PRESIDENTIAL DEBATEOctober 6, 1996
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, Senator Dole has come pretty close in the last few days of accusing you of lying about his position on Medicare reform. Have you done so?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Absolutely not. Let's look at the position.
First of all, remember that in this campaign season since Senator Dole's been a candidate he has bragged about the fact that he voted against Medicare in the beginning, in 1965, one of only 12 members. He said he did the right thing then, he knew it wouldn't work at the time. That's what he said. Then his budget that he passed along with Speaker Gingrich cut Medicare $270 billion, more than was necessary to repair the Medicare trust fund. It would have charged seniors more for out of pocket costs as well as more in premiums because doctors could have charged them more. The American Hospital Association, the Nurses Association, the Catholic Hospital Association all said hundreds of hospitals could close and people would be hurt badly under the Dole-Gingrich Medicare plan that I vetoed. And now with this risky $550 billion tax scheme of Senator Dole's, even his own friends, his campaign co-chair, Senator D'Amato, says that they can't possibly pay for it without cutting Medicare more and cutting Social Security as well, according to him.
Now, my balanced-budget plan adds 10 years to the life of the Medicare trust fund, 10 years. And we'll have time to deal with the long-term problems of the baby-boomers. But it was simply wrong to finance their last scheme to cut Medicare $270 billion to run the risk of it withering on the vine. We always have to reform it over the years, but we need someone who believes in it to reform it.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Dole.
MR. DOLE: Well, I must say, I look back at the vote on Medicare in 1965, we had a program called Eldercare that also provided drugs and was means-testing, so people who needed medical attention received it. I thought it was a good program. But I've supported Medicare ever since. In fact, I used to go home, and my mother would tell me, said, ``Bob, all I've got's my Social Security and my Medicare. Don't cut it.''
I wouldn't violate anything my mother said. In fact, we had a conversation about our mothers one day, a very poignant conversation in the White House.
I am concerned about health care. I've had the best health care in government hospitals, Army hospitals, and I know its importance. But we've got to fix it. It's his trustees -- the president's trustees, not mine -- who say it's going to go broke. He doesn't fix it for 10 years. We ought to appoint a commission, just as we did in Social Security in 1983 when we rescued Social Security, and I was proud to be on that commission along with Claude Pepper, the champion of senior citizens from Florida. And we can do it again if we take politics out of it.
Stop scaring the seniors, Mr. President. You've already spent $45 million scaring seniors and tearing me apart. I think it's time to have a truce.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, let me say, first of all, I'd be happy to have a commission deal with this, and I appreciate what Senator Dole did on the '83 Social Security commission. But it won't be possible to do if his tax scheme passes, because even his own campaign co-chair, Senator D'Amato, says he'll have to cut Medicare even more than was cut in the bill that I vetoed. I vetoed that bill because it cut more Medicare and basically ran the risk of breaking up the system. My balanced budget plan puts 10 years onto Medicare. We ought to do that. Then we can have a commission. But Senator Dole's plans are not good for the country.