SCHIEFFER: Good evening from Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.
I'm Bob Schieffer of CBS News. I want to welcome you to the third and
last of the 2004 debates between President George Bush and Senator John
As Jim Lehrer told you before the first one, these debates are sponsored
by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Tonight the topic will be
domestic affairs, but the format will be the same as that first debate.
I'll moderate our discussion on detailed rules agreed to by the candidates,
but the questions and the areas to be covered were chosen by me. I have
not told the candidates or anyone else what they are.
To refresh your memory on the rules, I will ask a question. The candidate
is allowed two minutes to answer. His opponent then has a minute-and-a-half
to offer a rebuttal. At my discretion, I can extend the discussion by
offering each candidate an additional 30 seconds. A green light will
come on to signal the candidate has 30 seconds left; a yellow light
signals 15 seconds left; a red light means five seconds left. There
is also a buzzer, if it is needed.
The candidates may not question each other directly. There are no opening
statements, but there will be two-minute closing statements. There is
an audience here tonight, but they have agreed to remain silent, except
for right now when they join me in welcoming President George Bush and
Senator John Kerry.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Gentlemen, welcome to you both. By coin toss, the first
question goes to Senator Kerry.
Senator, I want to set the stage for this discussion by asking the question
that I think hangs over all of our politics today and is probably on
the minds of many people watching this debate tonight. And that is,
will our children and grandchildren ever live in a world as safe and
secure as the world in which we grew up?
KERRY: Well, first of all, Bob, thank you for moderating tonight. Thank
you, Arizona State, for welcoming us. And thank you to the presidential
commission for undertaking this enormous task. We're proud to be here.
Mr. President, I'm glad to be here with you again to share similarities
and differences with the American people.
Will we ever be safe and secure again? Yes. We absolutely must be. That's
the goal. Now, how do we achieve it is the most critical component of
it. I believe that this president, regrettably, rushed us into a war,
made decisions about foreign policy, pushed alliances away, and as a
result, America is now bearing this extraordinary burden where we are
not as safe as we ought to be.
The measurement is not are we safer; the measurement is are we as
safe as we ought to be. And there are a host of options that this president
had available to him, like making sure that at all our ports in America
containers are inspected. Only 95 percent of them -- 95 percent come
in today uninspected. That's not good enough. People who fly on airplanes
today, the cargo hold is not x-rayed, but the baggage is. That's not
good enough. Firehouses don't have enough firefighters in them. Police
officers are being cut from the streets of America because the president
decided to cut the COPS program. So we can do a better job of homeland
I can do a better job of waging a smarter, more effective war on terror,
and guarantee that we go after the terrorists. I will hunt them down
and we'll kill them, we'll capture them, we'll do what's ever necessary
to be safe. But I pledge this to you, America: I will do it in the way
that Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan and John Kennedy and others
did, where we build the strongest alliances, where the world joins together,
where we have the best intelligence, and where we are able, ultimately,
to be more safe and secure.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. President, you have 90 seconds.
BUSH: Bob, thank you very much. I want to thank Arizona State as well.
Yes, we can be safe and secure if we stay on the offense against the
terrorists and if we spread freedom and liberty around the world. I
have got a comprehensive strategy to not only chase down al Qaeda wherever
it exists -- and we're making progress; they're -- three-quarters of
al Qaeda leaders have been brought to justice -- but to make sure that
countries who harbor terrorists are held to account.
As a result of securing ourselves and ridding the Taliban out of Afghanistan,
the Afghan people had elections this weekend. And the first voter was
a 19-year-old woman. Thank about that. Freedom is on the march.
We held to account a terrorist regime in Saddam Hussein. In other words,
in order to make sure we're secure, there must be a comprehensive plan.
My opponent just this weekend talked about how terrorism could be reduced
to a nuisance, comparing it to prostitution, illegal gambling. I think
that attitude and that point of view is dangerous. I don't think you
can secure America for the long run if you don't have a comprehensive
view as to how to defeat these people.
At home, we'll do everything we can to protect the homeland. I signed
the homeland security bill, to better align our assets and resources.
My opponent voted against it. We're doing everything we can to protect
our borders and ports.
But absolutely we can be secure in the long run. It just takes good,
MR. SCHIEFFER: Anything to add, Senator Kerry?
KERRY: Yes. When the president had an opportunity to capture or kill
Osama bin Laden, he took his focus off of him, outsourced the job to
Afghan warlords, and Osama bin Laden escaped.
Six months after he said Osama bin Laden must be caught dead or alive,
this president was asked, "Where's Osama bin Laden?" He said,
"I don't know. I don't really think about him very much. I'm not
We need a president who stays deadly focused on the real war on terror.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. President?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Gosh, I'd -- I don't think I ever said I'm not worried
about Osama bin Laden. That's kind of one of those exaggerations. Of
course we're worried about Osama bin Laden. We're on hunt after Osama
bin Laden. We're using every asset at our disposal to get Osama bin
My opponent said this war is a matter of intelligence and -- and law
enforcement. No, this is a -- war is a matter of using every asset our
-- at our disposal to keep the American people protected.
MR. SCHIEFFER: New question, Mr. President, to you. We're talking
about protecting ourselves from the unexpected, but the flu season is
suddenly upon us. Flu kills thousands of people every year. Suddenly
we find ourselves with a severe shortage of flu vaccine. How did that
BUSH: Bob, we relied upon a company out of England to provide about
half of the flu vaccines for the United States citizen, and it turned
out that the vaccine they were producing was contaminated. And so we
took the right action and didn't allow contaminated medicine into our
country. We're working with Canada to hopefully -- that they'll produce
a -- help us realize the vaccine necessary to make sure our citizens
have got flu vaccinations during this upcoming season.
My call to our fellow Americans is if you're healthy, if you're younger,
don't get a flu shot this year. Help us prioritize those who need to
get the flu shot -- the elderly and the young. The CDC, responsible
for health in the United States, is setting those priorities and is
allocating the flu vaccine accordingly. I haven't gotten a flu shot,
and I don't intend to, because I want to make sure that those who are
most vulnerable get treated.
We have a problem with litigation in the United States of America. Vaccine
manufacturers are worried about getting sued, and so therefore, they
have backed off from providing this kind of vaccine. One of the reasons
I'm such a strong believer in legal reform is so that people aren't
afraid of producing a product that is necessary for the health of our
citizens, and then end up getting sued in a court of law.
But the best thing we can do now, Bob, given the circumstances with
the company in England is, for those of us who are younger and healthy,
don't get a flu shot.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Senator Kerry?
KERRY: This really underscores the problem with the American health
care system. It's not working for the American family, and it's gotten
worse under President Bush over the course of the last years. Five million
Americans have lost their health insurance in this country. You've got
about a million right here in Arizona, just shy, 950,000, who have no
health insurance at all. Eighty-two thousand Arizonians lost their health
insurance under President Bush's watch; 223,000 kids in Arizona have
no health insurance at all. All across our country. Go to Ohio, 1.4
million Ohioans have no health insurance; 114,000 of them lost it under
President Bush. Wisconsin -- 82,000 Wisconsinites lost it under President
This president has turned his back on the wellness of America. And there
is no system. In fact, it's starting to fall apart not because of lawsuits,
though they are a problem, and John Edwards and I are committed to fixing
them, but because of the larger issue that we don't cover Americans.
Children across our country don't have health care. We're the richest
country on the face of the planet, the only industrialized nation in
the world not to do it. I have a plan to cover all Americans. We're
going to make it affordable and accessible. We're going to let everybody
buy into the same health care plan senators and congressmen give themselves.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. President, would you like to add something?
BUSH: I would. Thank you.
I want to remind people listening tonight that a plan is not a litany
of complaints, and a plan is not to lay out programs that you can't
pay for. He just said he wants everybody to be able to buy into the
same plan that senators and congressmen get. That costs the government
$7,700 per family. If every family in America signed up, like the senator
suggested, it would cost us $5 trillion over 10 years. It's an empty
promise. It's called bait and switch.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Time's up.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you.
SEN. KERRY: Actually, it's not an empty promise. It's really interesting,
because the president used that very plan as a reason for seniors to
accept his prescription drug plan. He said if it's good enough for the
congressmen and senators to have choice, seniors ought to have choice.
What we do is we have choice. I choose Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Other
senators, other congressmen choose other programs. But the fact is we're
going to help Americans be able to buy into it. Those that can afford
it are going to buy in themselves. We're not giving this away for nothing.