Democratic Presidential Candidates Town Hall at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire
Former Senator Bill Bradley (NJ), and;
Vice President Al Gore
Karen Brown, WMUR; and
Bernard Shaw, CNN
Brown: Good evening and thank you for joining us as we uphold a New Hampshire tradition: the town meeting — a direct exchange between voters and candidates a little more than three months before the presidential primary here.
Shaw: It is the first opportunity in campaign 2000 for people in New Hampshire and across the country to compare Al Gore and Bill Bradley side by side.
Some 300 voters from the upper valley of New Hampshire are here in Dartmouth's Moore Theater. They were recruited by the Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College and chosen by lottery. We're also joined by members of the Dartmouth community.
Brown: Audience members submitted their questions for the candidates in advance. WMUR and CNN screened those questions and then picked those for their relevancy and their timeliness. Those questions are what Mr. Bradley and Mr. Gore will face in this next hour.
Shaw: And now, to the candidates. We welcome Vice President Al Gore. [applause]
Gore: Thank you very much. Thank you, Bernie. Good to be here. Thank you.
Shaw: Good to be with you tonight.
Gore: [inaudible] for the cameras here.
Shaw: And we welcome former Senator Bill Bradley. [applause]
A coin toss determined that Mr. Bradley will take the first question. He will have 90 seconds to respond. And then we are going to move on to a question for Mr. Gore.
Brown: So let us begin. Please, state your name and then your question for Mr. Bradley.
Q: Mr. name is Martha Goodrich and I'm from Lebanon, New Hampshire.
Mr. Bradley, in your opinion, what is the one most compelling reason that I should vote for you rather than your opponent?
Bradley: Well, first, let me thank Dartmouth and WMUR and CNN for hosting this, all of you for coming. I'm very pleased to be a part of it and I hope there will be others.
I want to introduce my wife, Ernestine, who's here in the audience. I'd also like to acknowledge Al's wife, Tipper, and welcome you too.
I think there's only one reason to vote for me as opposed to anybody else, whether it's the vice president or whether it's a Republican candidate. And that is because you think that my leadership would improve the quality of life for millions of Americans today, that you agree with my vision of where the country should go, that you share the values that I espouse, and that you recognize that by your participation in the process that America can become what I've laid it out to be.
So if you care about fundamental campaign finance reform, if you care about increasing the number of people in America with health insurance, if you care about racial unity in America, if you care about reducing the number of children in poverty in America and you care about managing the economy so the growth takes more and more people to higher economic ground, then I would hope you'd feel that I would be your candidate. And if you do, I welcome you. I need your vote.
Shaw: Continuing. Please state your name and your question for Vice President Gore.
Q: My name is James Sheridan. I'm from Hanover.
As you know, Vice President Gore, there's a great deal of cynicism in the country about politics and politicians. The campaign finance system is one source of that, but there are many other sources, including the behavior of the Republican-dominated Congress, but also the behavior of some members of your administration.
What, as president, would you do to restore confidence in the American political system?
Gore: Well, first of all, let me also thank WMUR and CNN and Dartmouth College and all of you for being a part of this. Tipper and I have been spending an awful lot of time in New Hampshire here lately and you've been very hospitable to us and we're very grateful to you.
I understand the disappointment and anger that you feel toward President Clinton, and I felt it myself. I also feel that the American people want to move on and turn the page and focus on the future and not the past.
He's my friend. I took an oath under the Constitution to serve my country through thick and thin, and I interpreted that oath to mean that I ought to try to provide some — as much continuity and stability during the time that you're referring to as I possibly could.
And it was also a time of some real hard fights to keep Social Security on track, to make sure that we expanded health care to more children, to keep the economy going strong, and they're still fights going on for the health care patients' bill of rights.
And if I could answer the question that was posed over here. I would like to have your support for me because I want to fight for you as president and fight for all the people.
And I think campaign finance reform ought to be passed. I think all candidates ought to be open and give out their income tax returns, sources of income.
I favor public financing of elections. I favor the McCain-Feingold bill. I don't accept any PAC money. I strictly abide by the $1,000 limit. And I have the smallest average contribution in the race.
Brown: Our next question goes to Mr. Bradley.
Q: Senator Bradley, my name is Marlene McGonagle : I live in Meriden, New Hampshire and I work here in Hanover at the public library. My question concerns health care — your health care plan.
I like your proposal, your proposal for child health care, for guaranteed child health care for every child in the United States. My concern is about the cost of the plan. And my question to you is how do you plan to fund it.
Bradley: I was out in Iowa a couple months ago and had a conversation in a small roundtable, and a man described symptoms that were obviously colon cancer. And I said, did you see the doctor? He said, no, I can't afford to. I don't have any health insurance.
In this country we ought to be able to cover people with health insurance. There are 45 million people without health insurance this year: 1 million more this year than last year.
It is a big problem and it needs a big solution to that problem. So I'm glad that you've looked at the proposal and you see that it covers all children, that it brings many adults who don't have health coverage into the system now, that it provides a drug benefit for the elderly.
And I also am glad that you took a look at what it costs, because I think that a politician that doesn't put out what something costs when he says I want this program or that program — he's just, you know, politically posturing.
Ours will cost between $50 billion and $65 billion a year. It will come either from the surplus. We have a trillion-dollar surplus over the next 10 years, and that's enough to take care of this program. Or it will come through the enormous savings that we can get through the application of technology to the medical system.
We spend $1.2 trillion, health care, 450 billion on administrative costs. By simply moving things from paper to Internet, you will be able to achieve significant savings.
Shaw: Please your name and question for the vice president.
Q: Hi. My name's Corey Martin, and I live in Hanover. There's been talk tonight about health care reform and I'm a parent of a child who has diabetes. And I spend a lot of time dealing with the insurance companies and what's covered and what's not covered. And it eats up a lot of time and effort.
So I'm wondering if you were to implement health care reforms, who would be the decision-makers? Who chooses what's covered?
Gore: How old is your child, Corey ?
Q: She's five.
Gore: And do you have an insurance policy?
Q: Yes. I work at Dartmouth and we've a very good policy.
Gore: Oh, so you have a good policy here.
Q: Yes, yes. I'm very lucky.
Gore: OK. Very good. You know, we've just had a big increase in research for juvenile diabetes, and I'm hopeful we can find a cure for that and cancer and other diseases. I think the decision-maker ought to be the people who are getting the care. That's why I strongly support an HMO patient bill of rights so that the decisions on specific care are made by doctors and not by faceless bureaucrats who don't have a license to practice medicine and who don't have a right to play God.
That's who I think ought to make the decision.
Now, I think it's also important that we look ahead and answer exactly how we are going to finance the plans, because I paid, obviously, a lot of attention to the exchange over here.
I put out a health care plan that reaches coverage for almost 90 percent of the American people. It gives coverage to 100 percent of all children. The cost is $146 billion over 10 years, and a prescription drug benefit is provided under Medicare for $118 billion over 10 years.
Just today, the respected Emory School of Public Health came out with a nonpartisan analysis of both my plan and Senator Bradley's. and they said that his plan costs $1.2 trillion. That is more than the entire surplus over the next 10 years. We have to look ahead and save some of that surplus for Medicare.
If we wipe out Medicaid and wipe out the chance to save Medicare, and wipe out the surplus, then you might get a few more people in the short run, but you give two thirds of the money to those who already have health insurance, you're going to hurt — you're going to shred the social safety net.
Brown: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.
Gore: So I think that the cost is way excessive.
Brown: We have another question from this side of the theater, also for Mr. Gore.
Q: Hello, my name is Bethany Yurick. I'm from Claremont, New Hampshire. My question is for Vice President Gore.
A few years ago I attended a barbecue in my home town where President Clinton and Newt Gingrich shook hands and promised to make meaningful campaign finance reform. But they didn't keep their promise.
Since the process of changing the system remains in the hands of incumbents, how can the American voter force change in this area? And what would you do specifically to advance real reform?
Gore: Thank you. Let me take 10 seconds to finish my last answer. [laughter]
Medicare cannot be an afterthought. The only way to fix Medicare fairly is to set aside 15 to 16 percent of the surplus to do it now. Otherwise you're putting Medicare at risk.
Senator Bradley said in an interview that he would speak to this issue later on. But if you spend the entire surplus on the first campaign proposal, then that does not leave money that should be allocated for Medicare.
Now, I feel very strongly that we have to have campaign finance reform. I support the McCain-Feingold bill. I supported it before it was watered down. I thought the Republican senators attacking John McCain on the floor of the Senate ought to be ashamed of themselves. I think that this is causing serious problems for our democracy.
Twenty years ago, I supported and proposed and co-sponsored in the Congress a bill to provide for public financing of elections. I support that today. Awful hard to get passed. It's hard enough to try to get McCain-Feingold passed.
I follow a higher standard in my campaign. I do not accept any PAC contributions. I strictly abide by the $1,000 contribution limit. I think it's very important to set a higher standard because what I want to do as president — if you elect me president, I promise you I will fight my heart out to get meaningful campaign finance reform and get the influence of big money out of our political system.
Shaw: Our next question, please, for Senator Bradley.
Q: Hi. My name is Lisa Stanley. I'm from New Durham.
Senator Bradley, continuing, I guess, with this campaign finance reform theme here, I'm also of the opinion that we desperately need it. And I appreciate that you've put forth a major proposal in that regard.
But as a Democrat, sir, would you comment on the behavior of the '96 Clinton-Gore campaign as it relates to fund raising? [laughter]
Bradley: I think there were obviously some irregularities that have been addressed. I'm not going to get into the details at this stage of the game, because I want to not only answer your question, but I want to get back to the question that was asked over here. [laughter]
And you asked how is this going to happen. We both have ideas of what should happen: no soft money, public financing of elections, free TV time for people in the last six weeks of an election.
How's it going to happen? First, it requires a grassroots movement.
One of the reasons I left the United States Senate was to build a grassroots movement for fundamental campaign finance reform, something called Project Independence. We got over a million signatures across this country. That's not a movement, but it's a beginning.
We need more of that, people's involvement.
Second, people in finance, in business, in religion and in academic life have to step forward and say the current system is not working: We demand a change because it's not working for us.
And third, you need a president that is going to make campaign finance reform one of the top three or four or five issues, because he recognizes how it is connected to our ability to insure more Americans, to our ability to reduce child poverty.
From my perspective, there is no issue that is so linked to other issues as campaign finance reform. That's why it is an imperative.
Brown: Thank you, Senator. [applause]
Next question, please, for Senator Bradley.
Q: My name is Charlotte Quimby and I'm from Meriden, New Hampshire, and I have a question for Senator Bradley.
In 1975, the United States government mandated legislation ensuring that all children with special needs would receive adequate education. Since that time, the government has funded a very small fraction of that program's costs. That places a terrible burden on small school districts.
If you were elected president, what would be your plan to mobilize funding for special education mandates?
Bradley: Well, I think that the federal government made a solemn commitment to fund up to 40 percent of special education. It's not doing that now at all. It has a real impact here in New Hampshire. As you know, some local tax dollars are being spent to cover special ed needs, and that means those tax dollars are not used for the other school needs.
I think that the national government should increase what it spends on special ed, thereby liberating monies that are raised locally to be spent locally on general school needs.
I also believe that we need to look out at the future, and we have to say, what do we have to face in this country in the next decade. We're going to lose 2.2 million teachers, not just special-ed teachers, but teachers.
The key priority is to make sure that there is a good teacher in every classroom. And one of the things that I propose in this campaign is a combination of scholarship and loan forgiveness that would create 60,000 new teachers every year going into urban and rural school districts across this country to help those school districts meet the needs of their students: not only the special needs students, but clearly special needs students, but all students.
We can do this. It makes sense, and your children and the children of special needs would be better off because of it. [applause]
Shaw: Your question, please, for the vice president.
Q: Hi, my name is Deidra. I have a question for Vice President Gore. I'm a resident of Lebanon, New Hampshire. I'm also a mother.
And my question is very straightforward: How do you plan to end violence in schools? And how will you assure parents our children are going to be safe?
Gore: Tell me about your family.
Q: I have one daughter, 17 months, and a husband. So it's a small, small family at this time.
Gore: One daughter, 17 months old, and a husband.
Gore: OK. Which one do you have the most trouble with? [laughter]
Gore: First, a brief comment on that last exchange. [laughter]
If the entire surplus is spent and there's no money left over for new initiatives on education, the numbers have to add up. That's important. One of the reasons we have a strong economy now is because we've been able to keep interest rates low, balancing the budget and better, by having fiscal responsibility. So spending more than the entire surplus and then piling on top of that, proposals that may sound great, but for which there's no money, is something that ought to be looked at very, very carefully.
Now on this question, I think probably parents care more about this than anything else. Most schools are safe, but there have been instances — Tipper and I went out to Columbine the Sunday after that tragedy there. We've had meetings with students and parents here in New Hampshire. God bless the family of Amy Boyer, who was just killed last week.
I thought we ought to have zero tolerance for guns in schools, we ought to have more guidance counselors, more psychologists, we ought to ban the assault weapons and the junk guns and the Saturday night specials and get guns out of the hands of the people who shouldn't have them...[applause]... and license all new handgun purchasers.
Brown: Our next question on this side of the theater for the vice president.
Q: Mr. Vice President, my name is Benjamin Forrest. I live here in Hanover.
I'd like to change the topic slightly to foreign policy. As you know, in the last 10 years the U.S. has often intervened militarily in other countries, extensively in response to gross violations of human rights. Yet there have been several cases in which the U.S. has refused to act.
What principles would you use to distinguish cases that require U.S. action, and those that do not?
Gore: We're the natural leader of the world. I don't think that's a chauvinist American statement, I think it's a statement of fact. People respect us as Americans because we're a brave people. We try to uphold high values and standards and so the rest of the world does look to us. They want the kind of freedoms and prosperity that we have.
We have to accept that mantle of leadership. And when there is terrible violence in the rest of the world we have to pay careful attention to it.
God bless the people of Armenia today after that terrible tragedy that I am sure some of you saw with the murder of the prime minister there. I must met with him three weeks ago.
I think that we were right to go into East Timor. Bill disagreed with that. I thought that it was the right thing for us to do. I thought we were right in Kosovo and Bosnia.
I think we were tardy, frankly, in Rwanda. Tipper went over there with some of our forces to help those who were suffering in the aftermath of that.
We have to have a national interest. We have to be willing to accomplish the goal. We should have allies to help us. But our national interests should also be defined in terms of our values. And ethnic strife is important to address.
And by the way, we also ought to pay our U.N. dues as a leader of the world. [applause]
Shaw: Question for Senator Bradley.
Q: Hi, Senator Bradley. I'm Joan Spially. I live in Grantham. My question regards the test ban treaty.
We recently saw the Senate reject the ratification of that treaty. I am wondering what your reaction to that vote was and how you would respond to nuclear proliferation issues.
Bradley: I'll be glad to answer this, but first I just want to make on clarification. On the cost of the health care plan, we each have our own experts. I dispute the cost figure that Al has used. [applause]
Now, in answer to your question, I think it was a serious loss. I regret it deeply. I think there's no more important issue than the control of nuclear weapons in this world.
I think the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty prevented other countries, if it were signed, from getting nuclear weapons. It also gave us the means through the sensors that would be placed around the world and the on-site inspections that would be available for us to monitor anyone who might be breaking the agreement in any way, or maybe even testing that might take place that we couldn't hear.
I think that it is a major job of the next president of the United States to bring this treaty back to the Senate, and to do so in a way that allows the reasonable people in both parties to understand and move toward a vote in favor of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
That will take a leadership that is able to engender trust on both sides of the aisle. It will take a leadership that makes the case farsighted enough and works with the Congress well enough to make it happen.
Brown: Our next question is also for Senator Bradley.
Q: Senator Bradley, my name is Ingrid Bailey, and I live in Hanover.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have not been fully extended to gays and lesbians in this country. Social justice for these citizens is long overdue. Can't we do better than the military's don't ask, don't tell?
What leadership will you offer to move our national conversation and policies forward?
Bradley: Thank you very much for your question.
This is an issue for all of us to think about. I support gays being able to serve openly in the military. If a gay American can serve openly in the White House, in the Congress, in the courts, in the Treasury Department and in the attorney general's office, why can't they serve openly in the U.S. military? It doesn't make sense.
If a gay American can be a bricklayer, a doctor, an athlete, a lawyer, a painter, why can't a gay American be a sergeant and a lieutenant colonel? It does not make sense to me.
I am against all discrimination. I'm against discrimination on the basis of race, gender and sexual orientation, and the place to deal with that is the 1964 Civil Rights Act, adding sexual orientation to the list of protected classes.
I also think that it's important that we can talk about gay Americans and realize that they are our neighbors, they are our bosses. They're no different in many ways than all of us. And we have to get to a time in America where we can see beneath skin color, eye shape or sexual orientation to the individual.
Because that is when we're going to be able to achieve the dignity that I think America stands for. [applause]
Shaw: Your question, please, for Vice President Gore.
Q: I'm Nancy Hayes Kilgore from Plainfield. And my question, Vice President Gore, is also...
Gore: What was your last name? What was your last name?
Kilgore: Oh, I'm sorry. Nancy Hayes Kilgore.
Gore: Oh, OK. [laughter]
Gore: Let me have it. [laughter]
Q: I liked Senator Bradley's answer, and I know that you've also been an advocate for human rights. Many of us here in New Hampshire care deeply about the rights and the dignity of gay and lesbian people. And recently, across the river, our neighbors in Vermont have been discussing legalizing same-sex marriage. I'm wondering what your thoughts and feelings are about the legalizing of same-sex marriage.
Gore: Bill and I have the same position on that. I'm for domestic partnerships having legal protections, but not the same sacrament, not the same name, because I favor protecting the institution of marriage as it has been understood between a man and a woman. But I think that a partner should have legal protection and contractual rights and health care and the rest.
Now, I also want to pull back and address the broader question, because I thought Bill was very eloquent on that. I think that the story of our country is, in part, an unfolding of the American dream with a deeper meaning in each generation.
It's a mystery how Thomas Jefferson could write the words of our Declaration and own slaves. It's a mystery how the founders in Philadelphia could write our Constitution and not allow women to vote.
But we have taken the inner meaning and power of our founding documents and the spirit of America and breathed new life into them in each new generation. And the time has come for gays and lesbians to be recognized within the circle of human dignity.
Now, this is — this is an issue that is a — is a moral issue. I feel very strongly about it and I will fight for advances in this area.
I have supported the Nondiscrimination Act in the Congress. And frankly, you know, most gay and lesbian leaders, and certainly most civil rights groups leaders, have argued against opening up the 1964 Civil Rights Act...
Brown: Mr. Vice President...
Gore: ... and they take the — they prefer the other approach.
Brown: Mr. Vice President, thank you. But don't go anywhere, we have another question for you on this side.
Q: Good evening, vice president and Senator Bradley. My name is Frank Johns, I'm from Enfield Center, New Hampshire. And on behalf of the thriving metropolis of Enfield Center, we'd like to welcome...[laughter]...both of you to New Hampshire and taking the time...
Gore: How many people in Enfield Center?
Q: Oh, probably about 400, I guess, sir. [laughter]
A little change of direction here. I'd like to ask a question that deals with energy conservation, and I'd be interested in your comments on possible federal incentives dealing with organizations, companies, businesses that are building new facilities, or upgrading or retrofitting their processes to make them more energy efficient to reduce the long-term demand and need for our non-renewable energy resources.
Gore: I strongly support it. Some of you may know that a centerpiece of my efforts in public life has been to try to protect the environment much more effectively.
And incidentally, Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson is here in Hanover tonight, having just returned from India where yesterday there was an historic breakthrough with the signing of an agreement between the United States and India that is a major advance in securing their participation in the Kyoto protocol to combat global warming. It may sound like a technical issue, but getting India on board there is a huge advance. And I want to thank Secretary Richardson for the great job that he did.
We, in our country, have a lot of work to do. Global warming is a real problem. Air pollution is a real problem. Water pollution is a real problem. We've got to clean up the toxic waste sites.
And you know, a president of the United States who is committed to cleaning up the environment and fighting for all of the families that now suffer with asthma or other health problems because of a dirty environment — a president can make a huge difference.
Look at the companies who have recently changed their position and agreed to be a part of the solution instead of a part of the problem. And we can give those companies incentives in the form of tax credits, federal purchasing procurement policies.
I have already proposed a package of such incentives to try to speed up the introduction of new technologies for renewable sources of energy that will cut down on pollution, cut down on emissions, help us address the problem of global warming and clean air.
Shaw: Our next question. Please give us your name and direct it to Senator Bradley.
Q: Senator Bradley, my name is Lee Lind. I live in Meriden and I teach engineering her at Dartmouth.
What assurance can you offer that a Bradley administration will do as much as or more than a Gore administration to tangibly foster environmental quality and sustainability?
Bradley: I suppose the specific answer is just look at my career in the United States Senate. The League of Conservation Voters put me at something like 85 or 86 over a lifetime, which indicates they saw somebody at work in committees doing the work necessary to improve the environment.
We have two challenges. One is to clean up that which has already been polluted: the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Solid Waste Disposal Act, the Superfund Cleanup Act. And then second, to protect those areas which have not been polluted from becoming polluted.
There in the Senate I worked on things as diverse as Tongas National Forest in Alaska, the Sterling Forest in New Jersey and New York.
I think that there's a bit of an ethic here, and that is: Why is it so important that we preserve our natural world?
And I think each of you living in New Hampshire could understand what I'm about to say, because it's such a beautiful state. And that is you protect the natural world from pollution or you clean up that which has been polluted so that individuals may encounter something that is bigger than they are and lasts longer than they do.
Every time I have some moment on a seashore, or in the mountains, or sometimes in a quiet forest, I think that this is why the environment has to be preserved...
Brown: Thank you, Senator.
Bradley: ... so that people can have this experience. [applause]
Brown: Senator, the next question is for you as well. State your name and your question, please.
Q: Hi. My name is Brent Forrester. I live in Francestown, New Hampshire, and I work at the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester. This is a question for Senator Bradley.
Senator Bradley, there are currently four million Americans living in the United States with Alzheimer's disease and suffering from its devastating effects. Research has shown that early recognition of memory disorders and psycho-social interventions, such as care-giver support groups, cannot only improve quality of life for these patients and their families, but may also delay more costly nursing home care.
Unfortunately, current community-based programs for such treatment is underfunded. And in addition to this, the service delivery systems that are providing such care are terribly fragmented.
I was wondering what your thoughts were, Senator Bradley, about funding such high-quality home and community-based care for these patients with Alzheimer's disease and their families. Thank you.
Bradley: You know, 50 years ago nobody knew there was an Alzheimer's disease. And now we see that that which used to be considered an idiosyncratic characteristic of our grandparents may have, indeed, been Alzheimer's disease.
When I was in the Senate, I worked hard to try to create essentially day-care centers for Alzheimer's patients so care-givers who were so burdened by this, care that has to last every hour of every day, could bring them for a period of time and have a respite from that tremendous responsibility.
I think that it is enormously important that we continue research on Alzheimer's. There are some productive paths developing there. I also think it's important that we try to create a situation where seniors may stay in their homes longer.
One of the things that I've offered as a part of the health care plan was to allow Medicare to pay not only for health, but also for plans that would cover health and provide the social services to people who were in their homes. Now, it wouldn't be quite the special services that an Alzheimer's patient needs, but it would give relief to someone who is caring for an Alzheimer's patient in the home.
Shaw: Thank you very much.
Our next question, please, for the vice president.
Q: Hi. My name is Heather Hirsch, and I live in Etna, New Hampshire.
I'm a clinical psychologist, and my patients and I have been adversely impacted by managed health care. The insurance companies have really taken a minimalist approach in terms of what they allow for treatment and have really limited mental health benefits, often allowing less than therapists believe are necessary.
What are your views on the limitations of mental health benefits by managed care, and what, if any, would your plans be to address this issue?
Gore: I strongly support a health care patients' bill of rights — an HMO patients' bill of rights. I support moving toward parity in the treatment for mental health as in the same way as physical health. The availability of treatment for diabetes and the availability of treatment for depress or schizophrenia ought to be the same, in my view.
Tipper has — I'm proud of the leadership she's provided on this, and she has — she's worked a long time on this. And I guarantee you I'm committed to it. I...[laughter]...but I feel very — very strongly about it. And on — and I promise you, you give me a chance to roll up my sleeves and go to work on this. This is one that I will — I will fix for you.
Now, I've got a little less than a minute left. I want to tell you a story that I heard recently about three neighbors who died and went to Heaven.
And St. Peter met them at the gate, and he asked the first one: What did you do on Earth? And she said: I was a doctor, I cured the sick all my life. And St. Peter said: Well, come on in to Heaven.
And he asked the second one: What did you do on Earth? And he said: I was a teacher, I taught children all my life. St. Peter said: Well, come on into Heaven.
And he asked the third one: What did you do on Earth? And the third one looked a little sheepish and hesitated and finally looked up and said: I ran an HMO. [laughter]
So St. Peter hesitated and then said: Well, come on in, but you can only stay three days. [laughter and applause]
Brown: Question, please, for Senator Bradley.
Q: Hi, Senator Bradley. My name is David Higherley. I'm from Lyme, New Hampshire. And it's a small community. My son, Alex, is now in kindergarten, and Sarah, my wife, teaches their fourth grade. And I've been involved in education all my life. I was in the Teacher Corps about 20 years ago in Oakland, California.
And now I work in New York City. I do a lot work in the inner city. Things haven't changed. They really haven't. And it's a crisis, but it's now systemic.
Are we just going to get more teachers in? Are we going to do the kind of professional development, sustained action over time to make change, or is it really going to be just more military spending?
I mean, we have smart bombs, that my wife pointed out to me aren't always so smart, but we don't really invest in smart kids. More than the teachers, what are you going to do to really change around the inner-city school?
Bradley: You know, 1968, the summer of, I taught at a street academy in Harlem. And people were worried about urban schools then. As you say, not much has happened. I think that we need to apply resources and ingenuity. There's a spirit that has to be behind this, a willingness to experiment, a willingness to try things that might break through where other things haven't.
Early childhood education is critical. Getting people ready to go to school is important. I've laid out a program on child poverty, a part of which is doubling the number of funds available for Head Start. But there's more than just a specific program, or more than the dollars is the spirit behind it.
When FDR was president of the United States and we were in a depression, he said I'm going to try this, I'm going to try that, I'm going to try something else.
But we are going to get out of this depression. And I say to the American people that if I'm president of the United States, when it comes to urban public education, we're going to try this, we're going to try that, we're going to experiment here, experiment there. But we are going to improve urban public education.
It's enough and change has to come. [applause]
Shaw: Your question and name please for the vice president.
Q: Good evening, my name is John Colligan from Hanover, New Hampshire.
Vice President Gore could you discuss education results? What can we do to improve the education of our children? And please don't say "Spend more money."
Gore: You know you're right; it's not just a question of more money. Some of the problems will require more money but it's about standards and accountability and reforms.
I am proud to have the endorsement of the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers after taking positions that neither organization had endorsed, pushing the boundaries.
I favor tough teacher testing for new teachers including in the subjects that they teach. Tough peer evaluation for existing teachers.
I think that one of the reasons we do need more teachers is to reduce the class size so there's more one-on-one time between teachers and students who might learn in a different way.
I think that we need to turn around these failing schools in the inner city and elsewhere. I think that we need to focus on school safety as we were talking about before.
I also think that we have got to focus on preschool, because most learning takes place in the first few years of life. We've got to give hope at the other end by opening up access to college education. I think this is absolutely critical.
I proposed a 21st century teacher corps to give $10,000 hiring bonuses to young people who come out of college, get qualified for teaching and go to areas where teachers are needed, and mid-career professionals who are willing to switch careers and get certified.
A lot of teachers who were hired after World War II are now retiring, and we have the biggest generation of school children in history. They've surpassed the baby boom, which I deeply resent incidentally, but they're going to break the record again next year and every year for the next 10 years in a row.
We ought to make the same size commitment in our generation that the World War II vets did in theirs.
Now, one experiment that I don't support is vouchers, and that's one of the areas where we've disagreed for 18 years in the Congress. I think vouchers are a mistake. [applause]
Brown: State your name please and your question for the vice president.
Q: Yes, Mr. Gore. My name is Earl Sweet. I'm from Lebanon, New Hampshire. I work here at the college. And a lot of people wanted me to ask you this question and they had it wrote down for me.
In our country, even in the strongest economy in a generation, too many parents work too many works for too little money and get too little respect. Families are paying a price for that. It often seems that companies do not value the people who work for them and make them successful. And the low level of trust most people have in corporate America is truly alarming.
I do not believe there is any single policy or law that will address this.
What will you do as president to provide leadership to get our country working better for everybody, working people as well as CEOs? And not to say take away from Dartmouth College, and this hasn't got anything to do with them...[laughter]...but basically, I've had a lot of people...
Gore: Are you unionized, Earl?
Q: I am the president of the local here.
Gore: OK, all right. [laughter and applause]
Q: Matter of fact, she was just with my people — AFL-CIO. I'm a vice president in this area.
Gore: Thank you very much. Thank you. That's an important position incidentally.
OK. Thank you for asking that question.
You know, I have talked with so many working parents here in New Hampshire who are really stressed out trying to balance work and family. It's hard.
You may have seen the study that came out in the news media a few weeks ago about how Americans are now the hardest working people on Earth. The average two-parent working family is now working 500 hours a year more, than just a generation ago. There's been a quadrupling of single-parent families. And the single parents, God bless them, are doing a wonderful job. But often they are simply exhausted and they need somebody fighting for them to make their lives better.
I want to raise the minimum wage. I want to expand the earned income tax credit. I want to expand the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Tipper and I met a couple in a hospital whose child was seriously injured. Both of them lost their jobs because they chose to be with their child instead of staying at work.
They ought to — you also ought to have the right to go to parent-teacher meetings and doctors appointments. It ought to be easier to balance work and family.
I feel that it's also important to provide child care. We need to expand high quality, accessible child care in this country. We ought to have after-school care in every community.
And for families that are dealing with seniors, like the gentleman who asked about Alzheimer's, I propose a national network of family care-giving support centers and a tax credit for those who are providing long-term care. It's a terrible burden.
And I would say more, but the time's up.
Shaw: Please your question for the senator.
Q: Senator Bradley, I'm Scottie Eliason from Lyme, New Hampshire. And I'd like to ask you to elaborate a little more on the reasons that you left the Senate and why the time is right now for you to come back into national politics.
Bradley: Thank you very much.
I left the Senate because there were things I wanted to do that I couldn't do if I was in the Senate. I had 18 wonderful years there. But it was time for me to move on.
I left to try to understand more clearly where economy was headed in terms of technological change and globalization, to build the grassroots movement for campaign finance reform, which I talked about earlier, to find new ways to promote racial unity in this country.
I worked in the private sector. I taught at Stanford and Notre Dame. I was the head of the National Civic League. I ran Project Independence.
I engaged outside of Washington in the dialogue with the American people about where they saw their lives and where they'd like to take this country.
And after doing that for two years, I made the decision that I thought that I was the person that could improve the quality of life for millions of Americans, that the ability matched the national moment, and therefore, I was going to step forward and run for president of the United States: for very clear reasons.
I don't think I'd be running for president of the United States had I not taken those two years, had I not been able to get outside and work in the private sector, encounter people where they live their lives on an everyday basis and develop a sense of where I think we ought to take the country.
And I concluded that if you're going to do this, you ought to deal with the big problems. And you ought to have big solutions to big problems, because that's what America's all about. It's about dreaming and being able to fulfill those dreams.
Brown: Thank you, Senator. [applause]
Our next question goes to the vice president.
Q: Yes, sir. Thank you very much. I'm Keith Owen from Enfield, New Hampshire. And my question to you, sir, is, what is the biggest mistake you have made in your political career? And how have you changed as a result of it?
Gore: There's so many to choose from. [laughter]
If I was going to pick one right off the bat — everybody hates to get that question, you know. If I was going to pick one right off the bat, I would say that my biggest mistake was in my choice of words when I claimed to have taken the lead in the Congress in creating the Internet. [laughter] I — and I've had an opportunity to talk about that. I'm proud of what I did in that area, incidentally.
Because there was a little network called DARPANET in the Pentagon, and I did take the lead in the Congress in providing funding for the people who created what later became the Internet: held hearings, got the money through the process and tried to proselytize the idea of an information superhighway.
You know, I'm not proud of what I did to try to take too much credit for it, but I'm proud of what I did to further that goal and bring it along.
You know, we probably learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. And in the last six or eight weeks, I've had a learning experience out there in New Hampshire and in Iowa. And I would like to take this opportunity to just formally thank the people of New Hampshire for telling me about your dreams and hopes for the future of this country. It has been a great lesson for me. I really do appreciate it.
Shaw: Senator Bradley, a question on this side.
Q: Hi. My name's Colleen King from Lebanon, New Hampshire.
In his answer to an earlier question, Vice President Gore indicated that you did not agree with our involvement in Kosovo, Bosnia and the most recent crisis.
Unknown Male: No. It was just East Timor.
Q: OK. East Timor. I'm sorry. I was afraid I might misquote you.
I would like you to expound upon that please.
Bradley: Well, actually, I feel that our involvement in East Timor, the way we did it, was appropriate.
And I think that it's maybe even an example of where future involvements could head.
We have 32 ethnic wars in the world today. There's no way that we have the resources or the wisdom to be involved in all 32 ethnic wars in the world. What we need to do is we need to find ways of using multilateral institutions, like the U.N., regional institutions, like NATO or in Southeast Asia, to deal with problems where we play a part of that. We don't take the full responsibility, but we play a part.
And I think in East Timor what happened was that, pursuant to U.N. approval, we helped with logistics in making sure that a force got in there to stop the violence that was taking place and to oversee.
I think that's an important example of how we can proceed in this area in the future. It doesn't mean that you never deploy forces. But it means that if you do deploy forces, the national interest has to be clearly at stake and has to be consistent with values. And if we're talking about the smaller areas, that it would be better to work through multilateral institutions.
Brown: Our next question is actually to both candidates, and we'll take Mr. Gore first.
Q: Thank you. I'm Tom Bridges from Hanover. And this is a question not about policies, but about what you see as the essence of leadership. You've both had the opportunity to see national and international leaders up close.
What do you think characterizes those whose leadership is most effective, and how does your own approach to leadership relate to that?
Gore: What the television audience doesn't know is that before this started here on camera, we decided to fill up the time by taking some questions from the audience, and so we've actually heard pretty much this question before and I'll give the answer that I gave before.
I think that a president must have a vision of the future that is compelling enough to bring people into a common effort to bring it to pass. I care very deeply about what happens to this country in the future.
A president is the only person in our constitutional system who has the responsibility to fight for the welfare and well-being of all of our people. Senators and congressmen have constituency groups, and they look to the national interest, but a president is charged with fighting for all the people. That's what I want to do; to bring into being a vision of a bright future for our country, and I've been talking about it during this campaign.
Secondly, I think that a leader, and especially a president, has to articulate clear goals that are achievable, rank them in priority order, and rally people around those goals.
And third, I think that a president has to assert values, and elevate those values so the people buy into them and base their decisions on those values. I think Abraham Lincoln was the finest example of that trait. I think that Franklin Roosevelt was the finest example of articulating a vision of how we could get through the Depression...
Brown: Mr. Vice President...
Gore: ...and win World War II.
Gore: And I think that Lyndon Johnson was good on setting the goals.
Brown: We're going to give Senator Bradley a chance to respond.
Bradley: Well, I think there are three values that are important that a leader has to have.
One is absolute integrity — honesty and integrity. And there I think of Jimmy Carter.
Second, I think that a leader has got to have the ability to see around the corners, to see the future before it's here. I think Woodrow Wilson had that. What he talked about America became America in the 20th century.
And next, I think a leader has to have courage. Example of that, I would pick somebody who's not an American, Mikhail Gorbachev, who saw that the world was change, and had the courage to make that change.
I think leaders, wherever they are in the world, need those three qualities if they're going to be world-class leaders.
Shaw: A question for the vice president.
Q: Good evening. My name's Bruce Curtis McLain. I live in Hanover. And I'm a teacher at Hanover High School right down the street.
Mr. Vice President, one of the things that concerns me most, in talking to my students and hearing them talk, is a continuing feeling of cynicism towards public service, the idea that politics is a dirty word, that government is the problem. I think we've come a long way, but I think — in our entertainment and in so many of the anecdotes that I hear even young people talking today there's still that attitude.
And I would like to hear you answer this, and I hope Senator Bradley could tag on to it too. What would you like me to say to my students?
Gore: What age group do you teach, Bruce?
Q: High school: 9th grade through 12th grade.
Gore: I know how they feel. When I came back from Vietnam, I was as disillusioned as anybody you have ever met. I had watched my father be defeated for re-election in 1970 to the Senate because he fought for civil rights and was opposed to the Vietnam War.
I saw and felt the pressures of that period pulling at the seams of our country. I came home and watched Watergate unfold with the examples or corruption, and worse, at the highest levels of our government. I thought politics would be the absolute last thing I ever did with my life.
I was a journalist for seven years. I asked my editors not to assign me to any political stories. But after a couple of years, I was promoted to cover city hall and I saw how people became heroes in the community by rolling up their sleeves and trying to make things better, and I was drawn toward that.
And I would like to work hard — if you will elect me president, I will work hard to communicate that spirit, that American spirit to young people and Americans of all ages. I think we have to have campaign finance reform. I think all candidates ought to be open and disclose everything.
I think that we ought to have high values in our leaders. I think it's critically important that we conduct campaigns in a way that will elevate our democracy and draw people toward it.
That's one reason why I would like to have a debate every week on a different issue.
Brown: Thank you very much. We are going to bring our program to a close at this point. We do want to thank Dartmouth College, the voters of New Hampshire, and the candidates who joined us here tonight.
Gore: Could I say one more word? I would like to stay, if anybody has other questions, I will stay after the TV cameras are turned off and as long as you want. [laughter]
Brown: That's your cue.
Shaw: OK. Thank you.
Well, there's only time for me to say that tomorrow night on this stage Judy Woodruff and Tom Griffith will host the Republican town meeting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Thank you very much. Good night from Hanover, New Hampshire. [applause]
APP Acknowledgement: Debate transcript source provided by David Casalaspi.
Presidential Candidate Debates, Democratic Presidential Candidates Town Hall at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/305694