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President Bush, Sen. Kerry Each Address UNITY Conference

August 6, 2004 at 12:00 AM EDT
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TRANSCRIPT

JIM LEHRER: Now, more from the presidential campaign. Both President Bush and John Kerry spoke and fielded questions this week at the, Unity Journalists of Color Convention in Washington. First, President Bush. He spoke this morning.

As you will see, Ray Suarez was among his questioners.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Work to reform parts of government that are stagnant. And I’ll stand side by side with people to give them the tools necessary to perform.

I believe it is more important to be a doer than a talker. I believe it’s important to say to people, judge me by my results.

I want to thank you all for giving me a chance to come today. It’s my honor to be here. I look forward to answering some questions.

QUESTIONER: In 2000, an estimated two million people, African American had their votes discounted from Florida to Cook County, Illinois to other cities.

Are you going to order Attorney General John Ashcroft to send election federal monitors to Florida and other states?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I can understand why African Americans in particular, you know, are worried about being able to vote since the vote had been denied for so long in the South, in particular. I understand that.

And this administration wants everybody to vote. Best thing we did was to pass the Helping America Vote Act with over, I think it’s $3 billion of help to states and local governments to make sure the voting process is fair.

QUESTIONER: The most onerous tax for many Americans, particularly on the low end of the scale, is the payroll tax. What can be done about payroll taxes?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, obviously, I chose to provide tax relief by income tax cuts, not by payroll taxes.

And the reason payroll tax relief will affect the solvency of Social Security. So I chose not to deal with the payroll tax.

RAY SUAREZ: This morning there is fresh fighting in Najaf, Nasiriyah, Samara. What the mission for 140,000 American forces and how will we know when they’re done?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The mission is there is to be a democratic Iraq where they have elections to elect their government.

That’s the mission, to help them achieve that. Obviously there are people there that are still trying to disrupt the election process. They can’t stand the not thought of a free society in midst of a part of the world that’s just desperate for freedom. These people don’t like freedom. You know why? Because it clashes with their ideology.

We actually misnamed the war on terror. It ought to be the struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the free world.

And, you know, that’s what they do. They use terror, and they use it effectively.

SPOKESMAN: Thank you very much.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Thank you all. Thanks for having me.

JIM LEHRER: John Kerry spoke at that same Unity Journalists Convention yesterday.

SEN. JOHN KERRY: John Edwards and I are determined that we are really going to unite the country.

We’re going to put in place the policies that will bring us together and move America forward. I will be a president who listens to and meets with the Civil Rights Conference of the United States.

I will meet with the Congressional Black Caucus, meet with the Hispanic caucus, reach out to the people of this country and bring them to the table, the American table. ( Cheers and applause ) It’s my pleasure to answer questions. I don’t know what the order is, but I’m yours.

WOMAN: There are some people of color who believe that the Democratic Party has taken them for granted, especially after the votes have been counted.

What would make the Democratic Party different under John Kerry, especially compared to Bill Clinton’s eight years office? And how will you walk the talk?

SEN. JOHN KERRY: Well, I’ve done it for 35 years. I’ve done it for 35 years.

In every office I’ve ever won — district attorney, lieutenant governor and senator — my staffs have reflected the face of America and my administration will. In every vote I have cast, 100 percent NAACP ratings I have voted to expand rights, to enforce rights, to be inclusive.

WOMAN: American Indian tribes are sovereign nations, yet currently tribes have to go through states or counties to access homeland security funds.

Currently there’s legislation proposed to have funds go directly to tribes. What is your position on that?

SEN. JOHN KERRY: I think we have to recognize that the native American community, which has not been recognized, has as much desire, has as much interest and is as prepared and is as capable and always has protected America with as much zeal as any other community, and we ought to trust it and provide the funding necessary, as a separate jurisdiction where that coordination is not absolutely necessary.

WOMAN: If there is a clear line in the minds of many of the voters who are straddling the fence right now, it is on the issue of terror. The question is: how would you lead, as a president, in the age of terror?

SEN. JOHN KERRY: I come to the job of commander-in-chief with the rare, gratefully, but important experience of having fought in a war.

And the war that I fought in was a war where we saw America lose its support for the war, and I believe we need a commander in chief who understands the test before you send young people to war.

You got to be able to look parents in the eyes, if they lose their son or daughter, and say to them, “I tried to do everything in my power to avoid this, but we had no choice as a nation, as a people, because of the challenge to our country, to our fundamental values from a threat that was real and imminent.” Thank you all and God bless. Thank you.