Democratic Candidates Debate in Durham, New Hampshire
Former Senator Bill Bradley (NJ); and
Vice President Albert Gore, Jr.
Jenny Attiyeh (New Hampshire Public Television);
John DiStaso (Union Leader);
Peter Jennings (ABC News); and
Alison King (New England Cable News)
JENNINGS: Good evening everybody at home and here in New Hampshire. Thank you very much for joining us. This is the first debate of 2000, and tonight we hope to bring the Democratic candidates into even sharper focus for eligible voters. The format will be evident to you as the debate unfolds. Mr. Gore and Mr. Bradley know the format in that their campaigns helped to fashion it.
There will be an opportunity for each man to lead the discussion -- not simply answer our questions, which incidentally we hope they will do as candidly as always.
If we are successful, an hour for now we will have a better sense of the candidates' candidacy and capacity for leadership. So let's get to it.
It's a pleasure to introduce my colleagues. Jenny Attiyeh is a reporter for New Hampshire Public Television. Alison King is a political reporter for New England Cable News. John DiStaso is a political reporter for the Manchester Union Leader. John gets the first question to Mr. Bradley. You, sir, have a minute to answer. Mr. Gore has 30 seconds to comment. I have the dubious job of timekeeper. [laughter] John?
DISTASO: Hi, Mr. Bradley. As a loyal Democrat, were you proud of the vice president's staunch defense of President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, or do you feel it would have been better for the nation and the Democratic Party if Mr. Gore had reacted differently?
BRADLEY: Well, first of all, let me thank New Hampshire Public Television, New England and the Union Leader.
I think that that was a very trying time for the country, and I am glad it's over. The vice president I think was vice president, which means that he was not critical of the president. I personally believe that any time a public official, a president, lies, he undermines his own authority and squanders the people's trust. I said that from the beginning of this. It's a sad period of our history and I am glad it's over.
JENNINGS: Mr. Gore?
GORE: As an American who was serving as vice president, I was critical of the president. As an American, I also defended the office of the presidency against an effort by partisan Republicans in the House and Senate to deliver a thoroughly disproportionate penalty for a serious and reprehensible personal mistake on the part of the president. He should not have been removed from office for that offense. And fighting against their efforts to remove him from office and undo the act of the American people in twice electing him, I think I was serving the public interest well.
JENNINGS: Alison, to Mr. Gore.
KING: Mr. Gore, you consider yourself a born-again Christian. You recently told the Washington Post that when faced with important problems you ask yourself what would Jesus do. Your opponent, Mr. Bradley, has said that personal faith is private, not a matter to be discussed with the public. Should your religious beliefs be a private matter, and do you conceive that all the talk about Jesus and Christianity on the campaign trail may be alienating to millions of non-Christians?
GORE: Yes, I understand that, and I strongly support the separation of church and state. I strongly support the First Amendment, the Establishment Clause. I oppose, for example, the teaching of creationism in the public schools. I think that violates that provision of our Constitution.
And I think that any public official who discusses his or her deepest beliefs and principles and faith has an obligation to couple that expression if he or she chooses to make it with an affirmation of tolerance and respect and protection for those who have some other faith -- especially for those who have a minority faith. I didn't volunteer any of the comments you mentioned, but do you think that a public official who is asked whether or not he is a believer has an obligation to dodge the question and not answer the question? I think that we should be free and open about what our beliefs are -- but that's my decision. I respect Senator Bradley's decision to handle that question differently, and I think that all of us should answer it for ourselves.
JENNINGS: Mr. Bradley?
BRADLEY: In 1978 I was running for the Senate. I was running against a Republican. And in the general election campaign he converted to Catholicism, and New Jersey is a highly Catholic state. I had a lot of people come to me in my circle and say, You should go after this. And I said, Stay away from that as far as you can -- a person's religious faith belongs to them.
This is not a new decision on my part not to discuss religion in the middle of a political campaign. This is a decision that I have held throughout my public life, because I think religious faith is the deepest, most personal, most intimate belief system that any individual has.
JENNINGS: Thank you, Mr. Bradley.
Jenny Attiyeh to Mr. Bradley.
ATTIYEH: Mr. Bradley, one of the criticisms that has frequently been raised about you is that at times you can appear to be aloof or above it all, as if you have a distaste for the business of politics as usual. If you became president, how would you deal with this distaste, or would you walk away in disgust, as you did once from the Senate?
BRADLEY: Well, first of all, I believe that politics is for the purpose of achieving objectives for the country. Politics is a part of it. I have never shied away from politics when it came to getting something done. I've never shied away from politics when it came to passing the Tax Reform Act of 1986. I never shied away from politics when it came to leading on reforming the California water system. I never shied away from politics when I campaigned for people all across this country for the last 20 years, the last 18 years.
I believe politics is a noble profession. I do not think it is corrupt or deceitful, and I think young people in this country have to know that their elected officials are in this game because they believe that's the way to make America a better place. That's why I'm in politics. And of course I'll practice politics to achieve the objectives like getting health care access to all Americans, like getting fundamental gun control in this country.
BRADLEY: The only way you are going to achieve something is with politics. But it's always a means to an end, it is not an end in itself.
JENNINGS: Thank you, Mr. Bradley. Mr. Gore?
GORE: There was a time when I was as young man, after I came back from Vietnam, when I was thoroughly disillusioned with the political system, and I thought it would be the very last thing that I ever did with my life.
I'll tell you why I changed my mind and why I'm fighting now to bring constructive change to our country. I believe that when people roll up their sleeves and try to make a difference they are breathing life into the American dream. I saw it in Nashville, Tennessee, when I was a journalist there. And I decided after seeing what a difference people can make to roll up my sleeves and try to make this a better country. And I think a president has to be willing to fight hard and never give up in the effort to make our country what we are intended to be.
JENNINGS: Thank you, Mr. Gore. I wonder if Jenny thinks her question was completely answered.
ATTIYEH: Mr. Bradley, I don't think you quite addressed the question I had in terms of whether or not you can appear to be aloof. I know that when you ran for the candidacy --
BRADLEY: Well, I mean, take a look -- am I aloof? I am not aloof at all. [laughter]
ATTIYEH: Let me finish --
BRADLEY: The best thing I like about politics is going out and meeting people. I have just finished my 46th town meeting in New Hampshire. You can't be aloof in a New Hampshire town meeting. [laughter and applause]
JENNINGS: John DiStaso for Mr. Gore.
DISTASO: Mr. Gore, a environmental question, one of local and national interests. Do you agree with President Clinton's order last year that unilaterally limits logging in national forests? Or do you agree with Governor Jean Shaheen that his order, quote, "sets a terrible precedent for the governance of our national forests"?
GORE: Well, I think there are -- first of all, the proposal was a preliminary statement of intention to protect this land and then have a process of consultation with the communities and the individuals who live near the areas to be protected.
If you look at the White Mountain Forest, for example, there is an ongoing consultative process that has been extremely effective in protecting the environment and in protecting the welfare and well- being of the communities and the families that live adjacent to the White Mountain Forest.
Now, if areas of that forest are protected under the new order, the same process of consultation that has been used in the past, that gives environments and communities input into the process, will be a part of this process.
I think -- and many people know this about me -- I believe very strongly in protecting the environment, and I know we can do it in a way that protects our way of life and standard of living.
JENNINGS: Specific enough for you, John?
DISTASO: Well, I just wondered through why the governor would find it so adverse to the concept of local control that we have here in New Hampshire if it is going to indeed allow for the same multi-level participation. Why did the president issue the order?
GORE: Well, in response to what she said and others said, the administration quickly clarified the point that I just made to you, that the same process of local input that has worked so well here in New Hampshire in the past will be a part of the ongoing effort to protect more forests.
JENNINGS: Mr. Bradley, do you have a quick comment on this?
BRADLEY: Yes. I don't think a president should preempt in the White Mountains the local planning process. I personally think, looking at the White Mountains, that there have been recreation uses there for many, many years -- there's timber cutting there for many years. And I think mixed use is the proper way to proceed in the White Mountains. And therefore I think local decision-making is important, and mixed use is the way it should be -- not in all national forests, but I look there, and I think that's the sound way to proceed.
JENNINGS: Alison King to Mr. Bradley.
KING: Mr. Bradley, Republicans eagerly embrace the conservative mantle. Yet many Democrats have rejected the liberal label which has defined the party for generations. You have been called the most liberal candidate in this race. You support full disclosure for gays in the military, universal health care and stricter gun control. Do you reject the notion that you are a liberal? And do you believe someone who holds fundamentally liberal views is at a disadvantage running for president?
BRADLEY: No, I don't think views that I have espoused to a disadvantage running for president. I believe that when it comes to gay rights it's fundamental human decency. When it comes to gun control it's common sense that we have a registration and licensing system for guns, just like we have for automobiles.
I think that you have to be who you are. And in this period of unprecedented prosperity, it seems to me that ought to be fixing your roof while the sun is shining. And that means increasing the number of people in America with health insurance, decreasing the number of children in poverty, healing the racial divide, helping working families. Now, whatever you want to call that -- liberal, progressive, whatever -- I'll accept whatever label you want, because that's who I am, and that's what I am presenting to the American people. I think the issue is how strong are you willing to hold to your convictions and how clearly can you articulate those convictions.
JENNINGS: Mr. Gore, in this campaign there have been some questions on occasion on who you are.
GORE: Well, I support the elimination of this "don't ask don't tell" policy. I helped to pass the toughest new gun control measures in a generation. I believe that we ought to have photo license IDs for the purchase of a new handgun. I think we ought to ban assault weapons and Saturday night specials and junk guns. I also am committed to the principle of high quality affordable health care for all. And I don't really care what kind of label people apply to those positions and views. I accept whatever they want to call that. I think that the majority of the people in New Hampshire, especially in the Democratic Party, but the majority of all New Hampshire I think supports those positions.
JENNINGS: Jenny Attiyeh for Mr. Gore.
ATTIYEH: Mr. Gore, over the course of the Clinton administration we have seen a marked deterioration in our relations with both Russia and China. To what do you attribute this decline? And as a key player in the administration's foreign policy, are you willing to shoulder some of the responsibility?
GORE: Well, I think that in spite of the problems there have been some successes, Jenny. Russia just has a new president committed to reform. In spite of the brutal and indefensible war in Chechnya, in spite of the corruption they have, the uneven rule of law and the other problems, they have a free press -- not as free as ours, but it's certainly an improvement over what they had. They have free elections. In fact, the Communists just suffered major losses in the election for their parliament or state Duma, as they call it. And now with the presidential election over there coming up at the end of March, there's every prospect of consolidating a movement toward reform -- and if they have the will to do it, having the kind of fight against corruption that they desperately need.
In China, I think that we need to demand the respect for human rights and religious freedom. But bringing China into the community of nations, fostering peace between China and Taiwan, and engaging them in a way that furthers our values -- I think that's in our interests.
JENNINGS: Mr. Bradley?
BRADLEY: I look at our relations with Russia over the last eight years, and I think we've had a missed opportunity. They came, they wanted to know what to do. I think that we have not pushed hard enough for reduction of strategic nuclear weapons, destruction of nuclear stockpiles. I believe that we sent IMF money to Russia knowing that corruption was rampant. And we have failed to communicate with the Russian people. The irony is that for 50 years in the Cold War we tried to communicate with the Russian people. And when the Cold War is over, both President Bush and President Clinton communicated primarily with the Russian leaders. Now, you have to deal with the Russian leaders, but you shouldn't allow the United States to become to the Russian people that are in the midst of the deepest depression of the 20th century -- you shouldn't allow the Yeltsin government to be the United States. We need more efforts to reach out, we need more exchange programs, we need straighter talk, and we need to be very clear about condemning the war in Chechnya, which I think is politically irresponsible and morally reckless.
JENNINGS: Thank you, Mr. Bradley.
We are going to go into another section now as you are both aware. In this question we will ask you a question -- you have two minutes to share it between yourself in a naturally equitable manner.
BRADLEY: You mean throw the ball up -- [laughter] --
JENNINGS: Let me try --
BRADLEY: Throw out the hockey puck.
JENNINGS: Yes, it's hockey here, sir.
Let me try you both first on votes and quotes. It is, as you both know, common in some campaigns, for a candidate to take either his opponent's vote or a quote out of context. I would like to ask you first, both of you, for one word answer.
Mr. Bradley, has Mr. Gore ever taken a vote of yours or a quote out of context?
BRADLEY: A vote or a quote? Yes.
JENNINGS: Mr. Gore, has Mr. Bradley ever taken a vote or a quote of yours out of context?
GORE: I haven't complained about any.
JENNINGS: Question was has he.
GORE: I'd have to think. I haven't made a point of responding to that. I don't -- I won't accuse him of that.
JENNINGS: Interesting one word answer, sir. [laughter]
GORE: Well, I don't know that the answer is no, but if you want a no, I'll give you a no.
JENNINGS: Mr. Bradley, being that you think Mr. Gore has taken a vote or a quote out of context, choose one that you think was particularly offensive.
BRADLEY: The one that was most particularly offensive to me was when he said in his campaign that I was going to hurt African Americans, Latinos with the health care that program that I have offered. At many number of occasions has gone to groups and said that I am going to destroy Medicaid without saying what it is going to be replaced with. And, to say to me, who has had a deep commitment to the issue of race and unity in this country since I started in politics that I would go out and hurt African Americans and Latinos consciously as a part of a polity, I think really offended me.
What I am trying to do with the health care program that I have offered is to take Medicaid and replace it with something that is better. Forty percent of the people in America who now live in poverty do not have any health coverage. They are not covered by Medicaid. Under the proposal that I've offered, they would all be covered, and I think Al has misrepresented that.
GORE: Well, you know, Harry Truman said in 1948, "I'm not giving him hell. I'm just telling him the truth and he thinks it's hell.
I didn't say any of the things that you heard. What I said is that poor people are disproportionately likely to be minority, disproportionately likely to be African American and Latino, and if you look at the groups that are hurt when Medicaid is eliminated, and they're given instead a little $150 a month voucher for HMOs or healthcare, capped at $150, then that is going to -- I do talk about what is proposed as a replacement for Medicaid, and it is entirely inadequate.
Let me tell you why, Peter. He says, use this capped voucher to buy into the federal employee benefit plan. Look here in New Hampshire. There are about a dozen different insurance health policies that are under the federal employee benefit plan. Not a single one of them can be purchased for anything close to $150 a month. Now, if you have Medicaid benefits today, and you are given that voucher instead and none of the plans in New Hampshire will sell you for that amount of money, you bump up against that cap, what do you do?
If you are in groups that are much more likely to be represented among impoverished Americans who receive Medicaid, then you're going to be more likely to be hurt by that.
BRADLEY: Can I -- that's not my --
JENNINGS: Yeah, go ahead, sir.
BRADLEY: The reality is that in New Hampshire, the Postal Service workers -- would work with a family of four -- the reality is that when you're writing a piece of legislation like this, you could say that big plans that cover big states would also have to have available work in -- plan in New Hampshire. It's just not so.
And let me say one other thing. The -- Al is saying all the time about $150 cap. That's not a cap. It's a weighted average. In some places, it will be more, in some places it will be less.
And I might point out that the average Medicaid cost in your home state of Tennessee is $91 a person. So, you can say that the people of Tennessee haven't been very generous. But you can't say that my proposal would deny health coverage to Americans who need it.
GORE: I really want to -- I really want to respond.
JENNINGS: Mr. Gore, can I just, before you go ahead, sir, before you respond. We're going to give you two minutes on each of these. We've gone four on this one. You get one quick response, and then if you don't mind, we'll go on.
GORE: Well, what is a weighted average? I remember the old story about the man who had his feet on a block of ice and his head in the oven, and according to the weighted average, he was really comfortable there. [laughter]
Now, the fact is that the plan that you just cited for the mailhandlers costs $182.72 for an individual as a premium. You cap that at $150. You said for a family of four it might work. Yeah that's right. That's right.
But out of the dozen plans, that is the only one where a family of four might get a little bit of coverage. The individual would not -- [laughter] -- and -- under all of the others --
Now, hold on just a second, Bill.
BRADLEY: You just said that that is so.
GORE: Look, this is serious. You have put forward a plan that would affect New Hampshire. And all of the people who would be affected in New Hampshire would be left out. They would be left high and dry, because there is no plan that they can buy into.
BRADLEY: First of all, let me explain to you, Al, how the private sector works, okay? [laughter] If you have -- if you have a health-care plan --
GORE: Try not to be aloof. [scattered laughter]
BRADLEY: If you are now part of the Federal Employee Health Benefit System -- there are 30 million in the Federal Health Benefit System -- you're going to find insurance companies competing to provide the lowest cost service.
So first of all, I'm glad you confirmed that indeed, even on a weighted average, even on a cap that a family of four in New Hampshire would be eligible under the program I've offered. And with a weighted average, even an individual could bump up so that they would be available as well.
JENNINGS: I'm going to take the risk of moving on -- [scattered laughter] -- if you don't mind. John DeSato.
DISTASO: Well, it's another area where you both agree totally. On campaign finance. You both admitted that you benefited from some overzealous mistakes back in '96, and perhaps in excesses back in New Jersey.
But what exactly, Mr. Gore, were some of these mistakes that so concerned you back in '96? And Mr. Bradley, let's finally take on head on this question of pharmaceutical industry contributions and tax loopholes for that industry. So.
JENNINGS: And I'll be a little stricter about time this time, if you don't mind, gentlemen. Starting with you, Mr. Gore.
GORE: Well, I think that the Democratic National Committee and the 1996 campaign pressed the limits. Although there were no legal violations, it was wrong. And I think that the phone calls that I made were a mistake. I think that we need campaign finance reform, because almost everybody who has been involved in this process has run up against the kind of problems that it causes.
I think that ultimately we're going to have to have a system of full public financing. I supported that and proposed that 20 years ago. I don't accept PAC contributions. I believe that we ought to eliminate the soft money that caused the problems.
And the single most effective immediate reform we could cause is for the both of us to agree to eliminate the majority of the money that goes for these 30-second, 60-second TV-radio ads, and just debate twice a week. And I'm willing to do that only in New Hampshire, if Bill thinks that is a disadvantage to him nationally.
JENNINGS: Mr. Bradley.
BRADLEY: Well, let me tell you. If you are not known as by many people in the country as Al is -- I'm not known by as many people. My only opportunity to get known is through a 30-second television commercial, which quite frankly, if you know what you believe, is really not a problem.
For example, I am for freedom for choice for women, and I always have been. I'm for access to affordable health care for all Americans. I'm for helping middle-class Americans pay for their health insurance. I am for registration and licensing all 65 million handguns. And yes, I am for fundamental campaign finance reform -- one that John McCain and I stood on a place in Claremont not so long ago and said that if we were the nominees of our party, we would not take soft money in this election.
We need public financing of elections. We spend $900 million a year promoting democracy abroad. For about the same amount of money, we could take -- well, we could take the special interests out of democracy at all.
And so far as your pharmaceutical question --
DISTASO: That was the one.
BRADLEY: Less than one percent of the money that I ever raised when I was running in all my Senate campaigns came from anybody connected to a pharmaceutical company. Less than three-tenths of a percent in my presidential campaign. So, from my standpoint, that's not a problem.
DISTASO: Did you ever back a tax loophole for --
BRADLEY: I never -- I never did anything that I thought wasn't in the interests of my constituents and this country.
JENNINGS: Got it. Mr. Bradley, Mr. Gore brought up this question of doing without television advertising. Can you tell us what you really thought in the last debate when he held out his hand to you?
BRADLEY: [laughs] Well what I really thought, as I said at the time, that it was a, you know, an interesting ploy. But -- I think he's reiterated tonight, and I understand that's part of it.
But you know, the reality is that if you want to speak to people in their living rooms, you have to get to them in their living rooms. And if you know what you believe, you can communicate in 30 seconds. So I don't see that to be a problem.
JENNINGS: Quickly, sir, if you would.
GORE: The great thing about New Hampshire is that you can actually go personally into the living rooms. And I've been enjoying that process. [applause] And both of us have had a chance to get around the state. And as for the idea that this is a ploy -- look, I'm not going to dwell on this, but hear what I said. It's a little bit different today, okay?
I'm not saying that you have to agree to do away with these ads all over the country, where you say you're not as well known. I'm saying --
GORE: [laughter] Well, you pick any state. Pick any state. In New Hampshire, the polls say that you're ahead. I'm asking people to give me a come-from-behind upset victory here.
BRADLEY: All right. [laughs]
GORE: And I'm -- the only way this proposal would work for me is if both of us gave up the little 30-second, 60-second ads.
That's part of what a lot of people don't like about our system. If we had to rely on actually being in the living rooms, if we had to rely on actually debating the details of the policies, not just once every while, but twice a week every week until the nomination is decided, I think we might have a chance to really elevate the tone of our democracy. I mean it, seriously.
BRADLEY: So -- you know, Al, your underdog pitch brings tears to my eyes. [laughter]
GORE: Well, I hope that my upset victory brings tears to your eyes on February 3rd. [laughter and applause]
JENNINGS: Alison King, put something else on the table here.
KING: Okay. I'm wondering if either of you have ever had to make a difficult decision that you knew would hurt you politically -- where you had to put principle over politics.
JENNINGS: Mr. Bradley. Yeah, I'll just remind you, you have two minutes between yo to work this out. [laughter]
BRADLEY: Yes. In 1981, there was a gigantic tax bill before the United States Senate. It was a tax bill that was sponsored by Ronald Reagan. It passed the Finance Committee, 19 to one. I was the one person to vote against it, because I predicted there would be gigantic budget deficits as a result of this. And when I went into the floor of the Senate to cast the vote, you know, most of my Democratic colleagues voted for it, because the theory was you never vote against a tax cut.
But I felt that I was standing there, and I was standing for what I believed in, and I cast the vote. And I would cast that vote again today. That's one example.
GORE: Well, -- [laughs] -- I voted against that plan too, and then when the vote for the Reagan budget cuts came that slashed health care and education and aid to people, food stamps, I voted against that, too, even though it had a lot of political pressure behind it, both in Tennessee and New Jersey. And I wish that Bill had stood up tot hat one and voted against that one.
But I'll give you one that I voted for that was extremely difficult at the time. I was one of only a handful of Senators in the Democratic Caucus in the Senate when Saddam Hussein was in Kuwait. And the argument was made that sanctions would suffice to push him out of Kuwait and get rid of that threat that he was posing virulently to all of the Middle East region.
And I voted to authorize the use of force. And it felt like a lonely vote at the time. And it was tough. But I was glad that I did it. And I think, in retrospect, it definitely turned out to be the right thing.
Another one would be in the early years, when I decided to take on the issue of global warming and make it a national issue, when everybody was saying "You know, you're going to run a lot of risk there. People are going to think that that's kind of off the edge there.
Well, now more and more people say yes it is real, and the next president has to be willing to take it on.
JENNINGS: Jenny Attiyeh. Jenny Attiyeh.
BRADLEY: If I could, Peter. The issue of the --
JENNINGS: Mr. Bradley, I apologize. We're going to move on, if you don't mind, sir. Jenny Attiyeh.
BRADLEY: All right.
ATTIYEH: This is for both of you, more toss-up. Over the last 10, 15 years, there's been a dramatic shift in power from Washington to Wall Street. It could be argued that in our new global economy, stock options and the NASDAQ carry more weight with people and have a greater impact on their lives than presidential policies. Do you think this is a healthy development for the country, and if not, what can be done about it?
GORE: Well, I think that it's -- I think that it's a natural development in a country that's free. And we represent the virtues of freedom in the world. I believe that it's incumbent upon national policymakers who try to make the right decisions to understand the interaction of public policy, and what happens in the markets.
Let me give you an example. When President Clinton and I put out a brand-new economic plan and tried to have fiscal responsibility, one of the premises was if we can reduce the deficits, then balance the budget, and then if we were lucky, get the kind of surpluses that we have now, that would not only be good for cutting down our interest costs and being able to free up money for investment in other things -- it would also keep interest rates down and draw investment capital from all around the world into our markets and give us the chance to have low inflation and low unemployment at the same time.
In fact, it has worked that way. I cast the tie-breaking vote for that plan, and it was plenty controversial. That one was plenty controversial at the time, though not with -- not with Democrats. And I think that it's been proven to be correct. And of course, I now think that one of the biggest issues in this campaign is whether or not we'll have a president with the experience to keep our prosperity going, and avoid a kind of economic blueprint that either blows the whole surplus on a risky tax scheme, or blows the whole surplus on an unwise plan and doesn't leave room for investing in the future in the kind of investments that have helped to contribute to this prosperity.
JENNINGS: Does Mr. Bradley have that experience?
GORE: I think that the plan that he put out, Peter, does not show evidence of the kind of approach that I think is best, because it doesn't save a penny for Medicare. It does not contain a comprehensive education reform agenda.
Just take Medicare, for example.
JENNINGS: Let me --
JENNINGS: Can I just ask if you think -- rather simply. Do you think he has the experience to run --
GORE: That's going to be for the voters to decide. I don't want to make a personal judgment about his experience or ability. I want to leave that to the voters.
JENNINGS: Why not, sir?
GORE: Well, because I think that it's important when we have disagreements to keep them to the policies, and not to talk about individuals personally. I -- you know, some -- sometimes it seems a little -- Bill gets a little out of sorts when I talk about the substance of the policy. I certainly do not want to talk about him as a person, especially not in a critical way. I respect Bill. I really do. I'm not just saying that as a ploy. I think he's a genuinely good person.
JENNINGS: You agree with him?
BRADLEY: I agree with what he said. Yeah, I think I'm a genuinely good person. [laughter]
GORE: He also thinks he's a genuinely good person.
BRADLEY: That's what I said.
GORE: And, he's right.
BRADLEY: On the issue that you raised, which was technological change and globalization and the financial element of that, there's no question that we are moving to a new world. It is driven by technological change and globalization. Our productivity in this country has increased 2.75 percent over the last two years. That's a percent more than any time in the last ten to fifteen years. That means we have more money. Now, some of that money goes to people who made investments, but the challenge for leadership in this country is to take what is a national problem and convert it into a public issue and then engage the idealism of the American in support of that public issue. And at this time in our country's history, at this time of unprecedented prosperity, the challenge is to take this unprecedented prosperity and turn it to the benefit of those who have been left behind because the fact is that we will not go ahead in this country unless we leave no one behind, because if we leave no one behind, if -- we can only go forward by leaving no one behind, then we can bring everybody together. That is the reality. That's what leadership is required in this country.
JENNINGS: Mr. Bradley and Mr. Gore, I know you both came -- as least I assume you both came armed with questions to ask each other because there is a phase of that in this debate. Mr. Bradley, why don't you go first and ask Mr. Gore whatever is on your mind and the two of you kick it around for a few minutes.
BRADLEY: Al, I have proposed registration and licensing of all handguns, of all 65 million handguns in America. President Clinton has said he is for that. We're in the midst of this tremendous rash of gun violence in America. Thirteen children are killed every day on the streets of this country. That's a Columbine every day. Eight hundred thousand kids took a gun to school at least once last year. Registration and licensing is what we do for automobiles. Why can't we do it for handguns in America? And why don't you support it?
GORE: Well, I do support licensing of the purchase of all new handguns. And what the president said was that yeah, he supports that idea, but it doesn't have a prayer of ever becoming law, and it's much more sensible to try to get the maximum gun control that we possibly can. Let me tell you, I know about fighting for gun control. I helped to pass the toughest new gun control measure in a generation. I cast the tie-breaking vote to take on the NRA and close the gun show loophole. It took a hard fight to pass the Brady Bill and make it the Brady Law, to establish the three- day waiting period. I want to go farther and completely ban Saturday night specials and junk guns, and assault weapons, and have what's called "super tracing" so that when a gun is used in any kind of crime it can be immediately traced. Look, we have a flood of guns in America. They're all over this country. We have to find a way to make our political system work, taking into account the fact that there are so many people that are going to fight tooth-and-nail against the kind of maximalist measures that people want to talk about, and we have to find a way, as President Clinton and I did, to make dramatic progress to get guns out of the hands of the people who shouldn't have them.
JENNINGS: Satisfactory answer, Mr. Bradley?
BRADLEY: Well, not really. I mean he said essentially that it's too difficult to do. That was the answer to the question. And I ask you, what were, where would the country be today if Franklin Roosevelt said Social Security is too difficult to do? Or if Lyndon Johnson said Medicare's too difficult to do? I mean, the essence of leadership is taking something that is difficult and making it possible, and making it possible because you have engaged the American people in the attempt to make it happen. And so, I feel disappointed that he has not supported registration and licensing of all 65 million handguns in America.
JENNINGS: Now, let's see if you can live up to his question.
GORE: All right. Now, I wanted to -- I want to give you a chance, you wanted to respond earlier to what I said about you voting for the Reagan budget cuts. But I want to mention a couple of other tough votes. We passed tough welfare reform, which I think has worked. You voted against it. I voted against those budget cuts. You voted for them. I voted, as I said a moment ago, for the resolution to use military force to push Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. You voted against it.
My question is not about the details of those votes. It's really more basic. Would you vote differently on any of those three votes if you had it to do over again? Were they mistakes? And why?
BRADLEY: The answer is "no," I wouldn't have voted differently. In 81, if everybody in the Congress had voted as I had voted against the budget, for the budget cuts but against the tax cuts, we would not have had the deficit in the 1990s. As a result of that, we would have had more economic growth. As you are well aware, given the economic growth now, when you have more economic growth, you have more revenue coming to the government, which would have meant more money to do things to try to help the people who are poor.
"No" on welfare reform. I don't think the answer to the problems of people who are poor in America is to take a pot of money from federal officials and send it to state officials and say "Spend 80 percent of this as best you can." I think that this is much more serious question. We have a booming economy. Welfare is down. But deep poverty is up. It's not down, deep poverty.
I was out in L.A. not too long ago, in East L.A., and I did a session on health care. And a woman came up to me and said, "What are you going to do about this welfare reform bill?" I said, "What do you mean?" She said that the people who are going out to work are getting minimum wage jobs. They're not getting any training and, therefore, they're never going to move forward. When I voted this way, I got a call -- I was in later doing something for CBS -- and I got a call from a mayor of a major city in the United States who said, "Bill, unless something happens, if we get into a recession, I'm going to have 100,000 people on my streets." And I voted against the welfare reform bill, quite frankly, that is not the welfare reform bill today, because I said at the time that you'd spend next four years correcting that bill. But remember, this vote came in October of 1996, October of 1996. Who knew if Bill Clinton was going to win? Maybe it would have been Bob Dole. If it had been Bob Dole, there would have been a long time before there were any changes made in that welfare reform bill.
So no, I wouldn't have voted because I don't think that you deal with this problem with kind of federal shirking of responsibility and states assuming all responsibility. I think there's a commitment there that has to be good. And as you know, one of the changes that was made was to give the governors greater flexibility about the two or five year cut-off. But if you give them more flexibility -- I guarantee you, I'm going to watch to see if they cut people. I'm going to watch that very vigilantly as president of the United States.
And on the issue of the Persian Gulf, no. The fact of the matter was when the vote was taken I thought that we should continue sanctions, as did most people in my party. And I thought that you should continue sanctions and then later have the right to use force. I said I was prepared to use force at a later day. And that's a decision that I made then and I stand by it.
GORE: Well, I think all three were mistakes, but I'm not going to debate the details of it. I mean, I think that people were trapped in the old welfare system. I met earlier with Christine Maguire here, who lives in Portsmouth and has two children. She was trapped in welfare. Now she has a good job. There are millions like her. Saddam Hussein would still be in Kuwait if we had tried to rely on sanctions. Those budget cuts from Ronald Reagan hurt New Hampshire, and they -- you know -- but my point is beyond that, Bill. In all those words about the three different votes, one word I didn't hear, and I, was the word "mistake.
And here's why I think that is important. I think our country deserves a president who, when he makes a mistake is willing to acknowledge it and willing to learn from it, because I believe that the presidency is not an academic exercise. It's not an extended seminar on theory. It has to be a daily fight for the best interests of the American people. The position of president is the only position filled by somebody who is charged with the responsibility for fighting for all of the people. If I make a mistake, I'll do my best to own up to it and then to learn from it, and learn from you about how we can deal with the reality as we find it and then work together to shape that reality to make this a better country.
JENNINGS: Can I ask you, though, how large, how large a mistake is a president allowed to make? [laughter] Mr. Bradley, Mr. Gore, either one of you.
BRADLEY: How large a mistake is a president --
JENNINGS: Well, you've both talked about mistakes. You've both talked about admitting mistakes.
BRADLEY: Well, I mean, Al picked three things that I didn't think was a -- were a mistake. If you want me to admit to a mistake so that I can pass this litmus test, I'll admit to a mistake. You know, I voted against Alan Greenspan the first time. [laughter]
JENNINGS: I'm not touching that one, sir.
BRADLEY: That was a mistake. [laughter] But you know, someone once asked Sam Waldon, who was the head of WalMart, how you could be successful. He said "By making the right decisions." He said, "How do you get the right decisions?" He said, "With experience." He said, "How do you get experience?" He said, "Making the wrong decisions." [laughter] So, I think you learn from your mistakes.
GORE: Let me respond to that. You know, in heading up the Reinventing Government program, which has made a pretty good start in trying to reform our government, I learned the old axiom that I didn't know before, "if you're not making some mistakes, you're not trying hard enough." And I think that a president who tries to bring fundamental change to our country has to be willing to try new things. I supported the Welfare Reform Act, for example, because I thought that it was a bold plan that needed to be tried and it has worked. But you know, the country can ill afford --
BRADLEY: But it's not the plan that's there now.
GORE: -- If I could -- I didn't interrupt. I want to finish. The country can ill afford big mistakes by a president who stumbles into something that could be avoided with the kind of judgment and experience that our people ought to have the right to expect in any president. Now, it's up to the voters to decide how to find that in this race. I'm proud of the seven years that I have served in shaping this economic policy, in reducing the welfare roll, in helping the president bring about peace in various regions of the world, and reducing the crime rate for seven years, but I am still learning. And I think that a president who tries to do the best job possible to take our country into the future, and the way we should go into the future, has to be willing to really get out there and push the boundaries and try new things.
JENNINGS: I'd like to ask you both a question about a litmus test, if I may. Mr. Bradley used the phrase, and you've both talked about gays in the military. You both believe that gays should have the right to serve openly in the military. President Clinton's had great difficulty. The Joint Chiefs as well as the Congress have been a principal obstacle to that particular policy. If you become president -- I'll ask you one at a time, you first Mr. Gore -- if you become president, would you nominate members of the Joint Chiefs who only support your gay policy? In other words, will it be a litmus test?
GORE: I have rejected the notion of litmus tests on the Supreme Court by saying that there are ways to find out the kind of judgment somebody has without posing a specific litmus test. I think that it's a little different where the Joint Chiefs of Staff are concerned, because you're not interfering with an independent judicial decision. As commander-in-chief, a president is giving orders, in effect, or he is, he is the superior of the officers that are reporting to the commander-in-chief in the chain of command. I would try to bring about the kind of change in policy on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that President Harry Truman brought about after World War II in integrating the military. And I think that would require those who wanted to serve on the position of, on the Joint Chiefs, to be in agreement with that policy. So, yes.
JENNINGS: So, I understand it correctly, you would only nominate members of the Joint Chiefs if they supported your gay support --
GORE: Here -- I think that the new policy has to be implemented in a way that accomplishes the goal, and yet recognizes the practical challenges that the military leadership will have to confront in making that change. I would insist, before appointing anybody to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that that individual support my policy. And yes, I would make that a requirement.
JENNINGS: Mr. Bradley, would you, sir?
BRADLEY: I -- I can say that in much shorter words, I think, and that is when you're president you are commander-in-chief, and you issue orders. And soldiers are good soldiers, and they follow your orders. A consultation process takes place, certainly, in which you hear their view, but when you follow an order, no matter -- I'm sure that there are people in the military today that don't agree with President Clinton on 50 things. But my sense is that when you're president of the United States, military people are loyal to their commander-in-chief, whatever the policy is that the commander-in-chief calls for for the country, and that's what I expect them to do if I'm president of the United States and we move towards gays in the military -- which I intend to do.
JENNINGS: Well, based on your brevity, sir, you get the next question to Mr. Gore. We're getting fairly close to the end.
BRADLEY: Al, in 1993, you and President Clinton supported national health insurance. We were $294 billion in debt and six years away from bankruptcy in Social Security -- in Medicare. And now we are in a period of unprecedented surplus, and yet you've not proposed anything that comes close to universal coverage, not even universal access. And my question to you is why not?
GORE: I am committed to providing universal high quality affordable health care to every single American. I had a couple of events today with the greatest champion of universal health care in the United States Senate, Senator Ted Kennedy. I plan to stand and work with him in reaching high quality health care for all of our people.
Both of us have proposed the same goal: high quality health care for all. Both of us have proposed first steps which according to independent analyses cover roughly the same number of people. Some of the benefits that I have proposed go to all of the American people. The steps that I propose -- let me answer if I could -- the steps that I propose build on the strengths of the current system we have.
The problems I have with the proposal you have made is that they hurt some people who have benefits from programs like Medicaid and Medicare. We talked about how -- and I have a list of every one of those federal employee plans here -- you can look for yourselves -- there's not a single one where you would lose Medicaid and be able to buy into it. And on Medicare you said that in '93 Medicare was six years away from bankruptcy. Well, because of the changes we made it's now 15 years away from bankruptcy. But 15 years is not that long, when we are facing a doubling of the senior population. I devoted $374 billion to the solvency of Medicare. You have not devoted one penny to ensuring the solvency of Medicare. And my question to you is: Why not?
BRADLEY: This isn't your time to ask questions.
JENNINGS: Actually it is, sir. [laughter]
BRADLEY: Now, let me respond to --
JENNINGS: Actually, Mr. Bradley, it is his time, or we're not going to have any time. [laughter]
BRADLEY: No, let me respond to that, because Al basically said he set aside no money for universal coverage over his 10-year budget plan -- no money to reach universal coverage. And when I hear you talk, Al, it reminds me of a Washington bunker. And I think you're in a Washington bunker. And can understand why you are in a bunker. I mean, there was Gingrich, there was the fundraising scandals, there was the impeachment problem. And I think that the major objective in the last several years in the White House has been political survival. I understand that.
But the reality is the Democratic Party shouldn't be in the Washington bunker with you. The Democratic Party should be thinking big things with big ambitions. We should cover health coverage for everybody. We should say eliminate child poverty in this country. And we should have the leadership to get behind it and make it happen.
JENNINGS: Gentlemen, can I just -- we are now about to come to the closing section --
GORE: I'd sure like to respond to that, Peter.
JENNINGS: Well, you'll have a minute in just a minute, sir, if you wouldn't mind. We're coming to the closing segment now in which each of you has a chance to make closing remarks. I'll regrettably interrupt you rather sharply if the program is going into the next one. Mr. Gore, why don't you start?
GORE: Okay. Now, these aren't the closing comments --
JENNINGS: Your time, sir, but this is your final time.
GORE: You know, when Newt Gingrich took over the Congress, he proposed slashing Medicare, making terrible changes in a lot of the programs that helped the American people, privatizing part of Social Security. I am proud that I stayed and fought against the Gingrich Congress. I am proud that I was where I think the American people needed a lot of folks to be -- fighting against that, preventing them from shutting down the government. But let me come back to the question that I'll note again -- you didn't answer last time, and give you a chance to answer it this time. Medicare is going bankrupt in 15 years. If we start putting money in now, it will be easy to solve the problem. If we wait until 15 years from now it will be extremely difficult to solve the problem. Why don't you allocate a single penny to Medicare? Last summer you said you would. But then when you put out your plan you didn't allocate a penny. Why not?
BRADLEY: The question is different timing. If we grow faster than 2.9 percent, you are going to have money dedicated to Medicare. It's as simple as that.
On your issue of stay and fight, I mean quite frankly I've been out talking to people in the country the last two years, and quite frankly they think a lot of people in Washington stay too long and fight too much. And I look at this and I say, What is leadership in this country? Leadership is taking a big national problem -- like FDR did, like LBJ did -- and turning it into a public issue, and then engaging in idealism of the American people to make it happen. That is leadership. We both have experience. The question is: Who has the leadership to get these big things done for the country?
GORE: Now --
JENNINGS: Mr. Bradley, Mr. Gore -- Mr. Gore, I apologize -- I take no pleasure in cutting either one of you off, but we have come to the end of our allotted time. I want to thank my colleagues on the panel, and I want to thank you both for the time. I hope you both feel that it's well spent. Thank you at home. From the University of New Hampshire, I'm Peter Jennings. Good night. [applause]
Presidential Candidate Debates, Democratic Candidates Debate in Durham, New Hampshire Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/342210