2004 Presidential Debates
Jim Lehrer: Good evening from the University of Miami Convocation
Center in Coral Gables, Florida. I'm Jim Lehrer of the News Hour on PBS.
And I welcome you to the first of the 2004 Presidential debates between
President George W. Bush, the Republican nominee, and Senator John
Kerry, the Democratic nominee.
These debates are sponsored by the Commission on Presidential
Debates. Tonight's will last 90 minutes, following detailed rules of
engagement worked out by representatives of the candidates. I have
agreed to enforce their rules on them. The umbrella topic is foreign
policy and homeland security. But the specific subjects were chosen by
me. The questions were composed by me. The candidates have not been told
what they are, nor has anyone else.
For each question, there can only be a 2-minute response, a 90-
second rebuttal, and at my discretion, a discussion extension of 1
minute. A green light will come on when 30 seconds remain in any given
answer, yellow at 15, red at 5 seconds, and then flashing red means
time's up. There is also a backup buzzer system if needed. Candidates
may not direct a question to each other. There will be 2-minute closing
statements but no opening statements.
There is an audience here in the hall, but they will remain
absolutely silent for the next 90 minutes, except for now, when they
join me in welcoming President Bush and Senator Kerry. [Applause]
Good evening, Mr. President, Senator Kerry.
As determined by a coin toss, the first question goes to you,
Senator Kerry. You have 2 minutes.
Preventing Future Terrorist Attacks
Do you believe you could do a better job than President Bush in
preventing another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States?
Senator Kerry: Yes, I do. But before I answer further, let me thank
you for moderating. I want to thank the University of Miami for hosting
us. And I know the President will join me in welcoming all of Florida to
this debate. You've been through the roughest weeks anybody could
imagine. Our hearts go out to you, and we admire your pluck and
I can make America safer than President Bush has made us. And I
believe President Bush and I both love our country equally, but we just
have a different set of convictions about how you make America safe. I
believe America is safest and strongest when we are leading the world
and when we are leading strong alliances.
I'll never give a veto to any country over our security, but I also
know how to lead those alliances. This President has left them in
shatters across the globe, and we're now 90 percent of the casualties in
Iraq and 90 percent of the costs. I think that's wrong, and I think we
can do better.
I have a better plan for homeland security. I have a better plan to
be able to fight the war on terror: by strengthening our military;
strengthening our intelligence; by going after the financing more
authoritatively; by doing what we need to do to rebuild the alliances;
by reaching out to the Muslim world, which the President has almost not
done; and beginning to isolate the radical Islamic Muslims, not have
them isolate the United States of America.
I know I can do a better job in Iraq, where I have a plan to have a
summit with all of the allies, something this President has not yet
achieved, not yet been able to do to bring people to the table. We can
do a better job of training the Iraqi forces to defend themselves. And I
know that we can do a better job of preparing for elections. All of
these, and especially homeland security, which we'll talk about a little
Mr. Lehrer: Mr. President, you have a 90-second rebut.
President Bush: I too thank the University of Miami and say our
prayers are with the good people of this State who've suffered a lot.
September the 11th changed how America must look at the world. And
since that day, our Nation has been on a multipronged strategy to keep
our country safer. We've pursued Al Qaida wherever Al Qaida tries to
hide; 75 percent of known Al Qaida leaders have been brought to justice.
The rest of them know we're after them.
We've upheld the doctrine that said, "If you harbor a terrorist,
you're equally as guilty as the terrorist." And the Taliban, no longer
in power; 10 million people have registered to vote in Afghanistan in
the upcoming Presidential election.
In Iraq, we saw a threat, and we realized that after September the
11th, we must take threats seriously before they fully materialize.
Saddam Hussein now sits in a prison cell. America and the world are
safer for it.
We continue to pursue our policy of disrupting those who proliferate
weapons of mass destruction. Libya has disarmed. The A.Q. Khan network
has been brought to justice. And as well, we're pursuing a strategy of --
of freedom around the world, because I understand free nations will
reject terror; free nations will answer the hopes and aspirations of
their people; free nations will help us achieve the peace we all want.
Likelihood of Future Terrorist Attack
Mr. Lehrer: New question, Mr. President, 2 minutes. Do you believe
the election of Senator Kerry on November the 2d would increase the
chances of the U.S. being hit by another 9/11-type terrorist attack?
President Bush: I don't believe it's going to happen. I believe I'm
going to win because the American people know I know how to lead. I've
shown the American people I know how to lead. I have -- I understand
everybody in this country doesn't agree with the decisions that I've
made, and I made some tough decisions. But people know where I stand.
People out there listening know what I believe, and that's how best it
is to keep the peace.
This Nation of ours has got a solemn duty to defeat this ideology of
hate, and that's what they are. This is a group of killers who
will not only kill here but kill children in Russia, that will attack
unmercifully in Iraq hoping to shake our will. We have a duty to defeat
this enemy. We have a duty to protect our children and grandchildren.
The best way to defeat them is to never waver, to be strong, to use
every asset at our disposal, is to constantly stay on the offensive, and
at the same time, spread liberty.
And that's what people are seeing now is happening in Afghanistan.
Ten million citizens have registered to vote. It's a phenomenal
statistic, that if given a chance to be free, they will show up at the
polls. Forty-one percent of those 10 million are women.
In Iraq, no doubt about it, it's tough. It's hard work. It's
incredibly hard. You know why? Because an enemy realizes the stakes. The
enemy understands a free Iraq will be a major defeat in their ideology
of hatred. That's why they're fighting so vociferously. They showed up
in Afghanistan when they were there because they tried to beat us, and
they didn't. And they're showing up in Iraq for the same reason. They're
trying to defeat us. And if we lose our will, we lose. But if we remain
strong and resolute, we will defeat this enemy.
Mr. Lehrer: Ninety-second response, Senator Kerry.
Senator Kerry: I believe in being strong and resolute and
determined, and I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, wherever they
are. But we also have to be smart, Jim, and smart means not diverting
your attention from the real war on terror in Afghanistan against Usama
bin Laden and taking it off to Iraq, where the 9/11 Commission confirms
there was no connection to 9/11 itself and Saddam Hussein, and where the
reason for going to war was weapons of mass destruction, not the removal
of Saddam Hussein.
This President has made, I regret to say, a colossal error of
judgment. And judgment is what we look for in the President of the
United States of America.
I'm proud that important military figures are supporting me in this
race: former Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili; just
yesterday General Eisenhower's son, General John Eisenhower, endorsed
me; General -- Admiral William Crowe; General Tony McPeak, who ran the Air
Force war so effectively for his father. All believe I would make a
stronger Commander in Chief. And they believe it because they know I
would not take my eye off of the goal, Usama bin Laden. Unfortunately,
he escaped in the mountains of Tora Bora. We had him surrounded. But we
didn't use American forces, the best trained in the world, to go kill
him. The President relied on Afghan warlords that he outsourced that job
to. That's wrong.
President's Judgment on Foreign Policy
Mr. Lehrer: New question, 2 minutes, Senator Kerry. "Colossal"
misjudgments -- what colossal misjudgments, in your opinion, has President
Bush made in these areas?
Senator Kerry: Well, where do you want me to begin? [Laughter] First
of all, he made the misjudgment of saying to America that he was going
to build a true alliance, that he would exhaust the remedies of the
United Nations and go through the inspections. In fact, he first didn't
even want to do that, and it wasn't until former Secretary of State Jim
Baker and General Scowcroft and others pushed publicly and said,
"You've got to go to the U.N.," that the President finally changed his
mind -- his campaign has a word for that -- and went to the United Nations.
Now, once there, we could have continued those inspections. We had
Saddam Hussein trapped.
He also promised America that he would go to war as a last resort.
Those words mean something to me, as somebody who has been in combat,
"last resort." You've got to be able to look in the eyes of families
and say to those parents, "I tried to do everything in my power to
prevent the loss of your son and daughter." I don't believe the United
States did that, and we pushed our allies aside.
And so today, we are 90 percent of the casualties and 90 percent of
the cost, $200 billion -- $200 billion that could have been used for
health care, for schools, for construction, for prescription drugs for
seniors, and it's in Iraq. And Iraq is not even the center of the focus
of the war on terror. The center is Afghanistan where, incidentally,
there were more Americans killed last year than the year before, where
the opium production is 75 percent of the world's opium
production, where 40 to 60 percent of the economy of Afghanistan is
based on opium, where the elections have been postponed 3 times. The
President moved the troops, so he's got 10 times the number of troops in
Iraq than he has in Afghanistan, where Usama bin Laden is. Does that
mean that Saddam Hussein was 10 times more important than Usama bin
Laden -- excuse me -- Saddam Hussein more important than Usama bin Laden? I
don't think so.
Mr. Lehrer: Ninety-second response, Mr. President.
President Bush: My opponent looked at the same intelligence I looked
at and declared, in 2002, that Saddam Hussein was a grave threat. He
also said, in December of 2003, that anyone who doubts that the world is
safer without Saddam Hussein does not have the judgment to be President.
I agree with him. The world is better off without Saddam Hussein.
I was hoping diplomacy would work. I understand the serious
consequences of committing our troops into harm's way. It's the hardest
decision a President makes. So I went to the United Nations. I didn't
need anybody to tell me to go to the United Nations; I decided to go
there myself. And I went there hoping that, once and for all, the free
world would act in concert to get Saddam Hussein to listen to our
demands. And they passed a resolution that said, "Disclose, disarm, or
face serious consequences." I believe when an international body
speaks, it must mean what it says.
But Saddam Hussein had no intention of disarming. Why should he? He
had 16 other resolutions, and nothing took place. As a matter of fact --
my opponent talks about inspectors -- the facts are that he was
systematically deceiving the inspectors. That wasn't going to work.
That's kind of a pre-September-10th mentality, to hope that somehow
resolutions and failed inspections would make this world a more peaceful
place. He was hoping we'd turn away. But there was, fortunately, others
beside myself who believed that we ought to take action, and we did. The
world is safer without Saddam Hussein.
Priorities in the War on Terror
Mr. Lehrer: New question, Mr. President, 2 minutes. What about
Senator Kerry:s point, the comparison he drew between the priorities of
going after Usama bin Laden and going after Saddam Hussein?
President Bush: Jim, we've got the capability of doing both. As a
matter of fact, this is a global effort. We're facing a -- a group of
folks who have such hatred in their heart, they'll strike anywhere with
any means. And that's why it's essential that we have strong alliances,
and we do. That's why it's essential that we make sure that we keep
weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of people like Al Qaida,
which we are. But to say that there's only one focus on the war on
terror doesn't really understand the nature of the war on terror.
Of course we're after Saddam Hussein -- I mean, bin Laden. He's -- he's
isolated. Seventy-five percent of his people have been brought to
justice. The killer in -- the mastermind of the September the 11th
attacks, Khalid Sheik Mohammad, is in prison. We're making progress, but
the front on this war is more than just one place. The Philippines --
we've got help -- we're helping them there to bring -- to bring Al Qaida
affiliates to justice there. And of course Iraq is a central part of the
war on terror. That's why Zarqawi and his people are trying to fight us.
Their hope is that we grow weary and we leave. The biggest disaster that
could happen is that we not succeed in Iraq. We will succeed. We've got
a plan to do so, and the main reason we'll succeed is because the Iraqis
want to be free.
I had the honor of visiting with Prime Minister Allawi. He's a
strong, courageous leader. He believes in the freedom of the Iraqi
people. He doesn't want U.S. leadership, however, to send mixed signals,
to not stand with the Iraqi people. He believes, like I believe, that
the Iraqis are ready to fight for their own freedom. They just need the
help to be trained. There will be elections in January. We're spending
reconstruction money. And our alliance is strong. That's the plan for
victory. And when Iraq is free, America will be more secure.
Mr. Lehrer: Senator Kerry, 90 seconds.
Senator Kerry: The President just talked about Iraq as a center of
the war on terror. Iraq was not even close to the center of the war on
terror before the President invaded it. The President made the judgment
to divert forces from under General Tommy Franks from Afghanistan before
the Congress even approved it, to begin to prepare to go to war in Iraq.
And he rushed to war in Iraq without a plan to win the peace.
Now, that is not the judgment that a President of the United States
ought to make. You don't take America to war unless you have a plan to
win the peace. You don't send troops to war without the body armor that
they need. I've met kids in Ohio, parents in Wisconsin, places -- Iowa,
where they're going out on the Internet to get the state-of-the-art body
gear to send to their kids -- some of them have got them for a birthday
present. I think that's wrong. Humvees -- 10,000 out of 12,000 Humvees
that are over there aren't armored. And you go visit some of those kids
in the hospitals today who were maimed because they don't have the
This President just -- I don't know if he sees what's really happening
out there, but it's getting worse by the day -- more soldiers killed in
June than before, more in July than June, more in August than July, more
in September than in August. And now we see beheadings, and we've got
weapons of mass destruction crossing the border every single day, and
they're blowing people up. And we don't have enough troops there.
President Bush: Can I respond?
Mr. Lehrer: Let's do a -- one of these one-minute extensions. You have
President Bush: Thank you, sir.
First of all, what my opponent wants you to forget is that he voted
to authorize the use of force and now says, "It's the wrong war at the
wrong time at the wrong place." I don't see how you can lead this
country to succeed in Iraq if you say "wrong war, wrong time, wrong
place." What message does that send our troops? What message does that
send our allies? What message does that send the Iraqis?
No, the way to win this is to be steadfast and resolved and to
follow through on the plan that I've just outlined.
Mr. Lehrer: Thirty seconds, Senator.
Senator Kerry: Yes, we have to be steadfast and resolved, and I am.
And I will succeed for those troops, now that we're there. We have to
succeed. We can't leave a failed Iraq. But that doesn't mean it wasn't a
mistake of judgment to go there and take the focus off of Usama bin
Laden. It was. Now, we can succeed, but I don't believe this President
can. I think we need a President who has the credibility to bring the
allies back to the table and to do what's necessary to make it so
America isn't doing this alone.
Mr. Lehrer: We'll come back to Iraq in a moment, but I want to come
back to where I began, on homeland security. This is a 2-minute new
question. Senator Kerry, as President, what would you do specifically,
in addition to or differently, to increase the homeland security of the
United States, than what President Bush is doing?
Senator Kerry: Jim, let me tell you exactly what I'll do, and there
are a long list of things. First of all, what kind of mixed message does
it send when you've got $500 million going over to Iraq to put police
officers in the streets of Iraq and the President is cutting the COPS
program in America? What kind of message does it send to be sending
money to open firehouses in Iraq, but we're shutting firehouses, who are
the first-responders, here in America?
The President hasn't put one nickel -- not one nickel -- into the effort
to fix some of our tunnels and bridges and most exposed subway systems.
That's why they had to close down the subway in New York when the
Republican Convention was there. We hadn't done the work that ought to
be done. The President -- 95 percent of the containers that come into the
ports, right here in Florida, are not inspected. Civilians get onto
aircraft, and their -- their luggage is X-rayed, but the cargo hold is not
X-rayed. Does that make you feel safer in America?
This President thought it was more important to give the wealthiest
people in America a tax cut rather than invest in homeland security.
Those aren't my values. I believe in protecting America first. And long
before President Bush and I get a tax cut -- and that's
who gets it -- long before we do, I'm going to invest in homeland
security, and I'm going to make sure we're not cutting COPS programs in
America, and we're fully staffed at our firehouses and that we protect
the nuclear and chemical plants. The President also, unfortunately, gave
in to the chemical industry, which didn't want to do some of the things
necessary to strengthen our chemical plant exposure.
And there's an enormous undone job to protect the loose nuclear
materials in the world that are able to get to terrorists. That's a
whole other subject, but -- I see we still have a little bit more time.
Let me just quickly say, at the current pace the President will not
secure the loose material in the Soviet Union -- former Soviet Union for
13 years. I'm going to do it in 4 years. And we're going to keep it out
of the hands of terrorists.
Mr. Lehrer: Ninety-second response, Mr. President.
President Bush: I don't think we want to get to how he's going to
pay for all these promises. It's like a huge tax gap and -- anyway, that's
for another debate.
My administration has tripled the amount of money we're spending on
homeland security, to $30 billion a year. My administration worked with
the Congress to create the Department of Homeland Security so we could
better coordinate our borders and ports. We've got 1,000 extra Border
Patrol on the southern border, more than 1,000 on the northern border.
We're modernizing our borders. We've spent $3.1 billion for fire and
police -- $3.1 billion. We're doing our duty to provide the funding.
But the best way to protect this homeland is to stay on the offense.
We have to be right 100 percent of the time, and the enemy only has to
be right once to hurt us. There's a lot of good people working hard. And
by the way, we've also changed the culture of the FBI to have
counterterrorism as its number one priority. We're communicating better.
We're going to reform our intelligence services to make sure that we get
the best intelligence possible. The PATRIOT Act is vital. It's vital
that the Congress renew the PATRIOT Act, which enables our law
enforcement to disrupt terror cells.
But again, I repeat to my fellow citizens, the best way to protect
you is to stay on the offense.
Mr. Lehrer: Yes, let's do a little -- yes, 30 seconds.
Senator Kerry: The President just said the FBI had changed its
culture. We just read on the front pages of America's papers that there
are over 100,000 hours of tapes unlistened to. On one of those tapes may
be the enemy being right the next time. And the test is not whether
you're spending more money. The test is, are you doing everything
possible to make America safe? We didn't need that tax cut. America
needed to be safe.
President Bush: Of course we're doing everything we can to protect
America. I wake up every day thinking about how best to protect America.
That's my job. I work with Director Mueller of the FBI. He comes into my
office, when I'm in Washington, every morning talking about how to
protect us. There's a lot of really good people working hard to do so.
It's hard work.
But again, I want to tell the American people, we're doing
everything we can at home, but you better have a President who chases
these terrorists down and bring them to justice before they hurt us
Criteria for Withdrawal of U.S. Troops From Iraq
Mr. Lehrer: New question, Mr. President, 2 minutes. What criteria
would you use to determine when to start bringing U.S. troops home from
President Bush: Let me first tell you that the best way for Iraq to
be safe and secure is for Iraqi citizens to be trained to do the job.
And that's what we're doing. We got 100,000 trained now, 125,000 by the
end of this year, over 200,000 by the end of next year. That is the best
way. We'll never succeed in Iraq if the Iraqi citizens do not want to
take matter into their own hands and protect themselves. I believe they
want to. Prime Minister Allawi believes they want to.
And so the best indication about when we can bring our troops home --
which I really want to do, but I don't want to do so for the sake of
bringing them home; I want to do so because we've achieved an
objective -- is to see the Iraqis perform, is to see the Iraqis step up and take
And so the answer to your question is, when our generals on the
ground and Ambassador Negroponte tells me that Iraq is ready to defend
herself from these terrorists, that elections will have been held by
then, that there's stability, and that they're on their way to -- you
know, a nation of -- that's free. That's when. And I hope it's as soon as
possible. But I know putting artificial deadlines won't work. My
opponent one time said, "Well, get me elected, I'll have them out of
there in 6 months." That's -- you can't do that and expect to win the war
My message to our troops is: Thank you for what you're doing; we're
standing with you strong; we'll give you all the equipment you need; and
we'll get you home as soon as the mission's done, because this is a
vital mission. A free Iraq will be a ally in the war on terror, and
that's essential. A free Iraq will set a powerful example in the part of
the world that is desperate for freedom. A free Iraq will help secure
Israel. A free Iraq will enforce the hopes and aspirations of the
reformers in places like Iran. A free Iraq is essential for the security
of this country.
Mr. Lehrer: Ninety seconds, Senator Kerry.
Senator Kerry: Thank you, Jim. My message to the troops is also
"Thank you" for what they're doing, but it's also, "Help is on the
way." I believe those troops deserve better than what they are getting
today. You know, it's interesting, when I was in the ropeline just the
other day coming out here from Wisconsin, a couple of young returnees
were in the line, one active duty, one from the Guard. And they both
looked at me and said, "We need you. You've got to help us over
Now, I believe there's a better way to do this. You know, the
President's father did not go into Iraq -- into Baghdad, beyond Basra. And
the reason he didn't is, he said -- he wrote in his book, because there
was no viable exit strategy. And he said our troops would be occupiers
in a bitterly hostile land. That's exactly where we find ourselves
today. There's a sense of American occupation.
The only building that was guarded when the troops went into Baghdad
was the oil ministry. We didn't guard the nuclear facilities. We didn't
guard the foreign office, where you might have found information about
weapons of mass destruction. We didn't guard the borders. Almost every
step of the way, our troops have been left on these extraordinarily
difficult missions. I know what it's like to go out on one of those
missions where you don't know what's around the corner. And I believe
our troops need other allies helping. I'm going to hold that summit. I
will bring fresh credibility, a new start, and we will get the job done
Mr. Lehrer: New --
President Bush: Jim --
Mr. Lehrer: All right, go ahead. Yes, sir.
President Bush: I think it's worthy for a followup --
Mr. Lehrer: Sure.
President Bush: -- if you don't mind.
Senator Kerry: Let's change the rules. We can add a whole --
Mr. Lehrer: We can do 30 seconds each here.
President Bush: All right. My opponent says, "Help is on the way,"
but what kind of message does it say to our troops in harm's way,
"wrong war, wrong place, wrong time"? That's not a message a Commander
in Chief gives -- or "This is a great diversion." As well, help is on
the way, but it's certainly hard to tell it when he voted against the
$87 billion supplemental to provide equipment for our troops and then
said he actually did vote for it before he voted against it. That's not
what Commander in Chiefs does when you're trying to lead troops.
Mr. Lehrer: Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.
Senator Kerry: Well, you know, when I talked about the $87 billion,
I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. But the President made a
mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse? I believe that when you know
something's going wrong, you make it right. That's what I learned in
Vietnam. When I came back from that war, I saw that it was wrong. Some
people don't like the fact that I stood up to say no, but I did. And
that's what I did with that vote. And I'm going to lead those troops to
Planning and International Cooperation in Iraq
Mr. Lehrer: All right, new question, 2 minutes, Senator Kerry.
Speaking of Vietnam, you spoke to Congress in 1971, after you came back
from Vietnam, and you said, quote, "How do you ask a man to be the last
man to die for a mistake?" Are Americans now dying in Iraq for a
Senator Kerry: No, and they don't have to, providing we have the
leadership that we put -- that I'm offering. I believe that we have to win
this. The President and I have always agreed on that. And from the
beginning, I did vote to give the authority because I thought Saddam
Hussein was a threat. And I did accept that -- that intelligence. But I
also laid out a very strict series of things we needed to do in order to
proceed from the position of strength, and the President, in fact,
promised them. He went to Cincinnati, and he gave a speech in which he
said, "We will plan carefully. We will proceed cautiously. We will not
make war inevitable. We will go with our allies." He didn't do any of
They didn't do the planning. They left the planning of the State
Department on the State Department desks. They avoided even the advice
of their own general. General Shinseki, the Army Chief of Staff, said,
"You're going to need several hundred thousand troops." Instead of
listening to him, they retired him. The terrorism czar, who has worked
for every President since Ronald Reagan, said, "Invading Iraq in
response to 9/11 would be like Franklin Roosevelt invading Mexico in
response to Pearl Harbor." That's what we have here.
And what we need now is a President who understands how to bring
these other countries together to recognize their stakes in this. They
do have stakes in it. They've always had stakes in it. The Arab
countries have a stake in not having a civil war. The European countries
have a stake in not having total disorder on their doorstep. But this
President hasn't even held the kind of statesmanlike summits that pull
people together and get them to invest in those stakes. In fact, he's
done the opposite; he pushed them away. When the Secretary-General, Kofi
Annan, offered the United Nations, he said, "No, no, we'll go do this
To save for Halliburton the spoils of the war, they actually issued
a memorandum from the Defense Department saying, "If you weren't with
us in the war, don't bother applying for any construction." That's not
a way to invite people.
Mr. Lehrer: Ninety seconds.
President Bush: That's totally absurd. Of course the U.N. was
invited in, and we support the U.N. efforts there. They pulled out after
Sergio de Mello got killed, but they're now back in, helping with
elections. My opponent says we didn't have any allies in this war?
What's he say to Tony Blair? What's he say to Aleksander Kwasniewski of
Poland? I mean, you can't expect to build an alliance when you denigrate
the contributions of those who are serving side by side with American
troops in Iraq.
Plus, he says the cornerstone of his plan to succeed in Iraq is to
call upon nations to serve. So what's the message going to be? "Please
join us in Iraq for a grand diversion"? "Join us for a war that is a
wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time"? I know how these
people think. I deal with them all the time. I sit down with the world
leaders frequently and talk to them on the phone frequently. They're not
going to follow somebody who says this is "the wrong war at the wrong
place at the wrong time." They're not going to follow somebody whose
core convictions keep changing because of politics in America.
And finally, he says we ought to have a summit. Well, there are
summits being held. Japan is going to have a summit for the donors.
There's $14 billion pledged, and Prime Minister Koizumi is going to call
countries to account to get them to contribute. And there's going to be
an Arab summit of the neighborhood countries, and Colin Powell helped
set -- helped set up that summit.
Mr. Lehrer: Thirty seconds, Senator.
Senator Kerry: The United Nations' Kofi Annan offered help after
Baghdad fell. And we never picked him up on that and did what was
necessary to transfer authority and to transfer reconstruction. It was
Secondly, when we went in, there were three countries, Great
Britain, Australia, and the United States. That's not a grand coalition.
We can do better.
Mr. Lehrer: Thirty seconds, Mr. President.
President Bush: Well, actually, he forgot Poland. And now, there are
30 nations involved, standing side by side with our American troops, and
I honor their sacrifices. And I don't appreciate it when a candidate for
President denigrates the contributions of these brave -- brave soldiers.
It's -- you cannot lead the world if you do not honor the contributions of
those who are with us. He called them the "coerced and the bribed."
That's not how you bring people together.
Our coalition is strong. It will remain strong, for my -- so long as
I'm the President.
Mr. Lehrer: New question, Mr. President, 2 minutes. You have said
there was a, quote, "miscalculation of what the conditions would be in
postwar Iraq." What was the miscalculation, and how did it happen?
President Bush: No, what I said was that because we achieved such a
rapid victory, more of the Saddam loyalists were around. In other words,
we thought we'd whip more of them going in. But because Tommy Franks did
such a great job in planning the operations, we moved rapidly, and a lot
of the Ba'athists and Saddam loyalists laid down their arms and
disappeared. I thought we would -- they would stay and fight, but they
didn't. And now we're fighting them now.
It's -- and it's hard work. I understand how hard it is. I get the
casualty reports every day. I see on the TV screens how hard it is, but
it's necessary work. And I'm optimistic. See, I think you can be
realistic and optimistic at the same time. I'm optimistic we'll
achieve -- I know we won't achieve if we send mixed signals. I know we're
not going to achieve our objective if we send mixed signals to our
troops, our friends, the Iraqi citizens.
We've got a plan in place. The plan says there'll be elections in
January, and there will be. The plan says we'll train Iraqi soldiers so
they can do the hard work, and we are. And it's not only just America,
but NATO is now helping. Jordan is helping train police. The UAE is
helping train police. We've allocated $7 billion over the next months
for reconstruction efforts, and we're making progress there. And our
alliance is strong. Now, I just told you, there's going to be a summit
of the Arab nations. Japan will be hosting a summit. We're making
It is hard work. It is hard work to go from a tyranny to a
democracy. It's hard work to go from a place where people get their
hands cut off or executed, to a place where people are free. But it's
necessary work, and a free Iraq is going to make this world a more
Mr. Lehrer: Ninety seconds, Senator Kerry.
Senator Kerry: What I think troubles a lot of people in our country
is that the President has just sort of described one kind of mistake,
but what he has said is that even knowing there were no weapons of mass
destruction, even knowing there was no imminent threat, even knowing
there was no connection of Al Qaida, he would still have done everything
the same way. Those are his words. Now, I would not.
So what I'm trying to do is just talk the truth to the American
people and to the world. Truth is what good policy is based on. It's
what leadership is based on.
The President says that I'm denigrating these troops. I have nothing
but respect for the British and for Tony Blair and for what they've been
willing to do. But you can't tell me that when the most troops any other
country has on the ground is Great Britain with 8,300, and below that,
the 4 others are below 4,000, and below that, there isn't anybody out of
the hundreds, that we have a genuine coalition to get this job done. You
can't tell me that on the day that we went into that war and it started,
it was principally the United States, the -- America and Great Britain and
one or two others; that's it. And today we are 90 percent of the
casualties and 90 percent of the costs.
And meanwhile, North Korea has gotten nuclear weapons. Talk about
mixed messages, the President is the one who said we can't allow
countries to get nuclear weapons. They have. I'll change that.
Candidates' Candor and Consistency
Mr. Lehrer: New question, Senator Kerry, 2 minutes. You've just --
you've repeatedly accused President Bush, not here tonight but elsewhere
before, of not telling the truth about Iraq, essentially of lying to the
American people about Iraq. Give us some examples of what you consider
to be his not telling the truth.
Senator Kerry: Well, I've never, ever used the harshest word, as you
did just then, and I try not to. I've been -- but I'll, nevertheless, tell
you that I think he has not been candid with the American people, and
I'll tell you exactly how.
First of all, we all know that in his State of the Union Message he
told Congress about nuclear materials that didn't exist. We know that he
promised America that he was going to build this coalition. I just
described the coalition. It is not the kind of coalition we were
described when we were talking about voting for this. The President said
he would exhaust the remedies of the United Nation and go through that
full process. He didn't. He cut it off, sort of arbitrarily. And we know
that there were further diplomatics -- efforts underway. They just decided
the time for diplomacy is over and rushed to war without planning for
what happens afterwards. Now, he misled the American people in his
speech when he said, "We will plan carefully." They obviously didn't.
He misled the American people when he said, "We'd go to war as a last
resort." We did not go as a last resort. And most Americans know the
Now, this has cost us deeply in the world. I believe that it is
important to tell the truth to the American people. I've worked with
those leaders the President talks about. I've worked with them for 20
years, for longer than this President, and I know what many of them say
today, and I know how to bring them back to the table.
And I believe that fresh start, new credibility, a President who can
understand what we have to do to reach out to the Muslim world, to make
it clear that this is not -- you know, Usama bin Laden uses the invasion
of Iraq in order to go out to people and say the -- America has declared
war on Islam. We need to be smarter about how we wage a war on terror.
We need to deny them the recruits. We need to deny them the safe havens.
We need to rebuild our alliances. I believe that Ronald Reagan, John
Kennedy, and others did that more effectively, and I'm going to try to
follow in their footsteps.
Mr. Lehrer: Ninety seconds, Mr. President.
President Bush: My opponent just said something amazing. He said
Usama bin Laden uses the invasion of Iraq as an excuse to spread hatred
for America. Usama bin Laden isn't going to determine how we defend
ourselves. Usama bin Laden doesn't get to decide. The American people
decide. I decided. The right action was in Iraq.
My opponent calls it a mistake. It wasn't a mistake. He said I
misled on Iraq. I don't think he was misleading when he called Iraq a
grave threat in the fall of 2002. I don't think he was misleading when
he said that it was right to disarm Iraq in the spring of 2003. I don't
think he misled you when he said that if -- anyone who doubted whether the
world was better off without Saddam Hussein in power didn't have the
judgment to be President. I don't think he was misleading. I think what
is misleading is to say you can lead and succeed in Iraq if you keep
changing your positions on this war, and he has. As the politics change,
his positions change, and that's not how a Commander in Chief acts.
I -- let me finish. The intelligence I looked at was the same
intelligence my opponent looked at, the very same intelligence. And when
I stood up there and spoke to the Congress, I was speaking off the same
intelligence he looked at to make his decisions to support the
authorization of force.
Mr. Lehrer: Thirty seconds -- we'll do a 30-second here.
Senator Kerry: I wasn't misleading when I said he was a threat. Nor
was I misleading on the day that the President decided to go to war when
I said that he had made a mistake in not building strong alliances and
that I would have preferred that he did more diplomacy. I've had one
position, one consistent position, that Saddam Hussein was a threat;
there was a right way to disarm him and a wrong way. And the President
chose the wrong way.
Mr. Lehrer: Thirty seconds, Mr. President.
President Bush: The only thing consistent about my opponent's
position is that he's been inconsistent. He changes positions. And you
cannot change positions in this war on terror if you expect to win. And
I expect to win. It's necessary we win. We're being challenged like
never before, and we have a duty to our country and to future
generations of America to achieve a free Iraq, a free Afghanistan, and
to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction.
Hard Decisions/Support for the Military
Mr. Lehrer: New question, Mr. President, 2 minutes. Has the war in
Iraq been worth the cost in American lives? Ten thousand fifty two -- I
mean, 1,052 as of today.
President Bush: No, every life is precious. Every life matters. You
know, my hardest -- the hardest part of the job is to know that I
committed the troops in harm's way and then do the best I can to provide
comfort for the loved ones who lost a son or a daughter or a husband and
And you know, I think about Missy Johnson, who is a fantastic young
lady I met in Charlotte, North Carolina, she and her son, Bryan. They
came to see me. Her husband, P.J., got killed. He'd been in Afghanistan,
went to Iraq. You know, it's hard work to try to love her as best as I
can, knowing full well that the decision I made caused her loved one to
be in harm's way. I told her, after we prayed and teared up and laughed
some, that I thought her husband's sacrifice was noble and worthy,
because I understand the stakes of this war on terror. I understand that
we must find Al Qaida wherever they hide. We must deal with threats
before they fully materialize -- and Saddam Hussein was a threat -- and that
we must spread liberty, because in the long run, the way to defeat
hatred and tyranny and oppression is to spread freedom. Missy understood
that. That's what she told me her husband understood.
So you say, was it worth it? Every life is precious. That's what
distinguishes us from the enemy. Everybody matters. But I think it's
worth it, Jim. I think it's worth it because I think -- I know in the long
term, a free Iraq, a free Afghanistan will set such a powerful example
in the part of the world that's desperate for freedom -- it will help
change the world -- that we can look back and say, "We did our duty."
Mr. Lehrer: Senator, 90 seconds.
Senator Kerry: I understand what the President is talking about,
because I know what it means to lose people in combat. And the question,
is it worth the cost, reminds me of my own thinking when I came back
from fighting in that war, and it reminds me that it is vital for us not
to confuse the war, ever, with the warriors. That happened before.
And that's one of the reasons why I believe I can get this job done,
because I am determined, for those soldiers and for those families, for
those kids who put their lives on the line -- that is noble. That's the
most noble thing that anybody can do. And I want to make sure the
outcome honors that nobility.
Now, we have a choice here. I've laid out a plan by which I think we
can be successful in Iraq, with a summit, by doing better training
faster, by cutting -- by doing what we need to do with respect to the U.N.
and the elections. There's only 25 percent of the people in there. They
can't have an election right now. The President is not getting the job
So the choice for America is, you can have a plan that I've laid out
in four points, each of which I can tell you more about, or you can go
to johnkerry.com and see more of it, or you have the President's plan,
which is four words, "More of the same." I think my plan is better.
And my plan has a better chance of standing up and fighting for those
troops. I will never let those troops down and will hunt and kill the
terrorists, wherever they are.
Mr. Lehrer: New -- all right, sir, go ahead. Thirty seconds.
President Bush: I understand what it means to be the Commander in
Chief, and if I were to ever say this is the wrong war at the wrong time
at the right -- wrong place, the troops would wonder, "How can I follow
this guy?" You cannot lead the war on terror if you keep changing
positions on the war on terror and say things like, "Well, this is
just a grand diversion." It's not a grand diversion. This is an
essential, that we get it right. And so I -- the plan he talks about
simply won't work.
Mr. Lehrer: Senator Kerry, you have 30 seconds, right.
Senator Kerry: Secretary of State Colin Powell told this President
the Pottery Barn rule: If you break it, you fix it. Now, if you break
it, you made a mistake. It's the wrong thing to do, but you own it. And
then you've got to fix it and do something with it. Now, that's what we
have to do. There's no inconsistency.
Soldiers know, over there, that this isn't being done right yet. I'm
going to get it right for those soldiers, because it's important to
Israel. It's important to America. It's important to the world. It's
important to the fight on terror. But I have a plan to do it. He
Timeline for Withdrawal From Iraq/Conditions in Iraq
Mr. Lehrer: Speaking of your plan, new question, Senator Kerry, 2
minutes. Can you give us specifics -- in terms of a scenario, timelines,
et cetera -- for ending U.S. -- major U.S. military involvement in Iraq?
Senator Kerry: The timeline that I've set out -- and again, I want to
correct the President, because he's misled again this evening on what
I've said. I didn't say I would bring troops out in 6 months. I said,
"If we do the things that I've set out, and we are successful, we could
begin to draw the troops down in 6 months." And I think a critical
component of success in Iraq is being able to convince the Iraqis and
the Arab world that the United States doesn't have long-term designs on
As I understand it, we're building some 14 military bases there now,
and some people say they've got a rather permanent concept to them. When
you -- when you guard the oil ministry but you don't guard the nuclear
facilities, the message to a lot of people is, "Maybe -- well, maybe
they're interested in our oil." Now, the problem is that they didn't
think these things through properly, and these are the things you have
to think through.
What I want to do is change the dynamics on the ground. And you have
to do that by beginning to not back off of Fallujahs and other places
and send the wrong message to the terrorists. You have to close the
borders. You've got to show you're serious in that regard. But you've
also got to show that you're prepared to bring the rest of the world in
and share the stakes.
I will make a flat statement: The United States of America has no
long-term designs on staying in Iraq. And our goal, in my
administration, would be to get all of the troops out of there, with the
minimal amount you need for training and logistics as we do in some
other countries in the world after a war to be able to sustain the
peace. But that's how we're going to win the peace, by rapidly training
the Iraqis themselves.
Even the administration has admitted they haven't done the training,
because they came to Congress a few weeks ago and asked for a complete
reprogramming of the money. Now, what greater admission is there, 16
months afterwards, "Oops, we haven't done the job. We've got to start
to spend the money now. Will you guys give us permission to shift it
over into training?"
Mr. Lehrer: Ninety seconds.
President Bush: There's 100,000 troops trained, police, guard,
special units, border patrol. There's going to be 125,000 trained by the
end of this year. Yes, we're getting the job done. It's hard work.
Everybody knows it's hard work because there's a determined enemy that's
trying to defeat us.
Now, my opponent says he's going to try to change the dynamics on
the ground. Well, Prime Minister Allawi was here. He is the leader of
that country. He's a brave, brave man. When he came, after giving a
speech to the Congress, my opponent questioned his credibility. You
can't change the dynamics on the ground if you've criticized the brave
leader of Iraq. One of his campaign people alleged that Prime Minister
Allawi was like a puppet. That's no way to treat somebody who's
courageous and brave, that is trying to lead his country forward.
The way to make sure that we succeed is to send consistent, sound
messages to the Iraqi people that when we give our word, we will keep
our word; that we stand with
you; that we believe you want to be free. And I do. I believe that the
25 million people, the vast majority, long to have elections. I reject
this notion -- and I'm not suggesting that my opponent says it, but I
reject the notion that some say that if you're Muslim you can't be free;
you don't desire freedom. I disagree, strongly disagree with that.
Mr. Lehrer: Thirty seconds.
Senator Kerry: I couldn't agree more that the Iraqis want to be free
and that they could be free. But I think the President, again, still
hasn't shown how he's going to go about it the right way. He has more of
Now, Prime Minister Allawi came here, and he said the terrorists are
pouring over the border. That's Allawi's assessment. The national
intelligence assessment that was given to the President in July said:
Best case scenario, more of the same of what we see today; worst case
scenario, civil war. I can do better.
President Bush: Yes, let me --
Mr. Lehrer: Yes, 30 seconds.
President Bush: The reason why Prime Minister Allawi said they're
coming across the border is because he recognizes that this is a central
part of the war on terror. They're fighting us because they're fighting
freedom. They understand that a free Afghanistan or a free Iraq will be
a major defeat for them, and those are the stakes. And that's why it is
essential we not leave. That's why it's essential we hold the line.
That's why it's essential we win, and we will. Under my leadership,
we're going to win this war in Iraq.
Future U.S. Military Action
Mr. Lehrer: Mr. President, a new question, 2 minutes. Does the Iraq
experience make it more likely or less likely that you would take the
United States into another preemptive military action?
President Bush: I would hope I never have to. I understand how hard
it is to commit troops. I never wanted to commit troops. I never -- when I
was running -- when we had the debate in 2000, I never dreamt I would be
doing that. But the enemy attacked us, Jim, and I have a solemn duty to
protect the American people, to do everything I can to protect us.
I think that by speaking clearly and doing what we say and not
sending mixed messages, it is less likely we'll ever have to use troops.
But a President must always be willing to use troops. It must -- as a last
The -- I was hopeful diplomacy would work in Iraq. It was falling
apart. There was no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was hoping that
the world would turn a blind eye. And if he had been in power -- in other
words, we had said, "Let's let the inspectors work," or "Let's hope
to talk him out; maybe an 18th resolution would work," he'd have been
stronger and tougher, and the world would have been a lot worse off.
There's just no doubt in my mind. We would rue the day if Saddam Hussein
had been in power.
So we use diplomacy every chance we get, believe me. And I -- I would
hope never to have to use force. But by speaking clearly and sending
messages that we mean what we say, we've affected the world in a
positive way. Look at Libya. Libya was a threat. Libya is now peacefully
dismantling its weapons programs. Libya understood that America and
others will enforce doctrine, and the world is better for it.
So to answer your question, I would hope we'd never have to. I think
by acting firmly and decisively, it will mean it's less likely to -- less
likely we have to use force.
Mr. Lehrer: Senator Kerry, 90 seconds.
Senator Kerry: Jim, the President just said something
extraordinarily revealing and, frankly, very important in this debate.
In answer to your question about Iraq and sending people into Iraq, he
just said, "The enemy attacked us." Saddam Hussein didn't attack us.
Usama bin Laden attacked us. Al Qaida attacked us.
And when we had Usama bin Laden cornered in the mountains of Tora
Bora, 1,000 of his cohorts with him in those mountains, with the
American military forces nearby and in the field, we didn't use the best
trained troops in the world to go kill the world's number one criminal
and terrorist. They outsourced the job to Afghan warlords who only a
week earlier had been on the other side fighting against us, neither of
whom trusted each other. That's the enemy that attacked us. That's the
enemy that was allowed to walk out of those mountains. That's the
enemy that is now in 60 countries with stronger recruits.
He also said Saddam Hussein would have been stronger. That is just
factually incorrect. Two-thirds of the country was a no-fly zone when we
started this war. We would have had sanctions. We would have had the
U.N. inspectors. Saddam Hussein would have been continually weakening.
If the President had shown the patience to go through another round of
resolution, to sit down with those leaders and say, "What do you need?
What do you need now? How much more will it take to get you to join
us," we would be in a stronger place today.
President Bush: First, listen --
Mr. Lehrer: Thirty seconds.
President Bush: -- of course I know Usama bin Laden attacked us. I
know that. And secondly, to think that another round of resolutions
would have caused Saddam Hussein to disarm, disclose is ludicrous, in my
judgment. It just shows a significant difference of opinion. We tried
diplomacy. We did our best. He was hoping to turn a blind eye, and, yes,
he would have been stronger had we not dealt with him. He had the
capability of making weapons, and he would have made weapons.
Mr. Lehrer: Thirty seconds, Senator.
Senator Kerry: Thirty-five to forty countries in the world had a
greater capability of making weapons at the moment the President invaded
than Saddam Hussein. And while he has been diverted with 9 out of 10
active duty divisions of our Army either going to Iraq, coming back from
Iraq, or getting ready to go, North Korea's got nuclear weapons, and the
world is more dangerous. Iran is moving towards nuclear weapons, and the
world is more dangerous. Darfur has a genocide. The world is more
dangerous. I'd have made a better choice.
Preemptive Action/International Cooperation
Mr. Lehrer: New question, 2 minutes, Senator Kerry. What is your
position on the whole concept of preemptive war?
Senator Kerry: The President always has the right and always has had
the right for preemptive strike. That was a great doctrine throughout
the cold war, and it was always one of the things we argued about with
respect to arms control. No President, through all of American history,
has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way
necessary to protect the United States of America. But if and when you
do it, Jim, you've got to do in a way that passes the test, that passes
the global test, where your countrymen, your people, understand fully
why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that
you did it for legitimate reasons.
Here we have our own Secretary of State who's had to apologize to
the world for the presentation he made to the United Nations. I mean, we
can remember when President Kennedy, in the Cuban missile crisis, sent
his Secretary of State to Paris to meet with de Gaulle, and in the
middle of the discussion to tell them about the missiles in Cuba, he
said, "Here, let me show you the photos." And de Gaulle waved them off
and said, "No, no, no, no. The word of the President of the United
States is good enough for me." How many leaders in the world today
would respond to us, as a result of what we've done, in that way?
So what is at test here is the credibility of the United States of
America and how we lead the world. Iran and Iraq are now more -- Iran and
North Korea are now more dangerous. Now, whether preemption is
ultimately what has to happen or not, I don't know yet. But I'll tell
you this, as President, I'll never take my eye off that ball. I've been
fighting for proliferation the entire time -- antiproliferation the entire
time I've been in the Congress. And we've watched this President
actually turn away from some of the treaties that were on the table. You
don't help yourself with other nations when you turn away from the
global warming treaty, for instance, or when you refuse to deal at
length with the United Nations. You have to earn that respect. And I
think we have a lot of earning back to do.
Mr. Lehrer: Ninety seconds.
President Bush: Let me -- I'm not exactly sure what you mean, "passes
the global test." You take preemptive action if you pass a global test?
My attitude is you take preemptive action in order to protect the
American people, that you act in order to make this country secure.
My opponent talks about me not signing certain treaties. But let me
tell you one thing I didn't sign -- and I think it shows a difference of
our opinion, the difference of opinions -- and that is that I wouldn't
join the International Criminal Court. This is a body based in The Hague
where unaccountable judges and prosecutors could pull our troops, our
diplomats up for trial. And I wouldn't join it. And I understand that in
certain capitals around the world that that wasn't a popular move. But
it's the right move, not to join a foreign court that could -- where our
people could be prosecuted. My opponent is for joining the International
Criminal Court. I just think trying to be popular kind of in the global
sense, if it's not in our best interest, makes no sense. I'm interested
in working with other nations and do a lot of it. But I'm not going to
make decisions that I think are wrong for America.
North Korea and Iran
Mr. Lehrer: New question. Mr. President, do you believe that
diplomacy and sanctions can resolve the nuclear problems with North
Korea and Iran? Taking them in any order you would like.
President Bush: North Korea, first -- I do. Let me say I certainly
hope so. Before I was sworn in, the policy of this Government was to
have bilateral negotiations with North Korea. And we signed an agreement
with North Korea that my administration found out that was not being
honored by the North Koreans. And so I decided that a better way to
approach the issue was to get other nations involved, just -- besides us.
And in Crawford, Texas, Jiang Zemin and I agreed that the nuclear-
weapons-free north -- peninsula -- Korean Peninsula was in his interest and
our interest and the world's interest. And so we began a new dialog with
North Korea, one that included not only the United States but now China.
And China has got a lot of influence over North Korea, in some ways more
than we do.
As well we included South Korea, Japan, and Russia. So now there are
five voices speaking to Kim Chong-il, not just one. And so if Kim Chong-
il decides again to not honor an agreement, he's not only doing
injustice to America, he'd be doing injustice to China as well. And I
think this will work. It's not going to work if we open up a dialog with
Kim Chong-il. That's what he wants. He wants to unravel the six-party
talks -- or the five -- the five-nation coalition that's sending him a clear
On Iran, I hope we can do the same thing, continue to work with the
world to convince the Iranian mullahs to abandon their nuclear
ambitions. We've worked very closely with the Foreign Ministers of
France, Germany, and Great Britain, who have been the folks delivering
the message to the mullahs that if you expect to be part of the world of
nations, get rid of your nuclear programs. The IAEA is involved. There's
a special protocol recently been passed that allows for instant
inspections. I hope we can do it, and we've got a good strategy.
Mr. Lehrer: Senator Kerry, 90 seconds.
Senator Kerry: With respect to Iran, the British, French, and
Germans were the ones who initiated an effort -- without the United
States, regrettably -- to begin to try to move to deter the nuclear
possibilities in Iran.
I believe we could have done better. I think the United States
should have offered the opportunity to provide the nuclear fuel, test
them to see whether or not they were actually looking for it for
peaceful purposes. If they weren't willing to work a deal, then we could
have put sanctions together. The President did nothing.
With respect to North Korea, the real story, we had inspectors and
television cameras in the nuclear reactor in North Korea. Secretary Bill
Perry negotiated that under President Clinton. And we knew where the
fuel rods were, and we knew the limits on their nuclear power. Colin
Powell, our Secretary of State, announced one day that we were going to
continue the dialog and work with the North Koreans. The President
reversed him publicly, while the President of South Korea was here. And
the President of South Korea went back to South Korea bewildered and
embarrassed because it went against his policy. And for 2 years, this
administration didn't talk at all to North Korea.
While they didn't talk at all, the fuel rods came out. The inspectors were kicked out.
The television cameras were kicked out. And, today, there are four to
seven nuclear weapons in the hands of North Korea. That happened on this
President's watch. Now, that, I think, is one of the most serious sort
of reversals or mixed messages that you could possibly send.
Mr. Lehrer: I want to make sure -- yes, sir -- but in this one minute, I
want to make sure that we understand -- the people -- the people watching
you understand the differences between the two of you on this. You want
to continue the multinational talks, correct?
President Bush: Right.
Mr. Lehrer: And you want -- you're wanting to do it --
Senator Kerry: Both. I want bilateral talks which put all of the
issues from the Armistice of 1952, the economic issues, the human rights
issues, the artillery disposal issues, the DMZ issues, and the nuclear
issues on the table.
Mr. Lehrer: And you're opposed to that, right?
President Bush: The minute we have bilateral talks, the six-party
talks will unwind. It's exactly what Kim Chong-il wants. And by the way,
the breach on the agreement was not to plutonium. The breach on the
agreement is highly enriched uranium. That's what we caught him doing.
That's where he was breaking the agreement.
Secondly, you said -- my opponent said that he'd work to put sanctions
on Iran. We've already sanctioned Iran. We can't sanction them anymore.
There are sanctions in place on Iran. And finally, we were a party to
the convincing -- to working with Germany, France, and Great Britain to
send their Foreign Ministers into Iran.
Mr. Lehrer: New question, 2 minutes, Senator Kerry. You mentioned
Darfur, the Darfur region of Sudan. Fifty thousand people have already
died in that area, more than a million are homeless, and it's been
labeled an act of ongoing genocide. Yet, neither one of you or anyone
else connected with your campaigns or your administration that I can
find has discussed the possibility of sending in troops. Why not?
Senator Kerry: Well, I'll tell you exactly why not, but I first want
to say something about those sanctions on Iran. Only the United States
put the sanctions on, alone, and that's exactly what I'm talking about.
In order for the sanctions to be effective we should have been working
with the British, French, and Germans and other countries. And that's
the difference between the President and me. And there again, he sort of
slid by the question.
Now, with respect to Darfur, yes, it is a genocide. And months ago,
many of us were pressing for action. I think the reason that we're not
saying send American troops in at this point is several-fold. Number
one, we can do this through the African Union, providing we give them
the logistical support. Right now, all the President is providing is
humanitarian support. We need to do more than that. They've got to have
the logistical capacity to go in and stop the killing, and that's going
to require more than is on the table today.
I also believe that it is -- one of the reasons we can't do it is
we're overextended. Ask the people in the Armed Forces today. We've got
Guards and Reserves who are doing double duties. We've got a backdoor
draft taking place in America today, people with stop-loss programs
where they're told, "You can't get out of the military," 9 out of our
10 active duty divisions committed to Iraq one way or the other, either
going, coming, or preparing. So this is the way the President has
overextended the United States.
That's why, in my plan, I add two active duty divisions to the
United States Army, not for Iraq but for our general demands across the
globe. I also intend to double the number of Special Forces so that we
can do the job we need to do with respect to fighting the terrorists
around the world. And if we do that, then we have the ability to be able
to respond more rapidly. But I'll tell you this, as President, if it
took American forces, to some degree, to coalesce the African Union, I'd
be prepared to do it, because we could never allow another Rwanda. It's
a moral responsibility for us in the world.
Mr. Lehrer: Ninety seconds.
President Bush: Back to Iran, just for a second. It was not my
administration that put the sanctions on Iran. That happened long before I arrived in
In terms of Darfur, I agree, it's genocide, and Colin Powell so
stated. We have committed $200 million worth of aid. We're the leading
donor in the world to help the suffering people there. We will commit
more, over time, to help.
We were very much involved at the U.N. on the sanction policy of the
Bashir Government in the Sudan. Prior to Darfur, Ambassador Jack
Danforth had been negotiating a north-south agreement that we would hope
would have brought peace to the Sudan. I agree with my opponent that we
shouldn't be committing troops, that we ought to be working with the
African Union to do so -- precisely what we did in Liberia. We helped
stabilize the situation with some troops, and when the African Union
came, we moved them out. My hope is that the African Union moves rapidly
to help save lives. Fortunately, the rainy season will be ending
shortly, which will make it easier to get aid there and help the long-
suffering people there.
Character of the Candidates
Mr. Lehrer: New question, President Bush. There are clearly, as we
have heard, major policy differences between the two of you. Are there
also underlying character issues that you believe -- that you believe -- are
serious enough to deny Senator Kerry the job as Commander in Chief of
the United States?
President Bush: Whew, that's a loaded question. [Laughter]
First of all, I admire Senator Kerry's service to our country. I
admire the fact that he is a great dad. I appreciate the fact that his
daughters have been so kind to my daughters in what has been a pretty
hard experience for, I guess, young girls seeing their dads out there
campaigning. I admire the fact that he's served for 20 years in the
Senate, although I'm not so sure I admire the record. I won't hold it
against him that he went to Yale. Nothing wrong with that.
I -- my concerns about the Senator is that in the course of this
campaign I've been listening very carefully to what he says, and he
changed his positions on the war in Iraq, changed his positions on
something as fundamental as what you believe in your core, in your heart
of hearts, is right in Iraq. You cannot lead if you send mixed messages.
Mixed messages send the wrong signals to our troops. Mixed messages send
the wrong signals to our allies. Mixed messages send the wrong signals
to the Iraqi citizens.
And that's my biggest concern about my opponent. I admire his
service. But I just know how this world works and that in the councils
of government, there must be certainty from the U.S. President. Of
course, we change tactics when need to, but we never change our beliefs,
the strategic beliefs that are necessary to protect this country in the
Mr. Lehrer: Ninety-second response, Senator.
Senator Kerry: Well, first of all, I appreciate enormously the
personal comments the President just made, and I share them with him. I
think only if you've -- if you're doing this, and he's done it more than I
have in terms of the Presidency, can you begin to get a sense of what it
means to your families. And it's tough. And so I acknowledge his
daughters. I've watched them. I've chuckled a few times at some of their
comments. [Laughter] And --
President Bush: I'm trying to put a leash on them. [Laughter]
Senator Kerry: Well, I know, I've learned not to do that. [Laughter]
And I have great respect and admiration for his wife. I think she's a
terrific person --
President Bush: Thank you.
Senator Kerry: -- and a great First Lady. But we do have
differences. I'm not going to talk about a difference of character. I
don't think that's my job or my business. But let me talk about
something that the President just sort of finished up with -- maybe
someone would call it a character trait; maybe somebody wouldn't -- but
this issue of certainty. It's one thing to be certain, but you can be
certain and be wrong. It's another to be certain and be right, or be
certain and be moving in the right direction, or be certain about a
principle and then learn new facts and take those new facts and put them
to use in order to change and get your policy right.
What I worry about with the President is that he's not acknowledging
what's on the ground. He's not acknowledging the realities of North
Korea. He's not acknowledging the truth of the science of stem cell
research or of global warming and other issues. And certainty sometimes
can get you in trouble.
Mr. Lehrer: Thirty seconds.
President Bush: Well, I think -- listen, I fully agree that one should
shift tactics, and we will in Iraq. Our commanders have got all the
flexibility to do what is necessary to succeed. But what I won't do is
change my core values because of politics or because of pressure. And it
is -- one of the things I've learned in the White House is that there's
enormous pressure on the President, and you cannot wilt under that
pressure. Otherwise the world won't be better off.
Mr. Lehrer: Thirty seconds.
Senator Kerry: I have no intention of wilting. I've never wilted in
my life, and I've never wavered in my life. I know exactly what we need
to do in Iraq and my position has been consistent. Saddam Hussein is a
threat. He needed to be disarmed. We needed to go to the U.N. The
President needed the authority to use force in order to be able to get
him to do something because he never did it without the threat of force,
but we didn't need to rush to war without a plan to win the peace.
Mr. Lehrer: New question, 2 minutes, Senator Kerry. If you are
elected President, what will you take to that office thinking is the
single most serious threat to the national security of the United
Senator Kerry: Nuclear proliferation -- nuclear proliferation. There
are some 600-plus tons of unsecured material still in the former Soviet
Union, in Russia. At the rate that the President is currently securing
that, it will take 13 years to get it.
I did a lot of work on this. I wrote a book about it several years
ago -- maybe 6 or 7 years ago, called "The New War," which saw the
difficulties of this international criminal network. And back then, we
intercepted a suitcase in a Middle Eastern country with nuclear
materials in it, and the black market sale price was about $250 million.
Now, there are terrorists trying to get their hands on that stuff today.
And this President, I regret to say, has secured less nuclear
material in the last 2 years since 9/11 than we did in the 2 years
preceding 9/11. We have to do this job. And to do the job, you can't cut
the money for it. The President actually cut the money for it. You have
to put the money into it and the funding and the leadership.
And part of that leadership is sending the right message to places
like North Korea. Right now the President is spending hundreds of
millions of dollars to research bunker-busting nuclear weapons. The
United States is pursuing a new set of nuclear weapons. It doesn't make
sense. You talk about mixed messages. We're telling other people, "You
can't have nuclear weapons," but we're pursuing a new nuclear weapon
that we might even contemplate using.
Not this President. I'm going to shut that program down, and we're
going to make it clear to the world we're serious about containing
nuclear proliferation. And we're going to get the job of containing all
of that nuclear material in Russia done in 4 years. And we're going to
build the strongest international network to prevent nuclear
proliferation. This is the scale of what President Kennedy set out to do
with the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. It's our generation's equivalent, and
I intend to get it done.
Mr. Lehrer: Ninety seconds, Mr. President.
President Bush: Actually, we've increased funding for dealing with
nuclear proliferation about 35 percent since I've been the President.
Secondly, we've set up what's called the -- well, first of all, I
agree with my opponent that the biggest threat facing this country is
weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist network. And
that's why we've put proliferation as the -- one of the centerpieces of a
multipronged strategy to make the country safer.
My administration started what is called the Proliferation Security
Initiative, over 60 nations involved with disrupting the trans-shipment
of information and/or weapons of mass destruction materials. And we're --
been effective. We busted the A.Q. Khan network.
This was a proliferator out of Pakistan that was selling secrets to
places like North Korea and Libya. We convinced Libya to disarm. It was
an essential part of dealing with weapons of mass destruction and
I'll tell you another way to help protect America in the long -- in
the long run is continue with missile defenses, and we've got a robust
research and development program that has been ongoing during my
administration. We'll be implementing a missile defense system
relatively quickly. And that is another way to help deal with the
threats that we face in the 21st century. My opponent is opposed to the
Mr. Lehrer: Just for this one-minute discussion here, is it just --
for whatever seconds it takes -- so it's correct to say that if somebody
is listening to this, that both of you agree -- if you're reelected, Mr.
President, and if you are elected -- the single most serious threat you
believe -- both of you believe is nuclear proliferation?
President Bush: In the hands of a terrorist enemy.
Senator Kerry: Weapons of mass destruction, nuclear proliferation.
But again, the test of the difference between us -- the President has had
4 years to try to do something about it, and North Korea has got more
weapons. Iran is moving towards weapons. And at his pace, it will take
13 years to secure those weapons in Russia. I'm going to do it in 4
years, and I'm going to immediately set out to have bilateral talks with
Mr. Lehrer: Your response to that.
President Bush: Again, I can't tell you how big a mistake I think
that is, to have bilateral talks with North Korea. It's precisely what
Kim Chong-il wants. It will cause the six-party talks to evaporate. It
means that China no longer is involved in convincing, along with us, for
Kim Chong-il to get rid of his weapons. It's a big mistake to do that.
We must have China's leverage on Kim Chong-il, besides ourselves. And if
you enter bilateral talks, they'll be happy to walk away from the table.
I don't think that will work.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia
Mr. Lehrer: All right, Mr. President, this is -- this is the last
question, and 2 minutes. It's a new -- new subject, new question. And it
has to do with President Putin and Russia. Did you misjudge him, or are
you -- do you feel that what he is doing in the name of antiterrorism by
changing some democratic processes is okay?
President Bush: No, I don't think it's okay and said so publicly. I
think that there needs to be checks and balances in a democracy and made
that very clear -- that by consolidating power in a central government,
he's sending a signal to the Western world and the United States that --
that perhaps he doesn't believe in checks and balances. And I've told
He's also a strong ally in the war on terror. He is -- listen, they
went through a horrible situation in Beslan where these terrorists
gunned down young school kids. But it's the nature of the enemy, by the
way. That's why we need to be firm and resolved in bringing them to
justice. It's precisely what Vladimir Putin understands as well.
I've got a good relation with Vladimir, and it's important that we
do have a good relation because that enables me to better comment to him
and to -- better to discuss with him some of the decisions he makes. I
found that in this world that it's important to establish good personal
relationships with people so that when you have disagreements, you're
able to disagree in a way that is effective.
And so I've told him my opinion. I look forward to discussing it
more with him as time goes on. Russia is a country in transition.
Vladimir is going to have to make some hard choices, and I think it's
very important for the American President as well as other Western
leaders to remind him of the great benefits of democracy, that democracy
will best help the people realize their hopes and aspirations and
dreams. And I will continue working with him over the next 4 years.
Mr. Lehrer: Ninety seconds, Senator Kerry.
Senator Kerry: Well, let me just say quickly that I've had an
extraordinary experience of watching up close and personal that
transition in Russia, because I was there right after the
transformation, and I was probably one of the first Senators, along with
Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire, a former Senator, to go down into
the KGB underneath Treblinka Square and see reams of files with
names in them. And it sort of brought home the transition to democracy
that Russia was trying to make.
I regret what's happened in these past months, and I think it goes
beyond just the response to terror. Mr. Putin now controls all the
television stations. His political opposition is being put in jail. And
I think it's very important for the United States, obviously, to have a
working relationship that is good. This is a very important country to
us, and we want a partnership. But we always have to stand up for
democracy. As George Will said the other day, "Freedom on the march,
not in Russia right now."
Now, I'd like to come back for a quick moment, if I can, to that
issue about China and the talks, because that's one of the most critical
issues here, North Korea. Just because the President says it can't be
done, that you'd lose China, doesn't mean it can't be done. I mean, this
is the President who said there were weapons of mass destruction, said
"mission accomplished," said we could fight the war on the cheap, none
of which were true. We can have bilateral talks with Kim Chong-il, and
we can get those weapons at the same time as we get China, because China
has an interest in the outcome too.
Mr. Lehrer: Thirty seconds, Mr. President.
President Bush: You know my opinion on North Korea. I can't say it
any more plainly.
Mr. Lehrer: Right. Well, but what -- he used the word "truth" again.
President Bush: Pardon me?
Mr. Lehrer: Talking about the truth of the matter. He used the word
"truth" again. Did that raise any hackles that you -- with you?
President Bush: Oh, I'm a pretty calm guy. [Laughter] I mean, I
don't take it personally.
Mr. Lehrer: All right. Yes.
President Bush: But you know, look, we looked at the same
intelligence. We came to the same conclusion, that Saddam Hussein was a
grave threat. And I don't hold it against him that he said "grave
threat." I'm not going to go around the country saying he didn't tell
the truth, when he looked at the same intelligence I did.
Senator Kerry: It was a threat. That's not the issue. The issue is
what you do about it. The President said he was going to build a true
coalition, exhaust the remedies of the U.N., and go to war as a last
resort. Those words really have to mean something. And unfortunately, he
didn't go to war as a last resort. Now we have this incredible mess in
Iraq, $200 billion -- it's -- it's not what the American people thought they
were getting when they voted.
Mr. Lehrer: All right, that brings us to closing statements. And
again, as determined by a coin toss, Senator Kerry, you go first, and
you have 2 minutes.
Senator Kerry: Thank you, Jim, very much. Thank you very much to the
university again. Thank you, Mr. President.
My fellow Americans, as I said at the very beginning of this debate,
both President Bush and I love this country very much. There is no
doubt, I think, about that. But we have a different set of convictions
about how we make our country stronger here at home and respected again
in the world.
I know that for many of you sitting at home, parents of kids in
Iraq, you want to know, who is the person who could be a Commander in
Chief who can get your kids home and get the job done and win the peace?
And for all the rest of the parents in America who are wondering about
their kids going to a school or anywhere else in the world, what kind of
world they're going to grow up in, let me look you in the eye and say to
you: I've defended this country as a young man in war, and I will defend
it as President of the United States. But I have a difference with this
President. I believe we're strongest when we reach out and lead the
world and build strong alliances. I have a plan for Iraq. I believe we
can be successful. I'm not talking about leaving. I'm talking about
winning. And we need a fresh start, a new credibility, a President who
can bring allies to our side.
I also have a plan to win the war on terror, funding homeland
security, strengthening our military, cutting off finances, reaching out
to the world -- again, building strong alliances.
I believe America's best days are ahead of us because I believe that the future belongs
to freedom, not to fear. That's the country that I'm going to fight for,
and I ask you to give me the opportunity to make you proud. I ask you to
give me the opportunity to lead this great Nation so that we can be
stronger here at home, respected again in the world, and have
responsible leadership that we deserve.
Thank you, and God bless America.
Mr. Lehrer: Mr. President, 2 minutes.
President Bush: Thank you very much, tonight, Jim. Thank you,
If America shows uncertainty or weakness in this decade, the world
will drift toward tragedy. That's not going to happen so long as I'm
your President. In the next 4 years, we will continue to strengthen our
homeland defenses. We will strengthen our intelligence-gathering
services. We will reform our military. The military will be an all-
volunteer army. We will continue to stay on the offense. We will fight
the terrorists around the world so we do not have to face them here at
We'll continue to build our alliances. I'll never turn over
America's national security needs to leaders of other countries as we
continue to build those alliances. And we'll continue to spread freedom.
I believe in the transformational power of liberty. I believe that a
free Iraq is in this Nation's interests. I believe a free Afghanistan is
in this Nation's interests, and I believe both a free Afghanistan and a
free Iraq will serve as a powerful example for millions who plead in
silence for liberty in the broader Middle East.
We've done a lot of hard work together over the last 3\1/2\ years.
We've been challenged, and we've risen to those challenges. We've
climbed the mighty mountain. I see the valley below, and it's a valley
of peace. By being steadfast and resolute and strong, by keeping our
word, by supporting our troops, we can achieve the peace we all want.
I appreciate your listening tonight. I ask for your vote. And may
God continue to bless our great land.
Mr. Lehrer: And that ends tonight's debate. A reminder, the second
Presidential debate will be a week from tomorrow, October 8th, from
Washington University in St. Louis. Charles Gibson of ABC News will
moderate a townhall-type event. Then, on October 13th, from Arizona
State University in Tempe, Bob Schieffer of CBS News will moderate an
exchange on domestic policy that will be similar in format to tonight's.
Also, this coming Tuesday, at Case Western Reserve University in
Cleveland, the Vice Presidential candidates, Vice President Cheney and
Senator Edwards, will debate with my PBS colleague, Gwen Ifill,
For now, thank you, Senator Kerry, President Bush. From Coral
Gables, Florida, I'm Jim Lehrer. Thank you, and good night.
Note: The debate began at 9:02 p.m. in the Convocation Center at the
University of Miami. In his remarks, the President referred to former
President Saddam Hussein of Iraq; A.Q. Khan, former head of Pakistan's
nuclear weapons program; Usama bin Laden, leader of the Al Qaida
terrorist network; Khalid Sheik Mohammed, senior Al Qaida leader
responsible for planning the September 11 attack, who was captured in
Pakistan on March 1, 2003; senior Al Qaida associate Abu Musab Al
Zarqawi; Prime Minister Ayad Allawi of the Iraqi Interim Government;
Gen. Tommy R. Franks, USA, (Ret.), former combatant commander, U.S.
Central Command; U.S. Ambassador to Iraq John D. Negroponte; Prime
Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom; President Aleksander
Kwasniewski of Poland; Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan; former
President Jiang Zemin of China; Chairman Kim Chong-il of North Korea;
President Umar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir of Sudan; and former Senator John
C. Danforth, Special Envoy for Peace in the Sudan. Senator Kerry
referred to Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, USA, (Ret.), former Chairman,
Joint Chiefs of Staff; Adm. William J. Crowe, Jr., USN, (Ret.), former
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. Merrill A. "Tony" McPeak, USAF,
(Ret.), former Air Force Chief of Staff; Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, USAF,
(Ret.), former National Security Adviser; Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, USA,
(Ret.), former Army Chief of Staff; former Secretary of Defense William
Perry; and President Roh Moo-hyun of South Korea. Senator Kerry also
referred to the National Intelligence Estimate and the Kyoto Protocol to
the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.