The 2nd Presidential Debate Part 4: Governor Bush and Vice President Gore
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MR. LEHRER: New subject, new question, Vice President Gore. How do you see the connection between controlling gun sales in this country and the incidence of death by accidental or intentional use of guns?
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Jim, I hope that we can come back to the subject of education, because the governor made an extensive statement on it, and I have a very different view than the one he — than the one he expressed.
But that having been said, I believe that — well, first of all let me say that the governor and I agree on some things where this subject is concerned. I will not do anything to affect the rights of hunters or sportsmen. I think that homeowners have to be respected, and the right to have a gun if they wish to.
The problem I see is that there are too many guns getting into the hands of children and criminals and people who, for whatever reason — some kind of history of stalking or domestic abuse — really should not be able to get guns I think these assault weapons are a problem. So I favor closing the gun show loophole. In fact, I cast the tie-breaking vote to close it, but then the majority in the House of Representatives went the other way. That’s still pending. If we could get agreement on that, maybe they could pass that in the final days of this Congress.
I think we ought to restore the three-day waiting period under the Brady Law. I think we should toughen the enforcement of gun laws so that the ones that are already on the books can be enforced much more effectively. Some of the restrictions that have been placed by the Congress in the last couple years, I think — in the last few years, I think, have been unfortunate.
I think that we ought to make all schools gun free, have a gun-free zone around every school in this country. I think that measures like these are important; child safety trigger locks on a mandatory basis, and others.
JIM LEHRER: Governor?
GOV. BUSH: Well, it starts with enforcing the law, and we need to say loud and clear to somebody, If you’re going to carry a gun illegally, we’re going to arrest you. If you’re going to sell a gun illegally, you need to be arrested, and if you commit crime with a gun, there needs to be absolute certainty in the law. And that means that the local law enforcement officials need help at the federal level; need programs like Project Exile, where the federal government intensifies arresting people who illegally use guns And we haven’t done a very good job of that at the federal level recently, and I’m going to make it a priority.
Secondly, I don’t think we ought to be selling guns to people who shouldn’t have them. That’s why I support instant background checks at gun shows. One of the reasons we have an instant background check is so that we instantly know whether or not somebody should have a gun or not. In Texas, I tried to do something innovatively, which is that, you know, there’s a lot of talk about, you know, trigger locks being on guns sold in the future. I support that. But I said, Listen, if you want a trigger lock to make your gun safe, come to — come and get one for free. And so we’re distributing in our state of Texas for free. I think we ought to raise the age at which a juvenile can carry a handgun from 18 to 21.
I disagree with the vice president on this issue. I don’t — he’s for registration of guns I think the only people who are going to show up to register or get a license — I guess licensing, like a driver’s license with a gun — the only people who are going to show up are law-abiding citizens. The criminals are not going to show up and say, “Hey, give me my ID card.” It’s the law-abiding citizens who’ll do that. And I just — I don’t think that’s going to be an effective tool to make the — keep our society safe.
JIM LEHRER: All right. So, on guns, if somebody wants to cast a vote based on your differences, where are the differences?
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Well, I’m not for registration. I am for licensing by states of new handgun purchases.
JIM LEHRER: What does that — what’s that mean?
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Sort of a license ID, like a driver’s license, for new handguns. And, you know, the Los Angeles –
JIM LEHRER: Excuse me, you would have to get the license — a photo ID to go in and — before you could buy the gun?
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Correct.
JIM LEHRER: All right. And who would issue –
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: The state.
JIM LEHRER: The state.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I think states should do that for new handguns, because too many criminals are getting guns There was a recent investigation of the — of the number in Texas who got — who were given concealed Weapons permits in spite of the fact that they had records, and the Los Angeles Times has spent a lot of ink going into that. But I am not for doing anything that would affect hunters or sportsmen, rifles, shotguns, existing handguns. I do think that sensible gun safety measures are warranted now. Look, this is the year — this is in the aftermath of Columbine and Paducah and all of the places around our country where the nation has been shocked by these Weapons in the hands of the wrong people.
The woman who bought the guns for the two boys who did that killing at Columbine said that if she had had to give her name and fill out a form there, she would not have bought those guns That conceivably could have prevented that tragedy.
JIM LEHRER: Back to the question about the differences on gun control. What are they, Governor, from your point of view, between you and the vice president?
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Well, I’m not for photo licensing. But let me say something about Columbine.
JIM LEHRER: All right.
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: And, listen, we’ve got gun laws. He says we ought to have gun-free schools. Everybody believes that. I’m sure every state in the unions got them. You can’t carry a gun into a school. And there ought to be a consequence when you do carry a gun into a school.
But Columbine spoke to a larger issue, and it’s really a matter of culture. It’s a culture that somewhere along the line, we’ve begun to disrespect life, where a child can walk in and can have their heart turned dark as a result of being on the Internet, and walk in and decide to take somebody else’s life. So gun laws are important, no question about it. But so is loving children and, you know, character Education classes, and faith-based programs being a part of after-school programs. Somebody — some desperate child needs to have somebody put their arm around them and say, “We love you.” And so there’s a — this is a society that — of ours has got to do a better job of teaching children right from wrong.
And we can enforce law. But there seems to be a lot of preoccupation on — not necessarily in this debate, but just in general, on law. But there’s a larger law: Love your neighbor like you’d like to be loved yourself — and that’s where our society must head if we’re going to be a peaceful and prosperous society.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I also believe in the Golden Rule. And I agree with a lot of the other things that the Governor has said. We do have a serious problem in our culture. Tipper and I have worked on the problem of violence and entertainment aimed at children. She’s worked on it longer than I have. But I feel very strongly about that, and if I’m elected president, I will do something about that.
But I think that we — I think we have to start with better parenting. But I don’t think that we can ignore the role played by guns I mean, the fact is that there — even though no state wants them, there are guns in some schools. And the reason it’s so difficult for schools to control that is because in recent years there has been a flood of cheap handguns that are widely available that kids are finding ways to get a hold of them. And I think that if you look at the situation as it exists here in the United States compared to any other country in the world, it seems to me pretty obvious that while we respect the rights of hunters and sportsmen, we do need some common-sense gun safety steps to stem this flood of guns that are getting into the wrong hands.
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Yeah, no question about that. But there also needs to be strong enforcement of the law. Some kid who feels like they — it doesn’t matter where the gun comes from. It could be a cheap gun, expensive gun What matters is, something in this person’s head says there’s not going to be a consequence. So in my state, we’ve toughened up the juvenile justice laws. We added beds. We’re tough. We believe in tough love. We say, if you get caught carrying a gun, you’re automatically detained. And that’s what needs to happen. We’ve got laws. If laws need to be strengthened, like instant background checks, that’s important.
JIM LEHRER: New question. New subject.
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: As I was saying –
JIM LEHRER: Both of you — Governor, both of you have talked much about Medicare and health care for seniors. What about the more than 40 million younger Americans who do not have health insurance right now? What would you do about that?
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Well, I’ve got a plan to do something about that, to make Health care affordable and available, this way. First, there are some who should be buying Health care who choose not to. There are some –
JIM LEHRER: Some of the 40 million.
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Some of the healthy folks, healthy young kids say, “I never get sick, therefore I’m not going to have — don’t need Health care right now.” And for those, what I think we need to do is to develop an investment-type vehicle that would be an incentive for them to invest, like medical savings accounts with rollover capacity. In other words, you say to a youngster, “It would be in your financial interest to start saving for future illness.”
But for the working folks that do want to have Health care that can’t afford it, a couple of things we need to do. One, we need more community Health centers. I’ve developed — put out money in my budget to expand community Health centers all around the country. These are places where people can get primary care. Secondly — and they’re good. They’re very important parts of the safety net of Health care
Secondly, that you get a $2,000 rebate from the government if you’re a family of $30,000 or less — it scales down as it gets higher — that you can use to purchase Health care in the private markets. It’s going to be a huge down payment for a pretty darn good system if you allow — also allow — convince states to allow — allow states to allow the mother to match some of the children’s Health insurance money with it, to pool purchasing power.
And to make Health care more affordable, allow business associations, like the National Federation of Independent Business or the Chamber of Commerce or the National Restaurant Association, to write association plans across jurisdictional lines so that small businesses have got the capacity of national pooling to drive the cost of insurance down.
I think that’s the very best way to go. It empowers people. It trusts people. It makes — it — and it’s a practical way to encourage people to purchase Health care insurance.
JIM LEHRER: Vice President Gore?
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: It’s one of my top priorities, Jim, to give every single child in the United States affordable Health care within the next four years. I’d like to see eventually in this country some form of universal Health care, but I’m not for a government-run system.
In fact, I’m for shrinking the size of government. I want a smaller and smarter government. I have been in charge of this Reinventing Government streamlining project that’s reduced the size of government by more than 300,000 people in the last several years. And the budget plan that I’ve put out, according to the Los Angles Times, again, the way these things are typically measured as a percentage of the GDP, will bring government spending down to the lowest level in 50 years.
So I want to proceed carefully to cover more people. But I think we should start by greatly expanding the so-called Child Health Insurance or CHIP Program, to give Health insurance to every single child in this country. I think it’s intolerable that we have so many millions of children without any Health insurance. So it’s one of my top priorities.
Now I know that we have some disagreements on this, and I’m sorry to tell you that, you know, there is a record here, and Texas ranks 49th out of the 50 states in Health care — in children with Health care, 49th for women with Health care, and 50th for families with Health care So it is a priority for me, I guarantee you. I’m not aware of any program — well, I’ll just leave it at that. I think it ought to be a top priority.
JIM LEHRER: Governor, did the vice president — are the vice president’s figures correct about Texas?
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Well, first of all, let me say, he’s not for a government-run Health care system. I thought that’s exactly what he and Mrs. Clinton and them fought for in 1993, was a government-run Health care system. That was fortunately stopped in its tracks.
Secondly, we spend $4.7 billion a year on the uninsured in the state of Texas Our rate of uninsured, the percentage of uninsured in Texas has gone down, while the percentage of uninsured in America has gone up. Our CHIPS program got a late start because our government meets only four months our of every two years, Mr. Vice President. It may come for a shock for somebody who’s been in Washington for so long, but actually, limited government can work in the second largest state in the union. And therefore, Congress passes the bill after our session in 1997 ended. We passed the enabling legislation in ’99. We’ve signed up over 110,000 children to the CHIPS program.
For comparable states our size, we’re signing them up fast as any other state. And I — you can quote all the numbers you want, but I’m telling you, we care about our people in Texas We spend a lot of money to make sure people get Health care in the state of Texas And we’re doing a better job than they are at the national level for reducing uninsured.
JIM LEHRER: Is he right?
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Well, I don’t know about all these percentages that he throws out, but I do know that — I speculate that the reason why he didn’t answer your question directly as to whether my numbers were right, the facts were right about Texas ranking dead last in families with Health insurance and 49th out of 50 for both children and women is because those facts are correct.
And as for why it happened, I’m no expert on the Texas procedures, but what my friends there tell me is that the governor opposed a measure put forward by Democrats in the legislature to expand the number of children that would be covered, and instead directed the money toward a tax cut, a significant part of which went to wealthy interests. He declared the need for a new tax cut for the oil companies in Texas an emergency need. And so the money was taken away from the CHIP program.
There’s a — you don’t have to take my word for this. There is now a federal judge’s opinion about the current management of this program, ordering the state of Texas to do — and you should read that judge’s language about this. There are 1.4 — I believe there are 1.4 million children in Texas who do not have Health insurance; 600,000 of whom — and maybe some of those have since gotten it — but as of a year ago, 600,000 of them were actually eligible for it, but they couldn’t sign up for it because of the barriers that they had to surmount.
JIM LEHRER: Let’s let the governor respond to that.
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: I –
JIM LEHRER: Are those numbers correct? Are his charges correct?
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: If he’s trying to allege that I’m a hard-hearted person and I don’t care about children, he’s absolutely wrong. We spend $4.7 billion a year in the state of Texas for uninsured people and they get Health care Now, that’s not the most efficient way to get people Health care But I want to remind you, the number of uninsured in America during their watch has increased. And so he can make any excuse he wants, but the facts are that we’re reducing the number of uninsured as a percentage of our population. And as a percentage of the population, it’s increasing nationally.
But somehow the allegation that we don’t care and we’re going to give money for this interest or that interest and not for children in the state of Texas is totally absurd. And let me just tell you who the jury is — the people of Texas There’s only been one governor ever elected to back-to-back four-year terms, and that was me. And I was able to do so with a lot of Democrat votes, nearly 50 percent of the Hispanic vote, about 27 percent of the African-American vote because people know that I’m a conservative person and a compassionate person.
So we can throw all kinds of numbers around. I’m just telling you our state comes together to do what’s right. We come together, both Republicans and Democrats.
JIM LEHRER: Let me put that directly to you, Vice President Gore. The reason you brought this up, is it — are you suggesting that those numbers and that record will reflect the way Governor Bush will operate in this area of Health insurance as president?
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Yes. Yes. But it’s not a statement about his heart. I don’t claim to know his heart. I think — I think he’s a good person. I make no allegations about that. I believe him when he says that he has a good heart. I know enough about your story to admire a lot of the things that you have done, as a person.
But I think it’s about his priorities, and let me tell you exactly why I think that the choice he made to give a tax cut for the Oil companies and others before addressing this — I mean, if you were the governor of a state that was dead last in Health care for families and all of a sudden you find yourself with the biggest surplus your state had ever had in its history, wouldn’t you want to maybe use some of it to climb from 50th to, say, 45 or 40 or something, or maybe better? I would.
Now, but here’s why it’s directly relevant, Jim, because by his own budget numbers, his proposals for spending on tax cuts for the wealthiest of the wealthy are more than the new spending proposals that he has made for Health care and Education and national defense all combined — according to his own numbers. So it’s not a question of his heart. It’s — as far as I know — it’s a question of priorities and values. See — you know — in –
JIM LEHRER: Let me — let me just ask –
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Well, first of all, that’s simply not true, what he just said, of course. And secondly, I repeat –
JIM LEHRER: What — what is not true, Governor?
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: That we spent — the top 1 percent received 223 (billion) as opposed to 445 billion in new spending. The top — let’s talk about my tax plan. The top 1 percent pay — will pay one-third of all the federal income taxes and, in return, get one-fifth of the benefits, because most of the tax reductions go to the people at the bottom end of the economic ladder.
That stands in stark contrast, by the way, to a man who’s going to leave 50 million — 50 million — Americans out of tax relief. We just have a different point of view. It’s a totally different point of view. He believes only the right people ought to get tax relief. I believe everybody who pays Taxes ought to get tax relief.
Let me go back to Texas, for example, for a minute. We pay 4.7 billion. I can’t emphasize to you how much — I signed a bill that puts CHIPS (sic) in place. The bill finally came out at the end of the ’99 session. We’re working hard to sign up children. We’re doing it faster than any other state our size — comparable state. We’re making really good progress. And our state cares a lot about our children.
My priority is going to be the Health of our citizens. These folks have had eight years to get something done in Washington, D.C., on the uninsured. They have not done it. They’ve had eight years to get something done on Medicare, and they have not got it done. And my case to the American people is, if you’re happy with inactivity, stay with the horse — the horse that’s up there now. But if you want change, you need to get somebody who knows how to bring Republicans and Democrats together to get positive things done for America.