Transcript of Tuesday's debate: Part Three


Wednesday, October 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


The following is the conclusion of Tuesday's debate: Part Three.


BUSH: But I'm going to remind mothers and dads: The best weapon is the off-on button, and paying attention to your children and eating dinner with them. And being, I'm sorry...

LEHRER: That's all right.

BUSH: ... showing my peer relation.

GORE: My turn.

LEHRER: Vice President Gore?

GORE: I care a lot about this. It's not just movies, television, video games, music, the Internet. Parents now feel like you have to compete with the mass culture in order to raise your kids with the values that you want them to have.

Tipper and I have four children. And God bless them, everyone of them decided on their own to come here this evening. I don't want to embarrass our oldest daughter, she and her husband made us grandparents almost a year and a half ago. And yet, if she'll forgive me, when she was little, she brought a record home that had some awful lyrics in it. And Tipper hit the ceiling. And that launched a campaign to try to get the record companies to put ratings that, warning labels for parents. And I'm so proud of what she accomplished in getting them on there.

I've been involved myself in negotiating and helping to move along the negotiations with the Internet service providers to get a parents' protection page every time 95 percent of the pages come up. And a feature that allows parents to automatically check, with one click, what sites your kids have visited lately.

You know, some parents are worried about those filters, that you'll have to ask your kids how to put them on there.

(LAUGHTER)

But if you can check up on them, then you, that's real power.

And recently the Federal Trade Commission pointed out that some of these entertainment companies have warned parents that the material is inappropriate for children, and then they turned around behind the backs of the parents and advertised that same adult material directly to children. That is an outrage.

Joe Lieberman and I gave them six months to clean up their act. And if they don't do it, we're going to ask for tougher authority in the hands of the FTC on the false and deceptive advertising.

I'll tell you this: I want to do something about this - I respect the First Amendment - but I will do something to help you raise your kids without that garbage.

LEHRER: Vice President, all right.

Vice President Gore, the next question is for you, and it will be asked by Steven Koosman (ph).

Mr. Koosman (ph), where are you, sir? Right behind me as well. There we go.

GORE: Right next to the last...

LEHRER: Yes, got it. Good planning.

QUESTION: It seems that when we hear about issues of this campaign, it's usually Medicare, Social Security or prescription drugs. As a college professor, I hear a lot of apathy amongst young people...

GORE: Yes.

QUESTION: ... who feel that there are no issues directed to them.

GORE: Yes.

QUESTION: And they don't plan to vote. How do you address that?

GORE: We've got to change it. I spend a good deal of time talking to young people. And in my standard speech out there on the stump, I usually end my speech by saying I want to ask you for something and I want to direct it especially to the young people in the audience.

And I want to tell you what I tell them: Sometimes people who are very idealistic and have great dreams, as young people do, are apt to stay at arm's length from the political process because they think their good hearts might be brittle, and if they invest their hopes and allow themselves to believe, then they're going to be let down and disappointed.

But thank goodness we've always had enough people who have been willing in every generation to push past the fear of a broken heart and become deeply involved in forming a more perfect union. We're America. And we believe in our future, and we know we have the ability to shape our future.

Now, we've got to address one of the, one of the biggest threats to our democracy and that is the current campaign financing system. And I know they say it doesn't rank anywhere on the polls. I don't believe - I don't believe that's a fair measure.

I'm telling you, I will make it - I will make the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill the very first measure that I send to the Congress as president.

Governor Bush opposes it. I wish that he would consider changing his mind on that because I think that the special interests have too much power, and we need to give our democracy back to the American people.

Let me tell you why. Those issues you mentioned, Social Security, prescription drugs, the big drug companies are against the prescription drug proposal that I have made. The HMOs are against the patients' rights bill - the Dingell-Norwood bill - that I support and that Governor Bush does not support. The big oil companies are against the measures to get more energy independence and renewable fuels.

They ought to have their voices heard, but they shouldn't have a big megaphone that drowns out the American people.

We need campaign finance reform, and we need to shoot straight with young and old alike, and tell them what the real choices are. And we can renew and rekindle the American spirit and make our future what our founders dreamed it could be. We can.

LEHRER: Time.

Governor Bush, two minutes.

BUSH: I'll tell you what I hear. A lot of people are sick and tired of the bitterness in Washington, D.C., and therefore they don't want any part of politics. They look at Washington and see people pointing fingers and casting blame and saying one thing and doing another. There are a lot of young folks saying, you know, "Why do I want to be involved with this mess?"

And what I think needs to happen, in order to encourage the young to become involved, is to shoot straight, is to set aside the partisan differences and set an agenda that will make sense.

Medicare: I know you talked about it, but Medicare is relevant for all of us, young and old alike. We better get it right now. Tax reform is relevant for old and young alike. I don't think it's the issues that turn kids off. I think it's the tone. I think it's the attitude. I think it's a cynicism in Washington, and it doesn't have to be that way.

Before I decided to run, I had to resolve two issues in my mind: One, could our family endure all this business. And I came to the conclusion that our love was strong enough to be able to do it. And the other was, could an administration change the tone in Washington, D.C.

BUSH: And I believe the answer is yes. Otherwise, I wouldn't be asking for your vote.

That's what happened in Texas. We work together. There's a man here in this audience named Hugo Belaga (ph). He's the chairman of the health committee. He came here for a reason, to tell our record on health in Texas. He's a Democrat. I didn't care whether he a Republican or Democrat, what I cared about is could we work together. That's what Washington, D.C., needs.

And finally, sir, to answer your question, it needs somebody in office who'll tell the truth. That's the best way to get people back in the system.

LEHRER: Governor Bush, Norma Kirby (ph) has the next question. And it's for you.

Norma Kirby (ph), where are you?

BUSH: Hi, Norma.

QUESTION: Hi. How will your administration address diversity, inclusiveness? And what role will affirmative action play in your overall plan?

BUSH: I've had a record of bringing people from all walks of life into my administration, and my administration is better off for it in Texas. I going to find people that want to serve their country, but I want a diverse administration. I think it's important.

I've worked hard in the state of Texas to make sure institutions are, reflect the state, with good, smart policy, policy that rejects quotas. I don't like quotas. Quotas tend to pit one group of people against another. Quotas are bad for America. It's not the way America is all about. But policies that give people a helping hand so they can help themselves.

For example, in our state of Texas, I worked with the Legislature, both Republican and Democrats, to pass a law that said if you come in the top 10 percent of your high school class, you're automatically admitted to one of our higher institutions, higher institutions of learning, college. And as a result, our universities are now more diverse. It's a smart thing to do. It's what I called it, I labeled it affirmative access.

I think the contracting business in government can help, not with quotas, but help meet a goal of ownership of small businesses, for example. The contracts need to be smaller. The agencies need to recruit and to work hard to find people to bid on the state contracts. I think we can do that in a way that represents what America is all about, which is equal opportunity and the opportunity for people to realize their potential.

So to answer your question, I support - I guess the way to put it is affirmative access. And I'll have an administration that will make you proud. Thank you.

LEHRER: Vice President Gore?

GORE: I believe in this goal and this effort with all my heart. I believe that our future as a nation depends upon whether or not we can break down these barriers that have been used to pit group against group and bring our people together. How do you do it? Well, you establish respect for differences. You don't ignore differences. It's all too easy for somebody in the majority in the population to say, "Oh, we're just all the same," without an understanding of the different life experience that you've had, that others have had.

BUSH: Once you have that understanding and mutual respect, then we can transcend the differences and embrace the highest common denominator of the American spirit.

I don't know what affirmative access means; I do know what affirmative action means. I know the governor's against it and I know that I'm for it.

I know what a hate crime statute pending at the national level is all about, in the aftermath of James Byrd's death. I'm for that proposed law; the governor is against it.

I know what it means to have a commitment to diversity. I am part of an administration that has the finest record on diversity and, incidentally, an excellent, I mean, I think our success over the last eight years has not been in spite of diversity, but because of it, because we're able to draw on the wisdom and experience from different parts of the society that hadn't been tapped in the same way before.

And, incidentally, Mel Carnahan in Missouri had the finest record on diversity of any governor in the entire history of the state of Missouri, and I want to honor that, among his other achievements here.

Now, I just believe that what we have to do is enforce the civil rights laws. I'm against quotas.

This is, with all due respect, Governor, that's a red herring. Affirmative action isn't quotas. I'm against quotas. They're illegal. They're against the American way.

Affirmative action means that you take extra steps to acknowledge the history of discrimination and injustice and prejudice, and bring all people into the American dream because it helps everybody, not just those who are directly benefited.

LEHRER: Governor, what is your, are you opposed to affirmative action?

BUSH: No. If affirmative action means quotas, I'm against it. If affirmative action means what I just described, what I'm for, then I'm for it. You heard what I was for.

The vice president keeps saying I'm against things. You heard what I was for, and that's what I support.

LEHRER: What about, Mr. Vice President, you heard what he said.

GORE: He said if affirmative action means quotas, he's against it. Affirmative action doesn't mean quotas.

BUSH: Good.

GORE: Are you for it without quotas?

BUSH: I may not be for your version, Mr. Vice President. But I'm for what I just described to the lady. She heard my answer.

GORE: Are you for what the Supreme Court says is a constitutional way of having affirmative action?

BUSH: Jim, is this...

LEHRER: Let's go on to another...

(LAUGHTER)

GORE: I think that speaks for itself.

BUSH: No. Doesn't speak for itself, Mr. Vice President. It speaks for the fact that there are certain rules in this that we all agreed to, but evidently rules don't mean anything.

LEHRER: The question is for you, Vice President Gore. And Lisa Key (ph) will ask it.

Lisa Key (ph) where are you? There we go, sorry.

QUESTION: How will your tax proposals affect me as a middle class 34-year-old single person with no dependents?

GORE: If you make less than $60,000 a year and you decide to invest $1,000 in a savings account, you'll get a tax credit which means in essence that the federal government will match your $1,000 with another $1,000. If you make less than $30,000 a year and you put $500 in a savings account, the federal government will match it with $1,500.

GORE: If you make more than $60,000, up to a $100,000, you'll still get a match, but not as generous.

You will get access to lifelong learning and education, help with tuition, if you want to get a new skill or training. If you want to purchase health insurance, you will get help with that. If you want to participate in some of the dynamic changes that are going on in our country, you will get specific help in doing that.

If you are part of the bottom 20 percent or so of wage earners, then you will get an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit.

Now, the tax relief that I propose is directed specifically at middle income individuals and families. And if you have an elderly parent or grandparent, who needs long-term care, then you will get help with that, a $3,000 tax credit to help your expenses in taking care of a loved one who needs long-term care.

LEHRER: Governor Bush?

BUSH: Right, let me just say, the first - this business about the entitlement he tried to describe about savings - you know, matching savings here, and matching savings there - if fully funded is going to cost a whole lot of money, a lot more than we have.

You're going to get tax relief under my plan. You're not going to be targeted in or targeted out. Everybody who pays taxes is going to get tax relief. If you take care of an elderly in your home, you're going to get the personal exemption increased.

I think also what you need to think about is not the immediate, but what about Medicare?

You get a plan that will include prescription drugs, a plan that will give you options.

Now, I hope people understand that Medicare today is, is, is, is important, but it doesn't keep up with the new medicines. If you're a Medicare person, on Medicare, you don't get the new, new procedures. You're stuck in a time warp in many ways.

So it will be a modern Medicare system that trusts you to make a variety of options for you.

You're going to live in a peaceful world. It will be a world of peace, because we're going to have a clearer, clear-sighted foreign policy, based upon a strong military, and a mission that stands by our friends, a mission that doesn't try to be all things to all people, a judicious use of the military which will help keep the peace.

You'll be in a world hopefully that's more educated so it's less likely you'll be harmed in your neighborhood. See, an educated child is one much more likely to be hopeful and optimistic.

You'll be in a world which fits into my philosophy, you know, the harder work, the harder you work, the more you can keep. It's the American way. Government shouldn't be a heavy hand. It's what the federal government does to you. It should be a helping hand. And tax relief and proposals I just described should be a good helping hand.

LEHRER: Governor, the next question is for you. And Leo Anderson (ph) will ask it.

Mr. Anderson (ph)?

BUSH: Hi, Leo (ph). What, you want a mike?

QUESTION: In one of the last debates held, the subject of capital punishment came up. And in your response to the question you seemed to overly enjoy, as a matter of fact proud that Texas leads the-led the nation in execution of prisoners.

Sir, did I misread your respond, and are you really, really proud of the fact that Texas is number one in executions?

BUSH: No, I'm not proud of that. The death penalty is very serious business, Leo. It's an issue that good people obviously disagree on. I take my job seriously, and I, if you think I was proud of it, I think you misread me, I do.

I was sworn to uphold the laws of my state. During the course of the campaign in 1994 I was asked: Do you support the death penalty? I said I did, if administered fairly and justly, because I believe it saves lives. Well, I do. I think if it's administered swiftly, justly and fairly, it saves lives.

One of the things that happens when you're a governor, oftentimes you have to make tough decisions, and you can't let public persuasion sway you, because the job's to enforce the law. And that's what I did, sir.

Have been some tough cases come across my desk. Some of the hardest moments since I've been the governor of the state of Texas is to deal with those cases.

But my job is to ask two questions, sir. Is the person guilty of the crime? And did the person have full access to the courts of law? And I can tell you, looking at you right now, in all cases those answers were affirmative.

I'm not proud of any record. I'm proud of the fact that violent crime is down in the state of Texas. I'm proud of the fact that we hold people accountable. But I'm not proud of any record, sir, no.

LEHRER: Vice President Gore?

GORE: I support the death penalty. I think that it has to be administered not only fairly, with attention to things like DNA evidence, which I think should be used in all capital cases, but also with very careful attention. If, for example, somebody confesses to the crime and somebody's waiting on death row, there has to be alertness to say, wait a minute, have we got the wrong guy?

If the wrong guy is put to death, then that's a double tragedy. Not only has an innocent person been executed but the real perpetrator of the crime has not been held accountable for it, and in some cases may be still at large. But I support the death penalty in the most heinous cases.

LEHRER: Do both of you believe that the death penalty actually deters crime?

Governor?

BUSH: I do, that's the only reason to be for it. Let me finish that, I don't think you should support the death penalty to seek revenge. I don't think that's right. I think the reason to support the death penalty is because it saves other people's lives.

LEHRER: Vice President Gore?

GORE: I think it is a deterrence. I know that's a controversial view, but I do believe it's a deterrence.

LEHRER: All right.

Next question is for you, Vice President Gore, and Thomas Fisher (ph) will ask it.

Mr. Fisher (ph)?

QUESTION: Yes, my sixth grade class at St. Clair (ph) School wanted to ask of all these promises you guys are making and all the pledges, will you keep them when you're in office?

GORE: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

I am a person who keeps promises. And you know, we've heard a lot from the governor about not much being done in the last eight years, as if the promises that I made eight years ago have not been kept. I think the record shows otherwise.

We have gone from the biggest deficits, eight years ago, to the biggest surpluses in history today. Instead of high unemployment, we now have the lowest African-American unemployment, the lowest Latino unemployment ever measured, 22 million new jobs, very low unemployment nationally. Instead of ballooning the debt and multiplying it four times over, we have seen the debt actually begun to be paid down.

Here are some promises that I'll make to you now. I will balance the budget every year. I will pay down the debt every year. I will give middle class Americans tax cuts - meaningful ones. And I will invest in education, health care, protecting the environment and retirement security.

We both made promises in this campaign. I promise you I will keep mine. Let me tell you about one of the governor's.

He has promised a trillion dollars out of the Social Security trust fund for young working adults to invest and save on their own. But he's promised seniors that their Social Security benefits will not be cut, and he's promised the same trillion dollars to them. So this is the "Show Me" state, reminds me the line from the movie, "Show me the money." Which one of those promises will you keep and which will you break, Governor?

LEHRER: Governor Bush?

BUSH: Thank you for your question.

(LAUGHTER)

I, there's an old high school debating trick, which is to answer something and then attack your opponent at the end. Now, you asked about promises. You were promised that Medicare would be reformed, and that Social Security would be reformed. You were promised a middle class tax cut in 1992. It didn't happen.

There's too much bitterness in Washington. There's too much wrangling. It's time to have a fresh start. One of the reasons I was successful as the governor of Texas is because I didn't try to be all things to all people. When I campaigned in a race a lot of folks didn't think I could win, including, by the way, my mother...

... I said I'd do four things: tort reform, education reform, welfare reform and juvenile justice reform. And I won and I had the will of the people in my state behind me, and then I brought folks together to get it done. And that's what we need, I think, in this election.

To me, that's what it's all about. I know, listen, I'm sure your sixth grade kids are listening, "These guys will say anything to get elected." But there's a record. That's what other people look at. And one of my promises is going to be Social Security reform, and you bet we need to take a trillion dollar - trillion dollars out of that $2.4 trillion surplus.

Now, remember, Social Security revenue exceeds expenses up until 2015. People are going to get paid. But if you're a younger worker, if you're younger, you better hope this country thinks differently, otherwise you're going to be faced with huge payroll taxes or reduced benefits. And you bet we're going to take a trillion dollars of your own money and let you invest it under safe guidelines to get a better rate of return on the money than the paltry 2 percent that the federal government gets for you today. That's one of my promises.

But it's going to require people to bring both Republicans and Democrats together to get it done. That's what it requires. There's a chance to get this done. There's bipartisan, bipartisan approach, but it's been rejected. I'm going to bring them together.

LEHRER: Both of you, to both of you, on this subject, there are other questions that also go to this skepticism, not necessarily about you but all people in politics. Why is that?

GORE: Well, first of all, Jim, I'd like to, I'd like to respond to what the governor just said because the trillion dollars that has been promised the young people has also been promised to older people. And you cannot keep both promises. If you're in your mid-40s, under the governor's plan, Social Security will be bankrupt by the time you retire, if he takes it out of the Social Security trust fund.

Under my plan, it will be, its solvency will be extended until you're 100.

Now, that is the difference. And the governor may not want to answer that question, he may want to call it a high school debating trick, but let me tell you this: This election is not about debating tricks; it is about your future.

The reason Social Security, he says it gets 2 percent. You know, it's not a bank account - it - that just pays back money that's invested. It is also used to give your mothers and fathers the Social Security checks that they live on. If you take a trillion dollars out of that Social Security trust fund, how are the checks going to, how are you going to keep faith with the seniors?

Now, let me come, let me come directly to your point...

LEHRER: No, I think we're, we have to go to the closing statements and...

BUSH: Could I answer that? One reason people are skeptical is because people don't answer the questions they've been asked.

(LAUGHTER)

The trillion dollars comes out of the surplus so that you can invest some of your own money. There's just a difference of opinion. I want workers to have their own assets. Who do you trust, the government or the people?

LEHRER: Now we're going to go to a closing statement.

GORE: Great.

LEHRER: Vice President Gore, you're first.

GORE: Thank you.

LEHRER: You have two minutes.

GORE: Thank you very much, Jim. And I'll begin by answering your questions, your last question.

I believe that a lot of people are skeptical about people in politics today because we have seen a time of great challenge for our country, since the assassination of our best leaders in the '60s, since the Vietnam War, since Watergate, and because we need campaign finance reform.

I'd like to tell you something about me. I keep my word. I have kept the faith.

GORE: I've kept the faith with my country. I volunteered for the Army. I served in Vietnam.

I kept the faith with my family. Tipper and I have been married for 30 years. We have devoted ourselves to our children, and now our nearly one-and-a-half-year-old grandson.

I have kept the faith with our country. Nine times I have raised my hand to take an oath to the Constitution, and I have never violated that oath.

I have not spent the last quarter century in pursuit of personal wealth. I have spent the last quarter century fighting for middle-class, working men and women in the United States of America.

I believe very deeply that you have to be willing to stand up and fight, no matter what powerful forces might be on the other side. If you want somebody who is willing to fight for you, I am asking for your support and your vote, and, yes, your confidence, and your willingness to believe that we can do the right thing in America and be the better for it.

We've made some progress during the last eight years. We have seen the strongest economy in the history of the United States, lower crime rates for eight years in a row, highest private home ownership ever.

But I'll make you one promise here: You ain't seen nothing yet. And I will keep that promise.

LEHRER: Governor Bush, two minutes.

BUSH: Well, Jim, I want to thank you and thank the folks here at Washington University and the vice president. Appreciate the chance to have a good, honest dialogue about our differences of opinion. And I think after the three debates, the good people of this country understand there is a difference of opinion.

It's the difference between big federal government and somebody who's coming from outside of Washington who will trust individuals.

I've got an agenda that I want to get done for the country. It's an agenda that says we're going to reform Medicare to make sure seniors have got prescription drugs and to give seniors different options from which they can choose.

It's an agenda that says we're going to listen to the young voices in Social Security and say we're going to think differently about making sure we have a system, but also fulfill the promise to the seniors in America. A promise made will be a promise kept should I be fortunate enough to become your president.

I want to rebuild the military to keep the peace.

I want to make sure the public school system in America fulfills its promise so that no child, not one child, is left behind.

And after setting priorities, I want to give some of the, some of your money back. See, I don't think the surplus is the government's money, I think it's the people's money. I don't think the surplus exists because of the ingenuity and hard work of the federal government. I think it exists because of the ingenuity and hard work of the American people. And you ought to have some of the surplus so you can save and dream and build.

I look forward to the final weeks of this campaign. I'm asking for your vote. For those of you for me, thanks for your help. For those of you for my opponent, please only vote once.

But for those who have not made up their mind, I'd like to conclude by this promise. Should I be fortunate enough to become your president, when I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to not only uphold the laws of the land, but I will also swear to uphold the honor and the dignity the office to which I have been elected, so help me God.

Thank you very much.

LEHRER: A closing piece of business before we go.

LEHRER: The debate commission wants reaction to the three kinds of formats used in the debates this year, and you may register an opinion at their web site, www.debates.org.

Thank you, Vice President Gore, Governor Bush.

From St. Louis, I'm Jim Lehrer. Thank you and good night.