PRESIDENTIAL DEBATEOctober 6, 1996
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, in your acceptance speech in Chicago you said the real choice in this race is, quote, "whether we build a bridge to the future or a bridge to the past, about whether we believe our best days are still out there or our best days are behind us, about whether we want a country of people all working together or one where you're on your own,'' end quote. Are you saying that you believe Senator Dole is a man of the past, and if elected president, he would lead the country backwards?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, I'm saying that Senator Dole said in his fine speech in San Diego that he wanted to build a bridge to the past. And I think I know what he meant by that. He's troubled, as I am, by some of the things that go on today. But I believe America is the greatest country in human history because we have maintained freedom and increasing prosperity by relentlessly pushing the barriers of knowledge, the barriers of the present, always moving into the future.
That's why when I became president, I was determined to kind of move beyond this old, stale debate that had gone on in Washington for too long to get this country moving again. And that's why we've got a country with 10 1/2 million more jobs and record numbers of new businesses and rising incomes and falling crimes rates and welfare roll rates. That's why we're moving in the right direction.
And I'm trying to emphasize that what I want to do is continue to do that. That's why my balanced-budget plan will still invest and grow this economy. That's why I want a tax cut for education and child rearing, but it's got to be paid for. That's why I want to continue the work we have done over partisan opposition to work with communities to bring that crime rate down until our streets are all safe again.
These are my commitments. I am very oriented toward the future. I think this election has to be geared toward the future. I think America's best days are still ahead, but we've got to build the right bridge.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Dole?
MR. DOLE: You know, the president reminds me sometimes of my brother Kenny, who's no longer alive. But Kenny was a great talker, and he used to tell me things that I knew were not quite accurate, so we always had a rule. We divided by six. Now, maybe in your case, maybe just two. But 11 million new jobs and everything -- I mean, the president can't take credit for everything the governors doing, whether it's happening in New York City when it comes to the murder rate, and then not be responsible for the bad things that happen, whether it's drug use or something else in America. And so it seems to me that we can talk about what we called Kenny, ``the Great Exaggerator,'' because he just liked to exaggerate, make it sound a little better. It made him feel better.
When it comes to bridges, I want a bridge to the future. I also want a bridge to the truth. We have to tell the truth. We've got people watching tonight and listening tonight, trying to find the truth. And the truth is, there's a lot wrong with America. We need a strong economic package. We need a tax cut. We need the $500 child credit, and we'll have that soon.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I do not for a moment think I'm entitled to all the credit for the good things that have happened in America. But where I have moved to work with the American people to help them have the tools to make the most of their own lives, I think I should get some credit for that.
I also personally took responsibility tonight when Senator Dole asked me about the drug problem. But you know, I think my ideas are better for the future. Senator Dole voted against student loans, against Head Start, against creating the Department of Education. If he gets elected president, we'll start the new century without anyone in the Cabinet of the president representing education and our children. I, personally, don't think that's the right kind of future for America, and I think we ought to take a different tack.