SECOND PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE (of THREE) 2004
Saturday, October 9, 2004
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
SECOND PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE (of THREE) 2004
Friday 8 October 2004
Location: Field House- Washington University- St. Louis, Missouri
Subject: various (because of the format of this debate)
Moderator: Charles Gibson- of ABC News and ABC's Good Morning America
Format: so-called "Town Hall Meeting": 146 undecided voters make up the audience, each audience member submits 2 questions- one to each candidate- from which the moderator chooses the audience member who will address his or her question directly to the candidate the moderator also indicates: 2 minute response by the candidate to whom the question is directed; 90 second rebuttal by the other candidate; optional 1-minute "discussion extension" at the discretion of the moderator, generally divided into 30 seconds for each candidate, rebutting candidate speaking last. Debate to last no longer than 90 minutes all told.
Scoring for 'The Green Papers' by RICHARD E. BERG-ANDERSSON TheGreenPapers.com Staff
Explanation of 'The Green Papers' Debate Scoring System
Round 1-- Q. Senator Kerry, after talking with several co-workers and family and friends, I asked the ones who said they were not voting for you, "why?"- they said that you were too wishy-washy. Do you have a reply for them?
Senator Kerry answered: Yes, I certainly do... The President didn't find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so he's really turned his campaign into a weapon of mass deception and the result is that you've been bombarded with advertisements suggesting that I've changed a position on this or that or the other. Now, the three things they try to say I've changed position on are the PATRIOT Act: I haven't- I support it: I just don't like the way John Ashcroft has applied it and we're going to change a few things- the chairman of the Republican Party thinks we ought to change a few things. No Child Left Behind Act: I voted for it- I support it, I support the goals but the President has underfunded it by $28 billion. Right here in St. Louis, you've laid off 350 teachers. You're... about $100 million shy of what you ought to be under the No Child Left Behind Act to help your education system here. So I complain about that: I've argued that we should fully funded it. The President says I've changed my mind- I haven't changed my mind: I'm going to fully fund it. So these are the differences.
Now, the President has presided over an economy where we've lost 1.6 million jobs- first President in 72 years to lose jobs. I have a plan to put people back to work: that's not wishy- washy! I'm going to close the loopholes that actually encourage companies to go overseas- the President wants to keep them open: I think I'm right- I think he's wrong. I'm going to give you a tax cut: the President gave the top 1 % of income-earners in America... $89 billion last year, more than the 80 % of people who earn $100,000 or less all put together. I think that's wrong: that's not wishy-washy and that's what I'm fighting for- you!
President Bush rebutted: I can see why people at your workplace think he changes positions a lot because he does: he said he voted for the $87 billion and voted against it right before he voted for it- and that sends a confusing signal to people. He said he thought Saddam Hussein was a grave threat and now he said it was a mistake to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Now, I can see why people think that he changes position quite often because he does. You know, for a while he was a strong supporter of getting rid of Saddam Hussein: he saw the wisdom- until the Democratic Primary came along and Howard Dean, the anti-war candidate, began to gain on him- he changed positions. I don't see how you can lead this country in a time of war, in a time of uncertainty, if you change your mind because of politics.
He just brought up the tax cut. You remember we increased that child credit by $1,000, reduced the marriage penalty, created a 10 % tax bracket for the lower-income Americans- that's right at the middle class! He voted against it and yet he tells you he's for a middle-class tax cut... You've got to be consistent when you're the President- there's a lot of pressures and you've got to be firm and consistent.
Scoring- Round 1. Senator Kerry directly answered the question (though he was just a little bit too "cute" with that "weapon of mass deception" description of the Bush/Cheney campaign), firmly stating that he was not at all opposed to the principles behind either the PATRIOT Act or No Child Left Behind, merely to how they have since been implemented. President Bush didn't directly take on Kerry's positions on these issues, preferring to focus- instead- on the "$87 billion for/against vote" issue: the problem is that the President himself even confused it (Kerry is quoted as saying "I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it"-- the President reversed this [talk about your "confusing signals"!]); Bush defended his tax cut but didn't at all address any of the specifics Kerry had already brought up ("that's right at the middle class" does not well and fully answer Kerry's "more than the 80% of people who earn $100,000 or less all put together"). Kerry 10, Bush 9.
Round 2-- Q. Mr. President, yesterday in a statement you admitted that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, but justified the invasion by stating, I quote, "he retained the knowledge, the materials, the means and the intent to produce weapons of mass destruction and could have passed this knowledge to our terrorist enemies". Do you sincerely believe this to be a reasonable justification for invasion when this statement applies to so many other countries, including North Korea?
President Bush answers: Each situation is different... and, obviously, we hope that diplomacy works before you ever use force- the hardest decision a President makes is ever to use force. After 9/11, we had to look at the world differently; after 9/11 we had to recognize that, when we saw a threat, we must take it seriously before it comes to hurt us. In the old days, we'd see a threat and we could deal with it if we felt like it or not but 9/11 changed it all. I vowed to our countrymen that I would do everything I could to protect the American People- that's why we're bringing Al-Qa'eda to justice: 75 % of them have been brought to justice. That's why I said to Afghanistan: if you harbor a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorist- and the Taliban is no longer in power and Al-Qa'eda no longer has a place to plan.
And I saw a unique threat in Saddam Hussein- as did my opponent- because we thought he had weapons of mass destruction and the unique threat was that he could give weapons of mass destruction to an organization like Al-Qa'eda and the harm they inflicted on us with airplanes would be multiplied greatly by weapons of mass destruction- and that was the serious, serious threat. So I tried diplomacy- went to the United Nations- but, as we learned in the same report I quoted, Saddam Hussein was gaming the oil-for-food program to get rid of sanctions. He was trying to get rid of sanctions for a reason: he wanted to restart his weapons programs. We all thought there was weapons there... my opponent thought there was weapons there- that's why he called him a grave threat. I wasn't happy when we found out there wasn't weapons and we've got an intelligence group together to figure out why- but Saddam Hussein was a unique threat and the world is better off without him in power and my opponent's plans lead me to conclude that Saddam Hussein would still be in power and the world would be more dangerous.
Senator Kerry rebutted: I'm going to answer your question... The world is more dangerous today: the world is more dangerous today because the President didn't make the right judgments. Now, the President wishes that I had changed my mind- he wants you to believe that because he can't come here and tell you that he's created new jobs for America: he's lost jobs. He can't come here and tell you that he's created health care for Americans 'cause... we've got 5 million Americans who have lost their health care- 96,000 of them right here in Missouri. He can't come here and tell you that he's left no child behind because he didn't fund No Child Left Behind. So what does he do? He's trying to attack me- he wants you to believe that I can't be President and he's trying to make you believe it because he wants you to think I change my mind.
Well, let me tell you, straight up: I've never changed my mind about Iraq. I do believe Saddam Hussein was a threat- I always believed he was a threat: believed it in 1998 when Clinton was President- I wanted to give Clinton the power to use force if necessary. But I would have used that force wisely, I would have used that authority wisely- not rushed to war without a plan to win the peace: I would have brought our allies to our side, I would have fought to make certain our troops had everybody possible to help them win the mission. This President rushed to war, pushed our allies aside, and Iran now is more dangerous and so is North Korea, with nuclear weapons. He took his eye off the ball- off of Osama bin Laden.
President Bush responded: You remember the last debate? My opponent said that America must pass a global test before we used force to protect ourselves: that's the kind of mindset that says sanctions were working, that's the kind of mindset that said "let's keep it at the United Nations and hope things go well." Saddam Hussein was a threat because he could have given weapons of mass destruction to terrorist enemies- sanctions were not working, the United Nations was not effective at removing Saddam Hussein.
Senator Kerry further rebutted: The goal of the sanctions was not to remove Saddam Hussein- it was to remove the weapons of mass destruction and, Mr. President, just yesterday the Duelfer report told you and the whole world they worked: he didn't have weapons of mass destruction, Mr. President. That was the objective and, if we'd used smart diplomacy, we could have saved $200 billion and an invasion of Iraq- and, right now, Osama bin Laden might be in jail or dead: that's the war against terror!
Scoring-- Round 2: President Bush answered this question well enough to win this round had there not been a "discussion extension". The President directed his comments to the question at hand (though he never did address North Korea, preferring to justify the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath). Kerry might have won outright (for he did refer to North Korea, as well as Iran), except that he spent too much time following up on the subject of Round 1- explaining why he is described as wishy-washy in terms of domestic issues (all well and good but he didn't directly take on the President's defense of his Foreign Policy until the end of his rebuttal, though he gets points for bringing up how Iraq diverted from the search for Osama bin Laden, and he didn't at all address the President's opining that, if Kerry had been President, Saddam would still have been in power now). But then came the "discussion extension" (which President Bush more or less asked for): the President ended up his portion of this by stating emphatically that "sanctions were not working" but Senator Kerry thereafter came back with a fine retort that the sanctions actually had worked because Saddam, indeed- as things turned out, had no weapons of mass destruction and, further, harped on the fact that the real target of American military action should have been Osama bin Laden instead of Saddam Hussein. Kerry 10, Bush 9 (cumulative: Kerry 20- Bush 18).
Round 3-- Q. Senator Kerry, the U.S. is preparing a new Iraq government and will proceed to withdraw U.S. troops. Would you proceed with the same plans as President Bush?
Senator Kerry answered: I would not: I have laid out a different plan because the President's plan is not working- you see that every night on television. There's chaos in Iraq: King Abdullah of Jordan said just yesterday or the day before you can't hold elections in Iraq with the chaos that's going on today. Senator Richard Lugar, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said that the handling of the reconstruction aid in Iraq by this Administration has been "incompetent": those are the Republican chairman's words. Senator Hagel of Nebraska said that the handling of Iraq is "beyond pitiful, beyond embarrassing, it's in the zone of dangerous": those are the words of two Republicans- respected, both on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Now, I have to tell you, I would do something different: I would reach out to our allies in a way that this President hasn't- he pushed them away time and again, pushed them away at the U.N., pushed them away individually. Two weeks ago, there was a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, which is the political arm of NATO- they discussed the possibility of a small training unit or having a total takeover of the training in Iraq: did our Administration push for the total training of Iraq?- no. Were they silent?- yes. Was there an effort to bring all the allies together around that?- no, because they've always wanted this to be an American effort. You know, they even had the Defense Department issue a memorandum saying "don't bother applying for assistance or for being part of the reconstruction if you weren't part of our original coalition." Now, that's not a good way to build support and reduce the risk for our troops and make America safer. I'm going to get the training done for our troops, I'm going to get the training of Iraqis done faster and I'm going to get our allies back to the table.
President Bush rebutted: Two days ago, in the Oval Office, I met with the Finance Minister from Iraq: he came to see me and he talked about how optimistic he was and the country was about heading toward elections. Think about it: they're going from tyranny to elections! He talked about the reconstruction efforts that are beginning to take hold, he talked about the fact that Iraqis love to be free, he said he was optimistic when he came here: then he turned on the TV and listened to the political rhetoric and all of a sudden he was pessimistic. Now, this is guy a who, along with others, has taken great risk for Freedom and we need to stand with him.
My opponent says he has a plan- it sounds familiar, because it's called the Bush plan! We're going to train troops, and we are- we'll have 125,000 trained by the end of December: we're spending about $7 billion. He talks about a grand idea: "let's have a summit- we're going to solve the problem in Iraq by holding a summit". And what is he going to say to those people that show up to the summit?- join me in the wrong war at the wrong time at the wrong place? risk your troops in a war you've called a mistake?
Nobody is going to follow somebody who doesn't believe we can succeed and with somebody who says that war where we are is a mistake. I know how these people think, I meet with them all the time. I talk to Tony Blair all the time, I talk to Silvio Berlusconi- they're not going to follow an American President who says follow me into a mistake. Our plan is working- we're going to make elections and Iraq is going to be free, and America will be better off for it.
Senator Kerry responded: Ladies and gentlemen, the right war was Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan- that was the right place and the right time was Tora Bora, when we had him cornered in the mountains. Now, everyone in the world knows that there were no weapons of mass destruction- that was the reason Congress gave him the authority to use force, not as an excuse to get rid of the regime. Now we have to succeed: I've always said that- I have been consistent. Yes, we have to succeed and I have a better plan to help us do it.
President Bush further rebutted: First of all, we didn't find out he didn't have weapons until we got there and my opponent thought he had weapons and told everybody he thought he had weapons. And, secondly, it's a fundamental misunderstanding to say that the war on terror is only Osama bin Laden- the war on terror is to make sure that these terrorist organizations do not end up with weapons of mass destruction: that's what the war on terror is about. Of course, we're going to find Osama bin Laden: we've already 75 % of his people and we're on the hunt for him- but this is a global conflict that requires firm resolve.
Scoring-- Round 3: An interesting round. Senator Kerry addressed the question by explaining what he would do differently than President Bush (in the context of the Bush Administration seeming lack of response to the North Atlantic Council's proposals re: the future of Iraq in order to keep it "an American effort"): however, at the same time, Kerry did not at all indicate whether or not he would, sooner rather than later, withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq (a major focus of the question asked). President Bush's rebuttal was mediocre (for instance, his insistence that American allies would not follow a "President Kerry" simply because Kerry thinks the invasion of Iraq was a mistake was much along the same lines as his insistence- during the 30 September debate- that China would certainly leave multilateral talks if the U.S. talked to North Korea [the more President Bush says these kinds of things, the more disturbingly simplistic they seem!]) Kerry scored well in the ensuing "discussion extension" by defending himself against Bush's statement that "nobody is going to follow somebody who doesn't believe we can succeed" with the words "Now we have to succeed". President Bush came back with one good last point (that the war on terror is not only about Osama bin Laden-- a personal note, if I might here, since what I am about to write adversely affects my own view of both Major Party candidates [so this personal view is not to the benefit of one over the other]: one of the things that bothers me about both President Bush and Senator Kerry is all the focus that they have given to Osama bin Laden re: the War against International Terrorism. Yes, Osama has to be brought to justice [captured in order to face punishment for financing one of the greatest mass murders in history, if not- as is far more likely going to be the case- killed outright in an attempt to capture him] but, in the main, America in particular, the West in general and the World at large will, in fact, not be any safer the day after Osama bin Laden is captured/killed than they will have been the day before [Al-Qa'eda being not really all that much of a "cut off the head and the body will die" organization]: therefore, Bush was certainly right to here score Kerry for saying- re: Osama bin Laden- "that's the war against terror" at the end of the previous round- but, of course, it was President Bush himself who, in the immediate wake of 9/11, said "Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive"!) but this was not enough to win the President the round. Kerry 10, Bush 9 (cumulative: Kerry 30- Bush 27).
Round 4-- Q. Mr. President, my mother and sister traveled abroad this summer and, when they got back, they talked to us about how shocked they were at the intensity of aggravation that other countries had with how we handled the Iraq situation. Diplomacy is obviously something that we really have to really work on- what is your plan to repair relations with other countries given the current situation?
President Bush answered: We've got a great country- I love our values and I recognize I've made some decisions that have caused people to not understand the great values of our country. I remember when Ronald Reagan was the President: he stood on principle- somebody called that stubborn. He stood on principle standing up to the Soviet Union and we won that conflict- yet, at the same time, we were very unpopular in Europe because of the decisions he made. I recognize that taking Saddam Hussein out was unpopular but I made the decision because I thought it was in the right interests of our security.
You know, I've made some decisions on Israel that's unpopular- I wouldn't deal with Arafat because I felt like he had let the former President down and I don't think he's the kind of person that can lead toward a Palestinian state: and people in Europe didn't like that decision and that was unpopular- but it was the right thing to do. I believe Palestinians ought to have a state but I know they need leadership that's committed to a Democracy and Freedom, leadership that would be willing to reject Terrorism. I made a decision not to join the International Criminal Court in the Hague, which is where our troops could be brought in front of a judge, an unaccounted judge- I don't think we ought to join that: that was unpopular. And so, what I'm telling you is that, sometimes in this world, you make unpopular decisions because you think they're right.
We'll continue to reach out. Listen, there's 30 nations involved in Iraq, some 40 nations involved in Afghanistan. People love America- sometimes they don't like the decisions made by America- but I don't think you want a President who tries to become popular and does the wrong thing. You don't want to join the International Criminal Court just because it's popular in certain capitals in Europe.
Senator Kerry rebutted: That's a question that's been raised by a lot of people around the country- let me address it but also talk about the weapons the President just talked about, because every part of the President's answer just now promises you more of the same over the next four years. The President stood right here in this hall four years ago and he was asked a question by somebody just like you- "Under what circumstances would you send people to war?": and his answer was "with a viable exit strategy and only with enough forces to get the job done." He didn't do that- he broke that promise: we didn't have enough forces. General Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, told him he was going to need several hundred thousand and guess what? They retired General Shinseki for telling him that- this President hasn't listened.
I went to meet with the members of the Security Council in the week before we voted- I went to New York: I talked to all of them to find out how serious they were about really holding Saddam Hussein accountable; I came away convinced that- if we worked at it, if we were ready to work, letting Hans Blix do his job and thoroughly go through the inspections- that, if push came to shove, they'd be there with us. But the President just arbitrarily brought the hammer down and said "Nope- sorry. Time for diplomacy is over- we're going." He rushed to war without a plan to win the peace. Ladies and gentleman, he gave you a speech and told you he'd plan carefully, take every precaution, take our allies with us- he didn't: he broke his word.
President Bush responded: I remember sitting in the White House looking at those generals, saying "do you have what you need in this war?- do you have what it takes?" I remember going down to the basement of the White House the day we committed our troops as a last resort- looking at Tommy Franks and the generals on the ground, asking them "do we have the right plan with the right troop level?"- and they looked me in the eye and said, "Yes, sir, Mr. President." Of course I listen to our generals- that's what a President does: a President sets the strategy and relies upon good military people to execute that strategy.
Senator Kerry further rebutted: You rely on good military people to execute the military component of the strategy- but winning the peace is larger than just the military component. General Shinseki had the wisdom to say "you're going to need several hundred thousand troops to win the peace"- the military's job is to win the war, a President's job is to win the peace. The President did not do what was necessary, didn't bring in enough nations, didn't deliver the help, didn't close off the borders, didn't even guard the ammo dumps- and now our kids are being killed with ammo right out of that dump.
Scoring-- Round 4. President Bush didn't really answer the question (his litany of what he did that was unpopular in other countries was a fine enough defense of his view of the Administration's Foreign Policy but this all made it sound as if he had no intention of repairing relations with other countries [if Bush can argue that nobody will follow Kerry if he should become President because he thinks the Iraq war was a mistake, what is the inherent difference between this and the idea that nobody will follow Bush if he continues to just run roughshod over foreign governments?]). Senator Kerry's rebuttal, however, was even weaker-- he was fine in the first part of it, where he was talking about what the President said he would do when during the same Town Hall Meeting style debate with Al Gore four years earlier (just to make sure the record is clear: to a question asked of Vice President Gore back then [ref.:'LAST GAS: NEXT THREE WEEKS']- "Today our military forces are stretched thinner and doing more than they have ever done before during peacetime…I think we would 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", then-Governor Bush rebutted, in part, "Your question was deployment: it must be in the national interests, must be in our vital interests 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. 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") but, when Kerry next got into the whole issue of his discussions with U.N. Security Council members prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, he merely came off as that 'Jacques Chirac's favorite U.S. presidential candidate' of whom moderates have tended to be most wary. President Bush gamely defended himself against Kerry's charge that he didn't listen well to his military advisors but Kerry pulled out the round with his final note that the ammunition being used against American troops in Iraq was right out of ammo dumps that had not been well enough secured (although Kerry's concept of "the military wins the war, the President wins the peace" was rather convoluted [he cited how many more troops would really have been needed to win the peace (so, isn't the military also then winning the peace?) but didn't at all explain just what, beyond the military component, would be needed to win the peace]). A round in which neither candidate did particularly well-- Bush doesn't win it because he never really answered the questioner's concerns. Kerry 10, Bush 9 (cumulative: Kerry 40- Bush 36).
Round 5-- Q. (of Senator Kerry) Iran sponsors terrorism and has missiles capable of hitting Israel and southern Europe: Iran will have nuclear weapons in two to three years time. In the event that U.N. sanctions don't stop this threat, what will you do as President?
Senator Kerry answered: I don't think you can just rely on U.N. sanctions... but you're absolutely correct- it is a threat, it's a huge threat and what's interesting is: it's a threat that has grown while the President has been preoccupied with Iraq, where there wasn't a threat. If he'd let the inspectors do their job and go on, we wouldn't have 10 times the numbers of forces in Iraq that we have in Afghanistan chasing Osama bin Laden. Meanwhile, while Iran is moving toward nuclear weapons- some 37 tons of what they call "yellow cake", the stuff they use to make enriched uranium- while they're doing that, North Korea has moved from one bomb, maybe- maybe, to four to seven bombs. For two years, the President didn't even engage with North Korea, did nothing at all, while it was growing more dangerous- despite the warnings of people like former Secretary of Defense William Perry, who negotiated getting television cameras and inspectors into that reactor. We were safer before President Bush came to office- now they have the bombs and we're less safe.
So what do we do? We've got to join with the British and the French, with the Germans, who've been involved in their initiative- we've got to lead the world now to crack down on proliferation as a whole: but the President's been slow to do that, even in Russia- at his pace, it's going to take 13 years to reduce and get ahold of all the loose nuclear material in the former Soviet Union: I've proposed a plan that can capture it and contain it and clean it within four years. And the President is moving to the creation of our own bunker-busting nuclear weapon: it's very hard to get other countries to give up their weapons when you're busy developing a new one. I'm going to lead the world in the greatest counterproliferation effort and, if we have to get tough with Iran, believe me- we will get tough!
President Bush rebutted: That answer almost made me want to scowl. He keeps talking about "let the inspectors do their job"- it's naive and dangerous to say that: that's what the Duelfer report showed- he was deceiving the inspectors. Secondly, of course we've been involved with Iran- I fully understand the threat and that's why we're doing what he suggested we do: get the Brits, the Germans and the French to go make it very clear to the Iranians that, if they expect to be a party to the world, to give up their nuclear ambitions- we've been doing that.
Let me talk about North Korea: It is naive and dangerous to take a policy that he suggested the other day, which is to have bilateral relations with North Korea- remember, he's the person who's accusing me of not acting multilaterally: he now wants to take the six-party talks we have- China, North Korea, South Korea, Russia, Japan and the United States- and undermine them by having bilateral talks. That's what President Clinton did: he had bilateral talks with the North Koreans and guess what happened? He didn't honor the agreement- he was enriching uranium. That is a bad policy. Of course, we're paying attention to these- it's a great question about Iran: that's why, in my speech to the Congress, I said there's an "Axis of Evil"-Iraq, Iran and North Korea- and we're paying attention to it: and we're making progress.
Scoring- Round 5. Senator Kerry hardly addressed Iran (which was the questioner's concern), talking much more about North Korea: his statement that "I don't think you can just rely on U.N. sanctions" was altogether curious, as it rather undermined what he had talked about during the previous round (his notion that "there wasn't a threat" in Iraq in this round does not at all dovetail with this earlier statement, in Round 2, that "I do believe Saddam Hussein was a threat"); his later emphatic declaiming that "if we have to get tough with Iran, believe me- we will get tough" sounded just as strange coming from someone who had just- only moments before- complained, of Iraq, "the President just arbitrarily brought the hammer down and said 'Nope- sorry. Time for diplomacy is over- we're going' " (isn't "getting tough" the same as "arbitrarily bringing the hammer down"?-- might not there come a time when "getting tough with Iran" might also require a "President Kerry" to have to say "Time for diplomacy is over- we're going"?). President Bush's rebuttal much better addressed the questioner's concerns (though he, once again, brought up that "China will leave the mulitlateral talks if we alone also talk to North Korea" thing I complained about in my 30 September Debate commentary): Bush's scoring Kerry re: "let the inspectors do their job" even more highlighted the paradox in Kerry's comments on Iran vs. Kerry's comments on Iraq in the previous round. The President gets his first win of this debate. Bush 10, Kerry 9 (cumulative: Kerry 49- Bush 46).
Round 6-- Q. Mr. President, since we continue to police the world, how do you intend to maintain our military presence without reinstituting a draft?
President Bush answered: I hear there's rumors on the Internet that we're going to have a draft- we're not going to have a draft, period! The all- volunteer army works- it works particularly when we pay our troops well, it works when we make sure they've got housing, like we have done in the last military budgets. An all-volunteer army is best suited to fight the new wars of the 21st Century, which is to be specialized and to find these people as they hide around the world- we don't need mass armies anymore. One of the things we've done is we're beginning to transform our military and by that I mean we're moving troops out of Korea and replacing them with more effective weapons. We don't need as much manpower on the Korean Peninsula to keep a deterrent. In Europe, we have massed troops as if the Soviet Union existed and was going to invade into Europe, but those days are over with and so we're moving troops out of Europe and replacing it with more effective equipment.
So to answer your question is: we're withdrawing, not from the world- we're withdrawing manpower so they can be stationed here in America, so there's less rotation, so life is easier on their families and, therefore, we'll be more likely to be able to keep people in the all-volunteer army. One of the more important things we're doing in this administration is transformation- there are some really interesting technologies: for example, we're flying unmanned vehicles that can send real-time messages back to stations in the United States- that saves manpower and it saves equipment. It also means that we can target things easier and move more quickly, which means we need to be lighter and quicker and more facile and highly trained. Forget all this talk about a draft- we're not going to have a draft so long as I am the President.
Senator Kerry rebutted: I don't support a draft but let me tell you where the President's policies have put us. The President- and this is one of the reasons why I am very proud in this race to have the support of General John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Admiral William Crowe, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; General Tony McPeak, who ran the air war for the President's father and did a brilliant job, supporting me; General Wes Clark, who won the war in Kosovo, supporting me; and General Baca, who was the head of the National Guard, supporting me. Why? Because they understand that our military is overextended under this President: our Guard and Reserves have been turned into almost active duty- you've got people doing two and three rotations: you've got stop-loss policies, so people can't get out when they were supposed to- you've got a back-door draft right now.
And a lot of our military are underpaid: these are families that get hurt- it hurts the middle class, it hurts communities because these are our first responders and they're called up: and they're over there, not over here. Now, I'm going to add 40,000 active duty forces to the military, and I'm going to make people feel good about being safe in our military, and not overextended, because I'm going to run a Foreign Policy that actually does what President Reagan did, President Eisenhower did, and others: we're going to build alliances- we're not going to go unilaterally, we're not going to go alone like this President did.
President Bush responded: Let me answer what he just said, about around the world: you tell Tony Blair we're going alone, tell Silvio Berlusconi we're going alone, tell Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland we're going alone. There are 30 countries there: it denigrates an alliance to say we're going alone, to discount their sacrifices. You cannot lead an alliance if you say, you know, you're going alone- and people listen, they're sacrificing with us.
Senator Kerry further rebutted: Mr. President, countries are leaving the coalition, not joining- eight countries have left it. If Missouri, just given the number of people from Missouri who are in the military over there today, were a country, it would be the third largest country in the coalition, behind Great Britain and the United States- that's not a grand coalition! 90 % of the casualties are American, 90 % of the costs are coming out of your pockets. I could do a better job, my plan does a better job- and that's why I'll be a better Commander-in-Chief.
Scoring-- Round 6. President Bush's answer to this question came off as very like Woodrow Wilson's successful 1916 re-election campaign's slogan "He Kept Us Out Of War"- and, of course, what then happened in 1917?- only about a military draft in this case. His rather optimistic views about the impact of new technologies had me thinking about the oft-repeated line that, throughout the whole history of Warfare- that, no matter what or how advanced the technological developments, you will still need an infantry because, in the end, the primary purpose of any military operation is to take and hold territory (in other words, while technology can well support "boots on the ground", it cannot at all replace the fighting men and women who are always needed "in country"). Senator Kerry scored points with his pointing out that, despite the President saying "The all- volunteer army... works particularly when we pay our troops well, it works when we make sure they've got housing, like we have done in the last military budgets", there are many in the military who are still underpaid and harping on that which Kerry calls a "back-door draft" (though the Senator's citing of endorsements from former military commanders used up too much time). President Bush's response in the "discussion extension" was eclipsed by Senator Kerry's pointing out that countries have already left the "Coalition of the Willing" and making the comparison of the number of military personnel in Iraq just from Missouri to the size of other coalition countries' (with the exception of the U.K.) troop contributions. Kerry 10, Bush 9 (cumulative: Kerry 59- Bush 55).
Round 7-- Q. Senator Kerry, we have been fortunate that there have been no further terrorist attacks on American soil since 9/11. Why do you think this is and, if elected, what will you do to assure our safety?
Senator Kerry answered: I've asked in my security briefings why that is and I can't go into all the answers, etc.- but let me say this to you: this President and his Administration have told you and all of us it's not a question of if, it's a question of when- we've been told that, the "when" I can't tell you. Between the World Trade Center bombing in- what was it? 1993 or so- and the next time was five years, seven years: these people wait, they'll plan, they plot. I agree with the President that we have to go after them and get them wherever they are: I just think I can do that far more effectively because the most important weapon in doing that is intelligence. You've got to have the best intelligence in the world and, in order to have the best intelligence in the world to know who the terrorists are and where they are and what they're plotting, you've got to have the best cooperation you've ever had in the world.
Now... we're not getting the best cooperation in the world today: we've got a whole bunch of countries that pay a price for dealing with the United States of America now- I'm going to change that and I'm going to put in place a better homeland security effort. Look at it: 95 % of our containers coming into this country are not inspected today; when you get on an airplane, your bag is X- rayed, but the cargo hold isn't X-rayed- do you feel safer? This President in the last debate said, "Well, that would be a big tax gap if we did that." Ladies and gentlemen, it's his tax plan: he chose a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans over getting that equipment out into the homeland as fast as possible. We have bridges and tunnels that aren't being secured, chemical plants, nuclear plants that aren't secured, hospitals that are overcrowded with their emergency rooms- if we had a disaster today, could they handle it? This President chose a tax cut over homeland security- wrong choice!
President Bush rebutted: That's an odd thing to say, since we've tripled the homeland security budget from $10 billion to $30 billion. Listen, we'll do everything we can to protect the homeland: my opponent's right, we need good intelligence- it's also a curious thing for him to say since, right after 1993, he voted to cut the intelligence budget by $7.5 billion. The best way to defend America in this world we live in is to stay on the offense- we've got to be right 100 % of the time here at home and they've got to be right once: and that's the reality. There's a lot of good people working hard and we're doing the best we possibly can to share information: that's why the PATRIOT Act was important. The PATRIOT Act is vital, by the way- it's a tool that law enforcement now uses to be able to talk between each other. My opponent says he hadn't changed his position on it: no, but he's for weakening it. I don't think my opponent has got the right view about the world to make us safe- I really don't.
First of all, I don't think he can succeed in Iraq and, if Iraq were to fail, it'd be a haven for terrorists and there would be money and the world would be much more dangerous. I don't see how you can win in Iraq if you don't believe we should be there in the first place- I don't see how you can lead troops if you say it's the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time, I don't see how the Iraqis are going to have confidence in the American President if all they hear is that it was a mistake to be there in the first place. This war is a long, long war and it requires steadfast determination and it requires a complete understanding that we not only chase down Al-Qa'eda but we disrupt terrorist safe havens as well as people who could provide the terrorists with support.
Moderator Gibson broke in at this point: I want to extend for a minute, Senator, and I'm curious about something you said. You said, "It's not if, but when". You think it's inevitable? Because the sense of security is a very basic thing with everybody in this country worried about their kids.
Senator Kerry responded: Well, the President and his experts have told America that it's not a question of if, it's a question of when and I accept what the President has said. These terrorists are serious, they're deadly, and they know nothing except trying to kill- I understand that: that's why I will never stop at anything to hunt down and kill the terrorists- but you heard the President just say to you that we've added money. Folks, the test is not if you've added money: the test is that you've done everything possible to make America secure. He chose a tax cut for wealthy Americans over the things that I listed to you.
President Bush further rebutted: Well, we'll talk about the tax cut for middle class here in a minute- but, yeah, I'm worried... I'm worried about our country and all I can tell you is every day I know that there's people working overtime, doing the very best they can- and the reason I'm worried is because there's a vicious enemy that has an ideology of hate and the way to defeat them long-term, by the way, is to spread Freedom: Liberty can change habits- and that's what's happening in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Scoring- Round 7: This was a very close round, each candidate well making his respective case (and both, of course, unable to get away from the unfortunate fact that, ye, we do not know when and where there will be a potential next terrorist attack). However, President Bush bringing up a more than decade old vote of Senator Kerry's on an intelligence budget was rather disingenuous (a much more recent [post-9/11?] example would have better made his point than something in the immediate wake of the end of the Cold War!) and, in addition, the President also refused to more fully take on Kerry's connecting the Bush tax cut to less money for homeland security- thus, the President loses this round as well. Kerry 10, Bush 9 (cumulative: Kerry 69- Bush 64).
Round 8-- Q. Mr. President, why did you block the reimportation of safer and inexpensive drugs from Canada which would have cut 40 to 60 percent off of the cost?
President Bush answered: I haven't yet- just want to make sure they're safe: when a drug comes in from Canada, I want to make sure it cures you and doesn't kill you and that's why the FDA and that's why the Surgeon General are looking very carefully to make sure it can be done in a safe way. I've got an obligation to make sure our government does everything we can to protect you and what my worry is is that, you know, it looks like it's from Canada and it might be from a Third World and we've just got to make sure, before somebody thinks they're buying a product, that it works- and that's why we're doing what we're doing. Now, it may very well be- here in December- you'll hear me say "I think there's a safe way to do it".
There are other ways to make sure drugs are cheaper: one is to speed up generic drugs to the marketplace, quicker: pharmaceuticals were using loopholes to keep brand drugs in place and generics are much less expensive than brand drugs- and we're doing just that. Another is to get our seniors to sign up to these drug discount cards and they're working. Wanda Blackmore, I met here from Missouri- the first time she bought drugs with her drug discount card, she paid $1.14, I think it was, for about $10 worth of drugs. These cards make sense and you know, in 2006, seniors are going to get prescription drug coverage for the first time in Medicare because I went to Washington to fix problems. Medicare- the issue of Medicare- used to be called "Mediscare", people didn't want to touch it for fear of getting hurt politically. I wanted to get something done: I think our seniors deserve a modern medical system and, in 2006, our seniors will get prescription drug coverage.
Senator Kerry rebutted: You heard the President just say that he thought he might try to be for it. Four years ago, right here in this forum, he was asked the same question: "Can't people be able to import drugs from Canada?" You know what he said? "I think that makes sense. I think that's a good idea"- four years ago. Now, the President said, "I'm not blocking that"- ladies and gentlemen, the President just didn't level with you right now again: he did block it, because we passed it in the United States Senate- we sent it over to the House, that you could import drugs: we took care of the safety issues.
We're not talking about Third World drugs: we're talking about drugs made right here in the United States of America that have American brand names on them in American bottles and we're asking to be able to allow you to get them- the President blocked it. The President also took Medicare, which belongs to you, and he could have lowered the cost of Medicare and lowered your taxes and lowered the costs to seniors. You know what he did? He made it illegal for Medicare to do what the V.A. does, which is bulk-purchase drugs so that you can lower the price and get them out to you lower. He put $139 billion of windfall profit into the pockets of the drug companies right out of your pockets- that's the difference between us: the President sides with the power companies, the oil companies, the drug companies and I'm fighting to let you get those drugs from Canada, and I'm fighting to let Medicare survive. I'm fighting for the middle class- that is the difference!
President Bush responded: If they're safe, they're coming: I want to remind you that it wasn't just my Administration that made the decision on safety- President Clinton did the same thing because we have an obligation to protect you. Now, he talks about Medicare: he's been in the United States Senate 20 years- show me one accomplishment toward Medicare that he accomplished. I've been in Washington, D.C. 3 1/2 years and led the Congress to reform Medicare so our seniors have got a modern health care system- that's what leadership is all about!
Senator Kerry further rebutted: Actually, Mr. President, in 1997 we fixed Medicare and I was one of the people involved in it- we not only fixed Medicare and took it way out into the future, we did something that you don't know how to do: we balanced the budget and we paid down the debt of our nation for two years in a row and we created 23 million new jobs at the same time- and it's the President's fiscal policies that have driven up the biggest deficits in American History: he's added more debt to the debt of the United States in four years than all the way from George Washington to Ronald Reagan put together. Go figure!
Scoring- Round 8. First of all, again to be fair and make clear the record, the following took place re: what Senator Kerry mentioned in this round re: President Bush's words in that same 2000 Town Hall Meeting-style Presidential Debate [ref.:'LAST GAS: NEXT THREE WEEKS']: a question, asked of then-Governor Bush, was "Are... you concerned with finding some feasible way to lower the price of pharmaceutical drugs such as education on minimizing intake, revamp of the FDA process or streamlining the drug companies' procedures instead of just finding more money to pay for them?"-- as part of his answer, Bush had said "Expediting drugs through the FDA makes sense, of course: allowing the new bill that was passed in the Congress made sense to allow for...drugs that were sold overseas to come back- and other countries to come back into the United States: that makes sense. But the best thing to do is to reform Medicare"-- note that Bush never mentioned Canada by name (as Senator Kerry implied in this round), though it appears the President- at the time- had no real problem with American drugs shipped to other countries coming back into this country (one also has to presume he was including Canada [for he even quickly corrected "overseas" to include "other countries"- countries not overseas, thus in the Americas]), though his reference to "expediting drugs through the FDA" in this context seems to be an indication of his concern that these drugs be deemed safe: also note that he ends with a reference to reforming Medicare (because most of his answer to that question posed four years ago was about his proposal for a prescription drug benefit for seniors).
As for the present: Senator Kerry scored well with both his reminding the audience that any drugs from Canada were "drugs made right here in the United States of America that have American brand names on them in American bottles" and his subsequent defense against President Bush's charge that he never accomplished anything re: Medicare during his 20 years in the Senate. President Bush's comments were fine but they paled in comparison to Kerry's (though I have to deduct a bit re: Kerry's having so oversimplified what Bush had said about drugs coming in from Canada four years before-- then again, the President did not at all deny saying what Kerry said he had said!-- in addition, the President did not at all address Kerry's claim that the President had made it illegal for Medicare to bulk-purchase drugs) Kerry 10, Bush 9 (cumulative: Kerry 79- Bush 73).
Round 9-- Q. Senator Kerry, you've stated your concern for the rising cost of health care, yet you chose a vice presidential candidate who has made millions of dollars successfully suing medical professionals. How do you reconcile this with the voters?
Senator Kerry answered: Very easily: John Edwards is the author of the Patients' Bill of Rights- he wanted to give people rights. John Edwards and I support tort reform- we both believe that, as lawyers: I'm a lawyer, too, and I believe that we will be able to get a fix that has eluded everybody else because we know how to do it- it's in my health-care proposal. Go to johnkerry.com: you can pull it off of the Internet and you'll find a tort reform plan. Now, ladies and gentlemen- important to understand: the President and his friends try to make a big deal out of it. Is it a problem?- yes, it's a problem. Do we need to fix it, particularly for OB/GYNs and for brain surgeons and others? Yes. But it's less than 1 % of the total cost of health care.
Your premiums are going up: you've gone up, in Missouri, about $3,500- you've gone up 64 percent. You've seen co-pays go up, deductibles go up- everything's gone up. 5 million people have lost their health insurance under this President- he's done nothing about it. I have a plan: I have a plan to lower the cost of health care for you, I have a plan to cover all children, I have a plan to let you buy into the same health care Senators and congressmen give themselves, I have a plan that's going to allow people 55 to 64 to buy into Medicare early- and I have a plan that will take the catastrophic cases out of the system, off your backs, pay for it out of a Federal fund, which lowers the premiums for everybody in America, makes American business more competitive and makes health care more affordable. Now, all of that can happen, but I have to ask you to do one thing: join me in rolling back the President's unaffordable tax cut for people earning more than $200,000 a year- that's all. 98 % of America, I'm giving you a tax cut and I'm giving you health care.
President Bush rebutted: Let me see where to start here. First, the National Journal named Senator Kerry the most liberal senator of all and that's saying something in that bunch- you might say that took a lot of hard work. The reason I bring that up is because he's proposed $2.2 trillion in new spending, and he says he's going to tax the rich to close the tax gap- he can't. He's going to tax everybody here to fund his programs- that's just reality. And what are his health programs? First, he says he's for medical liability reform, particularly for OB/GYNs- there's a bill on the floor of the United States Senate that he could have showed up and voted for if he's so much for it. Secondly, he says that medical liability costs only cause a 1 % increase- that shows a lack of understanding: doctors practice defensive medicine because of all the frivolous lawsuits that cost our government $28 billion a year.
And finally, he said he's going to have a novel health care plan- you know what it is? The Federal government is going to run it- it's the largest increase in Federal government health care ever and it fits with his philosophy: that's why I told you about the award he won from the National Journal. That's what liberals do- they create government-sponsored health care. Maybe you think that makes sense- I don't. Government-sponsored health care would lead to rationing- it would ruin the quality of health care in America.
Moderator Gibson chimed in: Senator Kerry, we got several questions along this line and I'm just curious if you'd go further on what you talked about with tort reform. Would you be favoring capping awards on pain and suffering? Would you limit attorney's fees?
Senator Kerry responded: Yeah, I think we should look at the punitive and we should have some limitations. But, look- what's really important, Charlie, is: the President is just trying to scare everybody here with throwing labels around. I mean, "compassionate conservative," what does that mean?- cutting 500,000 kids from after-school programs? cutting 365,000 kids from health care? running up the biggest deficits in American History? Mr. President, you're batting 0 for 2. I mean, seriously: labels don't mean anything- what means something is: do you have a plan? And I want to talk about my plan some more- I hope we can.
President Bush further rebutted: You're right, what does matter is a plan. He said he's for- you're now for capping punitive damages? That's odd!- you should have shown up on the floor in the Senate and voted for it then. Medical liability issues are a problem, a significant problem: he's been in the United States Senate for 20 years and he hasn't addressed it. We passed it out of the House of Representatives- guess where it's stuck? It's stuck in the Senate because the trial lawyers won't act on it- and he put a trial lawyer on the ticket.
Scoring-- Round 9. Senator Kerry well outlined his policies re: reducing the costs of health care in his answer to the question. President Bush's rebuttal was OK, but he spent too much time documenting Kerry as the most liberal U.S. Senator and too little time refuting that which Kerry actually claimed (Bush talked about a "1 % increase" when Kerry had talked about "less than 1 % of the total cost"-- I have absolutely no idea which "use of 1 %" more reflects reality but it seemed as if these figures were merely "talking past each other"). On the other hand, Kerry himself spent too much time decrying the President's use of political labels right after doing that which he decried by at least somewhat sarcastically referring to Bush's "compassionate conservatism". He then said he wanted to talk more about his health care plan (which he probably should have done in the first place). President Bush, at the end, noting that Kerry had put a trial lawyer on his ticket, yes, was reiterating the concern of the questioner but the President so stating the obvious did nothing at all to rebut Kerry's original answer, for which Kerry wins a round that otherwise was not particularly good for either candidate. Kerry 10, Bush 9 (cumulative: Kerry 89- Bush 82).
Round 10.-- Q. Mr. President, you have enjoyed a Republican majority in the House and Senate for most of your Presidency- in that time, you've not vetoed a single spending bill. Excluding $120 billion spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, there has been $700 billion spent and not paid for by taxes. Please explain how the spending you have approved and not paid for is better for the American People than the spending proposed by your opponent.
President Bush answered: We have a deficit- we have a deficit because this country went into a recession. You might remember the stock market started to decline dramatically six months before I came to office and then the bubble of the 1990s popped- and that cost us revenue. Secondly, we're at war and I'm going to spend what it takes to win the war, more than just $120 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan- we've got to pay our troops more: we have, we've increased money for ammunition and weapons and pay and homeland security. I just told this lady over here we went from $10 billion to $30 billion to protect the homeland- I think we have an obligation to spend that kind of money. And, plus, we cut taxes for everybody- everybody got tax relief, so that they get out of the recession.
I think if you raise taxes during a recession, you head to depression: I come from the school of thought that says when people have more money in their pocket during tough economic times, it increases demand or investment- small businesses begin to grow, and jobs are added. We found out today that, over the past 13 months, we've added 1.9 million new jobs- in the last 13 months! I proposed a plan- detailed budget- that shows us cutting the deficit in half by five years and, you're right, I haven't vetoed any spending bills because we work together. Non-homeland, non-defense discretionary spending was rising at 15 % a year when I got into office and, today, it's less than 1 % because we're working together to try to bring this deficit under control. Like you, I'm concerned about the deficit- but I am not going to shortchange our troops in harm's way and I'm not going to run up taxes, which will cost this economy jobs.
Senator Kerry rebutted: Let me begin by saying that my health care plan is not what the President described- it is not a government takeover: you have choice- choose your doctor, choose your plan: the government has nothing to do with it. In fact, it doesn't ask you to do anything- if you don't want to take it, you don't have to. If you like your high premiums, you keep them- that's the way we leave it. Now, with respect to the deficit, the President was handed a $5.6 trillion surplus, ladies and gentlemen: that's where he was when he came into office. We now have a $2.6 trillion deficit- this is the biggest turnaround in the history of the country: he's the first president in 72 years to lose jobs.
He talked about war- this is the first time the United States of America has ever had a tax cut when we're at war. Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, others, knew how to lead- they knew how to ask the American People for the right things. 1 % of America, the highest 1 % of income earners in America, got $89 billion of tax cut last year: 1 % of America got more than the 80 % of America that earned from $100,000 down. The President thinks it's more important to fight for that top 1 % than to fight for fiscal responsibility and to fight for you. I want to put money in your pocket: I have a proposal for a tax cut for all people earning less than the $200,000- the only people affected by my plan are the top income earners of America.
Moderator Gibson broke in: I have heard you both say during the campaign- I just heard you say it- that you're going to cut the deficit by a half in four years but I didn't hear one thing in the last three and a half minutes that would indicate how either one of you do that.
President Bush responded: Well, look at the budget: one is make sure Congress doesn't overspend but let me talk back about where we've been. The stock market was declining six months prior to my arrival: it was the largest stock market correction- one of the largest in history, which foretold a recession. Because we cut taxes on everybody- remember, we ran up the child credit by $1,000, we reduced the marriage penalty, we created a 10 % bracket, everybody who pays taxes got relief- the recession was one of the shortest in our nation's history.
Senator Kerry further rebutted: After 9/11, after the recession had ended, the president asked for another tax cut and promised 5.6 million jobs would be created. He lost 1.6 million, ladies and gentlemen- and most of that tax cut went to the wealthiest people in the country. He came and asked for a tax cut- we wanted a tax cut to kick the economy into gear. Do you know what he presented us with? A $25 billion giveaway to the biggest corporations in America, including a $254 million refund check to Enron- wrong priorities: you're my priority!
Scoring- Round 10. President Bush's claim that "the stock market started to decline dramatically six months before I came to office" (which he repeated later in the round: "The stock market was declining six months prior to my arrival: it was the largest stock market correction- one of the largest in history, which foretold a recession") seemed, to me, at least somewhat odd (so I went to a few online Stock Market History sites to check this out, if only because I just don't remember things happening that way: 6 months before George W. Bush became President would have been July 2000 but none of the charts I saw indicated a "dramatic decline" necessarily indicating "recession"- the Dow Jones Industrial Average started what everyone calls the new Millenium [1999 becoming 2000] at around 11,500 and, yes, there was a noticeable drop [perhaps this was that to which the President was referring] down to just below the 10,000 range early in 2000 [March into April: in fact, 14 April 2000 produced the largest daily net loss in the Dow so far except for that first trading session after 9/11 itself]- a rather large correction, yes- but the market recovered within a matter of weeks [from what I could glean, many economic prognosticators of the time felt that the market had been "overbought": it had been only comparatively recently that the Dow had first passed 11,000- in May 1999]; there was also another dip down to close to 10,000 in mid-October but, for most of calendar year 2000 after that earlier drop right through the end of that year, the Dow generally hovered between 10,500 and 11,000: it certainly wasn't as if the market had gone completely into the tank after that March/April drop!); however, having said all this, I don't score (or, in this case, deduct points) for inaccuracies as to facts or, in this case- perhaps, mere interpretation of facts (I presume that President Bush has reason to believe what he says and his campaign must have some reason to be promoting this particular economic interpretation: it wouldn't be my economic interpretation of what the Dow did during President Clinton's final year in office, however!) Besides, assuming Senator Kerry was even the least bit aware aware of this apparent discrepancy, he certainly didn't challenge it- yet the Massachusetts Senator still scored well (that is, after he had finally managed to squeeze in comments about his health care plan left over from the previous round) by strongly noting how the surplus had become a deficit during President Bush's Administration; Kerry's comments about the "refund check to Enron" was especially effective. As for 1.6 million jobs lost (says Kerry) versus 1.9 million jobs created over the last 13 months (as Bush claims) vesrus 5.6 millions jobs promised (charges Kerry)-- hmmmm. Kerry 10, Bush 9 (cumulative: Kerry 99- Bush 91)
Round 11-- Q. Senator Kerry, would you be willing to look directly into the camera and, using simple and unequivocal language, give the American people your solemn pledge not to sign any legislation that will increase the tax burden on families earning less than $200,000 a year during your first term?
Senator Kerry answered: Absolutely- yes. Right into the camera. Yes, I am not going to raise taxes. I have a tax cut and here's my tax cut: I raise the child-care credit by $1,000 for families to help them be able to take care of their kids, I have a $4,000 tuition tax credit that goes to parents- and kids, if they're earning for themselves- to be able to pay for college and I lower the cost of health care in the way that I described to you. Every part of my program, I've shown how I'm going to pay for it and I've gotten good people- like former Secretary of the Treasury Bob Rubin, for instance, who showed how to balance budgets and give you a good economy- to help me crunch these numbers and make them work: I've even scaled back some of my favorite programs already, like the child-care program I wanted to fund and the national service program, because the President's deficit keeps growing and I've said as a pledge "I'm going to cut the deficit in half in four years."
Now, I'm going to restore what we did in the 1990s, ladies and gentlemen: pay as you go- we're going to do it like you do it. The President broke the pay-as-you-go rule. Somebody here asked the question about "why haven't you vetoed something?" It's a good question- if you care about it, why don't you veto it? I think John McCain called the energy bill the "No Lobbyist Left Behind" bill- I mean, you've got to stand up and fight somewhere, folks. I'm pledging I will not raise taxes; I'm giving a tax cut to the people earning less than $200,000 a year. Now, for the people earning more than $200,000 a year, you're going to see a rollback to the level we were at with Bill Clinton, when people made a lot of money. And looking around here, at this group here, I suspect there are only three people here who are going to be affected: the President, me and, Charlie- I'm sorry- you, too.
This last comment caused a burst of laughter in the hall before President Bush rebutted: It's just not credible when he talks about being fiscally conservative- it's just not credible. If you look at his record in the Senate, he voted to break the caps- the spending caps- over 200 times and here he says he's going to be a fiscal conservative, all of a sudden. It's just not credible- you cannot believe it. And, of course, he's going to raise your taxes: you see, he's proposed $2.2 trillion of new spending and you say "well, how are you going to pay for it?" He says, well, he's going to raise the taxes on the rich- that's what he said- the top two brackets. That raises, he says, $800 billion: we say $600 billion- we've got battling green eye shades- somewhere in between those numbers: and so there's a difference- what he's promised and what he can raise. Now, either he's going to break all these wonderful promises he's told you about or he's going to raise taxes and I suspect, given his record, he's going to raise taxes.
I think that the way to grow this economy is to keep taxes low, is have an energy plan, is to have litigation reform. As I told you, we've just got a report that said, over the past 13 months, we've created 1.9 million new jobs and so the fundamental question of this campaign is: who's going to keep the economy growing so people can work?- that's the fundamental question.
Moderator Gibson spoke: I'm going to come back one more time to how these numbers add up and how you can cut that deficit in half in four years, given what you've both said.
Senator Kerry responded: Well, first of all, the President's figures of $2.2 trillion just aren't accurate- those are the fuzzy math figures put together by some group that works for the campaign: that's not the number. Number two: John McCain and I have a proposal, jointly, for a commission that closes corporate giveaway loopholes- we've got $40 billion going to Bermuda, we've got all kinds of giveaways: we ought to be shutting those down. And third, credible?: ladies and gentlemen, in 1985, I was one of the first Democrats to move to balance the budget, I voted for the balanced budget in '93 and '97. We did it- and I was there.
President Bush further rebutted: Yes, I mean, he's got a record- it's been there for 20 years. You can run, but you can't hide. He voted 98 times to raise taxes: I mean, these aren't make-up figures and so people are going to have to look at the record- look at the record of the man running for the President. They don't name him the most liberal in the United States Senate because he hasn't shown up to many meetings, they named him because of his votes and it's reality. It's just not credible to say he's going to keep taxes down and balance budgets.
Scoring- Round 11. This was one of those "philosophical difference" rounds I've discussed re: earlier debates: both candidates stating their respective positions on the issue raised by the question rather well and, therefore, you can't really say one won and the other lost. But Senator Kerry did answer the question and President Bush's claiming there is no way the Massachusetts Senator can possibly keep his promise is purely a matter of belief (if you are a Bush supporter, "of course Kerry will have to raise taxes"; if you are a Kerry supporter, "how dare Bush say that"!)- there is no way, absent a future Kerry Administration, to ever prove this one way or the other and one certainly can't prove it now. I almost hate to give Kerry yet another round (only since President Bush has, so far, only won one- though he has not lost any round by much [though, if the President had but better addressed at least some of what I have discussed in my scoring of the previous rounds, many of the 10-9 rounds going to Kerry would have been 10- 9s for Bush])- the rules require me to give Kerry this round (I would do the same for Bush if a questioner had asked Bush to make a promise and it were Kerry ineffectively opining that the President wouldn't be able to keep it without all that much else behind such a claim). Kerry said he voted for a balanced budget at least three times- if this is not true, Bush did not at all challenge it (the "voting 98 times voting to raise taxes" thing- what does this mean?-- were these votes on final passage? votes on amendments to revenue bills? mere procedural votes?-- I know a little something about Legislative Procedure and I, frankly, doubt these votes involved 98 different revenue acts: if I'm wrong, the President has not bothered to go any further [which puts this in "mere preaching to the choir" territory]). Kerry 10, Bush 9 (cumulative: Kerry- 109, Bush- 100).
Round 12- Q. Mr. President, how would you rate yourself as an environmentalist? What specifically has your administration done to improve the condition of our nation's air and water supply?
President Bush answered: Off-road diesel engines: we have reached an agreement to reduce pollution from off-road diesel engines by 90 %. I've got a plan to increase the wetlands by 3 million, we've got an aggressive brown field program to refurbish inner city sore spots to useful pieces of property. I proposed to the United States Congress a Clear Skies Initiative to reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury by 70 %, I have fought for a very strong title in the farm bill for the conservation reserve program to set aside millions of acres of land to help improve wildlife and the habitat. We proposed and passed a healthy forest bill which was essential to working with- particularly in Western states- to make sure that our forests were protected: what happens in those forests, because of lousy Federal policy, is they're not harvested, they're not taken care of and, as a result, they're like tinderboxes and, over the last summers, I've flown over there. And so this is a reasonable policy to protect old stands of trees and at the same time make sure our forests aren't vulnerable to the forest fires that have destroyed acres after acres in the West: we've got a good, common-sense policy.
Now, I'm going to tell you what I really think is going to happen over time is technology is going to change the way we live for the good of the environment: that's why I proposed a hydrogen-generated automobile- we're spending $1 billion to come up with the technologies to do that. That's why I'm a big proponent of clean coal technology, to make sure we can use coal but in a clean way. I guess you'd say I'm a good steward of the land: the quality of the air's cleaner since I've been the President, fewer water complaints since I've been the President, more land being restored since I've been the President.
Senator Kerry rebutted: Boy, to listen to that: the President, I don't think, is living in a world of reality with respect to the environment. Now, if you're a Red Sox fan, that's OK- but, if you're a President, it's not. Let me just say to you: number one, don't throw the labels around- labels don't mean anything. I supported welfare reform, I led the fight to put 100,000 cops on the streets of America, I've been for faith-based initiatives helping to intervene in the lives of young children for years. I broke with my party in 1985, one of the first three Democrats to fight for a balanced budget when it was heresy. Labels don't fit, ladies and gentlemen.
Now, when it comes to the issue of the environment, this is one of the worst Administrations in modern history: the Clear Skies bill that he just talked about, it's one of those Orwellian names you pull out of the sky, slap it onto something, like "No Child Left Behind" but you leave millions of children behind. Here they're leaving the skies and the environment behind: if they just left the Clean Air Act all alone the way it is today- no change- the air would be cleaner than it is if you pass the Clear Skies act- we're going backwards: in fact, his environmental enforcement chief air-quality person at the EPA resigned in protest over what they're doing to what are calling the new source performance standards for air quality. They're going backwards on the definition for wetlands, they're going backwards on the water quality: they pulled out of the global warming, declared it dead, didn't even accept the science- I'm going to be a President who believes in science.
President Bush responded: Well, had we joined the Kyoto treaty- which I guess he's referring to- it would have cost America a lot of jobs. It's one of these deals where, in order to be popular in the halls of Europe, you sign a treaty- but I thought it would cost a lot: I think there's a better way to do it. And I just told you the facts, sir: the quality of the air is cleaner since I've been the President of the United States and we'll continue to spend money on research and development because I truly believe that's the way to get from how we live today to being able to live a standard of living that we're accustomed to and being able to protect our environment better, the use of technologies.
Senator Kerry further rebutted: The fact is that the Kyoto treaty was flawed- I was in Kyoto and I was part of that: I know what happened. But this President didn't try to fix it: he just declared it dead, ladies and gentlemen, and we walked away from the work of 160 nations over 10 years. You wonder... why it is that people don't like us in some parts of the world: you just say "hey, we don't agree with you- goodbye!" The President's done nothing to try to fix it- I will.
Scoring- Round 12: Yet another "philosophical difference" round. This time, it was President Bush answering the question ["I guess you'd say I'm a good steward of the land"]-- Kerry, obviously, doesn't agree and did score points with his noting the resignation of the EPA official, which the President did not address; at the same time, Kerry spent too much time ticking off his positions on domestic issues having nothing at all to do with the environment. But, in the end, you simply have two presidential candidates with two opposing viewpoints as to how best to deal with the Kyoto treaty. Again, the President- this time- was the one who was asked a question, he answered it and Kerry's claiming otherwise is a matter of belief on the part of the Senator's supporters. By the standards I applied in the previous round, this one goes to Bush. Bush 10, Kerry 9 (cumulative: Kerry 118- Bush 110).
Round 13- Q. Senator Kerry, how can the U.S. be competitive in manufacturing given the wage necessary and comfortably accepted for American workers to maintain the standard of living that they expect?
Senator Kerry answered: There are a lot of ways to be competitive and, unfortunately, again I regret this Administration has not seized them and embraced them. Let me give you an example: there's a tax loophole right now- if you're a company in St. Louis working, trying to make jobs here, there is actually an incentive for you to go away: you get more money, you keep more of your taxes, by going abroad. I'm going to shut that loophole and I'm going to give the tax benefit to the companies that stay here in America to help make them more competitive. Secondly, we're going to create a manufacturing jobs credit and a new jobs credit for people to be able to help hire and be more competitive here in America. Third, what's really hurting American business more than anything else is the cost of health care.
Now, you didn't hear any plan from the President because he doesn't have a plan to lower the cost of health care. 5 million Americans have lost their health care- 620,000 Missourans have no health care at all: 96,000 Missourans have lost their health care under President Bush. I have a plan to cover those folks and it's a plan that lowers cost for everybody, covers all children and the way I pay for it- I'm not fiscally irresponsible- is I roll back the tax cut that this President so fiercely wants to defend- the one for him and me and Charlie: I think you ought to get the break. I want to lower your cost to health care- I want to fully fund education, No Child Left Behind, special-needs education- and that's how we're going to be more competitive, by making sure our kids are graduating from school and college: China and India are graduating more graduates in technology and science than we are- we've got to create the products of the future: that's why I have a plan for energy independence within 10 years and we're going to put our laboratories and our colleges and our universities to work- and we're going to get the great entrepreneurial spirit of this country and we're going to free ourselves from this dependency on Mideast oil: that's how you create jobs and become competitive.
President Bush rebutted: Let me start with how to control the cost of health care: medical liability reform, for starters, which he's opposed. Secondly, allow small businesses to pool together so they can share risk and buy insurance at the same discounts big businesses get to do. Thirdly, spread what's called health savings accounts- it's good for small businesses, good for owners. You own your own account, you can save tax-free: you get a catastrophic plan to help you on it. This is different from saying "OK, let me incent you to go on the government"- he's talking about his plan to keep jobs here: you know he calls it an "outsourcing"- stop outsourcing: Robert Rubin looked at his plan and said it won't work!
The best way to keep jobs here in America is, one, have an energy plan: I proposed one to the Congress two years ago, encourages conservation, encourages technology to explore for environmentally friendly ways to use coal and gas- it encourages the use of renewables like ethanol and biodiesel. It's stuck in the Senate: he and his running mate didn't show up to vote when they could have got it going in the Senate. Less regulations if we want jobs here, legal reform if we want jobs here and we've got to keep taxes low. Now, he says he's only going to tax the rich: do you realize 900,000 small businesses will be taxed under his plan because most small businesses are subchapter-S corps or limited partnerships and they pay tax at the individual income tax level? And so, when you're running up the taxes like that, you're taxing job creators and that's not how you keep jobs here.
Moderator Gibson broke in: Senator, I want to extend for a minute: you talk about tax cuts to stop outsourcing but- when you have IBM documents that I saw recently where you can hire a programmer for $12 in China, $56 an hour here- tax credits won't cut it.
Senator Kerry responded: You can't stop all outsourcing, Charlie: I've never promised that- I'm not going to because that would be pandering: you can't- but what you can do is create a fair playing field and that's what I'm talking about. But let me just address what the President just said: ladies and gentlemen, that's just not true what he said. The Wall Street Journal said 96 % of small businesses are not affected at all by my plan and you know why he gets that count? The President got $84 from a timber company that he owns and he's counted as a small business- Dick Cheney's counted as a small business: that's how they do things- that's just not right.
President Bush further rebutted: I own a timber company?- that's news to me! You need some wood? (this all drew much laughter) Most small businesses are subchapter-S corps: they just are. I met Grant Milliron- Mansfield, Ohio: he's creating jobs. Most small businesses- 70 percent of the new jobs in America are created by small businesses: taxes are going up when you run up the top two brackets- it's a fact!
Scoring- Round 13. Senator Kerry answered the question effectively enough and scored points with his tying the keeping of jobs here in America to the costs of health care. For his part, President Bush parried this well and scored very well with his contention that removing the President's tax cut for higher income brackets is, in effect, a tax increase on subchapter-S corporations (in other words, small business). The "who's going to more harm small business" "discussion extension" was, more or less, a "wash". Kerry loses this round with the "Bush owns a timber company" comment (only because of the President's claim that this was news to him: it's, obviously, possible that the President has some investment connection- past or present- with a timber concern but there were better way for Senator Kerry to have made his point without getting into a specific like that). Otherwise, yet another "philosophical difference" round (which Kerry could have won simply by his already having answered the question and leaving it at that) Bush 10, Kerry 9 (cumulative: Kerry- 127, Bush- 120).
Round 14-- Q. President Bush, 45 days after 9/11 Congress passed the PATRIOT Act, which takes away checks on law enforcement and weakens American citizens' Rights and Freedoms- especially fourth amendment rights. With expansions to the PATRIOT Act and PATRIOT Act II, my question to you is: why are my Rights being watered down and my citizens' around me and what are the specific justifications for these reforms?
President Bush answered: I really don't think your Rights are being watered down: as a matter of fact, I wouldn't support it if I thought that. Every action being taken against terrorists requires court order, requires scrutiny: as a matter of fact, the tools now given to the terrorist fighters are the same tools that we've been using against drug dealers and white-collar criminals- so I really don't think so: I hope you don't think that... 'cause I think whoever is the President must guard your Liberties, must not erode your Rights, in America.
The PATRIOT Act is necessary, for example, because parts of the FBI couldn't talk to each other: the intelligence-gathering and the law-enforcement arms of the FBI just couldn't share intelligence under the old law and that didn't make any sense. Our law enforcement must have every tool necessary to find and disrupt terrorists at home and abroad before they hurt us again- that's the task of the 21st Century- and so I don't think the PATRIOT Act abridges your Rights at all and I know it's necessary. I can remember being in upstate New York talking to FBI agents that helped bust the Lackawanna cell up there and they told me they could not have performed their duty, the duty we all expect of them, if they did not have the ability to communicate with each other under the PATRIOT Act.
Senator Kerry rebutted: Former Governor Racicot, as chairman of the Republican Party, said he thought that the PATRIOT Act has to be changed and fixed; Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, he is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said over his dead body before it gets renewed without being thoroughly rechecked- a whole bunch of folks in America are concerned about the way the PATRIOT Act has been applied: in fact, the Inspector General of the Justice Department found that John Ashcroft had twice applied it in ways that were inappropriate. People's Rights have been abused: I met a man who spent eight months in prison, wasn't even allowed to call his lawyer... finally, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois intervened and was able to get him out- this is in our country, folks, the United States of America!
They've got sneak-and-peek searches that are allowed, they've got people allowed to go into churches now and political meetings without any showing of potential criminal activity or otherwise. Now, I voted for the PATRIOT Act: 99 United States Senators voted for it and the President's been very busy running around the country using what I just described to you as a reason to say I'm wishy-washy, that I'm a flip-flopper. Now that's not a flip-flop: I believe in the PATRIOT Act- we need the things in it that coordinate the FBI and the CIA, we need to be stronger on Terrorism but you know what we also need to do as Americans is never let the terrorists change the Constitution of the United States in a way that disadvantages our Rights.
Scoring- Round 14. This would likely have been yet another "philosophical difference" round but for the fact that President Bush was long on generalities, short on specifics. Senator Kerry scored well with his bringing up someone who spent time in prison without being able to contact his lawyer under the PATRIOT Act (I very much doubt this was Jose Padilla [although Padilla was arrested in Illinois]- though my own position on the Padilla case is well known, what with my having written a Commentary about it, thus- even if Kerry were Padilla- it wouldn't mean anything to me [though I could see where many Americans might not be happy if this were Padilla!])-- Kerry also (finally!) explained his seemingly contradictory position on the PATRIOT Act (something that has been shadowing his campaign about as much as the "voting for/against the $87 billion" problem). Kerry 10, Bush 9 (cumulative: Kerry- 137, Bush- 129).
Round 15.-- Q. Senator Kerry, thousands of people have already been cured or treated by the use of adult stem cells or umbilical cord stem cells; however, no one has been cured by using embryonic stem cells. Wouldn't it be wise to use stem cells obtained without the destruction of an embryo?
Senator Kerry answered: You know... I really respect the feeling that's in your question: I understand it, I know the morality that's prompting that question, and I respect it enormously. But, like Nancy Reagan, and so many other people- you know, I was at a forum with Michael J. Fox the other day in New Hampshire, who's suffering from Parkinson's, and he wants us to do stem cell, embryonic stem cell, and this fellow stood up and he was quivering- his whole body was shaking from the nerve disease, the muscular disease that he had- and he said to me and to the whole hall, he said "you know, don't take away my hope because my hope is what keeps me going".
Chris Reeve is a friend of mine: Chris Reeve exercises every single day to keep those muscles alive for the day when he believes he can walk again- and I want him to walk again. I think we can save lives. Now, I think we can do ethically guided embryonic stem cell research- we have 100,000 to 200,000 embryos that are frozen in nitrogen today from fertility clinics: these weren't taken from abortion or something like that- they're from a fertility clinic and they're either going to be destroyed or left frozen and I believe- if we have the option, which scientists tell us we do, of curing Parkinson's, curing diabetes, curing... a paraplegic or quadriplegic or, you know, a spinal cord injury, anything!- that's the nature of the human spirit: I think it is respecting life to reach for that cure, I think it is respecting life to do it in an ethical way and the President has chosen a policy that makes it impossible for our scientists to do that- I want the future and I think we have to grab it.
President Bush rebutted: Embryonic stem cell research requires the destruction of life to create a stem cell. I'm the first President ever to allow funding- Federal funding- for embryonic stem cell research: I did so because I, too, hope that we'll discover cures from the stem cells and from the research derived but I think we've got to be very careful in balancing the ethics and the science and so I made the decision we wouldn't spend any more money beyond the 70 lines- 22 of which are now in action- because science is important but so is ethics, so is balancing life. To destroy life to save life- it's one of the real ethical dilemmas that we face: there's going to be hundreds of experiments off the 22 lines that now exist that are active and hopefully we find a cure but, as well, we need to continue to pursue adult stem cell research. I helped double the NIH budget to $28 billion a year to find cures and the approach I took is one that I think is a balanced and necessary approach, to balance science and the concerns for life.
Senator Kerry responded: Well, you talk about walking a waffle line!- he says he's allowed it, which means he's going to allow the destruction of life up to a certain amount and then he isn't going to allow it: I don't know how you draw that line but let me tell you, point blank- the lines of stem cells that he's made available, every scientist in the country will tell you "not adequate" because they're contaminated by mouse cells and because there aren't 60 or 70, they're are only about 11 to 20 now, and there aren't enough to be able to do the research because they're contaminated. We've got to open up the possibilities of this research and, when I am President, I'm going to do it because we have to.
President Bush further rebutted: Let me make sure you understand my decision: those stem-cell lines already existed- the embryo had already been destroyed- prior to my decision. I had to make the decision to destroy more life, so we continue to destroy life- I made the decision to balance science and ethics.
Scoring- Round 15. Another "philosophical difference" round- and a tough one to score, given the subject matter: both candidates well explained their respective positions. Senator Kerry scored points with this noting that the embryonic stem cell lines currently available are not the best for research; however, his "talk about a waffle-line" comment was unnecessary (President Bush well deflected it: where he had the decision and life might be destroyed, he decided against destroying life: there was nothing Bush could have done about life already destroyed). Kerry gets the round simply because he actually answered the question (even though he likely said nothing at all to allay the concerns of the actual questioner!). Kerry 10, Bush 9 (cumulative: Kerry- 147, Bush- 138).
Round 16-- Q. Mr. President, if there were a vacancy in the Supreme Court and you had the opportunity to fill that position today, who would you choose and why?
President Bush answered: I'm not telling! (this produced much laughter) I really haven't picked anybody yet- plus, I want them all voting for me. (more laughter) I would pick somebody who would not allow their personal opinion to get in the way of the law- I would pick somebody who would strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States. Let me give you a couple of examples, I guess, of the kind of person I wouldn't pick: I wouldn't pick a judge who said that the Pledge of Allegiance couldn't be said in a school because it had the words "under God" in it- I think that's an example of a judge allowing personal opinion to enter into the decision-making process as opposed to a strict interpretation of the Constitution. Another example would be the Dred Scott case, which is where judges- years ago- said that the Constitution allowed slavery because of personal property rights- that's a personal opinion: that's not what the Constitution says! The Constitution of the United States says we're all- you know, it doesn't say that: it doesn't speak to the equality of America.
And so I would pick people that would be strict constructionists: we've got plenty of lawmakers in Washington, D.C.- legislators make law, judges interpret the Constitution and I suspect one of us will have a pick at the end of the next four years and that's the kind of judge I'm going to put on there- no litmus test except for how they interpret the Constitution.
Senator Kerry rebutted: A few years ago when he came to office, the President said- these are his words- "what we need are some good conservative judges on the courts" and he said also that his two favorite justices are Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas: so you get a pretty good sense of where he's heading if he were to appoint somebody. Now, here's what I believe: I don't believe we need a good conservative judge, and I don't believe we need a good liberal judge- I don't believe we need a good judge of that kind of definition on either side.
I subscribe to the Justice Potter Stewart standard: he was a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States and he said the mark of a good judge, good justice, is that- when you're reading their decision, their opinion- you can't tell if it's written by a man or woman, a liberal or a conservative, a Muslim, a Jew or a Christian, you just know you're reading a good judicial decision. What I want to find, if I am privileged to have the opportunity to do it- and the Supreme Court of the United States is at stake in this race, ladies and gentlemen: the future of things that matter to you in terms of Civil Rights, what kind of Justice Department you'll have, whether we'll enforce the law. Will we have equal opportunity? Will women's rights be protected? Will we have equal pay for women, which is going backwards? Will a woman's right to choose be protected? These are Constitutional Rights and I want to make sure we have judges who interpret the Constitution of the United States according to the law.
Scoring- Round 16. President Bush started off OK in his answer but he would have been well advised to have stopped with the Pledge of Allegiance example- or, at least, to try and find a better second example. The Dred Scott decision??!!-- Dred Scott was, first of all, rendered moot by the adoption of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning slavery and involuntary servitude; and the Court opinion in Dred Scott was not at all a "personal opinion", for it reflected strictest interpretations of the law (the Constitution did stop the slave trade after 20 years but, before Emancipation, slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person for purposes of apportioning the House of Representatives) of that pre-Civil War time (however much it might have helped accelerate the drift toward that war)-- bad example. What the President then said about the Constitution and equality thereafter was unintelligible ("it doesn't say that, it doesn't speak to the equality of America"- what's "it"? the Constitution? At first, it sounded, to me, as if Bush were about to opine that the Constitution says we're all equal [in which case, his abrupt "it doesn't say that, it doesn't speak to the equality of America" was correct: the Constitution itself doesn't specifically speak to the equality of Americans, it is the Declaration of Independence that says that]; more likely, however, the President caught himself and "it doesn't say that", etc. is simply to be taken as a continuation of his remarks re: the Dred Scott decision, so I'm not going to deduct points for that). As for President Bush claiming he would use "no litmus test", wasn't his 'not picking a judge who would strike down "under God" being in the Pledge of Allegiance recited in public schools' a litmus test? Senator Kerry's answer was not much better: he was OK with his "I don't believe we need a good conservative judge, and I don't believe we need a good liberal judge- I don't believe we need a good judge of that kind of definition on either side"- except that everything he said around that statement (his specific reference to Justices Scalia and Thomas, his specificity regarding the Civil Rights he feels should be most protected by the U.S. Supreme Court) belied that statement. The President would have won this round, 10-9, but for his having brought up the Dred Scott decision and what he said about it in the present day context. Kerry 10, Bush 9 (cumulative: Kerry- 157, Bush- 147).
Round 17.-- Q. Senator Kerry, suppose you are speaking with a voter who believed abortion is murder and the voter asked for reassurance that his or her tax dollars would not go to support abortion- what would you say to that person?
Senator Kerry answered: I would say to that person exactly what I will say to you right now: first of all, I cannot tell you how deeply I respect the belief about life and when it begins. I'm a Catholic, raised a Catholic- I was an altar boy. Religion has been a huge part of my life- it helped lead me through a war, leads me today. But I can't take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn't share that article of faith- whether they be agnostic, atheist, Jew, Protestant, whatever: I can't do that- but I can counsel people, I can talk reasonably about life and about responsibility. I can talk to people, as my wife Teresa does, about making other choices and about abstinence and about all these other things that we ought to do as a responsible society- but, as a President, I have to represent all the people in the nation and I have to make that judgment.
Now, I believe that you can take that position and not be pro-abortion, but you have to afford people their constitutional rights and that means being smart about allowing people to be fully educated, to know what their options are in life, and making certain that you don't deny a poor person the right to be able to have whatever the Constitution affords them if they can't afford it otherwise- that's why I think it's important, that's why I think it's important for the United States, for instance, not to have this rigid ideological restriction on helping families around the world to be able to make a smart decision about family planning. You'll help prevent AIDS, you'll help prevent unwanted children, unwanted pregnancies- you'll actually do a better job, I think, of passing on the moral responsibility that is expressed in your question and I truly respect it.
President Bush rebutted: I'm trying to decipher that. My answer is: we're not going to spend taxpayers' money on abortion- this is an issue that divides America but, certainly, reasonable people can agree on how to reduce abortions in America. I signed the ban on Partial-birth Abortion- it's a brutal practice: it's one way to help reduce abortions- my opponent voted against the ban. I think there ought to be parental notification laws- he's against them. I signed a bill called the Unborn Victims of Violence Act- in other words, if you're a mom and you're pregnant and you get killed, the murderer gets tried for two cases, not just one: my opponent was against that.
These are reasonable ways to help promote a culture of life in America: I think it is a worthy goal in America to have every child protected by law and welcomed in life. I also think we ought to continue to have good Adoption law as an alternative to abortion and we need to promote maternity group homes, which my Administration has done. The culture of life is really important for a country to have if it's going to be a hospitable society.
Senator Kerry responded: Well, again, the President just said, categorically, my opponent is against this, my opponent is against that. You know, it's just not that simple: No, I'm not. I'm against the Partial-Birth Abortion, but you've got to have an exception for the life of the mother and the health of the mother under the strictest test of bodily injury to the mother. Secondly, with respect to Parental Notification, I'm not going to require a 16-or 17-year-old kid who's been raped by her father and who's pregnant to have to notify her father- so you've got to have a judicial intervention and, because they didn't have a judicial intervention where she could go somewhere and get help, I voted against it. It's never quite as simple as the President wants you to believe.
President Bush further rebutted: Well, it's pretty simple when they say: Are you for a ban on partial birth abortion?- yes or no? And he was given a chance to vote, and he voted 'no' and that's just the way it is. That's a vote- it came right up: it's clear for everybody to see and as I said, you can run but you can't hide the reality.
Scoring- Round 17. Another one of these "philosophical difference" rounds and- again (as with Round 15)- on a divisive, controversial moral and ethical (but, yes, also constitutional) subject: again, it was one in which Senator Kerry well answered the question (exactly how well the Senator might- or might not- reconcile his personal religious beliefs with his political viewpoint is not within the scope of this Commentary) but, obviously, did not at all comfort the questioner. President Bush's "I'm trying to decipher that" was a cheap "preaching to the choir" shot (after all, *I* could decipher it!-- and President Bush did nothing at all to answer Senator Kerry having so linked the "rigid ideological restriction" [as Kerry sees it] on U.S. aid to the U.N. in the sphere of family planning). In addition, Senator Kerry scored well by (again, finally!) explaining his votes on Partial Birth Abortion and Parental Notification (though he said nothing about the Unborn Victims of Violence Act); President Bush's citing "that's a vote- it came right up" in response was altogether too simplistic (as Kerry himself noted)- it might have well "preached to the choir" but I don't think it effectively reached out to the moderate, undecided voter. Kerry 10, Bush 9 (cumulative: Kerry- 167, Bush- 156).
Round 18-- Q. President Bush, during the last four years, you have made thousands of decisions that have affected millions of lives. Please give three instances in which you came to realize you had made a wrong decision and what you did to correct it.
President Bush answered: I have made a lot of decisions: some of them little- like appointments to boards you never heard of- and some of them big. And, in a war, there's a lot of tactical decisions that historians will look back and say "he shouldn't have done that, he shouldn't have made that decision" and I'll take responsibility for them- I'm human. But, on the big questions- about whether or not we should have gone into Afghanistan, the big question about whether we should have removed somebody in Iraq- I'll stand by those decisions because I think they're right... When they ask about the mistakes, that's what they're talking about: they're trying to say, "did you make a mistake going into Iraq?"- and the answer is "absolutely not"- it was the right decision. The Duelfer report confirmed that decision today, because what Saddam Hussein was doing was trying to get rid of sanctions so he could reconstitute a weapons program, and the biggest threat facing America is terrorists with weapons of mass destruction. We knew he hated us, we knew he'd invaded other countries, we knew he tortured his own people.
On the tax cut, it's a big decision- I did the right decision: our recession was one of the shallowest in modern history. Now, you asked what mistakes: I made some mistakes in appointing people but I'm not going to name them- I don't want to hurt their feelings on national TV. But History will look back and I'm fully prepared to accept any mistakes that History judges to my Administration because the President makes the decisions, the President has to take the responsibility.
Senator Kerry rebutted: I believe the President made a huge mistake- a catastrophic mistake- not to live up to his own standard, which was: build a true global coalition, give the inspectors time to finish their job and go through the U.N. process to its end and go to war as a last resort. I ask each of you just to look into your hearts, look into your guts: gut check time- was this really going to war as a last resort? The President rushed our nation to war without a plan to win the peace and simple things weren't done: that's why Senator Lugar says "incompetent in the delivery of services", that's why Senator Hagel, Republican, says, you know "beyond pitiful, beyond embarrassing, in the zone of dangerous".
We didn't guard 850,000 tons of ammo- that ammo is now being used against our kids. 10,000 out of 12,000 Humvees aren't armored- I visited some of those kids with no limbs today because they didn't have the armor on those vehicles: they didn't have the right body armor- I've met parents who've, on the Internet, gotten the armor to send their kids. There is no bigger judgment for a President of the United States than how you take a nation to war and you can't say "because Saddam might have done it 10 years from now": isn't a reason- that's an excuse!
President Bush responded: He complains about the fact our troops don't have adequate equipment, yet he voted against the $87 billion supplemental I sent to the Congress and then issued one of the most amazing quotes in political history: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." Saddam Hussein was a risk to our country, ma'am, and he was a risk that- and this is where we just have a difference of opinion- the truth of that matter is, if you listen carefully, Saddam would still be in power if he were the President of the United States and the world would be a lot better off.
Senator Kerry further rebutted: Not necessarily be in power but here's what I'll say about the $87 billion: I made a mistake in the way I talk about it, he made a mistake in invading Iraq- which is a worse decision? Now, I voted the way I voted because I saw that he had the policy wrong and I wanted accountability- I didn't want to give a slush fund to Halliburton, I also thought the wealthiest people in America ought to pay for it, ladies and gentlemen. He wants your kids to pay for it- I wanted us to pay for it, since we're at war: I don't think that's a bad decision.
Scoring- Round 18. President Bush did OK in his answer (the only thing I could possibly "hit him" on would be his statement that "when they ask about the mistakes, that's what they're talking about: they're trying to say, 'did you make a mistake going into Iraq?' "- only because one has to assume he was not necessarily presuming this was the questioner's intent [or was he?]. More likely, he was merely using this as a segue into his discussing his decisions on Iraq and the more general War on International Terrorism [something that he clearly felt he had to bring up at least once more before this Debate ended, this being the last "round"])- one cannot expect an incumbent to directly answer a question on what he might have done wrong, thus handing his opponent even more ammunition! As it was, Senator Kerry hammered him once more on the issue of Iraq and, again, his noting the ammunition dumps not being effectively guarded was a most telling point. President Bush made a good point in response with his noting that Saddam Hussein might still be in power had Senator Kerry been the President (Kerry's response to this was rather soft) but Senator Kerry made an even better defense of his "$87 billion for/against problem" (finally!) along the lines of what he had already said about his votes on abortion issues in the previous round. Interestingly, President Bush's addition of the words "and the world would be a lot better off" to his notion that Saddam Hussein would still be in power had John Kerry been President these last four years is itself much akin to Kerry's "mistake in the way I talk about it" (clearly Bush did not mean to imply that the world would have better off if Saddam had remained in power, though I couldn't discern if Bush meant this to be taken sardonically or if he was merely mangling a final note that the world is better off with Saddam gone)-- thus, Bush's complaint about what Kerry had said about the $87 billion in that which is oft-quoted by the Bush/Cheney campaign seems much more "the pot calling the kettle black". Kerry 10, Bush 9.
It is the position of 'The Green Papers' that any Opening and Closing Statements at these Debates, being largely repetitions of the messages of each candidate's campaign and not at all responses to "off the cuff" questions for which the candidates cannot prepare in advance, are not really part of the Debate itself. Thus, the Closing Statements from each candidate are not included herein and do not factor into the
FINAL SCORE: Senator Kerry- 177, President Bush- 165.
President Bush appeared to have lost this latest Presidential Debate to Senator Kerry by just about the same margin as he had apparently lost the First Presidential Debate back on 30 September (Bush gained 3 more points re: 'The Green Papers' Debate Scoring System over the previous Debate, but Kerry had gained 4: thus, Bush's 12-point losing margin this time was one more than the 11 points by which he had- so we say- lost Debate # 1) and for pretty much the same reason: President Bush continues to have this rather nasty habit of not following-through on what he says about himself, his views and his record- he states much of this material as if it is pretty much a "given", already clearly understood by everybody out there: as if he doesn't have to necessarily justify what he says, that- perhaps- nobody in his right mind would accept all that much of what Senator Kerry might say about his own views and record. President Bush might very well believe this (I, of course, can't know whether he does or not or if this is all merely some tactical political maneuvering on the part of the Bush/Cheney campaign [the ol' "never ever acknowledge your opponent's reasoning"]) but this is surely not the best way to appeal to all that many voters beyond the President's Republican base: it may well be that the Bush/Cheney people currently think they're winning (the only time the "never ever acknowledge" strategy can ever work)- if they don't happen to so think, they're certainly taking a rather huge gamble.
For President Bush could have easily won more than a few of the 10-9 rounds scored, instead, in Senator Kerry's favor in this Debate had he but backed up his own contentions more and, in addition, more confronted Kerry's claims. Why will the Chinese walk away from mulitlateral talks with North Korea if the U.S. on its own also talks to North Korea at the same time?- the President doesn't say. Why won't American allies follow a "President Kerry" despite his having criticized the military action in Iraq and argued that the "Coalition of the Willing" might not, in fact, be all that much of a real coalition? By not answering them more fully, the President's claims come off as nothing short of ludicrous (the United States of America still being a superpower- the "metropole" of what we might call a trans-Atlantic "constellation" [that is, a grouping of countries well short of Empire], it is highly unlikely that Bush's claim would actually come true were John Kerry to be elected President, for no Nation in that "constellation" can long afford to ignore the American President, no matter who he might be! If I might be wrong on this score, the President himself certainly has not explained why).
President Bush made a few more noticeable errors here and there (his citing the Dred Scott decision as an illustration of the type of Supreme Court justice he would not appoint was probably the worst of these [though it was still not a major gaffe- note that neither candidate lost any round by 10-8 or a greater margin throughout this Second Presidential Debate]: I have to confess that my own initial reaction to the President's statement that "I would pick somebody who would not allow their personal opinion to get in the way of the law- I would pick somebody who would strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States. Let me give you a couple of examples, I guess, of the kind of person I wouldn't pick... [an] example would be the Dred Scott case, which is where judges- years ago- said that the Constitution allowed slavery because of personal property rights" was 'well, Mr. President- who would?!'.
Senator Kerry also made his share of minor errors in this Debate, of course: for example, the Senator's claim that Iraq was not a threat (Round 5) contradicts his claim that he believes Saddam was always a threat (Round 2) [again, that same paradox in his concept of the whole Iraq situation I have already written about in earlier Commentaries] and there was also that rather strange remark about President Bush owning a timber company in Round 13 (my initial reaction to this was 'where'd that come from, Senator?!'). Yet, like Bush, whenever Kerry lost a round in this Debate, it was never by more than 10-9.
Almost all the rest of Senator Kerry's comments have been accompanied by no little explanation (if one reading this right now does not at all accept Kerry's explanations, so be it!- but President Bush, too many times, lacks in such explanations, too often simply throwing factoids and interpretations of factoids out there without any real reference as to just why these factoids or interpretations might, indeed, be correct [for instance, I myself showed- in this very piece- why the President can't just say, as he did re: Round 10- "The stock market was declining six months prior to my arrival: it was the largest stock market correction- one of the largest in history, which foretold a recession" because the stock market numbers from the year 2000 don't actually seem to show this]). Thus, the chief difference between President Bush and Senator Kerry is that Kerry continued- in this 8 October Debate- to do what he has to do in order to try and attract the moderate, undecided voter who very well might come to determine the outcome of the 2004 Presidential Election, while President Bush- in more than a few, though not necessarily, all cases- doesn't seem to either feel the need, or even want, to do the same (though, again, he might very well have good reason to be handling things this way [we'll certainly know once the election returns start coming in during the evening of Tuesday 2 November]-- I just don't think the President, right now, happens to have such good reason).
We'll all just have to see what the Final Presidential Debate come Wednesday 13 October might yet bring.