Transcript of Tuesday's debate: Part Two

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

Continuing the transcript of Tuesday's presidential debate.

BUSH: The federal government puts about 6 percent of the money up. They put about, you know, 60 percent of the strings, where you got to fill out paperwork. I don't know if you have to be a paperwork-filler-outer, but most of it's because of the federal government.

What I want to do is to send flexibility and authority to the local folks so you can choose what to do with the money. One size does not fit all. I'd worry about federalizing education, if I were you.

I believe strongly that the federal government can help. They need to fund Head Start. We need to have accountability. The vice president's plan does not have annual accountability, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade. We need to demand on results.

I believe strongly in a teacher protection act, like I mentioned. I hear from teachers all the time about the lawsuits and the threats, respect in the classroom. Part of it's because you can't, you can't control the classroom. You can't have a consequence for somebody, without fear of getting sued under federal law. So I'm going to ask the Congress to pass a teacher protection act.

So I believe in flexibility. I believe in a national reading initiative for local districts to access with K-2 diagnostic testing, curriculum that works. Phonics works, by the way; it needs to be a part of our curriculum. There needs to be flexibility for teacher training and teacher hiring with federal money.

You know, the federal government can be a part, but don't fall prey to all this talk about money here and money there because education is really funded at the local level; 94 percent comes from the local level.

LEHRER: Vice President Gore, is the governor right when he says that you're proposing the largest federal spending in years?

GORE: Absolutely not, absolutely not. I'm so glad that I have a chance to knock that down.

Look, the problem is that under Governor Bush's plan, $1.6 trillion tax cut mostly to the wealthy. Under his own budget numbers, he proposes spending more money for a tax cut just for the wealthiest 1 percent than all of the new money that he budgets for education, health care and national defense combined.

Now, under my plan, we will balance the budget every year. I'm not just saying this. I'm not just talking. I have helped to balance the budget for the first time in 30 years, pay down the debt.

And under my plan, in four years, as a percentage of our gross domestic product, federal spending will be the smallest that it has been in 50 years. One reason is - you know, the third biggest spending item in our budget is interest on the national debt. We get nothing for it. We keep the good faith and credit of the United States.

I will pay down the debt every single year, until it is eliminated early in the next decade. That gets rid of the third biggest intrusion of the federal government in our economy.

Now, because the governor has all this money for a tax cut, mostly to the wealthy, there is no money left over, so schools get testing and a lawsuit reform, and not much else.

LEHRER: Governor, the vice president says you're wrong.

BUSH: Well, he's wrong.


Just add up all the numbers; it's three times bigger than what President Clinton proposed. The Senate Budget Committee...

LEHRER: Three times - excuse me, three times...

BUSH: Bigger than what President Clinton proposed...

GORE: That's in an ad Jim that was knocked down by the journalists who analyzed the ad and said it was misleading.

LEHRER: Go ahead.

BUSH: My turn?


LEHRER: Yes, sir.

BUSH: Forget the journalists. You propose more than Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis combined. In other, this is a big spender, he is. And he ought to be proud of it. It's part of his record. We just have a different philosophy.

Let me talk about tax relief. If you pay taxes, you ought to get tax relief. The vice president believes that only the right people ought to get tax relief. I don't think that's the role of the president to pick: "You're right, and you're not right."

I think if you're going to have tax relief, everybody ought to get it. And, therefore, wealthy people are going to get it. But the top 1 percent will end up paying one-third of the taxes in America and they get one-fifth of the benefits. And that's because we've structured the plan so that 6 million additional American families pay no taxes. If you're a family of four making $50,000 in Missouri, you get a 50 percent cut in your federal income taxes.

What I've done is set priorities and funded them, and there's extra money. And I believe the people who pay the bills ought to, ought to get some money back.

It's a difference of opinion. He wants to grow the government, and I trust you with your own money.

LEHRER: Well, let's...

BUSH: I wish we could spend an hour talking about trusting money. It is the right position to take.

GORE: Can we extend the time?

LEHRER: Hold on one sec here, though. The governor just reversed the thing.

What do you say specifically to what the vice president said tonight? He's said it many, many times, that your tax cut benefits the top 1 percent of the wealthiest Americans. And you've heard what he said...

BUSH: Of course, it does. If you pay taxes, you're going to get a benefit. People who pay taxes...

LEHRER: All right...

BUSH: ... will get tax relief.

LEHRER: Why shouldn't they?

GORE: All right...

BUSH: Wait. Let me finish, please.

Under my plan, if you make - the top - the wealthy people pay 62 percent of the taxes today; afterwards, they pay 64 percent. This is a fair plan. You know why? Because the tax code is unfair for people at the bottom end of the economic ladder. If you're a single mother making $22,000 a year today and you're trying to raise two children, for every additional dollar you earn you pay a higher marginal rate on that dollar than someone making $200,000, and that's not right.

LEHRER: Vice President Gore?

GORE: Yes...

BUSH: So I want to do something about that.

LEHRER: All right. Vice President Gore?

GORE: Look, this isn't about Governor Bush, it's not about me. It is about you. And I want to come back to something I said before.

If you want somebody who believes that we were better off eight years ago than we are now and that we ought to go back to the kind of policies that we had back then, emphasizing tax cuts mainly for the wealthy, here is your man.

If you want somebody who will fight for you and who will fight to have middle class tax cuts, then I am your man. I want to be.

Now, I doubt anybody here makes more than $330,000 a year. I won't ask you. But if you do, you're in the top 1 percent. If you don't...

LEHRER: It would be a violation of the rules. They couldn't...


GORE: I'm not going to...


I'm not going to ask - I'm not going to ask. But if everyone here in this audience was dead on in the middle of the middle class, then the tax cuts for every single one of you, all added up, would be less than the tax cut his plan would give to just one member of that top, wealthiest 1 percent. Now, you judge for yourselves whether or not that's fair.

LEHRER: A quick, and then we're moving on.

BUSH: Good. Fifty-million Americans get no tax relief under his plan.

GORE: That's not right.

BUSH: And you may not be one of them; you're just not one of the right people.

And secondly, we've had enough fighting. It's time to unite.

You talk about eight years? In eight years, they haven't gotten anything done on Medicare, on Social Security, a patients' bill of rights. It's time to get something done.

LEHRER: Hey, we're going move on now...

GORE: I've got to answer that, Jim.

Medicare, we - I cast the tie-breaking vote to add 26 years to the life of Medicare. It was due to go bankrupt in 1999.

And that $50 million figure, again, the newspapers, I said, you said forget the journalists, but they are the keepers of the scorecard and whether or not you're using facts that aren't right. And that fact is just not right.

LEHRER: Speaking of keepers of the scorecard, that's what I'm trying to do here, Mr. Vice President, Governor Bush. We're going to move on. We're going to have to move on.

All right, there were 12 questions on foreign and military matters. And the first one that we're going to ask will be directed to you Governor Bush. And David Norwood (ph) is going to ask it.

Mr. Norwood, where are you? There you are.

QUESTION: What would you make, what would make you the best candidate in office during the Middle East crisis?

BUSH: I've been a leader. I've been a person that has to set a clear vision and convince people to follow. I've got a strategy for the Middle East.

And first, let me say that our nation now needs to speak with one voice during this time. And I applaud the president for working hard to diffuse tensions.

Our nation needs to be credible and strong. When we say we're somebody's friend, everybody's got to believe it. Israel is our friend, and we'll stand by Israel. We need to reach out to modern Arab nations as well, to build coalitions to keep the peace.

I also - the next leader needs to be patient. We can't put the Middle East peace process on our timetable. It's got to be on the timetable of the people that are trying, that we're trying to bring to the peace table. We can't dictate the terms of peace, which means that we have to be steady. Can't worry about polls or focus groups. Got to have a clear vision. That's what a leader does.

A leader also understands that the United States must be strong to keep the peace. Saddam Hussein still is a threat in the Middle East. Our coalition against Saddam is unraveling, the sanctions are loosened. I-the man who may be developing weapons of mass destruction, we don't know because inspectors aren't in.

So to answer your question, it requires a clear vision, willingness to stand by our friends, and the credibility for people, both friend and foe, to understand when America says something, we mean it.

LEHRER: Vice President Gore?

GORE: I see a future when the world is at peace, with the United States of America promoting the values of democracy and human rights and freedom all around the world.

Even in Iran, they have had an election that began to bring about some change. We stand for those values. And we have to be willing to assert them. Right now, our military is the strongest in the entire history of the world. I pledge to you, I will do whatever is necessary to make sure that it stays that way.

Now, what can I bring to that challenge? When I was a young man, my father was a senator opposed to the Vietnam War. When I graduated from college, there were plenty of fancy ways to get out of going and being a part of that. I went and I volunteered and I went to Vietnam. I didn't do the most or run the gravest risk, by a long shot. But I learned what it was like to be an enlisted man in the United States Army.

In the Congress, in the House of Representatives, I served on the House Intelligence Committee. And I worked hard to learn the subject of nuclear arms control and how we can diffuse these tensions, and deal with nonproliferation, and deal with the problems of terrorism, and these new weapons of mass destruction.

Look, we're going to face some serious new challenges in the next four years. I've worked on that long and hard. When I went to the United States Senate, I asked for an assignment to the Armed Services Committee. And while I was there, I worked on a bipartisan basis, as I did in the House, I worked with former President Reagan to, on the modernization of our strategic weaponry.

In the Senate, I was one of only 10 Democrats, along with Senator Joe Lieberman, to support Governor Bush's dad in the Persian Gulf War resolution.

And for the last eight years, I've served on the National Security Council...

LEHRER: Mr. Vice President...

GORE: Could I say just one other thing here?

LEHRER: No, sir. We'll get back with you.

The next question is to you and it's a related...

LEHRER: it's a related question. It's going to be asked by Kenneth Allen (ph).

Mr. Allen (ph)?

GORE: All right. I think that he gets a, he gets a, oh, I'm sorry, you're right. Go ahead.

LEHRER: Mr. Allen (ph), right there.

QUESTION: Mr. Vice President, today our military forces are stretched thinner and doing more than they've ever done before during a peacetime. I'd like to know what you, I think we'd all like to know what you as president would do to ensure proper resourcing for the current mission and/or more selectively choosing the time and place that our forces will be used around the world.

GORE: Thank you, sir.

Just to finish briefly, I started to say that for the last eight years, I've been on the National Security Council. And last week I broke off - I suspended campaigning for two days or parts of two days to go back and participate in the meetings that charted the president's summit meeting that he just returned from earlier today. And our team over - our country's team over there did a great job. It's a difficult situation.

The United States has to be strong in order to make sure that we can help promote peace and security and stability, and that means keeping our military strong.

Now, I said earlier that we are the strongest military, but we need to continue improving readiness and making sure that our military personnel are adequately paid, and that the combination of their pay and their benefits and their retirement as veterans is comparable to the stiff competition that's coming in this strong economy from the private sector.

And we, I have supported the largest pay raise in many a year. And I support another one now.

I also support modernization of our strategic and tactical weaponry. The governor has proposed skipping a generation of technology. I think that's a, I think that would be a mistake because I think one of the ways we've been able to be so successful in Kosovo and Bosnia and Haiti and in other places is by having the technological edge. You know, we won that conflict in Kosovo without losing a single human life in combat, a single American life in combat.

Now, readiness. The trends before we, before I got my current job were on the decline. The number of divisions were reduced. I argued that we should reverse that trend and take it back up. And I'm happy to tell you that we have.

Now, in my budget for the next - for the next 10 years, I propose $100 billion for this purpose. The governor proposes $45 billion. I propose more than twice as much because I think it's needed.

LEHRER: Governor Bush, two minutes.

BUSH: If this were a spending contest, I'd come in second.

I readily admit, I'm not going to grow the size of the federal government like he is.

Your question was deployment. It must be in the national interests. It must be in our vital interest whether we ever send troops. The mission must be clear. Soldiers must understand why we're going. The force must be strong enough so that the mission can be accomplished. And the exit strategy needs to be well-defined.

I'm concerned that we're overdeployed around the world. You see, I think the mission has somewhat become fuzzy.

Should I be fortunate enough to earn your confidence, the mission of the United States military will be to be prepared and ready to fight and win war, and therefore prevent war from happening in the first place. There may be some moments when we use our troops as peacekeepers, but not often.

The vice president mentioned my view of the long term for the military. I want to make sure the equipment for our military is the best it can possibly be, of course. But we have an opportunity. We have an opportunity to use our research and development capacities, the great technology of the United States, to make our military lighter, harder to find, more lethal. We have an opportunity, really, if you think about it, if we're smart and have got a strategic vision, and a leader who understands strategic planning, to make sure that we change the terms of the battlefield of the future, so that we can make - keep the peace.

This is a peaceful nation, and I intend to keep the peace.

Spending money is one thing, but spending money without a strategic plan can oftentimes be wasted.

First thing I'm going to do is ask the secretary of defense to develop a plan so we're making sure we're not spending our money on political projects, but on projects to make sure our soldiers are well-paid, well-housed and have the best equipment in the world.

LEHRER: Governor Bush, another kind of gun question. It'll be asked by Robert Lutz (ph).

Mr. Lutz (ph)?

QUESTION: Governor Bush.

BUSH: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: We'd just like to know, what is your opposition to the Brady gun - handgun bill?

BUSH: Could you, I'm sorry I didn't hear that.

QUESTION: We'd like to know why you object to the Brady handgun, if you do object to it. Because in a recent TV ad, it showed that the National Rifle Association says if you are elected that they will be working out of your office. I can just see...

BUSH: I don't think the National Rifle Association ran that ad, but let me just tell you my position on guns in general, sir, if you don't mind.

LEHRER: I'm not - excuse me, I'm not sure he's finished with his question, Governor. I'm sorry.

BUSH: Oh, I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Well, actually that kind of bothers me, you know, when I see that ad like that. I wonder if you could explain that ad to me.

BUSH: Well, I don't think I ran the ad; I think somebody who doesn't want me to president might have run that ad. It's a, that wasn't my ad and I think it might have been one of my opponents' ads.

Here's what I believe, sir. I believe law-abiding citizens ought to be allowed to protect themselves and their families. I believe that we ought to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them. That's why I'm for instant background checks at gun shows. I'm for trigger locks. I think that makes sense. Matter of fact, we distributed free trigger locks in the state of Texas so that people can get them and put them on their guns to make their guns more safe.

BUSH: I think we ought to raise the age at which juveniles can have a gun.

But I also believe strongly that we need to enforce laws on the books, that the best way to make sure that we keep our society safe and secure is to hold people accountable for breaking the law. If we catch somebody illegally selling a gun, there needs to be a consequence. We keep - somebody, you know, illegally using a gun, there needs to be a consequence. Enforcement of law. And the federal government can help.

There's a great program called Project Exile in Richmond, Virginia. We focused federal taxpayers' money and federal prosecutors and went after people who were illegally using guns. To me, that's how you make society the safest it can be.

And so, yes, sometimes I agree with some of these groups in Washington and sometimes I don't. I'm a pretty independent thinker. But one thing I'm for is a safe society, and I'm for enforcing laws on the books. And that's what's going to happen should I earn your confidence.

LEHRER: Vice President Gore?

GORE: Well, it wasn't one of - it was not one of my ads either, Governor. But I am familiar with the statement, and it was made by one of the top ranking officials of that organization.

Let me tell you my position. I think that some common sense gun safety measures are certainly needed with the flood of cheap handguns that have sometimes been working their way into the hands of the wrong people.

But all of my proposals are focused on that problem: gun safety. None of my proposals would have any effect on hunters or sportsmen or people who use rifles.

They're aimed at the real problem. Let's make our schools safe. Let's make our neighborhoods safe. Let's have a three-day waiting period. A cooling off, so we can have a background check to make sure that criminals and people who really shouldn't have guns don't get them.

But I'd like to use my remaining time on this exchange, Jim, to respond to an exchange that took place just a moment ago, because a couple of times the governor has said that I am for a bigger government.

Governor, I'm not. And let me tell you what the record shows.

For the last eight years, I have had the challenge of running the streamlining program called Reinventing Government. And if there are any federal employees in this group, you know what that means.

The federal government has been reduced in size by more than 300,000 people, and it's now the smallest number that we have had since - the smallest in size since John Kennedy's administration. During the last five years, Texas' government has gone up in size. The federal government has gone down; Texas' government has gone up.

Now, my plan for the future, I see a time when we have smaller, smarter government, where you don't have to wait in line because you can get services online cheaper, better, faster. We can do that.

LEHRER: Steve Lukar (ph) has a question, and it is for Vice President Gore.

Mr. Lukar (ph)? There you are.

QUESTION: Vice President Gore, the family farms are disappearing and having a hard time, even in the current positive economic environment.

What steps would you or your administration take on agricultural policy developments to protect the family farms for this multifunctional service they perform?

GORE: We've got a bumper crop this year. But that's the good news. You know what the bad news is that follows on that: The prices are low.

In the last several years, the so-called Freedom to Farm Law has, in my view, been mostly a failure. I want to change many of its provisions.

Now, many here who are not involved in farming won't follow this, so just forgive me, because the 2 percent of the country that is involved in farming is important because the rest of us wouldn't eat except for them.

And you guys have been having a hard time, and I want to fight for you. I want to change those provisions. I want to restore a meaningful safety net.

And I think that you pointed the way in your comments because when you say there are multiple things accomplished by farmers, you're specifically including conservation, and protection of the environment - and yes, farmers are the first environmentalists. And when they decide not to plow a field that is vulnerable to soil erosion, that may cost them a little money, but it helps the environment.

I think that we ought to have an expanded conservation reserve program. And I think that the environmental benefits that come from sound management of the land ought to represent a new way for farmers to get some income that will enable them - enable you to make sensible choices in crop rotation and when you leave the land fallow and the rest.

GORE: Now, I'll go beyond that and say I think we need much more focused rural economic development programs.

I see a time when the Internet-based activities are more available in the rural areas and where the extra source of income that farm families used to have from shoe factories is replaced by an extra source of income from working in the information economy.

So we need to do a lot of things, but we ought to start with a better safety net.

LEHRER: Governor Bush, two minutes.

BUSH: I'd like our farmers feeding the world. We're the best in the - we're the best producers in the world. And I want, I want the farmers feeding the world. We need to open up markets.

Exports are down. And every time an export number goes down, it hurts the farmer.

I want the next president to have fast track negotiating authority to open up markets around the world. We're the best. We're the most efficient, efficient farmers.

I don't want to use food as a diplomatic weapon from this point forward. We shouldn't be using food. It hurts the farmers. It's not the right thing to do.

I want, I'm for value-added processing. We need more work on value-added processing. You take the raw product you produce - I presume you're a farmer - off your farm and convert it. I think value-added process is important.

I'm for research and development, spending research and development money so that we can use our technological base to figure out new uses for farm products.

I'm for getting rid of the death tax, completely getting rid of the death tax. One reason family farmers are forced to sell early is because of the death tax. This is a bad tax. The president shouldn't have vetoed that bill. It's a tax that taxes people twice, it penalizes the family farmer.

So should I be fortunate enough to earn your vote, I also, I'm going to open up markets, but I also understand that farming is a part of our national security. I'm from a big farm state, the second-biggest state - farming state in the country, and I hear from my farmer friends all the time.

The vice president's right, by the way, every day's Earth Day if you own the land, and I like the, I like the policies that'll encourage farmers to put, set aside land as well for conservation purposes.

Thank you.

LEHRER: A quick thing on the inheritance taxes. There is a difference between the two of you on this.

Vice President Gore...

GORE: Yes. I'm for a massive reform of the estate tax or the death tax.


GORE: And under the plan that I've proposed, 80 percent of all family farms will be completely exempt from the estate tax, and the vast majority of all family businesses would be completely exempt, and all of the others would have sharply reduced. So 80 percent.

Now, the problem with completely eliminating it goes back to the wealthiest 1 percent. The amount of money that has to be raised in taxes from middle class families to make up for completely eliminating that on the very wealthiest, the billionaires, that would - that would be an extra heavy burden on middle class families.

And so, let's do it for most all, but not completely eliminate it for the very top.

LEHRER: What's the case for doing that, Governor?

BUSH: Eliminating the death tax completely?

LEHRER: For everybody.

BUSH: Because people shouldn't be taxed twice on their assets. It's either unfair for some or unfair for all.

Again, this is just a difference of opinion. If you're from Washington, you want to pick and choose winners. I don't think that's the role of the president. I think if you've got tax relief, everybody benefits.

Secondly, I think your plan, there's a lot of fine print in your plan, Mr. Vice President, in all due respect. It is - I'm not so sure 80 percent of the people get - get the death tax. I know this, 100 percent'll get it if I, if I'm the president.

I just don't think it's fair to tax people's assets twice, regardless of your status. It's a fairness issue. It's an issue of principle, not politics.

LEHRER: New issue. New issue, and the question will be asked by Joyce Klinger (ph) of Governor Bush.

Joyce Klinger (ph)? There you are.

BUSH: Hi, Joyce.

QUESTION: Yes, hi, Governor. I'm very concerned about the morality of our country now. TV, movies, the music that our children are, are, you know, barraged with every day. And I want to know if there's anything that can be worked out with the - Hollywood or whoever to help get rid of some of this bad language and the - whatever, you know. It's just bringing the country down. And our children are very important to us. And we're concerned about their education at school. We should be concerned about their education at home, also.

BUSH: Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

BUSH: I appreciate that question. Laura and I are proud parents of teen-age girls, twin daughters, and I know what you're saying.

BUSH: Government ought to stand on the side of parents. Parents are teaching their children right from wrong, and the message oftentimes gets undermined by the popular culture.

You bet there's things the government can do. We can work with the entertainment industry to provide family hour. We can have filters on Internets where public money is spent. There ought to be filters in public libraries, and filters in public schools, so that if kids get on the Internet, there's not going to be pornography or violence coming in.

I think we ought to have character education in our schools. I know that doesn't directly talk about Hollywood, but it does reinforce the values you're teaching. I'd greatly expand character education funding, so that public schools will teach children values, values which have stood the test of time.

There's after-school money available. I think that after-school money ought to be available for faith-based programs, and charitable programs that exist because somebody has heard the call to love a neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself. That will help reinforce the values that parents teach at home as well.

I just, ours is a great land. And one of the reasons why, is because we're free. And so, I don't support censorship. But I do believe that we ought to talk plainly to the Hollywood moguls and people who produce this stuff, and explain the consequences. I think we need to have rating systems that are clear. And I happen to like the idea of having technology for the TV, easy for parents to use, so you can tune out these programs that you don't want in your house.