PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: If he-- that's what he said, he's not right about that. Look at where we are today. The United States is still the indispensable nation in the aftermath of the Cold War and on the brink of the 21st Century. I have worked to support our country as the world's strongest force for peace and freedom, prosperity and security.
We have done the following things: Number one, we've managed the aftermath of the Cold War, supporting a big drop in nuclear weapons in Russia. The removal of Russian troops from the Baltics. The integration of Central and Eastern European democracies into a new partnership with NATO. And, I might add, with the democratic Russia.
There are no nuclear missiles pointed at the children of the United States tonight and have not been in our administration for the first time since the dawn of the nuclear age.
We have worked hard for peace and freedom. When I took office, Haiti was governed by a dictator that had defied the United States. When I took office, the worst war in Europe was waging in Bosnia. Now there is a the democratically elected president in Haiti. Peace in Bosnia. We just had the election there. We've made progress in Northern Ireland, in the Middle East. We've also stood up to the new threats of terrorism. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, organized crime, and we have worked hard to expand America's economic presence around the world with the biggest increase in trade with the largest new number of trade agreements in history And that's one of the reasons America is number one in auto production again.
JIM LEHRER: Senator.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: Well, I have a different view. Again, I supported the President on Bosnia, and I think we were told the troops would be out in a year. Now I understand it's been extended 'til some time next year. But, let's start with Somalia, where they dragged Americans through the streets, and where 18 Americans were killed one day, because they didin't have, they were pinned down for eight hours, the rangers. They didn't have the weapons, they didn't have the tanks. They asked for tanks. They didn't get the tanks from this administration because we were nation building. It's called mission creep. We turn it over to the United Nations. The President didn't have much to do about it. You look at Haiti, where we spend about three billion dollars and we got an alarm call there about two weeks ago. You got to send down some more people, because the president's found out there are death squads on his on his, in his own property. So we need more protection from America. Bosnia, Northern Ireland. There's no ceasefire in Bosnia. I think there are still lot of problems in Bosnia. We agreed to train and arm the Muslims so they could defend themselves, the policy you had when you ran in 1992. We haven't done that. We're way behind, which means Americans can't come home. Americans shouldn't have gone there in the first place, had we let them defend themselves, as they have a right to do under Article 57 of the United Nations charter.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: First of all, I take full responsibility for what happened in Somalia, but the American people must remember that those soldiers were under an American commander when that happened. I believe they did the best they could under the circumstances, and let's not forget that hundreds of thousands of lives were saved there.
Secondly, in Haiti, political violence is much, much smaller than it was. Thirdly, in Bosnia it's a virtual miracle that there has been no return to war and at least there has now been an election. And institutions are beginning to function.
In Northern Ireland, in the Middle East we are better off than we were four years ago. There will always be problems in this whole world. But if we're moving in the right direction and America is leading, we're better off.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Dole, if elected president, what criteria would you use to decide when to send U.S. troops into harm's way.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: Well it, after World War I, we had, you know, a policy of disengagement. Then from World War I to World War II we had sort of a compulsory engagement policy. Now I think we have a selective engagement policy. We have to determine when our interests are involved, not the United Nations' interests. And many of the things the President talked about, he turned over to the United Nations. They decided.
He's deployed more troops than any president in history around the world. It's cost us billions and billions of dollars for peace-keeping operations. Look these are facts. And it seems to me that when you make a decision, the decision is made by the President of the United States, by the Commander-in-Chief. He makes that decision when he commits young men or young women who are going to go round and defend our liberty and our freedom. That would be my position.
Then I'm going to have a top down review at the Pentagon, not a bottom up review. We all fight over how much money is there. I want a top down review to determine what our priorities are and what we should do in defense, and then follow that policy instead of this bottom up review with all the services fighting for the money. You know, the President said he was going to cut defense $60 billion, he cut defense $112 billion. Devastated states like California and others. And I think now we've got a problem. We've got to go back and look. It's just like you said in Texas one day, you know raised taxes too much, and you did, and you cut defense too much, Mr. President, and you did. You may have said that, too.
But the bottom line is, we are the strongest nation in the world. We provide the leadership and we're going to have to continue to provide the leadership, but let's do it on our terms when our interests are involved and not when somebody blows the whistle at the United Nations.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Our military is the strongest military in the world. It is the strongest, best prepared, best equipped it has ever been. There is very little difference in the budget that I proposed and the Republican budget over the next six-year period. We are spending a lot of money to modernize our weapons system. I have proposed a lot of new investments to improve the quality of life for our soldiers, for our men and women in uniform, for their families, for their training. That is my solemn obligation.
You ask when do you decide to deploy them. The interests of the American people must be at stake. Our values must be at stake. We have to be able to make a difference. And frankly we have to consider what the risks are to our young men and women in uniform. But I believe the evidence is that our deployments have been successful, in Haiti, in Bosnia, when we moved to Kuwait to repel Saddam Hussein's threatened invasion of Kuwait. When I have sent the fleet into the Taiwan straits. When we've worked hard to end the Northern Korean nuclear threat.
I believe the United States is at peace tonight in part because of the disciplined, careful, effective deployment of our military resources.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Dole.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: Well I failed to mention North Korea and Cuba, a while ago. You look at North Korea where they have enough plutonium to build six nuclear bombs. We've sort of distanced ourselves from our ally, South Korea. They lost about a million people in the war, the Korean War, the forgotten war. We lost 53,000 Americans.
We shouldn't be doing any favors for North Korea. It's a closed society. We don't have any inspection. We don't know whether it's going to work or not, but we keep giving the incentives. Someone called them something else. Incentives. We don't know what's going to happen. Here we have Cuba 90 miles from our shores, and what have we done, we passed the law that gave people a right to sue and the President postponed it for six months. And it seemed to me if you want to send a signal, you've got to send a signal, Mr. President. The sooner the better off we'll be, if you put tougher sanctions on Castro, not try to make it easier for him.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. President, what is your attitude toward Cuba and how Cuba should be treated?
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Well, first of all, for the last four years we have worked had to put more and more pressure on the Castro government to bring about more openness and move toward democracy. In 1992, before I became President, the Congress passed the Cuba Democracy Act and I enforced it vigorously. We made the embargo tougher but we increased contacts people to people with the Cubans, including direct telephone service, which was largely supported by the Cuban-American community. Then Cuba shot down two of our planes and murdered four people in international air space. They were completely beyond the pale of the law, and I signed the Helms-Burton legislation. Senator Dole is correct. I did give about six months before the effective date of the act before lawsuits can actually be filed, even though they're effective now, and can be legally binding, because I want to change Cuba. And the United States needs help from other countries.
Nobody in the world agrees with our policy on Cuba now. But this law can be used as leverage to get other countries to help us to move Cuba to democracy. Every single country in Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean is a democracy tonight but Cuba. And if we stay firm and strong, we will be able to bring Cuba around as well.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: That's the point I made. We have to be firm and strong. And I hope that will happen. It will happen starting next January and maybe it can happen the balance of this year. We have not been firm and strong. You look at the poor people who still live in Cuba. It's a haven for drug smugglers and we don't have a firm policy when it comes to Fidel Castro. In my view, the policy has failed.
So Congress passes the law, the President signs it, like he does a lot of things. But he, like welfare reform, I'm going to sign it but I'm going to try to change it next year. A lot of these election-year conversions, the President talks about the drug money, and all the other things, all this antismoking campaign all happened in 1996.
And I think the people viewing out there ought to go back and take a look at the record when he fought a balanced budget amendment. When he gave you that biggest tax increase in history; when he tried to take over your healthcare system. When he fought regulatory reform that cost the average family 6 to $7,000 a year. This is a serious business. It's about your family; it's about your business, and in this case it's about a firmer policy with Cuba.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: There were several off-the-subject quaffers in that litany. Let me just mention, Senator Dole voted for $900 billion in tax increases. His running mate Jack Kemp once said that Bob Dole never met a tax he didn't hike. And everybody knows, including the Wall Street Journal, hardly a friend of the Democratic party of this administration, that the '82 tax increase he sponsored in inflation-adjusted dollars was the biggest tax increase in American history. So we ought to at least get the facts out here on the table so we can know where to go from here.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Dole, you mentioned health reform several times. What do you think should be done about the healthcare system?
SENATOR BOB DOLE: Let me first answer that question about the 1982 tax cut. We were closing loopholes, we were going after big corporations. I know you probably would oppose it, Mr. President, but I think we should have a fairer system and a flatter system, and we'll have a fairer and flatter system and we're going to make the economic package work. Healthcare. Well, we finally passed the Kassebaum bill. The President was opposed to it in 1993. He wanted to give us this big system, that took over about one-seventh of the economy, that put on price controls, created all these state alliances, and would cost $1.5 trillion and force people into managed care, whether they wanted it or not. Most people want to see their own doctor. They're going to see their own doctor when Bob Dole is president. We won't threaten anybody.
So we passed the Kassebaum-Kennedy, the Kennedy Kassebaum bill that will cover about 20 to 25 million people. We've been for that for four, five, six years. The President held it up. And even when it finally got near passage, Senator Kennedy held it up for 100 days, because he wasn't satisfied with one condition. But it will cover preexisting conditions. If you change your job, you're going to be covered. So there are a lot of good things in this bill we should have done instead of trying this massive, massive takeover by the Federal government. But then of course we had a Democratic Congress and they didn't want to do that. Until we got a Republican Congress, we finally got action, I'm proud of my colleagues in the Republican Party for getting that done. It means a lot to a lot of people watching us tonight.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Well, that sounds very good, but it's very wrong. Senator Dole remembers well that we actually offered not to even put in a healthcare bill in 1994, uh '93, but instead to work with the Senate Republicans and write a joint bill. And they said no because they got a memo from one of their political advisers saying that instead they should characterize whatever we did as big government and make sure nothing was done to aid healthcare before the '94 elections so they could make that claim. Well, maybe we bit off more than we could chew, but we're pursuing a step-by-step reform now. The Kennedy-Kassebaum bill that I signed will make it possible for 25 million people to keep their health insurance when they change jobs or when somebody in their family's been sick. I signed a bill to stop these drive-by deliveries when insurance companies can force people out of the hospital after 24 hours and I vetoed Senator Dole's Medicare plan that would have forced a lot of seniors into managed care and taken a lot more money out of their pockets and led to Medicare withering on the vine.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: Well, many of the provisions in the Kassebaum bill were provisions that -- my provisions, like deductions for long-term care, making certain that self-employed people that are watching tonight can deduct not 30 percent but 80 percent of you pay for premiums. You can also deduct long-term care now, so it's a good it's a good start. I think there's enough -- we're even looking at our tax cut proposal, our economic package. There may be a way of reaching out to the uninsured, because there are a lot of uninsured people in the country, particularly children, that should be covered. Another way you can do is to expand Medicaid. In America no one will go without healthcare, no one will go without food.
JIM LEHRER: Senator, go ahead and finish your sentence.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: All right. Food.
JIM LEHRER: Food. Back to foreign affairs for a moment, Mr. President. Are you satisfied with the way you handled this last Iraq crisis and the end result?
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Well, I believe that we did the appropriate thing under the circumstances. Saddam Hussein is under a U.N. resolution not to threaten his neighbors or threaten his own, repress his own citizens. Unfortunately, a lot of people, have never been as concerned about the Kurds as the United States has tried to be, and we've been flying an operation to protect them out of Turkey for many years now. What happened was one of the Turkish, one of the Kurdish leaders invited him to go up north, but we felt since the whole world community had told him not to do it, that once he did it we had to do something. We did not feel that I could commit. I certainly didn't feel I should commit American troops to throw him out of where he had gone, and that was the only way to do that. So the appropriate thing strategically to do was to reduce his ability to threaten his neighbors. We did that by expanding what's called the no-fly zone by increasing our allies' control of the air space now from the Kuwait border to the suburbs of Baghdad. Was it the right thing to do? I believe it was. Is it fully effective? Did it make him withdraw from the north? Well, he does, he has a little bit, and I hope he will continue. We have learned that you give him an inch he'll take a mile. We had to do something, and even though not all of our allies supported it at first, I think most of them now believe that what we did was an appropriate thing to do.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Dole.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: Well, the president's own CIA director says Saddam is stronger now than he was. I don't understand extending the no-fly zone in the south when the trouble was in the north. And what we've done during the Bush administration, the Kurds were at the State Department, negotiating, trying to work their differences out. Now we've got all thousands and thousands of refugees. We're even shipping 3,000 Kurds to Guam. It involves Turkey. It's a real problem. Saddam is probably about as strong as he ever was. We shot, what, 44 cruise missiles, worth about a million-two a piece, and hit some radar, that repaired in a couple, three days. Did we inflict any damage? No. Did we have any allies helping? Well, we have Great Britain. They're always very loyal to us, and I appreciate that. And of course Kuwait. Even though they had to find out they had 5,000 troops coming, they didn't even understand that. We had to get their permission. The bottom line is, we went in there alone. We are supposed to be operating under a U.N. resolution. We did it without any of our allies that helped in the Gulf.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Senator Dole has two or three times before tonight criticized me for working with the U.N. Now I'm being criticized for not working with the U.N.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: It's not the U.N.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Sometimes the United States has to act alone or at least has to act first. Sometimes we cannot let other countries have a veto on our foreign policy. I could not send soldiers into the north of Iraq, that would have been wrong. It could reduce Saddam Hussein's abilities to threaten Kuwait and his other neighbors again. That's what I did. I still believe it was the right thing to do.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Dole, on your photo-op foreign policy charge against the President --
SENATOR BOB DOLE: Not mine.
JIM LEHRER: Oh, No, no. I mean your charge against the President, that he has a photo-op foreign policy. Does the Middle East summit last week fall into that category?
SENATOR BOB DOLE: Well, there were some good pictures, but does it fall into that category? I don't know. I want to be very serious. I've supported the President when I thought he was right on Bosnia. I supported him on NAFTA and GATT. So it's not that we always disagree. Others disagreed with us.
The Mideast is very difficult. But it seemed to me just as an observer that you know before you'd call somebody to America, you'd have some notion what the end result might be. Now maybe it's better just to get together and sit down and talk. Maybe that was the purpose. And I know talks have started again today. But again it's almost like an ad hoc foreign policy. It's ad hoc, it's sort of we get up in the morning and read the papers, what country's in trouble, we'll have a meeting.
Now, to me that's not the strategy that I think people expect from America. I think we have lost credibility, and I say this very honestly without any partisanship. We've lost credibility around the world. Our allies know, -- they're not certain what we're going to do, what our reaction, what our response is going to be. Nobody suggested sending troops to Iraq, if that was the hint there from the President. But I do think that Saddam Hussein is stronger than he was. And I do believe that we didn't gain a great deal in the Mideast by bringing three of the four leaders, one refused to come, to Washington D.C.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: We have a very consistent policy in the Middle East: It is to support the peace process; to support the security of Israel; and to support those who are prepared to take risks for peace. It is a very difficult environment. The feelings are very strong. There are extremists in all parts of the Middle East who want to kill that peace process. Prime Minister Rabin gave his life because someone in his own country literally hated him for trying to bring peace. I would like to have had a big, organized summit, but those people were killing each other, rapidly, innocent Arab children, innocent Israeli people, they were dying. And there is ,so much trust has broken down in the aftermath of the change of government. I felt that if I could just get the parties together to say let's stop the violence, start talking, commit to the negotiations, that would be a plus.
Now today the Secretary of State is in the Middle East and they've started negotiations and all those leaders promised me they would not quit until they resolved the issues between them and got the peace process going forward again.
JIM LEHRER: Senator Dole.
SENATOR BOB DOLE: Well, I was disappointed. The President has not called for an unconditional end to the violence. It seemed to me the violence stopped when these leaders came to America. The killing and tragedies had taken place. And it is unfortunate, it is a difficult area, no doubt about it. It shouldn't be politicized in any way by the President or by his opponent. And I don't intend to politicize it. I hope they talked and I hope they've reached some result and that the killing will end.
PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Thank you.
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