JIM LEHRER: First, a couple of follow-ups from the vice presidential debate last week. Vice President Gore, would you support or sign, as president, a federal law banning racial profiling by police and other authorities at all levels of government?
VICE PRESIDENT GORE: Yes, I would. The only thing an executive order can accomplish is to ban it in federal law enforcement agencies. But I would also support a law in the Congress that would have the effect of doing the same thing. I just -- I think that racial profiling is a serious problem. I remember when the stories first came out about the stops in New Jersey by the highway patrol there -- and I know it's been going on a long time. In some ways, this is just a new label for something that's been going on for years. But I have to confess that it was the first time that I really focused on it in a new way. And I was -- I was surprised at the extent of it.
And I think we've now got so many examples around the country that we really have to find ways to end this. Imagine what it -- what it is like for someone to be singled out unfairly, unjustly, and feel the unfair force of law simply because of race or ethnicity. Now, that runs counter to what the United States of America is all about at our core. And it's not an easy problem to solve, but I -- if I am entrusted with the presidency, it will be the first civil rights act of the 21st century.
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Yeah, I can't imagine what it would be like to be singled out because of race, and stopped and harassed. It's just flat wrong, and that's not what America is all about, and so we ought to do everything we can to end racial profiling. One of my concerns, though, is I don't want to federalize the local Police forces. I want to -- you know, obviously in the egregious cases we need to enforce Civil rights law, but we need to make sure that internal affairs divisions at the local level do their job and be given a chance to do their job. I believe in local control of governments. And, obviously, if they don't, there needs to be a consequence at the federal level. But it's very important that we not overstep our bounds. And I think most people -- most Police officers are good, dedicated, honorable citizens who are doing their job, putting their lives at risk, who aren't bigoted or aren't prejudiced. I don't think they ought to be held guilty.
But I do think we need to find out where racial profiling occurs and do something about it, and say to the local folks: Get it done, and if you can't, there will be a federal consequence.
JIM LEHRER: And that could be a federal law?
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Yeah.
JIM LEHRER: And you would agree?
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I would agree. And I also agree that most Police officers, of course, are doing a good job and hate this practice also. I talked to an African American Police officer in Springfield, Massachusetts, not long ago, who raised this question and said that in his opinion, one of the biggest solutions is in the training. And not only the training in Police procedures, but human relations.
And I think that racial profiling is part of a larger issue of how we deal with race in America. And as for singling people out because of race, you know, James Byrd was singled out because of his race, in Texas, and other Americans have been singled out because of their race or ethnicity. And that's why I think that we can embody our values by passing a hate crimes law. I think these Crimes are different. I think they're different because they're based on prejudice and hatred, which is -- which gives rise to Crimes that have not just a single victim, but they're intended to stigmatize and dehumanize a whole group of people.
JIM LEHRER: You have a different view of that.
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: No, I don't, really, on hate Crimes laws. No, we've got one in Texas And guess what? The three men who murdered James Byrd, guess what's going to happen to them? They're going to be put to death. A jury found them guilty. And I -- it's going to be hard to punish them any worse after they get put to death. And it's the right cause, so it's the right decision.
And secondly, there is other forms of racial profiling that goes on in America. Arab Americans are racially profiled in what's called "secret evidence." People are stopped. And we've got to do something about that. My friend, Senator Spencer Abraham of Michigan, is pushing a law to make sure that, you know, Arab Americans are treated with respect.
So racial profiling isn't just an issue with local Police forces. It's an issue throughout our society, and as we become a diverse society, we're going to have to deal with it more and more. I just -- I believe, though -- I believe, sure as I'm sitting here, that most Americans really care. They're tolerant people. They're good, tolerant people. It's the very few that create most of the crises, and we just have -- have to find them and deal with them.
JIM LEHRER: What -- if you become president, Governor, are there other areas, racial problem areas, that you would deal with as president, involving discrimination?
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Sure.
JIM LEHRER: Again, you said Arab Americans, but also Hispanics, Asians, as well as blacks in those kind of --
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Let me tell you where the biggest discrimination comes -- in public education when we just move children through the schools. My friend Phyllis Hunter is here. She had one of the greatest lines of all lines. She said, "Reading is the new civil right," and she's right. And -- and -- and to make sure our society is as hopeful as it possibly can be,, every single child in America must be educated. I mean every child.
It starts with making sure every child learns to read. K through 2 diagnostic testing, so we know whether or not there's a deficiency. Curriculum that works and phonics needs to be an integral part of our reading curriculum. Intensive reading laboratories, teacher retraining. I mean, there needs to be a wholesale effort against racial profiling, which is illiterate children.
We can do better in our public schools. We can close an achievement gap, and it starts with making sure we have strong accountability, Jim. One of the cornerstones of reform, and good reform, is to measure, because when you measure you can ask the question, Do they know? Is anybody being profiled? Is anybody being discriminated against? It becomes a tool, a corrective tool. And I believe the federal government must say that if you receive any money, any money from the federal government for disadvantaged children, for example -- you must show us whether or not the children are learning.
And if they are, fine. And if they're not, there has to be a consequence. And so to make sure we end up getting rid of the basic structural prejudice is Education There's nothing more prejudiced than not educating a child.
JIM LEHRER: VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE, what would be on your racial-discrimination-elimination list as president?
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Well, I think we need tough enforcement of the civil rights laws. I think we still need affirmative action. I would pass a hate Crimes law, as I said. And I guess I had misunderstood the governor's previous position. The Byrd family may have a misunderstanding of it in Texas also. But I'd like to shift, if I could, to the big issue of Education --
MR. LEHRER: Wait, hold on one second. What is the misunderstanding? Let's clear this up.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Well, I had thought that there was a controversy at the end of the legislative session where the hate Crimes law in Texas was -- failed and that the Byrd family among others asked you to support it, Governor, and it died in committee for lack of support. Am I wrong about that?
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: You don't realize we have a hate Crimes statute? We do.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I'm talking about the one that was proposed to deal --
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: No -- well what the vice president must not understand is we've got hate Crimes bill in Texas And secondly, the people that murdered Mr. Byrd got the ultimate punishment:
JIM LEHRER: But they were --
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: -- the death penalty.
JIM LEHRER: They were prosecuted under the murder laws, were they not?
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Well --
JIM LEHRER: In Texas
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: -- all -- in this case, when you murder somebody, it's hate, Jim. The crime is hate. And they got the ultimate punishment. I'm not exactly sure you enhance the penalty any more than the death penalty.
But we happen to have a statute on the books that's a hate Crime statute in Texas
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Well -- may I respond?
JIM LEHRER: Sure.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I don't want to jump in. (Laughter.) I may have been misled by all the news reports about this matter, because the law that was proposed in Texas, that had the support of the Byrd family and a whole lot of people in Texas, did in fact die in committee.
There may be some other statute that was already on the books, but certainly the advocates of the hate Crimes law felt that a tough, new law was needed. And it's important, Jim, not only -- not just because of Texas, but because this mirrors the national controversy. There is pending now in the Congress a national hate Crimes law, because of James Byrd, because of Matthew Shepard, who was crucified on a split-rail fence by bigots, because of others. And that law has died in committee also because of the same kind of opposition.
JIM LEHRER: And you would support that bill?
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Absolutely.
JIM LEHRER: Would you support a national hate Crimes law?
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: I would support the Orrin Hatch version of it, not the Senator Kennedy version. But let me say to you, Mr. Vice President, we're happy with our laws on our books. That bill did -- there was another bill that did die in committee. But I want to repeat; if you have a state that fully, you know, supports the law, like we do in Texas, we're going to go after all Crime, and we're going to make sure people get punished for the Crime And in this case, we can't enhance the penalty any more than putting those three thugs to death, and that's what's going to happen in the state of Texas.
JIM LEHRER: New subject, new question. Another vice presidential debate follow-up. Governor, both Senator Lieberman and Secretary Cheney said they were sympathetically rethinking their views on same-sex relationships. What's your position on that?
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: I'm not for gay marriage. I think marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman. And I appreciated the way the administration signed the Defense of Marriage Act. I assume the vice president supported it when the president signed that bill, and supports it now.
But I think -- I think marriage is a sacred institution. I'm going to be respectful for people who may disagree with me. I've had a record of doing so in the state of Texas I've been a person that's been called a uniter, not a divider, because I accepted some -- I accept other people's points of view. But I feel strongly that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
JIM LEHRER: VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE?
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: I agree with that.
And I did support that law. But I think that we should find a way to allow some kind of civic unions, and I basically agree with Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman. And I think the three of us have one view, and the governor has another view.
JIM LEHRER: Is that right?
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: I'm not sure what kind of a view he's ascribing to me. I can just tell you, I'm a person who respects other people. I respect their -- I respect -- one night he says he agrees with me, then he says he doesn't. I'm not sure where he's coming from. But I will be a tolerant person. I've been a tolerant person all my life. I just happen to believe strongly that marriage is between a man and a woman.
JIM LEHRER: Do you believe, in general terms, that gays and lesbians should have the same rights as other Americans?
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Yes. I don't think they ought to have special rights, but I think they ought to have the same rights.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Well, there's a law pending called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. I strongly support it. What it says is that gays and lesbians can't be fired from their job because they're Gay or lesbian. And it would be a federal law preventing that.
Now I wonder if the -- it's been blocked by the opponents in the majority in the Congress. I wonder if the government would lend his support to that law.
JIM LEHRER: Governor?
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Is the questioning coming around here?
JIM LEHRER: Well, it's a logical reply --
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Well, I have no idea. I mean, he can throw out all kinds -- I don't know the particulars of this law. I will tell you, I'm the kind of person -- I don't hire or fire somebody based upon their sexual orientation. As a matter of fact, I'd like to take the issue a little farther. I don't really think it's any of my -- you know, any of my concerns what -- how you conduct your sex life. And I think that's a private matter. And I think that's the way it ought to be. But I'm going to be respectful for people. I'll tolerate people. And I support equal rights but not special rights for people.
JIM LEHRER: And "special rights" -- how does that affect gays and lesbians?
GOV. GEORGE BUSH: Well, it'd be if they're given special protective status. And that doesn't mean we shouldn't fully enforce laws and fully protect people and fully honor people, which I will do as the president of the United States.