MS. IFILL: I want to talk to you about health care, Mr. Vice President.
You have two minutes. But in particular I want to talk to you about
AIDS, and not about AIDS in China or Africa, but AIDS right here in
this country, where black women between the ages of 25 and 44 are 13
times more likely to die of the disease than their counterparts. What
should the government's role be in helping to end the growth of this
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, this is a great tragedy, Gwen, when you
think about the enormous cost here in the United
States and around the world of the AIDS epidemic -- pandemic, really.
Millions of lives lost, millions more infected and facing a very
bleak future. In some parts of the world, we've got the entire sort
of productive generation has been eliminated as a result of AIDS. All
that's left are old folks and kids; nobody to do the basic work that
runs an economy.
The president's been deeply concerned about it. He has moved and proposed
and gotten through the Congress authorization for $15 billion to help
in the international effort, to be targeted in those places where we
need to do everything we can through a combination of education as well
as providing the kinds of medicines that'll help people control the
Here in the United States we've made significant progress. I had not
heard those numbers with respect to African-American women. I was not
aware that it was that severe an epidemic there because we have made
progress in terms of the overall rate of AIDS infection, and I think
primarily through a combination of education and public awareness as
well as the development as a result of research of drugs that allow
people to live longer lives even though they are infected. Obviously,
we need to more of that.
MS. IFILL: Senator Edwards, you have 90 seconds.
SENATOR EDWARDS: Yes. Well, first with respect to what's happening in
Africa and Russia and other places around the world, the vice president
spoke about the $15 billion for AIDS. John Kerry and I believe that
needs to be doubled, and I might add on the first year of their commitment,
they came up significantly short of what they had promised. And I --
we probably won't get a chance to talk about Africa. Let me just say
a couple of things. The AIDS epidemic in Africa, which is killing millions
and millions of people, and is frightening thing, not just for the people
of Africa, but it's also for the rest of the world. That, combined with
the genocide that we're now seeing in Sudan, are two huge moral issues
for the United States of America, which John Kerry spoke about eloquently
last Thursday night.
Here at home, we need to do much more, and the vice president spoke
about doing research, making sure we have the drugs available, making
sure that we do everything possible to have prevention.
But it's a bigger question than that.
You know, we have 5 million Americans who have lost their health care
coverage in the last four years. Forty-five million Americans without
health care coverage. We have children who don't have health care coverage.
If -- if kids and adults don't have access to preventative care, if
they're not getting the health care that they need day after day after
day, the possibility of not only developing AIDS and having a problem
-- having a problem, a life-threatening problem, but the problem of
developing other life-threatening diseases, is there every day of their
MS. IFILL: Okay, we'll move on. This goes to you, Senator Edwards, and
you have two minutes. Ten men and women have been nominated by their
party since 1976 to be vice president. Out of those 10, you have the
least governmental experience of any of them. What qualifies you to
be a heartbeat away?
SEN. EDWARDS: The American people want in their president and in their
vice president basically three things. They want to know that their
president and their vice president will keep them safe. They want to
know that they have good judgment. And they want to know that you'll
tell them the truth. John Kerry and I will tell the American people
During the time that I have served in the -- on the Intelligence Committee
in the Senate, traveling to some of the places we've talked about tonight
-- Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle East, Turkey -- meeting with leaders
of NATO, I have a very clear idea of what has to be done to keep this
country safe. The threats we face: terrorism, killing terrorists and
stopping them before they can do damage to us, making sure that we stop
the spread of nuclear weapons. I agree with John Kerry from Thursday
night that the danger of a nuclear weapon getting in the hands of terrorists
is one of the greatest threats that America faces.
But the one thing that we know from this administration is -- and I
-- and I -- first of all, I don't claim to have the long political resume
that Vice President Cheney has. That's just the truth. And the American
people know that and deserve to know it. But what we know from this
administration is that a long resume does not equal good judgment. Here
are the judgments I would make.
My first priority would be to keep this country safe. I would find terrorists
where they are and stop them and kill them before they do harm to us.
We would stop the spread of nuclear weapons. And we would also strengthen
this military, which means providing the equipment and training that
they need. We want to raise the active duty forces by 40,000, double
the Special Forces so we can find terrorists where they are, and provide
the kind of support for families -- health care, housing -- that they
deserve while their loved ones are serving and protecting us.
MS. IFILL: Mr. Vice President, you have 90 seconds.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: You want me to answer a question about his qualifications?
MS. IFILL: That was the question.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: I see. (Laughs.) Well -- I -- I think the important
thing in picking a vice president probably varies from president to
president. Different presidents approach it in different ways. When
George Bush asked me to sign on, it obviously wasn't because he was
worried about carrying Wyoming. We had 70 percent of the vote in Wyoming,
although those three electoral votes turned out to be pretty important
last time around. What he said he wanted me to do was to sign on because
of my experience to be a member of the team, to help him govern. And
that's exactly the way he used me. And I think from the perspective
of the nation, it's worked in our relationship in this administration.
I think it's worked in part because I've made it clear that I don't
have any further political aspirations myself. And I think that's been
an advantage. I think that allows the president to know that my only
agenda is his agenda. I'm not worried about what some precinct committeemen
in Iowa's -- were thinking of me with respect to the next round of caucuses
It's a very significant responsibility when you consider that, at a
moment's notice, you may have to take over as president of the United
States and make all those decisions. It's happened several times in
our history. And I think that probably is the most important consideration
in picking a vice president, somebody who could take over.
MS. IFILL: You have -- you have 30 seconds if you'd like to --
SEN. EDWARDS: Actually, the most important thing I've learned from this
process is what I now know about John Kerry. I knew him before; I know
him better now. The -- the one candidate who's led troops in battle.
He was a prosecutor, putting people behind crime -- behind -- behind
bars to protect neighborhoods from crime. Fought for a hundred thousand
cops on the street. Went with John McCain to Vietnam to find out what
happened to our POWs. And the American people saw for themselves on
Thursday night the strength, resolve and backbone that I myself have
seen in John Kerry. He is ready to be commander in chief.
MS. IFILL: Mr. Vice President, you have 30 seconds as well.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, I clearly believe that George W. Bush would
be a better commander in chief. He's already done it for four years
and he's demonstrated, without question, the conviction, the vision,
the determination to win this war against terror. He understands it's
a global conflict that reaches from the United States all the way around
the globe to Jakarta. And those very special qualities are vital in
a commander in chief, and I think the president has them. And I'm not
at all convinced his opponent does.
MS. IFILL: Mr. Vice President, picking up on that, you both just sang
the praises of your -- the tops of your ticket. Without mentioning them
by name at all, explain to us why you are different from your opponent.
Starting with you, Mr. Vice President.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, I am different from John Edwards.
Well, in some respects, I think probably there are more similarities
than there are differences in our personal story. I don't talk about
myself very much, but I've -- I've heard Senator Edwards, and as I listen
to him I find some similarities. I come from relatively modest circumstances.
My grandfather never even went to high school. I'm the first in my family
to graduate from college. I carried a ticket in the International Brotherhood
of Electrical Workers for six years. I've been laid off, been hospitalized
without health insurance. So have some idea that -- the problems that
people encounter. So I think the personal stories are, in some respects,
With respect to our -- how we've spent our careers, I obviously made
a choice for public service. And I've been at it for a good long time
now, except for those periods when we lost elections. And that goes
with the turf as well, too.
I -- I'm absolutely convinced that the threat we face now, the idea
of the terrorists in the middle of one of our cities with a nuclear
weapon, is very real and that we have to use extraordinary measures
to deal with it.
I feel very strongly that the significance of 9/11 cannot be underestimated.
It forces us to think in new ways about strategy, about national security,
about how we structure our forces and about how we use U.S. military
power. Some people say we should wait until we are attacked before we
use force. I would argue we've already been attacked. We lost more people
on 9/11 than we lost at Pearl Harbor. And I'm a very strong advocate
of a very aggressive policy of going after the terrorists and those
who support terror.
MS. IFILL: Senator Edwards, you have 90 seconds.
SEN. EDWARDS: Mr. Vice President, we were attacked, but we weren't attacked
by Saddam Hussein. And one thing
that John Kerry and I would agree with you about is that it is --
MS. IFILL: You just used John Kerry's name.
SEN. EDWARDS: Oh, I'm sorry. I broke the rule. (Chuckles.)
One thing that we agree about is -- is the need to be offensive in going
after terrorists. The reality is that the best defense is a good offense,
which means leading -- America returning to its proud tradition of the
last 75 years, of once again leading strong coalitions, so we can get
at these terrorist cells where they are before they can do damage to
us and to the American people.
John Kerry made clear on Thursday night that -- I'm sorry. I broke it
-- we made clear -- we made clear on Thursday night that we will do
that, and we will do it aggressively.
But there are things that need to be done to keep this country safe
that have not yet been done. For example, three years after 9/11, we
find out the administration still does not have a unified terrorist
It's amazing. Three years. What are we waiting for? You know, we still
don't have one list that everyone can work off of to see if terrorists
are entering this country. We're screening passengers going onto airplanes,
but we don't screen the cargo. There are so many things that could be
done to keep this country safe. You have to be strong and you have to
be aggressive, but we also have to be smart, and there are things that
have not been done that need to be done to keep the American people
MS. IFILL: Would you like to respond? Thirty seconds?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: No.
MS. IFILL: Okay, we'll move on.
This goes to Senator Edwards. Flip-flopping has become a recurring theme
in this campaign, you may have noticed. Senator Kerry changed his mind
about whether to vote to authorize
the president to go war. President Bush changed his mind about whether
a Homeland Security Department was a good idea or a 9/11 commission
was a good idea. What's wrong with a little flip-flop every now and
SEN. EDWARDS: (Chuckles.) Well, first of all, let me say that John Kerry
has -- I can use his name now?
MS. IFILL: Now you can.
SEN. EDWARDS: (Laughs.) Okay. John Kerry has been, as have I, been completely
consistent about Iraq. We made very clear from the beginning, and not
afterthought, we said it at the time, that we had to confront Saddam
Hussein and that we had to have a coalition and a plan to be successful.
And the vice president didn't say much about it in your earlier question,
but Paul Bremer has now made clear that they didn't have enough troops
and they didn't have a plan. And the American people are seeing the
results of that every single day, in spite of the proud and courageous
service of our men and women in uniform.
Now, flip-flop. Now they should know something about flip-flops. They've
seen a lot of it during their administration. They were first against
the 9/11 commission, then they were for it. They were for a Department
of Homeland Security and -- they were against a Department of Homeland
Security, then they were for it. They said they were going to put $2
trillion of the surplus, when they came into office, aside to protect
Social Security; then they changed their minds.
They said that they supported the troops, and then while our
troops were on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, they went to the
congress and lobbied to have their combat pay cut. They said that they
were going to do something about health care in this country. And they've
done something. They've made it worse. They said that they were going
to fund their No Child Left Behind; $27 billion short today.
Over and over, this administration has said one thing and done another.
This president said -- I listened to him the other night in his 2000
debate, saying, "I'm for a National Patients' Bill of Rights."
I know something about this. John McCain and Senator Kennedy and I wrote
it, got it passed in the Senate. We don't have a Patients' Bill of Rights
because of one man today, the president of the United States.
They've gone back and forth.
MS. IFILL: Mr. Vice President.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, Gwen, I can think of a lot of words to
describe Senator Kerry's position on Iraq. Consistent is not one of
I think, if you look at the record from voting for sending the troops,
then voting against the resources they needed when they go there, then
saying, "I actually voted for the $87 billion before I voted against
it." Saying in response to a question, "Knowing everything
I know now, yes, I would have cast exactly the same vote." And
then shortly after that saying, "Wrong war, wrong place, wrong
time." Consistency doesn't come to mind as I consider that record.
The question of troops is an interesting or an important one. We look
to our commanders on the ground in Iraq for guidance on what they think
they need. If they need more troops, they'll ask us. But the key here
is not to try to solve the problems in Iraq by putting in more American
troops. The key is to get the Iraqis to take on the responsibility for
their own security. That's exactly what we're doing. If you put American
troops in there in larger numbers, and don't get the Iraqis into the
fight, you'll postpone the day when you can in fact bring our boys home.
It's vital that we deal with any need for additional troops by putting
Iraqis into the effort.
Forty-nine percent increase in funding for elementary and secondary
education under No Child Left Behind. That's a lot of money, even by
MS. IFILL: You have 30 seconds, if you choose.
SEN. EDWARDS: Yeah, but they didn't fund the mandates that they put
on the schools all over this country. That's the reason that 800 teachers
-- one of the reasons 800 teachers have been laid off right here in
Cleveland. One-third of our public schools are failing under this administration.
Half of African-Americans are dropping out of high school. Half of Hispanic
Americans are dropping out of high school. John and I have -- and I
don't have the time now -- but we have a clear plan to improve our public
schools. It starts with getting our best teachers into the schools where
we need them the most by creating incentives for them to go there.
MS. IFILL: Mr. Vice President.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Gwen, No Child Left Behind, they were for it,
now they're against it. They voted for it, now they're opposed to it.
We are making significant progress there. We are closing the achievement
gap. The results coming in from a number of studies show, without question,
that, on math and science -- math and reading, that, in fact, our minority
students -- our Hispanic and African-American students are doing better,
and that gap between them and the majority population is, in fact, closing.
So we are doing exactly the right thing. They're the ones who have been
for the Patriot Act, then against it; for No Child Left Behind, and
then against it.
MS. IFILL: Mr. Vice President, our final -- I'm sorry; you have 30 seconds,
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Are you --
SEN. EDWARDS: Yeah, he started. Yeah, 30 seconds to me, yes.
We are for accountability and we are for high standards. John and
I voted for No Child Left Behind because we thought the -- that accountability
and standards were the right thing to do. But they --
(To Ms. Ifill.) Did you figure out you were wrong? (Laughs.)
MS. IFILL: I did figure out that I was wrong.
SEN. EDWARDS: Well, in fairness, if you feel like you need to go to
him, we'll --
MS. IFILL: Well, I do because we're actually on the final question.
I apologize for giving you an extra 15 seconds there.
I go now to Vice President Cheney. Whichever one of you is elected in
November -- you mentioned those three electoral votes in Wyoming and
how critical they turned out to be, but what they're a sign of also
is that you're going to inherit a very deeply divided electorate economically,
politically, you name it. How will you set out, Mr. Vice President,
in a way that you weren't able to in these past four years to bridge
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, I must say it's one of the disappointments
of the last four years, is that we've not been able to do what the president
did in Texas, for example, when he was able to reach across the aisle
and -- and bring Democrats along on major issues of the day. We had
some success early on, I think, in No Child Left Behind, when we in
fact had broad bipartisan support. We had a lot of support for the Patriot
Act when we passed that on a bipartisan basis. Now we're seeing objections
to that by the other side.
All I know is -- is to continue to try to work it. It's a disappointment,
in a sense, that -- I remember from my earlier service when things worked
much differently, when in fact some of my best friends in the Congress
were people I worked with, like Tom Foley, who was the majority leader,
later speaker of the House. One of my strongest allies in Congress when
I was secretary of Defense was Jack Murtha, a Democrat, who was chairman
of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. We used to be able to do
more together on a bipartisan basis than seems possible these days.
I'm not sure exactly why. I think in part it may be that the change
in -- in the majority-minority status in the House and Senate has been
difficult for both sides to adjust to. And the Senate, of course, has
been very evenly divided, 50-50, then 51-49, then 49-51 the other way.
We'll keep working at it. I think it's important for us to try. I believe
that it is essential for us to do everything we can to garner as much
support from the other side of the aisle as possible. We had support
-- we even had -- and our keynote address at our convention was delivered
by Zell Miller. So there are some Democrats who -- who agree with our
approach. And hopefully, in a second term, we'll see an improvement
along those lines.
MS. IFILL: Senator Edwards, 90 seconds.
SEN. EDWARDS: Thank you.
The president said that he would unite this country; that he was a uniter,
not a divider. Have you ever seen America more divided? Have you ever
seen Washington more divided?
The reality is, this is not an accident. It's a direct result of the
choices they've made in their efforts that have created divisions in
America. We can do better than that in this country.
Now, I want to go back to the whole issue of health care, because we
touched it, but I think the American people deserve to know what we
would do different. I mean, 5 million people losing their health care
-- everyone who is watching this knows health insurance premiums are
through the roof. We need to talk about what we will do that they haven't
First, we're going to make the same health care that's available to
members of Congress available to all Americans. We're going to cover
all kids. Not only that, we're going to bring down costs by pooling
the catastrophic costs so we bring down premiums, AND we're going to
give tax breaks directly to families, save them up to a thousand dollars
a year, and to businesses -- the vice president talked about that a
few minutes ago -- so that they can provide health care to their employees.
And we're also going to finally do something about the cost of prescription
drugs. They've blocked allowing prescription drugs into this country
from Canada; we're going to allow it. They would not allow the government
to use its negotiating power to get discounts for seniors; we're going
to allow it. We're also going to stand up to the drug companies and
do something about these drug company ads on television, which are out
MS. IFILL: You have 30 seconds to respond to that, Mr. Vice President.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, Gwen -- (laughs) -- it's hard to know where
The fact of the matter is, the most important and significant change
in health care in the last several years was the Medicare Reform bill
this year. It's the most sweeping change in 40 years. Medicare used
to pay for heart bypass surgery, but didn't pay for the prescription
drugs that might allow you to avoid it. The fact is that when that came
up, Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards voted against it. It'll provide
the prescription drug benefits to 40 million senior citizens. It's a
very, very significant piece of legislation.
MS. IFILL: Thirty seconds.
SEN. EDWARDS: They had a choice of allowing prescription drugs into
this country from Canada, of being with the American people or with
the drug companies. They were with the drug companies. They had a choice
on negotiating discounts in the Medicare Prescription Drug bill of being
with the American people or with the drug companies. They were with
the drug companies. They had a choice on the Patients' Bill of Rights
of allowing people to make their own health care decisions and not having
insurance companies make them, to be with the American people, to be
with the big insurance companies. They were with the insurance companies.
John Kerry and I will always fight for the American people.