The First Presidential Election Debate
October 3, 2000
Following is the text from the presidential debate in Boston between Gov. George W. Bush of Texas and Vice President Al Gore. The moderator was JIM LEHRER, the news anchor for the Public Broadcasting Service.
Good evening from the Clark Athletic Center at the University of
Massachusetts in Boston. I'm Jim Lehrer of the NewsHour on PBS, and
I welcome you to the first of three 90-minute debates between the
Democratic candidate for president, Vice President Al Gore and the
Republican candidate, Governor George W. Bush of Texas. The debates
are sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates and they will
be conducted within formats agreed to between the two campaigns.
We'll have the candidates at podiums. No answer to a question can
exceed two minutes. Rebuttal is limited to one minute. As moderator
I have the option to follow up and extend any give and take
three-and-a-half minutes. No single answer can exceed two minutes.
The candidates under their rules may not question each other
directly. There will be no opening statements, but each candidate
may have up to two minutes for a closing statement. The questions
and the subjects were chosen by me alone. I have told no one from
the two campaigns or the commission or anyone else involved what they
are. There is a small audience in the hall tonight. They are not
here to participate. Only to listen. I have asked and they have
agreed to remain silent for the next 90 minutes. Except for right
now when they will applaud as we welcome to two candidates, Governor
Bush and Vice President Gore.
And now the first question as determined by a flip of a coin, it
goes to Vice President Gore. Vice President Gore, you have
questioned whether Governor Bush has the experience to be President
of the United States. What exactly do you mean?
Jim, first of all, I would like to thank the sponsors of this debate
and the people of Boston for hosting the debate. I would like to
thank Governor Bush for participating and I would like to say I'm
happy to be here with Tipper and our family. I have actually not
questioned Governor Bush's experience. I have questioned his
proposals. Here is why. I think this is a very important moment for
our country. We have achieved extraordinary prosperity. In this
election America has to make an important choice. Will we use our
prosperity to enrich not just the few, but all of our families? I
believe we have to make the right and responsible choices. If I'm
entrusted with the presidency, here are the choices I will make. I
will balance the budget every year. I'll pay down the national
debt. I will put Medicare and Social Security in a lock box and
protect them. And I will cut taxes for middle class families. I
believe it's important to resist the temptation to squander our
surplus. If we make the right choices, we can have a prosperity that
endures and enriches all of our people. If I'm entrusted with the
presidency, I will help parents and strengthen families because, you
know, if we have prosperity that grows and grows, we still won't be
successful until we strengthen families by ensuring that children can
always go to schools that are safe. By giving parents the tools to
protect their children against cultural pollution. I will make sure
that we invest in our country and our families. And I mean investing
in education, health care, the environment, and middle class tax cuts
and retirement security. That is my agenda and that is why I think
that it's not just a question of experience.
Governor Bush, one minute rebuttal.
We come from different places. I come from being a governor. We
know how to set agendas as a governor. I think you'll find the
difference reflected in our budgets. I want to take one-half of the
surplus and dedicate it to Social Security. One-quarter of the
surplus for important projects, and I want to send one-quarter of the
surplus back to the people who pay the bills. I want everybody who
pays taxes to have their tax rates cut. And that stands in contrast
to my worthy opponent's plan which will increase the size of
government dramatically. His plan is three times larger than
President Clinton's proposed plan eight years ago. It has expanded
programs and creates 20,000 new bureaucrats. It it empowers
Washington. My vision is to empower Americans to make decisions for
themselves in their own lives.
I take it by your answer then in an interview recently with the "New
York Times" when you said that you questioned whether or not Governor
Bush has experience enough to be president, you were talking about
strictly policy differences.
Yes, Jim. I said his tax cut plan, for example, raises the question
of whether it's the right choice for the country. Let me give you an
example of what I mean. Under Governor Bush's tax cut proposal he
would spend more money on tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% than all of
the new spending he proposes for health care, prescription drug and
national defense all combined. Now, I think those are the wrong
priorities. Now, under my proposal, for every dollar that I propose
in spending for things like education and health care, I will put
another dollar into middle class tax cuts. And for every dollar that
I spend in those two categories I'll put $2 toward paying down the
national debt. I think it's very important to keep the debt going
down and completely eliminate it. And I also think it's very
important to go to the next stage of welfare reform. Our country has
cut the welfare rolls in half. I fought hard from my days in the
Senate and as vice president to cut the welfare rolls and we've moved
millions of people in America into good jobs. It's now time for the
next stage of welfare reform and include fathers and not only
We're going to get a lot of those.
Let me just say that obviously tonight we're going to hear some
phony numbers about what I think and what we ought to do. People
need to know that over the next ten years it is going to be $25
trillion of revenue and we anticipate spending $21 trillion. Why
don't we spend 1.3 trillion of that back to the people who pay the
bills? Surely we can afford 5% of the $25 trillion coming to the
treasury to the hard working people that pay the bills. There is a
difference of opinion. My opponent thinks the government -- the
surplus is the government's money. That's not what I think. I think
it's the hard working people of America's money and I want to share
some of that money with you so you have more money to build and save
and dream for your families. It's a difference between government
making decisions for you and you getting more of your money to make
decisions for yourself.
Let me just follow up one quick question. When you hear Vice
President Gore question your experience, do you read it the same way
that he's talking about policy differences only?
Yes. I take him for his word. Look, I fully recognize I'm not of
Washington, I'm from Texas, and he's got a lot of experience, but so
do I. And I've been the chief executive office of the second biggest
state in the union. I have a record of working with both Republicans
and Democrats. Our nation needs somebody that can come to
Washington. Let's forget all the finger pointing and get positive
things done on Medicare, prescription drugs, Social Security, and so
I take him for his word.
If I could just respond. I know that the governor used the phrase
phony numbers, but if you look at the plan and add the numbers up,
these numbers are correct. He spends more money for tax cuts for the
wealthiest 1% than all of his new spending proposals for health care,
prescription drug, national defense all combined. The surplus is the
American people's money, it's your money. That's why I don't think
we should give half of up to the wealthiest 1%.
Three-and-a-half minutes is up. New question. Governor Bush, you
have a question. This is a companion question to the question I
asked Vice President Gore. You have questioned whether Vice
President Gore has demonstrated the leadership qualities necessary to
be President of the United States. What do you mean by that?
Actually what I've said, I've said that eight years ago they
campaigned on prescription drugs for seniors. And four years ago
they campaigned on getting prescription drugs for seniors. And now
they're campaigning on getting prescription drugs for seniors. It
seems like they can't get it done. They may blame other folks, but
it's time to get somebody in Washington who is going to work with
both Republicans and Democrats to get some positive things done when
it comes to our seniors. So what I've said is there's been some
missed opportunities. They've had a chance. They've had a chance to
form consensus. I have a plan on Medicare that's a two-stage plan
that says we'll have immediate help for seniors and what I call
immediately Helping Hand, a $48 billion program. To seniors, if
you're happy with Medicare, fine, you can stay in the program. But
we're going to give you additional choices like they give federal
employees in the federal employee health plan. They have a variety
of choices to choose, so should seniors. As opposed to politicizing
an issue like Medicare. Hoping somebody bites it and try to clobber
them over the head for political purposes, this year it's time to get
it done once and for all. That's what I've been critical about the
administration for. Same with Social Security. There was a good
opportunity to bring Republicans and Democrats together to reform the
Social Security system so seniors will never go without. Those on
Social Security today will have their promise made but also to give
younger workers the option of their choice of being able to manage
some of their own money in the private sector to make sure there's a
Social Security system around tomorrow. There are a lot of young
workers at the rallies we go to that when they hear I'll trust them
to be able to manage, under certain guidelines, some of their own to
get a better rate of return so that they'll have a retirement plan in
the future, they begin to nod their heads and they want a different
attitude in Washington.
One minute rebuttal.
Under my plan all seniors will get prescription drugs under
Medicare. The governor has described Medicare as a government HMO.
It's let -- let me explain the difference. Under the Medicare
prescription drug proposal I'm making, you go to your own doctor.
Your doctor chooses your prescription. No HMO or insurance company
can take those choices away from you. Then you go to your own
pharmacy. You fill the prescription and Medicare pays half the
cost. If you're in a very poor family or high costs, Medicare will
pay all the costs. A $25 premium and much better benefits than you
can find in the private sector. Here is the contrast. 95% of all
seniors would get no help whatsoever under my opponent's plan for the
first four or five years. Now, one thing I don't understand, Jim, is
why is it that the wealthiest 1% get their tax cuts the first year
but 95% of seniors have to wait four to five years before they get a
I guess my answer to that is the man is running on Medi-scare. It's
not what I think and it's not my intentions and not my plan. I want
all seniors to have prescription drugs in Medicare. We need to
reform Medicare. This administration has failed to do it. Seniors
will have not only a Medicare plan where the poor seniors will have
prescription drugs paid for but there will be a variety of options.
The system today has meant a lot for a lot of seniors, and I
recognize the intent of the current system. If you're happy with the
system you can stay in it. There are a lot of procedures that
haven't kept up in Medicare with the current times. No prescription
drug benefits, no preventative medicines, no vision care. We need to
have a modern system to help seniors, and the idea of supporting a
federally controlled 132,000-page government bureaucracy of being a
compassionate way for seniors and the only source of care for seniors
is not my vision. We ought to give seniors more options, make the
system work better. I know it will require a different kind of
leader to go to Washington to say to both Republicans and Democrats,
let's come together. You've had your chance, Vice President, you've
been there for eight years and nothing has been done. My point is is
that my plan not only trusts seniors with options, it sets aside
money for Medicare over the next ten years. My plan also says it
requires a new approach in Washington, D.C., require somebody who can
work across the partisan divide.
Under my plan I will put Medicare in an iron clad lock box and
prevent the money from being used for anything other than Medicare.
The governor has declined to endorse that idea even though the
Republican as well as Democratic leaders in Congress have endorsed
it. I would be interested to see if he would say this evening he'll
put Medicaid in a lock box. $100 billion comes out of Medicare just
for the wealthiest 1% in the tax cut. Here is the difference. Some
people who say the word reform actually mean cuts. Under the
governor's plan, if you kept the same fee for service that you have
now under Medicare, your premiums would go up by between 18% and 41%,
and that is the study of the Congressional plan that he's modeled his
proposal on by the Medicare actuaries. There is a man here tonight
named George McKinney from Milwaukee. He's 70 years old, has high
blood pressure, his wife has heart trouble. They have an income of
$25,000 a year. They can't pay for their prescription drugs.
They're some of the ones that go to Canada regularly in order to get
their prescription drugs. Under my plan, half of their costs would
be paid right away. Under Governor Bush's plan they would not get
one penny for four to five years and then they would be forced to go
into an HMO or to an insurance company and ask them for coverage, but
there would be no limit on the premiums or the deductibles or any of
the terms and conditions.
I cannot let this go by the old-style Washington politics. If we're
going to scare you in the voting booth. Under my plan the man gets
immediate help with prescription drugs. It's called immediate
helping hand. Instead of finger pointing, he gets immediate help.
Let me say something.
They have a $25,000 a year income, that makes them ineligible.
This is a man who has great numbers. He talks about numbers. I'm
beginning to think not only did he invent the Internet, but he
invented the calculator. It's fuzzy math. It's a scaring -- trying
to scare people in the voting booth. Under my tax plan that he
continues to criticize I set one-third. The federal government
should take no more than a third of anybody's check. I also dropped
the bottom rate from 15% to 10%. By far the vast majority of the
help goes to people at the bottom end of the economic ladder. If
you're a family in Massachusetts, you get a 50% cut in the income
taxes you pay. The difference in our plans is I want that $2,000 to
go to you and the vice president would like to be spending the $2,000
on your half.
I have no problems with it. We're over the three-and-a-half. Do
you want to have a quick response? We're almost to five minutes on
It's just clear you can go to the website and look. If you make
more than $25,000 a year you don't get a penny of help under the Bush
prescription drug proposal for at least four to five years, and then
you're pushed into an HMO or insurance company plan, and there's no
limit on the premiums or the deductibles or any of the conditions.
The insurance companies say it won't work and they won't offer these
Let me ask you both this and we'll move on. Both of you want to
bring prescription drugs to seniors, correct?
I want to bring it to 100% and he wants to bring it to 5%.
That's totally false for him to stand up and say this. Let me make
sure the seniors hear me loud and clear. They have a chance to get
something done. I'm going to work with Democrats and Republicans to
be -- in the meantime, we'll have a plan to help poor seniors and it
could be one year or two years.
Let me call your attention to the key word there. He said all poor
All seniors are covered under prescription drugs in my plan.
In the first year?
If we can get it done in the first year.
It's a two-phase plan. For the first four years only the poor are
covered. Middle class seniors like George McKinney and his wife are
not covered for four to five years.
I have an idea. If you have any more to say about this you can say
it in your closing statements and we'll move on. New question. Vice
President Gore. How would you contrast your approach to preventing
future oil price and supply problems like we have now to the approach
of Governor Bush?
Excellent question. Here is the simple difference. My plan has not
only a short-term component but also a long-term component. It
focuses not only on increasing the supply but working on the
consumption side. Now, in the short-term we have to free ourselves
from the domination of the big oil companies that have the ability to
manipulate the price from OPEC when they want to raise the price, and
in the long-term we have to give new incentives for the development
of domestic resources like deep gas in the western Gulf, like
stripper wells for oil, but also renewable sources of energy, and
domestic sources that are cleaner and better. I'm proposing a plan
that will give tax credits and tax incentives for the rapid
development of new kinds of cars and trucks and buses and factories
and boilers and furnaces that don't have as much pollution and don't
burn as much energy and help us get out on the cutting edge of the
new technologies that will create millions of new jobs. When we sell
these new products here we'll then be able to sell them overseas.
Another big difference is Governor Bush is proposing to open up some
of our most precious environmental treasures like the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge for the big oil companies to produce oil there. It
would only give us a few months' worth of oil and the oil wouldn't
start flowing for many years into the future. I don't think it's a
fair price to pay to destroy precious parts of America's
environment. We have to bet on the future and move beyond the
current technologies to have a whole new generation of more
efficient, cleaner energy technology.
It's an issue I know a lot about. I was a small oil person for a
while in west Texas. This is an administration that's had no plan.
All of a sudden the results of having no plan have caught up with
America. First and foremost we have to fully fund heat with low
income people in the east to pay for high fuel bills. We need an
active exploration incentive in America. We need to explore at
home. I want to open up a small part of Alaska. When that field is
online it will produce one million barrels a day. Today we import
one million barrels from Saddam Hussein. I would rather have it come
from our own country as opposed to Saddam Hussein. I want to develop
the coal resources in America. Have clean coal technologies. We
better start exploring it or otherwise we'll be in deep trouble in
the future because of our dependency upon foreign sources of crude.
If somebody is watching tonight and listening to what the two of you
just said, is it fair to say the differences between Governor Bush
and Vice President Gore are like this. You're for doing something on
the consumption end and you for the production end.
I'm for doing something both on the supply side and production side
and on the consumption side. Let me say I found one thing in
Governor Bush's answer that we certainly agree on, and that's the low
income heating assistance program. I commend you for supporting
that. I worked to get $400 million just a couple of weeks ago. And
to establish a permanent home heating oil reserve here in the
northeast. As for the proposals that I've worked for for renewables
and conservation and new technologies for the last few years in the
Congress, we've faced opposition to them. They've only approved
about 10% of the agenda I've helped to send up there. We need to get
serious about this energy crisis, both in the Congress and in the
White House, and if you entrust me with the presidency I will tackle
this problem and focus on new technologies that will make us less
dependent on big oil or foreign oil.
How would you draw the difference?
He should have been tackling it for the last seven years. The
difference is we need to explore at home. And the vice president
doesn't believe in exploration, for example, in Alaska. There's a
lot of shut-in gas we need to be moving out of Alaska by pipeline.
There's an interesting issue in the northwest as well. Do we remove
dams that produce hydroelectric energy? I'm against taking out
dams. We need to keep that in line. I was in coal country in West
Virginia. I know we can do a better job of clean coal technologies.
I'm going to ask the Congress for $2 billion to make sure we have the
cleanest coal technologies in the world. In the short-term we need
to get after it here in America. We need to explore our resources
and we need to develop our reservoirs of domestic production. We
also need to have a hemispheric energy policy where Canada, Mexico
and the United States come together. The newly elected president in
Mexico, I talked to him about how best to expedite the natural gas in
Mexico and transport it to the United States so we become less
dependent on foreign sources of crude oil. It's a major problem
facing America. The administration did not deal with it. It's time
for a new administration to deal with the energy problem.
I found a couple of other things we agree upon. I strongly support
new investments in clean coal technology. And also domestic
exploration yet, but not in the environmental treasures of our
country. We don't have to do that. That's the wrong choice. I know
oil companies have been itching to do that.
It's the right thing for the consumers. Less dependency upon
foreign surplus is better for consumers. We can do so in an
environmentally friendly way.
New question, new subject. Governor Bush. If elected president,
would you try to overturn the FDA's approval last week of the
abortion pill RU-486?
I don't think a president can do that. I was disappointed in the
ruling because I think abortions ought to be more rare in America and
I'm worried that pill will create more abortion and cause more people
to have abortions. This is a very important topic and it's a very
sensitive topic, because a lot of good people disagree on the issue.
I think what the next president ought to do is promote a culture of
life in America. Life of the elderly and life of those women all
across the country. Life of the unborn. As a matter of fact, I
think a noble goal for this country that any child, born or unborn,
need to be protected by law and welcomed to life. I know we need to
change a lot of minds before we get there in America. We can find
common ground on issues of parental consent or notification. I know
we need to ban partial birth abortions. This is a place where my
opponent and I have strong disagreement. I believe banning partial
birth abortions would be the first step to reducing the number of
abortions in America. It is an issue that will require a new
attitude. We've been battling over abortion for a long period of
time. Surely this nation can come together to promote the value of
life. Fight off these laws that will encourage doctors to -- to
allow doctors to take the lives of our seniors. Surely we can work
together to create a cultural life so some of these youngsters who
feel like they can take a neighbor's life with a gun will understand
that that's not the way America is meant to be. Surely we can find
common ground to reduce the number of abortions in America. As to
the drug itself, I mentioned I was disappointed. I hope the FDA took
its time to make sure that American women will be safe who use this
Vice President Gore?
The FDA took 12 years and I support that decision. They determined
it was medically safe for the women who use that drug. This is
indeed a very important issue. First of all on the issue of partial
birth or so-called late term abortion, I would sign a law banning
that procedure provided that doctors have the ability to save a
woman's life or to act if her health is severely at risk. That's not
the main issue. The main issue is whether or not the Roe versus Wade
decision will be overturned. I support a woman's right to choose.
My opponent does not. It's important because the next president will
appoint three and maybe four justices of the Supreme Court. Governor
Bush has said he will appoint chief justices who are known for being
the most vigorous opponents of a woman's right to choose. He trusts
the government to order a woman to do what it thinks she ought to
do. I trust women to make the decisions that affect your lives,
their destinies and their bodies. And I think a woman's right to
choose out to be protected and defended.
We'll go to the Supreme Court question in a moment, but make sure I
understand your position on RU-486. If you're elected president you
won't support legislation to overturn this?
I don't think a president can unilaterally overturn it. I think
once a decision has been made, it's been made unless it's proven to
be unsafe to women.
The question you asked, if I heard you correctly, was would he
support legislation to overturn it. And if I heard the statement day
before yesterday, you said you would order -- he said he would order
his FDA Appointee to review the decision. That sounds to me a little
bit different. I just think that we ought to support the decision.
I said I would make sure that women would be safe who used the drug.
On the Supreme Court question, should a voter assume you're
I am pro-life.
Should a voter assume that any appointments you make to the court
should be pro-life?
I have no litmus test on that issue. I'll put competent judges on
the bench. People who will interpret the Constitution and not use
the bench for writing social policy. I believe that the judges ought
not to take the place of the legislative branch of government. That
they're appointed for life and that they ought to look at the
Constitution as sacred. They shouldn't misuse their bench. I
believe in strict constructionists. I've named four in the State of
Texas and ask the people to check out their qualifications, their
deliberations. They're good solid men and women who have made good
sound judgments on behalf of the people of Texas.
What kind of appointment should they expect from you?
We reach a similar language to each an opposite outcome. I know
that there are ways to assess how a potential justice interprets the
Constitution. And in my view, the Constitution ought to be
interpreted as a document that grows with our country and our
history. And I believe, for example, that there is a right of
privacy in the Fourth Amendment, and when the phrase a strict
constructionist is used and when the names of Thomas are used as
benchmarks for who would be appointed, those are code words and
nobody should mistake this for saying the governor would appoint
people who would overturn Roe versus Wade. I would appoint people
that have a philosophy that would uphold Roe versus Wade.
Is the vice president right?
It sounds like he's not very right tonight. I just told you the
criteria on which I'll appoint judges. I have a record of appointing
judges in the State of Texas. A governor gets to name supreme court
judges. He reads all kinds of things into my tax plans and into my
Medicare plan. I want the views out there to listen to what I have
to say about it.
Reverse the question. What code phrases should we read about what
you said about what kind of people you would appoint?
It would be likely that they would uphold Roe versus Wade. If you
look at the history of a lower court judge's rulings, you can get a
pretty good idea of how they'll interpret questions. A lot of
questions are first impression and these questions that have been
seen many times come up in a new context and so -- but, you know,
this is a very important issue. Because a lot of young women in this
country take this right for granted and it could be lost. It is on
the ballot in this election, make no mistake about it.
I'll tell you what kind of judges. He'll put liberal activists
judges to subvert the legislature, that's what he'll do.
Vice President Gore, if President Milosevic refuses to leave office,
what action, if any, should the United States take to get him out of
Milosevic has lost the election. His opponent has won the
election. It's overwhelming. Milosevic's government refuses to
release the vote count. There's now a general strike going on.
They're demonstrating. I think we should support the people of
Serbia and Yugoslavia, as they call the Serbia plus, and put pressure
in every way possible to recognize the lawful outcome of the
election. The people of Serbia have acted very bravely in kicking
this guy out of office. Now he is trying to not release the votes
and then go straight to a so-called runoff election without even
announcing the results of the first vote. Now, we've made it clear
along with our allies that when Milosevic leaves, then Serbia will be
able to have a more normal relationship with the rest of the world.
That is a very strong incentive that we've given them to do the right
thing. Bear in mind also, Milosevic has been indicted as a war
criminal and he should be held accountable for his actions. Now, we
have to take measured steps because the sentiment within Serbia for
understandable reasons against the United States because their
nationalism, even if they don't like Milosevic, they still have some
feelings lingering from the NATO action there. So we have to be
intelligent in the way we go about it. But make no mistake about it,
we should do everything we can to see that the will of the Serbian
people expressed in this extraordinary election is done. And I hope
that he'll be out of office very shortly.
Governor Bush, one minute.
I'm pleased with the results of the election. It's time for the man
to go. It means that the United States must have a strong diplomatic
hand with our friends in NATO. That's why it's important to make
sure our alliances are as strong as they possibly can be to keep the
pressure on Mr. Milosevic. But this will be an interesting moment
for the Russians to step up and lead as well. A wonderful time for
the Russians to step into the Balkins and convince Mr. Milosevic that
it's in his best interest and his country's best interest. We would
like to see the Russians use that sway to encourage democracy to take
hold. It's an encouraging election. It's time for the man to
What if he doesn't leave? What if all the diplomatic efforts, all
the pressure and he still doesn't go? Is this the kind of thing that
you as president would considered the use of U.S. military force to
get him gone?
In this particular situation, no. Bear in mind that we have a lot
of sanctions in force against Serbia right now. And the people of
Serbia know that they can escape all those sanctions if this guy is
turned out of power. Now, I understand what the governor has said
about asking the Russians to be involved and under some circumstances
that might be a good idea. But being as they have not yet been
willing to recognize the lawful winner of the election, I'm not sure
it's right for us to invite the president of Russia to mediate this
-- this dispute there because we might not like the results that come
out of that. They currently favor going forward with a runoff
election. I think that's the wrong thing. I think the governor's
instinct is not necessarily bad because we have worked with the
Russians in a constructive way in Kosovo, for example, to end the
conflict there. But I think we need to be very careful in the
present situation before we invite the Russians to play the lead role
We wouldn't use the Russians if they didn't agree with our answer,
Mr. Vice President. I wouldn't use force.
It's not in our national interest to use force. I would use pressure
and diplomacy. There is a difference what the president did in
Kosovo and this. It's up to the people in this region to take
control of their country.
New question. How would you go about as president deciding when it
was in the national interest to use U.S. force generally?
It's in our vital national interest, and that means whether a
territory is threatened or people could be harmed, whether or not the
alliances are -- our defense alliances are threatened, whether or not
the friends in the Middle East are threatened. That would be a time
to seriously consider the use of force. Secondly, whether or not the
mission was clear. Whether or not it was clear understanding as to
what the mission would be. Thirdly, whether or not we were prepared
and trained to win, whether or not our forces were of high morale and
high standing and well-equipped. And finally, whether or not there
was an exit strategy. I would take the use of force very seriously.
I would be guarded in my approach. I don't think we can be all
things to all people in the world. I think we've got to be very
careful when we commit our troops. The vice president and I have a
disagreement about the use of troops. He believes in nation
building. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation
builders. I believe the role of the military is to fight and win war
and therefore prevent war from happening in the first place. So I
would take my responsibility seriously. And it starts with making
sure we rebuild our military power. Morale in today's military is
too low. We're having trouble meeting recruiting goals. We met the
goals this year but in the previous years we have not met recruiting
goals. Some of our troops are not well-equipped. I believe we're
overextended in too many places. And therefore I want to rebuild the
military power. It starts with a billion dollar pay raise for the
men and women who wear the uniform. It's to make sure our troops are
well-housed and well-equipped. Bonus plans to keep some of our
high-skilled folks in the services and a commander in chief that sets
the mission to fight and win war and prevent war from happening in
the first place.
Vice President Gore, one minute.
I want to make it clear, our military is the strongest, best
trained, best equipped, best led fighting force in the world and in
the history of the world. Nobody should have any doubt about that,
least of all our adversaries or potential adversaries. If you
entrust me with the presidency, I will do whatever is necessary in
order to make sure our forces stay the strongest in the world. In
fact, in my ten-year budget proposal I've set aside more than twice
as much for this purpose as Governor Bush has in his proposal. Now,
I think we should be reluctant to get involved in someplace in a
foreign country. But if our national security is at stake, if we
have allies, if we've tried every other course, if we're sure
military action will succeed, and if the costs are proportionate to
the benefits, we should get involved. Just because we don't want to
get involved everywhere doesn't mean we should back off anywhere it
comes up. I disagree with the proposal that maybe only when oil
supplies are at stake that our national security is at risk. I think
that there are situations like in Bosnia or Kosovo where there's a
I agree our military is the strongest in the world today, but will
it be that way in the future? I see moms and dads whose son or
daughter may wear the uniform and they tell me about how discouraged
their son or daughter may be. A recent poll was taken among 1,000
enlisted personnel, as well as officers, over half of whom will leave
the service when their time of enlistment is up. The captains are
leaving the service. There is a problem. And it's to require the
new commander in chief to rebuild the military power. I was honored
to be flanked by Colin Powell and Norman Schwartzkopf recently. If
we don't have a clear vision of the military, if we don't stop
extending our troops all around the world and nation building
missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the
road, and I'm going to prevent that. I'm going to rebuild our
military power. It's one of the major priorities of my
Vice President Gore, how should the voters go about deciding which
one of you is better suited to make the kinds of decisions, whether
it's Milosevic or whatever, in the military and foreign policy area?
They should look at our proposals and look at us as people and make
up their own minds. When I was a young man, I volunteered for the
Army. I served my country in Vietnam. My father was a senator who
strongly opposed the Vietnam War. I went to college in this great
city and most of my peers felt against the war as I did. But I went
anyway because I knew if I didn't, somebody else in the small town of
Carthage, Tennessee, would have to go in my place. I served for
eight years in the House of Representatives and I served on the
Intelligence Committee, specialized in looking at arms control. I
served for eight years in the United States Senate and served on the
Armed Services Committee. For the last eight years I've served on
the National Security Council and when the conflict came up in Bosnia
I saw a genocide in the heart of Europe with the most violent war in
Europe since World War II. That's where World War I started. My
uncle was a victim of poisonous gas there. Millions of Americans saw
the results of that conflict. We have to be willing to make good,
sound judgments. Incidentally, I know the value of making sure our
troops have the latest technology. The governor has proposed
skipping the next generation of weapons. I think that's a big
mistake because I think we have to stay at the cutting edge.
Governor, how would you advise the voters to make the decision on
I think you have to look at how one has handled responsibility in
office. Whether or not it's -- the same in domestic policy as well.
Do you have the capacity to convince people to follow? Whether one
makes decisions based on sound principles or whether or not you rely
upon polls or focus groups on how to decide what the course of action
is. We have too much polling and focus groups going on today. We
need decisions made on sound principles. I've been the governor of a
big state. I think one of the hallmarks of my relationship in
Austin, Texas, is that I've had the capacity to work with both
Republicans and Democrats. I think that's an important part of
leadership. I think what it means to build consensus. I've shown I
know how to do so. Tonight in the audience there's one elected state
senator, a Democrat, a former state-wide officer who is a Democrat.
A lot of Democrats who are here in the debate to -- because they want
to show their support. That shows I know how to lead. And so the
fundamental answer to your question, who can lead and who's shown the
ability to get things done?
If I could say one thing.
One of the key points in foreign policy and national security policy
is the need to establish the old-fashioned principle that politics
ought to stop at the water's edge. I worked with former President
Reagan. When I was in the United States Senate I worked with former
President Bush, your father. I was one of only a few Democrats in
the Senate to support the Persian Gulf War. I think bipartisanship
is a national asset. We need to find a way to establish it.
Do you have a problem with that?
Why haven't they done it in seven years?
Should the voters of this election, Vice President Gore, see this in
the domestic area as a major choice between competing political
Absolutely. This is a very important moment in the history of our
country. Look, we've got the biggest surpluses in all of American
history. The key question that has to be answered in this election
is will we use that prosperity wisely in a way that benefits all our
people and doesn't go just to the few. Almost half of all the tax
cut benefits, as I said under Governor Bush's plan, go to the
wealthiest 1%. We have to make the right and responsible choices. I
think we have to invest in education, protecting the environment,
health care, a prescription drug benefit that goes to all seniors,
not just to the poor, under Medicare, not relying on HMO's and
insurance companies. I think that we have to help parents and
strengthen families by dealing with the kind of inappropriate
entertainment material that families are just heart sick that their
children are exposed to. I think we've got to have welfare reform
taken to the next stage. I think that we have got to balance the
budget every single year, pay down the national debt and, in fact,
under my proposeal the national debt will be completely eliminated by
the year 2012. I think we need to put Medicare and Social Security
in a lock box. The governor will not put Medicare in a lock box. I
don't think it should be used as a piggy bank for other programs. I
think it needs to be moved out of the budget and protected. I'll
veto anything that takes money out of Social Security or Medicare for
anything other than Social Security or Medicare. Now, the priorities
are just very different. I'll give you a couple examples. For every
new dollar that I propose for spending on health care, Governor Bush
spends $3 for a tax cut for the wealthiest 1%. Now, for every dollar
that I propose to spend on education he spends $5 on a tax cut for
the wealthiest 1%. Those are very clear differences.
Governor, one minute.
The man is practicing fuzzy math again. There's differences. Under
Vice President Gore's plan, he will grow the federal government in
the largest increase since Lyndon Johnson in 1965. We're talking
about a massive government, folks. We're talking about adding to or
increasing 200 programs, 20,000 new bureaucrats. Imagine how many
IRS agents it is going to take to be able to figure out his targeted
tax cut for the middle class that excludes 50 million Americans.
There is a huge difference in this campaign. He says he's going to
give you tax cuts. 50 million of you won't receive it. He said in
his speech he wants to make sure the right people get tax relief.
That's not the role of a president to decide right and wrong.
Everybody who pays taxes ought to get tax relief. After my tax plan
is in place, the poorest of Americans, six million families, won't
pay any tax at all. It's a huge difference. A difference between
big exploding federal government that wants to think on your behalf
and a plan that meets priorities and liberates working people to be
able to make decisions on your own.
You haven't heard the governor deny these numbers. He's called them
phony and fuzzy. The fact remains almost 30% of his proposed tax cut
goes to -- only to Americans that make more than $1 million per
year. More money goes to the -- can I have a rebuttal here?
I want to see if he buys that.
Let me tell you what the facts are. After my plan, the wealthiest
of Americans pay more taxes on the percentage of the whole than they
do today. Secondly, if you're a family of four making $50,000 in
Massachusetts, you get a 50% tax cut. Let me give you one example.
A family in Allentown, Pennsylvania, I campaigned with them the other
day. They make $51,000 combined income, pay $3500 in taxes. Under
my plan they get $1800 of tax relief. Under Vice President Gore's
plan they get $145 of tax relief. You tell me who stands on the side
of the fence. You ask whose plan makes more sense. There is a
difference of opinion. He would rather spend the $1800 and I would
rather the family spend that money.
I'm not going to go to calling names on his facts. I'll tell you
what the real facts are. The analysis he's talking about leaves out
more than half of the tax cuts that I have proposed. And if you just
add the numbers up. He still hasn't denied it. He spends more money
on a tax cut for the wealthiest 1% than all his new proposals for all
his other things combined. Those are the wrong priorities. For the
wealthiest 1%. As I said, almost 30% of it goes to Americans that
make more than $1 million per year. Every middle class family is
eligible for a tax cut under my proposal. Let me give you examples.
I believe college tuition up to $10,000 per year ought to be tax
deductible so middle class families can choose to send their kids to
college. I believe all senior citizens should be able to choose
their own doctors and get prescription drugs from their pharmacist
with Medicare paying half the bill. Parents need more public and
charter school choice to send their kids to a safe school. We need
to make education the number one priority in our country and treat
teachers like the professionals that they are.
Let me talk about tax cuts one more time. It excludes 50 million
The marriage penalty. If you itemize your tax return, you get no
marriage penalty relief. He picks and chooses. He decides who the
right people are. It's a fundamental difference of opinion. We'll
spend $25 trillion -- we'll collect $25 trillion in revenue in the
next 10 years and spend $21 trillion. We need to send 5% back to you
that pay the bills. I want to say something. This man has been
disparaging my planning with all this fuzzy math. If you're a single
mother making $22,000 a year and you have two children, under this
tax code for every additional dollar you make you pay a higher
marginal rate, and that is not right. My plan drops the rate from
15% to 10% and increases the child credit from $500 to $1,000 to make
the code more fair for everybody. Not just a few. Not just a
handful. Everybody who pays taxes ought to get some relief.
Having cleared that up, we're going to a new question. Education.
Governor Bush. Both of you have promised dramatically to change --
to change dramatically public education in this country. Of the
public money spent on education, only 6% of that is public money. Is
it possible to change it?
We can make a huge difference by saying if you receive federal money
we expect you to show results. Let me give you a story about public
education, if I might. It's about an academy in Houston, Texas. A
charter school run by some people from Teach For America. I'm going
to do something good for my country. I want to teach. A guy named
Michael runs the school. It is a school full of at-risk children.
It's unfortunately how we label certain children. Basically it means
they can't learn. It's one of the best schools in Houston. Here are
the key ingredients. High expectations. Michael says don't put the
rules on us but hold us accountable for every grade. That's what we
do. As a result, these Hispanic youngsters are some of the best
learners in Houston, Texas. That's my vision for all around
America. Many of the public schools are meeting the call.
Unfortunately, a lot of schools are trapping children in schools that
won't teach and won't change. Here is the role of the federal
government. One is to change Head Start to a reading program. If
you want to access reading money, you can do so. The goal is for
every single child to learn to read. K through 2 diagnostic teaching
tools available. We have to consolidate the system to free the
schools and encourage innovators. Let them reach out to recruit
teach-for-the-children type teachers. Four, we're going to say if
you receive federal money, measure third, fourth, fifth, sixth,
seventh and eighth grade. If they are, there will be a bonus plans.
If not, instead of continuing to subsidize failure, the money will go
to -- the federal money will go to the parents for public school or
charter school or tutorial or Catholic school. What I care about is
children. And so does Michael. And you know what? It can happen in
America with the right kind of leadership.
We agree on a couple of things on education. I strongly support new
accountability, so does Governor Bush. I strongly support local
control, so does Governor Bush. I'm in favor of testing as a way of
measuring performance. Every school and school district have every
state test the children. I've also proposed a voluntary national
test in the fourth grade and eighth grade and a form of testing the
governor has not endorsed. I think all new teachers ought to be
tested, including in the subjects that they teach. We've got to
recruit 100,000 new teachers. And I have budgeted for that. We've
got to reduce the class size so that the student who walks in has
more one-on-one time with the teacher. We ought to have universal
pre-school and make college tuition tax deductible up to $10,000 a
year. I would like to tell you a quick story. I got a letter today
as I left Florida. I'm here with a group of 13 people around the
country who helped me prepare. We had a great time. We ate lunch at
a restaurant two days ago. The guy that served us lunch gave me a
letter today. His name is Randy Ellis. He has a 15-year-old
daughter. Her science class was supposed to be for 24 students.
She's the 36th student in the classroom. They can't squeeze another
desk in for her so she has to stand during class. I want the federal
government, consistent with local control and new accountability, to
make improvement of our schools the number one priority so she will
have a desk and can sit down in a classroom where she can learn.
All right. Having heard the two of you, what is the difference?
What is the choice between the two of you on education?
There is no new accountability measures in Vice President Gore's
plan. He says he's for voluntary testing. You can't have voluntary
testing. You must have mandatory testing. If you receive money you
must show us whether or not children are learning to read and write
and add and subtract. That's the difference. You may claim you've
got mandatory testing but you don't, Mr. Vice President. That's a
huge difference. Testing is the cornerstone of reform. Republicans
and Democrats came together and said what can we do to make our
public education the best in the country? The cornerstone is to have
strong accountability in return for money and in return for
flexibility. We're going to ask you to show us whether or not -- we
ask you to post the results on the Internet. We encourage parents to
take a look at the comparative results of schools. We have a strong
charter school movement that I signed the legislation to get started
in the State of Texas. I believe if we find poor children trapped in
schools that won't teach, we need to help the parents. We need to
expand savings accounts. Something that my vice presidential running
mate supports. He won't support freeing local districts from the
strings of federal money.
First of all, I do have mandatory testing. I think the governor may
not have heard what I said clearly. The voluntary national test is
in addition to the mandatory testing that we require of states. All
schools, all school districts, students themselves, and required
teacher testing, which goes a step farther than Governor Bush has
been willing to go. Here are a couple of differences, though, Jim.
Governor Bush is in favor of vouchers which take taxpayer money away
from public schools and give them to private schools that are not
accountable for how the money is used and don't have to take all
applicants. Private schools play a great role in our society. All
of our children have gone to both public schools and private
schools. But I don't think private schools should have a right to
take taxpayer money away from public schools at a time when Ms. Ellis
is standing in that classroom. I went to a school in Dade County,
Florida where the facilities are so overcrowded the children have to
eat lunch in shift with the first shift starting at 9:30 in the
morning. Look, this is a funding crisis all around the country.
There are fewer parents of school-age children as a percentage of the
voting population and there is the largest generation of students
ever. We're in an information age when learning is more important
than ever. 90% of our kids go to public schools. We have to make it
the number one priority. Modernize schools, reduce class size,
recruit new teachers, give every child a chance to learn with
one-on-one time in a quality -- high-quality, safe school. If it's a
failing school, shut it down and reopen it under a new principal with
a turnaround team of specialists the way governor Jim Hunt does in
North Carolina. The governor, if it's a failing school, would leave
the children in that failing school for three years and then give a
little bit of money to the parents, a down payment on a down payment
for private school tuition and pretend that would be enough for them
to go out and to go a private school. It's an illusion.
Wait a minute, Governor.
Okay. Most of this is at the state level. I'm going to make the
state do this and make the state do that. All I'm saying is if you
spend money, show us results and test every year, which you do not
do, Mr. Vice President. You don't test every year. You can say you
do to the cameras and you don't, unless you've changed your plan.
I didn't say that.
You need to test every year. That's why you determine if children
are progressing to excellence. Secondly, one of the things that we
have to be careful about in politics is throwing money at a system
that has not yet been reformed. More money is needed and I spend
more money, but step one is to make sure we reform the system to have
the system in place that leaves no child behind. Stop this business
about asking gosh, how old are you? If you're 10 we'll put you here,
12 put you here. Start asking the question, what do you know? If
you don't know what you're supposed to know, we'll make sure you do
early before it's too late.
New question. We've been talking about a lot of specific issues.
It's often said that in the final analysis about 90% of being the
President of the United States is dealing with the unexpected, not
with issues that came up in the campaign. Vice President Gore, can
you point to a decision, an action you have taken, that illustrates
your ability to handle the crisis under fire?
When the action in Kosovo was dragging on and we were searching for
a solution to the problem, our country had defeated the adversary on
the battlefield without a single American life being lost in combat.
But the dictator Milosevic was hanging on. I invited the former
prime minister of Russia to my house and took a risk in asking him to
get personally involved, along with the head of Finland, to go to
Belgrade and to take a set of proposals from the United States that
would constitute basically a surrender by Serbia. But it was a
calculated risk that paid off. Now, I could probably give you some
other examples of decisions over the last 24 years. I have been in
public service for 24 years, Jim. And throughout all that time the
people I have fought for have been the middle class families, and I
have been willing to stand up to powerful interests like the big
insurance companies, the drug companies, the HMO's, the oil
companies. They have good people and they play constructive roles
sometimes, but sometimes they get too much power. I cast my lot with
the people even when it means that you have to stand up to some
powerful interests who are trying to turn the -- the policies and the
laws to their advantage. You can see it in this campaign. The big
drug companies support Governor Bush's prescription drug proposal.
They oppose mine because they don't want to get Medicare involved
because they're afraid Medicare will negotiate lower prices at all to
seniors who now pay the highest prices of all.
I've been standing up to Hollywood, big trial lawyers. Was the
question about emergencies?
It was about -- okay.
You know, as governor, one of the things you have to deal with is
catastrophe. I can remember the fires that swept Parker County,
Texas, the floods that swept our state. I have to pay the
administration a compliment, FEMA has done a good job of working with
governors during times of crisis. But that's the time when you're
tested not only -- it's the time to test your metal and heart when
you see people whose lives have been turned upside down. It broke my
heart to go to the flood scene in Del Rio where families got
completely uprooted. I got aid as quickly as possible with state and
federal help, and to put my arms around a man and his family and cry
with them. That's what governors do. They are often on the front
line of catastrophic situations.
New question. There can be all kinds of crises, Governor. There
could be a crisis in the financial area, the stock market could take
a tumble, there could be a failure of a major financial institution.
What is your general attitude toward government intervention in such
Well, it depends, obviously. But what I would do first and
foremost, I would get in touch with Allen Greenspan to find out all
the facts and circumstances. I would have my Secretary of the
Treasury be in touch with the financial centers not only here but at
home. I would make sure that key members of Congress were called in
to discuss the gravity of the situation. And I would come up with a
game plan to deal with it. That's what governors end up doing. We
end up being problem solvers. We come up with practical common sense
solutions for problems that we're confronted with. In this case, in
the case of a financial crisis, I would gather all the facts before I
made the decision as to what the government ought or ought not to
I want to compliment the governor on his response to those fires and
floods in Texas. I was down there when the fires broke out. FEMA
has been a major flagship project of our reinventing government
efforts. It works extremely well now. On the international
financial crisis that come up, the former Secretary of Treasury is
here. He's a close advisor. I have had a chance to work with him
and Allen Greenspan and others on the collapse of the Mexican peso.
When the Asian financial crisis was on, that could affect our
economy. The Euro's value has been dropping, but seems to be under
control. But it started for me in the last eight years when I had
the honor of casting the tie-breaking vote to end the old economic
plan here at home and put into place a new economic plan that has
helped us to make some progress, 22 million new jobs, the greatest
prosperity ever. It's not good enough. My attitude is you ain't
seen nothing yet. We need to do more and better.
So, Governor, would you agree there is no basic difference here on
intervening -- federal government intervening in what might be seen
in others to be a private financial crisis?
There's no difference on that. I think the economy has meant more
for the Gore and Clinton folks than the Gore and Clinton folks have
meant for the economy. I think most of the growth that has taken
place is because of ingenuity. In response to the question, no.
Can I comment on that?
I think the American people deserve credit for the great economy
they have. I agree with that. They were working pretty hard eight
years ago. The difference is we've got a new policy. And instead of
concentrating on tax cuts mostly for the wealthy, we want -- I want
tax cuts for the middle class family and I want to continue the
prosperity and make sure it benefits not just the few but all
families. We have gone from the biggest deficits to the biggest
surpluses. We have a tripling in the stock market. We have the
lowest African-American and Latin American unemployment rates in
history and 22 million new jobs. It's not good enough. Too many
people have been left behind. We have got to do much more. The key
is job training, education, investments in health care, environment,
retirement security and we have got to preserve Social Security. I'm
opposed to diverting one out of every six dollars out of the trust
fund into the stock market. I want new incentives for savings and
investment for the young couples who are working hard so they can
save and invest on their own on top of Social Security, not at the
expense of Social Security as the governor proposes.
Two points. One, a lot of folks are still waiting for that 1992
middle class tax cut. I remember the vice president saying, "Just
give us a chance to get up there, we'll see that you get tax cuts."
It didn't happen. Now he's saying that again. They've had their
chance to deliver a tax cut to you. Secondly, the surest way to bust
this economy is to increase the role and size of the federal budget.
It's been projected that they could bust the budget by $900 billion.
He'll either have to raise your taxes or go into the Social Security
surplus for $900 billion. This is a plan that will increase the
bureaucracy by 20,000 people. His targeted tax cut is so detailed,
so much fine print that it will require numerous IRS agents. We need
somebody to simplify the code to continue prosperity, to share some
of the surplus with the people that pay the bills, especially those
at the bottom end of the economic ladder.
He's quoting a partisan press release by the Republicans on the
Senate budget committee that's not worth the taxpayer-paid paper that
it's printed on. Now, as for 20,000 new bureaucrats, as you call
them, you know, the size of the federal government will go down in a
Gore administration. In the reinventing government program you look
at the numbers. It is 300,000 people smaller today than it was eight
years ago. Now, the fact is you're going to have a hard time
convincing folks that we were a whole lot better off eight years ago
than we are today. That's not the question. The question is, will
we be better off four years from now than we are today? And as for
the surest way to threaten our prosperity, having a $1.9 trillion tax
cut, almost half of which goes to the wealthy and a $1 trillion
Social Security privatization propose all is the surest way to put
our budget into --
I can't let the man continue with fuzzy math. It will go to
everybody who pays taxes. I'm not going to be the kind of president
that says you get tax relief and you don't. What is fair is
everybody who pays taxes ought to get relief.
I thought we cleared this up a while ago. Both of you have Social
Security reform plans, so we could spend the rest of the evening and
two or three other evenings talking about them in detail. We won't
do that. But --
Many experts, including Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan, Vice
President Gore, say it will be impossible for either of you,
essentially, to keep the system viable on its own during the coming
baby boomer retirement onslaught without either reducing benefits or
increasing taxes. You disagree?
I disagree. If we can keep our prosperity going, if we can continue
balancing the budget and paying down the debt, the strong economy
keeps generating surpluses. Here is my plan. I will keep Social
Security in a lock box and that pays down the national debt and the
interest savings I would put right back into Social Security. That
extends the life of Social Security for 55 years. Now, I think that
it's very important to understand that cutting benefits under Social
Security means that people like Mrs. Skinner from Des Moines, Iowa,
who is here, would really have a much harder time because there are
millions of seniors who are living almost hand to mouth. You talk
about cutting benefits. I don't go along with it. I am opposed to
it. I'm also opposed to a plan that diverts 1 out of every $6 away
from the Social Security trust fund. Social Security is a trust fund
that pays the checks this year with the money that is paid into
Social Security this year. The governor wants to divert 1 out of
every $6 to the stock market, which means he would drain $1 trillion
out of the Social Security trust fund in this generation over the
next ten years, and Social Security under that approach would go
bankrupt within this generation. His leading advisor on this plan
actually said that would be okay, because then the Social Security
trust fund could start borrowing. It would borrow up to $3
trillion. Now, Social Security has never done that. And I don't
think it should do that. I think it should stay in a lock box and
I'll tell you this. I will veto anything that takes money out of
Social Security for privatization or anything else other than Social
I thought it was interesting he spent about a million-and-a-half on
my plan. He doesn't want you to know he's loading up IOU's for
future generations. He puts no revenues into the Social Security
system. All retirees are going to get the promises made. For those
of you who he wants to scare into the voting booth to vote for him.
A promise made will be a promise kept. You bet we want to allow
younger workers to take some of their own money. That's the
difference of opinion. The vice president thinks it's the
government's money. The payroll taxes are your money. You ought to
put it in safe investments so $1 trillion grows to be $3 trillion.
It's a part of the Social Security system. He claims it will be out
of Social Security. It's your money, a part of your retirement
benefits. It's a fundamental difference between what we believe. I
want you to have your own asset you can call your own. That you can
pass on from one generation to the next. I want to get a better rate
of return for your own money than the 2% that the current Social
Security trust gets today. Mr. Greenspan I thought missed an
opportunity to say there's a third way to get a better rate of return
on the Social Security monies coming into the trust. $2.3 trillion
of surplus that we can make sure to use that younger workers have a
Social Security plan in the future if we're smart and if we trust
workers and if we understand the power of the compounding rate of
Here is the difference. I give a new incentive for younger workers
to save their own money and invest their own money, but not at the
expense of Social Security. On top of Social Security. My plan is
Social Security plus. The governor's plan is Social Security minus.
Your future benefits would be cut by the amount diverted into the
stock market. If you make bad investments, that's too bad. Even
before then, the problem hits because the money contributed to Social
Security this year is an entitlement. That's how it works. The
money is used to pay benefits for seniors this year. If you cut the
amount going in 1 out of every $6, then you have to cut the value of
each check by 1 out of every $6 unless you come up with the money
from somewhere else. I would like to know from the governor -- I
know we're not supposed to ask each other questions -- but does that
trillion dollars come from the trust fund or does it come from the
rest of the budget?
No. There's enough money to pay seniors today in the current
affairs of Social Security. The trillion comes from the surplus.
Surplus is money -- more money than needed. Let me tell you what
your plan is. It's not Social Security plus, it's Social Security
plus huge debt. You leave future generations with tremendous IOU's.
It's time to have a leader that doesn't put off tomorrow what we
should do today. It's time to have somebody to step up and say look,
let's let younger workers take some of their own money and under
certain guidelines invest it in the private markets. The safest
federal investments yields 4%. That's twice the amount of rate of
return than the current Social Security trust. It's a fundamental
difference of opinion, folks. Younger workers hear my call to say
trust you. Seniors now understand that the promise made will be a
promise kept, but younger workers now understand we better have a
government that trusts them and that's exactly what I'm going to do.
Could I respond to that, Jim? This is a big issue. Could we do
another round on it?
We're almost out of time.
Just briefly. When FDR established Social Security, they didn't
call them IOU's, they called it the full faith and credit of the
United States. If you don't have trust in that, I do. If you take
it out of the surplus in the trust fund, that means the trust fund
goes bankrupt in this generation within 20 years.
This is a government that thinks a 2% rate of return on your money
is satisfactory. It's not. This is a government that says younger
workers can't possibly have their own assets. We need to think
differently about the issue. We need to make sure our seniors get
the promise made. If we don't trust younger workers to handle some
of their money with the Social Security surplus, it will be
impossible to bridge the gap without it. What Mr. Gore's plan will
do causing huge payroll taxes for major benefit reductions.
New question. Are there issues of character that distinguish you
from Vice President Gore?
The man loves his wife and I appreciate that a lot. And I love
mine. The man loves his family a lot, and I appreciate that, because
I love my family. I think the thing that discouraged me about the
vice president was uttering those famous words, "no controlling legal
authority." I felt there needed to be a better sense of
responsibility of what was going on in the White House. I believe
that -- I believe they've moved that sign, "The buck stops here" from
the Oval Office desk to "The buck stops here" at the Lincoln
bedroom. It's not good for the country and it's not right. We need
to have a new look about how we conduct ourselves in office. There's
a huge trust. I see it all the time when people come up to me and
say, I don't want you to let me down again. And we can do better
than the past administration has done. It's time for a fresh start.
It's time for a new look. It's time for a fresh start after a season
of cynicism. And so I don't know the man well, but I've been
disappointed about how he and his administration have conducted the
fundraising affairs. Going to a Buddhist temple and claiming it
wasn't a fundraiser isn't my view of responsibility.
Vice President Gore?
I think we ought to attack the country's problems, not each other.
I want to spend my time making this country better than it is, not
trying to make you out to be a bad person. You may want to focus on
scandal. I want to focus on results. As I said a couple of months
ago, I stand here as my own man and I want you to see me for who I
really am. Tipper and I have been married for 30 years. We became
grandparents a year-and-a-half ago. We've got four children. I have
devoted 24 years of my life to public service and I've said this
before and I'll say it again, if you entrust me with the presidency,
I may not be the most exciting politician, but I will work hard for
you every day. I will fight for middle class families and working
men and women and I will never let you down.
Governor, what are you saying when you mention the fundraising
scandals or the fundraising charges that involve Vice President
Gore? What are you saying the voters should take from that that's
relevant to this election?
They ought to factor in it.
In what way?
I think people need to be held responsible for the actions they take
in life. I think that -- well, I think that's part of the need for a
cultural change. We need to say we each need to be responsible for
what we do. People in the highest office of the land must be
responsible for decisions they make in life. And that's the way I've
conducted myself as Governor of Texas and that's the way I'll conduct
myself as President of the United States should I be fortunate enough
to earn your vote.
Are you saying all this is irrelevant?
I think the American people should take into account who we are as
individuals. What our positions are on the issues and proposals
are. I'm asking you to see me for who I really am. I'm offering you
my own vision, my own experience, my own proposals. And
incidentally, one of them is this. This current campaign financing
system has not reflected credit on anybody in either party. And
that's one of the reasons I've said before, and I'll pledge here
tonight, if I'm president, the very first bill that Joe Lieberman and
I will send to the United States Congress is the McCain-Feingold
campaign finance reform bill. The reason it's that important is that
all of the other issues, whether prescription drugs for all seniors
that are opposed by the drug companies or the patient's bill of
rights to take the decisions away from the HMO's and give them to the
doctors and nurses, as opposed by the HMO's and insurance companies,
all these other proposals are going to be a lot easier to get passed
for the American people if we limit the influence of special interest
money and give democracy back to the American people. I wish
Governor Bush would join me this evening in endorsing the
McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill.
You know, this man has no credibility on the issue. As a matter of
fact, I read in the "New York Times" he said he co-sponsored that
bill. But he wasn't in the Senate with Senator Feingold and so,
look, I'm going to -- what you need to know about me is I will uphold
the law, have an attorney general that enforces the law. The time
for campaign funding reform is after the election. This man has
outspent me and the special interests are outspending me. I am not
going to lay down my arms in the middle of a campaign for somebody
who has got no credibility on the issue.
Senator McCain -- hold on one second. Senator McCain said in
August, "It doesn't matter which one of you is President of the
United States, in January there will be blood on the floor of the
United States Senate," and he'll tie up the Senate until campaign
finance reform is passed that includes a ban on soft money. First of
all, would you support that effort by him, or would you sign a bill
that is finally passed that included?
I would support an effort to ban labor union and corporate soft
money as long as there was dues check-off. I believe there needs to
be instant disclosure on the Internet as to who has given to who. I
think we need to fully enforce the law. An attorney general that
says if a law is broken, we'll enforce it. Be strict and firm about
Look, Governor Bush, you have attacked my character and credibility
and I am not going to respond in kind. I think we ought to focus on
the problems and not attack each other. One of the serious problems,
hear me well, is that our system of government is being undermined by
too much influence coming from special interest money. We have to
get a handle on it. And like John McCain, I have learned from
experience, and it's not a new position for me. 24 years ago I
supported full public financing of all federal elections. And
anybody who thinks I'm just saying it, it will be the first bill I
send to the Congress. I want you to know I care passionately about
this and I will fight until it becomes law.
I want people to hear what he just said. He is for full public
financing of Congressional elections. I'm opposed to that. I don't
want the government financing federal elections.
We have to stop here and we want to go now to your closing
statements. Governor Bush is first. You have two minutes.
Thank you, Jim, thank the University of Massachusetts and Mr. Gore.
It has been a lively exchange. I want to empower people in their own
lives. I also want to go to Washington to get some positive things
done. It is going to require a new spirit. A spirit of
cooperation. It will require the ability of a Republican president
to reach out across the partisan divide and to say to Democrats,
let's come together to do what is right for America. It's been my
record as Governor of Texas, it will be how I conduct myself if I'm
fortunate enough to earn your vote as President of the United
States. I want to get something done on Medicare. Make sure
prescription drugs are available for all seniors. And I want seniors
to have additional choices when it comes to choosing their health
care plans. I want to finally get something done on Social
Security. I want to make sure the seniors have the promise made will
be a promise kept, but I want younger workers to be able handle some
of their own money in the private sector under certain guidelines to
get a better rate of return on your own money. I want to rebuild our
military to rebuild the peace. I want to have a strong hand when it
comes to the United States in world affairs. I don't want to try to
put our troops in all places at all times. I don't want to be the
world's policeman, I want to be the world's police maker by having a
military of high morale and well-equipped. I want anti-ballistic
missiles to protect ourselves and our allies, to protect us from a
rogue nation. I want to make sure the education system fulfills its
hope and promise. I've had a strong record of working with Democrats
and Republicans in Texas. I understand the limited role of the
federal government, but it could be a constructive role when it comes
to reform by insisting there be a strong accountability system. My
intentions are to earn your vote and earn your confidence. I'm
asking for your vote. I want you to be on my team. And for those of
you working, thanks from the bottom of my heart. For those of you
making up your mind, I would be honored to have your support.
Vice President Gore, two minutes.
I want to thank everybody who watched and listened tonight. This is
indeed a crucial time in American history. We're at a fork in the
road. We have this incredible prosperity, but a lot of people have
been left behind. And we have a very important decision to make.
Will we use the prosperity to enrich all of our families and not just
a few? One important way of looking at this is to ask who are you
going to fight for? Throughout my career in public service, I have
fought for the working men and women of this country, middle class
families. Why? Because you are the ones who have the hardest time
paying taxes, the hardest time making ends meet. You are the ones
who are making car payments and mortgage payments and doing right by
your kids. And a lot of times there are powerful forces that are
against you. Make no mistake about it, they do have undue influence
in Washington, D.C. and it makes a difference if you have a president
who will fight for you. I know one thing about the position of
president, it's the only position in our Constitution that is filled
by an individual who is given the responsibility to fight not just
for one state or one district or the well-connected or wealthy, but
to fight for all of the people, including especially those who most
need somebody who will stand up and take on whatever powerful forces
might stand in the way. There is a woman named Mrs. Skinner here
tonight from Iowa. I mentioned her earlier. She's 79 years old.
She has Social Security. I'm not going to cut her benefits or
support any proposal that would. She gets a small pension, but in
order to pay for her prescription drug benefits she has to go out
seven days a week several hours a day picking up cans. She came all
the way from Iowa in a Winnebago with her poodle to attend here
tonight. I'll fight for a prescription drug benefit for all seniors
and fight for the people of this country for a prosperity that
We will continue this dialogue next week on October 11th at Wake
Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The format will
be more informal, with the two candidates seated at a table with me.
The third will be October 17th at Washington University in St. Louis,
and that will follow a town-hall type format. October 5 there is a
debate between Joe Lieberman and Dick Cheney. It will be held at
Center College in Danville, Kentucky. Thank you, Governor Bush, Vice
President Gore. See you next week. For now from Boston, I'm Jim
Lehrer. Thank you, and good night.