Transcript (& Poll Results): Bush/Kerry Debate #1
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For hose of you who missed the Bush/Kerry debate tonight, the Los Angeles
Times has posted the complete transcript of the event on thei website (see
below). They have also made three RealVideo videos available f the event:
Bush Closing Statement:
Kerry Closing Statement:
Wile most of the polls I have seen indicate that viewers believe Kerry won
tonght's debate, Nightline reports that Kerry's win hasn't changed manyminds as to who people will vote for.
LOS ANGELES TIMES WEBSITE POLL:
"Who do you think won the first Bush-erry debate?"
9.2 percent = Bush (1159 responses)
87.2 percent = Kerry 10996 responses)
3.6 percent = It was a draw (448 responses)
12603 total vots
CNN WEBSITE POLL:
"Who do you think won the first U.S. presidential debat?"
18 percent = President George W. Bush (39137 votes
78 percent = Sen. Jhn Kerry (169227 votes)
4 percent = Evenly matched (9195 votes)
217559 total votes
"oth CBS and ABC released quickie reaction polls. The CBS survey of 200
'ence sitters' showed 44 percent said Kerry won, 26 percent said Bush won
nd 30 percent said it was a tie. The ABC numbers were similar in that 5
percent gave the edge to Kerry while 36 chose Bush and 17 percent said itwas a tie.
"Stephanie Cutter, the Kerry campaign communications director, tod FOX News
that their internal flash polling showed Kerry's favorability going from 43
to 68 percent. The Kerry campaign usually doesn't release internal polls.
"OX News' political contributors largely agreed that Kerry came out ahead.
"'here was a chance that the president would knock Kerry out of the race
toight. ... I think Kerry survived and I think he did pretty well tonight.
Kery was forceful and articulate,' said William Kristol, editor of the
WeeklyStandard. 'He did a pretty good job of making the case that the
invasion of Iraq was wrong.'"
THE WASHINGTON TIMES:
"Political strategists declare debate a draw"
"President Bush and Sen. John Kerry essentially stuck to their scripts,
landd few significant blows and fought to a draw in last night's opening
presidenial debate, political strategists from both parties said."
The complete debae follows...
--- David Sunfellow
COMPLETE TEXT OF THE DEBATE
Los Angeles Times
September 30, 2004
Full text from the debate between President Bush and Se. John F. Kerry. The
moderator was Jim Lehrer of PBS. The transcript is provided by the Federal
MR. LEHRER: Good evening from the University of Miami Convocation enter in
Coral Gables, Florida. I'm Jim Lehrer of the NewsHour on PBS, and I welcome
you to the first of the 2004presidential debates between President George
W. Bush, the Republican nomnee, and Senator John Kerry, the Democratic
These debates are sposored by the Commission on Presidential Debates.
Tonight's will last 90 minutes folowing detailed rules of engagement worked
out by representatives of the candidates. I have agreed to enorce their
rules on them. The umbrella topic is foreign policy and homeland security,
but the specific subjects were chosen by me, the question were composed by
me. The candidates have not been told what they are, nor as anyone else.
For each question there can only be a two-minute response, a 90- second
rebuttal, and at my discretion, a discussion extnsion of one minute. A
green light will come on when 30 seconds remain n any given answer, yellow
at 15, red at five seconds, and then flashing rd means time's up. There is
also a back-up buzzer system, if needed.
Candidates may not direct a question to each oter. There will be two-minute
closing statements but no opening statements.
here is an audience here in the hall, but they will remain absolutely
sient for the next 90 minutes, except for now, when they join me in
welcomin President Bush and Senator Kerry. (Cheers, applause.)
Good evening, Mr. President, Senator Kerry.
As determined by a coin toss, the fist question goes to you, Senator Kerry.
You have two minutes.
Do you believ you could do a better job than President Bush in preventing
another 9/11-typ terrorist attack on the United States?
SEN. KERRY: Yes, I do.
But befoe I answer further, let me thank you for moderating. I want to
thank theUniversity of Miami for hosting us. And I know the president will
join me i welcoming all of Florida to this debate. You've been through the
roughest weeks anybody could imagine. Our hearts go out to you, and weadmire your pluck and perseverance.
I can make America safer than Presiden Bush has made us. And I believe
President Bush and I both love our country qually, but we just have a
different set of convictions about how you make Aerica safe. I believe
America is safest and strongest when we are leaing the world, and when we
are leading strong alliances.
I'll never give a vto to any country over our security. But I also know how
to lead those allances. This president has left them in shatters across the
globe, and e're now 90 percent of the casualties in Iraq and 90 percent of
the costs. think that's wrong, and I think we can do better.
I have a better plan for homeland security. I have a better plan to be able
to fight the war on trror, by strengthening our military, strengthening our
intelligence, by oing after the financing more authoritatively, by doing
what we need to do to rebuild the alliances, by reaching out to theMuslim
world, which the president has almost not done, and beginning to isolae the
radical Islamic Muslims, not have them isolate the United States of Aerica.
I know I can do a better job in Iraq, where I have a plan to havea summit
with all of the allies, something this president has not yet achived, not
yet been able to do to bring people to the table. We can do a better job of
training the Iraqi forces to defend themselves, and I know that we can do a
better job of preparing for elections.
All of these, and especially homeland security, which we'll talk about a
little bit later.
MR. LEHRER: Mr. President, you have 90 seconds for rebuttal.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I -- I, too, thankthe University of Miami, and -- and --
and say our prayers are with the good people of this state, who have
suffered a lot.
September the 11th changed how America mustlook at the world.
And since that day, our nation has been on a multi-prong trategy to keep
our country safer. We pursued al Qaeda wherever al Qaeda ties to hide.
Seventy-five percent of known al Qaeda leaders have been brought to justice.
The rest of them know we're after them.
Weve upheld the doctrine that said if you harbor a terrorist, you're
equaly as guilty as the terrorist. And the Taliban no longer in power. Te
million people have registered to vote in Afghanistan in the upcoming
In Iraq, we saw a threat, and we realized that after Sepember the 11th, we
must take threats seriously before they fully materialize.Saddam Hussein
now sits in a prison cell; America and the world are safer fr it.
We continue to pursue our policy of disrupting those who would prolferate
weapons of mass destruction. Libya has disarmed. The A.Q. Khan network has
been brought to justice.
And as well, we're pursuing a strategy of freedom aroun the world, because
I understand free nations will reject terror. Free natios will answer the
hopes and aspirations of their people. Free nations will elp us achieve the
peace we all want.
MR. LEHRER: New question. Mr. Presidet, two minutes. Do you believe the
election of Senator Kerry on November th 2nd would increase the chances of
the U.S. being hit by another 9/11-type errorist attack?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I don't believe it's going to happen. I believe I'm going to
win, because the American people know I know how to lead. I'v shown the
American people I know how to lead. I have -- I understand evrybody in this
country doesn't agree with the decisions that I've made. An I've made some
But people know where I stand. People out here listening know what I
believe, and that's how best it is to keep he peace.
This nation of ours has got a solemn duty to defeat this ideolog of hate.
And that's what they are; this is a group of killers who will not only kill
here, but kill children in Russia; that will attack unmercifully in Iraq
hoping to shake ou will. We have a duty to defeat this enemy. We have a
duty to protect or children and grandchildren. The best way to defeat them
is to never waver, to bestrong, to use every asset at our disposal; is to
constantly stay on the ffensive, and at the same time spread liberty. And
that's what people are seing now is happening in Afghanistan. Ten million
citizens have registered to vote. It's a phenomeal statistic; that if given
a chance to be free, they will show up t the polls. Forty- one percent of
those 10 million are women.
In Iraq no doubt about it, it's tough. It's hard work. It's incredibly
hard. You kno why? Because an enemy realizes the stakes. The enemy
understands a free Iraq will be a major defeat in their ideology of hatred.
That's wy they're fighting so vociferously.
They showed up in Afghanistan when thy were there because they tried to
beat us and they didn't, and they're shwing up in Iraq for the same reason.
They're trying to defeat us. And if we ose our will, we lose; but if we
remain strong and resolute, we will defeatthis enemy.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety-second response, Sena tor Kerry.
SEN. KERR: I believe in being strong and resolute and determined, and I
will hunt down and kill the terrorists wherever they are But we also have
to be smart, Jim. And smart means not diverting your attenton from the real
war on terror in Afghanistan against Osama bin Lade and taking it off to
Iraq, where the 9/11 commission confirms there was n connection to 9/11
itself and Saddam Hussein, and where the reason for gong to war was weapons
of mass destruction, not the removal of Saddam Hussein
This president has made, I regret to say, a colossal error of judment, and
judgment is what we look for in the president of the United Sttes of
America. I'm proud that important military figures are supporting me n this
race. Former chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili. Justyesterday, General Eisenhower's son, General John Eisenhower, endorsed me.
Gneral -- Admiral William Crowe, General Tony McPeak, who ran the Air Force
war so effectively for his father, all believe I would make a stronger
commander in chief.
And they believe it becuse they know I would not take my eye off of the
goal: Osama bin Laden. Unfortunately, he escaped in the mountains of Tora
Bora. We had him srrounded. But we didn't use American forces, the
best-trained in the world o go kill him. The president relied on Afghan
warlords that he outsourced hat job to.
MR. LEHRER: New question. Two minutes, Senator Kery. Colossal misjudgments.
What colossal misjudgments, in your opinin, has President Bush made in
SEN. KERRY: Well, where do you wnt me to begin? (Light laughter.)
First of all, he made the misjudgent of saying to America that he was going
to build a true alliance, that he would exhaust the remedies of the nited
Nations and go through with the inspections. In fact, he first didn't ven
want to do that. And it wasn't until former Secretary of State im Baker and
General Scowcroft and others pushed publicly and said, You got to go to the
U.N., that the resident finally changed his mind -- his campaign has a wod
for that -- and went to the United Nations.
Now, once there, w could have continued those inspections. We had Saddam
He also promised America that he would go to war as a last resort. Those
words mean soething to me, as somebody who's been in combat: last resort.
You've got to be able to look in the eyes of families and say to those
parnts, "I tried to do everything in my power to prevent the loss of your
son an daughter." I don't believe the United States did that. And we pushe
our allies aside. And so, today, we are 90 percent of the casualties nd 90
percent of the cost -- $200 billion -- $200 billion that could have been
used for health care, for schools, for construction, for prescription drugs
for seniors. And it's in Iraq.
And Iaq is not even the center of the focus of the war on terror; the
center is Afhanistan, where, incidentally, there were more Americans killed
last yer than the year before; where the opium production is 75 percent of
the worlds opium production; where 40 to 60 percent of the economy of
Afghanistn is based on opium; where the elections have been postponed three
times. The president moved the troops so he's got ten times the number of
troops in Iraq than he has in Afghaistan, where Osama bin Laden is. Does
that mean that Saddam Hussein wa ten times more important than Osama bin --
than -- excuse me -- Saddm Hussein more important that Osama bin Laden? I
don't think so.
MR. LEHRR: Ninety-second response, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: My opponent looke at the same intelligence I looked at and
declared, in 2002, that Saddam Hssein was a grave threat. He also said, in
December of 2003, that anyone who oubts that the world is safer without
Saddam Hussein does not have the judgment to be president. I agree with him.
The world i better off without Saddam Hussein.
I was hoping diplomacy would work. I uderstand the serious co nsequences of
committing our troops into harm's way.It's the hardest decision a president
makes. So I went to the United Natins. I didn't need anybody to tell me to
go to the United Nations, I decided to go there myself. And I wen there
hoping that once and for all the free world would act in concert t get
Saddam Hussein to listen to our demands. They passed a resolution that aid
disclose, disarm or face serious consequences. I believe when an
internaional body speaks it must mean what it says. But Saddam Hussein had
no intention of disarming. Why should he? He had 16 other resolutions and
nothing tok place.
As a matter of fact -- my opponent talks about inspectors. The acts are
that he was systematically deceiving the inspectors. That wasn't goig to
work. That's kind of a pre-September 10th mentality, to hope that someow
resolutions and failed inspections would make this world a more peaceful
place. He was hoping we'd turn away. But thre was, fortunately, others
beside myself who believed that we ought to take ction; we did. The world
is safer without Saddam Hussein.
MR. LEHRER: Newquestion. Mr. President, two minutes. What about Senator
Kerry's point, the cmparison he drew between the priorities of going after
Osama bin Laden and ging after Saddam Hussein?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Jim, we've got the capability o doing both. As a matter of
fact, this is a global effort. We're facin a group of folks who have such
hatred in their heart, they'll strike anywhee with any means. And that's
why it's essential that we have strong alliances and we do. That's why it's
essential that we make sure that we keep weaons of mass destruction out of
the hands of people like al Qaeda, which we ae.
But to say that there's only one focus on the war on terror doesn't really
understand the nature of the war on terror. Of course we're after Saddam
Hussein (sic) -- I mean bin Laden.He's isolated. Seventy-five percent of
his people have been brought to ustice. The killer in -- the mastermind of
the September the 11th attacks, halid Sheikh Mohammed, is in prison. We're
But the front onthis war is more than just one place. The Philippines.
We've got help -- were helping them there to bring al Qaeda affiliates to
And o course Iraq is a central part of the war on terror. That's why
Zarqawi and his people are trying to fight us. Their ope is that we grow
weary and we leave. The biggest disaster that could happen is that we not
succeed in Irq. We will succeed. We've got a plan to do so.
And the main reason we'll suceed is because the Iraqis want to be free.
I had the honor of visitingwith Prime Minister Allawi. He's a strong,
courageous leader. He believesin the freedom of the Iraqi people. He
doesn't want U.S. leadership, howeve, to send mixed signals, to not stand
with the Iraqi people. He believes like I believe that the Iraqis are redy
to fight for their own freedom; they just need the help to be trained. Thee
will be elections in January, we're spending reconstruction money, and our
alliance is stron. That's the plan for victory. And when Iraq is free,
America will be more scure.
MR. LEHRER: Senator Kerry, 90 seconds.
SEN. KERRY: The president justtalked about Iraq as a center of the war on
terror. Iraq was not even closeto the center of the war on terror before
the president invaded it.
The prsident made the judgment to divert forces from under General Tommy
Franks from Afghanistan before the Congress even approved it to begin to
prepare to go to war in Iraq. And he rushe to war in Iraq without a plan to
win the peace. Now that is not the judgment that a president of the United
States ought to make.
You don't take America to war unless you have a plan to wi the peace. You
don't send troops to war without the body armor that they need. I've met
kids in Ohio, parents in Wisconsin, places -- Iowa -- where they're going
out on the Internet to get the state-of-the-art body gear to send to the ir
kids. Some of them got them for a birthday present. I think tat's wrong.
Humvees, 10,000 out of 12,000 humvees that are over there aren'tarmored.
And you go visit some of those kids in the hospitals today who wer maimed
because they don't have the armament.
This president just -- I don' know if he sees what's really happened on
there, but it's getting worse by the day. More soldiers killed in June than
efore, more in July than June, more in August than July, more in September
thn in August. And we see beheadings, and we got weapons of mass
destruction crssing the border every single day, and they're blowing people
And w don't have enough troops there.
MR. LEHRER: A --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Can I respond?
MR. LEHRER: Let's do a -- one-minute extension. You have 30 seconds.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, sir.
First of all, what my opponent ants you to forget is that he voted to
authorize the use of force, and nowsays it's the wrong war at the wrong
time at the wrong place. I don't see how you can lead this ountry to
succeed in Iraq if you say wrong war, wrong time, wrong place. What message
does that send our trops? What message does that send to our allies? What
message does that send th Iraqis? No, the way to win this is to be
steadfast and resolved and to follo through on the plan that I just
MR. LEHRER: Thirty seconds, Senator.
SEN. KERRY: Yes, we have to be steadfast and resolved, an I am. And I will
succeed for those troops now that we're there. We have to ucceed. We can't
leave a failed Iraq. But that doesn't mean it wasn't a mistke of judgment
to go there and take the focus off of Osama bin Laden. Itwas. Now we can
succeed. But I don't believe this president can. I think w need a president
who has the credibility to bring the allies back to te table and to do
what's necessary to make it so America isn't doing thi alone.
MR. LEHRER: We'll come back to Iraq in a moment, but I want to come back to
where Ibegan, on homeland security. This is a two- minute new question,
Senator Krry. As president, what would you do specifically, in addition to
or differenly, to increase the homeland security of the United States than
what Prsident Bush is doing?
SEN. KERRY: Jim, let me exactly what I'll do. And there are a long list of
First of al, what kind of mixed message does it send when you've got $500
million goingover to Iraq to put police officers in the streets of Iraq and
the president is cutting the COPS program in Aerica? What kind of message
does it send to be sending money to open fire houes in Iraq, but we're
shutting fire houses, who are the first responders herein America?
The president hasn't put one nickel, not one nickel, into the ffort to fix
some of our tunnels and bridges and most-exposed subway systms. That's why
they had to close down the subway in New York when the Republican Convention
was there. We haven't done the work that ought to be done.
The president -- 95 percent of the containers thatcome into the ports,
right here in Florida, are not inspected. Civilias get onto aircraft and
their luggage is x-rayed, but the cargo hold s not x- rayed. Does that make
you feel safer in America?
This president tought it was more important to give the wealthiest people
in America a tax ct rather than invest in homeland security.
Those aren't my values. I belive in protecting America first. And long
before President Bush and I get tax cut -- and that's who gets it -- long
before we do, I'm going to investin homeland security, and I'm going to
make sure we're not cutting COPS programs in America, and we're fully
staffed at our firehouses, and thatwe protect the nuclear and chemical
plants. The president also, unfortunatel, gave in to the chemical industry,
which didn't want to do some of the thngs necessary to strengthen our
chemical plant exposure.
And there's an enorous undone job to protect the loose nuclear materials in
the world that are able to get to terrorists. That's a whole other subject.
But -- I see westill have a little bit more time. Let me just quickly say,
at the currentpace, the president will not secure the loose material in the
Soviet Union, ormer Soviet Union, for 13 years. I'm going to do it in four
years, and we'r going to keep it out of the hands of terrorists.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety-second response, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I on't think we want to get to how he's going to pay for
all these promises. It's like a huge tax gap an -- anyway, that's for
My administration has triple the amount of money we're spending on homeland
security to $30 billion a yea. My administration worked with the Congress
to create the Department of Homeand Security so we could better coordinate
our borders and ports.
We've ot a thousand extra border patrol on the southern border; more than a
housand on the northern border. We're modernizing our borders. We pent
$3.1 billion for fire and police -- $3.1 billion.
No, we're doing ot duty to provide the funding. But the best way to protect
this homeland is to stay on the offense. You know, we have to beright a
hundred percent of the time, and the enemy only has to be right once to hurt
There's a lot of good people working hard. And by the way, we've also
changed the culture of the FBI to have counterterrorism as its number-one
priority. We're communicating better. We're going to reform our intelligence
services to make sure that we get the best intelligence possible. The
Patriot Act is vital. It's vital that the Congress renew the Patriot Act,
which enables our law enforcement to disrupt terrorist cells.
But again, I repeat to my fellow citizens, the best way to protect you is to
stay on the offense.
MR. LEHRER: Yes, let's do a little -- yes, 30 seconds.
SEN. KERRY: The president just said the FBI changed its culture. We just
read in the front pages of America's papers that there are over 100,000
hours of tapes unlistened-to. On one of those tapes may be the enemy being
right the next time.
And the test is not whether you're spending more money. The test is, are you
doing everything possible to make America safe. We didn't need that tax cut.
America needed to be safe.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Of course we're doing everything we can to protect America.
I wake up every day thinking about how best to protect America. That's my
I work with Director Mueller of the FBI. He comes into my office when I'm in
Washington every morning, talking about how to protect us. There's a lot of
really good people working hard to do so. It's hard work.
But again, I want to tell the American people we're doing everything we can
at home, but you'd better have a president who chases these terrorists down
and bring them to justice before they hurt us again.
MR. LEHRER: New question. Mr. President, two minutes.
What criteria would you use to determine when to start bringing U.S. troops
home from Iraq?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me first tell you that the best way for Iraq to be safe
and secure is for Iraqi citizens to be trained to do the job, and that's
what we're doing. We've got 100,000 trained now, 125,000 by the end of this
year, over 200,000 by the end of next year. That is the best way. We'll
never succeed in Iraq if the Iraqi citizens do not want to take matter into
their own hands and protect themselves. I believe they want to. Prime
Minister Allawi believes they want to.
And so the best indication about when we can bring our troops home -- which
I really want to do, but I don't want to do so for the sake of bringing them
home; I want to do so because we've achieved an objective -- is to -- is to
see the Iraqis perform, is to see the Iraqis step up and take
responsibility. And so the answer to your question is when our generals on
the ground and Ambassador Negroponte tells me that Iraq is ready to defend
herself from these terrorists, that elections will have been held by then,
that there's stab ility, and that they're on their way to, you know, a
nation of -- of -- that's free, that's when.
And I hope it's as soon as possible, but I know putting artificial deadlines
won't work. My opponent one time said, well, get me elected and I'll have
them out of there in six months. That's -- you can't do that and expect to
win the war on terror.
My message to our troops is thank you for what you're doing, we're standing
with you strong, we'll give you all the equipment you need, and we'll get
you home as soon as the mission's done, because this is a vital mission.
A free Iraq will be an ally in the war on terror, and that's essential. A
free Iraq will set a powerful example in the part of the world that is
desperate for freedom. A free Iraq will help secure Israel. A free Iraq will
enforce the hopes and aspirations of the reformers in places like Iran. A
free Iraq is essential for the security of this country.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety seconds, Senator Kerry.
SEN. KERRY: Thank you, Jim.
My message to the troops is also thank you for what they're doing, but it's
also: Help is on the way. I believe those troops deserve better than what
they are getting today. You know, it's interesting, when I was in a rope
line just the other day, coming out here from Wisconsin, a couple of young
returnees were in the line -- one active duty, one from the Guard. And they
both looked at me and said, "We need you. You got to help us over there."
Now, I believe there's a better way to do this. You know, the president's
father did not go into Iraq, into Baghdad, beyond Basra, and the reason he
didn't is he said -- he wrote in his book -- because there was no viable
exit strategy. And he said our troops would be occupiers in a bitterly
That's exactly where we find ourselves today. There's a sense of American
occupation. The only building that was guarded when the troops went into
Baghdad was the Oil Ministry. We didn't guard the nuclear facilities. We
didn't guard the foreign office, where you might have found information
about weapons of mass destruction. We didn't guard the borders.
Almost every step of the way, our troops have been left on these
extraordinarily difficult missions. I know what it's like to go out on one
of those missions where you don't know what's around the corner. And I
believe our troops need other allies helping. I'm going to hold that summit.
I will bring fresh credibility, a new start, and we will get the job done
PRESIDENT BUSH: Jim?
MR. LEHRER: New -- all right, go ahead. Yes, sir?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I think it's worthy for a follow, if you don't mind?
SEN. KERRY: Sure, fine. Happy to.
MR. LEHRER: Okay.
SEN. KERRY: Sure, let's change the rules, we can have a whole --
MR. LEHRER: We can do 30 seconds each here.
PRESIDENT BUSH: All right. My opponent says that help is on the way. But
what kind of message does it say to our troops in harm's way -- "wrong war,
wrong place, wrong time"? That's not a message a commander in chief gives.
Or this is "a great diversion."
As well, help is on the way, but it's certainly hard to tell it when he
voted against the $87 billion supplemental to provide equipment for our
troops, and then said he actually did vote for it before he voted against
it. That's not what commander-in-chiefs does when you're trying to lead
MR. LEHRER: Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.
SEN. KERRY: Well, you know, when I talked about the $87 billion, I made a
mistake in how I talk about the war. But the president made a mistake in
invading Iraq. Which is worse?
I believe that when you know something's going wrong, you make it right.
That's what I learned in Vietnam. When I came back from that war, I saw that
it was wrong. Some people don't like the fact that I stood up to say no. But
I did. And that's what I did with that vote. And I'm going to lead those
troops to victory.
MR. LEHRER: All right, new question. Two minutes. Senator Kerry, speaking of
Vietnam, you s poke 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 a mistake?
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
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." That's 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
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
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
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 necessar y to transfer
authority and to transfer reconstruction. It was always American-run.
Secondly, when we went in, there were three countries: Great Britain,
Australia and the United States. That's not a grand coalition. We can do
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 cohearsed (sic)
bribed. That's not how you bring people together.
Our coalition is strong. It'll remain strong, so long as I'm the president.
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 it happen?
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 disappeared.
I thought we would -- they would stay and fight. But they didn't. And now
we're fighting them now.
It's 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
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
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
First 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
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 acts.
I -- 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 of f 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
MR. 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.
I 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
Missy understood that. That's what she told me her husband understood.
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 our
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 job done.
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 minutes.
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.
I 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 oil.
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
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
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 Iraq.
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 same.
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.
PRESIDENT 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.
MR. LEHRER: Mr. President, new question, two minutes. Does the Iraq
experience make it more likely or less likely that you would take the United
States into another preemptive military action?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I would hope I'd never have to. I understand how hard it is
to commit troops. I never wanted to commit troops. I never -- when I was
running -- when we had the debate in 2000, I never dreamt I'd be doing that.
But the enemy attacked us, Jim, and -- ah -- I have a solemn duty to protect
the American people, to do everything I can to protect us. I think that by
speaking clearly and doing what we say and not sending mixed messages, it is
less likely we'll ever have to use troops. But a president must always be
willing to use troops and must -- as a last resort. The, ah --
I was hopeful diplomacy would work in Iraq.
It was falling apart. There was no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was
hoping that the world would turn a blind eye. And if he had been in power --
in other words, if he said let's let the inspectors work or let's, you know,
hope to talk him out, maybe that the 18th resolution would work, he would
have been stronger and tougher, and the world would have been a lot worse
off. There's just no doubt in my mind. We would rue the day had we -- if
Saddam Hussein had been in power.
So we use diplomacy every chance we get, believe me. And I -- I would hope
to never have to use force. But by speaking clearly and sending messages
that we mean what we say we've affected the world in a positive way. Look at
Libya. Libya was a threat. Libya is now peacefully dismantling its weapons
programs. Libya understood that America and others will enforce doctrine,
and the world is better for it.
So in answer to your question, I would hope we'd never have to. I think by
acting firmly and decisively, it'll mean it's less likely we use -- less
likely we have to use force.
MR. LEHRER: Senator Kerry, 90 seconds.
SEN. KERRY: Jim, the president just said something extraordinarily revealing
and, frankly, very important in this debate. In answer to your question
about Iraq and sending people into Iraq, he just said the enemy attacked us.
Saddam Hussein didn't attack us; Osama bin Laden attacked us. Al Qaeda
attacked us. And when we had Osama bin Laden cornered in the mountains of
Tora Bora, 1,000 of his cohorts with him in those mountains, with American
military forces nearby and in the field, we didn't use the best-trained
troops in the world to go kill the world's number one criminal and
terrorist. They outsourced the job to Afghan warlords who only a week
earlier had been on the other side, fighting against us, neither of whom
trusted each other.
That's the enemy that is now in 60 countries with stronger recruits.
He also said Saddam Hussein would have been stronger. That is just factually
incorrect. Two-thirds of the country was a no-fly zone when we started this
war. We would have had sanctions. We would have had the U.N. inspectors.
Saddam Hussein would have been continually weakening. If the president had
shown the patience to go through another round of resolution, to sit down
with those leaders say, "What do you need? What do you need now? How much
more will it take to get you to join us?" -- we'd be in a stronger place
PRESIDENT BUSH: First, listen --
MR. LEHRER: Thirty seconds.
PRESIDENT BUSH: -- of course I know Osama bin Laden attacked us. I know
And secondly, to think that another round of resolutions would have caused
Saddam Hussein to disarm, disclose, is ludicrous, in my judgment. It just
shows a significant difference of opinion. We tried diplomacy. We did our
best. He was hoping to turn a blind eye. And yes, he would have been
stronger had we not dealt with him. He had the capability of making weapons
and he would have made weapons.
MR. LEHRER: Thirty seconds, Senator.
SEN. KERRY: Thirty-five to 40 countries in the world had a greater
capability of making weapons at the moment the president invaded than Saddam
Hussein. And while he's been diverted with nine out of 10 active duty
divisions of our Army either going to Iraq, coming back from Iraq, or
getting ready to go, North Korea has got nuclear weapons and the world is
more dangerous. Iran is moving towards nuclear weapons and the world is more
dangerous. Darfur has a genocide. The world is more dangerous. I'd have made
a better choice.
MR. LEHRER: New question. Two minutes, Senator Kerry. What is your position
on the whole concept of preemptive war?
SEN. KERRY: A president always has the right, and always had had the right,
for preemptive strike. That was a great doctrine throughout the Cold War,
and it was always one of the things we argued about with respect to arms
No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would
I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of
America. But if and when you do it, Jim, you've got to do it in a way that
passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your
people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing, and you can
prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.
Here we have our own secretary of State, who's had to apologize to the world
for the presentation he made to the United Nations. I mean, we can remember
when President Kennedy in the Cuban Missile Crisis sent his secretary of
State to Pa ris to meet with DeGaulle. And in the middle of the discussion,
to tell him about the missiles in Cuba, he said, here, let me show you the
photos. And DeGaulle waved him off and said, no, no, no. The word of the
president of the United States is good enough for me.
How many leaders in the world today would respond to us, as a result of what
we've done, in that way?
So what is at test here is the credibility of the United States of America
and how we lead the world. And Iran and Iraq (sic) are now more -- Iran and
North Korea are now more dangerous.
Now, whether preemption is ultimately what has to happen or not, I don't
know yet. But I'll tell you this. As president, I'll never take my eye off
that ball. I've been fighting for proliferation the entire time --
anti-proliferation the entire time I've been in the Congress. And we've
watched this president actually turn away from some of the treaties that
were on the table.
You don't help yourself with other nations when you turn away from the
global warming treaty, for instance, or when you refuse to deal at length
with the United Nations. You have to earn that respect. And I think we have
a lot of earning back to do.
MR. LEHRER: Ninety seconds.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me -- I'm not exactly sure what you mean passes the
global test. You take preemptive action if you pass a global test? My
attitude is, you take preemptive action in order to protect the American
people, that you act in order to make this country secure.
Now, my opponent talks about me not signing certain treaties. Well, let me
tell you one thing I didn't sign, and I think it shows the difference of our
opinion -- the difference of opinions, and that is, I wouldn't join the
International Criminal Court.
This is a body based in the Hague where unaccountable judges and prosecutors
could pull our troops, our diplomats up for trial. And I wouldn't join it.
And I understand that in certain capitals of -- around the world that -- ah
-- that wasn't a popular move. But it's the right move. Not to join a
foreign court that could -- where our people could be prosecuted. My
opponent is for joining the International Criminal Court. I -- I just think
trying to be popular kind of in the global sense, if it's not in our best
interest, makes no sense. I'm interested in working with other nations and
do a lot of it. But I'm not going to make decisions that I think are wrong
MR. LEHRER: New question, Mr. President. Do you believe that diplomacy and
sanctions can resolve the nuclear problems with North Korea and Iran, taking
them in any order you would like?
PRESIDENT BUSH: North Korea, first. I do. Let me say, I certainly hope so.
Ah -- before I, ah, was sworn in, the policy of this government was to have
bilateral negotiations with North Korea. And we -- ah -- signed an agreement
with North Korea that my administration found out that, ah, was not, ah,
being honored by the North Koreans. And so I decided that a better way to
approach the issue was to get other nations involved -- just besides us. And
in Crawford, Texas, Jiang Zemin and I agreed that the -- a nuclear
weapons-free North -- peninsula, Korean peninsula was in his interests and
our interests and the world's interests. And so, we began a new dialogue
with North Korea, one that included not only the United States, but now
China. And China's got a lot of influence over North Korea. In some ways
more than we do.
As well, we included South Korea, Japan and Russia. So now there are five
voices speaking to Kim Jong Il, not just one. And so, if Kim Jong Il decides
again to not honor an agreement, he's not only -- ah -- ah -- doing
injustice to America, it would be doing injustice to China as well.
And I think this will work. It's not going to work if we open up a dialogue
with Kim Jong Il. That's what he wants. He wants to unravel the six-party
talks or the five -- the five-nation coalition that's sending him a clear
On Iran, I hope we can do the same thing; continue to work with the world to
convince the Iranian mullahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions. We've
worked very closely with the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Great
Britain, who have been the -- the folks delivering the message to the
mullahs that if you expect to be part of the world of nations, get rid of
your nuclear programs. The IAEA is involved. There's a special protocol
recently been passed that allows for instant inspections. I hope we can do
it, and we've got a good strategy.
MR. LEHRER: Senator Kerry, 90 seconds.
SEN. KERRY: With respect to Iran, the British, French and Germans were the
ones who initiated an effort -- without the United States, regrettably -- to
begin to try to move to (curb ?) the nuclear possibilities in Iran. I
believe we could have done better. I think the United States should have
offered the opportunity to provide the nuclear fuel, test them, see whether
or not they were actually looking for it for peaceful purposes. If they
weren't willing to work a deal, then we could have put sanctions together.
The president did nothing.
With respect to North Korea, the real story. We had inspectors and
television cameras in the nuclear reactor in North Korea. Secretary Bill
Perry negotiated that under President Clinton. And we knew where the fuel
rods were, and we knew the limits on their nuclear power. Colin Powell, our
secretary of State, announced one day that we were going to continue the
dialogue and work with the North Koreans. The president reversed him
publicly while the president of South Korea was here, and the president of
South Korea went back to South Korea, bewildered and embarrassed, because it
went against his policy. And for two years, this administration didn't talk
at all to North Korea. While they didn't talk at all, the fuel rods came
out, the inspectors were kicked out, the television cameras were kicked out,
and today there are four to seven nuclear weapons in the hands of North
Korea. That happened on this president's watch.
Now, that, I think, is one of the most serious sort of reversals or mixed
messages that you could possible send.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me --
MR. LEHRER: I want to make sure -- yes, sir. But in this one minute I want
to make sure that we understand -- that people -- the people watching
understand the differences between the two of you on this.
You want to continue the multinational talks, correct?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Right.
MR. LEHRER: And you want --
SEN. KERRY: Both.
MR. LEHRER: -- you're wanting to do it?
SEN. KERRY: I want bilateral talks which put all of the issues, from the
Armistice of 1952 -- the economic issues, the human rights issues, the
artillery disposal issues, the DMZ issues, and the nuclear issues on the
MR. LEHRER: And you're opposed to that, sir, right?
PRESIDENT BUSH: The minute we have bilateral talks, the six- party talks
will unwind. It's exactly what Kim Jong Il wants.
And by the way, the breach on the agreement was not through plutonium, the
breach on the agreement is highly enriched uranium. That's what we caught
him doing. That's where he was breaking the agreement.
The -- secondly, he said -- my opponent said he'd work <br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)