PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Well, I try to articulate my positions as clearly as possible, tell people what I stand for and let them decide whether they're going to support me or not.
The Senator mentioned the trial lawyers. In the case of the product liability bill, which they passed and I vetoed, I think that's what he's talking about, I actually wanted to sign that bill. And I told the people exactly what the Congress exactly what kind of bill I would sign. Now, a lot of the trial lawyers didn't want me to sign any bill at all, but I had thought we ought to do what we could to cut frivolous lawsuits, but they wouldn't make some of the changes that I thought should be made.
Now, let me just give you an example. I had a person in the Oval Office who lost a child in a school bus accident where a drunk driver caused the accident directly, but there were problems with the school bus. The drunk driver had no money. Under the new bill, if I had signed it, a person like that could never have had any recovery. I thought that was wrong. So I gave four or five specific examples to the Congress and said, prove to me that these people could recover but we're going to eliminate frivolous lawsuits, I'll sign the bill. But generally I believe that a president has to be willing to do what he thinks is right. I've done a lot of things that were controversial. My economic plan, my trade position, Bosnia, Haiti, taking on the NRA for the first time, taking on tobacco companies for the first time. Sometimes you just have to do that because you know it's right for the country over the long run. That's what I've tried to do and that's what I will continue to do as president.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Dole.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: How does he avoid conflict? Well, I don't know in the case of the trial lawyers. I look at the trial lawyers, and when you're a few million short, you run out to Hollywood and pick up two to four million and organized labor comes to Washington, D.C. and puts 35 million into the pot. Now, if these aren't special interests, I've got a lot to learn. I was there for a while before I left on June the 11th. The trial lawyers and I don't -- you know, my wife's a lawyer. We're the only two lawyers in Washington that trust each other. But we're lawyers, I like lawyers. I don't dislike trial lawyers. But it seemed to me there's got to be some end to the frivolous lawsuits and there's got to be some cap on punitive damage. You're putting a lot of business people out of business. Small businessmen and businesswomen who paid 70 percent of your ninteen, your $265 billion tax increase, the largest tax increase in the history of America. I said that one day and Pat Moynihan, a Democrat, say, no, he said, in the history of the world. So I modified it, the largest tax increase in the history of the world. And it seems to me that there is a problem there, Mr. President. And I will address you as Mr. President. You didn't do that with Mr. with President Bush in 1992.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Let me say, first of all, I signed a tort reform bill that dealt with civilian aviation a couple of years ago. I proved that I will sign reasonable tort reform. Secondly, Senator Dole had some pretty harsh comments about special interest money, but it wasn't me who opposed what we tried to do to save the lives of children who were subject to tobacco and then went to the tobacco growers and bragged about standing up for the Federal government when we tried to stop the advertising, marketing, and sales of tobacco to children. And it wasn't me that let the polluters actually come into the halls of Congress, into the rooms, and rewrite the environmental laws. That's what Speaker Gingrich and Senator Dole did, not me.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: That's not true.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: So I believe that we should take a different approach to this and talk about how we stand on the issues instead of trying to characterize each other's motivations. I think Senator Dole and I just honestly disagree.
JIM LEHRER: Well, Senator Dole, let me ask you the same question I asked the President: How do you avoid being influenced by people who contribute money and services to your campaigns?
SENATOR BOB DOLE: I think it's very difficult. Let's be honest about it. That's why we need campaign finance reform. That's why I reach out to the Perot voters. We've done about all, we are the reform party, the Republican Party. And the Perot voters that are looking for a home ought to take a look at the Republican record. Whatever it is, whatever the checklist was in '92, it's all done with campaign finance reform. I worked with Senator Mitchell, who played me, I guess, in the debate warmup. We tried six or eight years ago. He appointed three people, I appointed three people to get campaign finance reform. We couldn't get it done, because I wasn't enforceable.
You've suggested a commission, Newt Gingrich did, I suggested that at least four or five years ago. We have a commission on campaign finance reform. They send it to Congress, and we have to vote it up or down. That's how it works. We are never going to fix it by the parties, because Democrats want a better advantage for themselves, we want a better advantage as Republicans, and that's not how it's going to work.
But I want to touch on this is tobacco thing. I know the President's been puffing a lot on that. But I want to go back to 1965. That was my first vote against tobacco companies when I said we ought to label cigarettes. And I've had a consistent record ever since 1965. We passed a bill in 1992 that encouraged the states to adopt programs to stop kids from smoking. All 50 states did it. It took three and a half years. It wasn't until election year, Mr. President, that you ever thought about stopping smoking.
What about drugs that have increased, doubled in the last 44 months? Cocaine is up 141 percent -- marijuana, cocaine up 166 percent. It seems to me that you have a selective memory. You know, mine doesn't work that way. So I just want to try to correct it as we go along.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Mr. Lehrer, I hope we'll have a chance to discuss drugs later in the program. But let me respond to what you said. I agree that too many incumbent politicians in Washington in both parties have consistently opposed campaign finance reform. That was certainly the case from the minute I got there. So after Speaker Gingrich and Senator Dole took over the Congress, I went to New Hampshire and a man suggested -- a gentleman that unfortunately just passed away a couple of days ago, suggested that we appoint a commission. And I shook hands with him on it and I appointed my members, and the commission never met. And then Senator Dole's ardent supporters, Senator McCain, who's out there today, along with Senator Feingold, supported, sponsored a campaign finance reform proposal. I strongly supported it. And members of Senator Dole's own party in the Senate killed it. And he was not out there urging them to vote for the McCain-Feingold bill. So I think the American people, including the Perot supporters, know that I have had a consistent record in favor of campaign finance reform, and I will continue to have. And I hope we can finally get it in the next session of Congress, because we need it badly.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Dole, 30 seconds.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: Well, on campaign reform itself, we're going to get it when we have a bipartisan commission, take it out of politics. Get people who don't have any interest in politics but understand the issue and let them make the recommendation to Congress. Now, we're now kidding anybody, Mr. President. There's sophisticated people watching tonight. Millions and millions of Americans. They know the Republican Party hasn't done it. They know the Democratic party won't do it. We ought to agree that somebody else should do it. And we have to vote it up or down, Mr. President.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, the Senator mentioned drugs. He suggested that you are -- you bear some responsibility for the rise in drug use of teenagers in the United States. Is he right?
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Well, Jim, I think every American in any position of responsibility should be concerned about what's happened. I am. But let's look at the overall record. Overall in America cocaine use has dropped 30 percent in the last four years, casual drug use down 13 percent. The tragedy is that our young people are still increasing their use of drugs up to about 11 percent total with marijuana, and I regret it. Let me tell you what I tried to do about it. I appointed a four-star general who led our efforts south of the border to keep drugs from coming into the country as our nation's drug czar. The most heavily directed, decorated solder in uniform when he retired. We submitted the biggest drug budget ever. We have dramatically increased control and enforcement at the border. We supported a a crime bill that had 60 death penalties including, including the death penalty for drug kingpins. And I supported a big expansion in safe and drug-free schools program to support things like the DARE program because I thought all those things were very important. Do I think that I bear some responsibility for the fact that too many of our children still don't understand drugs are wrong, drugs can kill you. Even though I have consistently opposed the legalization of drugs all my public life and worked hard against them. I think we all do. And I hope we can do better. I don't think this issue should be politicized because my record is clear and I don't think Senator Dole supports using using drugs. I think we just have to continue to work on this until those who think it isn't dangerous and won't kill them and won't destroy their lives, get the message and change.
JIM LEHRER: Senator.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: Again, well it's, you are very selective, Mr. President. You don't want to politicize drugs, but it's already politicized Medicare, go out and scare senior citizens and other vulnerable groups, veterans and people who get Pell Grants and things like this. I mean, you say we've done all these bad things, which isn't the case. But it seems to me the record is clear. The record is pretty clear in Arkansas, when you were governor. Drug use doubled. You resisted the appointment of a drug czar there because you thought it might interfere with treatment. But here you cut the drug czar's office 83 percent. You cut interdiction substantially. I mean that's what, I want to stop it from coming across the border. And in my administration, we're going to train the National Guard to stop it from coming across the border. This is a invasion of drugs from all over the world. And we have a responsibility. You had a surgeon -- or before General McCaffrey (ph) you had a lady who said we ought to consider legalizing drugs. Is that the kind of leadership we need? And I won't comment on other things that happened in your administration or your past about drugs. But it seems to me the kids ought to -- if they've started, they ought to stop and just don't do it.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Let me say again, we did have a drug czar in Arkansas, but he answered to the governor, just like this one answers to the President. That's what I thought we ought to do.
Secondly, Senator Dole, you voted against the crime bill that had the death penalty for drug kingpins in it. And you voted to cut services to 23 million school children under the safe and drug-free schools act. I don't think that means you're soft on drugs. We just have a different approach. But let me remind you, my family has suffered from drug abuse. I know what it's like to see somebody you love nearly lose their lives, and I hate drugs, Senator. We need to do this together and we can.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Dole, on the government, continuing to talk about the government's role. If elected President, would you seek to repeal the Brady Bill and the ban on assault weapons?
SENATOR BOB DOLE: Not if I didn't have a better idea. But I've got a better idea. It's something I've worked on for 15 years. It's called the automated check or the instant check. It's being used in 17 states right now. States like Florida, Colorado, Virginia, and other states. You don't buy any gun. You don't get any gun. We've got 20 million names on a computer in Washington, D.C. of people who should not have guns. We ought to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. And, there are eight other categories that should not have guns. I've been working on this for a long, long time. You walk in, you put your little card in there. If it says tilt, you don't get any gun. You don't get a hand gun, you don't get a rifle, you don't get a shot gun, you get zippo.
If we're going to protect American children and American families and people who live as prisoners in their own home, we've got to stop guns from being dumped on the street.
The administration says they support the instant check. They've appropriated about $200 million, but only spent about $3 million to get it underway. In our administration, in my administration, we will expedite. This keeps up with technology. It keeps guns out of the hands of people who should not have guns. That is the bottom line. And I believe it's a good idea, has strong bipartisan support. And perhaps that's another thing we can depoliticize.
You talk about the Brady Bill. There has only been one prosecution under the Brady -- only one under the assault weapon ban and only seven under the Brady Bill that you talk about all the time. And on the assault weapon ban, out of 17 weapons that were banned, only six banned now because two have been modified and are back on the street. Let's get together on this instant check because that will really make a difference.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Let me say, first of all, Senator Dole has gone back and forth about whether he'd be for repealing the Brady Bill or repealing the assault weapons ban. And I think his present position is he would not do so, and if that's true I'm grateful for it. But let's look at the facts here. The Brady Bill has kept at least 60,000 felons, fugitives and stalkers from getting hand guns. Senator Dole led the fight against the Brady Bill. He tried to keep it from coming to my desk. He didn't succeed and I signed it and I'm glad I did.
Then when we had the assault weapons ban in the Senate, Senator Dole fought it bitterly and opposed the entire crime bill and almost brought the entire crime bill down because the National Rifle Association didn't want the assault weapons ban, just like they didn't want the Brady Bill. But two years later nobody's lost their handguns. I mean, their rifles. We've expanded the Brady Bill to cover people who beat up their spouses and their kids. And this is a safer country. So I'm glad I took on that fight and I believe, with all respect, I was right and he was wrong.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: Well, the President doesn't have it quite right. I
mean, it seemed to me at the time the assault weapon ban was not effective.
But that's history. I told the NRA that's history. You're not going to
worry about it anymore. I'm not going to worry about it anymore. Let's
do something better. Let's stop, you know, playing the political game,
Mr. President. Talking about this and this. You add all the states that've
used the instant check and how many weapons they keep, kept out of the
hands of criminals. It would far surpass the numbers you mentioned. So
in my view, if you want to be protected, you ought to vote for Bob Dole
and we'll get the instant check passed and we'll keep guns out of the
hands of criminals.
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