VICE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATEOctober 9, 1996
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Vice President, should federal government affirmative action programs be continued?
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Yes. President Clinton addressed this issue when he said, "Mend it; don't end it." Diversity is a great strength in America. Look around the world at other places where they have not paid attention to the necessity of promoting harmony between different ethnic, racial and religious and cultural groups. We ought to be very proud in our country, as most Americans are, that we've made tremendous progress, but we ought to recognize that we have more work to do.
Now, the first thing that we are trying to do is to create a million new jobs in the inner cities of this country with tax credits for employers who hire people who are now unemployed. We are seeking to have vigorous enforcement of the laws that bar discrimination.
Now, I want to congratulate Mr. Kemp for being a lonely voice in the Republican Party over the years on this question.
It is - it is with some sadness that I refer to the fact that the day after he joined Senator Dole's ticket, he announced that he was changing his position and was here - thereafter going to adopt Senator Dole's position to end all affirmative action. That's not good for our country.
Bill Clinton and I believe that the United States of America has its brightest days ahead, and we will see them even brighter if we promote diversity and harmony among all our people.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Kemp?
MR. KEMP: Jim, my position on affirmative action has been clear ever since I left a professional football career for Congress in 1970. Some people think I quit playing a few years earlier, but I retired in 1970.
My life has been dedicated to equality of opportunity, and our democracy should provide that, not equality of reward. Affirmative action should be predicated upon need, not equality of reward, not equality of outcome. Quotas have always been against the American ideal.
We should promote diversity, and we should do it the way Bob Dole has been talking about, with a new civil rights agenda based upon expanding access to credit and capital, job opportunities, educational choice in our inner cities for a young urban mother who can't get the type of an education she wants for her child, and ultimately a type of ownership and entrepreneurship from public housing residents in DC to Knickerson Gardens in Watts, Los Angeles. People need to own, and that's what Abraham Lincoln believed - that when people own something, they have a stake in the American Dream. That is affirmative action in America.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Vice President?
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: With all due respect, I do not believe that Abraham Lincoln would have adopted Bob Dole's position to end all affirmative action. There is a specific measure on the ballot in California. It wa embodied in legislation introduced by Senator Dole to apply to the whole nation. Mr. Kemp campaigned against it, spoke against it, wrote letters against it, went to California to fight against it, and now has endorsed it.
I don't think it's a minor matter. I think this is one of the most important challenges that our country has to face in the future, and I hope that Mr. Kemp will try to persuade Senator Dole to adopt Mr. Kemp's position, instead of the other way around.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Kemp, what is your position?
MR. KEMP: Does that red light mean that we're supposed to -
JIM LEHRER: That means - yeah, he's -
MR. KEMP: - stop?
JIM LEHRER: Right. What is -
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: You thought that was going to be your problem, not mine.
MR. KEMP: Yeah, right. I can't believe I'm keeping within the time limit.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Kemp, do we have a serious race problem in the United States right now?
MR. KEMP: Yes, we really do. This country has yet to deal with the type of inclusionary policies. It is so very important for Americans - white and black, Jew and Christian, immigrant and native born - to sit down and talk and listen and begin to understand what it's like to come from that different perspective.
Our country is, as the Kerner Commission Report suggested a number of years ago - was being split, but they said between white and black. I think it's being split, Jim, not so much between white and black, although that's still a very serious problem. We really have two economies. Our general economy, our national economy, our mainstream economy is democratic, is based on incentives - a small "d", Al - it's capitalism and incentives for working, and saving, and investing, and producing, and in families and the things that really lead to progress up that ladder that we call the American dream but is really universal.
But unfortunately, in urban America - and I was glad to hear the vice president talk a little bit about it - they're - they have abandoned the inner cities.
There is a socialist economy. There's no private housing; there's mostly public housing. You're told where to go to school. You're told what to buy with food stamps. It is a welfare system that is more like a Third World socialist country than what we would expect from the world's greatest democratic free enterprise system. That must change, and it will under Bob Dole and Jack Kemp.
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Remember what I said just a moment ago. If it were not so, he would have told you. The problems between races in America must be addressed.
The good news is we're making progress. We've seen 10-1/2 million new jobs created in the last four years. We've seen the unemployment rate come down dramatically. We've seen the African American unemployment rate go below double digits for the first time in 25 years, and it stayed below for 25 months in a row.
We have empowerment zones and enterprise communities, 105 of them in communities all across the United States of America.
Let me tell you a story about Jo Anne Crowder in Detroit. She was on welfare for eight years until the empowerment zone was created there. She just got a job in the new business that launched its enterprise right in that empowerment zone. We want to do that for millions more all across the country.
MR. KEMP: Well, with all due respect, Jim, there are nine empowerment zones, a few little tinkering with tax credits around the country for inner cities. Los Angeles, after the riots, did not even get an empowerment zone, believe it or not. That is just unconscionable in America to have left Watts, South Central and East L.A. out.
Earl Graves, of Black Enterprise Magazine, said, "The single greatest deterrent to black advancement is a lack of access to capital, credit and ownership." That will change. We will green-line every city in the United States where there is unemployment and welfare. And we will eliminate the capital gain tax and eliminate the tax on a welfare mother that takes a job. That's the answer. Give ownership and entrepreneurship to low-income people based on need not the color of their skin.