For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 9, 2004
Remarks by President Bush and Senator Kerry in Second 2004 Presidential Debate Part I
St. Louis, Missouri
8:02 P.M. CDT
MODERATOR: Senator Kerry, the next question will be for you, and it comes from James Varner (phonetic), who I believe is in this section. Mr. Varner? Need a microphone.
Q Thank you. Senator Kerry, would you be willing to look directly into the camera and, using simple and unequivocal language, give the American people your solemn pledge not to sign any legislation that will increase the tax burden on families earning less than $200,000 a year during your first term?
SENATOR KERRY: Absolutely. Yes. Right into the camera -- yes. I am not going to raise taxes. I have a tax cut -- and here's my tax cut. I raise the child care credit by $1,000 for families, to help them be able to take care of their kids. I have a $4,000 tuition tax credit that goes to parents and kids, if they're earning for themselves, to be able to pay for college. And I lower the cost of health care in the way that I described to you.
Every part of my program I've shown how I'm going to pay for it. And I've gotten good people, like former Secretary of the Treasury Bob Rubin, for instance, who showed how to balance budgets and give you a good economy, to help me crunch these numbers and make them work. I've even scaled back some of my favorite programs already, like the child care program I wanted to fund, and the national service program, because the President's deficit keeps growing and I've said as a pledge, I'm going to cut the deficit in half in four years.
Now, I'm going to restore what we did in the 1990s, ladies and gentlemen -- pay as you go. We're going to do it like you do it. The President broke the pay-as-you-go rule. Somebody here asked the question about why haven't you vetoed something. It's a good question. If you care about it, why don't you veto it? I think John McCain called the energy bill the "no lobbyist left behind bill." I mean, you've got to stand up and fight somewhere, folks.
I'm pledging I will not raise taxes. I'm giving a tax cut to the people earning less than $200,000 a year. Now, for the people earning more than $200,000 a year, you are going to see a rollback to the level we were at with Bill Clinton, when people made a lot of money. And looking around here at this group here, I suspect there are only three people here who are going to be affected: the President, me, and Charlie, I'm sorry, you, too. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: Mr. President, 90 seconds.
PRESIDENT BUSH: It's just not credible. When he talks about being fiscally conservative, it's just not credible. If you look at his record in the Senate, he voted to break the spending -- the caps, the spending caps, over 200 times. And here he says he's going to be a fiscal conservative all of a sudden -- it's just not credible. You cannot believe it.
And, of course, he's going to raise your taxes. You see, he's proposed $2.2 trillion of new spending. And so they said, well, how are you going to pay for it? He said, well, he's going to raise the taxes on the rich. That's what he said, the top two brackets. That raises, he says, $800 billion, we say $600 billion. We've got battling green eye shades -- somewhere in between those numbers. And so there is a difference: what he's promised and what he could raise. Now, either he's going to break all these wonderful promises he's told you about, or he's going to raise taxes. And I suspect, given his record, he's going to raise taxes.
Is my time up yet?
MODERATOR: No, you can keep going.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Keep going, good. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: You're on --
PRESIDENT BUSH: You looked at me like my clock was up.
I think that the way to grow this economy is to keep taxes low, is to have an energy plan, is to have litigation reform. As I told you, we just got a report that said over the past 13 months, we've created 1.9 million new jobs. We're growing. And so the fundamental question of this campaign is who's going to keep the economy growing so people can work? That's the fundamental question.
MODERATOR: I'm going to come back one more time to how these numbers add up and how you can cut that deficit in half in four years, given what you've both said.
SENATOR KERRY: Well, first of all, the President's figures of $2.2 trillion just aren't accurate. Those are the fuzzy math figures put together by some group that works for the campaign. That's not the number.
Number two, John McCain and I have a proposal jointly for a commission that closes corporate giveaway loopholes. We've got $40 million going to Bermuda. We've got all kinds of giveaways. We ought to be shutting those down.
And third, credible? Ladies and gentlemen, in 1985, I was one of the first Democrats to move to balance the budget. I voted for the balanced budget in '93 and '97. We did it. We did it, and I was there.
MODERATOR: Thirty seconds -- I'm sorry, thirty seconds, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah, I mean, he's got a record. He's been there for 20 years. You can run, but you can't hide. He voted 98 times to raise taxes. I mean, these aren't make-up figures. And so people are going to have to look at the record. Look at the record of the man running for the President. They don't name him the most liberal in the United States because he hasn't shown up to many meetings. They named him because of his votes. And it's reality. It's just not credible to say he's going to keep taxes down and balance budgets.
MODERATOR: Mr. President, the next question is for you and it comes from James Hubb, over here.
Q Mr. President, how would you rate yourself as an environmentalist? What specifically has your administration done to improve the condition of our nation's air and water supply?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Off-road diesel engines. We have reached an agreement to reduce pollution from off-road diesel engines by 90 percent. I've got a plan to increase the wetlands by three million. We've got an aggressive brownfield program to refurbish inner-city sore spots to useful pieces of property.
I proposed to the United States Congress a Clear Skies Initiative to reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury by 70 percent. I was -- fought for a very strong title in the farm bill for the Conservation Reserve Program to set aside millions of acres of land for -- to help improve wildlife in the habitat.
We proposed and passed a Healthy Forest bill, which was essential to working with -- particularly in western states, to make sure that our forests were protected. What happens in those forests, because of lousy federal policy, is they grow to be -- they are not -- they're not harvested. They're not taken care of. And as a result, they're like tinder boxes. And over the last summers, as I've flown over there. And so this is a reasonable policy to protect old stands of trees and, at the same time, make sure our forests aren't vulnerable to the forest fires that destroy acres after acres in the West. We've got a good, common-sense policy.
Now, I'm going to tell you what I really think is going to happen over time, is technology is going to change the way we live for the good -- for the environment. So I proposed a hydrogen automobile, a hydrogen-generated automobile. We're spending a billion dollars to come up with the technologies to do that.
That's why I'm a big proponent of clean coal technology, to make sure we can use coal, but in a clean way. I guess you'd say I'm a good steward of the land. The quality of the air is cleaner since I've been the President. Fewer water complaints since I've been the President. More land being restored since I've been the President.
Thank you for your question.
MODERATOR: Senator Kerry, a minute-and-a-half.
SENATOR KERRY: Boy, to listen to that, the President I don't think is living in a world of reality with respect to the environment. Now, if you're a Red Sox fan, that's okay. But if you're a President, it's not. Let me just say to you, number one, don't throw the labels around. Labels don't mean anything. I supported welfare reform. I led the fight to put 100,000 cops on the streets of America. I've been for faith-based initiatives helping to intervene in the lives of young children for years. I was -- broke with my party in 1985, one of the first three Democrats to fight for a balanced budget when it was heresy. Labels don't fit, ladies and gentlemen.
Now, when it comes to the issue of the environment, this is one of the worst administrations in modern history. The Clear Skies bill that he just talked about, it's one of those Orwellian names you pull out of the sky, slap it onto something like No Child Left Behind, but you leave millions of children behind -- here they're leaving the skies and the environment behind.
If they just left the Clean Air Act all alone the way it is today, no change, the air would be cleaner than it is if you pass the Cleaner Skies Act. We're going backwards. In fact, his environmental enforcement chief air quality person at the EPA resigned in protest over what they're doing to what are called the New Source Performance Standards for air quality. They're going backwards on the definition for wetlands. They're going backwards on the water quality. They pulled out of the global warming, declared it dead; didn't even accept the science. I'm going to be a president who believes in science.
MODERATOR: Mr. President?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, had we joined the Kyota Treaty, which I guess he's referring to -- it would have cost America a lot of jobs. It's one of these deals where in order to be popular in the halls of Europe, you sign a treaty. But I thought it would cost a lot -- I think there's a better way to do it. And I just told you the facts, sir. The quality of air is cleaner since I've been the President of the United States. And we'll continue to spend money on research and development because I truly believe that's the way to get from how we live today to being able to live a standard of living that we're accustomed to, and being able to protect our environment better -- the use of technologies.
MODERATOR: Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.
SENATOR KERRY: The fact is that the Kyoto Treaty was flawed. I was in Kyoto and I was part of that. I know what happened. But this President didn't try to fix it. He just declared it dead, ladies and gentlemen, and
we walked away from the work of 160 nations over 10 years. You wonder, Nicki, why it is that people don't like us in some parts of the world. You just say, hey, we don't agree with you -- goodbye. The President has done nothing to try to fix it. I will.
MODERATOR: Senator Kerry, the next question is for you. It involves jobs, which is a topic in the news today. And for the question, we're going to turn to Jane Barrow (phonetic.)
Q Senator Kerry, how can the U.S. be competitive in a manufacturing given -- in manufacturing, excuse me, given the wage necessary and comfortably accepted for American workers to maintain the standard of living that they expect?
SENATOR KERRY: Jane, there are a lot of ways to be competitive. And, unfortunately, again, I regret, this administration has not seized them, and embraced them. Let me give you an example. There's a tax loophole right now -- if you're a company in St. Louis working, trying to make jobs here, there's actually an incentive for you to go away. You get more money, you can keep more of your taxes by going abroad. I'm going to shut that loophole, and I'm going to give the tax benefit to the companies that stay here in America to help make them more competitive.
Secondly, we're going to create a manufacturing jobs credit and a new jobs credit for people to be able to help hire and be more competitive here in America. Third, what's really hurting American business, more than anything else, is the cost of health care. Now, you didn't hear any plan from the President, because he doesn't have a plan to lower the cost of health care. Five million Americans have lost their health care; 620,000 Missourians have no health care at all; 96,000 Missourians have lost their health care under President Bush.
I have a plan to cover those folks, and it's a plan that lowers costs for everybody, covers all children. And the way I pay for it -- I'm not fiscally irresponsible -- is I roll back the tax cut that this President so fiercely wants to defend, the one for him and me and Charlie. I think you ought to get the break. I want to lower your cost of health care. I want to fully fund education, No Child Left Behind, special needs education.
And that's how we're going to be more competitive, by making sure our kids are graduating from school and college. China and India are graduating more graduates in technology and science than we are. We've got to create the products of the future. That's why I have a plan for energy independence within 10 years. And we're going to put our laboratories and our colleges and universities to work, and we're going to get the great entrepreneurial spirit of this country, and we're going to free ourselves from this dependency on Mideast oil. That's how you create jobs and become competitive.
MODERATOR: Mr. President, minute-and-a-half.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me start with how to control the costs of health care: medical liability reform, for starters, which he's opposed. Secondly, allow small businesses to pool together, so they can share risk and buy insurance at the same discounts big businesses get to do. Thirdly, spread what's called health savings accounts. It's good for small businesses, good for owners. You own your own account, you can save tax free. You get a catastrophic plan to help you, own it. This is different from saying, okay, let me incent you to go on the government.
He's talking about his plan to keep jobs here. You know, he calls it an outsourcing -- to keep -- stop outsourcing. Robert Rubin looked at his plan and said it won't work. The best way to keep jobs here in America is, one, have an energy plan. I proposed one to the Congress two years ago. It encourages conservation, encourages technology to explore for environmentally friendly ways for coal and use coal and gas. It encourages the use of renewables like ethanol and biodiesel. It's stuck in the Senate. He and his running mate didn't show up to vote when they could have got it going in the Senate. Less regulations if we want jobs here. Legal reforms if we want jobs here. And we've got to keep taxes low.
Now, he says he's only going to tax the rich. Do you realize 900,000 small businesses will be taxed under his plan because most small businesses are subchapter S corps or limited partnerships, and they pay tax at the individual income tax level. And so when you're running up the taxes like that, you're taxing job creators, and that's not how you keep jobs here.
Q Senator, I want to extend for a minute. You talk about tax credits to stop outsourcing. But when you have IBM documents that I saw recently, where you can hire a programmer for $12 in China, $56 an hour here, tax credits won't cut it in that area.
SENATOR KERRY: You can't stop all outsourcing, Charlie. I've never promised that, I'm not going to, because that would be pandering. You can't. But what you can do is create a fair playing field, and that's what I'm talking about.
But let me just address what the President just said. Ladies and gentlemen, that's just not true what he said. The Wall Street Journal said 96 percent of small businesses are not affected at all by my plan. And you know why he gets that count? The President got $84 from a timber company that he owns, and he's counted as a small business. Dick Cheney is counted as a small business. That's how they do things. That's just not right.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I own a timber company? That's news to me. (Laughter.) Need some wood? (Laughter.)
Most small businesses are subchapter S corps. They just are. I met Grant Milliron, Mansfield, Ohio. He's creating jobs. Most small businesses, 70 percent of the new jobs in America are created by small businesses. His taxes are going up when you run up the top two brackets. It's a fact.
MODERATOR: President Bush, the next question is for you, and it comes from Rob Fowler, who I believe is over in this area.
Q President Bush, 45 days after 9/11, Congress passed the Patriot Act, which takes away checks on law enforcement, weakens American citizens' rights and freedoms, especially Fourth Amendment rights. With expansions of the Patriot Act and Patriot Act II, my question to you is, why are my rights being watered down and my citizens around me, and what are the specific justifications for these reforms?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, I appreciate that. I really don't think your rights are being watered down. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't support it if I thought that. Every action being taken against terrorists requires a court order, requires scrutiny. As a matter of fact, the tools now given to the terrorist fighters are the same tools that we've been using against drug dealers and white-collar criminals. So I really don't think so. I hope you don't think that. I mean, I -- because I think whoever is the President must guard your liberties, must not erode your rights in America.
The Patriot Act is necessary, for example, because parts of the FBI couldn't talk to each other. Intelligence gathering and the law enforcement arms of the FBI just couldn't share intelligence under the old law, and that didn't make any sense. Our law enforcement must have every tool necessary to find and disrupt terrorists at home and abroad before they hurt us again. That's the task of the 21st century.
And so I don't think the Patriot Act abridges your rights at all. And I know it's necessary. I can remember being in upstate New York talking to FBI agents that helped bust the Lackawanna cell up there. And they told me they could not have performed their duty, the duty we all expect of them, if they did not have the ability to communicate with each other under the Patriot Act.
MODERATOR: Senator Kerry, a minute-and-a-half.
SENATOR KERRY: Former Governor Racicot, as Chairman of the Republican Party, said he thought that the Patriot Act has to be changed and fixed. Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, who's the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has said over his dead body before it gets renewed without being thoroughly rechecked. Whole bunch of folks in America concerned about the way the Patriot Act has been applied.
In fact, the Inspector General of the Justice Department found that John Ashcroft had twice applied it in ways that were inappropriate. People's right have been abused. I met a man who spent eight months in prison -- wasn't even allowed to call his lawyer, wasn't allowed to -- finally, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois intervened and was able to get him out. This was in our country, folks, the United States of America. They've got sneak-and-peak searches that are allowed. They've got people allowed to go into churches now and political meetings, without any showing of potential criminal activity or otherwise.
Now, I voted for the Patriot Act -- 99 United States senators voted for it. And the President has been very busy running around the country using what I just described to you as a reason to say I'm wishy-washy, that I'm a flip-flopper. Now, that's not a flip-flop. I believe in the Patriot Act. We need the things in it that coordinate the FBI and the CIA. We need to be stronger on terrorism. But you know what we also need to do as Americans, is never let the terrorists change the Constitution of the United States in a way that disadvantages our rights.
MODERATOR: Senator Kerry, the next question is for you, and it comes from Elizabeth Long.
Q Senator Kerry, thousands of people have already been cured or treated by the use of adult stem cells, or umbilical chord stem cells. However, no one was been cured by using embryonic stem cells. Wouldn't it be wise to use stem cells obtained without the destruction of an embryo.
SENATOR KERRY: You know, Elizabeth, I really respect your -- the feeling that's in your question. I understand it. I know the morality that's prompting that question, and I respect it enormously. But like Nancy Reagan and so many other people -- you know, I was at a forum with Michael J. Fox the other day in New Hampshire, who's suffering from Parkinson's. And he wants us to do stem cell -- embryonic stem cell. And this fellow stood up and he was quivering, his whole body was shaking from the nerve disease, the muscular disease that he had, and he said to me and to the whole hall, he said, you know, don't take away my hope because my hope is what keeps me going. Chris Reeve is a friend of mine. Chris Reeve exercises every single day to keep those muscles alive for the day when he believes he can walk again -- and I want him to walk again.
I think we can save lives. Now, I think we can do ethically guided embryonic stem cell research. We have 100,000 to 200,000 embryos that are frozen in nitrogen today from fertility clinics. These weren't taken from abortion or something like that, they're from a fertility clinic. And they're either going to be destroyed or left frozen. And I believe if we have the option, which scientists tell us we do, of curing Parkinson's, curing diabetes, curing some kind of a paraplegic or quadriplegic or a spinal cord injury, anything -- that's the nature of the human spirit. I think it is respecting life to reach for that cure. I think it is respecting life to do it in an ethical way.
And the President's chosen a policy that makes it impossible for our scientists to do that. I want the future, and I think we have to grab it.
MODERATOR: Mr. President, a minute-and-a-half.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Embryonic stem cell research requires the destruction of life to create a stem cell. I'm the first President ever to allow funding, federal funding, for embryonic stem cell research. I did so because I, too, hope that we'll discover cures from the stem cells and from the research derived.
But I think -- I think we've got to be very careful in balancing the ethics and the science. And so I made the decision we wouldn't spend any more money beyond the 70 lines, 22 of which are now in action, because science is important, but so is ethics. So is balancing life. To destroy life to save life is one of the real ethical dilemmas that we face.
There is going to be hundreds of experiments off the 22 lines that now exist, that are active, and hopefully we find a cure. But as well, we need to continue to pursue adult stem cell research. I helped double the NIH budget to $28 billion a year to find cures. And the approach I took is one that I think is a balanced and necessary approach, to balance science and the concerns for life.
MODERATOR: Senator, thirty seconds, let's extend.
SENATOR KERRY: When you talk about walking a waffle line, he says he's allowed it, which means he's going to allow the destruction of life up to a certain amount, and then he isn't going to allow it. Now, I don't know how you draw that line. But let me tell you, point-blank, the lines of stem cells that he's made available, every scientist in the country will tell you, not adequate, because they're contaminated by mouse cells, and because there aren't 60 or 70, there are only about 11 to 20 now, and there aren't enough to be able to do the research because they're contaminated.
We've got to open up the possibilities of this research. And when I am President, I'm going to do it, because we have to.
MODERATOR: Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me make sure you understand my decision. Those stem cell lines already existed. The embryo had already been destroyed prior to my decision. I had to make the decision, do we destroy more life, do we continue to destroy life. I made the decision to balance science and ethics.
MODERATOR: Mr. President, the next question is for you, and it comes from Jonathan Mickelson (phonetic.)
Q Mr. President, if there were a vacancy in the Supreme Court, and you had the opportunity to fill that position today, who would you choose, and why?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I'm not telling. (Laughter.) I really don't have -- I haven't picked anybody yet. Plus, I want them all voting for me. (Laughter.) I would pick somebody who would not allow their personal opinion to get in the way of the law. I would pick somebody who would strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States.
Let me give you a couple of examples, I guess, of the kind of person I wouldn't pick. I wouldn't pick a judge who said that the Pledge of Allegiance couldn't be said in a school because it had the words, "under God," in it. I think that's an example of a judge allowing personal opinion to enter into the decision-making process, as opposed to strict interpretation of the Constitution.
Another example would be the Dred Scott case, which is where judges years ago said that the Constitution allowed slavery because of personal property rights. That's personal opinion; that's not what the Constitution says. The Constitution of the United States says we're all -- it doesn't say that, it doesn't speak to the equality of America.
And so I would pick people that would be strict constructionists. We've got plenty of lawmakers in Washington, D.C. Legislators make law; judges interpret the Constitution. And I suspect one of us will have a pick at the end of next year -- next four years. And that's the kind of judge I'm going to put on there. No litmus test except for how they interpret the Constitution.
MODERATOR: Senator Kerry, a minute-and-a-half.
SENATOR KERRY: Thank you, Charlie. A few years ago, when he came to office, the President said -- these are his words -- "What we need are some good conservative judges on the courts." And he said also that his two favorite justices are Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas. So you get a pretty good sense of where he's heading if he were to appoint somebody.
Now, here's what I believe. I don't believe we need a good conservative judge and I don't believe we need a good liberal judge. I don't believe we need a good judge of that kind of definition on either side. I subscribe to the Justice Potter Stewart standard -- he was a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States -- and he said the mark of a good judge, a good justice, is that when you're reading their decision, their opinion, you can't tell if it's written by a man or a woman, a liberal or a conservative, a Muslim, a Jew or a Christian; you just know you're reading a good judicial decision.
What I want to find, if I'm privileged to have the opportunity to do it -- and the Supreme Court of the United States is at stake in this race, ladies and gentlemen -- the future of things that matter to you, in terms of civil rights, what kind of Justice Department you'll have; whether we'll enforce the law; will we have equal opportunity; will women's rights be protected; will we have equal pay for women, which is going backwards -- will a woman's right to chose be protected. They are constitutional rights, and I want to make sure we have judges who interpret the Constitution of the United States according to the law.
MODERATOR: Going to go to the final two questions, now. And the first one will be for Senator Kerry, and this comes from Sarah Degenheart (phonetic).
Q Senator Kerry, suppose you are speaking with a voter who believed abortion is murder, and the voter asked for reassurance that his or her tax dollars would not go to support abortion. What would you say to that person?
SENATOR KERRY: I would say to that person exactly what I will say to you right now. First of all, I cannot tell you how deeply I respect the belief about life and when it begins. I'm a Catholic, raised a Catholic, I was an altar boy. Religion has been a huge part of my life. It helped lead me through a war, leads me today. But I can't take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn't share that article of faith, whether they be agnostic, atheist, Jew, protestant, whatever. I can't do that.
But I can counsel people. I can talk reasonably about life and about responsibility. I can talk to people, as my wife Teresa does, about making other choices, and about abstinence, and about all these other things that we ought to do as a responsible society. But as a President, I have to represent all the people in the nation. And I have to make that judgment.
Now, I believe that -- that you can take that position and not be pro-abortion. But you have to afford people their constitutional rights. And that means being smart about allowing people to be fully educated, to know what their options are in life, and making certain that you don't deny a poor person the right to be able to have whatever the Constitution affords them if they can't afford it otherwise.
That's why I think it's important. That's why I think it's important for the United States, for instance, not to have this rigid ideological restriction on helping families around the world to be able to make a smart decision about family planning. You'll help prevent AIDS. You'll help prevent unwanted children, unwanted pregnancies. You'll actually do a better job, I think, of passing on the moral responsibility that is expressed in your question and I truly respect it.
MODERATOR: Mr. President, a minute-and-a-half.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Trying to decipher that. (Laughter.) My answer is we're not going to spend federal taxpayers' money on abortion. This is an issue that divides America, but certainly reasonable people can agree on how to reduce abortions in America. I signed the ban on partial-birth abortion. It's a brutal practice. It's one way to help reduce abortions. My opponent voted against the ban. I think there ought to be parental notification laws. He's against them. I signed a bill called the Unborn Victims of Violent Act -- in other words, if you're a mom and you're pregnant, you get killed, the murderer gets tried for two cases, not just one. My opponent is against that. These are reasonable ways to help promote a culture of life in America.
I think it is a worthy goal in America to have every child protected by law and welcomed in life. I also think we ought to continue to have good adoption law as an alternative to abortion. And we need to promote maternity group homes, which my administration has done. Culture of life is really important for a country to have if it's going to be a hospitable society.
MODERATOR: Senator, do you want to follow up? Thirty seconds.
SENATOR KERRY: Well, again, the President just said categorically, my opponent is against this, my opponent is against that. It's just not that simple. No, I'm not. I'm against the partial-birth abortion, but you've got to have an exception for the life of the mother and the health of the mother under the strictest test of bodily injury to the mother. Secondly, with respect to parental notification, I'm not going to require a 16 or 17-year old kid who's been raped by her father and who's pregnant to have to notify her father. So you've got to have a judicial intervention. And because they didn't have a judicial intervention where she could go somewhere and get help, I voted against it. It's never quite as simple as the President wants you to believe.
MODERATOR: And 30 seconds, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: It's pretty simple when they say, are you for a ban on partial-birth abortion -- yes or no. And he was given a chance to vote. And he voted no. And that's just the way it is. That's a vote. It came right up, it's clear for everybody to see. And, as I said, you can run, but you can't hide. It's reality.
MODERATOR: And the final question of the evening will be addressed to President Bush and it will come from Linda Grable (phonetic). Linda Grable is over here.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Put a head fake on -- laughter) --
MODERATOR: I got faked out, myself. (Laughter.)
Q President Bush, during the last four years, you have made thousands of decisions that have affected millions of lives. Please give three instances in which you came to realize you had made a wrong decision, and what you did to correct it. Thank you.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I have made a lot of decisions -- some of them little, like appointments to board you've never heard of, and some of them big. And in a war, there's a lot of tactical decisions that historians will look back and say, you shouldn't have done that, you shouldn't have made that decision. And I'll take responsibility for them. I'm human.
But on the big questions about whether or not we should have gone into Afghanistan, the big question about whether we should have removed somebody in Iraq, I'll stand by those decisions because I think they're right. That's really what you're -- when they ask about the mistakes, that's what they're talking about. They're trying to say, did you make a mistake going into Iraq? And the answer is absolutely not. It's the right decision.
The Duelfer report confirmed that decision today, because what Saddam Hussein was doing was trying to get rid of sanctions so he could reconstitute a weapons program, and the biggest threat facing America is terrorists with weapons of mass destruction. We knew he hated us. We knew he had been a -- invaded other countries. We knew he tortured his own people.
On the tax cut, it's a big decision. I did the right decision. Our recession was one of the shallowest in modern history. Now, you ask what mistakes -- I made some mistakes in appointing people, but I'm not going to name them. I don't want to hurt their feelings on national TV. But history will look bac, and I'm fully prepared to accept any mistakes that history judges to my administration. Because the President makes the decisions, the President has to take the responsibility.
MODERATOR: Senator Kerry, a minute-and-a-half.
SENATOR KERRY: I believe the President made a huge mistake, a catastrophic mistake not to live up to his own standard, which was build a true global coalition, give the inspectors time to finish their job and go through the U.N. process to its end, and go to war as a last resort.
I ask each of you just to look into your hearts, look into your guts, gut-check time. Was this really going to war as a last resort? The President rushed our nation to war without a plan to win the peace. And simple things weren't done. That's why Senator Lugar says "incompetent" in the delivery of services. That's why Senator Hagel, Republican, says, beyond pitiful, beyond embarrassing, in the zone of dangerous.
We didn't guard 850,000 tons of ammo. That ammo is now being used against our kids. Ten thousand out of 12,000 humvees aren't armored. I've visited some of those kids with no limbs today because they didn't have the armor on those vehicles. They didn't have the right body armor. I've met parents who've, on the Internet, gotten the armor to send their kids.
There's no bigger judgment for a President of the United States than how you take a nation to war. And you can't say, because Saddam might have done it ten years from now, that's a reason; that's an excuse.
MODERATOR: Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: He complains about the fact our troops don't have adequate equipment, yet he voted against the $87 billion supplemental I sent to the Congress, and then issued one of the most amazing quotes in political history: "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it."
Saddam Hussein was a risk to our country, ma'am. And he was a risk that -- and this is where we just have a difference of opinion. The truth of the matter is, if you listen carefully, Saddam would still be in power if he were the President of the United States, and the world would be a lot better off. [sic]
MODERATOR: And, Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.
SENATOR KERRY: Not necessarily be in power, but here's what I'll say about the $87 billion. I made a mistake in the way I talked about it; he made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is a worse decision?
Now, I voted the way I voted because I saw that he had the policy wrong, and I wanted accountability. I didn't want to give a slush fund to Halliburton. I also thought the wealthiest people in America ought to pay for it, ladies and gentlemen. He wants your kids to pay for it. I wanted us to pay for it, since we're at war. I don't think that's a bad decision.
MODERATOR: That's going to conclude the questioning. We're going to go now to closing statements. Two minutes from each candidate. And the first closing statement goes to Senator Kerry. I believe that was the agreement.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Go ahead. Actually --
SENATOR KERRY: You want to go first?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Either way. (Laughter.)
SENATOR KERRY: Thank you. Charlie, thank you. And thank you all. Thank you, all of you, for taking part. Thanks for your questions tonight very, very much.
Obviously, the President and I both have very strong convictions. I respect him for that. But we have a very different view about how to make America stronger and safer. I will never cede the authority of our country or our security to any other nation. I'll never give a veto of American security to any other entity -- not a nation, not a country, not an institution. But I know, as I think you do, that our country is strongest when we lead the world, when we lead strong alliances. And that's the way Eisenhower and Reagan and Kennedy and others did it. We are not doing that today; we need to.
I have a plan that will help us go out and kill and find the terrorists, and I will not stop in our effort to hunt down and kill the terrorists. But I also have a better plan on how we're going to deal with Iraq: training the Iraqi forces more rapidly, getting our allies back to the table with a fresh start, with new credibility, with a President whose judgment the rest of the world trusts.
In addition to that, I believe we have a crisis here at home, a crisis of the middle class that is increasingly squeezed; health care costs going up. I have a plan to provide health care to all Americans. I have a plan to provide for our schools so we keep the standards, but we help our teachers teach, and elevate our schools by funding No Child Left Behind. I have a plan to protect the environment so that we leave this place in better shape to our children than we were handed it by our parents -- that's the test.
I believe America's best days are ahead of us. I'm an optimist. But we have to make the right choices, to be fiscally responsible and to create the new jobs of the future. We can do this. And I ask you for the privilege of leading our nation to be stronger at home and respected again in the world.
MODERATOR: Senator. And a closing statement from President Bush.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Charlie, thanks. Thank you all very much. It's been enjoyable.
The great contest for the presidency is about the future, who can lead, who can get things done. We've been through a lot together as a country -- been through a recession, corporate scandals, war. And yet, think about where we are. We added 1.9 million new jobs over the past 13 months. The farm income in America is high. Small businesses are flourishing. Home ownership rate is at an all-time high in America. We're on the move.
Tonight I had a chance to discuss with you what to do to keep this economy going: keep the taxes low, don't increase the scope of the federal government, keep regulations down, legal reform, a health care policy that does not empower the federal government, but empowers individuals, and an energy plan that will help us become less dependent on foreign sources of energy.
And abroad, we're at war. And it requires a President who is steadfast and strong and determined. I vowed to the American people after that fateful day of September the 11th that we would not rest, nor tire until we're safe. The 9/11 Commission put out a report that said America is safer, but not yet safe. There's more work to be done. We'll stay on the hunt on al Qaeda. We'll deny sanctuary to these terrorists. We'll make sure they do not end up with weapons of mass destruction. The great nexus, the great threat to our country is that these haters end up with weapons of mass destruction.
But our long-term security depends on our deep faith in liberty. We'll continue to promote freedom around the world. Freedom is on the march. Tomorrow, Afghanistan will be voting for a President. In Iraq, we'll be having free elections, and a free society will make this world more peaceful.
MODERATOR: Mr. President and Senator Kerry. That concludes tonight's debate.
I want to give you a reminder that the third and final debate, on issues of domestic policy will be held next Wednesday, October 13th, at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, hosted by Bob Schieffer of CBS News.
I want to thank President Bush and Senator Kerry for tonight. I want to thank these citizens of the St. Louis area who asked the questions, who gave so willingly of their time, and who took their responsibility very seriously.
Thank you also to everyone at Washington -- (applause.) I want to thank everyone at Washington University in St. Louis for being such gracious hosts.
I'm Charles Gibson, from ABC News, from St. Louis, good night. (Applause.)
END 10:38 P.M. CDT