JIM LEHRER: All right, new question. Two minutes. Senator Kerry, speaking
of Vietnam, you spoke to Congress in 1971, after you came back from
Vietnam, and you said, quote, "How do you ask a man to be the last
man to die for a mistake." Are Americans now dying in Iraq for
SEN. KERRY: No. And they don't have to, providing we have the leadership
that we put -- that I'm offering. I believe that we -- we have to win
this. The president and I have always agreed on that. And from the beginning
-- I did vote to give the authority, because I thought Saddam Hussein
was a threat, and I did accept that intelligence. But I also laid out
a very strict series of things we needed to do in order to proceed from
a position of strength. And the president in fact promised them. He
went to Cincinnati, and he gave a speech in which he said, "We
will plan carefully. We will proceed cautiously. We will not make war
inevitable. We will go with our allies." He didn't do any of those
things. They didn't do the planning. They left the planning of the State
Department in the State Department desks. They avoided even the advice
of their own general, General Shinseki. The Army chief of staff, said.
"You're going to need several hundred thousand troops." Instead
of listening to him, they retired him.
The terrorism czar, who has worked for every president since Ronald
Reagan, said, "Invading Iraq in response to 9/11 would be like
Franklin Roosevelt invading Mexico in response to Pearl Harbor."
what we have here. And what we need now is a president who understands
how to bring these other countries together to recognize their stakes
in this. They do have stakes in it. They've always had stakes in it.
The Arab countries have a stake in not having a civil war. The European
countries have a stake in not having total disorder on their doorstep.
But this president hasn't even held the kind of statesmanlike summits
that pull people together and get them to invest in those stakes. In
fact, he's done the opposite. He pushed them away. When the secretary-general,
Kofi Annan, offered the United Nations, he said, "No, no, we'll
go do this alone." To save for Halliburton the spoils of the war,
they actually issued a memorandum from the Defense Department saying,
"If you weren't with us in the war, don't bother applying for any
construction." That's not a way to invite people.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety seconds.
PRESIDENT BUSH: That -- that's totally absurd. Of course the U.N. was
invited in. And we support the U.N. efforts there. They pulled out after
Sergio de Mello got killed, but they're now back in helping with elections.
My opponent we didn't have any allies in this war? What's he say to
Tony Blair? What's he say to Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland? I mean,
you can't expect to build an alliance when you denigrate the contributions
of those who are serving side by side with American troops in Iraq.
Plus, he says the cornerstone of his plan to succeed in Iraq is to call
upon nations to serve.
So what's the message going to be? Please join us in Iraq for a grand
diversion? Join us for a war that is the wrong war at the wrong place
at the wrong time? I know how these people think. I deal with them all
the time. I sit down with the world leaders -- ah -- frequently and
talk to them on the phone frequently. They're not going to follow somebody
who says this is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time.
They're not going to follow somebody whose core convictions keep changing
because of politics in America.
And finally, he says we ought to have a summit. Well, there are summits
being held. Japan is going to have a summit for the donors. Ah -- $14
billion pledged, and Prime Minister Koizumi is going to call countries
to account to get them to contribute. And there's going to be an Arab
summit of the neighborhood countries. And Colin Powell have set -- helped
set up that summit.
MR. LEHRER: Thirty seconds, Senator.
SEN. KERRY: The United Nations, Kofi Annan, offered help after Baghdad
fell. And we never picked him up on that, and did what was necessary
to transfer authority and to transfer reconstruction. It was always
Secondly, when we went in, there were three countries: Great Britain,
Australia and the United States. That's not a grand coalition. We can
MR. LEHRER: Thirty seconds, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, actually, you forgot Poland. And now there are
30 nations involved, standing side by side with our American troops.
And I honor their sacrifices, and I don't appreciate it when a candidate
for president denigrates the contributions of these brave -- brave soldiers.
It -- it -- you cannot lead the world if you, ah, do not honor the contributions
of those who are with us. You call them the coerced and the bribed.
That's not how you bring people together.
Our coalition is strong. It'll remain strong, so long as I'm the
MR. LEHRER: New question, Mr. President. Two minutes. You have said
there was a, quote, "miscalculation" of what the conditions
would be in post-war Iraq. What was the miscalculation? And how did
PRESIDENT BUSH: No, what I said was that, because we achieved such a
rapid victory, more of the Saddam loyalists were around. In other words,
we thought we'd whip more of them going in. But because Tommy Franks
did such a great job in planning the operations, we moved rapidly. And
a lot of the Ba'athists and Saddam loyalists laid down their arms and
I thought we would -- they would stay and fight. But they didn't. And
now we're fighting them now.
a -- and it's hard work. I understand how hard it is. I get the casualty
reports every day. I see on the TV screens how hard it is. But it's
necessary work. And I'm optimistic. See, I think you can be realistic
and optimistic at the same time. I'm optimistic we'll achieve. I know
we won't achieve if we send mixed signals. I know we're not going to
achieve our objective if we send mixed signals to our troops, our friends,
the Iraqi citizens.
We've got a plan in place. The plan says there will be elections in
January, and there will be. The plan says we'll train Iraqi soldiers
so they can do the hard work, and we are. And it's not only just America,
but NATO is now helping. Jordan's helping train police. UAE is helping
train police. We've allocated $7 billion over the next months for reconstruction
efforts. And we're making progress there. And our alliance is strong.
Now as I just told you, there's going to be a summit of the Arab nations.
Japan will be hosting a summit. We're making progress. It is hard work.
It is hard work to go from a tyranny to a democracy. It's hard work
to go from a place where people get their hands cut off or executed
to a place where people are free. But it's necessary work, and a free
Iraq is going to make this world a more peaceful place.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety seconds, Senator Kerry.
SEN. KERRY: What I think troubles a lot of people in our country is
that the president has just sort of described one kind of mistake, but
what he has said is that even knowing there were no weapons of mass
destruction, even knowing there was no imminent threat, even knowing
there was no connection of al Qaeda, he would still have done everything
the same way. Those are his words.
Now I would not. So what I'm trying to do is just talk the truth to
the American people and to the world. The truth is what good policy
is based on. It's what leadership is based on.
The president says that I'm denigrating these troops. I -- I have nothing
but respect for the British and for Tony Blair and for what they've
been willing to do. But you can't tell me that when the most troops
any other country has on the ground is Great Britain with 8,300, and
below that the four others are below 4,000, and below that there isn't
anybody out of the hundreds that we have a genuine coalition to get
this job done. You can't tell me that on the day that we went into that
war and it started it was principally the United States of the America
and Great Britain and one or two others. That's it. And today we are
90 percent of the casualties and 90 percent of the costs.
And meanwhile, North Korea has gotten nuclear weapons. Talk about mixed
messages! The president is the one who said we can't allow countries
to get nuclear weapons. They have. I'll change that.
MR. LEHRER: New question. Senator Kerry, two minutes.
You've just -- you have repeatedly accused President Bush -- not here
tonight, but elsewhere before -- of not telling the truth about Iraq,
essentially of lying to the American people about Iraq. Give us some
examples of what you consider to be his not telling the truth.
SEN. KERRY: Well, I've never, ever used the harshest word, as you did
just then, and I try not to. I've been -- but I'll nevertheless tell
you that I think he has not been candid with the American people, and
I'll tell you exactly how.
of all, we all know that in his State of the Union message he told Congress
about nuclear materials that didn't exist. We know that he promised
America that he was going to build this coalition. I just described
the coalition. It is not the kind of coalition we were described when
we were talking about voting for this. The president said he would exhaust
the remedies of the United Nation(s) and go through that full process.
He didn't. He cut it off sort of arbitrarily. And we know that there
were further diplomatics under -- efforts under way. They just decided
the time for diplomacy is over, and rushed to war without planning for
what happens afterwards.
Now, he misled the American people in his speech when he said we will
plan carefully. They obviously didn't. He misled the American people
when he said we'd go to war as a last resort. We did not go as a last
resort. And most Americans know the difference. Now, this has cost us
deeply in the world.
I believe that it is important to tell the truth to the American people.
I've worked with those leaders the president talks about. I've worked
with them for 20 years, for longer than this president. And I know what
many of them say today and I know how to bring them back to the table.
And I believe that a fresh start, new credibility, a president who can
understand what we have to do to reach out to the Muslim world to make
it clear that this is not -- you know, Osama bin Laden uses the invasion
of Iraq in order to go out to people and say the -- American has declared
war on Islam. We need to be smarter about how we wage a war on terror.
We need to deny them the recruits. We need to deny them the safe havens.
We need to rebuild our alliances. I believe that Ronald Reagan, John
Kennedy and others did that more effectively, and I'm going to try to
follow in their footsteps.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety seconds, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: My opponent just said something amazing. He said Osama
bin Laden uses the invasion of Iraq as an excuse to spread hatred for
America. Osama bin Laden isn't going to determine how we defend ourselves.
Osama bin Laden doesn't get to decide.
The American people decide. I decided. The right action was in Iraq.
My opponent calls it a mistake. It wasn't a mistake. He said I misled
on Iraq. I don't think he was misleading when he called Iraq a great
threat in the fall of 2002. I don't think he was misleading when he
said that it was right to disarm Iraq in the spring of 2003. I don't
think he misled you when he said that, you know, if you -- anyone who
doubted whether the world was better off without Saddam Hussein in power
didn't have the judgement to be president. I don't think he was misleading.
I think what is misleading is to say you can lead and succeed in Iraq
if you keep changing your positions on this war. And he has. As the
politics change, his positions change. And that's not how a commander-in-chief
-- let me finish. The intelligence I looked at was the same intelligence
my opponent looked at. It's the very same intelligence. And when I stood
up there and spoke to the Congress, I was speaking off the same intelligence
he looked at to make his decision to support he authorization of force.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety -- 30 seconds. We'll do a 30-second here.
SEN. KERRY: I wasn't misleading when I said he was a threat. Nor was
I misleading on the day that the president decided to go to war when
I said that he had made a mistake in not building strong alliances,
and that I would have preferred that he did more diplomacy.
I've had one position, one consistent position: that Saddam Hussein
was a threat; there was a right way to disarm him, and a wrong way.
And the president chose the wrong way.
MR. LEHRER: Thirty seconds, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: The only thing consistent about my opponent's position
is that he's been inconsistent. He changes positions. And you cannot
change positions in this war on terror if you expect to win. And I expect
to win. It's necessary we win. We're being challenged like never before,
and we have a duty to our country and to future generations of America
to achieve a free Iraq, a free Afghanistan, and to rid the world of
weapons of mass destruction.
JIM LEHRER: New question. Mr. President, two minutes. Has the war in
Iraq been worth the cost in American lives, 10,052 -- I mean, 1,052
as of today?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Now every life's precious. Every life matters. You know,
my hardest -- the hardest part of the job is to know that I committed
the troops in harm's way and then do the best I can to provide comfort
for the loved ones who lost a son or a daughter or a husband and wife.
And you know, I think about -- Missy Johnson's a fantastic young lady
I met in Charlotte, North Carolina, she and her son, Bryan. They came
to see me. Her husband, P.J., got killed. He'd been in Afghanistan,
went to Iraq. You know, it's hard work to try to love her as best as
I can, knowing full well that the decision I made caused her -- her
loved one to be in harm's way.
told her after we prayed and teared up and laughed some that I thought
her husband's sacrifice was noble and worthy because I understand the
stakes of this war on terror. I understand that we must find al Qaeda
wherever they hide; we must deal with threats before they fully materialize,
and Saddam Hussein was a threat; and that we must spread liberty because,
in the long run, the way to defeat hatred and tyranny and oppression
is to spread freedom.
Missy understood that. That's what she told me her husband
So you say, was it worth it? This wasn't -- it's -- it's -- every life
is precious. That's what distinguishes us from the enemy.
Everybody matters. But I think it's worth it, Jim. I think it's worth
it because I think -- I know in the long term a free Iraq, a free Afghanistan
will set such a powerful example in a part of the world that's desperate
for freedom. They will help change the world, that we can look back
and say we did
MR. LEHRER: Senator, 90 seconds.
SEN. KERRY: I understand what the president is talking about because
I know what it means to lose people in combat. And the question, is
it worth the cost, reminds me of my own thinking when I came back from
fighting in that war. And it reminds me that it is vital for us not
to confuse the war, ever, with the warriors. That happened before. And
that's one of the reasons why I believe I can get this job done: because
I am determined for those soldiers and for those families, for those
kids who put their lives on the line. That is noble. That's the most
noble thing that anybody can do. And I want to make sure the outcome
honors that nobility.
Now, we have a choice here. I've laid out a plan by which I think we
can be successful in Iraq: with a summit, by doing better training,
faster, by cutting -- by doing what we need to do with respect to the
U.N. and the elections. There's only 25 percent of the people in there;
they can't have an election right now. The president's not getting the
So the choice for America is, you can have a plan that I've laid out
in four points, each of which I can tell you more about, or you can
go to JohnKerry.com and see more of it, or you have the president's
plan, which is four words: more of the same. I think my plan is better.
And my plan has a better chance of standing up and fighting for those
troops. I will never let those troops down, and will hunt and kill the
terrorists wherever they are.
MR. LEHRER: New question -- all right, sir, go ahead. Thirty seconds.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah. I -- I -- I -- (laughs). I understand what it
means to be the commander in chief. And if I were to ever say this is
the wrong war at the wrong time at the right -- wrong place, the troops
would wonder, "How can I follow this guy?"
You cannot lead the war on terror if you keep changing positions on
the war on terror, and say things like, well, this is just a grand diversion.
It's not a grand diversion, this is an essential that we get it right.
And so I -- the plan he talks about simply won't work.
MR. LEHRER: Senator Kerry, new -- you have 30 seconds -- you have 30
seconds, right, then a new question.
SEN. KERRY: Secretary of State Colin Powell told this president the
Pottery Barn rule: if you break it, you fix it. Now, if you break it,
you made a mistake, it's the wrong thing to do, but you own it and then
you got to fix it and do something with it. Now that's what we have
to do. There's no inconsistency. Soldiers know over there that this
isn't being done right yet. I'm going to get it right for those soldiers
because it's important to Israel, it's important to America, it's important
to the world, it's important to the fight on terror. But I have a plan
to do it, he doesn't.
MR. LEHRER: Speaking of your plan, new question, Senator Kerry. Two
Can you give us specifics in terms of a scenario, a timeline, et cetera,
for ending U.S. -- major U.S. military involvement in Iraq?
SEN. KERRY: The timeline that I've set out -- and again, I want to correct
the president because he's misled again this evening on what I've said.
didn't say I would bring troops out in six months, I said if we do the
things that I've set out and we are successful, we could begin to draw
the troops down in six months. And I think a critical component of success
in Iraq is being able to convince the Iraqis and the Arab world that
the United States doesn't have long-term designs on it. As I understand
it, we're building some 14 military bases there now, and some people
say they've got a rather permanent concept to them. When you guard the
Oil Ministry but you don't guard the nuclear facilities, the message
to a lot of people is maybe -- well, maybe they're interested in our
Now, the problem is that they didn't think these things through properly,
and these are the things you have to think through.
What I want to do is change the dynamics on the ground. And you have
to do that by beginning to not back off of Fallujahs and other places
and send the wrong message to the terrorists. You have to close the
borders. You've got to show you're serious in that regard. But you've
also got to show that you're prepared to bring the rest of the world
in and share the stakes.
I will make a flat statement. The United States of America has no long-term
designs on staying in Iraq. And our goal, in my administration, would
be to get all of the troops out of there with the minimal amount you
need for training and logistics, as we do in some other countries in
the world after a war, to be able to sustain the peace.
But that's how we're going to win the peace, by rapidly training the
Iraqis themselves. Even the administration has admitted they haven't
done the training, because they came back to Congress a few weeks ago
and asked for a complete reprogramming of the money. Now what greater
admission is there, 16 months afterward -- "Oops, we haven't done
the job. We got to start to spend the money now. Will you guys give
us permission to shift it over into training?"
MR. LEHRER: Ninety second.
PRESIDENT BUSH: There's a hundred thousand troops trained, police, guard,
special units, border patrol. There's going to be 125,000 trained by
the end of this year. Yeah, we're getting the job done. It's hard work.
Everybody knows it's hard work, because there's a determined enemy that's
trying to defeat us.
Now, my opponent says he's going to try to change the dynamics on the
ground. Well, Prime Minister Allawi was here. He is the leader of that
country. He's a brave, brave man. And when he came, after giving a speech
to the Congress, my opponent questioned his credibility. You can't change
the dynamics on the ground if you've criticized the brave leader of
One of his campaign people alleged that Prime Minister Allawi was like
a puppet. That's no way to treat somebody who's courageous and brave
that is trying to lead his country forward.
The way to make sure that we succeed is to send consistent, sound messages
to the Iraqi people that when we give our word, we will keep our word,
that we stand with you, that we believe you want to be free.
And I do. I believe that -- ah -- that 25 million people, the vast majority,
long to -- long to have elections. I reject this notion -- and I'm not
suggesting that my opponent says this, but I reject the notion that
some say that if you're Muslim, you can't be free, you don't desire
freedom. I disagree. Strongly disagree with that.
MR. LEHRER: Thirty seconds.
SEN. KERRY: I couldn't agree more that the Iraqis want to be free and
that they could be free. But I think the president again still hasn't
shown how he's going to go about it the right way. He has more of the
Now, Prime Minister Allawi came here, and HE said the terrorists are
pouring over the border. That's Allawi's assessment. The National Intelligence
Assessment that was given to the president in July said, "Best
case scenario: more of the same of what we see today; worst case scenario:
civil war." I can do better.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah, let me --
MR. LEHRER: Yes. Thirty seconds.
BUSH: The reason why Prime Minister Allawi said they're coming across
the border is (be)cause he recognizes that this is a central part of
the war on terror. They're fighting us because they're fighting freedom.
They understand that a free Afghanistan or a free Iraq will be a major
defeat for them. And those are the stakes. And that's why it is essential
we not leave, that's why it's essential we hold the line, that's why
it's essential we win. And we will. Under my leadership we're going
to win this war in Iraq.