PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Well, I'm saying that Senator Dole said in his fine speech in San Diego that he wanted to build a bridge to the past. And I think I know what he meant by that. He's troubled, as I am, by some of the things that go on today. But I believe America is the greatest country in human history because we have maintained freedom and increasing prosperity by relentlessly pushing the barriers of knowledge, the barriers of the present, always moving into the future. That's why when I became President I was determined to kind of move beyond this whole stale debate that had gone on in Washington for too long to get this country moving again. And that's why we've got a country with ten and a half million more jobs, and record numbers of new businesses, and rising incomes, and falling crime rates, and welfare roll rates. That's why we're moving in the right direction. And I'm trying to emphasize that what I want to do is to continue to do that. That's why my balanced budget plan will still invest and grow this economy. That's why I want a tax cut for education and child rearing, but it's got to be paid for. That's why I want to continue the work we have done over partisan opposition, to work with communities to bring that crime rate down until our streets are all safe again. These are my commitments. I am very oriented toward the future. I think this election has to be geared toward the future. I think America's best days are still ahead, but we've got to build the right bridge.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Dole.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: You know, the President reminds me sometimes of my brother Kenny, who is no longer alive. But Kenny was a great talker. And he used to tell me things that I knew were not quite accurate. So we always had a rule, we divided by six. Maybe in your case maybe just two. But 11 million new jobs and everything, I mean the President can't take credit for everything that governors are doing, whether that's happening in New York City when it comes to the murder rate and then not be responsible for the bad things that happen, whether it's drug use or something else in America. So it seems to me that we can talk about what we call Kenny, the great exaggerator. He just liked to make it sound exager, a little better, made him feel better.
When it comes to bridges, I want a bridge to the future. I also want a bridge to the truth. We have to tell the truth. We've got people watching tonight and listening tonight trying to find the truth. And the truth is, there is a lot wrong with America. We need a strong economic package; we need a tax cut; we need the $500 child credit, and we'll have that soon.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I do not for a moment think I'm entitled to all the credit for all the good things that have happened in America. But where I have moved to work with the American people to help them have the tools to make the most of their own lives, I think I should get some credit for that.
I also personally took responsibility tonight when Senator Dole asked me about the drug problem. But, you know, I think my ideas are better for the future.
Senator Dole voted against student loans, against Headstart, against creating the Department of Education. If he gets elected president, we'll start the new century without anyone in the cabinet of the President representing education in our children. I personally don't think that's the right kind of future for America, and I think we ought to take a different tack.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Dole, do you still favor eliminating the Department of Education.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: Yes. I didn't favor it when it was in, started. I voted against it. It was a tribute after President Carter's election to the National Education Association who send a lot of delegates to the Democratic convention, who gives 99.5 percent of their money, Democrat Democrats, and the President, and a lot of the teachers send their kids to private schools or better public schools. So what we want to do is called opportunity scholarships. Now, some say, oh, you're a Republican, you can't be reaching out to these people. I've reached out to people all my life. I've worked on the food stamp program, proudly. And the WIC program, and the school lunch program with senators like George McGovern, Hubert Humphrey and others, to name a few of my Democratic friends.
I'm not some extremist out here. I care about people. I have my own little foundation that's raised about $10 million for the disabled. I don't advertise it. Just did, haven't before. And I try to do a lot of things that I think might be helpful to people.
So it seems to me that we ought to take that money we can save from the Department of Education, put it into opportunity scholarships and tell little Landale Shakespeare out in Cleveland, Ohio, and tell your mother and father, you're going to get to go to school because we're going to match what the state puts up, and you're going to go to the school of your choice. I don't fault the President or the vice president for sending their children to private schools or better schools. I applaud them for it, I don't criticize them. But why shouldn't everybody have that choice. Why shouldn't low income Americans and low middle income Americans. I'm excited about it. It's going to be a big, big opportunity for a lot of people.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Let me say first of all, I'm all for students having more choices. We've worked hard to expand public school choice in my balanced budget bill. There's funds for 3,000 new schools created by teachers and parents, sometimes by business people, called charter schools that have no rules, they're free of bureaucracy and can only stay in existence if they perform and teach children. The ones that are out there are doing well.
What I'm against is Senator Dole's plan to take money away from all the children we now help with limited Federal funds and help far fewer. If we're going to have a private voucher fund, that ought to be done at the local level or the state level. But Senator Dole has consistently opposed Federal help to education. He voted against student loans; he voted against my improved student loan plan; he voted against the National Service bill, against the HeadStart bill; he voted against our efforts in safe and drug-free schools. He voted against these programs, he does not believe it. That's the issue. 90 percent of our kids are out there in those public schools and we need to lift their standards and move them forward with the programs like those I've outlined in this campaign.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: I'd better correct the President. I don't know what time it is, but it's probably getting late. I want to correct, the all these things I voted against, they were probably part of some big package that had a lot of pork in it or a lot of things that we shouldn't have had and we probably voted no. I've supported all the education programs. I've supported Headstart, I think we ought to look at it. So I don't want anybody out there to think we've just been voting no, no, no. Let's give low income parents the same right that people of power and prestige have in America and let them go to better schools. Let's not, let's help, let's turn the schools back to the teachers and back to the parents and take it away from the National Education Association.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, what is wrong with the school choice proposal?
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I support school choice. I support school choice. I have advocated expansions of public school choice alternatives and I said the creation of 3,000 new schools that we are going to help the states to finance. But if you're going to have a private voucher plan, that ought to be determined by states in localities where they're raising and spending most of the money.
I simply think it's wrong to take money away from programs that are helping build basic skills for kids, 90 percent of them are in the public schools; to take money away from programs that are helping fund the school lunch program, that are helping to fund the other programs, that are helping our schools to improve their standards. Our schools are getting better, and our schools can be made to be even better still with the right kind of community leadership and partnership at the school level.
I have been a strong force for reform. And, Senator, I remind you that a few years ago when I supported teacher testing while in my home state I was pretty well lambasted by the teachers association. I just don't believe we ought to be out there running down teachers and attacking them the way you did at the Republican convention. I think we ought to be lifting them up and moving our children forward.
And let me just say that budget that you passed that I vetoed would have cut 50,000 kids out of Headstart. It would have eliminated the AmeriCorps plan and it would have cut back on student loans and scholarships. Now, it would have. That's a fact. That's one of the big reasons I vetoed it. We need to be doing more in education, not less.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: Well, the AmeriCorps program, I must say, if that's one of your successes, I wouldn't speak about it too loudly. It costs about $27,000 to pay people to volunteer. We've got four million young people volunteering every year, the number hasn't gone down. And you pick out 20,000, whether they need the money or not, and they get paid for volunteering. I like young people. I like teachers. I'm a product of a public school. You attended a private school for some time in your life. I like teachers. You're not for school choice, you can't be for school choice, because this is that special interest money again. When you get 99.5 percent of the money, we don't know what happened to the other .5 percent, we're looking for it, somebody got it, but it all went to Democrats. And this is part of that liberal establishment, one of those liberal things that you just can't do. You're for school uniforms and curfews and you're opposed to truancy. Now that's not reform, Mr. President. Why can't Landale Shakespeare in Cleveland or Pilar Gonzales in Milwaukee give their children an opportunity to go to a better school. Some schools aren't safe. Some schools aren't even safe. Your choice is nothing. Let's give them a real choice, the kind of choice you had, and the kind of choice a lot of people have in America. If we want to stop crime and teenage pregnancy, let's start with education.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: First of all, Senator Dole, let's set the record straight. I was able for two years when I was in, a very young boy to go to a Catholic school, but I basically went to public schools all my life. And I've worked hard for a long time to make them better, 90 percent of our kids are there. You, it's amazing to me, you are all for having more responsibility at the local level for everything except schools. Where we don't have very much money at the Federal level to spend on education, we ought to spend it helping the 90 percent of the kids that we can help. If a local school district in Cleveland or anyplace else wants to have a private choice plan like Milwaukee did, let them have at it. I might say the results are highly ambiguous. But I want to get out there and give a better education opportunity to all of our children and that's why I vetoed the budget you passed with $30 billion in education cuts. It was wrong, and my plan for the future is better.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Dole, at the Republican convention you said the following and I quote, it is demeaning to the nation that within the Clinton Administration a core of the elite who never grew up, never did anything real, never sacrificed, never suffered, and never learned should have the power to fund with your earnings their dubious and self-serving schemes, end quote. Whom precisely and what precisely did you have in mind?
SENATOR BOB DOLE: I had precisely in mind a lot of the people that were in the White House and other agencies who've never been had any experience, who came to Washington without any experience, they all were very liberal, of course, or they wouldn't be in the administration. And their idea was that they knew what was best for the American people.
Now, I feel very strongly about a lot of things. I feel strongly about education. I want to help young people have an education, just as I had an education after World War II with the GI bill of Rights. We've had millions of young men and women in subsequent subsequent wars change the face of the nation because the government helped with their education.
Now the reason they don't have, The reason the President can't support this is pretty obvious. It's not taking anything away from schools, it's new money. It's not being taken away from anybody else, except we'll downsize the Department of Education. But this is a very liberal administration. This is an administration that gave you the big tax cut. This administration tried to take over healthcare and impose a governmental system. This is the administration that fought regulatory reform that is putting a lot of small businessmen and small businesswomen out of business. This is the administration that fought the balanced budget amendment and vetoed a balanced budget and vetoed welfare reform twice, and the list goes on and on and on, that's what I had in mind.
I want people in my administration and will have people in my administration who understand America. There won't be 10 millionaires and 14 lawyers in the cabinet. There will be people with experience and people who understand America and people who've made it and know the hard knocks in life.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: When Senator Dole made that remark about all the elitists, all the young elitists in the administration, one of the young men who works for me who grew up in a house trailer looked at me and said, Mr. President, I know how you grew up, who is he talking about. And you know this liberal charge, that's what their party always dragsout when they get in a tight race. It's sort of their golden oldie, you know. It's a record they think they can play that everybody loves to hear. And I just don't think that dog will hunt this time.
The American people should make up their own mind. Here's the record: We cut deficit four years in a row for the first time before the Civil War -- I mean, before World War II, and maybe before the Civil War, too. We've got ten and a half million new jobs; we've got record numbers of those new small businesses. We've made every one of them eligible for a tax cut. We've got declining crime rates, two million fewer people on welfare rolls before welfare reform passed, and a 50 percent increase in child support and a crime bill with 60 death penalties and 100,000 police and the assault weapons ban. The American people can make up their mind about whether that's a liberal record or a record that's good for America. Liberal, conservative, you put whatever label you want on it.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: Well, I think it's pretty liberal, I'll put that label on it. You take a look at all the programs you've advocated, Mr. President. Thank goodness we had a Republican Congress there. The first thing you did when you came into office was set up the stimulus package, said we've got a little pork we want to scatter around America, $16 billion. And even some in your own party couldn't buy that.
I remember talking about by the telephone. I'm not even certain you were too excited about that. I won't, I never repeat what I've talked to the President about. In any event, we saved the taxpayers $16 billion. And then came some other program, and then came healthcare, and then came the tax increase and a lot of these things stopped in 1994 because then the Congress changed, and I think we've done a good job.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, if you're not a liberal, describe your political philosophy.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I believe that the purpose of politics is to give people the tools to make the most of their own lives; to reinforce the values of opportunity and responsibility, and to build a sense of community so we're all working together. I don't believe in discrimination. I believe you can protect the environment and grow the economy. I believe that we have to do these things with a government that's smaller and less bureaucratic, but that we have to do them nonetheless.
It's inconvenient for Senator Dole, but the truth is I've reduced the size of government more than my Republican predecessors. And I did stop them, I admit that. I sure stopped their budget. Their budget cut enforcement for the Environmental Protection Agency by a third. It cut funds to clean up toxic waste dumps with 10 million of our kids still living within four miles of a toxic waste dump, by a third. It ended the principle that the polluters should pay for those toxic waste dumps unless it was very recent. Their budget weakened our support for education. $30 billion, even cut funds for scholarships and college loans. Their budget cut $270 billion in Medicare and, finally, their budget withdrew the national guarantee of healthcare to poor children, families with children with handicaps, the elderly in nursing homes, poor pregnant women. It was wrong for the country and calling it conservative won't make it right. It was a bad decision for America and would have been bad for our future if I hadn't stopped it.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: Well, the President can define himself in any way he wants, but I think we have to look at the record. Go back to the time he was, what, Texas director for George McGovern. George McGovern is a friend of mine, so I don't mean, but he was a liberal, proud liberal. I've just finished reading a book, I think it's called -- what is it called, what is it, "The Demise of the Democratic Party" by Ronald Cardash (ph) or something talking about all the liberal influences in the administration. Whether it's organized labor or whether it's the Hollywood elite or whether some of the media elite or whether it's the labor unions or whatever. And so I think you take a look at it. The bottom line is this: I think the American people, thought he'd recite all these bills and all these things, they want to know what's going to happen to them. They've all got a lot of anxieties out there. Did anybody complain when you raised taxes? Did anybody go out and ask the people, how are you going to pay the extra money? That's why we want an economic package. We want the government to pinch their pennies for a change instead of the people pinching their pennies. That's what our message is to the people. Not all this back and forth, you voted this way, you voted that way, we want a better America as we go into the next century.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: The way you get a better America is to balance
the budget and protect Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment;
to give a targeted tax cut -- and let me talk about the education tax
cut -- to let people have a $10,000 deduction for the cost of college
tuition in any year, any kind of college tuition; to give families a tax
credit, a dollar for dollar reduction in their taxes for the cost of a
typical community college so we can open that to everybody. And then to
let people save in an IRA and withdraw from it without a tax penalty for
education, home buying or medical expenses, that's the right way to go
into the 21st Century, balance the budget and cut taxes, not balloon with
this $550 billion tax scheme.
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