empty podium for debate

Republican Candidates Debate in Durham, New Hampshire

January 06, 2000

Gary Bauer;
Governor George W. Bush (TX);
Steve Forbes;
Senator Orrin Hatch (UT);
Former Ambassador Alan Keyes; and
Senator John McCain (AZ)

Jenny Attiyeh (New Hampshire Public Television);
John DiStaso (Union Leader);
Alison King (New England Cable News); and
Tim Russert (NBC News)

RUSSERT: Good evening. We welcome our six Republican candidates. Time is precious. Let's start the questioning. John DiStaso from the Union-Leader.

DISTASO: Thank you, Tim. Mr. Bush, good evening. You know, it's easy to be a fiscal conservative when the economy is flush and revenues are rolling in. But the question is whether your anti-tax position is one of convenience rather than conviction. What if the economy really turns sour? And would you do more than slow down your proposed tax cuts? Is the next fall-back position perhaps a tax hike?

BUSH: First, before I answer you, John, I want to thank New Hampshire Public TV. I want to thank New England Cable News. And believe it or not, I'd actually like to thank the Manchester Union-Leader -- [laughter] -- at least for sponsoring the debate. [laughter] I also am happy to be on the campus of the number one Wildcats. [applause]

If there is a recession, it's important to cut the taxes to make sure our economy grows. It's also important to cut the taxes when there's times of plenty as an insurance policy against an economic slowdown. And it's important to cut the taxes to make sure Washington DC does not spend the surplus. I have laid out a plan that not only encourages economic growth. I've laid out a plan that is more fair than the current code because it knocks down the toll booth to the middle class.

DISTASO: Governor, is this "No new taxes, so help me God"?

BUSH: This is not only no new taxes; this is "Tax cuts, so help me God." I am a governor of a state that -- I put the same message to our people. I've worked with Democrats and Republicans alike to cut the taxes, not once in Texas but twice. There is a mindset in Washington that says, "If we have extra money, let's create government, more federal government." That's not the way I think.

I think what we ought to do is lock-box all the payroll taxes for Social Security. I think we ought to meet the basic needs of the federal government. But rather than create more government, I think we ought to pass money back to the working people in America. I've got a $483 billion tax cut that makes sure the budget stays balanced, but also is an incentive for our economy to continue to grow and an incentive for people to work and get into the middle class.

RUSSERT: Governor, so we're clear, even in the case of a prolonged world war with the United States involved, you would not consider raising taxes?

BUSH: If you're talking about the extremist of extreme hypotheticals, which sometimes you have the tendency to do -- [laughter] --

RUSSERT: Which sometimes happens.

BUSH: Let me put it to you this way. When I'm the president, we're not going to obfuscate when it comes to foreign policy. If I ever commit troops, I'm going to do so with one thing in mind, and that's to win, Tim. And that's to win in a fashion that not only achieves victory, but gets us out of the theater in quick order.

RUSSERT: And spend what it takes.

BUSH: Well, absolutely, if we go to war.

RUSSERT: And raise revenues to spend.

BUSH: We'll see what happens.

RUSSERT: Alison King has the next question.

KING: Mr. Bauer, you have said that if you are president, you will only support Supreme Court justices who will vote against Roe versus Wade. If you would choose justices based on the abortion issue, do you feel voters should choose their president based on the abortion issue?

BAUER: Well, Alison, first of all, let me join the governor in thanking you all for providing this opportunity for us. I think, after watching the debate last night, the one thing that this audience agrees on is that it's imperative that one of us be the next person to put their hand on the Bible to be the next president of the United States. [applause]

Alison, what I have said is that I will put no justice on the court that does not understand the clear moral idea found in the Declaration of Independence that is the basis of this country. And that idea says that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." And the first right it lists is the right to life.

So, yes, all of my judges will believe that. All of my judges will want to welcome every child into the world, give them a place at the table. I will put no bigots on the court, and I will not put anybody on the court that would sacrifice even one American child.

KING: Should voters use that as a litmus test as well?

BAUER: If voters want to make a serious decision about who should sit in the Oval Office, this is the only issue that we will debate that involves life and death. We can argue about the exact budget levels of one department or another. We can argue whether the governor's defense build-up will be better than mine, or about campaign finance reform. This one involves who we are. Are we a shining city on a hill? Is there enough room for our unborn children? So, yes, I would urge every voter to make a decision exactly on this type of issue.

KING: And if they do that, a majority of the polls do show that most Americans are pro-abortion rights. Wouldn't that be ensuring your own defeat in effect?

BAUER: Absolutely not. First of all, you don't take a poll on something so fundamental. If we did, Abraham Lincoln would have never started this great party. He talked about the equality of all men. He relied on that declaration. That declaration tells us these children should be welcomed. I believe the American people are good enough and decent enough that they will support a candidate and a party that can find its voice to defend the most defenseless.

RUSSERT: Mr. Bauer --

BAUER: And that is what I will do as president of the United States.

RUSSERT: Would you have appointed David Souter of New Hampshire to the Supreme Court?

BAUER: I not only think President Bush made a colossal mistake by putting a justice on the court that is a reliable vote for Clinton and Gore; I believe we can never afford to make another mistake like that, Tim. Look, seven of the current nine Supreme Court justices were appointed by Republican presidents. Abortion should be over.

RUSSERT: Governor Bush, would you like the chance to defend your dad?

BAUER: Now, wait a minute -- he can defend himself. He doesn't get his dad too, does he? [laughter]

BUSH: Listen, I'm the only one on the stage who has appointed judges, and my judges strictly interpret the Constitution. And that's what I hope all of us would do when we appoint judges, is put people on the bench that strictly interpret the Constitution and do not use the bench as a place from which to legislate. My dad can defend himself. [laughter]

RUSSERT: And David --

BAUER: You were no more able to get an answer about whether the governor would appoint pro-life justices than I was a couple of weeks ago, but we'll try again later this evening. [laughter]

RUSSERT: Jenny Attiyeh, you're next.

ATTIYEH: Mr. McCain, you have made cleaning up Washington the keynote of your presidential campaign. And yet yesterday we learned that you pressed the FCC to take action on a matter that ultimately benefitted PACs and communications whose executives have been major contributors to your campaign. You say you did nothing wrong. But your others -- your actions and words can seem hypocritical. Would you agree that you have exercised poor judgment?

MCCAIN: You know, the reason why I've worked so hard for campaign finance reform -- because all this money washing around Washington and all these uncontrolled contributions taint all of us. No matter what we do, we are under a cloud of suspicion, and I am one of those as well. And that's why I fought so hard, and will continue to fight so hard to clean up this mess, and return the government back to the people of this country, which they've clearly lost -- and since I work there, I know it -- and ask anyone else who works there.

But, you know, this case was clearly one where a person did not get a decision. This person had purchased a television station. The average time for the FCC, which is under the supervision and the oversight of the committee that I chair, usually takes 418 days. They ended up taking 700 days. At 700 days I wrote to them, Make a decision. Now, eight other congressmen told them to vote for or against this. I didn't. I said, Make a decision. My job as chairman of the Commerce Committee, as every other committee chairman in Washington, is to make the bureaucrats work for the people. And that has to do with making decisions. I would do the same thing again at almost any time.

ATTIYEH: Well, for a man who rides the "Straight Talk Express," that wasn't the most forthcoming of answers. Let me just ask you again. Do you think you --

MCCAIN: Well, what was not forthcoming about it?

ATTIYEH: Did you exercise poor judgment, do you think?

MCCAIN: I said no at the beginning, but I don't know how to be more forthcoming. I'd be glad to elaborate. This was a decision that had been delayed for over 700 days. People serve to know the answer, just as you are -- all of us who pay taxes who deserve to get an answer from their government. I told them to give them an answer. I think that's appropriate in my role as chairman of the committee that oversights this bureaucracy, which by the way is extremely difficult for most people to deal with.

RUSSERT: The same Mr. Paxson who you helped was going to have a fundraiser for you Friday. You canceled that. Why would you cancel the fundraiser if you have done everything according to form?

MCCAIN: Because for the next three days I am going to focus on these debates and the rest of the campaign. And I know that if I didn't that we would be talking about that most of the time.

RUSSERT: So the appearance is not appropriate? [laughter] So the appearance is not appropriate? [applause]

MCCAIN: I thought that I would have to spend a lot of time on the issue, and I decided that I wouldn't. I'd just move forward and would spend my time concentrating on these debates. Our money is coming in very well, by the way --

RUSSERT: As you know --

MCCAIN: -- not anywhere near $74 million but it's coming along pretty good. [laughter]

RUSSERT: As you know, the same article said that two Baby Bell companies that wanted to merge also had a letter on your behalf to the FCC. They gave you over $100,000. Is there a pattern here that you should stop?

MCCAIN: There's a pattern of my exercising my duties as chairman of the Commerce Committee which oversights these issues. I will continue to. We have had enormous problems with the FCC. It's not only me, but other members of Congress, other committee chairmen. They've been very, very difficult. I won't get personal as some members of Congress have about them. I will continue to exercise my oversight and try to get them to do their job. And most objective observers believe the FCC hasn't done their job. That's my obligation as a senator and as a chairman of a powerful committee.

RUSSERT: Governor Bush, you said today that Senator McCain should answer these questions, that he should walk the walk. Has he answered the question? Is he walking the walk?

BUSH: Yes, I think so. I think the -- well, my objection with John is not how he is conducting himself as chairman of the Commerce Committee. My objection is he is proposing a campaign funding reform that will hurt Republicans and hurt the conservative cause. He's asking us to unilaterally disarm, which I will refuse to do.

RUSSERT: But you have no problem with him --

BUSH: I thought his answer was fine.

RUSSERT: Next question to John DiStaso --

MCCAIN: Can I -- can I respond to that very quickly? Look, you know as well as I do, George, that the unions carry millions and millions of dollars of checks and soft money down to the Democratic National Committee -- trial lawyers do the same thing. We'll hurt the unions bad if we take away their soft money. I'm for paycheck protection. I also ask for stockholders also to pay theirs.

But what you are saying is that we should continue what happened in 1996. That's disgraceful. Chinese money, Indonesian money came into the campaign. We'll never know about the breaches of security --

BUSH: But let me say something --

MCCAIN: I think you've got to understand -- right now a supporter of yours is running attack ads morphing Bill Clinton's face into mine. And, by the way, ask him to get a better picture, will you? [laughter and applause] And ask him -- ask him at least -- at least to disclose where this money is coming from --

BUSH: Hey, John --

MCCAIN: This shows you how desperate these --

BUSH: -- this so-called supporter of mine was running ads against me in the State of Texas. Let me say something about this.

BAUER: Wait a minute, boys, Al Gore is applauding this -- I mean, let's get on with the issues that the American people --

BUSH: What Al Gore is applauding is the campaign funding reforms that John supports. His plan -- and I trust your integrity, I trust your judgment. I don't trust the plan that you are outlining. It is bad for Republicans and it's bad for the conservative cause. [applause]

RUSSERT: John DiStaso -- we have to move on. John DiStaso has the next question.

MCCAIN: -- seventy million dollars, and I don't think you have an idea of how important campaign finance reform is to restore the confidence of young Americans in their government. Because the --

BUSH: What you don't need to do is tell me what I have an idea about or not --

MCCAIN: -- cynicism and alienation is there -- I don't believe you have a good idea, otherwise you'd get on board as most Americans want us to.

RUSSERT: Go ahead, John DiStaso --

BAUER: Would you guys like to go out to dinner -- [laughter] --

RUSSERT: The next question is for Steve Forbes.

DISTASO: I'm being directed to just start asking. Mr. Forbes, you are a wealthy man with a tax cut plan. Your social politics have shifted some to the right in the past four years. You have been known in the state for four years, spent millions, still remain at 10 or 11 percent in the polls. Please without a campaign speech, open up a little bit. It's getting late. Tell us why you are not yet connecting or not connecting with a large segment of the New Hampshire voters. Is it that some view you as aloof and out of touch, or -- while others may say that you are just not the genuine article?

FORBES: Maybe you want me to give a hug to John. [laughter] I don't know.

MCCAIN: I'd be glad to, Steve.

FORBES: Thank you.

BAUER: Steve, this is the paper that endorsed you. [laughter]

DISTASO: I have nothing to do with that. It's not my job. [applause]

FORBES: Well, sometimes you discover when you're a publisher reporters have ideas of their own. [laughter] And -- but that's the purpose of the campaign. I am independent. The special interests and lobbyists have no hooks into me. And that's why I think my campaign is catching on. For example, take the tax issue, which is a real issue. One of my opponents, George Bush, has a tax proposal which keeps the current code in place. You might call it "Clinton-Gore Light." You cannot be a moderate on the tax issue. You have got to get to the heart of it and get rid of it. And I'm taking real issues to the real people.

Tonight we have in the audience the Daley family from Exeter, New Hampshire. They figured with my flat tax they would save enough money to be able to afford family health insurance -- real savings for real people. And so, John, I'm picking my pockets -- I am not picking the pockets of the taxpayers. And the special interests have no interest in me, because they know their gravy train is going to be derailed when I'm president of the United States.

DISTASO: Well, at the risk of losing my job then, what's the problem? The plans are -- you know, you have the plans there, yet there seems to be some disconnect.

FORBES: John, there's no disconnect. Your reporters will tell you the kind of crowds I've been getting in New Hampshire. And on the polls, the poll that counts is the one on election day, as Harry Truman showed in 1948, or Pat Buchanan in 1996 -- at this point he was in single digits. But you take your message to the people. I have a Reaganesque message. I am the one Republican who is talking like Reagan on the tax issue. I put forth bold proposals on putting Social Security in your control and not the politicians, letting you choose your own schools, letting you choose your own doctors. That's why I think I am going to win at the end of the day.

RUSSERT: Thank you, Mr. Forbes.

FORBES: Polls don't make presidents, the people do.

RUSSERT: Alison?

KING: Mr. Hatch, you are a 23-year U.S. senator and a powerful player in Washington. Yet as a presidential candidate many feel that your campaign has been flat at best. A current New Hampshire poll puts you at about one percent. As a respected political figure, why have you been so unsuccessful winning over New Hampshire voters?

HATCH: Keep in mind I came in rather late in this. I came in on July 1st. At that time George announced that he had raised $36 million. It was astounding, and it's a credit to him. I said if I got a million people to give me $36 I'd have as much as he does, and I'd win it with $36 million, and I wouldn't have to spend 70-some million dollars to prove that I'm a conservative who is going to get in there and cut taxes and cut spending in the federal government.

But, you know, the Joan Shorenstain poll a month ago said that 64 percent of the American people haven't decided who to support yet for president; 16 percent did support Governor Bush, which was a tribute to him. Everybody else was in single digits. The poll just came out yesterday -- they were doing it all the time -- it's a very legitimate poll conducted by the Kennedy School of Government and paid for by the Pew Foundation. It came out yesterday, and it said that 74 percent of the people do not know who they want to support for president; only 13 percent -- now, 3 percent less -- support Governor Bush. Everybody else is in single digits, including Al Gore and Bill Bradley. So this thing is wide open, and don't count out Orrin Hatch.

KING: But throughout the race you have said you were the perfect fall-back candidate if George Bush stumbles. Now, George Bush continues to dominate in the polls nationwide. So at what point do you drop out and perhaps endorse someone else?

HATCH: I don't think that 13 percent is dominating in the polls. As a matter of fact, I think that's less than dominant. But it is dominating everybody else, including Gore and Bradley.

KING: Are you in this?

HATCH: I -- I give tribute for Governor Bush for at least being there. But that means that 74 percent of the American people are looking for somebody who has the guts, the experience, the record of accomplishment, of course the ability to bring people together in Washington. And there's only one guy standing here who can say all of that.

And last but not least, you have raised the issue of judges. I have worked with every federal judge in the last 23 years. The most important single issue in this campaign is who is going to pick the next 50 percent after Bill Clinton. I sure don't want it to be Al Gore or Bill Bradley, and I would sure like it to be me, and I think people across the board would appreciate the judges I would pick.


ATTIYEH: Mr. Keyes, I have a short question for you. What does the term "separation of church and state" mean to you?

KEYES: I don't think that's an important question actually. I think the more important question would be: Is there any reference to separation of church and state in the Constitution of the United States? And the answer to that question is, No, there is not. The First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion, which means what? The ability to take your religious beliefs and carry them into practice -- in every area of life by the way. That includes your business, your school, your home and your politics. And so the Constitution as it was written was meant to guarantee that instead of having what they had in the Old World in Europe -- you may not know this -- but a lot of folks actually came over here because national sovereigns, monarchs, were trying to dictate to people at what would be in Europe the state and local level, the provincial and town level. They were trying to dictate uniformity in terms of religious belief. And the First Amendment was put there to make sure that didn't happen in America.

Our courts are now trying to impose irreligion and atheism, and that is intolerable. And we therefore have to oppose it, and to defend those things that are required to make sure that in all the aspects of our lives, including our vocation as citizens, we will freely be able to exercise our religion, carrying our faith into committed action in order to make sure this country stays on the right track.

ATTIYEH: Can you just interpret that for me? Are you for or against the separation of church and state? Are you willing to abide by it?

KEYES: You are trying to force me to speak in terms that are not relevant to American life. The Declaration of Independence states very clearly that the foundation of all our rights is what? We do remember this, right? "All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator --

ATTIYEH: And women.

KEYES: -- with certain unalienable rights." Okay? Now, what does that mean? It means the source of our rights is the creator God. You can tell me, if you like, that that's a religious conviction. I know that it is the American creed. I know that when we turn our backs on that creed in issues like abortion and pretend that it's human choice, a mother's choice, or any other human power that determines our rights and dignity, then we have robbed the poor. We have robbed those without power of that ground on which they stand in order to retain their liberty.

I won't give up the Declaration, and I speak for millions of Americans who will refuse to give it up, who will fight to the death, as our ancestors did, to make sure that it is respected for all people, including the unborn. [applause]

RUSSERT: Thank you, Mr. Keyes. Governor Bush, in the last debate, when you talked about Jesus being the most philosopher/thinker that you respected, many people applauded you. Others said, "What role would religion have in the Oval Office with George W. Bush?" Fifteen million atheists in this country; 5 million Jews; 5 million Muslims; millions more Buddhists and Hindus. Should they feel excluded from George W. Bush because of his allegiance to Jesus?

BUSH: No. I was asked what influenced my life, and I gave the answer the way -- an honest, unvarnished answer. That doesn't make me better than you or make me better than anybody else, but it's the foundation for how I live my life. Some may accept the answer and some may not. But, Tim, I really don't care. It's me. It's what I'm all about.

RUSSERT: Would you --

BUSH: It's how I live my life. It's just a part of me.

RUSSERT: Would you take an expression like "What would Jesus do?" into the Oval Office?

BUSH: I would take an expression into the Oval Office of "Dear God, help me." [laughter]

BAUER: So would we, Governor. [laughter]

RUSSERT: In 1993, you suggested that unless you've --

BUSH: Now, that wasn't very Christian of you. [laughter]

RUSSERT: In 1993, you suggested that unless you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you couldn't go to heaven.

BUSH: No, no. What I said was my religion teaches -- my religion says that you accept Christ and you go to heaven. That was a statement that some interpreted that said I get to decide who goes to heaven. Governors don't decide who gets to go to heaven. [laughter] No, sir. God decides who goes to heaven, Mr. Russert.

RUSSERT: Even non-Christians?

BUSH: God decides. And far be it from the politician who tries to play God.

RUSSERT: Senator McCain, last night, on this very stage, both Democratic candidates for president said that they would require appointees to the Joint Chiefs of Staff to support allowing gays to openly serve in the military. Would you do the same, or would you insist that your appointees oppose allowing gays to openly serve in the military?

MCCAIN: My appointees on the Joint Chiefs of Staff?

RUSSERT: That's correct.

MCCAIN: I would make sure that a policy that's working and is working and should work is continued. I believe that when people like General Colin Powell and other most respected men in America come up with a policy that does work -- yes, it has troubles with it; yes, if it needs some reviews or changes or fine-tuning, then I'll be glad to support such a thing. But I cannot change a policy that's working. And remember, there's something unique, and that is, we give the very lives to the hands of the military leaders. And our military leaders are the ones whose advice we should rely on.

Let me say something about God, if I could; a little self-serving. I'm the only candidate for president who's actually conducted church services. In prison, I was named the room chaplain, not because I was more religious than any of my fellow cell mates, but because I had been to prep school and the Naval Academy and I knew all the services. But we had some wonderful experiences in prison. But one of the sermons that I gave -- and I'm a great sermoner, as you know; that prepared me for public life -- is the parable according to when Jesus held up the coin when asked if they should pay taxes. And I said -- I quoted, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. Render unto God that which is God's." When I'm in the Oval Office, I obviously have a relation with God. But I'm rendering unto Caesar as well.

KEYES: If I may say something --


RUSSERT: Gary Bauer.

BAUER: This is the second debate I've been in today. I had the good fortune at lunch today to run into Vice President Gore. [laughter] And I went over and gave him my good wishes, and then I suggested to him that that answer last night was one of the most idiotic answers I've ever heard. This administration --

RUSSERT: Which answer?

BAUER: The answer on requiring the Joint Chiefs of Staff to answer the demands of the gay rights movement in order to serve this country. This administration, Tim, has watched as the Navy went from 600 ships to 325, as we went from 18 Army divisions to 10. They've sent men all over the world for dubious reasons. We don't have a missile defense system. We're cutting veterans' benefits. And what is Clinton and Gore worried about? Making sure that the gay rights movement is satisfied with who the Joint Chiefs of Staff are.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have one purpose: To keep the United States out of war, and if they fail that, to win any war we're getting into. And our party ought to find our voice and say that we will not put that kind of requirement on our military.

RUSSERT: Governor Bush, I see you nodding your head. Would you appoint someone to the Joint Chiefs of Staff who openly advocated openly allowing gays to serve in the military?


RUSSERT: Would you appoint --

BUSH: I'd appoint --

RUSSERT: Would you appoint an openly gay person to a senior staff or Cabinet position --

BUSH: How would I know? I don't ask.


BUSH: Somebody's sexual orientation is their personal business, as far as I'm concerned.

RUSSERT: If he or she said --

BUSH: Somebody --

RUSSERT: If he or she said, "I am gay and proud of it and think that it's an acceptable lifestyle.

BUSH: It depends upon what their politics are, Tim. It depends on what their views are. But I agree with what John and Gary said about the military. I'm a "Don't ask, don't tell" man. The purpose of the military is to fight and win war and to be able to deter war.

KEYES: I have to tell you, I keep asking myself where all --

BUSH: Is that on my time?

KEYES: Excuse me. Excuse me.

BUSH: Excuse me.

KEYES: I keep asking myself where all the conservatives have gone and sadly, "Don't ask, don't tell." A military man -- my father was a military guy. One of the nice things about military people is they're straight. It's kind of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get profession. Ask a question, get a straight answer. Get the truth. Get honesty. Get honor.

"What you see is what you get" doesn't mean dissemble. It doesn't mean "Don't ask, don't tell." It means stand forward and be what you are. If we think that having homosexuals in the military is bad for discipline, bad for morale, then we ought to stand against it. I know that rank-and-file military people do. And I pledge, as president of the United States, that I will return to the ban on homosexuals in the military, and I think that's where we need to be. [applause]

RUSSERT: Does anyone agree --

KEYES: And I believe -- wait, wait.

RUSSERT: Does anyone agree with Mr. Keyes?

KEYES: Excuse me. I'm not done. You let the other folks --

RUSSERT: We've got to --

KEYES: No, you let the other folks finish.

RUSSERT: Mr. Keyes, we've got to share the podium.

KEYES: You let the other folks finish. Let me finish. One last point --

RUSSERT: You raised the proposition. Let me --

KEYES: I don't think anybody will mind, Mr. Russert.

RUSSERT: Does anyone agree with --

KEYES: One last point.

RUSSERT: Let me finish first, and then you can come back. Does anyone agree with Mr. Keyes that gays should be banned from the military totally?

MCCAIN: I believe the policy is working today. It is accepted by the military. The military leaders support it and they say that it will work. And we have to rely on these people for this kind of advice and counsel.

KEYES: One last point --

FORBES: Open gays should not be in the military. The military is not an agency for social experimentation. They have a real mission, and they should be allowed to carry it out. [applause]

RUSSERT: Go ahead, Mr. Keyes. Quickly, please.

KEYES: As I was saying, one last point, because I think the point just made about social experimentation is exactly correct. But more important than that, I think it's about time we all faced up to the truth. If we accept the radical homosexual agenda, be it in the military or in marriage or in other areas of our lives, we are utterly destroying the concept of family and sexual responsibility without which the traditional family cannot survive.

RUSSERT: Let me --

KEYES: We must oppose it in the military. We must oppose it in marriage. We must oppose it if the fundamental institution of our civilization is to survive. And I think those candidates up here unwilling to face that fact and playing games with this issue are doing so irresponsibly, at the price of America's moral foundation.

RUSSERT: Thank you, Mr. Keyes. Let me move on to an issue --

HATCH: No, no. Don't move on. I'm going to say a word here.

RUSSERT: Real fast, Senator.

HATCH: No, not real fast. I'm going to stay here and take some time myself. [laughter] Let me tell you something. You know me, Tim. You know me.

RUSSERT: I paid for this microphone, Mister. [laughter]

HATCH: Well, let me tell you something. And I'm taking this microphone, I'll tell you that right now.

RUSSERT: Go ahead.

HATCH: Let me tell you something. I'm getting sick and tired of this kind of an argument. First of all, our military ought to do what they're supposed to do, and that is protect us and our national security interests. And whatever it takes to do that, we ought to do it. Now, I don't care who serves in government, but they've got to be at the top level and they've got to be the best people we can get. And if they're willing to live within certain moral constraints, I think that's fine.

But let me tell you something. I will not expect anybody in the military to live any way other than the way I live. I'll set an example in the White House, and that's something we haven't had today. And to be honest with you, that's why the military is falling apart. Since the end of the Cold War, our deployments are up 400 percent. I have to say, readiness is down from 68 percent, where Reagan got it, down to less than 30 percent. Our Navy, we used to be 562 ships; there are now 305, and not all of those are seaworthy. Our equipment isn't being maintained. We're not recruiting like we should. We have 15,000 billets at sea unfilled.

We've got a lot of problems, and it's because of a lack of leadership in the White House. And I intend to give you the leadership if you'll give me the chance. I have the experience. I have the record of accomplishment. I have an ability to get both sides together. I've done it time after time for 23 years. Everybody knows it. And I think it's time to give me the chance. And I hope the people in this country will give me the chance.

RUSSERT: Thank you, Senator Hatch. [applause] Let me turn to an issue, before we allow the candidates to question one another, Social Security and Medicare. And, Senator McCain, let me start with you.

When Social Security was created, there were 42 retirees for every worker. There are now 42 workers for every retiree. There are now going to be two workers per retiree. The program currently costs $40 million -- there are 40 million people on Social Security and Medicare, there soon will be 80 million. The program costs $600 billion. In 2035 it's going to cost $5 trillion. In 1997, you sat with me and said we should look at making sacrifices not only on age, not only on means testing, but frankly taxpayers and workers are probably going to have to pay some more to ensure their future. As president, would you put age, means testing and increased premiums on the table, as you did two years ago?

MCCAIN: No, I wouldn't. And here's why: Because we now have a surplus. We have a significant surplus, and we don't want to spend it all on tax cuts. I don't think it's wise or conservative to take the entire surplus and put it into tax cuts. I want to take 63 percent of this surplus and put it into Social Security. That way -- and also, by the way, I want to pay down the debt. Governor Bush said the other day we are awash in cash. We've got a $5.6 trillion debt that we are saddling young Americans with. We ought to pay down the debt. But we also ought to make Social Security solvent, and investing 63 percent of this surplus into it would go a long, long way. Then I would keep Congress --

RUSSERT: Life expectancy, senator -- life expectancy goes to 87 years old.


RUSSERT: People retire at 62, 65, 67, and the government will pay their Medicare and Social Security from 20 to 25 years, and you can do that without means testing, without raising benefits?

MCCAIN: We can do that if we keep Congress' hands off of it, and if you allow people to invest their savings into -- into funds that don't --

RUSSERT: Governor Bush --

MCCAIN: Can I finish my answer?

BUSH: Yes, sorry.

MCCAIN: Hello. If you allow them to invest their savings, their tax dollars into investments -- that will make a huge difference in the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund. But you have got to take the surplus -- don't put it all in tax cuts. Give lower-income and middle-income Americans tax cuts --

RUSSERT: And if there is no surplus --

MCCAIN: -- don't give the real rich a whole lot of tax cuts.

RUSSERT: If there is no surplus?

MCCAIN: If there is no surplus, we have got problems of all kinds, including our economy, including unemployment, including many others. And --

RUSSERT: Governor --

BUSH: See, here's --

MCCAIN: We said -- we said three years ago that there would be --

RUSSERT: Let's give Governor Bush a chance to respond, please. Thank you.

BUSH: Here's my problem with kind of the Washington mind-set, and it's this: It is a huge leap of faith to assume that Congress will not spend the money. I think Congress will spend the money, and I want to make sure that they don't -- [laughter] -- this is a voice of experience. [laughter] And so therefore to make --

MCCAIN: Not in --

BUSH: Okay, John. And so therefore to make sure they don't, let's pass it back to the taxpayers. No one is suggesting we pass the entire surplus back to the taxpayers.

MCCAIN: But your plan does.

BUSH: No it doesn't.

MCCAIN: Yes, it does. [laughter]

RUSSERT: I'm going to give Governor Bush a chance to respond, and then we have to move on to our -- go ahead.

BUSH: "No it doesn't," "Yes, it does," "No, it doesn't." [laughter]

RUSSERT: All right, thank you.

BAUER: Tim -- Tim, I'm going to --

RUSSERT: Hold it --

BAUER: -- the Social Security system. People have paid into it. Where I grew up, the elderly would be living in poverty if there weren't such a system. We can guarantee the benefits to the elderly, the people that have worked hard and played by the rules. We can also give current workers a 20 percent tax cut, which I do. And, Tim, when you asked the question -- I agree with what somebody else said -- you left out the main reason the system is in trouble. It's not the age of people, it's not the actuarial tables. It's that the politicians in both parties, the White House and the Congress, have dipped into that fund time and time again and spent the hard-earned money that people like my father paid into that system. They put the money in a lockbox. And then we found out that Washington is filled with safe crackers, and it has got to stop.

KEYES: Gary, Gary, excuse me -- Gary, one problem --

RUSSERT: We have all agreed that the candidates have --

BAUER: Listen to the moderator now.

RUSSERT: We have all agreed the candidates would have a chance to question one another. Just for the record, Mr. Bauer, if nothing is done, benefits must be reduced by a third or the taxes doubled to 2035 --

BAUER: And what --

RUSSERT: More to come, more to come. Governor Bush, you have the first question for Alan Keyes.

FORBES: Let me make one --

RUSSERT: We have to --

FORBES: You accept the whole premise --

RUSSERT: We have to give the candidates --

FORBES: You accept the whole premise --

RUSSERT: Mr. Forbes, we'll talk, I promise --

FORBES: -- that everything is zero sum, and I don't.

RUSSERT: Governor Bush to Alan Keyes please. Please.

BUSH: This is interesting. [laughter]

HATCH: George, since you've joined us, it has gotten a lot more nasty. [laughter]

RUSSERT: Governor Bush, please, your question for Alan Keyes.

BUSH: It's coming. Alan, the Clinton administration looks like they may have done a deal with Fidel Castro on the young boy Gonzalez, Elian Gonzalez. What's your position? If you were the president of the United States, what would you have done, sir?

KEYES: Well, before I get to that, just one --

BUSH: No, no, no --

RUSSERT: No, no, no, no -- [laughter] -- Mr. Keyes, you're taking time from your fellow candidates. It's not fair. Please answer the question.

KEYES: No, before I get to that.

RUSSERT: Please answer the question.

KEYES: Before I get to that, before I get to that, one little comment, because it seems to me that we haven't gotten nastier at all, gentlemen. The format of this debate has gotten a little strange, and I begin to wonder when Mr. Russert will declare his candidacy. [laughter]

But it does seem to me -- [applause] -- it does seem to me it is not -- I will say this unequivocally -- it is not in the interests of the Republican Party for us to allow any people out there to get the impression that the last few moments have been a consequence of our character and disposition. That is not so, and I will register that on behalf of all of the candidates up here.

Elian Gonzalez -- the reason I didn't take time -- it's not a very long answer. I believe it is quite clear. I respect the bonds and family ties and the obligations of family. We should not allow ideology or politics ever to trample upon those bonds. If this father has been a real father and wishes to have his child with him -- I'll tell you one thing, if somebody said for political reasons they were going to take one of my children and keep those children away from me, you can bet that those would be fighting words. I think we need to respect that father's proper position and obligation, or we are showing no respect whatsoever for family and parenting.

Second point, however: How do we know his decision is freely given? The INS was wrong to accept a decision that was taken under the shadow of Castro's tyranny. Until that father is allowed out of the country to make a free-will decision that all the world can see, that boy should stay in the United States -- he should stay in freedom until we are sure his father has decided in freedom. [applause]

RUSSERT: Gary Bauer, your question for Governor Bush.

BAUER: Yes, governor. Governor Bush, we have been in about four debates now, and I have to say that I am getting more and more worried about whether you are serious about defending conservative values. You have rejected fundamental tax reform. You won't agree to a pro-life running mate. You won't agree to put pro-life judges on the court. And your China policy, just like Clinton's, puts trade ahead of national security and human rights. Why should GOP conservatives and voters believe that you will seriously defend our values in Washington, D.C. against that liberal establishment?

BUSH: Because unlike other people on this stage who talk the talk, I have walked the walk. As governor of Texas, I fought for and signed the two largest tax cuts in my state's history. I fought for charter schools and public school choice in our public schools. I reformed welfare by insisting upon work. I fought for tort reform. I have got a record of accomplishment, Gary. I've got a record that people can come down to my state and analyze, to determine that not only has my policy been conservative, the results have been compassionate.

BAUER: Governor, you left off every values issue at state: the sanctity of life, maintaining marriage as being between a man and a woman, preserving religious liberties so we can hang up the Ten Commandments again. Every values issue we're in retreat on, and we continue to be in retreat. And that's why these good people vote Republican. And then they wake up in the morning and they don't recognize the country they're living in --

BUSH: Well, maybe --

BAUER: -- because on every values issue we are in retreat.

BUSH: Is this a question?

BAUER: It's actually a statement.

BUSH: I thought so. [laughter]

RUSSERT: Governor Bush, do you want to respond?

BUSH: I do! Come on down and let me show you what I've done. You talk about same-sex marriage, I'm against same-sex marriage. I'm the only person on this stage that signed a parental notification law. I've got a good record, Gary.

It's easy to talk. It's easy to talk. What Republicans need to do is elect somebody who has gotten results, tangible results that people can see, that people can put their arms around and say this man is a leader. And that's been my record in the State of Texas, and that will be my record as president of the United States as well.

RUSSERT: Senator McCain, your question for Senator Hatch.

MCCAIN: Orrin --

HATCH: Yes, sir. [laughter]

MCCAIN: I think you'd agree with me here. The Statue of Liberty says, "Send me your poor, your sick, your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." That's what this Cuban boy is all about -- his mother sacrificed her life in order for that young man could have freedom. And we're talking about parenthood. That's not my question. [laughter] My question is -- [laughter] -- my question is -- my question is -- I jus seized the opportunity to throw it in. My question to you is --

HATCH: Well, I was waiting to answer, I'll tell you that.

MCCAIN: And I hope maybe you'll address it, because I know how strongly you feel. But, look, we passed a -- it's fun to be beat up on Congress, but Congress a couple of years ago passed an Internet tax moratorium. That saved American taxpayers just over the holiday season $600 million in sales taxes. Don't you think it's incumbent upon us with this incredible economy that is being generated by the Internet that we should make that Internet tax prohibition permanent and that every Republican who is a conservative should stand for that?

HATCH: Well, first of all, let me just say that, you know, when it comes to this little Cuban boy -- [laughter] -- since you raised it --

MCCAIN: I'm glad to hear you say it --

HATCH: When it comes to this, there is only one concern that everybody ought to have in their minds, and that is what is in the best interests of that child. We have laws in this country that basically take care of those interests. And Fidel Castro ought to bud out, and our politicians in this country ought to bud out as well. And let's do what's best for the child.

With regard to the second question, I've forgotten it already --

MCCAIN: Internet taxes.

HATCH: I know -- just kidding. I was just kidding. With regard to the second question, we live at a miracle moment in time. We are going into the next millennium, and this is where we are going to determine just what the future of the Republican Party is, what the future of conservatism is. And one of us up here is going to lead that, it seems to me. And I would like to be that leader.

The Clinton-Gore people, they want to put a toll booth every mile on the information superhighway, which is where it is going to be at in the high-tech world, which we are leading on in this world today. And so I agree with John: this is not the time to tax the Internet -- if ever. And the fact of the matter is we have to look at that in an intelligent and decent way, and keep this miracle moment in time moving forward so that the United States is always at the forefront of the high-tech revolution and that we lead for this whole century.

RUSSERT: Steve Forbes, your question for Gary Bauer.

FORBES: Gary, well, apropos, I agree with you on the Cuban boy: he is Bill Clinton's human sacrifice to Fidel Castro, and it's a disgrace.

George Bush says we should look at his record as governor -- and this is the basis of my question -- he signed a pledge in 1994 promising not to put in a business tax or to raise the state sales tax. Two years later he violated that pledge. The State of Texas -- his own party threw that tax bill out. We know what happens in the Republican Party when we violate no-tax pledges. I want to ask you: Do you believe in our platform we should have a no-tax plank in the Republican platform?

BAUER: Well, Steve, this is an easy one for me. Of course we should have a no-tax pledge. But I want to make sure I've got this right. You're basically inviting me to attack Governor Bush again, is that right? [laughter]

FORBES: Gary, Gary, I can fight my own battles.

BUSH: Doesn't sound like it.

BAUER: Look, we ought to have a no-tax pledge in our platform. The American people are overtaxed obviously. When we fall apart on that issue the American people aren't going to trust us on anything else. I don't think that Governor Bush has supported fundamental tax reform. I am upset that in his tax plan is a further penalty for stay-at-home mothers, which I think is very discouraging to them. If anything we ought to be helping them rather than discouraging them further. But, Steven, in all due respect to you, I don't like your tax plan either. [laughter] You take away the --

MCCAIN: How do you feel about mine?

BAUER: Do you have one, John? [laughter] Steve, you take away the mortgage deduction. The home is the most important asset that most Americans have. Economists I talk to say if you take away the mortgage deduction you could destroy the value of that house. You take away the charitable contribution deduction which churches rely on. And then you take the amount of money you save from those two things and you give a new write-off to big business that will allow many of them to pay zero in federal taxes. Steve, Al Gore will eat us alive if that's our proposal.

My proposal is fair, it's pro-family, it's pro-entrepreneur, pro-Main Street. It looks out for the human capital of our country, which is most important.

RUSSERT: Senator Hatch, your question for Steve Forbes.

FORBES: Well, let me just --

RUSSERT: You can respond in your -- Senator Hatch, ask Forbes a question, please, and then let him respond. [laughter]

BAUER: To both of us.

RUSSERT: We have got to give Senator Hatch a chance. Go ahead, senator.

FORBES: But you've got to give everyone equal time --

RUSSERT: We will, we will -- Senator Hatch, ask your question -- that will give you a chance. Go ahead.

HATCH: Well, Steve, very little attention has been given to the Clinton-Gore administration and its legacy, that if you haven't -- you know, that if you haven't done anything wrong, you know, you can talk your way out of anything. Some argue we shouldn't talk about this administration. Others argue that -- and they want to blame every problem on special interests. I don't agree with that. Steve, don't you agree that the real key to restoring a sense of pride in our White House is not just to replace the current administration but to confront and repudiate their philosophical tenet, that truth will always take a back seat to politics?

FORBES: Sadly, Orrin, with this administration you are exactly right: the truth has taken a back seat in every single way. And they believe in big government. I don't and you don't, and we here don't. They believe in higher taxes. I believe we should get rid of this tax code. And by the way, Gary, for those who are skeptical, I give a real tax cut. You don't have to go through hoops and loops as you do through George's bill to figure out if you have a tax cut; I give it to you right up front, like with the Daley family. And with that tax cut, real working people are helped. And that's why I think we need fundamental reform in Washington. And that means getting rid of this current tax code. It means allowing people to get control of the Social Security system. It means allowing people to choose their own doctors rather than the politicians. It means allowing you to choose your own school instead of the politicians.

So you are absolutely right. This administration has one philosophy, government knows best. And I don't believe we can go to the American people with a platform that is really "Clinton Light." "Clinton Light" does not satisfy -- it just gives you -- ends up with a big bar bill. And unfortunately at least one of my opponents here tonight simply keeps the current code in place, keeps the marriage penalty in place for stay-at-home moms. And for those who -- and also keeps the capital gains tax -- this in the information age.

And for those who are skeptical of the flat tax, we give you a choice: You can stay with the new system, or if you wish you can go to the old system -- see for yourself which one is better. But I guarantee you, Gary, if you allow people to keep more of what they earn, housing will be helped.

And as for the business side, not allowing a farmer to recover the cost of his tractor, not allowing a small business to recover their investments -- you'll destroy them. I'm a businessman -- you will destroy them. And as a result, you will destroy tens of millions of jobs.

RUSSERT: Thank you, Mr. Forbes.

FORBES: But you're making progress, Gary, and I'll keep the education process up with you.

RUSSERT: Alan Keyes, your question, please, for John McCain.

KEYES: I think when we look at our cultural landscape, we can see that a great contribution is made to our declining morals by our tolerance for music varieties that has become more and more debased, filthier and filthier lyrics, and yet it's now kind of accepted and people make jokes about it and people act as if it's not serious.

Not long ago, Senator McCain, you were on a television program. You were asked what your favorite rock group was, and you said "Nine-Inch Nails." They then embarrassed you by putting up the "Nine-Inch Nails" lyrics, and it was filled with the 'F' word and other kind of vulgarities. Don't you think that as leaders, we ought to be a little bit more serious about the kind of influences that are now destroying the lives of our children, and before we open our mouths, we ought to know what we're talking about instead of aiding and abetting the cultural murder that is taking place of our young people?

RUSSERT: Senator McCain.

MCCAIN: Can I get a lifeline? [laughter]

RUSSERT: Who do you want to call?

MCCAIN: My 15-year-old daughter. You know, Alan, in politics, you know, we try to use humor, and I think it's very important when we get tense. We've used a lot of humor here tonight. I went to the MTV awards with my now-15-year-old daughter. I saw some very interesting people -- Puff Daddy, Buster Rhymes, a number of interesting -- Back Street Boys. [scattered applause] There's a fan right back there. [laughter]

And what I was trying to say is that we face challenges when we raise children. Our children are 15, 13, 11 and 8, and we want to try to give them -- understand what they're being subjected to. I agree with you that they're being subjected to terrible influences. Just see the Columbine tapes if you don't doubt the influences that are on young Americans. That's why I've strongly supported forcing libraries and schools that are being wired to the Internet to require filtering software, to get this pornography out of the schools, get them out of the library. Let the library board screen this stuff, just like they do printed material.

Yes, I was trying to be amusing and entertaining, and it was a poor choice. But I think that it's important --

KEYES: I'm a father, and I've got to tell you -- I'm a father, and I'm not laughing. I'm really not.

MCCAIN: Well, you know --

RUSSERT: We now give each of the candidates --

MCCAIN: -- I haven't been able to entertain you very often in the past. [laughs]

RUSSERT: Each of the candidates will now have 30 seconds for a closing statement. Governor George Bush, you are first.

BUSH: I appreciate the people of New Hampshire watching tonight, and I'm asking for your vote. When you go to the booth, I want you to realize I'm the one person up here who's been elected to an executive position. I have done in office what I said I would do. I intend to cut the taxes to keep the economy growing. I intend to save and strengthen Social Security. I intend to strengthen our military to keep the peace. And I intend to make sure the public education system in America is the very best it can be.

When I held office, I told the people of my state, "I will bring honor and integrity to the office." That's what I'll do, should I become your president. God bless you, and thank you.

RUSSERT: Gary Bauer.

BAUER: America can't afford four years of Al Gore. We can't afford any more years of the kind of failure we've seen in Washington, the kind of values meltdown we've seen in Washington. But if we're going to get the White House back, if our party is going to be the governing party of the United States, we have to be serious.

I will be serious. My judges will be pro-life. I will rebuild the American military and deploy a missile defense system. I will preserve marriage as being between a man and a woman, something the Vermont Supreme Court apparently doesn't understand. I will defend middle-class American values -- family, faith and freedom. And if we can find our voice to do that, the American people will trust us with the White House again.

RUSSERT: John McCain.

MCCAIN: George, I've had executive experience. I was commanding officer of the largest squadron in the United States Navy. It was a great experience. A young man in a town hall meeting here in New Hampshire recently said, what did I learn when I was away from America? I learned that I fell in love with America. I hadn't appreciated her until I was deprived of the country.

That's why I'm running to reform the government of this country. I'm not afraid of losing. I'm going to tell you the truth, whether it be a good thing to hear or not a good thing to hear, but I'm going to tell you the truth. And I want to reform this government and give the government back to the people.

RUSSERT: Steve Forbes is next.

FORBES: Thank you very much. With me, you can count on my word. I'm an independent outsider who can bring real change to Washington. I will get rid of this corrupt tax code and give you a real tax cut and not make a pretend tax cut pledge. I will allow you to choose your own doctors, choose your own schools, be in charge of your Social Security system, rebuild our military.

Politics as usual, trimming around the edges, won't get the job done. Leadership means making bold proposals, bold ideas. And that's why I'm asking you tonight for your help, your votes, your support. Vote your mind. Vote your conscience. We can make positive changes, and I'll lead the way. Thank you very much.

RUSSERT: Orrin Hatch.

HATCH: Well, I said this is a miracle moment in time, and I mean it. The fact of the matter is, any one of these gentlemen up here would make a good president, and better than what we're going to get from the other side and better than what we have right now. But I'm running a campaign literally on ordinary people, regular people, donating $36 or more. And I want you to know that if you elect me, I'll be beholden only to you.

Let me just say one other thing. I think this administration perhaps will go down in history as the most deceitful and the most corrupt administration in history, and we simply have to change it. And I intend to be part of that change, and I hope you'll vote for me and I hope you'll support me.

RUSSERT: Alan Keyes.

KEYES: We've heard a lot this evening about how this person is going to give you this and that person is going to give you that in the way of tax cuts. On taxes, for instance, why not just abandon the income tax code, back to the Constitution, based on sales taxes, and let each family and individual give themselves a tax cut? That kind of control over our own lives is the real issue.

We need to control our money, control our schools. But most of all, we need to learn once again to respect those moral principles that are our basis for our control of ourselves. By renewing our allegiance to those principles, starting with the one that says that our rights come from God and must be exercised with respect to the authority of God, we restore the strong moral foundations that will allow this nation, in freedom, to move with confidence into the new century.

RUSSERT: Mr. Keyes, thank you very much. We've heard the candidates. We thank you all. New Hampshire, 26 nights from tonight, it's your decision. We'll be watching. Thank you all. [applause]

Presidential Candidate Debates, Republican Candidates Debate in Durham, New Hampshire Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/342211

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