PRESIDENTIAL DEBATEOctober 16, 1996
JIM LEHRER: All right, let's go now to the first question from this section, and it's for Senator Dole. Yes, ma'am? Yes?
SHANNON MACAFEE: Hello, Senator Dole.
MR. DOLE: Hi.
SHANNON MACAFEE: My name is Shannon MacAfee. I'm a beginning educator in this country and I really think it's important what children have to say. They're still very idealistic and everything they say comes from the heart.
I have a quote for you from "If I Were President," compiled by Peggy Gavin. A 6th grader says:
"If I were president, I would think about Abraham Lincoln and George Washington and what they did to make our country great. We should unite the white and black people and people of all cultures. Democrats and Republicans should unite also. We should all come together and think of the best ways to solve the economic problems of our country. I believe that when we are able to come together and stop fighting amongst ourselves, we will get along a lot better."
These are the ideals and morals that we are trying to teach our children in these days, yet we don't seem to be practicing them in our government, in anything.
If you are president, how will you begin to practice what we are preaching to our children, the future of our nation?
MR. DOLE: Well, I would say, first of all, I think it's a very good question, and I appreciate the quote from the young man.
There's no doubt about it that many American people have lost their faith in government. They see scandals almost on a daily basis, they see ethical problems in the White House today, they see 900 FBI files of private persons being gathered up by somebody in the White House, nobody knows who hired this man. So there's a great deal of cynicism out there.
But I've always tried, in whatever I've done, to bring people together. I said in my acceptance speech in San Diego about two months ago that the exits are clearly marked. If you think the Republican Party is someplace for you to come if you're narrow-minded or bigoted or don't like certain people in America, the exits are clearly marked for you to walk out of as I stand here without compromise because this is the party of Lincoln.
I think we have a real obligation, obviously, public officials. I'm no longer a public official. I left public life on June the 11th of this year. But it is very important. Young people are looking to us. They're looking to us for leadership. They're watching what we do, what we say, what we promise, and what we finally deliver. And I would think -- it seems to me that there are opportunities here.
When I'm president of the United States, I will keep my word. My word is my bond.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: One of the reasons that I ran for president, Sandy, is because not just children, a lot of grownups felt that way. If you remember, four years ago we had not only rising unemployment, but a lot of rising cynicism. I'd never worked in Washington as an elected official. It seemed to me that most of the arguments were partisan -- Republican, Democrat, left, right, liberal conservative. That's why I said tonight I'm for opportunity, responsibility and community. And we've gotten some real progress in the last four years. I've done everything I could at every moment of division in this country -- after Oklahoma City, when these churches were burned -- to bring people together and remind people that we are stronger because of our diversity. We have to respect one another.
You mentioned Washington and Lincoln, they were presidents at historic times. This is an historic time. It's important that we go beyond those old partisan arguments and focus on people and their future. When we do that, instead of shutting the government down over a partisan fight on the budget, we're a better country, and that's why we're making progress now.
JIM LEHRER: Senator?
MR. DOLE: Well, bringing people together again is obviously a responsibility we all have. I know you do it. Everybody here does it. You do a lot of things nobody knows about. I have a little foundation for the disabled called the Dole Foundation. We've raised about $10 million. We don't talk about it. We try to help people with disabilities. We bring them back into the mainstream of public life.
So it seems to me that there's also a public trust. When you're the president of the United States, you have a public trust, and you have to keep that public trust, as George Washington did and as Abraham Lincoln did. And I think now that trust is being violated, and it seems to me we ought to face up to it and the president out to say tonight he's not going to pardon anybody he was involved in business with who might implicate him later on.