|GOP PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES|
January 11, 2000
QUESTIONER: Senator McCain, you have said that 60% of this tax cut will go to the very wealthy among us. Your chief supporter, Representative Lindsey Graham, agreed that you are playing a class warfare game, that you are pitting rich against poor, something the Republican Party does not like to do. Do you acknowledge that is what you are doing? Are you going to rethink your strategy, or are you going to continue this line of attack?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I have never engaged in class warfare. I am very much in favor of tax cuts, for middle-income and lower-income Americans. I am deeply concerned about a kind of class warfare that is going on right now. It's unfortunate. There's a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots in America, and that gap is growing, and it is unfortunately divided up along ethnic lines. I feel very strongly that we ought to have middle-income and lower-income taxes, and we'll be getting into it, I'm sure, later on in this program. Mine are basically comparable to Governor Bush's, in some cases far better. But I am not sure we need to give two-thirds of that tax cut, of that money, to the wealthiest 10% of America. But, more importantly, there is a fundamental difference here. I believe we must save Social Security. We must pay down the debt. We have to make an investment in Medicare. For us to put all of the tax cuts... all of the surplus into tax cuts I think is not a conservative effort. I think it's a mistake. I think we should put that money into allowing Americans to be sure that their Social Security system will be there when they retire, that Medicare is helped; and, most of all, let's pay down that $5.6 trillion debt we have laid on future generations of Americans.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I believe everybody ought to get a tax cut. I believe it's important to cut the top rates. I think it's important to drop the 39.6% to 33%. I also know it's important to make sure people who are on the outskirts of poverty get a tax cut as well. And my plan does both. I have a plan that takes $2 trillion over the next ten years and dedicates it to Social Security. My plan has been called risky by voices out of Washington. In my judgment, what's risky is to leave a lot of unspent money in Washington, because guess what's going to happen? It's going to be spent on bigger federal governments.
SPOKESMAN: Senator McCain, a rebuttal?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Sure, two quick points. Your tax plan over the next five years not only spends all of the surplus, it spends $20 billion in addition to that. I am sure we will have that figured out. But this idea that somehow if the money is left in order to salvage the Social Security for America, and Medicare and the debt, that's... You don't understand the role of the President of the United States. The President of the United States will veto bills, will veto bills that spend too much. This present President is vetoing bills that don't spend enough, and are forcing Congress to spend more. I'll veto bills that force Congress to spend less. That's what being President of the United States is all about.
STEVE FORBES: Let's take a dream ride for a moment, and let's pretend, George, that you get the nomination in August in Philadelphia for the Republican nomination.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I accept the premise. (Laughter and applause)
STEVE FORBES: Now... Now, I'm glad you didn't hedge on that. (Laughter) Now, would you make three pledges tonight? One, will you pledge to preserve the Ronald Reagan plank on life in the Republican platform? Two, will you finally state unequivocally that you'll choose only pro-life judges? And third, will you vow to pick a pro-life running mate?
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: That's the exact same question Mr. Bauer asked me during the last couple of debates.
GARY BAUER: Four times.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Four times, right. (Laughter.)
STEVE FORBES: Not that anybody's counting. Like that tax pledge, it hasn't been answered.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah, I'll answer it. I'm going to pick a vice president who can be the president. I'll pick judges who strictly interpret the Constitution, and not use the bench as a legislative... A way to legislate. And I will work to keep the Republican party pro-life. That's what I'm going to do, Mr. Forbes. And I appreciate your assumption about being... Me being the party nominee. (Applause)
SPOKESMAN: Mr. Forbes, are you satisfied with that answer?
STEVE FORBES: No. It's a typical hedge. Where's the pledge-- not a hedge, but a pledge-- on the running mate, a pledge on judges, a pledge on the platform? Vagaries aren't going to work. We need something specific.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I don't know how I can be more clear.
STEVE FORBES: Say it.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Listen... (Laughter.)
STEVE FORBES: I'll listen. I'm listening.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I don't know how... I will have...
STEVE FORBES: I'm listening, George.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: No, you're interrupting. (Laughs) I'll have A... (Laughter) ...I will have a vice president who can become the president. That's the test, Steve. I will have a vice president that agrees with my policy. I'm going to have a vice president that likes me. (Laughter)
SPOKESMAN: These are the questions from the students of Calvin College. Joshua Gabriel is a freshman here. He wants to know the following: Will you propose and agree not to run any negative ads against each other? Mr. Forbes. (Laughter)
STEVE FORBES: The answer... The answer is... (Laughter) ...Negative... If being negative is telling the truth, I will continue to tell the truth. People deserve it. We deserve an honest and open and vigorous debate. And if a man breaks a pledge, the voters ought to know it.
SPOKESMAN: Governor Bush.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I'll run positive ads. And I'm darn sure not going to do to candidates what this man did to Bob Dole in 1996. I don't mind debates. I do mind Republicans tearing each other down. The mission is to pick the best person, so we can capture the White House in the year 2000. (Applause)
SPOKESMAN: Mr. McCain.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I'd like to shake hands right now. We will not run a negative ad. (Applause)
SPOKESMAN: McCain and Bush just agreed not to run negative ads. Mr. Keyes.
ALAN KEYES: I think when we get beyond the kind of cheap ploys, we ought to consider the fact that in a court of law, if the prosecution presents its case and the defense doesn't bother, you don't get to the truth. Some people want to pretend that we don't have an adversarial political system, but we do. And, therefore, if the folks who are running against each other don't, in an honest, clear way, speak about the differences on issues, and if you're going to run on your record, they get to speak about your record. And it's going to be their interpretation of your record, not your own. That is not negative advertising. That is sharing with people your views and the truth, and they're not going to get at it any other way. And so, if we're honest with ourselves, we not only have to tolerate it, we should encourage that kind of exchange of viewpoints so that the voters get the maximum information on which to base their decision. (Applause)
SPOKESMAN: Senator Hatch, negative ads?
SEN. ORRIN HATCH: With my low-budget campaign, I'm not going to put any negatives on TV. (Laughter)
SPOKESMAN: Thank you.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH: Wait, wait, wait. I'm not finished. (Laughter) And I'm going to take a little bit of time here. (Laughter) First of all, I think that these 15-second, 30-second spots are B.S. (Laughter) I shouldn't use that, but that's the best I could call it. Frankly, we haven't had a substantive debate, and we're talking about running for President of the United States. These are the best you can do, and I think that these folks have done a good job this evening, but it isn't good enough. What I've done is I've cut a 28-minute speech, or "fireside chat," if you will, about this administration. And I haven't got into any of the sexual proclivities. I've talked about why this administration is perhaps the most deceitful and corrupt in history. And it will be on in Iowa, and New Hampshire, and ultimately, hopefully-- if you'll support me-- in Michigan and all over the country. But that's what I'm going to do, and it's going to be substantive, and it certainly isn't going to find any... is not going to find any fault with any of these fine fellows here.
SPOKESMAN: Mr. Bauer, negative ads?
GARY BAUER: Tim, I've gone all over the country, and I've met countless young people that are turned off about politics, and so are their parents. They've tuned out. They don't listen to any of us. They don't believe any of us. There's two things we've got to do to get them back. One is to have real debate about real issues, pointing out real differences, like China, and the sanctity of life. There are differences up here. But we can do that without engaging in the trash-can politics and the character assassination that has marked too much of American politics for too long.