October 28 ,1999
MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us as we uphold a New Hampshire tradition, the town meeting. Let us begin. Please state your name and then your question for Mr. Bradley.
MARTHA GOODRICH: My name is Martha Goodrich, and I'm from Lebanon, New Hampshire. Mr. Bradley, in your opinion, what is the one most compelling reason that I should vote for you rather than your opponent?
BILL BRADLEY: I think there's only one reason to vote for me as opposed to anybody else, whether it's the vice president or whether it's a Republican candidate, and that is because you think that my leadership would improve the quality of life for millions of Americans today; that you agree with my vision of where the county should go; that you share the values that I espouse, and that you recognize that by your participation in the process that America can become what I've laid it out to be. So if you care about fundamental campaign finance reform, if you care about increasing the number of people in America with health insurance, if you care about racial unity in America, if you care about reducing the number of children in poverty in America, and you care about managing the economy so that growth takes more and more people to higher economic ground, then I would hope you'd feel that I would be your candidate. And if you do, I welcome you. I need your vote. (Laughter)
MODERATOR: Your question for Vice President Gore?
MAN IN AUDIENCE: As you know, Vice President Gore, there's a great deal of cynicism in the country about politics and politicians. The campaign finance system is one source of that, but there are many other sources, including the behavior of the Republican-dominated Congress, but also the behavior of some members of your administration. What, as President, would you do to restore confidence in the American political system?
AL GORE: I understand the disappointment and anger that you feel toward President Clinton, and I felt it myself. I also feel that the American people want to move on and turn the page and focus on the future and not the past. He's my friend. I took an oath under the Constitution to serve my country through thick and thin, and I interpreted that oath to mean that I ought to try to provide some... as much continuity and stability during the time that you're referring to as I possibly could. And it was also a time of some real hard fights-- to keep Social Security on track, to make sure that we expanded health care to more children, to keep the economy going strong -- and there are still fights going on for the health care patients' bill of rights. I would like to have your support for me because I want to fight for you. A President can fight for all the people.
MODERATOR: Our next question is also for Senator Bradley.
WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: My question concerns health care, your health care plan. I like your proposal. I like your proposal for guaranteed child health care for every child in the United States. My concern is about the cost of the plan, and my question to you is how do you plan to fund it?
BILL BRADLEY: I'm glad that you've looked at the proposal and you see that it covers all children, that it brings many adults who don't have health coverage into the system now, that it provides a drug benefit for the elderly. And I also am glad that you took a look at what it costs, because I think that a politician who doesn't put out what something costs when he says "I want this program or that program" is just, you know, politically posturing. Ours will cost between $50 billion and $65 billion a year. It will come either from the surplus-- we have a trillion- dollar surplus over the next ten years, and that's enough to take care of this program-- or it will come through the enormous savings that we can get through the application of technology to the medical system. We spend $1.2 trillion for health care, $50 billion on administrative costs. By simply moving things from paper to Internet, you will be able to achieve significant savings.
MODERATOR: Your question for the vice president?
SECOND WOMAN: I'm wondering, if you were to implement health care reforms, who would be the decision- makers? Who chooses what's covered?
AL GORE: I think the decision-maker ought to be the people who are getting the care. That's why I strongly support an H.M.O. Patient bill of rights, so that the decisions on specific care are made by doctors and not by faceless bureaucrats who don't have a license to practice medicine and who don't have a right to play God. That's who I think ought to make the decisions. Now, I think it's also important that we look ahead and answer exactly how we are going to finance the plans, because I paid, obviously, a lot of attention to the exchange over here. Just today, the respected Emory School of Public Health came out with a nonpartisan analysis of both my plan and Senator Bradley's, and they said that his plan costs $1.2 trillion. That is more than the entire surplus over the next ten years. You're going to shred the social safety net. So I think that the cost is way excessive.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.
SECOND MAN: What do you think characterizes those whose leadership is most effective, and how does your own approach to leadership relate to that?
AL GORE: I think that a President must have a vision of the future that is compelling enough to bring people into a common effort to bring it to pass. I care very deeply about what happens to this country in the future. A President is the only person in our constitutional system who has the responsibility to fight for the welfare and well-being of all of our people. Senators, Congressmen have constituency groups, and they look to the national interests, but a President is charged with fighting for all the people. That's what I want to do, to bring into being a vision of a bright future for our country, and I've been talking about it during this campaign. I think that a President has to assert values and elevate those values so that people buy into them and base their decisions on those values. I think Abraham Lincoln was the finest example of that trait. I think that Franklin Roosevelt was the finest example of articulating a vision of how we could get through the Depression and win World War II.
MODERATOR: Mr. Vice President -
AL GORE: And I think that Lyndon Johnson was good on setting the goal...
MODERATOR: We're going to give Senator Bradley a chance to respond.
BILL BRADLEY: I'd be glad to answer this, but first I just want to make one clarification. (Laughter) On the cost of the health care plan, we each have our own experts. I dispute the cost figure that Al has used. (Applause) Now, in answer to your question, I think there are three values that are important that a leader has to have. One is absolute integrity-- honesty, integrity-- and there I think of Jimmy Carter. Second, I think that a leader has got to have the ability to see around the corners, to see the future before it's here. I think Woodrow Wilson had that. What he talked about America became America in the 20th century. And next, I think a leader has to have courage. The example of that, I would pick somebody who's not an American, Mikhail Gorbachev, who saw that the world must change and had the courage to make that change. I think leaders, wherever they are in the world, need those three qualities if they're going to be world-class leaders.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. We are going to bring our program to a close at this point. We do want to thank Dartmouth College, the voters of New Hampshire, and the candidates who joined us here tonight.
AL GORE: Karen, could I say one more word? I would like to stay. If anybody has other questions, I will stay after the TV cameras are turned off and as long as you want. (Laughter)
MODERATOR: That's your cue.
OTHER MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you. Thank you very much. Good night from Hanover, New Hampshire.
JIM LEHRER: The Vice President fielded questions for another 90 minutes after the TV cameras shut down.