|PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE: PART V|
October 13, 2004
|President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry traded barbs over Supreme Court nominations, the troop strength of the U.S. military and the expired federal assault weapons ban during the third and last 2004 presidential debate held at Arizona State University Wednesday night.|
SCHIEFFER: Mr. President, I want to go back to something Senator Kerry
said earlier tonight and ask a follow-up of my own. He said -- and this
will be a new question to you -- he said that you had never said whether
you would like to overturn Roe v. Wade. So I'd ask you directly. Would
you like to?
PRESIDENT BUSH: What he's asking me is, will I have a litmus test for my judges? And the answer is no, I will not have a litmus test. I will pick judges who will interpret the Constitution, but I'll have no litmus test.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Senator Kerry, you'd like to respond?
SEN. KERRY: Is that a new question or a 30-second question?
MR. SCHIEFFER: That's a new question for Senator -- for
SEN. KERRY: Which time limit are we --
MR. SCHIEFFER: You have 90 seconds.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much. Well, again, the president didn't answer the question. I'll answer it straight to America. I'm not going to appoint a judge to the court who's going to undo a constitutional right, whether it's the First Amendment or the Fifth Amendment or some other right that's given under our courts today, or under the Constitution. And I believe that the right of choice is a constitutional right. So I don't intend to see it undone. Clearly, the president wants to leave an ambivalence or intends to undo it.
Let me go a step further. We have a long distance yet to travel in terms of fairness in America. I don't know how you can govern in this country when you look at New York City and you see that 50 percent of the black males there are unemployed, when you see 40 percent of Hispanic children or black children in some cities dropping out of high school. And yet the president, who talks about No Child Left Behind, refused to fully fund the -- by $28 billion that particular program so you can make a difference in the lives of those young people.
Now right here in Arizona, that difference would have been $131 million to the state of Arizona to help its kids be able to have better education and to lift the property tax burden from its citizens. The president reneged on his promise to fund No Child Left Behind. He'll tell you he's raised the money, and he has; but he didn't put in what he promised, and that makes a difference in the lives of our children.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Yes, sir.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Two things.
One, he clearly has a litmus test for his judges, which I disagree with.
And secondly, only a liberal senator from Massachusetts would say that a 49 percent increase in funding for education was not enough. We've increased funds, but more importantly we've reformed the system to make sure that we solve problems early, before they're too late. He talked about the unemployed. Absolutely we've got to make sure they get educated. He talked about children whose parents don't speak English as a first language. Absolutely we got to make sure they get educated. And that's what the No Child Left Behind Act does.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Senator.
SEN. KERRY: You don't measure it by a percentage increase. Mr. President, you measure it by whether you're getting the job done. Five hundred thousand kids lost after school programs because of your budget.
Now, that's not in my gut. That's not my value system. And certainly not so that the wealthiest people in America can walk away with another tax cut. Eighty-nine billion dollars last year to the top 1 percent of Americans, but kids lost their after school programs. You be the judge.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Let's go to another question, and it is to Senator Kerry. You have two minutes, sir.
Senator, in the last debate President Bush said he did not favor a draft. You agreed with him. But our National Guard and Reserve forces are being severely strained because many of them are being held beyond their enlistments. Some of them say that it's a backdoor draft.
Is there any relief that could be offered to these brave Americans and their families? If you became president, Senator Kerry, what would you do about this situation holding National Guard and Reservists for these extended periods of time and these repeated call-ups that they're now facing?
SEN. KERRY: Well, I think the fact that they're facing these repeated call-ups, some of them two and three deployments, and there's a stop-loss policy that prevents people from being able to get out when their time was up, is a reflection of the bad judgment this president exercised in how he has engaged in the world and deployed our forces. Our military is over-extended. Nine out of 10 active duty Army divisions are either in Iraq, going to Iraq, or have come back from Iraq. One way or the other, they're wrapped up in it.
Now, I've proposed adding two active duty divisions to the armed forces of the United States -- one combat, one support. In addition, I'm going to double the number of Special Forces so that we can fight a more effective war on terror with less pressure on the National Guard and Reserve.
And what I would like to do is see the National Guard and Reserve be deployed differently here in our country. There's much we can do with them with respect to homeland security; we ought to be doing that. And that would relieve an enormous amount of pressure.
But the most important thing to relieve the pressure on all of our armed forces is, frankly, to run a foreign policy that recognizes that America is strongest when we are working with real alliances, when we are sharing the burdens of the world by working through our statesmanship at the highest levels and our diplomacy to bring other nations to our side.
I've said it before, I say it again: I believe the president broke faith with the American people in the way that he took this nation to war. He said he would work through the -- a real alliance. He said in Cincinnati we would plan carefully, we would take every precaution. Well, we didn't. And the result is our forces today are overextended. The fact is that he did not choose to go to war as a last resort, and America now is paying already $120 billion, up to $200 billion before we're finished, and much more probably, and that is the result of this president taking his eye off of Osama bin Laden.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: The best way to take the pressure off our troops is to succeed in Iraq; is to train Iraqis so they can do the hard work of democracy; is to give them a chance to defend their country, which is precisely what we're doing. We'll have 125,000 troops trained by the end of this year.
I remember going on an airplane in Bangor, Maine, to say thanks to the reservists and guard that were headed overseas from Tennessee and North Carolina, Georgia. Some of them had been there before. The people I talked to, their spirits were high. They didn't view their service as a back-door draft, they viewed their service as an opportunity to serve their country.
My opponent, the senator, talks about foreign policy. In our first debate, he proposed America pass a global test; in order to defend ourselves, we have to get international approval. That's one of the major differences we have about defending our country. I work with allies. I work with friends. We'll continue to build strong coalitions. But I will never turn over our national security decisions to leaders of other countries. We'll be resolute, we'll be strong, and we'll wage a comprehensive war against the terrorists.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Senator?
SEN. KERRY: I have never suggested a test where we turn over our security to any nation. In fact, I've said the opposite. I will never turn the security of the United States over to any nation. No nation will ever have a veto over us. But I think it makes sense, I think most Americans in their guts know, that we ought to pass a sort of truth standard. That's how you gain legitimacy with your own country people and that's how you gain legitimacy in the world. But I'll never fail to protect the United States of America.
PRESIDENT BUSH: In 1990 there was a vast coalition put together to run Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. The international community, the international world said this is the right thing to do. But when it came time to authorize the use of force on the Senate floor, my opponent voted against the use of force. Apparently you can't pass any test under his vision of the world.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. President, new question. Two minutes.
You said that if Congress would vote to extend the ban on assault weapons, that you'd sign the legislation, but you did nothing to encourage the Congress to extend it. Why not?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Actually, I made my intentions -- made my views clear. I did think we ought to extend the assault-weapons ban, and was told the fact that the bill wasn't ever going to move because Republicans and Democrats were against the assault-weapon ban, people of both parties.
Now I believe law-abiding citizens ought to be able to own a gun. I believe in background checks at gun shows or anywhere to make sure that guns don't get in the hands of people that shouldn't have them. But the best way to protect our citizens from guns is to prosecute those who commit crimes with guns. And that's why, early in my administration, I called the attorney general and the U.S. attorneys and said put together a task force all around the country to prosecute those who commit crimes with guns, and the prosecutions are up by about 68 percent I believe is the number. Neighborhoods are safer when we crack down on people who commit crimes with guns. To me, that's the best way to secure America.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Senator.
SEN. KERRY: I believe it was a failure of presidential leadership not to reauthorize the assault-weapons ban. I am a hunter. I'm a gun owner. I've been a hunter since I was a kid, 12, 13 years old, and I respect the Second Amendment and I will not tamper with the Second Amendment. But I'll tell you this: I'm also a former law enforcement officer. I ran one of the largest district attorney's offices in America, one of the 10 largest. I've put people behind bars for the rest of their life. I've broken up organized crime. I know something about prosecuting, and most of the law enforcement agencies in America wanted that assault-weapons ban. They don't want to go into a drug bust and be facing an AK-47.
I was hunting in Iowa last year with a sheriff in one of the counties there. And he pointed to a house in back of us and said, "See that house over there? We just did a drug bust a week earlier, and the guy we arrested had an AK-47 lying on the bed right beside him."
Because of the president's decision today, law enforcement officers will walk into a place that will be more dangerous. Terrorists can now come into America and go to a gun show, and without even a background check, buy an assault weapon today. And that's what Osama bin Laden's handbook said, because we captured it in Afghanistan; it encouraged them to do it.
So I believe America is less safe. If Tom DeLay or someone in the House said to me, sorry, we don't have the votes, I would have said then we're going to have a fight. And I would have taken it out to the country, and I would have had every law enforcement officer in the country visit those congressmen. We would have won what Bill Clinton won.