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 debate 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. These 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.
(View cut data) 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 five,
and flashing red means you're done.
Those are the candidates' rules. I will hold the candidates to
the time limits forcefully but politely, I hope.
And now please join me in welcoming with great respect President
Bush and Senator Kerry. (Applause.)
Gentlemen, to the business at hand. The first question is for
Senator Kerry, and it will come from Cheryl Otis (sp), who is right
Senator Kerry, after talking with several co-workers 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 them?
Yes, I certainly do. (Laughs.) (Laughter.) But
let me just first, Cheryl (sp), if you will: I want to thank Charlie
(View cut data) I want to thank Washington University for hosting us here this
Mr. President, it's good to be with you again this evening, sir.
Cheryl (sp), the president didn't find weapons of mass
destruction in Iraq, so he has 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 under-funded
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 where 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.
I think he's wrong.
(View cut data) 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 a hundred thousand dollars 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. President, a minute and a half.
Charlie, thank you, and thank our panelists, and
Senator, thank you.
I can -- 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 -- or voted against it right
before he voted for it (sic). And that sends a confusing signal to
He said he thought Saddam Hussein was a grave threat, and now
said it was a mistake to remove Saddam Hussein form power. Now I can
see why people think 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 anti-war candidate, began to gain on
him. And 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 of politics.
He just brought up the tax cut. You remember we increased that
child credit by a thousand dollars, 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. It's -- you've got to be consistent when you're the
There's a lot of pressures, and you've got to be firm and
Mr. President, I would follow up, but we have a
series of questions on Iraq, and so I will turn to the next question.
The question for President Bush, and the questioner is Robin Dahl
Mr. President --
Can you get a microphone, Robin? I'm sorry.
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
Do you sincerely believe this to be a reasonable justification
for invasion when this statement applies to so many other countries,
including North Korea?
Each situation is 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.
(View cut data) That's why I said to Afghanistan, 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 the
serious, serious threat.
So I tried diplomacy. I 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
We all thought there was weapons there, Robin (sp). 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.
Senator Kerry, a minute and a half.
Robin (sp), I'm going to answer your question. I'm
also going to talk -- respond to what you asked, Cheryl (sp), at the
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 1.- -- what, we
got 5 million Americans who've 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 find 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 changed my mind. Well, let me tell
you straight up: I've never changed my mind about Iraq. I did
believe Saddam Hussein was a threat. I always believed he was a
threat. Believed in 1998, when Clinton was president. I wanted to
give Clinton the power to use force if necessary. But I would've
used that force wisely. I would've used that authority wisely, not
rush to war without a plan to win the peace. I would've brought our
allies to our side. I would've 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. President, I do want to follow up on this one,
because there were several questions from the audience along this
(Off mike) -- rebuttal thing --
Go ahead. Go ahead. Well, I was going to have you
do the rebuttal on that, but you go ahead. (Laughter.) You're up.
(Laughs.) You remember the last debate? My
opponent said that America must pass a global test before we use force
to protect ourselves. That's the kind of mindset that says sanctions
(View cut data) 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 terrorist enemies. Sanctions were not working.
The United Nations was not effective at removing Saddam Hussein.
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.
That was the objective.
And if we'd 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.
We're going to have another question now on the
subject of Iraq. And I'm going to turn to Anthony Baldie (sp) with a
question for Senator Kerry.
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?
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 on today.
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 Relations 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.
You know, 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.
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
(View cut data) 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, has taken
great risks for freedom. And we need to stand with him.
My opponent says he has a plan. It 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
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 -- risk
your troops in a -- 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 we 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
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.
Do you want to follow up, Senator?
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.
First of all, we didn't find out he didn't have
weapons till 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 is about. Of course
we're going to find Osama bin Laden. We've already got 75 percent of
his people, and we're the hunt for him. But this is a global conflict
that requires firm resolve.
The next question is for President Bush, and it
comes from Nicky Washington (sp).
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?
No, I appreciate that. I -- listen, I -- we've
got a great country. I love our values. And I recognize I 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 interests of
You know, I made some decisions 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 the Palestinians ought to have a state.
(View cut data) 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 to -- brought in
front of a judge, an unaccounted judge. I don't think we ought to
join that. That was unpopular.
And so what I'm telling you is is that sometimes in this world
you make unpopular decision 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
Senator Kerry, a minute and a half.
Nicky (sp), 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.
The 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 -- the
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.
(View cut data) 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.
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 sets the strategy and relies upon good military
people to execute that strategy.
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. President's job is to win
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 (sic) right out of that dump.
The next question is for Senator Kerry. And it
comes from over here, from Randy Jacobs (sp).
Is it Randy?
You'll need a microphone.
Is it Randy? I'm sorry.
Yes, Randy. 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?
I don't think you can just rely on U.N. sanctions,
Randy (sp), 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 numbers of forces in Iraq that we have in
Afghanistan chasing Osama bin Laden.
Meanwhile, while Iran is moving towards 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 safe
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.
(View cut data) 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
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. President, a minute and a half.
That answer almost made me want to scowl.
He keeps talking about let the inspectors do their job. It's
naive 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 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 naive 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.
(View cut data) That's what President Clinton did. He had bilateral talks with the
North Korean, and guess what happened? He didn't -- he didn't honor
the agreement. He was enriching uranium. That is a bad policy.
Of course we're paying attention to these. It'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.
We're going to move on, Mr. President, with a
question for you, and it comes from Daniel Farley (sp).
Mr. President, since we continue to police the world, how
do you intend to maintain our military presence without reinstituting
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. An 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
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.
(View cut data) 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 equipment.
So, the answer to your question is, we're withdrawing, not from
the world, we're withdrawing manpower so they can be stationed here in
America so there's less rotation so life is easier on their families
and, therefore, more likely to be -- we'll be more likely to be able
to keep people in the all-volunteer Army.
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 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 highly trained.
Forget all this talk about a draft. We're not going to have a
draft so long as I'm the president.
Senator Kerry, a minute-and-a-half.
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 I'm very proud in this race to have the
support of General John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff; Admiral William Crowe, former chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff; General Tony McPeak, who ran the air war for the
president's father and did a brilliant job, supporting me; General Wes
Clark, who won the war in Kosovo supporting me, because they all --
General Bacca (sp) support 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. 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
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 and President
Eisenhower did and others. We're going to build alliances. We're not
going to go unilaterally. We're not going alone like this president
Mr. President, let's extend for a minute --
(inaudible) -- issue of --
Let me just -- one point. I've got to answer
Exactly. And with reservists being held on duty and
some soldiers --
Let me answer what he just said about going
Well, I wanted to get into the issue of the backdoor
You tell Tony Blair we're going alone. Tell
Tony Blair we're going alone. Tell Silvio Berlusconi we're going
alone. Tell Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland 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. President, countries are leaving the coalition,
(View cut data) Eight countries have left it. If Missouri, just given the number of
people from Missouri who are in the military over there today, 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. Ninety percent of the cost 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 in chief.
The next question, Senator Kerry, is for you, and it
comes from Anne Bronsing (sp), who I believe is over in this area.
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?
Thank you very much, Anne (sp). I've asked, in my
security briefings, why that is, and I can't go into all the answer,
et cetera. But let me say this to you: This president and his
administration have told you and all of us it's not a question of
when, it's a question of -- 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 year, seven years. They 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 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 (sp), we're not getting
the best cooperation in the world today. We 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 -- 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, well, that would be a big
tax gap if we did that. Ladies and gentlemen, 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 their
emergency rooms. If we had a disaster today, could they handle it?
This president chose a tax cut over homeland security. Wrong
That's an odd thing to say, since we've --
tripled the homeland security budget from 10 (billion dollars) to 30
Listen, we'll do everything we can to protect the homeland. My
opponent's right, we need good intelligence. It'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 -- in this world we live
in is to stay on the offense. We got to be right a hundred percent of
the time here at home, and they got to be right once. And 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.
(View cut data) That's why the Patriot Act was important.
The Patriot Act is 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 hasn't changed his positions on it. No, but he's for
I don't think my opponent has got the 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 with support.
I want to extend for a minute, Senator. And I want
-- I'm curious about something you said. You said it's not when, but
if (sic). You think it's inevitable, because the sense of security is
a very basic thing with everybody in this country worried about their
Well, the president and his experts have told
America that's 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 secure. He chose a
tax cut for wealthy Americans over the things that I listed to you.
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 I'll tell, 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 has an ideology of hate.
(View cut data) 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. President, we're going to turn to questions now
on domestic policy, and we're going to start with health issues.
And the first question is for President Bush, and it's from John
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?
Yeah, I haven't yet. I 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 FDA 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; it might be from a
Third World. We've just got to make sure before somebody thinks
they're buying a product 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 to these drug discount cards. And they're
Wanda Blackmoore (sp), I met here from Missouri. The first time
she bought drugs with her drug discount card, she paid $1.14, I think
it was, for about $10 worth of drugs. These cards make sense.
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.
(View cut data) Medicare -- the issue of Medicare used to be called "Medi-scare";
people didn't want to touch it for fear of getting hurt politically.
I wanted to get something done. I think our seniors deserve a modern
medical system. And in 2006, our seniors will get prescription drug
Thank you for asking.
Senator, a minute-and-a-half.
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 question: Can't people be able to import
drugs from Canada? Do you know what he said? I think that makes
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 that he be able to allow you to get them. The
president blocked it.
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, illegal for Medicare to do what the VA does, which is bulk-
purchase drugs so that you can lower the price and get them out to you
(View cut data) 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 is the difference.
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 because 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., 3-1/2 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.
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. Go figure.
Next question is for Senator Kerry, and this comes
from Norma Jean Laurent (sp).
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?
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 proposals. Go to johnkerry.com -- you can pull it off
of 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
OG-BYNs (sic) and for 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 go up,
deductibles go up. Everything's gone up. Five-million people have
lost their health insurance under this president, and 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-in to 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 more
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
Mr. President, a minute-and-a-half.
Let me see where to start here. First, the
National Journal named Senator Kennedy (sic) 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 says 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 was 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 cost 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's going to run it. It is
the largest increase in federal government health care ever. And it
fits with his philosophy.
(View cut data) 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.
Senator Kerry, we've 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 attorney's fees?
Yes, to follow up on this for a minute. Thirty
Yeah, I think we should look at the punitive and we
should have some limitations.
But look, what's really important, Charlie, 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 we can.
We'll get that in just a minute.
Thirty seconds, Mr. President.
You're right. What 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 of 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
hasn'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 put a trial lawyer
on the ticket.
The next question is for President Bush, and it
comes from Matthew O'Brien (sp).
Mr. President, you have enjoyed a Republican majority in
the House and Senate for most of your presidency.
(View cut data) 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.
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
climb dramatically six months before I came to office, and then the
bubble of the 1990s 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 (dollars) to $30
billion to protect the homeland. I think we have an obligation to
spend that kind of money.
And plus we cut taxes for everybody. Everybody got tax relief,
so as to get out of the recession. I think if you raise taxes during
a recession, you had the 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've added 1.9 million new jobs in the last
(View cut data) I proposed a plan, detailed budget that shows us cutting the deficit
in half by (sic) five years. And you're right, I haven't vetoed any
spending bills because we work together.
Non-homeland, non-defense discretionary spending was rising 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 short-change our troops in harm's way. And I'm not going
to run up taxes, which'll cost this economy jobs.
Thank you for your question.
Senator Kerry, a minute and a half.
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 'em. (Laughs.) That's the way we
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 the 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.
(View cut data) 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
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 (by) my plan are the top income-earners of America.
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 do that.
Well look at the budget. One is to make sure
Congress doesn't overspend.
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 a thousand, we reduced the marriage
penalty, we created the 10 percent bracket -- everybody who pays taxes
(View cut data) The recession was one of the shortest in our nation's history.
Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.
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 million, 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 give-
away to the biggest corporations in America, including a $254 million
refund check to Enron.
Wrong priorities. You're my priority.
Senator Kerry, the next question will be for you,
and it comes from James Varner (sp), who I believe is in this section.
Mr. Varner (sp).
You need a microphone.
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 first term?
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 1990s, 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 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. (Laughter.)
(Laughs.) Mr. President, 90 seconds.
It is 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. (Word inaudible) -- said
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's a difference -- what he's promised and what
he can raise.
Now, he's just 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.
Is my time up yet?
No, you can keep going.
Keep going. Good. (Laughter.)
You're on a roll.
You looked at me like my clock was up. (Light
I think that the way to grow this economy is to keep taxes low,
is have an energy plan, is to have litigation reform. Because I told
you, we've just got a report that said over the past 13 months we've
created 1.9 million new jobs. We're growing.
(View cut data) And so the fundamental question in this campaign is who's going to
keep the economy growing so people can work? That's the fundamental
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.
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 two, John McCain and I have a proposal jointly for a
commission that closes corporate giveaway loopholes. We got $40
billion going to Bermuda. We 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 --
Thirty seconds --
-- and I was there.
Thirty seconds, Mr President.
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 make-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
Mr. President, the next question is for you, and it
comes from James Hubb (sp) over here.
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?
Off-road diesel engines, we a reached an
agreement to reduce pollution from off-road diesel engines by 90
I've got a plan to increase the wetlands by 3 million.
We've got an aggressive brownfield 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 strong title in the farm bill for the conservation
reserve program to set aside millions of acres of land for -- 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 are not -- 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
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 a billion
dollars to come up with the technologies to do that.
(View cut data) 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
More land being restored since I've been the president.
Thank you for your question.
Senator Kerry, a minute and a half.
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 okay, but if you're a president, it's
Let me just say to you, number one, 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,
(when/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 Cleaner Skies Act.
We're going backwards. In fact, his environmental enforcement
chief air quality person at the EPA resigned in protest over what
they're doing to what are called the new source performance standards
for air quality. They're going backwards on the definition for
wetlands. They're going backwards on the water quality. They've
pulled out of the Global Warming, declared it dead, didn't even accept
(View cut data) I'm going to be a president who believes in science.
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 way to do it.
And I just told you the facts, sir. The quality of 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.
Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.
The fact is that the Kyoto Treaty was flawed. I was
in Kyoto and I was part of that; I know what happened. But this
president didn't try to fix it, he just declared it dead, ladies and
gentlemen. And we walked away from the work of 160 nations over 10
You wonder, Nicky (sp), why it is that people don't like us in
some parts of the world. You just say, Hey, we don't agree with you,
good-bye. The president's done nothing to try to fix it. I will.
Senator Kerry, the next question is for you. It
involves jobs, which is a topic in the news today. And for the
question, we're going to turn to Jane Barrow (sp).
Senator Kerry, how can the U.S. be competitive in a
manufacturing given -- in manufacturing -- excuse me -- given the wage
necessary and comfortably accepted for American workers to maintain
the standard of living that they expect?
Jane (sp), there are a lot of ways to be
competitive. And unfortunately, again, I regret this administration
has not seized them and embraced them.
Let me give you an example. There's a tax loophole right now.
If you're a company in St. Louis working, trying to make jobs here,
there's actually an incentive for you to go away. You get more money,
you can keep more of your taxes by going abroad. I'm going to shut
that loophole, and I'm going to give the tax benefit to the companies
that stay here in America to help make them more competitive.
Secondly, we're going to create a manufacturing jobs credit and a
new jobs credit for people to be able to help hire and be more
competitive here in America.
Third, what's really hurting American business, more than
anything else, is the cost of health care. Now, you didn't hear any
plan from the president, because he doesn't have a plan to lower the
cost of health care. Five million Americans have lost their health
care; 620,000 Missourians have no health care at all; 96,000
Missourians have lost their health care under President Bush. I have
a plan to cover those folks. And it's a plan that lowers costs for
everybody, covers all children. And the way I pay for it -- I'm not
fiscally irresponsible -- is I roll back the tax cut that this
president so fiercely wants to defend, the one for him and me and
Charlie. I think you ought to get the break.
I want to lower your cost of health care. I want to fully fund
education -- No Child Left Behind, special needs education. And
that's how we're going to be more competitive, by making sure our kids
are graduating from school and college.
China and India are graduating more graduates in technology and
science than we are.
(View cut data) We've got to create the products of the future. That's why I have a
plan for energy independence within 10 years. And we're going to put
our laboratories and our colleges and universities to work. And we're
going to get the great entrepreneurial spirit of this country, and
we're going to free ourselves from this dependency on Mideast oil.
That's how you create jobs and become competitive.
Mr. President, minute and a half.
Let me start with how to control the cost of
health care: medical liability reform, for starters, which he's
Secondly, allow small businesses to pool together so they can
share risk and buy insurance at the same discounts big businesses get
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, okay, let me incent you to go on the
He's talking about his plan to keep jobs here. You know, he
calls it an outsourcing, to keep -- stop outsourcing. Robert Rubin
looked at his plan and said it won't work. The best way to keep jobs
here in America is, one, 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've 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 Sub-chapter S corps or limited partnerships, and
they pay tax at the individual income tax level. And so when you run
up the taxes like that, you're taxing job-creators, and that's not how
you keep jobs here.
Senator, I want to extend for a minute. You talk
about tax credits to stop outsourcing. But when you have IBM
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 in that area,
You can't stop -- 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 do 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.
I own a timber company? (Laughter.) That's
news to me! (Laughs; laughter.) Need some wood? (Laughter.)
Most small businesses are Sub-chapter S corps, they just are. I
met Grant Miliron (sp), Mansfield, Ohio. He's creating jobs. Most
small businesses -- 70 percent of the new jobs in America are created
by small business.
(View cut data) His taxes are going up when you run up the top two brackets. It's a
President Bush, the next question is for you and it
comes from Rob Fowler (sp), who I believe is over in this area.
President Bush, 45 days after -- (clears throat) -- excuse
me. Forty five days after 9/11, Congress passed the Patriot Act,
which takes away checks on law enforcement, weakens American citizens'
rights and freedoms, especially Fourth Amendment rights. With
expansions to the Patriot Act, Patriot Act II, my question to you is
why are my rights being watered down and my citizen's -- (word
inaudible) -- and what are the specific justifications for these
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, I
-- 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
FBI 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
And so I don't think the -- the Patriot Act abridges your rights
at all. And I know it's necessary. I can remember being in upstate
New York talking to FBI 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.
Senator Kerry, a minute and a half.
Former Governor Racicot, as chairman of the
Republican Party, said he thought that the Patriot Act has to be
changed and fixed. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, who is the chairman
of the House Judiciary Committee, has 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
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-peak 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. Ninety-nine 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 a flip-flopper.
(View cut data) Now, that's not a flip-flop. I believe in the Patriot Act. We need
the things in it that coordinate the FBI and the CIA. 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.
Senator Kerry, the next question is for you, and it
comes from Elizabeth Long (sp).
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?
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 it enormously.
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 Reeve is a friend of mine. Chris Reeve 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 again.
I think we can save 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 a -- a -- you
know, some kind of a -- of a -- you know, paraplegic or quadriplegic
or, you know, 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
Mr. President, a minute-and-a-half.
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, from the research derived.
(View cut data) But I think -- I think we 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 is ethics, so is balancing life.
To destroy life to save life is one of the real ethical dilemmas that
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 NIH 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.
Senator, 30 seconds. Let's extend.
Well, you talk about walking a waffled 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.
And 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.
(View cut data) We've got to open up the possibilities of this research, and when I am
president, I'm going to do it --
-- because we have to.
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. President, the next question is for you, and it
comes from Jonathan Michelson (sp). Over here.
Mr. President, if there were a vacancy in the Supreme Court
and you had the opportunity to fill that position today, who would you
choose and why?
(Laughs.) I'm not telling. (Laughter.) I
really don't have -- haven't picked anybody yet. Plus I want them all
voting for me. (Light laughter.)
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.
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 a 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 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.
(View cut data) And that's the kind of judge I'm going to put on there. No litmus
tests except for who -- how they interpret the Constitution.
Senator Kerry, a minute-and-a-half.
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 somebody.
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, good justice, is when you're reading their
decision, their opinion, you can't tell if it's written by a man or a
woman, a liberal or a conservative, a Muslim, a Jew, or a Christian.
(View cut data) their decision, their opinion, you can't tell if it's written by a man
or a woman, a liberal or a conservative, a Muslim, a Jew or a
You just know you're reading a good judicial decision. 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 be have equal pay for women, which is going
backwards; will a woman's right to choose be protected? These are
constitutional rights, and I want to make sure we have judges who
interpret the Constitution of the United States according to the law.
Going to go to the final two questions now, and the
first one will be for Senator Kerry, and this comes from Sara (ph)
Senator Kerry, suppose you were 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?
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 alter boy. Religion has been a huge part
of my life. Helped lead 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 -- 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. President, a minute and a half.
Trying to decipher that. (Light laughter.) My
answer is we're not going to spend federal -- taxpayers' money on
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. It'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 murderer 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.
The culture of life is really important for a country to have
that's going to be a hospitable society.
Senator, do you want to follow up? Thirty seconds.
Well, again, the president just said categorically,
"My opponent's against this, my opponent's 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 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
It's never quite as simple as the president wants you to believe.
And 30 seconds, Mr. President.
Well, 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.
(View cut data) And that's just the way it is. That's a 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 the reality.
And the final question of the evening will be
address to President Bush, and it will come from Linda Grabel (sp).
Linda Grabel's over here. (Laughter.)
Put a head fake on us. (Laughter.)
I got faked out myself.
(Laughs.) Hi, Linda.
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.
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 of done
(View cut data) You shouldn't have made that decision." And I'll take responsibility
for 'em. 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 you're -- 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's a 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
a -- 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 asked what mistakes.
(View cut data) I 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 the responsibility.
Senator Kerry, a minute and a half.
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.
(View cut data) 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 on those vehicles. They didn't have the
right body armor. I've met parents who've 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
He 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.
And Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.
Not necessarily be in power.
But here's what I'll say about the $87 billion. I made a mistake
in the way I talk 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.
That's going to conclude the questioning. We're
going to go now to closing statements. Two minutes from each
And the first closing statement goes to Senator Kerry. I believe
that was the agreement.
You want to go first?
Either way. (Laughter.)
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
terrorist, 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.
(View cut data) 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, but 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.
And a closing statement from President Bush.
Thank you all very much. It's been enjoyable.
The 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.
(View cut data) We had 1.9 million new jobs for the past 13 months. The farm income
in America is high. Small businesses are flourishing. Homeownership
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 will help us become less
dependent on foreign sources of energy.
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 September the 11th that we would not rest
nor tire until we're safe.
(View cut data) 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
of 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 county is that these haters
under up with weapons of mass destruction.
But our long-term security depends on our deep faith in liberty,
and we'll continue to promote freedom around the world. Freedom is on
the march. Tomorrow, Afghanistan will be voting for a president. In
Iraqi (sic), we'll be having free elections and a free society will
make this world more peaceful.
Mr. President, Senator Kerry, that concludes
I want to give you a reminder that the third and final debate on
issues of domestic policy will be held next Wednesday, October 13th,
at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, 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 -- (applause) -- 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.