January 7, 2000
KWAME HOLMAN: The first question at last night's debate went to front- runner George W. Bush. An ardent tax-cut proponent, Bush was asked if he would change his position if the economy turned sour.
GEORGE W. BUSH: If there is a recession, it's important to cut the taxes to make sure our economy grows. It's also important to cut the taxes when there's times of plenty as an insurance policy against an economic slowdown.
SPOKESMAN: Governor, is this no new taxes, so help me God?
GEORGE W. BUSH: This is not only no new taxes; this is tax cuts, so help me God.
JENNY ATTIYEH: Mr. McCain, you have made cleaning up Washington the keynote of your presidential campaign. And yet yesterday we learned that you pressed the FCC. To take action on a matter that ultimately benefited PAC's and communications, whose executives have been major contributors to your campaign. Would you agree that you have exercised poor judgment?
JOHN McCAIN: You know, the reason why I've worked so hard for campaign finance reform... because all this money washing around Washington and all these uncontrolled contributions taint all of us. No matter what we do, we are under a cloud of suspicion. And I am one of those as well. And that's why I've fought so hard and will continue to fight so hard to clean up this mess and return the government back to the people of this country, which they've clearly lost. Since I work there, I know it. You can ask anyone else who works there. But, you know, this case was clearly one where a person did not get a decision. This person had purchased a television station. The average time for the FCC, which is under the supervision and the oversight of the committee that I chair, usually takes 418 days. They ended up taking 700 days. At 700 days I wrote to them, make a decision. Now, eight other congressmen told them to vote for or against this. I didn't. I said, make a decision. My job as chairman of the Commerce Committee, as every other major committee chairman in Washington, is to make the bureaucrats work for the people. And that has to do with making decisions. I would do the same thing again at almost any time.
QUESTIONER: Governor Bush, you said today that Senator McCain should answer these questions, that he should walk the walk. Has he answered the question? Is he walking the walk?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, I think so. I think the... well, my objection with John is not how he is conducting himself as chairman of the Commerce Committee. My objection is he is proposing a campaign funding reform that will hurt Republicans and hurt the conservative cause. He's asking us to unilaterally disarm, which I will refuse to do.
JOHN McCAIN: But what you are saying is that we should continue what happened in 1996; that's disgraceful. Chinese money, Indonesian money, came into the campaign. We'll never know about the breaches of security...
GEORGE W. BUSH: But let me say something.
JOHN McCAIN: I think you've got to understand. Right now a supporter of yours is running attack ads morphing bill Clinton's face into mine. And, by the way, ask him to get a better picture, will you? (Laughter and applause)
MODERATOR: The next question is for Steve Forbes.
JOHN DiSTASO: I'm being directed to just start asking. Mr. Forbes, you are a wealthy man with a tax cut plan. Tell us why you are not yet connecting or not connecting with a large segment of the New Hampshire voters. Is it that some view you as aloof and out of touch, or... while others may say that you are just not the genuine article?
STEVE FORBES: Maybe you want me to give a hug to John. (Laughter) I don't know.
JOHN McCAIN: I'd be glad to, Steve. (hugging Forbes - laughter)
STEVE FORBES: Take the tax issue, which is a real issue. One of my opponents, George Bush, has a tax proposal that keeps the current code in place. You might call it Clinton-Gore light. You cannot be a moderate on the tax issue. You have got to get to the heart of it and get rid of it.
KWAME HOLMAN: With Bush and McCain way ahead of the field in polls of New Hampshire Republicans, Orrin Hatch brought up a survey of voters around the country.
ORRIN HATCH: And it said that 74% of the people do not know who they want to support for president. Only 13%-- now, 3% less-- support Governor Bush. Everybody else is in single digits, including Al Gore and Bill Bradley. So this thing is wide open, and don't count out Orrin Hatch. I have worked with every federal judge in the last 23 years. The most important single issue in this campaign is who is going to pick the next 50% after Bill Clinton.
KWAME HOLMAN: The issue of the Federal Judiciary also was raised by Gary Bauer, who criticized Former President Bush for selecting David Souter for the Supreme Court.
GARY BAUER: I not only think President Bush made a colossal mistake by putting a justice on the court that is a reliable vote for Clinton and Gore, I believe we can never afford to make another mistake like that, Tim. Look, seven of the current nine Supreme Court justices were appointed by Republican presidents.
KWAME HOLMAN: Bauer later took on the younger Bush.
GARY BAUER: You have rejected fundamental tax reform. You won't agree to a pro-life running mate. You won't agree to put pro-life judges on the court. And your China policy, just like Clinton's, puts trade ahead of national security and human rights. Why should GOP conservatives and voters believe that you will seriously defend our values in Washington, D.C. against that liberal establishment?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Because unlike other people on this stage who talk the talk, I have walked the walk. As governor of Texas, I fought for and signed the two largest tax cuts in my state's history. I fought for charter schools and public school choice in our public schools. I reformed welfare by insisting upon work. I fought for torte reform. I have got a record of accomplishment, Gary.
GARY BAUER: Governor, you left off every values issue at stake: The sanctity of life, maintaining marriage as being between a man and a woman, preserving religious liberties so we can hang up the Ten Commandments again. Every values issue we're in retreat on, and we continue to be in retreat. And that's why these good people vote Republican. And then they wake up in the morning and they don't recognize the country they're living in.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, maybe...
GARY BAUER: Because on every values issue we are in retreat.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Is this a question?
GARY BAUER: It's actually a statement.
GEORGE W. BUSH: I thought so. (Laughter)
TIM RUSSERT: Senator McCain, last night, on this very stage, both Democratic candidates for president said that they would require appointees to the Joint Chiefs of Staff to support allowing gays to openly serve in the military. Would you do the same, or would you insist that your appointees oppose allowing gays to openly serve in the military?
JOHN McCAIN: My appointees on the Joint Chiefs of Staff?
TIM RUSSER: That's correct.
JOHN McCAIN: I would make sure that a policy that's working and is working and should work is continued. I believe that when people like General Colin Powell and other most respected men in America come up with a policy that does work-- yes, it has troubles with it. Yes, if it needs some reviews or changes or fine-tuning, then I'll be glad to support such a thing.
GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm a don't ask, don't tell man. The purpose of the military is to fight and win war and to be able to deter war.
ALAN KEYES: Excuse me, I have to tell you -- I keep asking myself where all the conservatives have gone the conservatives have gone. I'm sorry - but -- Don't ask, don't tell. If we think that having homosexuals in the military is bad tore discipline, bad for morale, then we ought to stand against it. I know that rank and file military people do and I pledge as President of the United States that I will return to the ban on homosexuals in the military, and I think that's where we need to be.
GARY BAUER: This administration, Tim, has watched as the navy went from 600 ships to 325, as we went from 18 army divisions to ten. They've sent men all over the world for dubious reasons. We don't have a missile defense system. We're cutting veterans' benefits. And what is Clinton and Gore worried about? Making sure that the gay rights movement is satisfied with who the Joint Chiefs of Staff are.
KWAME HOLMAN: Several candidates mentioned Elian Gonzalez, the six-year-old Cuban boy who the U.S. Government says should return to his father in Cuba.
ALAN KEYES: I believe it is quite clear. I respect the bonds and family ties and the obligations of family. We should not allow ideology or politics ever to trample upon those bonds. Second point, however: How do we know his decision is freely given? The INS was wrong to accept a decision that was taken under the shadow of Castro's tyranny. Until that father is allowed out of the country to make a free- will decision that all the world can see, that boy should stay in the United States. He should stay in freedom until we are sure his father has decided in freedom.
JOHN McCAIN: The Statue of Liberty says, send me your poor, your sick, your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. That's what this Cuban boy is all about. His mother sacrificed her life in order that young man could have freedom. We're talking about parenthood.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH: When it comes to this, there is only one concern that everybody ought to have in their minds, and that is what is in the best interests of that child. We have laws in this country that basically take care of those interests. Fidel Castro ought to butt out, and our politicians in this country ought to butt out, as well. And let's do what's best for the child.
KWAME HOLMAN: The Republican candidates will debate at least four more times before the New Hampshire primary on February 1.