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The 2nd Presidential Debate Part 5: Governor Bush and Vice President Gore

October 11, 2000 at 12:00 AM EDT


JIM LEHRER: New question, new subject. Vice President Gore, on the environment, in your 1992 book you said, quote, “We must make the rescue of our Environment the central organizing principle for civilization, and there must be a wrenching transformation to save the planet.” Do you still feel that way?

VICE PRESIDENT GORE: I do. I think that in this 21st century we will soon see the consequences of what’s called global warming. There was a study just a few weeks ago suggesting that in summertime the North Polar ice cap would be completely gone in 50 years. Already many people see the strange weather conditions that the old-timers say they’ve never seen before in their lifetimes. And what’s happening is the level of pollution is increasing significantly.

Now, here’s the good news, Jim. If we take the leadership role and build the new technologies — like the new kinds of cars and trucks that Detroit is itching to build — then we can create millions of good new jobs by being first into the market with these new kinds of cars and trucks, and other kinds of technologies. You know, the Japanese are breathing down our necks on this. They’re moving very rapidly because they know that it is a fast-growing world market. Some of these other countries, particularly in the developing world, their pollution is much worse than anywhere else, and their people want higher standards of living, and so they’re looking for ways to satisfy their desire for a better life and still reduce pollution at the same time.

I think that holding on to the old ways and the old argument that the Environment and the economy are in conflict is really outdated. We have to be bold. We have to provide leadership. Now, it’s true that we disagree on this. The Governor said that he doesn’t think this problem is necessarily caused by people. He’s for letting the oil companies into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Houston has just become the smoggiest city in the country, and Texas is number one in industrial pollution.

We have a very different outlook. And I’ll tell you this: I will fight for a clean Environment in ways that strengthen our economy.

JIM LEHRER: Governor?

GOV. BUSH: Well, let me start with Texas We are a big industrial state. We reduced our industrial waste by 11 percent. We cleaned up more brownfields than any other administration in my state’s history — 450 of them. Our water is cleaner now. We’re –

JIM LEHRER: Explain what a brownfield is to those who don’t follow this.

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: A brownfield is an abandoned industrial site that just sits idle in some of our urban centers. And people that are willing to invest capital in the brownfields don’t want to do so for fear of lawsuit. I think we ought to have federal liability protection depending upon whether or not standards have been met.

The book you mentioned that Vice President Gore wrote, he also called for taxing — big energy taxes in order to clean up the Environment And now that the Energy prices are high, I guess he’s not advocating those big Energy Taxes right now.

I believe we ought to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund with half the money going to states so states can make the right decisions for environmental quality. I think we need to have clean-coal technologies. I proposed $2 billion worth.

By the way, I just found out the other day an interesting fact that there’s a national petroleum reserve right next to Prudhoe — or in Prudhoe Bay that your administration had opened up for exploration in the pristine area. And that was a smart move, because there’s gas reserves up there. We need gas pipelines to bring the gas down. Gas is a clean fuel that we can burn to — we need to make sure that if we decontrol our plants that there’s mandatory — that the plants must conform to clean air standards, the grandfathered plants. That’s what we did in Texas No excuses. I mean, you must conform.

In other words, there are practical things we can do. But it starts with working a collaborative effort with states and local folks. You know, if you own the land, every day’s Earth Day. And people care a lot about their land and care about their Environment Not all wisdom is in Washington, DC, on this issue.

JIM LEHRER: Where do you see the basic difference, in very simple terms, in two or three sentences, between you and the governor on the Environment? If the voter wants to make a choice, what is it?

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I’m really strongly committed to clean water and clear air and cleaning up the new kinds of challenges like global warming. I — he’s right that I’m not in favor of Energy Taxes I am in favor of tax cuts to encourage and give incentives for the quicker development of these new — new kinds of technologies, and let me say again, Detroit is — is raring to go on that.

We differ on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as I have said. We differ on whether or not pollution controls ought to be voluntary. I don’t I think you can — I don’t I think you can get results that way. We differ on the kinds of appointments that we would make.

JIM LEHRER: Which you say is a fundamental difference.

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I think it’s a fundamental difference, and let me give you an example. He –

JIM LEHRER: Wait, hold on one second.


JIM LEHRER: We’ve talked about — I just want to know, for somebody — because we’re running — we’re getting close to the end of our time here. I just want — if somebody wanted to make — wanted to vote on the Environment, how would you draw the differences, Governor?

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Well, I — I don’t believe in command-and- control out of Washington, D.C. I believe Washington ought to set standards, but I don’t — again, I think we ought to be collaborative at the local levels. And I think we ought to work with people at the local levels, and I — by the way, I just want to make sure we — I can’t let him just say something and not correct it.

JIM LEHRER: All right.

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: The electric decontrol bill that I fought for and signed in Texas has mandatory emissions standards, Mr. Vice President. That’s what we ought to do at the federal level when it comes to grandfather plants for utilities.

JIM LEHRER: Do you –

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: But there’s a — I think there’s a difference. I think — I think, for example, take the — when they took 40 million acres of land out of circulation without consulting local officials, I thought that was –

JIM LEHRER: That’s out — out in the West, right?

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Out in the West, yeah. And so, you know, on the logging issue, I didn’t — that’s not the way I would have done it. Perhaps some of that land needs to be set aside, but I certainly would have consulted with governors and elected officials before I would have acted unilaterally.

JIM LEHRER: Well, do you believe the federal government still has some new rules and new regulations and new laws to pass in the environmental area, or do you I think –

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Absolutely, so long as they’re based up on science and are reasonable. So long as people have input.

JIM LEHRER: What about global warming?

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: I think it’s an issue that we need to take very seriously, but I don’t I think we know the solution to global warming yet, and I don’t I think we’ve got all the facts before we make decisions.

I’ll tell you one thing I’m not going to do is I’m not going to let the United States carry the burden for cleaning up the world’s air, like the Kyoto Treaty would have done. China and India were exempted from that treaty. I think we need to be more even-handed, as, evidently, 99 senators — I think it was 99 senators — supported that position.

JIM LEHRER: Global warming. The Senate did turn it down.


GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Ninety-nine to nothing.

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Well, that vote wasn’t exactly –

JIM LEHRER: It was a resolution.

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: A lot of supporters of the Kyoto Treaty actually ended up voting for that because of the way it was worded, but there’s no doubt there’s a lot of opposition to it in the Senate. I’m not for command and control techniques either. I’m for working with the groups, not just with industry but also with the citizens groups and local communities to control sprawl in ways that the local communities themselves come up with. But I disagree that we don’t know the cause of global warming. I think that we do. It’s pollution — carbon dioxide and other chemicals that are even more potent, but in smaller quantities — that cause this.

Look. The world’s temperature’s going up, weather patterns are changing, storms are getting more violent and unpredictable. And what are we going to tell our children? And I’m a grandfather now. I want to be able to tell my grandson when I’m in my later years that I didn’t turn away from the evidence that showed that we were doing some serious harm. In my — in my faith tradition, it is — it’s written in the book of Matthew, “Where your heart is, there is your treasure also.” And I believe that we ought to recognize the value to our children and grandchildren of taking steps that preserve the Environment in a way that’s good for them.

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Yeah, I agree. I just — I think there’s been some — some of the scientists, I believe, Mr. Vice President, haven’t they been changing their opinion a little bit on global warming? A profound scientist recently made a different — different –

JIM LEHRER: Both — both of you now –

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: But the point is –

JIM LEHRER: Excuse me. Both of you have now violated your own rules. Hold that thought.

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I’ve been trying so hard not to!

JIM LEHRER: I know. I know. (Laughter.) But about — you’re not — under you-all’s rules, you are not allowed to ask each other a question. I let you do it a moment ago –


JIM LEHRER: Now you just — twice. Sorry. Okay. (Laughter.)

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: That’s an interruption — that’s an interruption, by the way.

JIM LEHRER: That’s an interruption, okay. But anyhow, you just did it, so now we’re –

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: I’m sorry.

JIM LEHRER: That’s all right. It’s okay.

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: I apologize, Mr. Vice President. But –

JIM LEHRER: You’re not allowed to do that either, see. (Laughter.) I’m sorry. Go ahead, finish your thought.


JIM LEHRER: People care about these things, I’ve found out.

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Of course they care about — oh, you mean the rules? Yeah.

JIM LEHRER: Right. Exactly right. (Laughter.) Go ahead, sir.

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: What the heck.


GOV. GEORGE BUSH: I — of course there’s a lot of — look, global warming needs to be taken very seriously, and I take it seriously. But science — there’s a lot of — there’s differing opinions. And before we react, I think it’s best to have the full accounting, full understanding of what’s taking place. And I think to answer your question, I think both of us care a lot about the Environment We may have different approaches, we may have different approaches in terms of how we deal with local folks. I mean, I just cited an example of the administration just unilaterally acting without any input. And I remember you gave a very good answer in New Hampshire about the White Mountains, about how it was important to keep that collaborative effort in place. I feel very strongly the same place. It certainly wasn’t the attitude that took place out West, however.

JIM LEHRER: New question.

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Yes. (Chuckles.)

JIM LEHRER: Last question. For you, Governor. And this flows somewhat out of the Boston debate. You, your running mate, your campaign officials have charged that Vice President Gore exaggerates, embellishes, and stretches the facts, et cetera. Are you — do you believe these are serious issues, this is a serious issue that the voters should use in deciding which one of you two men to vote for on November 7th?

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Well, we all make mistakes. I’ve been known to mangle a syllable or two myself, you know — (laughter) — but — (chuckles) — if you know what I mean. (Chuckles.)

I think credibility is important. It’s going to be important to be the — for the president to be credible with Congress, important for the president to be credible with foreign nations. And yes, I think it’s something that people need to consider. This isn’t something new. I read a report or a memo from somebody in the 1988 Campaign — I forgot the fellow’s name — warning then-Senator Gore to be careful about exaggerating claims. And you know, I thought, during his debate with Senator Bradley, saying he authored the EITC when it didn’t happen, he — I mentioned the last –


GOV. GEORGE BUSH: The Earned Income Tax Credit.

JIM LEHRER: All right.


JIM LEHRER: That’s all right.

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: That’s a lot of initials for a guy who’s not from Washington, isn’t it? Anyway, I — he co-sponsored McCain-Feingold, and yet he didn’t. And so I think this is an issue. I think — I found it to be an issue in trying to defend my tax relief package. I thought there were some exaggerations about the numbers.

But the people are going to have to make up their mind on this issue. And I — I’m going to continue to defend my record and defend my propositions against what I think are exaggerations — exaggerations like, for example, only 5 percent of the seniors receive benefits under my Medicare reform package. That’s what he said the other day, and that’s simply not the case. And I have every right in the world to defend my record and my positions. That’s what debates are about, and that’s what campaigns are about.

JIM LEHRER: Vice President Gore?

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I got some of the details wrong last week in some of the examples that I used, Jim, and I’m sorry about that. And I’m going to try to do better.

One of the reasons I regret it is that it — getting a detail wrong interfered several times with the point that I was trying to make. However many days that young girl in Florida stood in her classroom, however long, even if it was only one day, doesn’t change the fact that there are a lot of overcrowded classrooms in America. And we need to do something about that.

There are seniors who pay more for their prescriptions than a lot of other people, more than their pets — (laughs) –sometimes, more sometimes than people in foreign countries, and we need to do something about that, not with a measure that leaves the majority of them without any real basic health until the next president’s term or four years is over, but right away. And that means doing it under the Medicare program.

I can’t promise that I will never get another detail wrong. I can promise you that I will try not to, and hard. (Laughs.) But I will promise you this with all the confidence in my heart and in the world: that I will do my best, if I’m elected president, I’ll work my heart out to get the big things right for the American people.

JIM LEHRER: Does that resolve the issue, Governor?

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: That’s going to be up to the people, isn’t it?

JIM LEHRER: Does it resolve it for you?

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Depends on what — depends on what he says in the future in the Campaign

JIM LEHRER: But your folks are saying some awful things, and you’re –

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: I would hope they’re not awful things. I think they might be using the man’s own words.

JIM LEHRER: Excuse me, no, no, I mean — what I mean is, you calling him a “serial exaggerator.”

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: I don’t believe I’ve used those words.

JIM LEHRER: No, but your Campaign has.

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Maybe they have.

JIM LEHRER: Your Campaign officials have. And your Campaign officials, Vice President Gore, are now calling — now calling the governor a “bumbler.”

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Wait a minute! (Laughter.)

JIM LEHRER: I mean, is — my point it, should this — is this –

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I don’t use language like that, and I don’t I think that we should.

JIM LEHRER: It’s in your — it’s in your commercials.

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I understand. (Laughter.)

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: (Laughs.) Yeah.

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I haven’t seen that. In my commercial? (Continuing laughter.)

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: (Laughs.) Yeah.



GOV. GEORGE BUSH: You haven’t seen the commercial?

JIM LEHRER: And your –

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I think that what — I think the point of that is that anybody would have a hard time trying to make a tax cut plan that’s so large, that would put us into such big deficits, that gives almost half the benefits to the wealthiest of the wealthy, I think anybody would have a hard time explaining that clearly in a way that makes sense to the average person.

GOV. GEORGE BUSH: That’s the kind of exaggeration I was just talking about. (Laughter.)

VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Well, I wasn’t the one having trouble explaining it.

Continue to Part 6