October 11, 1992
The First Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate
(Second Half of Debate)
The second half of the first debate of 1992 continues below. The length of the printed transcript is approximately 14 pages long.
LEHRER: All right, moving on now to divisions in our country, the first question goes to Governor Clinton for 2 minutes, and Ann will ask it.
COMPTON: Governor Clinton, can you tell us what your definition of the word “family” is?
CLINTON: A family involves at least one parent, whether natural or adoptive or foster, and children. A good family is a place where love and discipline and good values are transmuted (sic) from the elders to the children, a place where people turn for refuge, and where they know they’re the most important people in the world. America has a lot of families that are in trouble today. There’s been a lot of talk about family values in this campaign. I know a lot about that. I was born to a widowed mother who gave me family values, and grandparents. I’ve seen the family values of my people in Arkansas. I’ve seen the family values of all these people in America who are out there killing themselves working harder for less in a country that’s had the worst economic years in 50 years and the first decline in industrial production ever.
I think the president owes it to family values to show that he values America’s families, whether they’re people on welfare you’re trying to move from welfare to work, the working poor whom I think deserve a tax break to lift them above poverty if they’ve got a child in the house and working 40 hours a week, working families who deserve a fair tax system and the opportunity for constant retraining; they deserve a strong economy. And I think they deserve a family and medical leave act. Seventy-two other nations have been able to do it. Mr. Bush vetoed it twice because he says we can’t do something seventy-two other countries do, even though there was a small business exemption.
So with all the talk about family values, I know about family values — I wouldn’t be here without them. The best expression of my family values is that tonight’s my 17th wedding anniversary, and I’d like to close my question by just wishing my wife a happy anniversary, and thank you, my daughter, for being here.
LEHRER: President Bush, one minute.
BUSH: Well, I would say that one meeting that made a profound impression on me was when the mayors of the big cities, including the mayor of Los Angeles, a Democrat, came to see me, and they unanimously said the decline in urban America stems from the decline in the American family. So I do think we need to strengthen family. When Barbara holds an AIDS baby, she’s showing a certain compassion for family; when she reads to children, the same thing.
I believe that discipline and respect for the law — all of these things should be taught to children, not in our schools, but families have to do that. I’m appalled at the highest outrageous numbers of divorces — it happens in families, it’s happened in ours. But it’s gotten too much. And I just think that we ought to do everything we can to respect the American family. It can be a single-parent family. Those mothers need help. And one way to do it is to get these deadbeat fathers to pay their obligations to these mothers — that will help strengthen the American family. And there’s a whole bunch of other things that I can’t click off in this short period of time.
LEHRER: All right, Mr. Perot, you have one minute.
PEROT: If I had to solve all the problems that face this country and I could be granted one wish as we started down the trail to rebuild the job base, the schools and so on and so forth, I would say a strong family unit in every home, where every child is loved, nurtured, and encouraged. A little child before they’re 18 months learns to think well of himself or herself or poorly. They develop a positive or negative self- image. At a very early age they learn how to learn. If we have children who are not surrounded with love and affection — you see, I look at my grandchildren and wonder if they’ll ever learn to walk because they’re always in someone’s arms. And I think, my gosh, wouldn’t it be wonderful if every child had that love and support. But they don’t.
We will not be a great country unless we have a strong family unit in every home. And I think you can use the White House as a bully pulpit to stress the importance of these little children, particularly in their young and formative years, to mold these little precious pieces of clay so that they, too, can live rich full lives when they’re grown.
LEHRER: New question, two-minute answer, goes to President Bush. Sandy will ask it.
VANOCUR: Mr. President, there’s been a lot of talk about Harry Truman in this campaign, so much so that I think tomorrow I’ll wake up and see him named as the next commissioner of baseball.
The thing that Mr. Truman didn’t have to deal with is drugs. Americans are increasingly alarmed about drug-related crimes in cities and suburbs. And your administration is not the first to have grappled with this.
And are you at all of a mind that maybe it ought to go to another level, if not to what’s advocated by William F. Buckley, Jr. and Milton Friedman, legalization, somewhere between there and where we are now?
BUSH: No, I don’t think that’s the right answer. I don’t believe legalizing narcotics is the answer. I just don’t believe that’s the answer. I do believe that there’s some fairly good news out there. The use of cocaine, for example, by teenagers is dramatically down. But we’ve got to keep fighting on this war against drugs. We’re doing a little better in interdiction. Many of the countries below that used to say, well, this is the US’ problem — if you’d get the demand down, then we wouldn’t have the problem — are working cooperatively with the DEA and the military. We’re using the military more now in terms of interdiction. Our funding for recovery is up, recovering the addicts.
Where we’re not making the progress, Sander, is in — we’re making it in teenagers, and thank God, because I thought what Ross said was most appropriate about these families and these children. But where we’re not making it is with the confirmed addicts. And I’ll tell you one place that’s working well, and that is the private sector — Jim Burke and this task force that he has, you may know about it. I’ll tell the American people, but this man said I’ll get you a million dollars a day in pro bono advertising, something that’s very hard for the government to do. And he went out and he did it. And people are beginning to educate through this program, teaching these kids you shouldn’t use drugs.
So we’re still in the fight. But I must tell you, I think legalization of narcotics, or something of that nature, in the face of the medical evidence, would be totally counterproductive. And I oppose it, and I’m going to stand up and continue to oppose it.
LEHRER: Mr. Perot, one minute.
PEROT: Anytime you think you want to legalize drugs, go to a neonatal unit — if you can get in. They’re between 100 and 200% capacity up and down the East Coast. And the reason is crack babies being born, babies in the hospital 42 days. Typical cost to you and me is $125,000. Again and again and again, the mother disappears in 3 days, and the child becomes a ward of the state because he’s permanently and genetically damaged.
Just look at those little children, and if anybody can even think about legalizing drugs, they’ve lost me.
Now, let’s look at priorities. You know, we went on the Libyan raid — do you remember that one? — because we were worried to death that Gaddafi might be building up chemical weapons. We’ve got chemical warfare being conducted against our children on the streets in this country all day every day, and we don’t have the will to stamp it out.
Now, again, if I get up there, if you send me, we’re going to have some blunt talks about this, and we’re really going to get down in the trenches and say, is this one you want to talk about or fix, because talk won’t do it, folks. There are guys that couldn’t get a job third shift in a Dairy Queen driving BMWs and Mercedes selling drugs. And these old boys are not going to quit easy.
LEHRER: Governor Clinton, one minute.
CLINTON: Like Mr. Perot, I have held crack babies in my arms. But I know more about this, I think, than anybody else up here because I have a brother who’s a recovering drug addict. I’m very proud of him.
But I can tell you this. If drugs were legal, I don’t think he’d be alive today. I am adamantly opposed to legalizing drugs. He is alive today because of the criminal justice system.
That’s a mistake. What should we do? First, we ought to prevent more of this on the street. Thirty years ago, there were three policemen for every crime. Now there are three crimes for every policeman. We need a hundred thousand more police on the street. I have a plan for that.
Secondly, we ought to have treatment on demand.
Thirdly, we ought to have boot camps for first-time nonviolent offenders so they can get discipline and treatment and education and get reconnected to the community before they’re severed and sent to prison, where they can learn how to be first class criminals.
There is a crime bill that, lamentably, was blocked from passage once again, mostly by Republicans in the US Senate, which would have addressed some of these problems. That crime bill is going to be one of my highest priorities next January if I become president.
LEHRER: Next question is to you, Mr. Perot. You have two minutes to answer it and John will ask it.
MASHEK: Mr. Perot, racial division continues to tear apart our great cities, the last episode being this spring in Los Angeles. Why is this still happening in America, and what would you do to end it?
PEROT: This is a relevant question here tonight. The first thing I’d do is, during political campaigns, I would urge everybody to stop trying to split this country into fragments and appeal to the differences between us and then wonder why the melting pot is all broken to pieces after November the 3rd.
We are all in this together. We ought to love one another because united teams win and divided teams lose. And if we can’t love one another, we ought to get along with one another. And if you can’t get there, just recognize we’re all stuck with one another because nobody’s going anywhere, right?
Now, that ought to get everybody back up to let’s get along together and make it work. Our diversity is a strength. We’ve turned it into a weakness.
Now again, the White House is a bully pulpit. I think whoever is in the White House should just make it absolutely unconscionable and inexcusable, and if anybody’s in the middle of a speech at, you know, one of these conventions, I would expect the candidate to go out and lift him off the stage if he starts preaching hate — because we don’t have time for it.
See, our differences are our strengths. We have got to pull together. In athletics, we know it. See, divided teams lose; united teams win.
We have got to unite and pull together, and there’s nothing we can’t do. But if we sit around blowing all this energy out the window on racial strife and hatred, we are stuck with a sure loser because we have been a melting pot. We’re becoming more and more of a melting pot. Let’s make it a strength, not a weakness.
LEHRER: Governor Clinton, one minute.
CLINTON: I grew up in the segregated South, thankfully raised by a grandfather with almost no formal education but with a heart of gold who taught me early that all people were equal in the eyes of God.
I saw the winds of hatred divide people and keep the people of my state poorer than they would have been, spiritually and economically. And I’ve done everything I could in my public life to overcome racial divisions.
We don’t have a person to waste in this country. We are being murdered economically because we have too many drop-outs, we have too many low birthweight babies, we have too many drug addicts as kids, we have too much violence, we are too divided by race, by income, by region. And I have devoted a major portion of this campaign to going across this country and looking for opportunities to go to white groups and African American groups and Latino groups and Asian American groups and say the same thing.
If the American people cannot be brought together, we can’t turn this country around. If we can come together, nothing can stop us.
LEHRER: Mr. President, one minute.
BUSH: Well, I think Governor Clinton is committed. I do think it’s fair to note — he can rebut it — but Arkansas is one of the few states that doesn’t have any civil rights legislation.
I’ve tried to use the White House as a bully pulpit, speaking out against discrimination. We passed two very forward-looking civil rights bills. It’s not going to be all done by legislation. But I do think that you need to make an appeal every time you can to eliminate racial divisions and discrimination, and I’ll keep on doing that and pointing to some legislative accomplishment to back it up.
I have to take ten seconds here at the end — the red light isn’t on yet — to say to Ross Perot, please don’t say to the DEA agents on the street that we don’t have the will to fight drugs. Please. I have watched these people — the same for our local law enforcement people. We’re backing up at every way we possibly can. But maybe you meant that some in the country don’t have the will to fight it, but those that are out there on the front line, as you know — you’ve been a strong backer of law enforcement — really — I just want to clear that up –have the will to fight it, and, frankly, some of them are giving their lives.
LEHRER: Time, Mr. President. All right. Let’s go now to another subject, the subject of health. The first question for 2 minutes is to President Bush, and John will ask it.
MASHEK: Mr. President, yesterday tens of thousands of people paraded past the White House to demonstrate their concern about the disease AIDS. A celebrated member of your commission, Magic Johnson, quit saying that there was too much inaction.
Where is this widespread feeling coming from that your administration is not doing enough about AIDS?
BUSH: Coming from the political process. We have increased funding for AIDS. We’ve doubled it on research and on every other aspect of it. My request for this year was $4.9 billion for AIDS — ten times as much per AIDS victim as per cancer victim.
I think that we’re showing the proper compassion and concern. So I can’t tell you where it’s coming from, but I am very much concerned about AIDS and I believe that we’ve got the best researchers in the world out there at NIH working the problem. We’re funding them Ã¢â‚¬â€œ I wish there was more money — but we’re funding them far more than any time in the past, and we’re going to keep on doing that.
I don’t know. I was a little disappointed in Magic because he came to me and I said, “Now if you see something we’re not doing, get ahold of me. Call me, let me know.” He went to one meeting, and then we heard that he was stepping down. So he’s replaced by Mary Fisher who electrified the Republican Convention by talking about the compassion and the concern that we feel. It was a beautiful moment and I think she’ll do a first-class job on that commission.
So I think the appeal is yes, we care. And the other thing is part of AIDS — it’s one of the few diseases where behavior matters. And I once called on somebody, “Well, change your behavior. Is the behavior you’re using prone to cause AIDS? Change the behavior.” Next thing I know, one of these ACT UP groups is out saying, “Bush ought to change his behavior.”
You can’t talk about it rationally. The extremes are hurting the AIDS cause. To go into a Catholic mass in a beautiful cathedral in New York under the cause of helping in AIDS and start throwing condoms around in the mass, I’m sorry, I think it sets back the cause.
We cannot move to the extreme. We’ve got to care. We’ve got to continue everything we can at the federal and the local level. Barbara I think is doing a superb job in destroying the myth about AIDS. And all of us are in this fight together, all of us care. Do not go to the extreme.
LEHRER: One minute, Mr. Perot.
PEROT: First, I think Mary Fisher was a great choice. We’re lucky to have her heading the commission. Secondly, I think one thing that if I were sent to do the job, I would sit down with FDA, look at exactly where we are. Then I would really focus on let’s get these things out. If you’re going to die, you don’t have to go through this ten-year cycle that FDA goes through on new drugs.
Believe me, people with AIDS are more than willing to take that risk. And we could be moving out to the human population a whole lot faster than we are on some of these new drugs. So I would think we can expedite the problem there.
Let me go back a minute to racial divisiveness. The all- time low in our country was the Judge Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, and those senators ought to be hanging their heads in shame for what they did there.
2nd thing, there are not many times in your life when you get to talk to a whole country. But let me just say to all of America: if you hate people, I don’t want your vote. That’s how strongly I feel about it.
LEHRER: Governor Clinton, one minute.
CLINTON: Over 150,000 Americans have died of AIDS. Well over a million and a quarter Americans are HIV-positive. We need to put one person in charge of the battle against AIDS to cut across all the agencies that deal with it. We need to accelerate the drug approval process. We need to fully fund the act named for that wonderful boy Ryan White to make sure we’re doing everything we can on research and treatment.
And the president should lead a national effort to change behavior, to keep our children alive in the schools, responsible behavior to keep people alive. This is a matter of life and death. I have worked in my state to reduce teen pregnancy and illness among children. I know it’s tough.
The reason Magic Johnson resigned from the AIDS Commission is because the statement you heard tonight from Mr. Bush is the longest and best statement he’s made about it in public.
I am proud of what we did at the Democratic Convention, putting 2 HIV-positive people on the platform, and I am proud of the leadership that I’m going to bring to this country in dealing with the AIDS crisis.
LEHRER: New question for Mr. Perot. You have 2 minutes to answer, and Ann will ask it.
COMPTON: Mr. Perot, even if you’ve got what people say are the guts to take on changes in the most popular, the most sacred of the entitlements, Medicare, people say you haven’t a prayer of actually getting anything passed in Washington.
Since a president isn’t a lone ranger, how in the world can you make some of those unpopular changes?
PEROT: Two ways. Number one, if I get there, it will be a very unusual and historical event —
–because the people, not the special interests, put me there. I will have a unique mandate. I have said again and again, and this really upsets the establishment in Washington, that we’re going to inform the people in detail on the issues through an electronic town hall so that they really know what’s going on.
They will want to do what’s good for our country.
Now, all these fellows with thousand-dollar suits and alligator shoes running up and down the halls of Congress that make policy now — the lobbyists, the PAC guys, the foreign lobbyists, and what-have-you, they’ll be over there in the Smithsonian, you know —
— because we’re going to get rid of them, and the Congress will be listening to the people. And the American people are willing to have fair, shared sacrifice. They’re not as stupid as Washington thinks they are. The American people are bright, intelligent, caring, loving people who want a great country for their children and grandchildren. And they will make those sacrifices.
So I welcome that challenge, and just watch —
— because if the American people send me there, we’ll get it done.
Now, everybody will faint in Washington. They’ve never seen anything happen in that town.
This is a town where the White House says, Congress did it; Congress says, the White House did it. And I’m sitting there and saying, well, who else could be around, you know? Then when they get off by themselves, they say nobody did it.
And yet the cash register’s empty and it used to have our money, the taxpayers’ money, in it, and we didn’t get the results.
No, we’ll get it done.
LEHRER: Governor, one minute.
CLINTON: Ross, that’s a great speech, but it’s not quite that simple.
I mean, look at the facts. Both parties in Washington, the president and the Congress, have cut Medicare. The average senior citizen is spending a higher percentage of income on health care today than they were in 1965, before Medicare came in.
The president’s got another proposal to require them to pay $400 a year more for the next 5 years.
But if you don’t have the guts to control costs by changing the insurance system and taking on the bureaucracies and the regulation of health care in the private and public sector, you can’t fix this problem. Costs will continue to spiral.
And just remember this, folks. A lot of folks on Medicare are out there every day making the choice between food and medicine; not poor enough for Medicare-Medicaid, not wealthy enough to buy their medicine. I’ve met them, people like Mary Annie and Edward Davis in Nashua, New Hampshire. All over this country, they cannot even buy medicine.
So let’s be careful. When we talk about cutting health care costs, let’s start with the insurance companies and the people that are making a killing instead of making our people healthy.
LEHRER: One minute, President Bush.
BUSH: Well, first place, I’d like to clear up something because every 4 years, the Democrats go around and say, Republicans are going to cut Social Security and Medicare. They started it again.
I’m the president that stood up and said, don’t mess with Social Security, and I’m not going to and we haven’t and we are not going to go after the Social Security recipient.
I have one difference with Mr. Perot on that because I don’t think we need to touch Social Security.
What we do need to do, though, is control the growth of these mandatory programs. And Ross properly says, okay, there’s some pain in that. But Governor Clinton refuses to touch that, simply refuses. So what we’ve got to do is control it, let it grow for inflation, let it grow for the amount of new people added, population, and then hold the line.
And I believe that is the way you get the deficit down, not by the tax-and-spend program that we hear every 4 years, whether it’s Mondale, Dukakis, whoever else it is. I just don’t believe we ought to do that. So hold the line on Social Security and put a cap on the growth of the mandatory program.
LEHRER: New question, it is for Governor Clinton, 2 -minute answer. Sandy will ask it.
VANOCUR: Governor Clinton, Ann Compton has brought up Medicare. I remember in 1965, when Wilbur Mills of Arkansas, the chairman of Ways and Means, was pushing it through the Congress. The charge against it was it’s socialized medicine.
CLINTON: Mr. Bush made that charge.
VANOCUR: Well, he served with him 2 years later, in 1967, where I first met him. The 2nd point, though, is that it is now skyrocketing out of control. People want it. We say it’s going bonkers.
Is not the Oregon plan applied to Medicaid rationing the proper way to go even though the federal government last August ruled that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990?
CLINTON: I thought the Oregon plan should at least have been allowed to be tried because at least the people in Oregon were trying to do something. Let me go back to the main point, Sandy.
Mr. Bush is trying to run against Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter and everybody in the world but me in this race. I have proposed a managed competition plan for health care. I will say again: you cannot control health care costs simply by cutting Medicare. Look what’s happened. The federal government has cut Medicare and Medicaid in the last few years, states have cut Medicaid — we’ve done it in Arkansas under budget pressures. But what happens? More and more people get on the rolls as poverty increases. If you don’t control the health care costs of the entire system, you cannot get control of it.
Look at our program. We set up a national ceiling on health care costs tied to inflation and population growth set by health care providers, not by the government. We provide for managed competition, not government models, in every states. And we control private and public health care costs.
Now, just a few days ago a bipartisan commission of Republicans and Democrats — more Republicans than Democrats — said my plan will save the average family $1200 a year more than the Bush plan will by the year 2000, $2.2 trillion in the next 12 years, $400 billion a year by the end of this decade. I’ve got a plan to control health care costs. But you can’t just do it by cutting Medicare; you have to take on the insurance companies, the bureaucracies. And you have to have cost controls, yes.
But keep in mind we are spending 30% more on health care than any country in the world, any country, and yet we have 35 million people uninsured, we have no preventing and primary care. The Oregon plan is a good start if the federal government is going to continue to abandon its responsibilities. I say if Germany can cover everybody and keep costs under inflation, if Hawaii can cover 98% of their people at lower health care costs than the rest of us, if Rochester, New York, can do it with two-thirds of the cost of the rest of it, America can do it, too. I’m tired of being told we can’t. I say we can. We can do better, and we must.
LEHRER: President Bush, one minute.
BUSH: Well, I don’t have time in 30 seconds, or whatever — a minute — to talk about our health care reform plan. The Oregon plan made some good sense, but it’s easy to dismiss the concerns of the disabled. As president I have to be sure that those waivers, which we’re approving all over the place, are covered under the law. Maybe we can work it out. But the Americans with Disabilities Act, speaking about sound and sensible civil rights legislation, was the most foremost piece of legislation passed in modern times, and so we do have something more than a technical problem.
Governor Clinton clicked off the things — he’s going to take on insurance companies and bureaucracies. He failed to take on somebody else — the malpractice suit people, those that bring these lawsuits against — these frivolous trial lawyers’ lawsuits that are running the costs of medical care up 25 to 50 billion. And he refuses to put anything, controls, on these crazy lawsuits.
If you want to help somebody, don’t run the costs up by making doctors have to have 5 or 6 tests where one would do for fear of being sued, or have somebody along the highway not stop to pick up a guy and help him because he’s afraid a trial lawyer will come along and sue him. We’re suing each other too much and caring for each other too little.
LEHRER: Mr. Perot, one minute.
PEROT: We got the most expensive health care system in the world; it ranks behind 15 other nations when we come to life expectancy, and 22 other nations when we come to infant mortality. So we don’t have the best.
Pretty simple, folks — if you’re paying more and you don’t have the best, if all else fails go copy the people who have the best who spend less, right?
Well, we can do better than that. Again, we’ve got plans lying all over the place in Washington. Nobody ever implements them. Now I’m back to square one. If you want to stop talking about it and do it, then I’ll be glad to go up there and we’ll get it done. But if you just want to keep the music going, just stay traditional this next time around, and 4 years from now you’ll have everybody blaming everybody else for a bad health care system.
Talk is cheap; words are plentiful, deeds are precious. Let’s get on with it.
LEHRER: And that’s exactly what we’re going to do. That was, in fact, the final question and answer. We’re now going to move to closing statements. Each candidate will have up to 2 minutes. The order, remember, was determined by drawing, and Mr. Perot, you are first.
PEROT: Well, it’s been a privilege to be able to talk to the American people tonight. I make no bones about it. I love this country. I love the principle it’s founded on. I love the people here. I don’t like to see the country’s principles violated. I don’t like to see the people in a deteriorating economy in a deteriorating country because our government has lost touch with the people.
The people in Washington are good people. We just have a bad system. We’ve got to change the system. It’s time to do it because we have run up so much debt that time is no longer our friend. We’ve got to put our house in order.
When you go to bed tonight, look at your children. Think of their dreams. Think of your dreams as a child and ask yourself, isn’t it time to stop talking about it? Isn’t it time to stop creating images? Isn’t it time to do it? Aren’t you sick of being treated like an unprogrammed robot? Every 4 years, they send you all kinds of messages to tell you how to vote and then go back to business as usual.
They told you at the tax and budget summit that if you agreed to a tax increase, we could balance the budget. They didn’t tell you that that same year they increased spending $1.83 for every dollar we increased taxes. That’s Washington in a nutshell right there.
In the final analysis, I’m doing this for your children when you look at them tonight.
There’s another group that I feel very close to, and these at the men and women who fought on the battlefield, the children — the families — of the ones who died and the people who left parts of their bodies over there. I’d never ask you to do anything for me, but I owe you this, and I’m doing it for you. And I can’t tell you what it means to me at these rallies when I see you and you come up and the look in your eyes — and I know how you feel and you know how I feel. And then I think of the older people who are retired. They grew up in the Depression. They fought and won World War II. We owe you a debt we can never repay you. And the greatest repayment I can ever give is to recreate the American dream for your children and grandchildren. I’ll give you everything I have, if you want me to do it.
LEHRER: Governor Clinton, your closing statement.
CLINTON: I’d like to thank the people of St. Louis and Washington University, the Presidential Debate Commission and all those who made this night possible. And I’d like to thank those of you who are watching.
Most of all, I’d like to thank all of you who have touched me in some way over this last year, all the thousands of you whom I’ve seen. I’d like to thank the computer executives and the electronics executives in Silicon Valley, two-thirds of whom are Republicans who said they wanted to sign on to a change in America. I’d like to thank the hundreds of executives who came to Chicago, a third of them Republicans, who said they wanted to change. I’d like to thank the people who’ve started with Mr. Perot who’ve come on to help our campaign.
I’d like to thank all the folks around America that no one ever knows about — the woman that was holding the AIDS baby she adopted in Cedar Rapids, Iowa who asked me to do something more for adoption; the woman who stopped along the road in Wisconsin and wept because her husband had lost his job after 27 years; all the people who are having a tough time and the people who are winning but who know how desperately we need to change.
This debate tonight has made crystal clear a challenge that is as old as America — the choice between hope and fear, change or more of the same, the courage to move into a new tomorrow or to listen to the crowd who says things could be worse.
Mr. Bush has said some very compelling things tonight that don’t quite square with the record. He was president for 3 years before he proposed a health care plan that still hasn’t been sent to Congress in total; three years before an economic plan, and he still didn’t say tonight that that tax bill he vetoed raised taxes only on the rich and gave the rest of you a break — but he vetoed it anyway.
I offer a new direction. Invest in American jobs, American education, control health care costs, bring this country together again. I want the future of this country to be as bright and brilliant as its past, and it can be if we have the courage to change.
LEHRER: President Bush, your opposing statement.
BUSH: Let me tell you a little what it’s like to be president. In the Oval Office, you can’t predict what kind of crisis is going to come up. You have to make tough calls. You can’t be on one hand this way and one hand another. You can’t take different positions on these difficult issues. And then you need a philosophical — I’d call it a philosophical underpinning. Mine for foreign affairs is democracy and freedom, and look at the dramatic changes around the world. The Cold War is over. The Soviet Union is no more and we’re working with a democratic country. Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the Baltics are free.
Take a look at the Middle East. We had to stand up against a tyrant. The US came together as we haven’t in many, many years. And we kicked this man out of Kuwait. And in the process, as a result of that will and that decision and that toughness, we now have ancient enemies talking peace in the Middle East. Nobody would have dreamed it possible.
And I think the biggest dividend of making these tough calls is the fact that we are less afraid of nuclear war. Every parent out there has much less worry that their kids are going to be faced with nuclear holocaust. All this is good.
On the domestic side, what we must do is have change that empowers people — not change for the sake of change, tax and spend. We don’t need to do that any more. What we need to do is empower people. We need to invest and save. We need to do better in education. We need to do better in job retraining. We need to expand our exports, and they’re going very, very well, indeed. And we need to strengthen the American family.
I hope as president that I’ve earned your trust. I’ve admitted it when I make a mistake, but then I go on and help, try to solve the problems. I hope I’ve earned your trust because a lot of being president is about trust and character. And I ask for your support for 4 more years to finish this job.
Thank you very, very much.
LEHRER: Don’t go away yet. I just want to thank the three panelists and thank the three candidates for participating — President Bush, Governor Clinton and Mr. Perot. They will appear again together on October the 15th and again on October 19th, and next Tuesday there will be a debate among the three candidates for vice president.
And for now, from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, I’m Jim Lehrer. Thank you, and good night.
END Part 2, 1992 Debate 1