Night: Foreign Policy &
MARGARET WARNER: the last subject is America's role in the world and the Republicans turn to lead off. Senator Hagel, as we all know, the constitution of course gives the president the power to run foreign policy. He is the commander in chief. He negotiates all agreements in trade and security matters. Should Americans going to the polls in November take foreign affairs into consideration in deciding who to vote for congress? And if so, where is the difference most stark between the two parties? I encourage you all in this section to try and look forward rather than back. Senator.
SENATOR HAGEL: Yes, Margaret. First, your question regarding should the American public factor in foreign policy. Absolutely. And why? If for no other reason, all six billion of us today on the face of the earth live in a global community underpinned by a global economy. An I don't think we have to look beyond Asia that happened a couple of years ago, the Thailand currency, the Baht, was devalued that spread to a crisis which then went to Europe and Russia and South America. Yes foreign policy is a very significant dynamic of leadership, of responsibility of leadership.
The next president of the United States is going to be confronted with an immense foreign policy challenge. Look at what's happened the last three weeks -- certainly the Middle East, the Balkans. Just this week Marshal Jo from North Korea was here. That affects peace and stability in the world and that affects us and affects prosperity for all peoples, it affects our national security. It affects our trade and it affects our revenues to project out surpluses. If we can't trade, if we have high energy prices and if we have oil at $38 a barrel or worse, shortages that cuts into our economy. So yes they must take into consideration foreign policy.
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman Bonior, take it a given that they should where do you see the differences as most stark in the parties and are they clear-cut?
CONGRESSMAN BONIOR: I think they are not as clear-cut as they are domestically because I think on some issues our arguments stop at the water's edge when our national interests are at stake, as it should be. But I think we all want to see a peace in the Middle East. I think most of us-- I don't know about all of us-- want to make sure if that happens that's we're there with the economic support to make it work.
There is a difference in terms of supporting international institutions, for instance. We've been trying for years to get us to pay our U.N. dues. We think it's important, to be a participant in the U.N. The Republicans have been primarily in opposition to doing that. We think that's somewhat irresponsible. Although they've asked for some administrative changes which we think are responsible and we've agreed with. But we think they have been done and we think we should be a full player at the United Nations. I think when our national values are at stake here, when we're advocating democracy, human rights, the ability to enter markets, those issues are very important domestically to people and I think it's important that they understand that the debates on those issues affect them personally. What we do, for instance, with respect to trade, affects them. What we say with regard to human rights affects them because if we can't defend human rights abroad, our own human rights and civil rights in this country are going to be affected.
MARGARET WARNER: Congressman Watts, isn't congress's ability to influence so many of the issues that Senator Hagel and Congressman Bonior mentioned, quite limited? That the president takes the lead here?
CONGRESSMAN WATTS: The president is the bell cow on foreign policy, on trade agreements which we've had a chance to discuss on numerous occasions over the last four or five years in congress. Margaret, I think as we go forward, I think there are two things that we need to be careful that we do, that we need to be adamant about. One I think we must communicate with strength and clarity. Two, I think it's important that the next president lay out a vision for America concerning foreign policy, and bring the American people along, take their vision to the American people, and sell them on it. When you look back in the decade of the 80s under Reagan-Bush, nobody questioned foreign policy because the communication was strong. It was solid. We had diplomacy around the world. We have esteem around the world. I think as we go forward, we have to consider those things, where we are today, and also keep our military strong. That affects foreign policy. That has a role to play in foreign policy.
MARGARET WARNER: do you think Democrats are less committed to that?
CONGRESSMAN WATTS: Well, I hope not. I think when you look at the president's budget, I don't think over the last six years-- this is the first year that the president has submitted a budget that exceeded his previous year's numbers. We've had to ramp up those budgets every year. I serve on the armed services committee. We've had to ramp up those numbers every year, including this year. We put about $4.5 billion more in national defense than the president has requested.
MARGARET WARNER: Senator, how would you delineate the differences between the parties on things congress affects?
SENATOR REID: First of all, I would say to my friend J.C., we were watching him, he is a football star. We were watching him play football during some of the Reagan years when we had all kinds of problems with foreign policy. That was the time of Iran-Contra. There were all kinds of problems. We have to recognize that all administrations, congress reviews what they do. But I'm on the senate floor every day trying to move legislation along. I think the most important thing-- and I go back to it-- We have been unable to debate, to talk about issues. There is nothing more important to national security than having a good domestic policy. I think that is what we have to stress because no one disputes what President Clinton has done and tried to do in the Middle East. We all support what he is trying to do there -- what happened in Kosovo. But I think what we have to talk about is why we aren't able to talk more. I think this program is wonderful. It is an indication of how the Republicans don't like to even do that. Speaker Hastert who was invited here. We're second string, David....
MARGARET WARNER: We don't feel that way.
SENATOR REID: He was quoted as saying this is a waste of time. That is why he is not here. This is not a waste of time. We need public debate. The Republicans even on public television don't want public debate. I don't want to be mean spirited but they tried to defund public television.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me lead--
CONGRESSMAN WATTS: Back in the 80s, Harry, when I was playing football, proudly for he University of Oklahoma...
SENATOR REID: And we watched you. You did great.
CONGRESSMAN WATTS: I hope you did because we won our share of ball games but let me say, I never said that we, congress, doesn't review what the president does. I said the president has to be the bell cow. You can't allow 535 people in the House and Senate trying to determine foreign policy or trade agreements.
SENATOR REID: I misunderstood you.
MARGARET WARNER: I want to get to one final thing and your comments lead into it. Senator Hagel, I'll start with you. So many of the subjects we discussed tonight, congress has tried but failed to enact legislation whether it's tax cuts, whether it's prescription drugs. We have seen you tonight pointing a lot of fingers of blame at one another. Why should voters going into the voting booth think this 107th congress will be any different? Why should they be excited about voting for a House or Senate candidate?
SENATOR HAGEL: First of all there, there was not finger pointing here. The Democrats and the Republicans represented here tonight were presenting to your audience the difference in who we are, what we believe, our policy. That's the way the system should work, Margaret. It's not a matter of pointing fingers. It's a matter of choices. Then we must move beyond that. Let's take our votes, and we have our debate and we move on to the next challenge.
Now I think there are a couple of factors we should play out a little bit, and it was actually touched upon with your lead-in piece. First, the impeachment, that issue that we had to take up, was very difficult for the congress of the United States. There was no question that it impacted our relationship with each other. How could it not? We spent a lot of time on that, a lot of emotional draining and relationships went backward there. I think this year, too, we have to bear in mind that this is a political year that doesn't come very often. You've got the White House up for grabs and both houses of congress up for grabs. It doesn't happen very often. We are gonna have a new president and maybe a new congress. So, therefore, you have a certain amount of built-in paralysis in the system. I'm not defending that saying it's right but that's part of it. Can we do better, should we do better, absolutely. Do I think we will do better? I think we will with a new president and new leadership in congress. We've got big problems ahead, big challenges we must deal with for this country and the world. I look forward to get to your last point, a very strong bipartisan effort in the next congress to really do something about these big challenges ahead of us.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think the next congress, Congressman Bonior, will be anymore bipartisan, will have more achievements under its belt?
CONGRESSMAN BONIOR: I think it will be better. Assuming we get the majority back, I think we will reach to the other side, because if we do get it back, it will be a closer margin than we had when we were in the majority and we're have to work with Republicans. We want to do that in a cooperative effort. Can I address the question of tone here for a second because it's important. Tone is very important because we have to respect each other in doing our work. But we also have to argue with passion. I mean I have to -- when I argue with the minimum wage, I think about that woman out there who is making $5.15 an hour. She may be a single parent with two children. And, you know, you can't make it on $11,000 a year. That's what she makes and probably works two or three jobs. As a result she is probably never seeing her kids. I can get excited about that. I can get excited about the fact that seniors don't have prescription drugs and have to choose between heat and food. Those are issues of passion. So people ought not to feel, who are watching us today, that we need to be too polite. I mean politeness is important and respect is important, but we ought to be able to do it with passion and say, you didn't give us the chance to have that debate. And you ought to be able to say to us, you didn't do what you said you were going to do. I think that's healthy.
MARGARET WARNER: do you think voters should feel good about their congress?
CONGRESSMAN WATTS: I like David. He just draws the wrong conclusions all the time. Margaret, as Dave said, he is true. There is always going to be partisan differences on education, on policy difference, on foreign policy, on trade agreements. David Bonior has a tremendous passion when it comes to these issues. But by the same token, I feel passionate that giving people-- eliminating the marriage tax of $1400 per couple so that couple can buy their kids school clothes or help pay for the house payment or car payment or car insurance, I feel just as passionate about those things.
And look at what this Republican congress has done. We've eliminated the deficit. We don't have deficits anymore. We've paid down the debt. We've reformed welfare. We have given per child tax credits for working people out there. We don't spend the social security and Medicare surpluses anymore. We've done those things. And I think the American people like the fact that we've reformed in those areas.
MARGARET WARNER: Senator, a very brief final response.
SENATOR REID: J.C. is trying to be a Democrat tonight as they are throughout the congress. The fact is we need-- and I don't want to sound like a broken record, but we need more discussion and debate. The marriage tax penalty, they wouldn't let us offer their plan. We had to vote on theirs or nothing else. Ours was more reasonable. It got rid of every problem with marriage tax penalty. As far as debate, you won't let us vote on yourself. We couldn't. The president hasn't contested any of the bills as to the amount of money. He has done it because it had environmental riders on bills that don't mean anything. If next congress we have a Democratic congress, we'll meet with the Republicans because there will be full debate. That's how you develop consensus and compromise.
MARGARET WARNER: Alright, gentleman, we have to leave it there. Thank you all four very much. That concludes the national portion of debate night 2000. Our thanks to the Republicans, Senator Hagel and Congressman Watts and to the Democrats, Senator Reid and Congressman Bonior for joining us tonight.
GWEN IFILL: Stay tuned now on many PBS stations for local candidate forums. Join us online for our special PBS debate night Web site. Be sure to watch Tuesday night as the NewsHour Jim Lehrer moderates the final presidential debate from St. Louis. I'm Gwen Ifill.
MARGARET WARNER: I'm Margaret Warner. Thanks for being with us. Good night.