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JIM LEHRER: Now, more words from the presidential campaign. First, John Kerry; he spoke in Washington this morning about the expiration of the assault weapons ban.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: Police officers, police officers, begging the president all across our country, “keep this ban in place so we don’t have to walk into a drug bust staring down the barrel of a military machine gun, of an Uzi or an A.K.-47.” George Bush, when he ran for president, gave those officers his word. You see those badges on these officers? They mean something. There’s nothing like the word between brother and sister within the brotherhood of law enforcement. And George Bush gave them his word that when it came time he was going to extend the ban. But when it came time to do it, when it came time to make a phone call, when it became time to fight, when it became time to lead, when it became time to stand up and ask America to do what was right, George Bush’s powerful friends in the gun lobby asked him to look the other way, and he couldn’t resist, and he said, “Sure.”
And so tomorrow, for the first time in ten years when a killer walks into a gun shop, when a terrorist goes to a gun show somewhere in America, when they want to purchase an AK-47 or some other military assault weapon, they’re going to hear one word: “Sure.” Today George Bush chose to make the job of terrorists easier and make the job of America’s police officers harder, and that’s just plain wrong. John Edwards’ and my plan for a safe America puts more police officers on our streets by restoring every last dime of the COPS program. (Applause)
We’re also going to put 5,000 new prosecutors into our communities in order to help those police officers be able to fight crime and put criminals behind bars. We’re going to take on gang violence with a zero-tolerance policy and a message to our young people that there is another path. My friends, George Bush made a choice today. And over these next days, I will be showing how these choices affect America and Americans. This is what presidential leadership is supposed to be about. But it’s also a test of character. It is a test of character. In a secret deal, he chose his powerful friends in the gun lobby over police officers and families that he promised to protect.
The president made the wrong choice for Americans, and the American people are going to pay the price for his choice. He failed the test of leadership by saying that he supports an assault weapons ban, but then doing everything in his power to keep the Republicans from sending it to him. That is not what we expect in leadership from the president of the United States. (Applause) George Bush should stop hiding behind the Republicans in Congress. He should tell the American people the truth: That he had no intention of extending the assault weapons ban; that the gun lobbyists were absolutely correct when they publicly said, point blank, that they had a real friend in the Oval Office.
JIM LEHRER: Now, President Bush. He was in Muskegon, Michigan, talking about health care affordability.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: I have a practical, common sense plan to make health care available and affordable– and that’s important– a practical way to make sure health care is available and affordable, and a way to make sure good doctors keep practicing medicine. (Applause) I believe health care decisions should be made by doctors and patients, not by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. (Cheers and applause)
We have a difference of opinion in this campaign. I’m running against a fellow who has got a massive, complicated blueprint to have our government take over the decision-making in health care. His plan, if you listen carefully to what he says, would have bureaucrats become the decision makers, and that would be wrong for America. As well today, there’s an independent study which has been released which says that his plan would cost the taxpayers $1.5 trillion in new government spending. Not only is his plan going to increase the power of bureaucrats in your lives, but he can’t pay for it unless he raises your taxes.
Today we’re going to talk about a difference of opinion. It starts with… you know, what would you expect from a senator from Massachusetts? (Laughter and applause) That’s what you would expect: A government takeover of health care with an enormous price tag. We’re going to talk about a way to make sure health care is available and affordable, and start with Medicare. You might remember the old Medicare debates. They were called “Mediscare” because people wouldn’t dare talk about changing them. I believe we have a duty to our seniors. I believe we have a moral obligation to make sure health care is available and affordable to our seniors. (Applause)
I went up to Washington to fix problems. You know, I said, if I’m fortunate enough to win– this is what I said in 2000– I’m going up to address problems, not pass them on to future generations and future presidents. My style is to say here’s a problem; let’s come together to fix it. We had a problem in Medicare, and the problem was that medicine was modernizing, and Medicare wasn’t. People say, “What do you mean by that?” Well, Medicare would pay for, you know, $100,000, say, for heart surgery, but wouldn’t pay for the prescription drugs to prevent the heart surgery from being needed in the first place. (Applause)
That didn’t make any sense. It didn’t make any sense for our seniors, and it didn’t make any sense for the taxpayers. And so we modernized Medicare. Listen, seniors should get a prescription drug card today. It will help you with your cost of drugs. Starting in 2005, we’ll have preventative care and screenings for our seniors as a part of Medicare. (Applause) That makes sense. You hear me say I’ve got a common-sense, practical plan. It’s practical to have seniors tested early so we can diagnose problems before it’s too late. It’s practical for seniors to be given preventative screenings in Medicare. And in 2006, prescription drugs will be available for senior citizens in Medicare. We have strengthened Medicare; and it’s good for our seniors. We have done so.