Debate Between the Presidential Candidates:
Al Gore and George W. Bush
Missouri, October 17, 2000
Part One | Part Two |
Part Three | Analysis
Listen to the entire debate.
Read the transcript:
NEAL CONAN, host:
From National Public Radio News, this is a special report. I'm Neal Conan.
Tonight the major party candidates for president are on the campus of
Washington University in St. Louis for the third and final presidential debate
of the campaign. With three weeks left before Election Day, most analysts and
polls say that Republican George W. Bush has edged in front of Democrat Al
Gore but the race is still extremely close.
There is still a large percentage of voters who have yet to decide and they
will form the audience tonight, both literally and figuratively. There are a
hundred uncommitted voters from the St. Louis area surrounding the stage at
the Athletic Complex at Washington University. They've been selected by the
Gallup Organization and they will provide the questions this evening.
This less predictable format is the result of lengthy negotiations between the
two campaigns. In the first debate, the candidates stood at lecterns. The
second was a more informal setting sitting at a table. For this town hall
style meeting, they have tall chairs and wireless microphones that will allow
them to walk around the stage. All of these debates are sponsored by the
Commission on Presidential Debates, a bipartisan organization that set up the
rules for eligibility. No third party candidates qualified so Governor Bush
and Vice President Gore have the stage to themselves. There will be a moment
of silence to begin this evening's debate for Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan,
who died with his son and a campaign aide last night.
Here is moderator Jim Lehrer.
Mr. JIM LEHRER (Moderator): Good evening from the field house at Washington
University in St. Louis. I'm Jim Lehrer of "The NewsHour" on PBS. And I
welcome you to this third and final Campaign 2000 debate between the
Democratic candidate for president, Vice President Al Gore, and the Republican
candidate, Governor George W. Bush of Texas. Let's welcome the candidates
Vice President AL GORE (Democratic Presidential Candidate): Hey, Jim. How
are you doing?
Mr. LEHRER: My pleasure. Good to see you.
Vice Pres. GORE: Good to see you.
Governor GEORGE W. BUSH (Republican Presidential Candidate): Good to see
Vice Pres. GORE: How you doing?
Gov. BUSH: Good to see you.
Mr. LEHRER: Governor. Welcome.
Gov. BUSH: ...(Unintelligible). Nice to see you all.
Vice Pres. GORE: Howdy. How are you-all?
Mr. LEHRER: Before proceeding tonight, we would like to observe a moment of
silence in memory of Governor Mel Carnahan of Missouri, who, along with his
son and his former chief of staff, died in a private plane crash last night
near St. Louis.
A reminder, as we continue now, that these debates are sponsored by the
Commission on Presidential Debates. The formats and the rules were worked out
by the commission and the two campaigns. Tonight's questions will be asked by
St. Louis area voters who were identified as being uncommitted by the Gallup
Organization. Earlier today, each of them wrote a question on a small card
like this. Those cards were collected and then given to me this afternoon.
My job, under the rules of the evening, was to decide the order the questions
will be asked and to call on the questioners accordingly. I also have the
option of asking follow-ups, which in order to get to more of the panels
question, for the record, I plan to do sparingly and mostly for
The audience participants are bound by the following rule: They shall not ask
follow-up questions or otherwise participate in the extended discussion. And
the questioner's microphone will be turned off after he or she completes
asking the question. Those are the rules.
As in Winston-Salem last--last week, no single answer or response from a
candidate can exceed two minutes. There is an audience here in the hall and
they have promised to remain absolutely quiet as did their predecessors this
year in Boston, Danville and Winston-Salem.
Before we begin, a correction from last week's debate. I was wrong when I
said Vice President Gore's campaign commercials had called Governor Bush a
bumbler. That specific charge was made in a press statement by Gore campaign
spokesman Mark Fabiani, not in a TV Guide...
Gov. BUSH: I'm glad you clarified that.
Mr. LEHRER: ...in a TV--in a TV--in a TV ad.
Now let's go to the first question. Of over the 130 questions we received
from this panel, we will begin with one of the 19 on health issues and it goes
to you Mr. Vice President, and it will be asked by James Hankins. Mr.
Mr. JAMES HANKINS (Audience Participant): How do you feel about HMOs and
insurance companies making the critical decisions that affect people's lives
instead of the medical professionals? And why are the HMOs and insurance
companies not held accountable for--for their decisions?
Vice Pres. GORE: Mr. Hankins, I don't feel good about it, and I think we
ought to have a Patients Bill of Rights to take the medical decisions away
from the HMOs and give them back to the doctors and the nurses.
I want to come back and--and tell you why, but if you will forgive me, I would
like to say something right now at the beginning of this debate, following on
the moment of silence for Mel Carnahan and Randy Carnahan and Chris Sifford.
Tipper and I were good friends with Mel and Randy, and I know that all of us
here want to extend our sympathy and condolences to Jean and the family and to
the Sifford family. And would I just like to say that this debate, in a way,
is a living tribute to Mel Carnahan because he loved the vigorous discussion
of ideas in our democracy. He was a fantastic governor of Missouri. This
state became one of the top five in the nation for health care coverage for
children under his leadership. One of the best in advancing all kinds of
benefits for children to--to grow up healthy and strong.
And, of course, this debate also takes place at a time when the tragedy of the
USS Cole is on our minds and hearts and insofar as the memorial service is
tomorrow, I would like to also extend sympathy to the families of those who
have died and those who are still missing and--and the injured.
Now, Mr. Hankins, I think that the--the situation that you described has
gotten completely out of hand. Doctors are--are giving prescriptions they're
recommending treatments, and then their--their recommendations are being
overruled by HMOs and insurance companies. That is unacceptable. I support a
strong national Patients Bill of Rights. It is actually a disagreement
between us. The national law that is pending on this, the Dingell-Norwood
bull--bill, a bipartisan bill, is one that I support and that the governor
Mr. LEHRER: Time is up, Vice President. Two minutes response, Governor Bush.
Gov. BUSH: I--I, too, want to extend my prayers to the--and--and--and
blessings, God's blessings on the families whose lives were up--overturned
yeste--to--today--last night. It's a tragic moment.
Actually, Mr. Vice President, it's not true, I--I do support a national
Patients Bill of Rights. As a matter of fact, I brought Republicans and
Democrats together to do just that in the state of Texas to get a Patients
Bill of Rights through. It requires a different kind of leadership style to
do it, though. You see, in order to get something done on behalf of the
people, you have to put partisanship aside. And that's what we did in my
state. We've got one of the most advanced Patients Bill of Rights. It says,
for example, that a woman can--doesn't have to go through a gatekeeper to go
to her gynecologist. It says that you can't gag a doctor. A doctor can
advise you. The HMO, the insurance company can't gag that doctor from giving
you full advice. In this particular bill, it allows patients to choose a
doctor, their own doctor if they want to.
But we did something else that was interesting. We're one of the first states
that said you can sue an HMO for denying you proper coverage. Now there's
what's called an Independent Review Organization that you have to go through
first. It says if you've got a complaint with your insurance company, you can
take your complaint to an objective body. And if the objective body rules on
your behalf, the insurance company must follow those rules. However, if
the--if--if the insurance company doesn't follow the findings of the IRO, then
that becomes a cause of action in a court of law. It's time for our nation to
come together and do what's right for the people, and I think this is right
for the people. You know, I--I--I support a national Patients Bill of Rights,
Mr. Vice President, and I--I want all people covered. I don't want the law
to supercede good law like we've got in Texas.
Mr. LEHRER: Governor.
Gov. BUSH: I think...
Mr. LEHRER: Time is up, sir.
Vice Pres. GORE: Jim...
Mr. LEHRER: Yes, sir.
Vice Pres. GORE: ...we have a direct disagreement on this.
Mr. LEHRER: Just--just a minute, Mr. Vice President. I wanted to--you
know, the ways the rules go here now, two minutes, two minutes and then I'll
decide whether we go on.
Vice Pres. GORE: Right.
Mr. LEHRER: OK? So what I want to make sure is we understand here is before
we go on to another question in the health area, would you agree that you two
agree on a national Patients Bill of Rights?
Vice Pres. GORE: Absolutely...
Mr. LEHRER: Quickly.
Vice Pres. GORE: Absolutely not. I referred to the Dingell-Norwood bill. It
is the bipartisan bill that is now pending in the Congress. The--the HMOs and
the insurance companies support the other bill that's pending, the one that
the Republican majority has put forward. They like it because it doesn't
accomplish what I think really needs to be accomplished, to give the decisions
back to the doctors and nurses and to give you a right of appeal to somebody
other than the HMO or insurance company. Let you go to the nearest emergency
room without having to call an HMO before you call 911, to let you see a
specialift--a specialist if--if you need to. And it has strong bipartisan
support. It is being blocked by the Republican leadership in the Congress...
Gov. BUSH: So...
Vice Pres. GORE: ...and I specifically would like to know whether Governor
Bush will support the Dingell-Norwood bill, which is the main one pending.
Mr. LEHRER: Governor Bush, you may answer that if you'd like, but also I'd
like to know how you see the differences between the two of you and we need to
Gov. BUSH: Well, the difference is is that I can get it done, that I can get
something positive done on behalf of the people. That's what the question in
this campaign is about. It's not only what's your philosophy and what's your
position on issues, but can you get things done? And I believe I can.
Mr. LEHRER: All right.
Vice Pres. GORE: What about the Dingell-Norwood bill?
Mr. LEHRER: All right. We're going to go now to another...
Gov. BUSH: I'm--I'm not quite through--let me finish, please.
Mr. LEHRER: All right. Go--go.
Gov. BUSH: I talked about the principles and the issues that I think are
important in a Patients Bill of Rights. You know, there's this--this kind of
Washington, DC, focus, `Well, it's in this committee or it's got this
sponsor.' If I'm the president, we're going to have emergency room care,
we're going to have gag orders, women will have direct access to OB-GYN,
people will be able to take their HMO insurance company to court. That's what
I've done in Texas and that's the kind of leadership style I'll bring to
Mr. LEHRER: All right. Another--the next question also on--on a health
issue. It's from--it will be asked by Marie Payne Clappey. And it goes to
Ms. MARIE PAYNE CLAPPEY (Audience Participant): Are either of you concerned
with--I got to put my glasses on.
Gov. BUSH: Here you go. I've got...
Ms. CLAPEY: OK. Are either of 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 streamline the drug companies' procedures
instead of just finding more money to pay for them?
Gov. BUSH: Well, that's a great question. I--I think one of the problems we
have, particularly for seniors, is there's no prescription drug coverage in
Medicare and, therefore, when they have to try to purchase drugs, they do so
on their own. There's no kind of collective bargaining, there's no power of
purchasing amongst seniors. So I think step one to make sure prescription
drugs is more affordable for seniors, and those are the folks who really rely
upon prescription drugs a lot these days, is to reform the Medicare system, is
to have prescription drugs as an integral part of Medicare once and for all.
The problem we have today is that, like the Patients Bill of Rights,
particularly with health care, there's a lot of bickering in Washington, DC.
It's kind of like a political issue as opposed to a people issue. So what I
want to do is I want to call upon Republicans and Democrats to forget all the
arguing and finger-pointing and come together and take care of our seniors
with the prescrip--prescription drug program, that says we'll pay for the poor
seniors, we'll help all seniors with prescription drugs.
In the meantime, I think it's important to have what's called immediate
helping hand, which is direct money to states so that seniors, poor seniors
don't have to choose between food and medicine. That's a--that's a part of an
overall overhaul. But purchasing power is important. I'm against price
controls. I think price controls would hurt our ability to continue important
research and development. Drug therapies are replacing a lot of medicines
a--as we used to know it. One of the most important things is to continue the
research and development component and--of--and so I'm against price controls.
Expediting drugs through the FDA makes sense, of course. Allowing--the new
bill that was passed in the Congress made sense, to allow for, you know, 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
Mr. LEHRER: Vice President Gore, two minutes.
Vice Pres. GORE: All right. Here we go again. Now, look, if--if you want
someone who will spin a lot of words describing a whole convoluted process and
then end up supporting legislation that is supported by the big drug
companies, this is your man. If you want someone who will fight for you and
who will fight for the middle-class families and working men and women who are
sick and tired of having their parents and grandparents pay higher prices for
prescription drugs than anybody else, then I want to fight for you. And you
asked the--the--a great question because it's not only seniors.
Listen, for 24 years I have never been afraid to take on the big drug
companies. They do some great things. They discover great new cures and
that's great. We want to--we want them to continue that. But they are now
spending more money on advertising and promotion--You see all these ads?--than
they are on research and development. And they're trying to artificially
extend the monopoly patent protection so they can keep charging these very
high prices. I want to streamline the approval of the competing generic drugs
and the new kinds of treatments that can compete with them so that we
drin--bring the price down for everybody.
Now, briefly, let me tell you how my prescription drug plan works. The
governor talked about Medicare. I gi--I propose a real prescription drug
benefit under Medicare for all seniors, all seniors. And here's how it works.
You pick your own doctor and nobody can take that away from you. The doctor
chooses the prescription that you need and nobody can overrule your doctor.
You you go to your own pharmacy and then Medicare pays half the price. If
you're poor, they pay all of it. If you have extraordinarily high costs, then
they pay all over $4,000 out of pocket. And I'll bring new competition to
bring the price down. And if you pass the big drug companies bill, nothing
Mr. LEHRER: All right, another health question that comes from Vickie
French. And it's for you, Vice President Gore. Vickie French, where are you?
Oh, there she is. Yes.
Ms. VICKIE FRENCH (Audience Participant): ...American people, we spend
billions of dollars every year on taxes or pay billions of dollars in taxes.
Would you be open to the idea of a national health care plan for everybody,
and if not why? If so, is this something you would try to implement if you
were elected into office and what would you do to implement this plan?
Vice Pres. GORE: I think that we should move step by step toward
univers--universal health coverage, but I am not in favor of government doing
it all. We've spent 65 years now o--on the development of a hybrid system,
partly private, partly public. And 85 percent of our people have health
insurance, 15 percent don't. That adds up to 44 million people. That is a
national outrage. We have got to get health coverage for those who do not
have it. And we've got to improve the quality for those who do with a
Patients Bill of Rights that's real and that works, the Dingell-Norwood bill.
And we have got to fill in the gaps in coverage by finally bringing parity for
the treatment of mental illness because that's been left out. We've got to
deal with long-term care.
Now here are the steps that I would take, first of all. I will make a
commitment to bring health care coverage of high quality that is affordable to
every single child in America within four years. And then we'll fill other
gaps by covering the--the--the--the parents of those children when the family
is poor or up to two and a half times the poverty rate. I want to give a tax
credit for the purchase of individual health insurance plans. I want to give
small business employers a tax credit, 25 percent, to encourage the--the
providing of health insurance for the employees in--in small businesses. I
want to give seniors who are--well, the near elderly. I don't like that term,
because I'm just about in that category, but those 55-65 ought to be able to
buy into Medicare for premiums that are reasonable and fair and significantly
below what they have to--to get now.
Now we have a big--we have a big difference on this. And you need to know the
record here. Under Governor Bush, Texas has sunk to be 50th out of 50 in
health care--in health insurance for their citizens. Last week he said that
they were spending $3.7 billion--$4.7 billion on this.
Mr. LEHRER: Mr. Vice President...
Vice Pres. GORE: OK. Time.
Mr. LEHRER: ...time is up. Governor Bush, two minutes.
Gov. BUSH: I'm absolutely opposed to a national health care plan. I don't
want the federal government making decisions for consumers or for providers.
I--I remember what--what the administration tried to do in 1993. They tried
to have a national health care plan and, fortunately, it failed. I trust
people. I don't trust the federal government. It's going to be one of the
themes you hear tonight. I don't want the federal government making decisions
on behalf of everybody.
There is an issue with the--the uninsured. There sure is. And we've got
uninsured people in my state. Ours is a big state, fast-growing state. We
share a common border with another nation. But we're providing health care
for our people. That's one thing about insurance--that's a Washington term.
Question is, are people getting health care? And we've got a strong safety
net and there needs to be a safety net in America. There needs to be more
community health clinics for--where the poor can go get health care. We need
a program for the uninsured. They've been talking about it in Washington, DC.
The number of uninsured have now gone up for the past seven years.
We need--we need a $2,000 credit, rebate for people--working people who don't
have insurance. They can get in the marketplace and start purchasing
insurance. We need to have--allow small businesses to write across--insurance
across jurisdictional lines so small businesses can afford health care, small
restaurants can afford health care. And so af--health care needs to be
affordable and available. But we've got to trust people to make decisions
with their lives. In the Medicare reform I talk about, it says if you're a
senior, you can stay in Medicare if you like it, and that's fine, but we're
going to give you other choices to choose if you want to do so, just like they
do the federal employees, the people who work in Washington, DC, for the US
Congress or the United States Senate. Get a variety of choices to make in
their lives. And that's what we ought to do for all people in America.
Mr. LEHRER: Gov...
Gov. BUSH: Yes, sir. Sorry.
Mr. LEHRER: Governor? No.
Vice Pres. GORE: Can I follow up now?
Gov. BUSH: I'm not paying attention to the lights very well.
Mr. LEHRER: No, not right now. Not right now. Education...
Gov. BUSH: I'm trying to find my light.
Mr. LEHRER: These folks submitted 18--18 questions on--on education and the
first one is that--that we--that we--will be asked on education will go to
you, Governor, and will be asked by Angie Pettick. Angie Pettick, where are
you? There--there she is, Governor, right there.
Gov. BUSH: Oh, thanks. Hi, Angie.
Ms. ANGIE PETTICK (Audience Participant): I've heard a lot about education
and the need to hold teachers and schools accountable. And I certainly agree
with that. But as an individual with an educational background and also a
parent, I have seen a lot of instances where the parents are unresponsive to
the teachers or flat out uninvolved in their child's education. How do you
intend to not only hold the teachers and schools accountable but also hold
Gov. BUSH: Well, you--you know, it's hard to make people love one another.
I wish I knew the law 'cause I'd darn sure sign it. I wish I knew the law
that said all of us would be good parents. One of the things the next
president must do is to remind people that if we're going to have a
responsible period in America, that each of us must love our children with all
of our heart and all our soul.
I happen to believe strong accountability encourages parental involvement,
though. I--I think when you measure and post results on the Internet, or in
the town newspapers, most parents say, `Wait a minute, my child's school isn't
doing what I want it to do,' and, therefore, become involved in education. I
recognize there are some who just don't seem to care. But there are a lot of
parents who feel like everything is going well in their child's school, and
all of a sudden they wake up and realize that wait a minute, standards aren't
being met. That's why I'm so strong for accountability. I--I believe we
ought to measure a lot--three, four, five, sixth, seventh, eighth grade. We
do so in my state of Texas. One of the good things we've done in Texas is
we've got strong accountability, because you can't cure unless you know. You
can't--you can't solve a problem unless you diagnose it.
I strongly believe that one of the best things to encourage parental
involvement also is to know that the classrooms will be safe and secure.
That's why I support a teacher liability act at the federal level that says if
a teacher or principal upholds reasonable standards of classroom discipline,
they can't be sued. They can't be sued. I think parents will be more
involved with education when they know their children's classrooms are safe
and secure as well. I also believe that we need to say to people that if you
cannot meet standards, there has to be a consequence. Instead of just
the--kind of the soft bigotry of low expectations, that there has to be a
consequence. We can't continue to shuffle children through school. And one
of the consequences is to allow parents to have different choices.
Mr. LEHRER: Governor. Vice President Gore.
Vice. Pres. GORE: Yeah. We have a huge difference between us on this
question. I'd like to start by telling you what my vision is. I see a day in
the United States of America where all of our public schools are considered
excellent, world class. Where there are no failing schools, where the
classrooms are small enough in size--number of students--so that the teacher
can spend enough one-on-one time with each--with each student. Now that means
recruiting new teachers for the public schools. It means, in my plan, hiring
bonuses to get 100,000 new teachers in the public schools within the next four
years. It means also helping local school districts that sometimes find the
parents of school-aged children outvoted on bond issues to give them some help
with interest-free bonding authority so that we can build new schools and
modernize the classrooms. We need to give teachers the training and
professional development that they need to--including the paid time off to go
visit the classroom of a master teacher and to pick up some new skills.
I--I want to give every middle-class family a $10,000 a year tax deduction for
college tuition so that--so that middle-class families will always be able to
send their kids on to college. I want to work for universal pre-school,
because we know from all the studies that the--the--the youngsters learn--kids
learn more in the first few years of life than anywhere else.
Now I said there was a contrast. Governor Bush is for vouchers. And in his
plan he proposes to drain more money--more taxpayer money out of the public
schools for private school vouchers than all of the money that he proposes in
his entire budget for public schools themselves. And only 1-in-20 students
would be eligible for these vouchers, and they wouldn't even pay the full
tuition to private school. I think that's a mistake. I th--I don't think we
should give up on the private schools and leave kids trapped in failing
schools, I think we--I think we should make it the number one priority to make
our schools the best in the world, all of them.
Mr. LEHRER: Governor, what is your position on that?
Gov. BUSH: Yeah. I appreciate that. I think any time we end with one of
these attacks, it's--it's appropriate to respond. Here's what I think. First
of all, vouchers are up to states. If you want to do a voucher program in
Missouri, fine. You see, I strongly believe in local control of schools. I'm
a governor of a state and I don't like it when the federal government tells us
what to do. I believe in local control of schools.
But here's what I I've said. I've said to the extent we spend federal money
on disadvantaged children, we want the schools to show us whether or not the
children are learning. What's unreasonable about that? We expect there to be
standards met and we expect there to be measurement. And if we find success,
we'll praise it. But when we find children trapped in schools that will not
change and will not teach, instead of saying, `Oh, this is OK in America, just
to shuffle poor kids through schools,' there has to be a consequence. And the
consequence is that federal portion of federal money will go to the parent so
the parent can go to a tutoring program or another public school or another
private sc--or a private school. You see, there has to be a consequence.
We've got a society that says, `Hey, the status quo is fine. Just move them
through.' And guess who suffers?
Mr. LEHRER: Well, what's the harm on...
Vice Pres. GORE: Yeah.
Mr. LEHRER: What's the other side on vouchers?
Vice Pres. GORE: Well, the--the program that he's proposing is not the one
that he just described. Under your plan, Governor Bush, states would be
required to pay vouchers to students to match the--the vouchers that the
federal government would put up. Now here's--and the way it would happen is
that under his plan, if a school was designated as failing, the kids would be
trapped there for another three years and then some of them would get federal
vouchers and the state would be forced to--to match those--that money.
Under my plan, if a school is failing, we work with the states to give them
the authority and the resources to close down that school and reopen it right
away with a new principal, a new faculty, a turnaround team of specialists who
know what they're doing to--it's based on the plan of Governor Jim Hunt...
Mr. LEHRER: So...
Vice Pres. GORE: ...in North Carolina and it works great.
Mr. LEHRER: So no vouchers under a--in a Gore administration.
Vice Pres. GORE: If I thought that there was no alternative then I might
feel differently, but I--I have an obligation...
Mr. LEHRER: Well, let...
Vice Pres. GORE: ...to fight to--to make sure there are no failing schools.
Mr. LEHRER: Let me...
Vice Pres. GORE: We've got a turnaround al--most schools are excellent. But
we've got to make sure that all of them are.
Mr. LEHRER: Andrew Cosburg has a related question on education that's right
on this subject. Mr. Cosburg, where are you? There you are. And it's for
Vice President Gore.
Mr. ANDREW COSBURG: Mr. Vice President, in the school district in which I
work and in countless others across the nation, we face crumbling school
buildings, increased school violence, student apathy, overcrowding, lack of
funding, lawsuits, the list goes on. I could mention low teacher pay but I
won't. What can you tell me...
Vice Pres. GORE: You should.
Mr. COSBURG: ...and my fellow American teachers today about your plans for
our immediate future?
Vice Pres. GORE: What grade do you teach?
Mr. LEHRER: A--up--up--that's a violation of your rule, Vice President Gore.
Vice Pres. GORE: High school. I mentioned before that--that...
Mr. LEHRER: Sir--Mr...
Vice Pres. GORE: ...the local communities are having a harder time passing
bond issues. Traditionally, if you've been involved in a campaign like that
you know that the parents with kids in school are the ones that turn out and
vote. It's ironic that there are now--there's now a smaller percentage of the
voters made up of parents with children than ever in American history because
of the aging of our population.
But at the same time we've got the largest generation of students in public
schools ever. More than 90 percent of America's children go to public
schools. And lar--it's the largest number ever this year and they'll break
the record next year and every year for 10 years running. We've got to do
something about this.
And local--it's not enough to leave it up to the local school districts.
They're not able to do it. And our future depends upon it. Look, we're in an
information age. Our economic future depends upon whether or not our children
are going to get the kind of education that lets them go on to college--and
again, I want to make it possible for all middle-class families to send their
kids to college and more Pell grants for those who are in the lower-income
An--and then I want to make sure that we have job training on top of that and
lifelong learning, but it all starts with the public school teachers. I--my
proposal gives $10,000 hiring bonuses for those teachers who are--are--who get
certified to teach in the areas where they're most needed.
Now accountability? We--we basically agree on accountability. My plan
requires testing of all students. It also requires something that Governor
Bush's plan doesn't. It requires testing of all new teachers, including in
the subjects that they teach. We have to start treating teachers like the
professionals that they are. And give them the respect an--and the kind of
quality of life that will draw more people into teaching because we need a lot
Mr. LEHRER: Governor Bush, two minutes.
Gov. BUSH: When you total up all the federal spending he wants to do, it's
the largest increase in federal spending in years. And there's just not going
to be enough money. I--I--I have been a governor of a big state. I've made
education my number one priority. That's the fa--that's what governors ought
to do. `They ought to say this is the most important thing we do as a state.'
The federal government puts about 6 percent of the money up. They put
about--you know, 60 percent of the strings where you got to fill out
paperwork. I don't know if you have to be a paperwork filler outer, but most
of it's because of the federal government. What I want to do is send
flexibility and authority to the local folks so you can choose what to do with
the money. One size does not fit all. I'd worry about federalizing education
if I were you. I s--I--I believe strongly that the federal government can
help. They need to fund Head Start. We need to have accountability. The
vice president's plan does not have annual accountability.
Third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade we ne--we need to demand on results. I
believe strongly in a pat--in a Teacher Protection Act like I mentioned. I
hear from teachers all the time about the lawsuits and the threats, respect in
the classroom. Part of it's because you can't--you can't control the
classroom. You can't have a consequence for somebody without fear of getting
sued under federal law. So I'm going to ask the Congress to pass a Teacher
So I believe in flexibility, I believe in a national reading initiative for
local districts to access with K-2 diagnostic testing. Curriculum that works.
Phonics works, by the way. It needs to be part of our curriculum. There
needs to be flexibility for teacher training and teacher hiring with federal
money. The federal government can be a--be a part, but--but don't fall prey
to all this talk about money here and money there because e--education is
really funded at the local level. Ninety-four percent comes from the local
Mr. LEHRER: All right. Vice President Gore, is the governor right when he
says that you're proposing the largest federal spending in years?
Vice Pres. GORE: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I'm so glad that I have a
chance to knock that down. Look, the problem is that under Governor Bush's
plan, $1.6 trillion tax cut, mostly to the wealthy. Under his own budget
numbers, he proposes spending more money for a tax cut just for the wealthiest
1 percent than all of the new money that he budgets for education, health care
and national defense combined.
Now under my plan, we will balance the budget every year. I'm not just saying
this. I'm not just talking. I have helped to balance the budget for the
first time in 30 years, pay down the debt. And under my plan, in four years
as a percentage of our gross domestic product, federal spending will be the
smallest that it has been in 50 years. One reason is--you know the third
biggest spending item in our budget is interest on the national debt? We get
nothing for it. We keep the good faith and credit of the United States. I
will pay down the debt every single year until it is eliminated early in the
next decade. That gets rid of the--the--the third biggest intrusion of the
Mr. LEHRER: Sir...
Vice Pres. GORE: ...in--in our economy. Now because the governor ha--has
all this money for a tax cut, mostly to the wealthy, there is no money left
over so--so schools get testing...
Mr. LEHRER: All right.
Vice Pres. GORE: ...an--and lawsuit reform an--and not much else.
Mr. LEHRER: Governor, the vice president says you're wrong.
Gov. BUSH: Well, he's wrong. Just add up all the numbers. It's three times
bigger than what President Clinton proposed. The Senate Budget Committee....
Mr. LEHRER: Three times--excuse me, three times...
Gov. BUSH: ...bigger than what President Clinton proposed.
Vice Pres. GORE: That's in an ad, Jim...
Gov. BUSH: Hey, wait a minute.
Vice Pres. GORE: ...that was knocked down by the journalist who analyzed the
ad, said it was misleading.
Gov. BUSH: May--may I answer?
Mr. LEHRER: OK. Go ahead.
Gov. BUSH: My turn?
Mr. LEHRER: Yes, sir.
Gov. BUSH: Forget the journalists. He proposed more than Walter Mondale and
Michael Dukakis combined. You know, this is a big spender, he is, and he
ought to be proud of it. It's part of his record. We just have a different
Let me talk about tax relief. If you pay taxes, you ought to get tax relief.
The vice president believes that only the right people ought to get tax
relief. I don't think that's the role of the president to pick, `You're
right,' and `You're not right.' I think if you're going to have tax relief,
everybody ought to get it. And, therefore, wealthy people are going to get
it. But the top 1 percent will end up paying one-third of the taxes in
America and they get one-fifth of the benefits. And that's because we
structured the plan so that six million additional American families pay no
taxes. If you're a family of four making $50,000 in Missouri, you get a 50
percent cut in your federal income taxes. What I've done is set priorities
and funded them.
Vice Pres. GORE: Well...
Gov. BUSH: And there's extra money. And I believe the people who pay the
bills ought to--ought to get some money back. It's a difference of opinion.
He wants to grow the government and I trust you with your own money.
Vice Pres. GORE: I...
Mr. LEHRER: Well, let...
Gov. BUSH: I wish we could spend an hour talking about trusting people
because it's the right position to take.
Vice Pres. GORE: Can we extend the time?
Mr. LEHRER: Yeah. Hold on one sec here, though. The--but, Governor, just
to reverse the thing: What do you say specifically to what the vice president
said tonight? He said it many, many times, that your tax cut benefits the top
1 percent of the wealthiest Americans and--you've heard what he said.
Gov. BUSH: Of course it does. If you pay taxes, you're going to get a
benefit. People who pay taxes will get tax relief.
Mr. LEHRER: All right then what--why shouldn't they?
Vice Pres. GORE: All right...
Gov. BUSH: Well, let me--let me finish, please.
Mr. LEHRER: Well--well...
Gov. BUSH: Under my plan, if you make--the top--the wealthy people pay 62
percent of the taxes today, afterwards they pay 64 percent. This is a fair
plan. Do you know why? Because the tax code is unfair for people at the
bottom end of the economic ladder. If you're a single mother making $22,000 a
year today, and you're trying to raise two children, for every additional
dollar you earn, you pay a higher marginal rate on that dollar than someone
making $200,000 and it's not right. I want to do something about that.
Mr. LEHRER: Vice President Gore.
Vice Pres. GORE: Yeah. Please.
Mr. LEHRER: All right, Vice President Gore?
Vice Pres. GORE: Look, this isn't about Governor Bush. It's not about me.
It is about you. And I want to come back to something I said before. If you
want somebody who believes that we were better off eight years ago than we are
now, and that we ought to go back to the kind of policies that we had back
then, emphasizing tax cuts mainly for the wealthy, here is your man. If you
want somebody who will fight for you, and who will fight to have middle-class
tax cuts, then I am your man. I want to be. Now i--I doubt anybody here
makes more than $330,000 a year. I won't ask you. But if you do, you're in
the top 1 percent.
Mr. LEHRER: It would be a violation of the rules. They could...
Vice Pres. GORE: I--I'm not going to ask them. I'm not going to ask. I'm
not going to ask. But if everyone here in this audience was--was dead on in
the middle of the middle class, then the tax cuts for every single one of you
all added up would be less than the tax cut his plan would give to just one
member of that top wealthiest 1 percent. Now you judge for yourselves whether
or not that's fair.
Mr. LEHRER: Quick and then we're moving on.
Gov. BUSH: Good. Fifty million Americans get no tax relief under his plan.
Vice Pres. GORE: That's not right.
Gov. BUSH: And you may not be one of them. You're just not one of the right
people. And secondly, we've had enough fighting. It's time to unite. You
talk about eight years? In eight years they haven't gotten anything done on
Medicare, on Social Security, a Patients Bill of Rights.
Mr. LEHRER: All right...
Gov. BUSH: It's time to get something done.
Mr. LEHRER: Hey, we're going to move on now.
Vice Pres. GORE: I--I've got to answer that, Jim. Medicare...
Mr. LEHRER: Wh--what...
Vice Pres. GORE: I--I cast the tie-breaking vote to add 26 years to the life
Mr. LEHRER: Sir...
Vice Pres. GORE: It was due to go bankrupt in 1999. And that $50 million
figure, again, the newspaper....
Mr. LEHRER: Vice President Gore.
Vice Pres. GORE: ...I said--you said, `forget the journalists,' but they are
the--the keepers of the score card and whether or not...
Mr. LEHRER: Ke...
Vice Pres. GORE: ...you're using facts that aren't right. And that--that
fact is just not right.
Mr. LEHRER: Speaking of keepers of the score card, that's what I'm trying to
do here, Mr. Vice President...
Vice Pres. GORE: Yeah.
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