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Presidential Candidates Debates: Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate in Manchester, New Hampshire
Presidential
Presidential Candidates Debates
Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate in Manchester, New Hampshire
January 26, 2000
Campaign 2000
Location:

United States
New Hampshire
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PARTICIPANTS:
Former Senator Bill Bradley (NJ), and;
Vice President Al Gore

MODERATORS:
Tom Griffith, WMUR; and
Judy Woodruff, CNN

Woodruff: Thank you for joining us as the Democratic presidential contenders hold their final debate before the New Hampshire primary next Tuesday. If you were with us earlier, you know that the Republican candidates finished their debate in this very studio just half an hour ago.

Griffith: That's right. And our New Hampshire voters take this political tradition that we do every four years very seriously. And we hope tonight that the people of New Hampshire, the people in their living rooms, will be able to explore the issues, examine the candidates, and then finally make up their minds on Tuesday.

The debate, the rules much similar to the one before. During the next half hour Judy and I will pose questions to the candidates. Each candidate will also have time to question one another. And then, of course, both gentlemen will have their closing remarks.

Woodruff: And now let's welcome the Democratic candidates: Vice President Al Gore and former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley.

Gentlemen, thank you both.

The first...

Bradley: Thank you.

Woodruff: The first question goes to Mr. Gore.

Most people believe that you are an honorable man, but when it comes to electoral politics your critics, including some Democrats, say that you will do almost anything to win, including reinventing yourself, using consultants no matter what their reputation, and running not just a tough, but a mean-spirited campaign. Newspaper editorials here in New Hampshire and around the country accuse you of distorting Mr. Bradley's record. Is this really necessary to win your party's nomination?

Gore: Well, Judy, of course I strongly challenge your characterization. And there is nothing that I have said in this campaign that is in any way mean spirited. I have never run a negative personal attack against my opponent and I never will. I have never even mentioned his name or show his picture in an advertisement and I have no plans to.

Now, I think that some people who feel uncomfortable when the substance of positions if criticized confuse free-spirited debate on the substance of issues with negative attacks. It's not a negative attack to defend Medicaid when Senator Bradley proposes to substitute vouchers or subsidies, as he prefers to call them, limited to $150 per month per person.

It's not anything but an exercise in democracy to defend Medicare, and say what all the independent analysts have said, that because the baby boom generation is about to retire, doubling the population of Medicare recipients, we need to start putting money into the trust fund.

Senator John McCain has the same position.

Woodruff: Well, Mr. Vice President, there have been, evidently, several distortions of Mr. Bradley's record. And I'm going to cite just two of them. You charged, for example, that his health care plan would eliminate federal standards for nursing homes. It would not.

Number two, you charge, in supporting that he — in supporting pilot, private school voucher programs — which he did, he voted to siphon off money from public education, which is also not the case.

Now was this a matter of misinformation, or were you just being political?

Gore: Well, Judy, I disagree again with your characterization. Federal nursing home standards are enforced by the providing of money, under the Medicaid program, to more than two-thirds of all the nursing home patients who get as much as half of their money from Medicaid.

When the federal government says, "Look, you have got to abide by standards," the only threat they have to enforce those standards is withdrawing money.

Now on public school vouchers — private school vouchers, Senator Bradley voted every time it came up in the Senate, for private school vouchers. It's pretty well accepted that there is a limited amount of money in communities for public schools, and if you take some of that money and devote it to private schools, over time that is going to result in the siphoning of money away from the public schools.

Griffith: Thank you, Mr. Gore.

Mr. Bradley, I want to get right to the heart of the education issue with you since we've been talking about it. As you know, traveling through New Hampshire, we're struggling in this state with a heavy-duty funding education — education funding issue. We have a new state-wide property tax. Many of our schools are in fact overcrowded. Some in disrepair.

We have the problem of unfunded federal mandates for special education, in which some parents in this state actually want their children to be coded so that they can get the extra tutor or the extra attention without having the federal dollars coming from Washington to cover those expenses for the districts.

If we fund the mandates and create vouchers wouldn't it help the public schools by lowering the enrollments and in fact giving the public schools more money or no?

Bradley: No, I don't think so. I think that the key thing when it comes to education, generally, is to conceive of education as beginning at birth, extending through every life stage, and being for everyone.

This morning I was in Manchester at the Y, at an early child care program. The first three years of life are decisive in terms of early brain formation. That's why I think you begin investing in education in those first three or four years. I think then it's important to increase the Head Start slots by 400,000, because that prepares kids to go to school.

And then I think it's very important to — when you get to elementary and secondary, that the biggest thing that the federal government can do in the next decade, is to try to put 600,000 new, qualified teachers in classrooms in this country, and 2,000 after-school programs for kids, so between 3:00 and 8:00 they have some place to go.

Then a major investment in community colleges, and more funding for special education, which would reduce the property tax burden on New Hampshire property tax payers.

Griffith: So, can you go ahead an clarify your voucher position, then, at this time?

Bradley: Sure. I don't think that vouchers are the answer to the problems of public education. I voted for it several times when I was in the Senate as an experiment. There are now two experiments going on. I don't think it's the answer to the problems of public education.

Griffith: Thank you very much.

I want to go now to Vice President Gore, if I can.

Mr. Gore, tell us how, first of all, you plan to tax Internet commerce during your administration. And get a little bit specific about issues like business-to-business commerce, and also about the taxing of electronic retailing for those kinds of establishments that have what Wall Street calls both a brick-and-mortar establishment, and do commerce on the Internet.

Gore: Bricks and clicks, they refer to it.

Griffith: Bricks and clicks.

Gore: Well, I haven't — I haven't proposed taxing Internet commerce or e-commerce at all, Tom. Right now, there is a dispute ongoing between the Internet service providers and the Internet community generally on the one hand, and the state and local government leaders on the other hand, who have depended on sales tax revenue and who are worried that they might see all of that revenue lost over time.

I strongly support a moratorium preventing any taxation of the Internet as negotiations are encouraged between the state and local jurisdictions and the Internet service providers.

Griffith: Could you give me — are you willing to go on the record with a John McCain style of "no taxes under no circumstances" type of pledge?

Gore: Well, I haven't proposed any. I think that we need to — and I'm against it. But I think that we need to let these negotiations continue. Because there are two sides to this, and it's completely unfair to subject the Internet to thousands of different taxing jurisdictions. And if we can find a way to avoid it all together, that would be great.

But the state and local government leaders also have a point. And they're trying to make that point in the negotiations that are under way right now. And I think the best thing we can do is facilitate those negotiations and try to get a reasonable compromise.

Griffith: Thank you.

Woodruff: Mr. Bradley, we talked with a number of Democratic voters in Iowa, where you've just come from, and here in New Hampshire who say they like you, they respect you, but they think you are too laid back in this contest.

They note your determination to avoid going negative. But they worry that in the fall the Democrats are going to need a fighter to go up against what will surely be a relentlessly tough campaign put on by the Republicans, and they say they don't see that fight in you. Is it there?

Bradley: Judy, I think if you looked at my record in the United States Senate you'd see a lot of fights that I made that were very successful. For example, in the early 1980s I began to fight for tax reform, which was lower rates and fewer loopholes, creating a tax system where equal incomes paid equal taxes. People said that could never happen — that that would never happen because the special interests would stop it. Well, we overcame the special interests and we made it happen.

Once I — in the latter part of my terms in the Senate, I discovered that women were being pushed out of the hospital in 24 hours after giving birth. I got angry, and I introduced legislation, I marshalled public support, 85,000 letters came into my office, and over a 15-month period we worked hard until we passed the law.

I fight for my convictions and for the things I believe in. I don't believe in politics as usual where it's simply charge-countercharge. I believe in fighting for principle.

And I can guarantee you one thing. In the fall against the Republican there'd be a lot to fight about.

Woodruff: Well, you say that, however, Mr. Bradley, you have surrogates in this campaign who are being very tough on Mr. Gore. Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, the widow of the late Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas, both of them on the air now attacking Mr. Gore for suggesting that he has distorted your record. Are you hiding behind them and letting them do your dirty work?

Bradley: No, I'm not, Judy. I just think politics should be a case of belief and not tactics; that it should be a case of saying what you're for, not what you're against; it should be a matter of bringing issues to the fore, not demeaning your opponent.

And, unfortunately, that has not been reciprocated on the other side in this campaign.

Griffith: Gentlemen, this is our opportunity to ask one another questions. We're going to start with you, Mr. Gore, if you'd like to pose a question to Senator Bradley.

Gore: Yes. First of all, I want to make a brief comment. Senator Bradley is the only one who has been forced by the media to apologize for negative attacks in this campaign, and he is the one who brought Willie Horton into the campaign, so...

Bradley: Both of those...[crosstalk]...if you're going to talk about a higher standard, you need to live by it.

Both of those...

Gore: Now, here's my question. I've asked you this before, but I've looked at the record and I found that the '81 budget cuts that Ronald Reagan proposed resulted in an increase of one million children losing health care under Medicaid and 1.5 million children living in poverty.

Why did you support those Reagan budget cuts?

Bradley: Well, first let me say that during the Reagan era, I was the point man in the Democratic Party against the Reagan efforts. I went on national television opposite Ronald Reagan in the passage of the tax bill. On the budget, I was the head of the task force of the Democratic Party in the United States Senate. And my job was to try to diminish the effect of those tax cuts — of those budget cuts.

We succeeded in doing that. Ultimately, I voted for the Reagan budget. But the fact is, if people had voted as I did for the Reagan budget and against the tax cuts, there would not have been the deficits of the 1980s. And if there hadn't been the deficits of the 1980s, that means we would have had higher growth. That means we would have had more revenue coming in. And that means we would have been a stronger country.

So I voted for those but it was an act of leadership, I think. Once again, getting ahead of the curve here, I warned that if people didn't do that, we'd have deficits. We had deficits. And those deficits stole from the poor much more than they lost through the budget cuts. It stole from the poor and from the middle class much more than they lost through any budget cuts.

Griffith: Mr. Gore.

Gore: Well, there are only two problems with that. First of all, you voted for the budget cuts before the tax cut vote came up. And secondly, the way you've been talking, I just don't see how you can vote for Ronald Reagan's budget cuts and then try to campaign like Robert Kennedy.

Griffith: And one final from you, Mr. Bradley.

Bradley: Well, let me just say, when Al accuses me of negative campaigning, it reminds me of the story about Richard Nixon. It said Richard Nixon's the kind of politician who would chop down a tree and stand on the stump and give a speech about conservation.

Griffith: Mr. Bradley...

Bradley: It just won't fly.

Griffith: Mr. Bradley, your turn to pose a question to Vice President Gore.

Bradley: Al, Hillary Clinton said the other day that consistency on fundamental issues of principles is important. She went on to express how she and Rudy Giuliani have the same position on choice now, but that he had changed his position to arrive there and she had always been there.

My question to you is, do you think she's wrong?

Gore: I've always supported Roe v. Wade. I have always supported a woman's right to choose. And let me say that, if you entrust me with the presidency, I will guarantee that a woman's right to choose is protected.

Now it's true that early in my career I wrestled with the question of what kinds of exceptions should be allowed to the general rule that Medicaid should also pay for this procedure. I have come to the strong view that all women, regardless of their income, must have the right to choose. And that's my position.

Now the next president is likely to appoint as many as three, maybe four, justices of the Supreme Court.

All of the Republicans candidates who were in this studio have taken a pledge to overturn Roe v. Wade and support a constitutional amendment to take away the right to choose.

We basically agree. We have exactly the same position. So if you want to manufacture a distinction, OK. But if you want to know my position, I favor a woman's right to choose, regardless of the woman's income.

Bradley: Well, you still didn't answer the question, whether consistency on fundamental issues of principle is relevant. I think they are. And I can understand why you wouldn't answer the question, because when you were in the Congress, you had an 84 percent right-to-life voting record.

And it seems to me that this is an issue that requires somebody to know where they stand, and to know why they stand where they stand. I respect people who have a different view than I do. I respect your position that you have. People can evolve, but your campaign shouldn't go around saying that you've always been for a woman's right to choose, because the record shows you have not.

Gore: Well...

Griffith: All right, let's go on. Let's go on to the next group. Mr. Gore, you have a question for Mr. Bradley.

Gore: Well...

Griffith: Oh now, I'm sorry, you've got a...

Gore: Don't I have a...

Griffith: I'm sorry, you do get to respond. I'm sorry, you do get to respond.

Gore: Yes, I thought that I did. Thank you, Tom.

Griffith: Yes.

Gore: I have always supported a woman's right to choose. And I support it today. And...

Bradley: That's not true.

Gore: Well, it is...

Bradley: You voted...

Gore: ... true...

Bradley: ... the other way.

Gore: I have always supported Roe v. Wade, and a woman's right to choose. And the fact is...

Bradley: Al, that's not true.

Gore: ... the exceptions on the — if I could finish. I haven't interrupted you, Bill. The exceptions to the general rule that Medicaid should provide funding for abortions constituted virtually the only votes in the House of Representatives during those years. And I've told you that I wrestled with that.

But if you want to know what my position is, you can look at the record and you can hear me right now — and not just here, but in every speech that I have made: I support a woman's right to choose.

Griffith: All right. If you could ask a question now of Senator Bradley, Mr. Gore.

Gore: Yes. On the question of welfare reform, I believe that it has been an important achievement. In fact, we have moved seven million people from welfare to work, cutting the rolls in half. You voted against it in the United States Senate and I'm wondering why.

Bradley: I voted against it because I didn't think it was in the best interest of the country. And I'm wondering why you think it's working so well when, because of welfare reform, there are one million children in this country today who don't have health insurance — who've lost their health insurance because of welfare reform.

I also think that, although the welfare rolls have dropped, that people in deep poverty have increased.

And when I look at this vote, and I say what this vote really was was a gamble with kids for reelection. In October 1996, that's when the vote took place, that's when the discussion took place. And I voted against it because I said I was not willing to take that gamble, and I said the next four years there would be attempts to correct a bad bill. And indeed that's what happens.

Legal immigrants, 60, 70 years old, were kicked off of the welfare rolls because of that bill. The fact is that there were strict limits set at two years and five years that said that if — you only have welfare for two years, then you have to go off, you only have five years in the long — in your entire life.

And that, I thought, was an onerous burden. And, indeed, that has been changed now. Governors now have flexibility. And, indeed, the legal immigrant provision has been changed.

So the bill I voted against is not the bill now. But I think we need to reform welfare reform. No question about that.

Griffith: Mr. Gore.

Gore: There's only one problem with that, Bill. There have been no changes to the welfare reform bill. There was the extraneous provision related to legal immigrants, which has been changed, as the president and I pledged we would change it. But the two-to five-year provision, it's the same now as it was when it was passed.

So are you saying you would repeal welfare reform or are you saying it was mistake to vote for welfare reform?

Bradley: No, I'm not saying it was a mistake to vote for welfare reform. I'm saying that we need to reform the reform. And, indeed, legal immigrants were excluded; now they're included. That was a change. That was a change.

In addition to that, I think that if a father is forced to pay child support, that that child support ought to go to the mother. Under this bill, where it goes is to the county, to the state government to pay the costs of the system. How do you expect the family who is — a mother trying to support a child to be able to do that when you take the money that comes from the father and give it to the state instead of the child?

And, finally, I think we've got to do something about one million children who don't have any health care in this country because they lost it when they were kicked off of welfare.

Griffith: Mr. Bradley, you have a chance to ask the vice president a question.

Bradley: Al, I've offered a health care plan that provides access to universal, affordable, quality health care for all Americans; a health care plan that guarantees children health coverage; a health care plan that gives the elderly a Medicare drug benefit; a health care plan that in effect gives the people earning under $50,000 the equivalent of a $25 billion tax cut.

Now, you have done nothing in this campaign but attack this bill, this suggestion, this idea. In fact, "The Keene Sentinel" said "Gore persists in mischaracterizing Bill Bradley's health care plan."

Griffith: Could you get to the question, Mr. Bradley?

Bradley: The question is, why?

Gore: Well, I was the first candidate in this race, in either party, to put out a comprehensive health care reform bill. And it's based on the principle that we can best get to universal health care for all Americans in a step-by-step way that has been endorsed by Mr. Health Care in the U.S. Senate, Ted Kennedy; Governor Howard Dean, the leading expert among the Democratic governors, and all governors in this country.

My plan provides health care for every single child in this country. It provides a prescription drug benefit for seniors under Medicare which — unlike your provision, Bill, your provision requires them to spend up to $900 of their own money before they get a penny of benefits. More than half of seniors under your plan would have to pay $300 a year in premiums and not get a penny in help for purchasing their prescription drugs.

I provide a tax credit for the small business employers who have more than half of all the uninsured work force and for individuals to purchase their own health insurance. I also deal with the issue of long-term care to give help to those who are bearing that burden. And perhaps most importantly in the short turn, I give the medical decisions back to the doctors and the nurses and take them away from the insurance companies and the HMOs.

Griffith: Senator Bradley.

Bradley: Well, you have said again tonight that you're for universal health insurance. The problem is we don't get there, anywhere close to getting there. You nibble around the edges, and indeed you have nothing in you budget for the next 10 years to get to universal health insurance. And yet you assert that you want to do that.

In terms of the Medicare drug benefit, let me say the difference between our plans are this. I saw a woman in Des Moines the other day. She had — just let me finish — $10,000 in pharmaceutical costs. My plan would have cost — would have paid $7,500 of that. Al's plan would have paid $1,000.

Griffith: We need to get on with the questions...

Bradley: That's a big difference.

Gore: If I could follow-up to that...

Griffith: As a follow-up — yes, as a follow-up.

Gore: And I've got the right to answer now?

Griffith: Yes.

Gore: OK. Bill, under your plan, people here in New Hampshire would really be left out in the cold. Now I know that you're uncomfortable hearing this, but I am going to defend Medicaid and Medicare.

If a Republican candidate had proposed the elimination of Medicaid and the substitution of vouchers, or subsidies as you prefer to call them, at $150 a month, you and I and every Democrat would be up in arms criticizing such a proposal.

Here in New Hampshire, there is not a single health care policy, Tom and Judy, that is available under the federal plan that he's pointing people toward that you can purchase health insurance for, as an individual, and none that are available that have benefits anywhere nearly approaching what is available now under Medicaid.

Griffith: All right. Thank you very much.

We'll get back to you, Senator Bradley, in just a second.

We are now going to move to a section where now the moderators will ask the two of you. I appreciate your dealing with the intricacies of that whole process. It's an interesting dialogue. We want to continue moving that way.

But this is for you, Vice President Gore, and we've spoken before about the issue of Clinton fatigue. You've addressed it to me personally, you've addressed it to New Hampshire's audience by discussing your loyalty to the president during those difficult days in Washington.

I get a sense out there, though, that among a lot of people there's also something that I — they call spin fatigue. It's the idea of deny, defend, spin. It's something that seems to have evolved over the last eight years with a lot of the administration loyalists.

Can you talk to us a little bit right now about what you — type of people you hope to surround yourself with in your administration, and would Clinton holdovers assume that they have a job?

Gore: Well, this will be a fresh, new administration. But I think what you're picking up out there, Tom, is what I'm picking up, that people are tired of the whole discussion about the president's personal mistake. They think that, by and large, he has been a great president in turning this economy around.

You know, the Clinton-Gore administration has ended the deepest recession since the 1930s, when New Hampshire was losing 10,000 jobs a year, and brought on the strongest economy in the history of the United States — one in which New Hampshire is gaining 16,000 jobs a year. I want to continue that prosperity. And I want to have a dialogue with the American people in this campaign, and if you entrust me with the presidency, in the presidency itself, that is honest and forthright, and similar in tone and substance to the kind of open meetings that I've been having all over New Hampshire.

You talk to some of the undecided voters who have come to the open meetings I've had here, and ask them what their reaction is to the kind of forthrightness and candor and straight talk that I have tried to give them in response to every question, every comment, every suggestion.

I've learned a lot from them. And that's the kind of approach I would take in a Gore presidency.

Griffith: Can you give us a sense of — give us two names of someone who might be a counsel to the president.

Gore: Well, both Bill and I have resisted — and I think the other candidates, by and large have as well — going to name a Cabinet, or even a vice presidential running mate, before I've earned the honor and privilege of making such choices.

I will say this, that over the last seven years I have helped to search out quality people. I've had conversations to try to convince people to come out of academia, to come out of the business world, to come out of the labor movement, out of the environmental movement and elsewhere, to get the very top, best, most-qualified people — men and women reflecting the diversity of this country to be a part of the administration. I would take that approach in a Gore administration.

Griffith: Thank you.

Woodruff: Mr. Bradley, a question about international policy. With rising oil prices around the globe, many experts say that Iraq now has more leverage over the United Nations than at any time since the 1991 Persian Gulf war. Russia openly backs Iraq. China and France frequently vote with Iraq at the U.N. against the United States. At this point, the Clinton administration seems, to many experts, undecided over whether to take a harder line against Saddam Hussein or to try to strike some sort of accommodation. What specifically would you do about Iraq?

Bradley: Well, the first thing I'd do is try to loosen his grip on the oil pipeline. The fact is that he has the capacity now, in OPEC, to reduce production, which increases price. That's precisely what's happened now. And that means that prices for New Hampshire residents for home heating oil go up — about $1.74 now.

And as I think about this, I see there are things that an administration could do here to stop that. One would be to let oil out of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. That is there in order to have oil enter the market when prices go up; that'll keep prices down.

The administration hasn't done that.

The second thing that's important for us to do now is to tell Kuwait and Saudi Arabia — two countries that we protected in 1990-91 — to increase their oil production. If they increase their oil production, the prices would then drop.

And with Saddam Hussein specifically, I think the most important thing is to diplomatically isolate him. I would not let sanctions go. I would keep sanctions on and try to keep him pinned down and surrounded through diplomatic effort.

Woodruff: This is a follow-up. Desert Storm, which you opposed, was successful because the U.S. military had the resources that it needed, and many critics today say that there is a huge readiness problem in our military. You are the only presidential candidate who has said he is not for increased military spending.

My question is, how do you know that this is not going to leave the United States' national security position in a vulnerable state?

Bradley: Because we're heading to a new age, Judy. We no longer have to fight the Cold War. We have a defense budget that resembles the Cold War defense budget. We don't have to protect Europe against the possibility that Soviet tanks would move across the North German plain.

We have new threats on the horizon. So we can eliminate certain weapons systems that are from the Cold War.

We can also consolidate bases much more than we have. And we can make tough choices on investment in new technology as opposed to platforms. And we can look ahead to a time where things like the arsenal ship will be moving toward replacing the aircraft carrier and doing so with only 50 people on board.

Woodruff: All right, a question now to Mr. Gore, also international policy question. Chechnya — the Clinton-Gore administration is continuing to back international financial support for Russia, loans, despite the brutal war in Chechnya, in which, as you know, Russian soldiers have killed many, many civilians. Why is your administration not willing to do anything truly tough toward Russia given these circumstances?

Gore: Well, as a matter of fact, we have. And the Ex-Im proposal that came up just a few weeks ago was pulled back and vetoed by direct intervention of the secretary of state. We have opposed new IMF provisions. There has been no direct state-to-state aid for more than a year now.

Now, particular programs that go toward dismantling nuclear warheads, for example, under the Nunn-Lugar policy, you wouldn't want to cancel that. Particular cooperative ventures where none of the companies or the state agencies involved are implicated in any of the activity in Chechnya or in proliferation activities, that's a separate matter.

Gore: We have, in fact, enforced a real cutoff of a lot of forms of aid.

Woodruff: But you have not gone as far as — for example, Governor Bush, Senator McCain, even Senator Bradley have recommended — all of them have recommended going further in terms of cutting financial assistance to the Russians. Why don't you — why aren't you willing to advocate this, since you know — we now know how much this war is draining from the general Russian treasury?

Gore: Yes. Well, let's start at the beginning. Russia has 20,000 nuclear warheads. And they may not be aimed at the United States, because they're de-targeted now, but within two seconds, those targets could be programmed right back into the missiles.

As long as they have that kind of arsenal, if you think I'm going to support a cutoff of programs that are designed to dismantle their warheads, to help them move toward a reduction in military force that could threaten the lives of the American people, I'm not going to go along with that.

We live in a world where we need to make our points as forcefully as possible, and keep our eyes on the ball. And the movement toward democracy and free markets in Russia may not have been as rapid as we would like, but the movement to reduce the threat they pose to us, and bring about changes there is some thing that overall has been a good thing.

Griffith: Thank you very much. The next question goes to Senator Bradley.

A lot of observers have said basically both of you are so similar on policies — you may not agree with this, but observers say this — that you're so similar on policies that the real question here is who has the personality and the temperament to be the next president.

With that in mind, Senator Bradley, will you please outline for me your worst behavior on the basketball court?

Bradley: This is a very personal question. [laughter]

My worst behavior on the basketball court, I suppose, was occasionally holding John Havlicek when I played the Boston Celtics. And actually, I knew I was doing pretty well in New Hampshire about six months into the campaign when some person came up to me and said — gave me a bumper sticker and it said: Another Celtic Fan for Bradley.

But I also, in addition to holding John Havlicek occasionally, you know, there's a competition that goes on. There are elbows that are thrown. Occasional blows are thrown. That's part of the game. So if you're asking me about that, I think that's what I would say.

Politics is different. Politics should be something that's higher. Politics should be something that elevates us. It should not be something that drags us down. I'm trying to get beyond politics as usual to a kind of politics that allows Americans to realize that they're a part of shaping our collective futures, by participating and by recognizing that candidates who state what they're for have a better chance of leading truthfully than candidates who do not.

Griffith: Maybe trying to get to emotion here. In basketball, have you ever cried in victory or in defeat?

Bradley: I've never cried in victory or defeat in basketball. I cried the other day, though, right here in New Hampshire.

I was in a setting where a woman named Kathy Perry told me her story. She said that she and her husband had four kids. They both — she had two jobs, her husband had one job. They took one of their children to the doctor and they didn't have health insurance. The doctor diagnosed it as strep. She was leaving and she wrote out the check and her son said to here, I'm sorry, Mom. And she said, Why? He said, I'm sorry because I got sick.

I don't think any child in America should get sick. And when I heard that story, tears rushed to my eyes.

Woodruff: We're going to have to move now to the next round of candidate-to-candidate questions. And the first question from Vice President Gore to Senator Bradley.

Gore: Senator Bradley — Bill, as college becomes more crucial to working families, a lot of students are worried about the debt that they're going to incur and a lot of families are worried how they can help them pay the tuition. I've put out a comprehensive education reform plan that will give new help to families with college tuition.

I looked at your proposals on education, and with the exception of giving some equipment to community colleges, there's nothing to help pay college tuition. Why not?

Woodruff: We need a question. OK.

Bradley: Well, indeed you've focused on an important aspect of the proposal which is the community college proposal. Fifty percent of the kids in higher education in America go to community colleges, and yet it only gets five percent of the federal education dollar.

I think that it's critical that we help community colleges, because that is the place where most kids begin the process of higher education, going on to four-year education institutions. That is also where mothers go after they've raised kids so they can learn more, so they can earn more. It's also where workers in our society who have been downsized have to acquire new skills.

So, that is a major investment in community colleges.

In terms of the four-year college, I think we ought to do more of what I call self-reliance loans, which allows people to repay their loan as a percent of their future income, as opposed to having a giant debt that comes down on them as soon as they get out of school.

In addition, I propose college scholarships for 10,000 kids at $7,500 each if they would agree to teach in urban schools...

Woodruff: Mr. Gore has a follow-up here.

Gore: Yes. We're not talking about machinery and equipment here, we're talking about people. And with the exception of a few scholarships for teachers — and I've proposed to recruiting a lot more teachers — why don't you propose anything to help middle-income families pay college tuition and save for college tuition?

Bradley: Actually I have proposed, through the health care plan, an equivalent of a $25 billion tax cut. Do you know how much that could mean for someone at $30,000 of income? At $30,000 in income, that could put almost $3,000 in that family's pocket. And if they had health insurance, they could spend that money on college education for their children.

Woodruff: Mr. Bradley, a question for Mr. Gore.

Bradley: Al, you've made a proposal that we take 30-second ads off the air. And you know, that translation is — you're well known, I'm not. You take them off, you win. And I look at that, and I say, I understand why you did it. But the real problem is negative ads, not 30-second ads. And the AP Ad-Watch called one of your ads unfair and misleading.

And my question to you is, why should we believe that you will tell the truth as president, if you don't tell the truth as a candidate?

Gore: That's not a negative attack?

Let me say in response, Bill, first of all, I have proposed that we debate twice a week, and take all of the 30-second, 60-second TV and radio adds off the air. And I've said I'll do that if you pick any state where you will be willing to do that. Now as for criticism of negative campaigning, one newspaper recently called your attacks "muddying your image."

You had — you were forced to apologize for a negative personal attack. You introduced Willie Horton into this campaign. So let's be serious about this. I've never mentioned your name in an ad. I have never used your picture in an ad.

But, you know, I am going to defend programs like Medicaid and Medicare. I'm going to defend middle-income Americans against a budget plan that I think would drive interest rates up and threaten this economic prosperity which has been so good for New Hampshire.

So I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm going to fight for the American people.

Bradley: Al, if you talk about a flyer that was immediately repudiated that went to a couple hundred people versus an advertisement on television, that's like comparing a gnat to an elephant. You're the elephant of negative advertising here. And the fact of the matter is — don't take my word, take "The Lawrence Eagle Tribune." It said — "Lawrence Eagle Tribune" which said that he was a master of spin and smear.

Woodruff: Is there a question?

Bradley: No.

Gore: OK. Well, let me respond anyway. You know, there are — there are plenty of reviews of the campaigning that goes on. But the truth is, look, the people of New Hampshire know a negative ad when they see one. Ask them if they've seen a negative ad that my campaign has run.

They did see that flyer that you apologized for.

And I accepted your apology. But it's not the only example. "The Boston Herald" called your attacks a low blow. And one of the network anchors on the Sunday morning shows said that you'd made an unfortunate decision to, kind of, get a little nasty in the campaign.

I have not complained, and I will not complain. But if you make those kind of accusations and attacks against me and hold a standard up that you, yourself, are not complying with, I mean, that's just — that's not the way to go about it.

Let's talk about the issues. Let's have debates twice a week.

Bradley: In politics, sometimes people make misleading statements because they don't know any better. You know better.

Gore: Is this...[crosstalk]

Bradley: You know better. You know better, and you continue to...

Woodruff: No, but because...[crosstalk]

Bradley: ... do what you know is untrue. And that does not respect the voter of New Hampshire.

Woodruff: All right, Mr. Gore.

Gore: Well, I'd like a rebuttal also, then.

Woodruff: All right, go ahead.

Gore: But there has never been a time in this campaign when I have said something that I know to be untrue. There's never been a time when I've said something untrue.

Now, let's be honest here, Bill. What you're uncomfortable about is that when you put out your health care plan, and you realize that nobody in New Hampshire or Iowa can take advantage of it...

Bradley: That's not right. That's not incorrect.

Gore: ... and when you realize that more than half of all the seniors get not a penny from your prescription drug benefit, you realized you made a mistake, but instead of correcting the plan, you decided to shoot at the messenger that pointed out what's wrong with the plan.

Bradley: Both of those things are incorrect. That is not correct. The fact of the matter is, as I said earlier, if you had added $10,000 in pharmaceutical costs for prescription drugs, your plan would cap that at $1,000...

Gore: How much money do you have — how many expenses do you have to have before you...

Bradley: Wait, wait — your plan would stop that at $1,000.

Gore: ... get any money under your plan?

Bradley: I'm sorry. This is a tactic. See this is a tactic. Your — your plan would cap it at $1,000 and mine would pay $7,500.

Gore: That's not right, either.

Bradley: This is the difference between going for big ideas and nibbling around the edges.

Gore: See if we could debate twice a week, we could have a debate just on health care. And I could point out that my cap goes up to $5,000. And that more than half of all the seniors don't get a penny under Senator Bradley's prescription drug plan, but have to pay more in — in payments each year and get nothing in return.

Now that's — that's just a fact.

Woodruff: All right. We've let — we've let, sort of, slip out of the rules here because it was clear that both of you had things that you wanted to say.

Now, we have a question for — from — from Senator Bradley for Mr. Gore.

Bradley: Al, I think we need a fresh start in Washington. And I read in "The Boston Globe" today the following thing. It said, "What's wrong with Washington is it's in the vice-like grip of moneyed special interests and their lobbyists." And it went on to say that you're the favorite of the Washington lobbyists.

So my question to you is, how can you be fighting for the people when you're working hand-in -love with the special interests who essentially are fighting against the people?

Gore: Well, I'm not working hand-in-glove as you have attacked there. If that's not negative, I don't what it is.

You know, I have never been afraid to stand up to the special interests. I have fought against the oil lobby for home heating oil assistance here in New Hampshire and for protection against drilling off the coast. I have fought against the pharmaceutical companies to get more competition from generic companies to bring drug prices down. I fought you when you were pushing that amendment on behalf of the pharmaceutical companies.

I have fought against those who have tried to eliminate the right to organize in the work place. I have fought for working people against every lobby that exists in Washington.

For 23 years now, I have fought for the people, and the whole basis of my campaign here is that I want to fight for the people of New Hampshire and I intend to do just that if you will entrust me with the presidency.

Bradley: Well, all I can say is it's politics as usual. And that's a thousand promises and a thousand attacks. That's what's been your campaign — a thousand promises, a thousand attacks. A promise to every little special interest group; attack, attack, attack every day. That's been the nature of it.

And quite frankly, I think the people are fed up with it. But from your standpoint nothing have changed. Lobbyists are still in charge in Washington.

Gore: Look, I have support — I didn't wait until I ran for president to first speak up on campaign finance reform.

When I went to Congress 20 years ago, I proposed full public financing of congressional elections. Senator Bradley went for 17 years,in the United States Senate before he put his name on legislation that he introduced on campaign finance reform.

I have been fighting for that for my entire career. I refuse to accept PAC funding. I refuse to accept that kind of special interest — I've called for the abolition of the so-called soft money spending...

Bradley: But you still raise soft money.

Gore: And I have called, and I called, and I call again now to just eliminate the one source of more than half of all the campaign finance raised and spent, and that is the 30-second TV ads, which you are defending, constantly, which I'd like to just get rid of.

Woodruff: Mr. Vice President, it's your turn now to ask a question of Senator Bradley.

Gore: OK, let me get back to the Medicaid issue that we had an exchange on before. You have said, we'll eliminate the Medicaid program, and we'll put in its place a system of giving $150 a month, in the form of a voucher, or a subsidy — if you prefer that word — so that people can go into the private market place and get health insurance.

I said before, there's not a single plan here in New Hampshire where an individual can buy health insurance for $150 a month, in the federal employee plan. Am I wrong about that? If so, what — where is the plan, and what is its name?

Bradley: What your wrong about, and how you've mischaracterized this, is saying New Hampshire would have $150. That's where you're wrong. New Hampshire will have more.

I'm not going to do a health care program that doesn't give people who are on Medicaid now, largely adults, access to several plans in every state. The legislation will be written, that's what will happen. The figure of $150 does not apply to New Hampshire, it applies to other states.

Let's take, for example, what you've done on Medicaid. Since — over the last seven years Medicaid HMOs in this country have gone from 14 percent to 54 percent of all Medicaid recipients. And what — the average of the Medicaid recipient, all of them, has a fee of under $150. Under $150. So this can easily be done.

The big difference is here, by raising this issue you are trying to get away from facing up to the fact that I've offered a proposal that would provide access to quality affordable health care for all Americans; would provide a Medicare drug benefit for the elderly that's much more generous than yours, much bigger than yours; and would indeed guarantee all children health coverage in this country; and on top of that...

Woodruff: Mr. Gore...

Bradley: ... provide money to middle-class people to be able to pay for their health insurance.

Gore: Well — well, let...

Bradley: That is what you're trying to cover up by this misrepresentation on $150.

Gore: Well, let me say again, Senator Ted Kennedy took a careful look at both plans and said mine is clearly the best way to advance the cause of universal health insurance.

But if New Hampshire's going to get more than $150 a month, you're changing your plan. Name me three...

Bradley: I'm not changing my plan.

Gore: ... name me three states where the people would get less than $150 a month?

Bradley: There are any numbers of states...

Gore: Can you name some?

Bradley: Tennessee is one.

Gore: Two others?

Bradley: There are any number of them. There are 24 states...

Gore: Can you name a couple of others?

Bradley: There are 24 states that have a waiver from the national government in order to do Medicaid, and that is under $150.

Now what I think is going on here is pretty clear. In politics, as I said, people make misleading statements. And most of them do it because they don't know better. You know better. You're know what you're saying is not true. And quite frankly, I wonder whether if you're running a campaign, that is saying untrue things, whether you'll be able to be a president that gets people's trust.

If you're running a campaign that's divisive, that's the kind of presidency that you will also have.

Gore: Could I have a rebuttal since that's a...

Bradley: I think — I think they deserve — people deserve...

Woodruff: All right...

Bradley: ... more respect.

Gore: Look, since that's a negative personal attack, can I have a rebuttal?

Woodruff: Go ahead.

Gore: Look, Bill, we have had some heated disagreements in this campaign. Let's keep it to the substances of the issues. I haven't accused you of lying. We can have a disagreement on the substance of the issues without you making negative personal attacks. Look, the people out there are tired of that. They want to talk about the substance of the issues. And if you feel like you're on the defensive on the substance of the issues, then change your plan.

Don't shoot the messenger. Don't try to take it out on somebody that you hear pointing out some legitimate problems. Now, that's what's really going on here. And the easiest way to solve it would be for you to simply accept my challenge of debating twice a week. And we could have a debate just on health care.

Woodruff: Mr. Bradley, you get a response.

Bradley: My response is that this country has wanted universal health insurance for 40 years. I am the first candidate that is out there in this campaign, offering them universal access to quality, affordable health care.

You have said you want universal health insurance, but you have no way of getting there. And so, instead of facing up to that fact and admitting to people that you have no way to get to universal health insurance, you decide to pick this number or that number out of a proposal, when in fact the proposal will cover people in this country.

Woodruff: All right. We have — we are now going to go to the final round of moderator questions. And because we've ended up with more comments from both of you, we're going to ask you if you would limit your answers at this point to 45 seconds, if possible. And we will not be asking follow-ups.

To you, Vice President Gore, Senator Fred Thompson, Republican, Senator Joe Lieberman, Democrat, have both suggested that the campaign finance scandals of the Clinton-Gore administration in 1996 were the worst since Watergate. Chinese army officials, other foreign officials, invited to coffees at the White House; the Buddhist temple incident; the Lincoln Bedroom virtually auctioned off. My question is: No one up high paid a price. Isn't this just a license for the same sort of thing to happen in this election and the next election?

Gore: Well, we need campaign finance reform. And you've listed some of the reasons why I'm fighting so hard for it. I fought for it for 20 years. And I believe that all of the broadcasters who have the public airwaves held by license ought to be required, as a condition of the license, to give free time for debates and the discussion of issues during a campaign.

I think that soft money, of the kind that the DNC raised in that campaign, ought to be completely prohibited for both political parties.

I don't accept PAC contributions. You can, under the law, but I abide by a higher standard. And if you entrust me with the presidency, I will make certain that our country gets sweeping, meaningful, tough campaign finance reform.

Griffith: Senator Bradley, you also have talked about campaign finance reform. However your critics, some of them anyways, maintaining that your biggest contributors have been, in fact, pharmaceutical companies. How would you fight for lower prescription drug prices if you — those are your biggest contributors?

Bradley: Well, let me correct the record. They're not my biggest contributors. Over 18 years in the United States Senate, anybody associated with a pharmaceutical company contributed less the 1 percent of all the money I raised. In the presidential campaign, it's less than three-tenths of a percent.

If you take a look at my drug program — prescription drug program, what you find is it has a preference stated for generic drugs. That may give the pharmaceutical companies heartburn.

The fact here is, campaign finance reform is the most important thing we can do in this country. It will break down the wall that's come between the people and their elected representatives, it should be no soft money, public financing of elections and free television time in the last six weeks of a campaign.

If we do that, we have a chance of allowing the people's voices to be heard.

Griffith: Senator, thank you. I have a question, and we're running out of time, so I'm trying to get them in as quickly as I can.

Mr. Gore, can you outline and specify your vision of the White Mountain National Forest for our people here in New Hampshire, who count on it for business and trade, and for recreation?

Gore: We should respect and continue the process of local input to take into the account the unique circumstances in the White Mountain National Forest. And as we protect more wilderness areas, that same local input must and will be a part of the process.

Woodruff: Senator Bradley, in this campaign, you have attempted to, I would say "wall off" an unusually large amount of information from the press and the public about such things as who your main advisers are, what books have particularly influenced you, your complete medical records, among other things. These are not personal questions. How then do you justify not sharing this information with the American people, when you're asking them to elect you to the highest office?

Bradley: Well, Judy, if you want me to share a little bit with you, I will. I'll give you two books that I like. One is "Victory" by Joseph Conrad. I like that because there's something in their by a character named Heiss, who says, "Woe be it to the man who has not learned while young to put his trust in life." Now what does that tell you about me, running for President of the United States? It tells you that I've read the book.

Woodruff: But what about your advisers, and your medical records?

Bradley: In terms of my medical records, I have done the same thing that Al Gore has done...

Gore: No, that's not right.

Bradley: Which is to lay out — to lay out the latest doctor's report, put it out there so that people can see, and that is precisely what I've done.

Woodruff: And your advisers.

Bradley: And my advisers? I think that, I mean, you know, Paul Volcker, Henry Kaufman — I can give you a long list of advisers on the economy and in foreign policy and defense.

Now, the fact of the matter is, you don't always talk about all your advisers.

Gore: Can I have a quick rebuttal, because I have not done the same thing as Senator Bradley?

Griffith: We have — I'm sorry...

Gore: Yes.

Griffith:... Mr. Vice President, we have to go to our closing remarks.

Gore: OK.

Griffith: And your closing remark is first. You have 45 seconds.

Gore: Well, he can do whatever he wants on the medical records, I'm not critical of that in any way. But I don't want to be put in the same boat because I've released all of mine fully. Each person should make that decision for himself.

Now, in Iowa, Senator Bradley asked the question: Are you better off today than you were seven years ago? I think the answer to that question is yes, but I don't think that's the question. I think a far more important question in this campaign is, Can we do even better?

I think that I have the experience and the skills to keep our prosperity going and invest the surplus wisely.

We've just begun to fight for universal health insurance, step by step, starting with every child in America, and then their parents. We've just begun to fight for revolutionary improvements in public education.

Griffith: Thank you.

Gore: I want to fight for you. I ask for your vote.

Griffith: Thank you.

Mr. — Senator Bradley please.

Bradley: I've had a great year in New Hampshire. I respect you. Next Tuesday I need your vote.

This isn't about experience, we both have experience. This is about leadership. And I think what a leader does is take big, complicated problems, turn them into public issues, and then make something happen.

That's what FDR did. That's what Lyndon Johnson did. And that's what I want to do on the issues that confront us today in the area of health, education, campaign finance reform, gun control and help for working families.

As I look at this campaign and think about what we can be as a country, I'm buoyed with optimism. We're at the beginning of a tremendous phase of growth in this country. And any politician can pick a fight...

Woodruff: We're going to have to...

Bradley: ... but only a leader can move a country forward.

Griffith: Gentlemen, to both of you, thank you very much.

Woodruff: And with that, our time is up. We do want to thank Vice President Gore, Senator Bradley, both of you for being with us. And to all of our viewers here in New Hampshire, and across the country, thank you.

Griffith: And we also want to remind to go to the polls and vote. It's Tuesday, the first-in-the-nation primary tradition continues.

Have a good night, everybody.


APP Acknowledgement: Debate transcript source provided by David Casalaspi.
Citation: Presidential Candidates Debates: "Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate in Manchester, New Hampshire," January 26, 2000. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=105444.
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