to hunt down and kill the terrorists.
But you heard the president just say to you that we've added
money. Folks, the test is not if you've added money, the
test is have you done everything possible to make America
sure. He chose a tax cut for wealthy Americans over the things
that I listed to you.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. President?
MR. BUSH: Well, we'll talk about the tax cut for middle
class here in a minute. But yeah, I'm worried. I'm worried.
I'm worried about our country. And all I can tell you is
every day I know that there's people working overtime doing
the very best they can. And the reason I'm worried is because
there's a vicious enemy that had an ideology of hate. And
the way to defeat them long term by the way is to spread
freedom. Liberty can change habits. And that's what's happening
in Afghanistan and Iraq.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. President, we're going to turn to questions
now on domestic policy, and we're going to start with health
issues. The first question is for President Bush and it's
from John Horstman.
Q. Mr. President, why did you block the reimportation of
safer and inexpensive drugs from Canada, which would have
cut 40 to 60 percent off of the cost?
MR. BUSH: I haven't yet. Just want to make sure they're
safe. When a drug comes in from Canada I want to make sure
it cures you and doesn't kill you. And that's why the F.D.A.
and that's why the surgeon general are looking very carefully
to make sure it can be done in a safe way. I've got an obligation
to make sure our government does everything we can to protect
you. And my worry is, is that, you know, it looks like it's
from Canada and it might be from a Third World. We've just
got to make sure before somebody thinks they're buying a
product that that it works. And that's why we're doing what
we're doing. Now it may very well be here in December you
hear me say I think there's a safe way to do it.
Other ways to make sure drugs are cheaper. One is to speed
up generic drugs to the marketplace, quicker. Pharmaceuticals
were using loopholes to keep brand drugs in place. And generics
are much less expensive than brand drugs. And we're doing
just that. Another is to get our seniors to sign up for these
drug discount cards. And they're working.
Wanda Blackmore I met here from Missouri. The first time
she bought drugs with her drug discount card she payed $1.14;
I think it was for about $10 worth of drugs. These cards
And you know, in 2006 seniors are going to get prescription
drug coverage for the first time in Medicare. Because I went
to Washington to fix problems. Medicare, the issue of Medicare
used to be called Mediscare. People didn't want to touch
it for fear of getting hurt politically. I want to get something
done. I think our seniors deserve a modern medical system.
And in 2006 our seniors will get prescription drug coverage.
Thank you for asking.
MR. GIBSON: Senator, a minute and a half.
MR. KERRY: John, you heard the president just say that he
thought he might try to be for it. Four years ago, right
here in this forum he was asked the same questions: Can't
people be able to import drugs from Canada? Do you know what
he said? I think that make sense. I think that's a good idea.
Four years ago.
Now the president said, I'm not blocking that. Ladies and
gentlemen, the president just didn't level with you. Right
now, again, he did block it because we passed it in the United
States Senate. We sent it over to the House, that you could
import drugs. We took care of the safety issues. We're not
talking about Third World drugs, we're talking about drugs
made right here in the United States of America that have
American brand names on them in American bottles, and we're
asking they be able to allow you to get them. The president
The president also took Medicare, which belongs to you,
and he could have lowered the cost of Medicare and lowered
your taxes and lowered the cost to seniors. You know what
he did? He made it illegal for Medicare to do what the V.A.
does, which is bulk purchase drugs so that you could lower
the price and get them out to you lower. He put $139 billion
of windfall profit into the pockets of the drug companies,
right out of your pockets.
That's the difference between us: The president sides with
the power companies, the oil companies, the drug companies,
and I'm fighting to let you get those drugs from Canada and
I'm fighting to let Medicare survive. I'm fighting for the
middle class, that's the difference.
MR. BUSH: If--
Q. Mr. President--
MR. BUSH: If they're safe, they're coming. I want to remind
you that it wasn't just my administration that made the decision
on safety. President Clinton did the same thing. We have
an obligation to protect you.
Now, he talks about Medicare. He's been in the United States
Senate 20 years. Show me one accomplishment toward Medicare
that he accomplished. I've been in Washington, D.C. three
and a half years and led the Congress to reform Medicare
so our seniors have got a modern health care system. That's
what leadership is all about.
MR. KERRY: Actually, Mr. President, in 1997 we fixed Medicare
and I was one of the people involved in it. We not only fixed
Medicare and took it way out into the future, we did something
that you don't know how to do - we balanced the budget and
we paid down the debt of our nation for two years in a row
and we created 23 million new jobs at the same time. And
it's the president's fiscal policies that have driven up
the biggest deficits in American history. He's added more
debt to the debt of the United States in four years than
all the way from George Washington to Ronald Reagan put together.
MR. GIBSON: Next question is for Senator Kerry and this
comes from Norma-Jean Laruent.
Q. Senator Kerry, you've stated your concern for the rising
cost of health care. Yet you chose a vice presidential candidate
who has made millions of dollars successfully suing medical
professionals. How do you reconcile this with the voters?
MR. KERRY: Very easily, John Edwards is the author of the
Patients Bill of Rights. He wanted to give people rights.
John Edwards and I support tort reform. We both believe that
as lawyers, I'm a lawyer too, and I believe that we will
be able to get a fix that has eluded everybody else because
we know how to do it. It's in my health care proposal. Go
to johnkerry.com, you can pull it off the Internet, and you'll
find a tort reform plan.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, important to understand the president
and his friends try to make a big deal out of it. Is it a
problem? Yes, it's a problem. Do we need to fix it, particularly
for OB-GYN's and brain surgeons and others? Yes. But it's
less than 1 percent of the total cost of health care.
Your premiums are going up. You've gone up in Missouri about
$3,500. You've gone up 64 percent. You've seen copays to
up, deductibles go up. Everything's gone up. Five million
people have lost their health insurance under this president.
He's done nothing about it.
I have a plan. I have a plan to lower the cost of health
care for you. I have a plan to cover all children. I have
a plan to let you buy in to the same health care senators
and congressmen give themselves. I have a plan that's going
to allow people 55 to 64 to buy into Medicare early. And
I have a plan that will take the catastrophic cases out of
the system, off your backs, pay for it out of a federal fund,
which lowers the premiums for everybody in America, makes
American business more competitive and makes health care
Now all of that can happen but I have to ask you to do one
thing: Join me in rolling back the president's unaffordable
tax cut for people earning more than $200,000 a year. That's
all. Ninety-eight percent of America, I'm giving you a tax
cut and I'm giving you health care.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. President, a minute and a half.
MR. BUSH: Uh, let me see where to start here. First, the
National Journal named Senator Kennedy the most liberal senator
of all. And that's saying something in that bunch. You might
say that took a lot of hard work.
The reason I bring that up is because he's proposed $2.2
trillion in new spending. And he said he's going to tax the
rich to close the tax gap. He can't. He's going to tax everybody
here to fund his programs. That's just reality.
And what are his health programs? First, he says he's for
medical liability reform, particularly for Ob-Gyns. There's
a bill on the floor of the United States Senate that he could
have showed up and voted for if he's so much for it.
Secondly, he says that medical liability costs only caused
1 percent increase. That shows a lack of understanding. Doctors
practice defensive medicine because of all the frivolous
lawsuits that cost our government $28 billion a year.
And finally, he says he's going to have a novel health care
plan. You know what it is? The federal government is going
to run it. It is the largest increase in federal government
health care ever. And it fits with his philosophy. That's
why I told you about the award he won from the National Journal.
That's what liberals do. They create government sponsored
health care. Maybe you think that makes sense. I don't. Government
sponsored health care would lead to rationing. It would ruin
the quality of health care in America.
MR. GIBSON: Senator Kerry, we got several questions along
this line. And I'm just curious if you'd go further on what
you talked about with tort reform. Would you be favoring
capping awards on pain and suffering? Would you limit--
MR. GIBSON: Yes, to follow up on this for a minute.
MR. KERRY: Yeah, I think we should look at the punitive
and we should have some limitations. But look what's really
important, John is the president is just trying to scare
everybody here with throwing labels around. I mean compassionate
conservative, what does that mean? Cutting 500,000 kids from
after-school programs. Cutting 365,000 kids from health care?
Running up the biggest deficits in American history. Mr.
President, you're batting 0 for 2. I mean seriously labels
don't mean anything. What means something is do you have
a plan? And I want to talk about my plan some more. I hope
MR. GIBSON: We'll get to that in just a minute. Thirty--
MR. BUSH: You're right, what--
MR. BUSH: --does matter is the plan. He said he is for -
you're now for capping punitive damages. That's odd. You
should have shown up on the floor in the Senate and voted
for it then. Medical liability issues are a problem, a significant
problem. He's been in the United States Senate for 20 years,
and he hadn't addressed it. We passed it out of the House
of Representatives. Guess where it's stuck. It's stuck in
the Senate because the trial lawyers won't act on it. And
he's put a trial lawyer on the ticket.
MR. GIBSON: The next question is for President Bush and
it comes from Matthew O'Brien.
Q. Mr. President, you have enjoyed a Republican majority
in the House and Senate for most of your presidency. In that
time you've not vetoed a single spending bill. Excluding
$120 billion spent in Iran and - I'm sorry, Iraq and Afghanistan,
there has been $700 billion spent and not paid for by taxes.
Please explain how the spending you have approved and not
paid for is better for the American people than the spending
proposed by your opponent.
MR. BUSH: Right. Thank you for that. We have a deficit.
We have a deficit because this country went into a recession.
You might remember the stock market started to decline dramatically
six months before I came to office and then the bubble of
the 1990's popped. And that cost us revenue. That cost us
Secondly, we're at war and I'm going to spend what it takes
to win the war. More than just $120 billion for Iraq and
Afghanistan. We've got to pay our troops more. We have, we've
increased money for ammunition and weapons and pay and homeland
security. I just told this lady over here we spent - went
from $10 billion to $30 billion to protect the homeland.
I think we have an obligation to spend that kind of money.
Plus we cut taxes for everybody. Everybody got tax relief
so that they get out of the recession. I think if you raise
taxes during a recession, you head to depression. I come
from the school of thought that says when people have more
money in their pocket during tough economic times it increases
demand or investment. Small businesses begin to grow and
jobs are added. We found out today that over the past 13
months we're added 1.9 million new jobs in the last 13 months.
I've proposed a plan, detailed budget, that shows us cutting
the deficit in half by five years. And you're right, I haven't
vetoed any spending bills because we work together. Non-homeland,
non-defense discretionary spending was raising at 15 percent
a year when I got into office. And today it's less than 1
percent because we're working together to try to bring this
deficit under control. Like you, I'm concerned about the
deficit. But I am not going to shortchange our troops in
harm's way. And I'm not going to run up taxes, which will
cost this economy jobs. Thank you for your question.
MR. GIBSON: Senator Kerry, minute and a half.
MR. KERRY: Let me begin by saying that my health care plan
is not what the president described. It is not a government
takeover. You have choice. Choose your doctor. Choose your
plan. The government has nothing to do with it. In fact it
doesn't ask you to do anything. If you don't want to take
it, you don't have to. If you like your high premiums, you
keep them. That's the way we leave it.
Now with respect to the deficit, the president was handed
a $5.6 trillion surplus, ladies and gentlemen. That's where
he was when he came into office. We now have a $2.6 trillion
deficit. This is the biggest turnaround in the history of
the country. He's the first president in 72 years to lose
jobs. He talked about war. This is the first time the United
States of America has ever had a tax cut when we're at war.
Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, others knew how to lead.
They knew how to ask the American people for the right things.
One percent of America, the highest 1 percent of income earners
in America got $89 billion of tax cut last year. One percent
of America got more than the 80 percent of America that earned
from $100,000 down. The president thinks it's more important
to fight for that top 1 percent than to fight for fiscal
responsibility and to fight for you.
I want to put money in your pocket. I am - I have a proposal
for a tax cut for all people earning less than the $200,000.
The only people affected in my plan are the top income earners
MR. GIBSON: I both - I heard you both say - I have heard
you both say during the campaign - I just heard you say it
- that you're going to cut the deficit by a half in four
years. But I didn't hear one thing in the last three and
a half minutes that would indicate how either one of you
MR. BUSH: Well, look at the budget. One is make sure Congress
But let me talk back about where we've been. The stock market
was declining six months prior to my arrival. It was the
largest stock market correction - one of the largest in history,
which foretold a recession.
Because we cut taxes on everybody - remember we ran up the
child credit by 1,000, we reduced the marriage penalty, we
created the 10-percent bracket. Everybody who pays taxes
got relief. The recession was one of the shortest in our
MR. GIBSON: Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.
MR. KERRY: After 9/11, after the recession had ended, the
president asked for another tax cut and promised 5.6 million
jobs would be created. He lost 1.6, ladies and gentlemen.
And most of that tax cut went to the wealthiest people in
the country. He came and asked for a tax cut - we wanted
a tax cut to kick the economy into gear. You know what he
presented us with? A $25 billion giveaway to the biggest
corporations in America, including a $254 million refund
check to Enron. Wrong priorities. You're my priority.
Q. Senator Kerry, the next question will be for you and
it comes from James Varner, who I believe is in this section.
Mr. Varner, you need a microphone.
Q. Thank you. Senator Kerry, would you be willing to look
directly into the camera and using simple and unequivocal
language give the American people your solemn pledge not
to sign any legislation that will increase the tax burden
on families earning less than $200,000 a year during your
MR. KERRY: Absolutely, yes. Right into the camera, yes.
I am not going to raise taxes. I have a tax cut. And here's
my tax cut. I raise the child care credit by $1,000 for families
to help them be able to take care of their kids. I have a
$4,000 tuition tax credit that goes to parents and kids if
they're earning for themselves to be able to pay for college.
And I lower the cost of health care in the way that I described
to you. Every part of my program I've shown how I'm going
to pay for it. And I've gotten good people like former Secretary
of the Treasury Bob Rubin, for instance, who showed how to
balance budgets and give you a good economy, to help me crunch
these numbers and make them work.
I've even scaled back some of my favorite programs already,
like the child care program I wanted to fund and the National
Service program. Because the president's deficit keeps growing.
And I've said as a pledge I'm going to cut the deficit in
half in four years.
Now I'm going to restore what we did in the 1990's, ladies
and gentlemen. Pay as you go. We're going to do it like you
do it. The president broke the pay-as-you-go rule. Somebody
here asked the question about why haven't you vetoed something?
It's a good question. If you care about it. why don't you
veto it? I think John McCain called the energy bill "the
no lobbyist left behind bill." I mean, you've got to
stand up and fight somewhere, folks.
I'm pledging I will not raise taxes. I'm giving a tax cut
to the people earning less than $200,000 a year. Now for
the people earning more than $200,000 a year, you're going
to see a rollback to the level we were at with Bill Clinton,
when people made a lot of money. And looking around here
at this group here, I suspect there are only three people
here who are going to be affected, the president, me, and
Charlie. I'm sorry - you too.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. president.
MR. BUSH: It's just not credible when he talks about being
fiscally conservative. It's just not credible. If you look
at his record in the Senate, he voted to break the spending
- the caps, the spending caps, over 200 times. And here he
says he's going to be a fiscal conservative all of the sudden.
It's just not credible. You cannot believe it.
And of course he's going to raise your taxes. You see, he's
proposed $2.2 trillion of new spending. And so you say, well
how are you going to pay for it? He said, well, he's going
to raise the taxes on the rich. That's what he said. The
top two brackets. That raises, he says $800 billion. We say
$600 billion. We've got battling green eyeshades, somewhere
in between those numbers. And so there is a difference: What
he's promised and what he can raise.
Now either he's going to break all of these wonderful promises
he's told you about or he's going to raise taxes. And I suspect,
given his record, he's going to raise taxes. My time up yet?
MR. GIBSON: No, you can keep going.
MR. BUSH: Keep going. Good.
MR. GIBSON: You're on a roll.
MR. BUSH: You looked at me like my clock was up. I think
that the way to grow this economy is to keep taxes low, is
to have an energy plan, is to have litigation reform. As
I've told you, we just got a report that said over the past
13 months we've created 1.9 million new jobs. We're growing.
And so the fundamental question of this campaign is who's
going to keep the economy growing so people can work. That's
the fundamental question.
MR. GIBSON:. I'm going to come back one more time to how
these numbers add up and how you can cut that deficit in
half in four years, given what you've both said.
MR. KERRY: Well, first of all, the president's figures of
$2.2 trillion just aren't accurate. Those are the fuzzy math
figures put together by some group that works for the campaign.
That's not the number.
No. 2, John McCain and I have a proposal jointly for a commission
that closes corporate giveaway loopholes. We've got $40 billion
going to Bermuda. We've got all kinds of giveaways. We ought
to be shutting those down.
And third, credible? Ladies and gentlemen, in 1985, I was
one of the first Democrats to move to balance the budget.
I voted for the balanced budget in '93 and '97. We did it.
We did it.
MR. GIBSON: Thirty seconds.
MR. KERRY: And I was there.
MR. GIBSON: I'm sorry, 30 seconds, Mr. president.
MR. BUSH: Yeah, I mean he's got a record. He's been there
for 20 years. You can run but you can't hide. He voted 98
times to raise taxes. I mean these aren't made-up figures.
And so people are going to have to look at the record. Look
at the record of the man running for the president. They
don't name him the most liberal in the United States Senate
because he hasn't shown up to many meetings. They named him
because of his votes. And it's reality. It's just not credible
to say he's going to keep taxes down and balance budgets.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. president, the next question is for you,
and it comes from James Hubb, over here.
Q. Mr. president, how would you rate yourself as an environmentalist?
What specifically has your administration done to improve
the condition of our nation's air and water supply?
MR. BUSH: Off-road diesel engines - we have reached an agreement
to reduce pollution from off-road diesel engines by 90 percent.
I've got a plan to increase the wetlands by three million.
We've got an aggressive brown-field program to refurbish
inner-city sore spots to useful pieces of property. I proposed
to the United States Congress a Clear Skies initiative to
reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury by 70 percent.
I fought for a very strong title in the Farm Bill for the
conservation reserve program to set aside millions of acres
of land to help improve wildlife and the habitat.
We proposed and passed a Healthy Forest Bill, which was
essential to working with, particularly in Western states,
to make sure that our forests were protected. What happens
in those forests because of lousy federal policy, is they
grow to be, they, they are, they're not harvested. They're
not taken care of. And as a result, they're like tinderboxes.
And over the last summers ,I've flown over there. And so
this is a reasonable policy to protect old stands of trees
and at the same time make sure our forests aren't vulnerable
to the forest fires that have destroyed acres after acres
in the West.
We've got a good common-sense policy. Now I'm going to tell
you what I really think is going to happen over time is technology
is going to change the way we live for the good for the environment.
That's why I proposed a hydrogen automobile, hydrogen-generated
automobile. We're spending $1 billion to come up with the
technologies to do that. That's why I'm a big proponent of
clean coal technology, to make sure we can use coal, but
in a clean way.
I guess you'd say I'm a good steward of the land. The quality
of the air is cleaner since I've been the president. Fewer
water complaints since I've been the president. More land
being restored since I've been the president. Thank you for
MR. GIBSON: Senator Kerry, a minute and a half.
MR. KERRY: Boy, to listen to that, the president, I don't
think, is living in a world of reality with respect to the
environment. Now, if you're a Red Sox fan, that's O.K. But
if you're a president, it's not.
Let me just say to you, No. 1, don't throw the labels around.
Labels don't mean anything. I supported welfare reform. I
led the fight to put 100,000 cops on the streets of America.
I've been for faith-based initiatives helping to intervene
in the lives of young children for years. I was - broke with
my party in 1985 - one of the first three Democrats to fight
for a balanced budget when it was heresy. Labels don't fit,
ladies and gentlemen.
Now, when it comes to the issue of the environment, this
is one of the worst administrations in modern history. The
clear skies bill that he just talked about - it's one of
those Orwellian names you pull out of the sky, slap it onto
something, like No Child Left Behind but you leave millions
of children behind. Here they're leaving the skies and the
environment behind. If they just left the Clean Air Act all
alone the way it is today, no change, the air would be cleaner
than it is if you passed the clear skies act.
We're going backward. In fact, his environmental enforcement
chief air-quality person at the E.P.A. resigned in protest
over what they're doing to what are called the "new
source performance standards" for air quality.
They're going backward on the definition for wetlands. We're
going backward on the water quality. They pulled out of the
global warming, declared it dead, didn't even accept the
I'm going to be a president who believes in science.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. president.
MR. BUSH: Well, had we joined the Kyoto treaty, which I
guess he's referring to, it would have cost America a lot
of jobs. It's one of these deals where in order to be popular
in the halls of Europe, you sign a treaty. But I thought
it would cost a lot of - - I think there's a better was to
do it. And I just told you the facts, sir.
The quality of the air is cleaner since I've been the president
of the United States. And we'll continue to spend money on
research and development, because I truly believe that's
the way to get from how we live today to being able to live
a standard of living that we're accustomed to and being able
to protect our environment better, the use of technologies.
Q. Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.
MR. KERRY: ... free ourselves from this dependency on Mideast
oil. That's how you create jobs and become competitive.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. president, a minute and a half.
MR. BUSH: Uh, let me start with how to control the costs
of health care, medical liability reform for starters, which
he's opposed. Secondly, allow small businesses to pull together
so they can share risk and buy insurance at the same discounts
big businesses get to do. Thirdly, spread what's called health
savings accounts. It's good for small businesses, good for
owners. You own your own account. You can save tax free.
You get a catastrophic plan to help you own it. This is different
from saying, O.K., let me incense you to go on the government.
You talking about his plan to keep jobs here. You know he
calls it an outsourcing, to stop outsourcing. Robert Rubin
looked at his plan and said it won't work. The best way to
keep jobs here in America is 1) have an energy plan. I proposed
one to the Congress two years ago. Encourages conservation,
encourages technology to explore for environmentally friendly
ways for coal and use coal and gas. It encourages the use
of renewables like ethanol and biodiesel. It's stuck in the
Senate. He and his running mate didn't show up to vote when
they could have got it going in the Senate. Less regulations
if we want jobs here. Legal reform if we want jobs here.
And we've got to keep taxes low.
Now he says he's only going to tax the rich. Do you realize
900,000 small businesses will be taxed under his plan because
most small businesses are "Subchapter S corps'' or limited
partnerships. And they pay tax at the individual income tax
level. And so when you're running up the taxes like that
you're taxing job creators. And that's not how you keep jobs
MR. GIBSON:. Senator, I want to extend for a minute. You
talk about tax credits to stop outsourcing. But when you
have I.B.M. documents that I saw recently where you can hire
a programmer for $12 in China, $56 an hour here, tax credits
won't cut it --
MR. KERRY: You can't stop--
MR. GIBSON: -- in that--
MR. KERRY: --you can't stop all outsourcing, Charlie. I've
never promised that. I'm not going to because that would
be pandering. You can't. But what you can do is create a
fair playing field, and that's what I'm talking about.
But let me just address what the president just said. Ladies
and gentlemen, that's just not true what he said. The Wall
Street Journal said 96 percent of small businesses are not
affected at all by my plan. And you know why he gets that
count? The president got $84 from a timber company that he
owns, and he's counted as a small business. Dick Cheney's
counted as a small business. That's how they do things. That's
just not right.
MR. BUSH: I own a timber company? That's news to me. Need
Most small businesses are Subchapter S corps, they just
are. I met Grant Millicron, Mansfield, Ohio. He's creating
jobs. Most - most small businesses - 70 percent of the new
jobs in America are created by small businesses. His taxes
are going up when you run up the top two brackets. It's a
MR. GIBSON: President Bush, the next question is for you
and it comes from Rob Fowler, who I believe is over in this
Q. President Bush, 45 days after - excuse me - 45 days after
9/11, Congress passed the Patriot Act, which takes away checks
on law enforcement and weakens American citizens' rights
and freedoms, especially Fourth Amendment rights. With expansion
to the Patriot Act and Patriot Act II, my question to you
is why are my rights being watered down and my citizens around
me, and what is the specific justifications for these reforms?
MR. BUSH: I appreciate that. I really don't think your rights
are being watered down. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't support
it if I thought that. Every action being taken against terrorists
requires a court order, requires scrutiny. As a matter of
fact, the tools now given to the terrorist fighters are the
same tools that we've been using against drug dealers and
white-collar criminals. So I really don't think so. I hope
you don't think that. I mean, because I think whoever's the
president must guard your liberties, must not erode your
rights in America. The Patriot Act is necessary, for example,
because parts of the F.B.I. couldn't talk to each other.
Intelligence gathering and the law enforcement arms of the
FBI just couldn't share intelligence under the old law. And
that didn't make any sense. Our law enforcement must have
every tool necessary to find and disrupt terrorists at home
and abroad before they hurt us again. That's the task of
the 21st century. And so I don't think the Patriot Act abridges
your rights at all. And I know it's necessary. I can remember
being in upstate New York talking to F.B.I. agents that helped
bust the Lackawanna cell up there. And they told me they
could not have performed their duty, the duty we all expect
of them, if they did not have the ability to communicate
with each other under the Patriot Act.
MR. GIBSON: Senator Kerry, a minute and a half.
MR. KERRY: Former Governor Roscoe, as chairman of the Republican
Party, said he thought that the Patriot Act has to be changed
and fixed. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, he's the chairman
of the House Judiciary Committee, said over his dead body
before it gets renewed without being thoroughly rechecked.
A whole bunch of folks in America are concerned about the
way the Patriot Act has been applied. In fact, the inspector
general of the Justice Department found that John Ashcroft
had twice applied it in ways that were inappropriate.
People's rights have been abused. I met a man who spent
eight months in prison, wasn't even allowed to call his lawyer,
wasn't allowed to. Finally, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois
intervened and was able to get him out. This is in our country
folks, the United States of America. They've got sneak-and-peek
searches that are allowed. They've got people allowed to
go into churches now and political meetings without any showing
of potential criminal activity or otherwise.
Now I voted for the Patriot Act; 99 United States senators
voted for it. And the president's been very busy running
around the country using what I just described to you as
a reason to say I'm wishy-washy, that I'm flip-flopper. Now
that's not a flip-flop. I believe in the Patriot Act. We
need the things in it that coordinate the F.B.I. and the
C.I.A. We need to be stronger on terrorism. But you know
what, we also need to do as Americans is never let the terrorists
change the Constitution of the United States in a way that
disadvantages our rights.
MR. GIBSON: Senator Kerry, the next question is for you,
and it comes from Elizabeth Long.
Q. Senator Kerry, thousands of people have already been
cured or treated by the use of adult stem cells or umbilical-cord
stem cells. However, no one has been cured by using embryonic
stem cells. Wouldn't it be wise to use stem cells obtained
without the destruction of an embryo?
MR. KERRY: You know, Elizabeth, I really respect your, the
feeling that's in your question. I understand it. I know
the morality that's prompting that question and I respect
But like Nancy Reagan and so many other people - you know,
I was at a forum with Michael J. Fox the other day in New
Hampshire, who's suffering from Parkinson's. And he wants
us to do stem cell, embryonic stem cell. And this fellow
stood up and he was quivering. His whole body was shaking
from the nerve disease, the muscular disease that he had.
And he said to me and to the whole hall, he said, you know,
don't take away my hope because my hope is what keeps me
Chris Reeves is a friend of mine. Chris Reeves exercises
every single day to keep those muscles alive for the day
when he believes he can walk again. And I want him to walk
I think we can saves lives. Now I think we can do ethically
guided embryonic stem cell research. We have 100,000 to 200,000
embryos that are frozen in nitrogen today from fertility
clinics. These weren't taken from abortion or something like
that. They're from a fertility clinic. And they're either
going to be destroyed or left frozen.
And I believe if we have the option, which scientists tell
us we do, of curing Parkinson's, curing diabetes, curing
some kind of a, you know, paraplegic or quadriplegic or a
spinal cord injury, anything, that's the nature of the human
spirit. I think it is respecting life to reach for that cure.
I think it is respecting life to do it in an ethical way.
And the president's chosen a policy that makes it impossible
for our scientists to do that. I want the future and I think
we have to grab it.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. president, a minute and a half.
MR. BUSH: Embryonic stem cell research requires the destruction
of life to create a stem cell. I'm the first president ever
to allow funding, federal funding, for embryonic stem cell
research. I did so because I, too, hope that we'll discover
cures from the stem cells and from the research derived.
But I think we've got to be very careful in balancing the
ethics and the science. And so I made the decision we wouldn't
spend any more money beyond the 70 lines, 22 of which are
now in action. Because science is important, but so's ethics.
So's balancing life. To destroy life to save life is - it's
one of the real ethical dilemmas that we face. There's going
to be hundreds of experiments off the 22 lines that now exist,
that are active. And hopefully we find a cure. But as well,
we need to continue to pursue adult stem cell research. I
helped double the N.I.H. budget to $28 billion a year to
find cures and the approach I took is one that I think is
a balanced and necessary approach, to balance science and
the concerns for life.
Mr. G ibson Senator, 30 seconds, let's extend.
MR. KERRY: Well, you talk about walking a waffle line, he
says he's allowed it, which means he's going to allow the
destruction of life up to a certain amount and then he isn't
going to allow it. Now, I don't know how you draw that line.
But let me tell you point blank, the lines of stem cells
that he's made available, every scientist in the country
will tell you not adequate, because they're contaminated
by mouse cells and because there aren't 60 or 70. There are
only about 11 to 20 now, and there aren't enough to be able
to do the research because they're contaminated.
We've got to open up the possibilities of this research,
and when I am president, I'm going to do it.
MR. GIBSON: Senator.
MR. KERRY: Because we have to.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. president.
MR. BUSH: Let me make sure you understand my decision. Those
stem cell lines already existed. The embryo had already been
destroyed prior to my decision. I had to make the decision
do we destroy more life, do we continue to destroy life.
I made the decision to balance science and ethics.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. president, the next question is for you,
and it comes from Jonathan Michaelson over here.
Q. Mr. president, if there were a vacancy in the Supreme
Court and you had the opportunity to fill that position today,
who do you choose and why?
MR. BUSH: I'm not telling. I really don't have, haven't
picked anybody yet. Plus I want them all voting for me. I
would pick somebody who would not allow their personal opinion
to get in the way of the law. I would pick somebody who would
strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States.
Uh, let me give you a couple of examples I guess of the
kind of person I wouldn't pick. I wouldn't pick a judge who
said that the Pledge of Allegiance couldn't be said in a
school because it had the words 'under God'' in it. I think
that's an example of a judge allowing personal opinion to
enter into the decision-making process, as opposed to strict
interpretation of the Constitution. Another example would
be the Dred Scott case, which is where judges years ago said
that the Constitution allowed slavery because of personal
property rights. That's personal opinion. That's not what
the Constitution says. The Constitution of the United States
says we're all - you know, it doesn't say that. It doesn't
speak to the equality of America.
And so I would pick people that would be strict constructionists.
We've got plenty of lawmakers in Washington, D.C. Legislators
make law. Judges interpret the Constitution. And I suspect
one of us will have a pick at the end of next year, next
four years. And that's the kind of judge I'm going to put
on there. No litmus test except for how they interpret the
Constitution. Thank you.
MR. GIBSON: Senator Kerry, a minute and a half.
MR. KERRY: Thank you, Charlie.
A few years ago, when he came to office, the president said,
these are his words: What we need are some good conservative
judges on the courts. And he said also that his two favorite
justices are Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas. So you get
a pretty good sense of where he's heading if he were to appoint
Now, here's what I believe. I don't believe we need a good
conservative judge and I don't believe we need a good liberal
judge. I don't believe we need a good judge of that kind
of definition on either side. I subscribe to the Justice
Potter Stewart standard. He was a justice on the Supreme
Court of the United States. And he said the mark of a good
judge, a good justice, is that when you're reading their
decision, their opinion, you can't tell if it's written by
a man or woman, a liberal or a conservative, a Muslim, a
Jew or a Christian. You just know you're reading a good judicial
What I want to find if I am privileged to have the opportunity
to do it and the Supreme Court of the United States is at
stake in this race, ladies and gentlemen, the future of things
that matter to you in terms of civil rights: what kind of
Justice Department you'll have, whether we'll enforce the
law. Will we have equal opportunity? Will women's rights
be protected? Will we have equal pay for women, which is
going backwards? Will a woman's right to choose be protected?
These are our constitutional rights.
And I want to make sure we have judges who interpret the
Constitution of the United States according to the law.
MR. GIBSON: Going to go to the final two questions now,
and the first one will be for Senator Kerry, and this comes
from Sarah Degenheart.
Q. Senator Kerry, suppose you're speaking with a voter who
believed abortion is murder, and the voter asked for reassurance
that his or her tax dollars would not go to support abortion,
what would you say to that person?
MR. KERRY: I would say to that person exactly what I will
say to you right now. First of all, I cannot tell you how
deeply I respect the belief about life and when it begins.
I'm a Catholic - raised a Catholic. I was an altar boy. Religion
has been a huge part of my life, helped lea me through a
war, leads me today.
But I can't take what is an article of faith for me and
legislate it for someone who doesn't share that article of
faith, whether they be agnostic, atheist, Jew, Protestant,
whatever. I can't do that. But I can counsel people, I can
talk reasonably about life and about responsibility. I can
talk to people, as my wife, Teresa, does, about making other
choices and about abstinence and about all these other things
that we ought to do as a responsible society. But as a president,
I have to represent all the people in the nation and I have
to make that judgment.
Now I believe that you can take that position and not be
pro-abortion, but you have to afford people their constitutional
rights. And that means being smart about allowing people
to be fully educated, to know what their options are in life
and making certain that you don't deny a poor person the
right to be able to have whatever the Constitution affords
them if they can't afford it otherwise.
That's why I think it's important. That's why I think it's
important for the United States, for instance, not to have
this rigid ideological restriction on helping families around
the world to be able to make a smart decision about family
planning - you'll help prevent AIDS; you'll help prevent
unwanted children, unwanted pregnancies; you'll actually
do a better job, I think, of passing on the moral responsibility
that is expressed in your question. And I truly respect it.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. president, minute and a half.
MR. BUSH: Trying to decipher that. My answer is we're not
going to spend federal - taxpayers' money on abortion. I
- this is an issue that divides America. But certainly reasonable
people can agree on how to reduce abortions in America. I
signed the partial-birth - the ban on partial-birth abortion.
It's a brutal practice. That's one way to help reduce abortions.
My opponent voted against the ban.
I think there ought to be parental-notification laws. He's
against them. I signed a bill called the Unborn Victims of
Violence Act. In other words, if you're a mom and you're
pregnant and you get killed, the murder gets tried for two
cases, not just one. My opponent was against that.
These are reasonable ways to help promote a culture of life
in America. I think it is a worthy goal in America to have
every child protected by law and welcomed in life. I also
think we ought to continue to have good adoption law as an
alternative to abortion. And we need to promote maternity
group homes, which my administration has done. Culture of
life is really important for a country to have if it's going
to be a hospitable society. Thank you.
MR. GIBSON: Senator, you want to follow up, 30 seconds?
MR. KERRY: Well, again, the president just said categorically
my opponent's against this, my opponents against that. You
know, it's just not that simple. No, I'm not. I'm against
the partial birth abortion, but you've got to have an exception
for the life of the mother and the health of the mother under
the strictest test of bodily injury to the mother.
Secondly, with respect to parental notification, I'm not
going to require a 16- or 17-year-old kid who's been raped
by her father and who's pregnant to have to notify her father.
So you've got to have a judicial intervention. And because
they didn't have a judicial intervention where she could
go somewhere and get help I voted against it. It's never
quite as simple as the president wants you to believe.
MR. GIBSON: And 30 seconds, Mr. President.
MR. BUSH: It's pretty simple when they say are you for a
ban on partial birth abortion? Yes or no. And he was given
a chance to vote. And he voted no. And that's just the way
it is. That's the vote. It came right up. It's clear for
everybody to see. And as I said, you can run but you can't
hide. It's reality.
MR. GIBSON: And the final question of the evening will be
addressed to President Bush and it will come from Linda Grabel.
Linda Grabel's over here.
MR. BUSH: You put a head fake on us.
MR. GIBSON: I got faked out myself.
MR. BUSH: Hi, Linda.
Q. President Bush, during the last four years, you have
made thousands of decisions that have affected millions of
lives. Please give three instances in which you came to realize
you had made a wrong decision and what you did to correct
it. Thank you.
MR. BUSH: I - I have made a lot of decisions and some of
them little, like appointments to boards you've never heard
of, and some of them big. And in a war there's a lot of -
there's a lot of tactical decisions that historians will
look back and say, he shouldn't have done that, he shouldn't
have made that decision. And I'll take responsibility for
them. I'm human.
But on the big questions, about whether or not we should
have gone into Afghanistan, the big question about whether
we should have removed somebody in Iraq - I'll stand by those
decisions because I think they're right. It's really what
your - when they ask about the mistakes, that's what they're
talking about. They're trying to say, did you make a mistake
going into Iraq? And the answer is absolutely not. It was
the right decision.
The Duelfer report confirmed that decision today because
what Saddam Hussein was doing was trying to get rid of sanctions
so he could reconstitute a weapons program and the biggest
threat facing America is terrorists with weapons of mass
destruction. We knew he hated us. We knew he'd been - invaded
other countries. We knew he tortured his own people.
On the tax cut, it's a big decision. I did the right decision.
Our recession was one of the shallowest in modern history.
Now you ask what mistakes. I've made some mistakes in appointing
people, but I'm not going to name them. I don't want to hurt
their feelings on national TV.
But history will look back and I'm fully prepared to accept
any mistakes that history judges to my administration. Because
the president makes the decisions, the president has to take
MR. GIBSON: Senator Kerry, a minute and a half.
MR. KERRY: I believe the president made a huge mistake,
a catastrophic mistake, not to live up to his own standard,
which was build a true global coalition, give the inspectors
time to finish their job and go through the U.N. process
to its end. And go to war as a last resort.
I ask each of you just to look into your hearts, look into
your guts - gut-check time. Was this really going to war
as a last resort?
The president rushed our nation to war without a plan to
win the peace. And simple things weren't done. That's why
Senator Lugar says, incompetent in the delivery of services.
That's why Senator Hagel, Republican, says, you know, beyond
pitiful, beyond embarrassing, in the zone of dangerous.
We didn't guard 850,000 tons of ammo. That ammo is now being
used against our kids.
Ten thousand out of 12,000 Humvees aren't armored. I've
visited some of those kids with no limbs today because they
didn't have the armor in those vehicles. They didn't have
the right body armor. I've met parents who, on the Internet,
gotten the armor to send their kids.
There's no bigger judgment for a president of the United
States than how you take a nation to war. And you can't say
because Saddam might have done it 10 years from now, that's
a reason. That's an excuse.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. president?
MR. BUSH: Complains about the fact our troops don't have
adequate equipment, yet he voted against the $87 billion
supplemental I sent to the Congress. And then issued one
of the most amazing quotes in political history: I actually
did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it. Saddam
Hussein was a risk to our country, Ma'am. And he was a risk
that - and this is where we just have a difference of opinion.
The truth of the matter is if you listen carefully Saddam
would still be in power if he were the president of the United
States. And the world would be a lot better off.
MR. GIBSON: And Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.
MR. KERRY: Not necessarily be in power, but here's what
I'll say about the $87 billion. I made a mistake in the way
I talked about it. He made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which
is a worse decision? Now I voted the way I voted because
I saw that he had the policy wrong. And I wanted accountability.
I didn't want to give a slush fund to Halliburton. I also
thought the wealthiest people in America ought to pay for
it, ladies and gentlemen. He wants your kids to pay for it.
I wanted us to pay for it since we're at war. I don't think
that's a bad decision.
MR. GIBSON: That's going to conclude the questioning. We're
going to go now to closing statements. Two minutes from each
candidate. And the first closing statement goes to Senator
Kerry. I believe that was the agreement.
MR. BUSH: Go ahead. Actually -
MR. KERRY: You want to go first?
MR. BUSH: Either way.
MR. KERRY: Thank you. Charlie, thank you. And thank you
all. Thank you all of you for taking part. Thanks for your
questions tonight very, very much.
Obviously the president and I both have very strong convictions.
I respect him for that. But we have a very different view
about how to make America stronger and safer.
I will never cede the authority of our country or our security
to any other nation. I'll never give a veto over American
security to any other entity - not a nation, not a country,
not an institution.
But I know, as I think you do, that our country is strongest
when we lead the world, when we lead strong alliances. And
that's the way Eisenhower and Reagan and Kennedy and others
did it. We are not doing that today. We need to.
I have a plan that will help us go out and kill and find
the terrorists. And I will not stop in our effort to hunt
down and kill the terrorists.
But I also have a better plan on how we're going to deal
with Iraq: training the Iraqi forces more rapidly, getting
our allies back to the table, with a fresh start, with new
credibility, with a president whose judgment the rest of
the world trusts.
In addition to that, I believe we have a crisis here at
home - a crisis of the middle class that is increasingly
squeezed, health care costs going up. I have a plan to provide
health care to all Americans. I have a plan to provide for
our schools so we keep the standards, that we help our teachers
teach and elevate our schools by funding No Child Left Behind.
I have a plan to protect the environment so that we leave
this place in better shape to our children than we were handed
it by our parents. That's the test.
I believe America's best days are ahead of us. I'm an optimist.
But we have to make the right choices - to be fiscally responsible
and to create the new jobs of the future. We can do this.
And I ask you for the privilege of leading our nation to
be stronger at home and respected again in the world. Thank
MR. GIBSON: Senator. And a closing statement from President
MR. BUSH: Charlie, thanks. Thank you all very much. It's
The great contest for the presidency is about the future.
Who can lead? Who can get things done?
We've been through a lot together as a country. Been through
a recession, corporate scandals, war. And yet think about
where we are: added 1.9 million new jobs for the past 13
months. The farm income in America's high. Small businesses
are flourishing. Home ownership rate is at an all-time high
in America. We're on the move.
Tonight I had a chance to discuss with you what to do to
keep this economy going: keep the taxes low, don't increase
the scope of the federal government, keep regulations down,
legal reform, a health care policy that does not empower
the federal government but empowers individuals and an energy
plan that'll help us become less dependent on foreign sources
And abroad, we're at war. And it requires a president who
is steadfast and strong and determined. I vowed to the American
people after that fateful day of Sept. the 11th that we would
not rest nor tire until we're safe.
The 9/11 Commission put out a report that said America is
safer but not yet safe. There's more work to be done. We'll
stay on the hunt on Al Qaeda. We'll deny sanctuary to these
terrorists. We'll make sure they do not end up with weapons
of mass destruction. It's the great nexus. The great threat
to our country is that these haters end up with weapons of
But our long-term security depends on our deep faith in
liberty. We'll continue to promote freedom around the world.
Freedom is on the march. Tomorrow Afghanistan will be voting
for a president. An Iraqi will be having free elections.
And a free society will make this world more peaceful. God
MR. GIBSON: Mr. president, Senator Kerry, that concludes
tonight's debate. I want to give you a reminder that the
third and final debate, on issues of domestic policy, will
be held next Wednesday, Oct. 13 at Arizona State University
in Tempe, Ariz., hosted by Bob Schieffer of CBS News. I want
to thank President Bush and Senator Kerry for tonight. I
want to thank these citizens of the St. Louis area, who asked
the questions, who gave so willingly of their time and who
took their responsibility very seriously. Thank you, also,
to everyone at Washington. I want to thank everyone at Washington
University in St. Louis for being such gracious hosts. I'm
Charles Gibson, from ABC News, from St. Louis, good night.
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