March 2, 2000
MODERATOR: A coin toss has determined that the first question goes to Senator Bradley.
QUESTIONER: Many Americans were very happy to hear Senator McCain condemn the Christian far-right leadership for their derisive effects on American politics. Would you each be willing to echo what the Senator said about that and even take it a step farther?
BILL BRADLEY: let me say to you I think that we have a country where there is freedom of religion, and I think there should be freedom of religion. I think that the far right has gone too far, time after time after time on social issues, and has tried to dominate this country with their particular viewpoint. I think it's important to resist that. I have always resisted that as a United States Senator. I've never voted in ways that they wanted, and I would be very emphatic in saying that religion should not be a part of politics.
AL GORE: You know, I thought that Senator McCain's speech made a very powerful point, but I think his speech illustrated that the Republican Party today is in the midst of an identity crisis. They are trying to figure out who they are. And frankly, he was introduced by Gary Bauer for that speech. Both he and Governor Bush are for taking away a woman's right to choose. Neither had the guts to speak out against the confederate flag flying above the state capitol building in South Carolina. Both are in the hip pocket of the NRA so I agreed with the speech, as far as it went.
QUESTIONER: You've spoken out about Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, neither of whom, I think it fair to say, were likely to support either of you anyway. But both of you have met with Reverend Al Sharpton, a person who has repeatedly used very inflammatory language about whites and other ethnic groups. Now, I'm asking, if the Republican candidates have an obligation to forcefully, unambiguously condemn extremists on their side, don't you have an obligation to be equally forthright in condemning such language by people who tend to be more on the Democratic side of things?
AL GORE: Well, I do condemn the language that he used. I think that in America, we believe in redemption and the capacity of all of our people to transcend limitations that they have made evident in their lives in the past. I did not meet with Reverend Sharpton publicly, I met with him privately. And I talked with him about some of the concerns that I have. I will not violate the privacy of that conversation, but these subjects were discussed. And I will point you toward a couple of facts. Number one, he received something like, I think, 131,000 votes in the last New York City election. He is undeniably a person to whom some people in the city look as a spokesperson. And you know, there is a racial divide in the way people in different races perceive certain events. I would not be so quick to completely dismiss what he has to say about some of these issues.
BILL BRADLEY: Yes, I went to the House of Justice in Harlem last summer for a community meeting that Reverend Sharpton invited me to attend. The last time a primary candidate for President had a large public meeting in Harlem was Robert Kennedy in 1968. I went in order to hear the concerns firsthand of the 600 people that came to share them with me. That was a legitimate thing to do. I don't agree with everything Reverend Sharpton has said or done, but I think that he has grown. We have to allow people the right to grow. We have to allow people the right to evolve. And in the process, he has in many cases kept the lid on otherwise dangerous situations that were beginning to develop.
MODERATOR: Vice President Gore, the next question is for you.
AL GORE: Okay.
QUESTIONER: My question is in your life, what mistake have you learned the most from?
AL GORE: (Laughs) Claiming that I created the Internet. No. (Laughter) I think that early in my career in public service, I fell prey to what a lot people who get into the workforce and get excited about their work do. And they get drawn into it so much that they don't balance their lives enough by enriching their life with joy and fun and family interaction, and as I got a little bit older, I came to understand the overriding importance of balancing work and home and finding time for yourself. You've got to make time for your spouse, your kids, and yourself.
BILL BRADLEY: I think that the mistake that I learned the most from-- it was really a mistake to believe that you never fail -- in other words, coming to terms with failure. And it took me a while to do that. I remember when I was a rookie in the NBA. I was thought to be the white hope. It got pretty rough, because the fans thought I was. People spit on me, people threw coins at me, people stopped me in the street. That meant I worked harder in order to achieve things. It also meant I began to see that life is not all good, not all bad, that individuals are not all good or all bad, but we have each in both of us, and that's what makes us human.
MODERATOR: Senator Bradley, the next question is for you.
QUESTIONER: There's an elephant in this room, and I don't think it serves any purpose not to recognize it. You haven't won a contest, Washington State went badly, and unless there's a miracle, it seems that this journey will end on Tuesday. The simplest way I can ask this question is, how do you think you got here?
BILL BRADLEY: Well, I'm not prepared to buy the premise of your question, because to date, the delegate count is 41 to 27. Only 250,000 people have voted in this presidential election for delegates. On next Tuesday, eight and a half million people will vote, and about a third of the delegates will be selected. That is the day that we will have a national primary, and that's the day that I think that you have to take off. And so I'm looking at next Tuesday as the takeoff day for me. I also know that in this race that I'm in it to change the political process, I'm in it because of an open commitment to idealism, to get beyond the interest group politics of Washington, where you try to stuff groups with money, but instead appeal to individuals as Americans and as human beings.
BILL BRADLEY: That's what I'll continue to do through the duration.
AL GORE: I think one of the things that Senator Bradley and I agree on, and probably a lot of others running for President agree on, is that we prefer to get questions about substance rather than process. I respect your question. But let me say that I believe that there are many purposes in a presidential campaign. One that tends to dominate is to give the American people an opportunity to choose who will lead this country for the next four years. But the purpose of a campaign is also for us to define who we are as a people and as a nation, and to have an ennobling, educating, revealing discussion about all the challenges that we face, review some of the proposed solutions. Now, we've been doing that in this campaign, and I believe very deeply that once this dialogue is over with, those who agree with...
AL GORE: ...the common values that we have expressed are going to want to see them enacted in the general election.