Online NewsHour Special Reports:
2000: Speeches and Debates
Oct. 8, 2004:
Labor Department reports lower-than-expected number of jobs were
added to payrolls in September.
Oct. 6, 2004:
Iraq report shows Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction.
Oct. 5, 2004:
Political analysts offer instant
assessment of night's clash
Oct. 5, 2004:
Political operatives discuss what
Vice President Cheney and Senator Edwards each did to boost their
parties run for the White House.
Oct. 5, 2000:
Cheney delivers strong
performance in 2000
Oct. 4, 2000:
Lee Hochberg talks
with military families speaking out for and against the Iraq War
Sept. 30, 2004:
Shields and Brooks preview the
first presidential debate between President Bush and Senator Kerry.
Sept. 29, 2004:
An analysis of President
Bush's and Senator Kerry’s previous debating records.
Sept. 28, 2004:
the impact of debates on presidential campaigns from a historical
Sept. 27, 2004:
Adam Nagourney of the New York Times discusses
the importance of the debates.
Sept. 17, 2004:
Susan Dentzer discusses Medicare
as a presidential campaign issue.
Oct. 20, 2000:
Shields and Gigot assess
how the debates affected the campaign.
Oct. 9, 1996:
Kohut considers historical
impact of the Vice Presidential debates.
Oct. 4, 1996:
The NewsHour's historians weigh the
role debates have played in decades past.
More NewsHour coverage of the White
House, and politics
MR. GIBSON: Mr. President, we're going to turn to questions now on
domestic policy, and we're going to start with health issues.
And the first question is for President Bush, and it's from John Horsman
drugs from Canada
Question: Mr. President, why did you block the reimportation of safer
and inexpensive drugs from Canada, which would have cut 40 to 60 percent
off of the cost?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah, I haven't yet. I just want to make sure they're
safe. When a drug comes in from Canada, I want to make sure it cures
you and doesn't kill you. And that's why the FDA and that's why the
surgeon general are looking very carefully to make sure it can be done
in a safe way. I've got an obligation to make sure our government does
everything we can to protect you. And my worry is is that, you know,
it looks like it's from Canada; it might be from a Third World. We've
just got to make sure before somebody thinks they're buying a product
that it works. And that's why we're doing what we're doing. Now, it
may very well be here in December you hear me say I think there's a
safe way to do it.
Other ways to make sure drugs are cheaper. One is to speed up generic
drugs to the marketplace quicker. Pharmaceuticals were using loopholes
to keep brand drugs in place, and generics are much less expensive than
brand drugs. And we're doing just that. Another is to get our seniors
to sign up to these drug discount cards. And they're working.
Wanda Blackmoore (SP), I met here from Missouri. The first time she
bought drugs with her drug discount card, she paid $1.14, I think it
was, for about $10 worth of drugs. These cards make sense.
you know, in 2006, seniors are going to get prescription drug coverage
for the first time in Medicare, because I went to Washington to fix
problems. Medicare -- the issue of Medicare used to be called "Medi-scare";
people didn't want to touch it for fear of getting hurt politically.
I wanted to get something done. I think our seniors deserve a modern
medical system. And in 2006, our seniors will get prescription drug
Thank you for asking.
MR. GIBSON: Senator, a minute-and-a-half.
SEN. KERRY: John, you heard the president just say that he thought he
might try to be for it. Four years ago, right here in this forum, he
was asked the same question: Can't people be able to import drugs from
Canada? Do you know what he said? I think that makes sense; I think
that's a good idea. Four years ago.
Now, the president said I'm not blocking that. Ladies and gentlemen,
the president just didn't level with you right now again. He did block
it because we passed it in the United States Senate, we sent it over
to the House, that you could import drugs. We took care of the safety
issues. We're not talking about third-world drugs, we're talking about
drugs made right here in the United States of America that have American
brand names on them in American bottles, and we're asking that he be
able to allow you to get them. The president blocked it.
The president also took Medicare, which belongs to you, and he could
have lowered the cost of Medicare and lowered your taxes and lowered
the cost to seniors. You know what he did? He made it illegal, illegal
for Medicare to do what the VA does, which is bulk purchase drugs so
that you can lower the price and get them out to you lower.
He put $139 billion of windfall profit into the pockets of the drug
companies right out of your pockets. That's the difference between us.
The president sides with the power companies, the oil companies, the
drug companies; and I'm fighting to let you get those drugs from Canada
and I'm fighting to let Medicare survive. I'm fighting for the middle
class. That is the difference.
PRESIDENT BUSH: If --
MR. GIBSON: Mr. President?
PRESIDENT BUSH: If they're safe, they're coming. I want to remind you
that it wasn't just my administration that made the decision on safety.
President Clinton did the same thing because we have an obligation to
Now, he talks about Medicare. He's been in the United States Senate
20 years. Show me one accomplishment toward Medicare that he accomplished.
I've been in Washington, D.C., 3-1/2 years and led the Congress to reform
Medicare so our seniors have got a modern health care system. That's
what leadership is all about.
KERRY: Actually, Mr. President, in 1997 we fixed Medicare, and I was
one of the people involved in it. We not only fixed Medicare and took
it way out into the future; we did something that you don't know how
to do, we balanced the budget. And we paid down the debt of our nation
for two years in a row and we created 23 million new jobs at the same
And it's the president's fiscal policies that have driven up the biggest
deficits in American history. He's added more debt to the debt of the
United States in four years than all the way from George Washington
to Ronald Reagan put together. Go figure.
costs of health care
MR. GIBSON: Next question is for Senator Kerry, and this comes from
Norma Jean Laurent (SP).
Question: Senator Kerry, you've stated your concern for the rising cost
of health care, yet you chose a vice presidential candidate who has
made millions of dollars successfully suing medical professionals. How
do you reconcile this with the voters?
SEN. KERRY: Very easily. John Edwards is the author of the Patients'
Bill of Rights. He wanted to give people rights. John Edwards and I
support tort reform. We both believe that as lawyers -- I'm a lawyer
too -- and I believe that we will be able to get a fix that has eluded
everybody else because we know how to do it. It's in my health care
proposals. Go to johnkerry.com -- you can pull it off of the Internet
-- and you'll find a tort reform plan.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, important to understand. The president and
his friends try to make a big deal out of it. Is it a problem? Yes,
it's a problem. Do we need to fix it, particularly for OG-BYNs (sic)
and for brain surgeons and others? Yes. But it's less than 1 percent
of the total cost of health care.
Your premiums are going up. You've gone up in Missouri about $3,500.
You've gone up 64 percent. You've seen copays go up, deductibles go
up. Everything's gone up. Five-million people have lost their health
insurance under this president, and he's done nothing about it.
I have a plan. I have a plan to lower the cost of health care for you.
I have a plan to cover all children. I have a plan to let you buy-in
to the same health care senators and congressmen give themselves. I
have a plan that's going to allow people 55 to 64 to buy-in to Medicare
early. And I have a plan that will take the catastrophic cases out of
the system, off your backs, pay for it out of a federal fund, which
lowers the premiums for everybody in America, makes American business
more competitive, and makes health care more affordable.
Now, all of that can happen, but I have to ask you to do one thing --
join me in rolling back the president's unaffordable tax cut for people
earning more than $200,000 a year. That's all. Ninety-eight percent
of America, I'm giving you a tax cut and I'm giving you health care.
MR. GIBSON: Mr. President, a minute-and-a-half.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me see where to start here. First, the National
Journal named Senator Kennedy (sic) the most liberal senator of all,
and that's saying something in that bunch. You might say that took a
lot of hard work.
The reason I bring that up is because he's proposed $2.2 trillion in
new spending and he says he's going to tax the rich to close the tax
gap. He can't. He's going to tax everybody here to fund his programs.
That's just reality.
what are his health programs? First he says he's for medical
liability reform, particularly for OB-GYNs. There was a bill on the
floor of the United States Senate that he could have showed up and
voted for, if he's so much for it.
Secondly, he says that medical liability costs only cost 1 percent increase.
That shows a lack of understanding. Doctors practice defensive medicine
because of all the frivolous lawsuits that cost our government $28 billion
And finally, he says he's going to have a novel health care plan. You
know what it is? The federal government's going to run it. It is the
largest increase in federal government health care ever. And it fits
with his philosophy.
That's why I told you about the award he won from the National Journal.
That's what liberals do. They create government-sponsored health care.
Maybe you think that makes sense. I don't. Government sponsored health
care would lead to rationing. It would ruin the quality of health care
for tort reform
MR. GIBSON: Senator Kerry, we've got several questions along this line.
And I'm just curious if you'd go further on what you talked about with
tort reform. Would you be favoring capping awards on pain and suffering?
Would you limit attorney's fees?
SEN. KERRY: (Off mike.)
MR. GIBSON: Yes, to follow up on this for a minute. Thirty seconds.
SEN. KERRY: Yeah, I think we should look at the punitive and we should
have some limitations.
look, what's really important, Charlie, is the president is
just trying to scare everybody here with throwing labels around. I
mean, compassionate conservative. What does that mean? Cutting
500,000 kids from After School programs? Cutting 365,000 kids from health
care? Running up the biggest deficits in American history? Mr. President,
you're batting 0 for 2. I mean, seriously, labels don't mean anything.
What means something is do you have a plan? And I want to talk about
my plan some more. I hope we can.
MR. GIBSON: We'll get that in just a minute. Thirty seconds, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: You're right. What does matter is the plan. He said
he is for -- you're now for capping punitive damages? That's odd. You
should have shown up on the floor of the Senate and voted for it then.
Medical liability issues are a problem, a significant problem. He's
been in the United States Senate for 20 years and he hasn't addressed
it. We passed it out of the House of Representatives. Guess where it's
stuck? It's stuck in the Senate because the trial lawyers won't act
on it. And he put a trial lawyer on the ticket.