empty podium for debate

Republican Presidential Candidates Debate in Johnston, Iowa

January 15, 2000


Gary Bauer (President, Family Research Council);

Governor George W. Bush (TX);

Steve Forbes (Businessperson);

Senator Orrin Hatch (UT);

Former Ambassador Alan Keyes;

Senator John McCain (AZ)


Dennis Ryerson, Editor, The Des Moines Register

Ryerson: Thanks for being with us once again for our second presidential debate. Last week we had the Democrats seeking their party's nomination for the presidency. And this week we have the Republican candidates, who are seeking the support of Iowans in the January 24 caucuses.

The candidates with us today are Gary Bauer, Steve Forbes, Senator Orrin Hatch, Governor George W. Bush, Ambassador Alan Keyes and Senator John McCain.

Gentlemen, thanks for being with us today. The questions you'll be asked have all come from Iowans. They've come from hundreds who have submitted questions to me — readers of the Register. And you'll have a minute for each of your answers. And then as time allows, we'll give you 30 seconds for a rebuttal.

By the way, our debates are being closed captioned. And in some areas, they're being translated into Spanish.

We're going to get started with opening statements before the questions. And the opening statements will be one minute in length. And let's begin with Governor Bush. The order was determined by a drawing.

So Governor, one minute.

Bush: Well, I want to thank the Des Moines Register for giving us all a chance to speak about our dreams and aspirations for our country. I love campaigning in Iowa. I love brining my message of hope and opportunity. I was in Red Oak yesterday, talking about making sure our agricultural sector is strong. I love talking about my vision for educational excellence for every single child. I hope we're able to talk about tax cuts today, to make sure our economy continues to grow.

Now, everywhere I go in this state, and will continue to go, I'm going to ask my supporters to make sure they go to the caucuses and exercise their right. I want to thank you for your support, and thank you for your friendship.

Ryerson: OK, thank you very much.

Senator Hatch.

Hatch: Well, I'm grateful also to be here in Iowa. Iowa is much like Utah: really good people, people that work hard, people who give everything they can to this country.

I'm worried about the country. I'm worried about whether or not we're going to have a continuation of the present leadership. I really want to see the Clinton-Gore team go.

And frankly, I think we've got to carry the ball as Republicans to get it to go. I'm very concerned about some of the things that they've done. And I've gotten so concerned that I did a fireside chat of about 30 minutes that will be on Channel 5 and Channel 8 at 6:00 and 6:30 today here in Des Moines.

I hope you watch it, because it lets you know here's one senator who is very concerned about what's going on.

Iowa is a great state. It's a place where people work hard and earn their livings and do what they should. I'm glad to be with you. I'm asking you for your vote.

Ryerson: Thanks, Senator.

Gary Bauer, your opening statement.

Bauer: Well, I would like to begin this afternoon by bringing up two very important issues that we can only solve by going back to our values. The first is the sanctity of innocent human life.

We've got to make a place at the table for all of our children. I will do that. My judges will be pro-life, my running mate will be pro-life. I will make sure that our children are welcomed into the world and protected by the law.

I've got a 30-year record on this. I'm serious. I will end abortion on demand in my first presidential term.

The second issue I would like to mention is China. For 10 years we've given China most favored nation status and they've given us the back of their hand. They're building their military. They've made a move on the Panama Canal. And we give the canal away — unbelievable.

I will repeal most favored nation status for China. Most of my competitors up here today will not. Listen to us on these issues.

Weigh them both and then help me be your next president. Thank you very much.

Ryerson: Thanks, Mr. Bauer.

Steve Forbes, your opening statement.

Forbes: Well, thank you very much.

I visited Iowa more than any other candidate on this stage. My wife, Sabina, and our daughters have logged 12,000 miles in your great state. You know me, you know where I stand. And you know that a critical test for a leader is faithfulness and fidelity to ideas and promises. You can depend on me. I will change Washington with your help. I will not bow to the special interests. I will not give in. I will fight for you.

Together, we can make great things happen. Let's make it happen. Let's make history. I hope I earn your support. Thank you very much.

Ryerson: Thank you, Mr. Forbes.

Senator McCain.

McCain: Thank you, Rennie. Thank you to the Des Moines Register for hosting this very important debate here. It's wonderful to be back. This is the state where my father was born, in Council Bluffs.

A lot of you don't know me. I want to assure you that I'm running for president of the United States because I want to reform the institutions of government. I want to reform education and the military and health care and the tax code. We can't do that unless we get the government out of the hands of the special interests and back into the public interests.

Now, I know that nine days, nine evenings from tonight, we're going to have a big event. And I hope there will be a very hearty band of Americans, Iowans who will go out and say, Hey, this guy McCain, he's qualified and prepared to be president of the United States.

And I can assure you that I am.

Ryerson: OK, Senator, thank you very much.

Now Ambassador Keyes.

Keyes: Well, first I am thankful and grateful to be here, especially because it gives me an opportunity to share some good news with you. At the end of the last debate, I talked about the situation of Thomas and Jim Navarro, folks who were looking for a way to get the FDA to stand aside so they could get the best treatment for Thomas, who is a four-year-old dying of an aggressive brain cancer, a brain tumor. And I'd like to report to you that — I told you I was preparing a letter for the FDA. Well, I'm pleased to say that all but one of my colleagues have signed on to that letter. We will hopefully get the other signature soon. We'll be sending it on to Donna Shalala.

But the real hero of all of this, I think, is Thomas and Jim Navarro and his wife. And Jim and Thomas are with us today and I just wanted you to have a chance to meet them. Stand up, Thomas.

This is the father who is fighting for the life of his son. I would appreciate your help and support in any way that you can to show that government should not stand in the way of responsible people who are trying to get the kind of medical care that will help to prolong life.

That is the human dimension of what we do here trying to make sure our people get back their liberties.

Ryerson: Thank you, Ambassador.

OK, well now we'll move to questions. They've all come from Register readers and Iowans.

Our first question is from Richard Timyer of Burlington, Iowa, and here's what he wrote to me: I have an 87-year-old father who has Parkinson's Disease and a 47-year old brother with Down's Syndrome, who has lost his Medicaid coverage. The cost of long-term residential care simply can't be managed by families such as mine. As president, what steps would you take to ensure that affordable, long-term care is available to anybody who needs it, regardless of age or income?

Mr. Bauer, you're first with one minute.

Bauer: Well, Richard, first of all, let me say something about veterans' long-term care.

We've been closing veterans hospitals around the country and that's outrageous. My father spent the last two years of his life in a veterans hospital. We made a bargain with those men. They answered the call for the country. And I'll make sure that we do have long-term care for our veterans.

For older Americans and other ones, let me tell you something, Richard, that you may not know. The politicians in Washington have taken care of themselves and federal employees with a great federal health care plan. Every year you get to choose from 200 health insurance policies. Many of them do cover long-term care.

We've looked at this. A bipartisan commission determined that we could let older Americans opt out of Medicare into that federal plan. We could save money and provide the long-term care that your family needs — and the prescription drug coverage — and save money in the process. This is the kind of reform I'll do as president. It's important, and I'm committed to it.

Ryerson: OK. Senator Hatch.

Hatch: Well, I'm not just talking about it. I'm not just making promises. I've actually worked on long-term care issues from the time I was in the Senate. I'm one of the prime authors of the home health care bill, that brings home health care right into the home where the senior citizen or person who's sick actually feels more climative, and more psychologically and psychiatrically secure.

I've worked very hard on nursing home issues. For instance, I came to Iowa. I visited a number of the nursing homes, especially the skilled nursing facilities, where complex medical patients — like people with Alzheimer's, like people with difficulties described here today — are taken care of.

They were not making it. There were 900 of them going into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, or in Chapter 11. I said I'd go back and do something about it. I went back and worked right up to the end of this session, and literally, in the last few days of the session, got the reimbursement levels up, where these people were taken care of.

I'm not just talking about it. I've actually done it. And that's what I offer to the people here in Iowa, and the people throughout this country — experience.

Ryerson: Thanks, Senator.

Ambassador Keyes.

Keyes: I think it's critically important that we understand that if we want to be able to allocate our medical dollars to reflect the right kind of priorities, then we've got to take an approach that helps people to maximize the cost effectiveness of the medical care they receive. We shouldn't have government and other bureaucracies dictating to people who are trying to act responsibly.

But instead, we need to empower them, through programs that voucherize the government system, that give people medical savings accounts, that allow greater choice on the part of individuals and families, allow them to make the decisions that can help us to keep the costs down. And by making better use of our medical dollars, we will then be able to allocate those dollars with priority to the things that families really can't handle for themselves. And that means giving top priority to the kind of long-term care that can have a catastrophic effect on the family budget.

If we take the right approach, people will be armed to keep the costs down, and our medical dollars can be used more effectively to help people meet those needs, that they can't meet for themselves.

Ryerson: Thank you.

Senator McCain?

McCain: All of the proposals that my colleagues have mentioned are all good, including tax deductions for those who itemize, as well as those who don't — medical savings accounts, et cetera. But I want to talk about a special group of Americans that may not be able to do all these things, and that's our World War II veterans, our greatest generation.

Thanks to Tom Brokaw's book, "The Greatest Generation," thanks to the movie "Saving Private Ryan," Americans are beginning to appreciate the service and sacrifice of these brave Americans who did make the world safe for democracy.

Their leaving us at 30,000 a month. We promised them — we promised them — health care and benefits when we asked them to go out and serve and sacrifice. We're not doing that, my friends. They deserve the health care benefits that we promise them.

And I — as I'm on this book tour for the book I wrote, and I see these World War II veterans, they deserve far better from they're getting. And this administration is AWOL on this issue.

Ryerson: Thank you, Senator.

Mr. Forbes.

Forbes: I think the key is putting patients in charge of health care resources again. There is no need for all of these third parties — HMOs, insurers, employers, gatekeepers, government bureaucracies that stand in the way.

It's true: If you work for the federal government as a civilian, if you're a member of Congress, you have your choice of several hundred different health care plans. If it's good enough for Congress, it should be good enough for the elderly in America.

So that way, if you need long-term care, you can choose a plan that does it. If you need prescriptive medicines, you can choose a plan that does it. And for those on Medicaid, you should be able to have vouchers and coupons and the like, so you make the choice, not where the government tells you to go.

This issues also though brings up the life issue. We've talked about and I hope we will talk about the need for keep the pro-life plank in the platform, pro-life judges and pro-life running mates.

It also brings up the issue of euthanasia and assisted suicide. We must fight both; they go hand-in-hand.

Ryerson: Thank you, sir.

Governor Bush.

Bush: The danger in the health care debate is that America falls prey to the idea that the federal government should make all decisions for consumers and the federal government should make all decisions for the provider, that the federal government should ration care. The good news is none of us on this stage support that. The other two candidates running for the Democratic Party sound like they support that.

The current issue, as far as the elderly is, there's an agency called HCFA. It's controlled by a 132,000-page document to determine how to allocate and ration Medicare dollars to the seniors. It is a plan that is inefficient. It is a plan that's antiquated. And what our government must do is empower our seniors to be able to make choices for themselves and support premiums for the poorest of seniors.

In terms of long-term care for the baby boomers, I think we ought to encourage the purchase of long-term care insurance and allow deductibility of that insurance so that the new — younger generations are able to plan more aptly for when they retire and when they become more elderly.

Ryerson: OK, thank you, Governor.

You each have 30 seconds for a follow up answer.

Mr. Bauer.

Bauer: Well, let me just say in a related matter that I don't think any of us want Bill and Hillary Clinton or government bureaucrats running health care. But I have to tell you, I don't want HMO bureaucrats running it either.

And I think our party got off on the wrong foot some months ago, when we stood against a patient bill of rights. I think if my mother is mistreated at her HMO and she's experienced medical malpractice, she should have a right to sue.

There's nothing Republican or nothing conservative about standing with the big HMO's against average Americans. I'll support a patient bill of rights.

Ryerson: OK.

Senator Hatch.

Hatch: Well, firstly, we did not go against patient bill of rights. We have a Senate bill, a House bill. The Senate isn't as good as the House bill. We're going to get together and resolve it.

I'd say home health care is pretty darn important for these people. So is effective nursing home care. So are community health centers. So is the Hatch-Waxman bill that provided that seniors don't have to give up food in order to get pharmaceuticals, and cut pharmaceutical costs $8 to $10 billion for each of the years since 1984.

These are things that I've done. These are things that I know how to do. I know more about health care. And can tell you, I can solve these problems and I will.

Ryerson: Ambassador Keyes.

Keyes: I'm sort of sorry to hear Gary going down a road that suggests that we ought to turn all of this business over to the judges. They don't do a very good job anywhere else; I doubt they'll do it here. It just becomes an excuse for government domination.

What we really need to do is empower people, patients, to be in a position where they will be able to enforce their judgment if their not getting what they need. I'll not turn it over to trial lawyers so that they can go down the same wasteful road we have seen, raising the costs for all Americans and burdening our health care system with an unneeded weight of litigation. I think it's a big mistake to go down that road.

Ryerson: Thank you, Ambassador.

And we'll go now to Senator McCain.

McCain: All of us in this room in the next 15 minutes, including with Congressman Ganske here, could sit down and work out a patients' bill of rights. We all know, it's simple: allow a women to see a gynecologist, a second opinion, emergency room care, the right to sue under certain circumstances. Why don't we? Why is it hung up in Congress.

Because the Democrats are id locked by the trial lawyers, who want everybody to sue everybody for everything. And the Republicans are grid locked by the big money from the HMOs and the insurance companies.

The American people deserve better. And until we get this soft money, these uncontrolled contributions out of Washington...

Ryerson: Thank you, Senator.

McCain:... we won't reach agreements.

Ryerson: All right, Mr. Forbes.

Forbes: I've put forth the strongest and boldest proposals to put patients in charge of health care again, whether it's removing restrictions on HMOs, giving you true choice and the like.

It's absolutely ridiculous in America today that you have to go through an appeals process if you're not satisfied with the care you get. You know, if you want to go from Wendy's to McDonald's, you don't need an act of Congress.

So, remove those restrictions. They're undemocratic. They're against freedom. And they should be removed. You should be able to choose your own doctor, choose your own specialist, choose your own health care plan.

Ryerson: Thank you.

Governor Bush.

Bush: One of the things I've learned as the governor of Texas is that if you set a clear enough agenda during the course of a campaign, and you know how to bring people together to achieve an agenda, things can get done. Unfortunately, this administration has used Medicare and the issue of Social Security as a political football.

Should I become the president, reforming Medicare and Social Security are going to be a primary objective of mine. And I intend to work with Republicans and Democrats to do what's right for America.

Ryerson: Thank you.

Now we're going to have some fun. Each of you will have a chance to ask a question of one of the others. And we'll begin — and by the way, the pairings were determined by a drawing. And you'll have 30 seconds to ask your question. Your opponent will have a minute to answer. And then you'll have 30 seconds for a follow-up question.

We will begin with Mr. Bauer, who will have 30 seconds to ask a question of Senator Hatch.

Bauer: Senator, we've known each other for a long time, and it's one of the reasons I'm disappointed that on the China issue you have taken the same position as Governor Bush and Steve Forbes and Senator McCain. That is, after 10 years of giving them most favored nation status, you want to do it again. That's the same position that Bill Clinton and Al Gore have.

That policy has failed. They're in the middle of a massive arms buildup. We can't trade our way out of this problem. We need a Reagan foreign policy. What would China have to do so that you would put national security and human rights in front of trade?

Hatch: Well, I happen to believe that I have put national security and human rights in front trade. But I was there in China in the last '70s, the early '80s, the late '80s, the early '90s and the late '90s. The difference between the late '70s and the late '90s is so stark you can't hardly believe it, because there is a creeping freedom that is growing there because we're bringing China into the world of nations and expecting them to abide by the rule of law.

Yes, they don't treat liberty very well over there. They violate human rights. They've enslaved the Tibetans. And they've threatened Taiwan and they've caused problems all over that area.

On the other hand, I don't think the way to solve the problem is to isolate China. I think the way to solve the problem is to bring China into the world of nations — WTO, IMF, et cetera — where they've got to act like real human beings.

And I've got to tell you, I know Ronald Reagan. I helped elect him. I went to 36 states for him. And I can tell you this: I believe Ronald Reagan would be right there, trying to bring China into a world orbit where they have to live within world norms.

Bauer: Senator, you may know Ronald Reagan, but I worked for him for eight years...

Hatch: So, did I.

Bauer:... and I was at the...

Hatch:... so, did I.

Bauer:... Cabinet table with him...

Hatch:... I worked for him for 23 years.

Bauer: And I can tell you, Senator, that he never gave the Soviet Union most favored nation status. I would agree with you that China — there's some creeping going on. The creeping is the Chinese presence now in the Panama Canal zone. The creeping are the missiles coming and now aimed at Taiwan.

Sir, we cannot trade our way out of this problem. You are being naive in your answer.

Hatch: Well, I'm hardly being naive. But at least I've been there, and I've been there many times. And I met with Deng Xiaoping when we reopened China. He rolled out the red carpet for me. And I've met with the other...

Bauer: I think that might be the problem. [laughter]

Hatch: I had a meeting with Jiang Zemin, President Jiang Zemin.

No, it isn't the problem. And I resent that Gary, because — Gary you did a good job for Reagan when you were there. I've worked 23 years for Ronald Reagan's principles. And I'm going to continue to do so.

And I can tell you this. I've been there, I've done it, I've met with those people. And I slammed Jiang Zemin so hard that he gave me an hour and a half when he had only scheduled a half hour.

Ryerson: OK, Senator, thank you.

Now, we'll go to Ambassador Keyes who will ask a question of Governor Bush.


Keyes: Governor Bush, I was reading not long ago about a little town in Texas named El Cinitzo, I believe, in which the city council has passed an ordinance saying that all the business of this Texas-American town, is to be conducted in the Spanish language.

A lot of us, millions of other Americans, like myself, look at that sort of thing as an assault on our linguistic unity that is dangerous to the future union of this country.

Ryerson: May we have your question, please.

Keyes: You have done nothing to respond to this. What action do you plan to take to show the people that you stand for one nation, one language, rather than a nation linguistically divided?

Ryerson: Governor.

Bush: [speaking in Spanish] [laughter]

Keyes: [speaking in Spanish]

Bush: I did talk to Archer...

Keyes: [speaking in Spanish]

Bush: [speaking in Spanish] [laughter]

McCain: Vaminos. [laughter]

Keyes: Si. [laughter]

Bush: I'll tell you...

McCain: Arriba. [laughter]

Bush: I — one, I expressed concern about it. I don't want this town's business being conducted in Spanish. It ought to be conducted in English. Secondly, I've talked to our attorney general, General Kornan, to make sure that this town was conforming to all the laws — that they have — that they open their meetings — their meetings be conducted in the laws of Texas.

And so I did express concern about it. And I do express concern about it. English is our nation's language. That's why I'm for programs that make sure our children learn to speak English. That's why I'm for programs — that's why I'm for what's called English-Plus. English is the great language that provides freedom and opportunity, plus we respect other people's heritage in this country.

Ryerson: Ambassador, a follow-up?

Keyes: In the context of the South Carolina flag debate, we've got a Republican named Senator Ravenel, who has also, among other things, in the last couple of days, made extremely insulting and derogatory remarks about black Americans, saying, in effect, that we're all retarded and so forth and so on.

Would you join me in repudiating that kind of racial slur, and in asking this senator to stand up and not just apologize to black Americans, but to apologize to all Republicans for misrepresenting the decent heart of our party on racial matters?

Bush: Yes, I agree with you, Alan. His comments are out of line and we should repudiate them.

Ryerson: OK. [laughter] Very good. [laughter]

Senator McCain, your response to Gary Bauer, please. Or your question.

McCain: Gary, I want to roll out the red carpet for you again, if I could. [laughter]

You know the scandals of 1996 were the debasement of every institution of government by the Clinton-Gore campaign, and their abuses were incredible.

Perhaps the most compelling and concerning was the money that came from China. And we'll never know how much. We'll never know about how much technology was transferred. But I'd like your views on that. And how in the world anybody could defend the present system where that kind of thing went on, if we don't change that status quo.

Bauer: Senator McCain, you're absolutely right. The idea that money that began, originated, with people in the People's Liberation Army in communist China — it still is communist China — that that money made its way into the American political process, into the coffers of Clinton and Gore. And then we're supposed to believe that coincidentally a few months after that, technology gets sold to China from some supposedly great American companies.

The politicians in Washington ought to be ashamed of themselves. And the corporate presidents that allowed that technology to go to China that could be used by the Chinese military ought to be ashamed of themselves.

If sir, we have to send people to an Asian battlefield again, those company presidents and politicians will have some answering to do.

McCain: And I had a bill on the floor of the Senate to ban this exact corrupt practice. And it was not even allowed to be voted on. What does that tell you about the influence of this special interest money in the Congress of the United States of America?

Bauer: Senator, I'm concerned about it. We all have to raise about $30,000 a day.

None of us can take a gift of more than $1,000 from an individual. That figure is probably too low. I would support increasing it and have immediate reporting of it. But I don't like the fact that foreign companies or foreign citizens or big corporations or big unions can give $4 and $5 million donations to the two political parties.

I think it is corrupt. And you know, if you call the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee, and some corporation that just gave $5 million called, you're going to be put on hold.

Ryerson: Thank you, Mr. Bauer.

OK, now we'll go to Senator Hatch. He'll have a question for Steve Forbes.

Hatch: Well, Steve, I put on the 28 minute speech this — the Fireside Chat this afternoon on channels five and six, at 6:00 and 6:30. [laughter]

Forbes: What were those times again, Senator.

Hatch: Six and 6:30, channel five, channel six.

Forbes: I hoped the fire survived.

Hatch: I'll throw you another — I'm going to throw you another home-run ball.

The fact of the matter is is that I speak about the deceit and corruption of this administration. That's something that we haven't been talking about. And it isn't to attack the administration, individually — the individual people...

Ryerson: Can we have your question, quickly, please?

Hatch: I would like you to talk about that, and what you think we ought to do about that, and how we can change it as Republicans.

Forbes: It's a good question. And one of the first things I will do as president of the United States is restore professionalism and integrity to the Department of Justice of the United States of America.

What has happened there is an absolute disgrace without precedent in our history. This administration has abused every sort of power, whether it was going after the travel office, and it's tawdry scheme to try to make money for their friends; whether it was the sudden appearance, in the White House basement, of 900 FBI files, sensitive files on their opponents.

And the administration wants you to believe that those files appeared by sort of a bureaucratic version of immaculate conception. [laughter]

The whole thing on Chinese contributions and letting our technology go to China — the whole thing has a stench to it. And we're going to clean that stench and have a Justice Department that will truly serve the American people again.

Unknown: Excuse me, may I ask a follow-up?

Hatch: Good answer, Steve. That was a very good answer. The fact of the matter — the fact of the matter is is that this administration has actually allowed these companies to transfer this material. This administration has not followed good counter-intelligence matters. How would you follow them as president of the United States?

Forbes: Well, intelligence — we have to rebuild our intelligence and actually use our intelligence, which clearly this administration has not been doing. There's a whole job of rebuilding that has to be done. It's not just intelligence. It's not just cleaning out the Justice Department.

We've all made reference to the military. We need a major military buildup, starting with compensation for our people. We need more equipment, more spare parts, better training, better R&D. And, as John said, we must abide by the promises made to our veterans. Absolutely.

Ryerson: OK. Mr. Forbes, you may now ask a question of Ambassador Keyes.

Forbes: Alan, one of the issues in America today, of course, is our importation of oil and energy. Would you support opening up ANWR in Alaska for exploration to find out what oil we have there and to get that oil out, so we're a little less dependent on sources — unstable sources overseas?

Keyes: Yes, I would. I think it's important that we understand that as we are facing the future, we're going to have to try to take advantage of our energy reserves.

We want to do it in a way that's responsible. But we know that our science now allows us to do this exploration in ways that will respect ecological and environmental requirements, at the same time that we can exploit God's precious resources for the good of our people.

I think it's also important because if we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil, it buys us time in order to make use of our ingenuity to develop those alternative energy resources that are going to be part of the mix as we move into the future, into the 21st century for America.

So, I would support that, and I think that it's as good way to go provided we do it in a way that is responsible and that harnesses our scientific know-how to make sure we respect environmental requirements.

Ryerson: A follow-up?

Forbes: I think, Alan, you answered it very well, particularly on environmental technology. It is there to do the job right, and you're right we should do it right now.

Keyes: I would just want to add that I think that illustrates an approach that ought to be there in terms of all our trusteeship for the environment. Instead of letting it become an excuse for government totalitarianism, for interference in the kinds of things that can help to better develop life for our people, we need to approach it in a balanced fashioned, harnessing our ingenuity, so that we respect the environment and the requirements of our people, so that we can have a thriving economy and at the same time hand on our precious heritage from God to our future.

I think it can be done if we're willing to take that approach.

Ryerson: OK, Governor Bush, you may ask a question of Senator McCain.

Bush: During the last Iowa debate we had a disagreement over ethanol. I support the tax credit on ethanol; you don't.

As part of your plan to pay for your tax cuts, you say we ought to eliminate what's called employer provided benefits to workers.

These are benefits where transportation or meals or continuing education is given to a worker tax-free. That's $40 billion of your $170 billion tax reduction plan

My question to you is: Why would you say to a single mom who's working — who's getting educated — that she would have to pay taxes on those benefits? If you get rid of the employer-related benefits, the workers are going to have to pay taxes. It's a $40 billion tax increase.

McCain: Well, the first thing I'd say to the single mom is that I've got a tax cut for you and Governor Bush doesn't. That's the first thing.

Bush: That's not true.

McCain: Yes, it is.

Bush: That's not true. That is not true.

McCain: But let's talk about the real — the real issue here. The real issue is, my friends, is we've got a surplus. And, for the first time since Dwight David Eisenhower we've got a surplus. And the question is what do you want to do with it?

I want to give it to low-and middle-income Americans as a tax cut. I want to give them the benefits from this that they need that lower and middle-income Americans need.

But I also think we've got a ticking time bomb out there called Social Security. That has got to be fixed. We've got a national debt of $5.6 trillion that we need to pay for — because we're laying that debt on young Americans. We need to pay down that debt.

Governor Bush's plan has not one penny for Social Security, not one penny for Medicare, and not one penny for paying down the national debt.

And when you run ads saying you're going to take care of Social Security, my friend, that's all hat and no cattle.

Bush: I...[laughter] That's cute, but...[laughter]

McCain: You know, they're always cutest when they're true. [laughter]

Bush: That's not true.

McCain: That certainly is.

Bush: I've got $2 trillion set aside for Social Security. My question to you is — and we can talk about taxes, I hope. Everybody's got an interesting idea on taxes.

McCain: I thought that's what we were talking about.

Bush: My question — no, we're talking about why would you have a plan that in essence raises taxes on working people by $40 billion. Why would you support a plan that caused — why would you take away benefits that people then have to pay tax on? Taxes on education, and transportation, and meals?

McCain: I'm giving them a huge tax cut. And that is a fact.

And the reality is, that your tax plan has 36 percent of it going to the richest 1 percent in America. I don't do that. I think that we ought to give the tax relief to the people that need it the most.

But I also think the best thing I can do for that woman you're talking about is save her Social Security.

$2 trillion isn't the Social Security trust fund. You know that. Let's not do the Texas two-step here. It needs $5 to $7 trillion more, and we've got to do it soon, so that they can invest their retirement into savings investments of their choice, so we can save the system.

Ryerson: Thank you, Senator.

We'll undoubtedly get back to taxes a little bit later.

Last week the Register reported that almost half of the farm subsidies paid out from 1996 to 1998 went to just 10 percent of the total recipients. That concerns Iowans like Robert Rower of Paulina. And he wrote to me, "Since the family farmer is self-employed, would you be willing to cap government agricultural benefits to a modest, one family level?"

The first answer to this question will be Steve Forbes'. Mr. Forbes?

Forbes: The question is a very good one. And Washington should certainly provide relief to family farmers given the fact that the agricultural crisis today is largely made in Washington, D.C.

And as the system goes there, those who seem to have the most, get the most out of it.

For the farmer, there are several things that have to be done. One is to open up foreign markets, which this administration talks about but does not do. Don't harm our existing foreign customers in the Pacific Rim and elsewhere with disastrous economic policies that have cost us $30 billion in farm exports.

Enforce antitrust laws — and this will help family farmers. There are laws on the books against vertical integration going back to the turn of this century. This administration is not enforcing them.

And the Federal Reserve has got to get off of this high interest rate kick. They did that in the mid 1980s, devastated commodity prices in farmers. They've got to get off of it, it's unnecessary, it's doing unnecessary harm to the economy of the farmer and will eventually do harm to the economy as a whole.

We've been down that road before.

Ryerson: Thank you.

Senator Hatch, how about capping benefits to our...

Hatch: I'd sure consider it, because you know there is concentration in the agricultural area where beans, corn, hogs, et cetera, are almost 80 percent concentrated in just a few companies. And to be honest with you, it isn't fair to the farmers.

Ten years ago, we had 22 million farmers, people in farming. Today, we have five million. The family farm is being beset on all sides. Fifteen years ago, farmers got more for their products than they do today.

Now look, we've got to solve the vertical and horizontal integration problems. We've got to solve the problems of spreading our agricultural commodities all over the world. We've got to get tough on trade. We've got to have an administration that really goes after it.

We've got to have crop insurance. We've got to have the freedom to farm with a safety net. Because the only way you're going to get where you really make what the farm products are worth is through freedom to farm.

You know, it's really pathetic that we're not doing for the farmer what we should do, but especially the family farmer. We ought to cut capital gains so that there's no capital gains on farm equipment and land.

Ryerson: Senator McCain.

McCain: I think that what's happening is very sad. We're seeing a greater consolidation of the agri-businesses. For example, a majority of the ethanol subsidies goes to Archer Daniels Midland, which is over in Illinois, as I understand it. Obviously we need crop insurance. We need to examine why it is that the government takes almost everything that a family earns all of his life and can't pass it on to their children. I think that making the inheritance tax kick in only at a level of about $5 million would have enormous beneficial effect on that.

Also, I'm the greatest free trader you will know. I will lower barriers to product goods and products from other countries, if they will lower their barriers to ours.

And the most productive farmer in the world in the American farmer and the Iowa farmer. The people in Beijing and Bangkok and Paris will be eating Iowa pork and they will love it, because I will get those products into their markets.

Ryerson: Thank you.

Ambassador Keyes.

Keyes: I think two things are true. First of all, we need to look at the root of this problem. Steve nibbles around the edges a little bit when he talks about the Federal Reserve, but the truth of it is we've had government programs that were aimed at compensating for the fundamental reality that in the course of this century we've restructured our banking system in a way that was insensitive to the needs of the family and independent farmer.

I think we need to take a careful look at the way in which this whole centralized banking system is contrary to the interests of farmers and move in a direction that will restore an element to the banking system that works with and is sensitive to the needs, the capital needs, of farmers.

All the talk, by the way, of opening up new markets can't be done in the context of this collectivist free trade approach that does not allow us to maximize the clout we gain from our enormous market.

And I want to get away from this collectivist bargaining approach and in a hard-hitting way, a businesslike approach, force other countries to accept our goods as the condition of their entry into American markets. We can't do that at the collectivist, so-called, free trade bargaining table. And that's why I think we ought to withdraw from the WTO.

Ryerson: Thank you.

Governor Bush.

Bush: I would consider the formula — look at the formulas to make sure that the money was distributed fairly. And as importantly, would have an Agricultural Department that would — that would send the money out on a timely basis. This current Agricultural Department's held money for too long for these farmers waiting for the money.

I believe we ought to increase demand for Iowa products. That's what ethanol does, John, increases demand for Iowa corn. I think we ought to open up markets all around the world. I think we ought to reduce barriers and tariffs. We shouldn't be using food as a diplomatic weapon. We ought to — we ought to implement the food-for-peace program.

I think we ought to eliminate the death tax as well, so people can pass their farm from one generation to the next. And we ought to have good sound risk management policies that give farmers more options when it comes to crop insurance and more options on how to manage their income.

Agriculture is incredibly important for this country. And one of the reasons why we've had trouble in the world is because administration's have traded off agricultural issues as if it's a secondary part of our economy. It's not.

Ryerson: Thank you.

Mr. Bauer.

Bauer: You know, when I first started coming to Iowa a year ago, one of the things that struck me first were the men that I'd seen at various town meetings and so forth who looked me in the eye — strong men, men that worked with their hands — and they would get a catch in their voice, a tear in their eye as they started to talk about losing farms that had been in their families for a generation.

These are good men. If we wake up one morning and the American food supply is controlled by a handful of corporations, we will regret it for the rest of our history.

These men are playing by the rules. They're doing the right thing, and they're being failed in Washington.

I will cap the benefits. I'll enforce the antitrust laws. But I'll also make sure that China quits playing us for suckers. We let them pour their goods in here while they buy less of Iowa farm products than they did five years ago.

And I'll tell our European allies that we bailed you out twice this century. It's time for you to treat us like an ally. Stop protecting your farmers or we will fight just as hard for our farmers. I am not going to forget the little guy of this state.

Ryerson: Mr. Forbes, 30 seconds more.

Forbes: Well, I think it's critical, in addition to doing — opening more markets, getting those barriers reduced — that we do more to enforce these antitrust laws here at home, and also do more on research on development. After all, we have a whole high-tech industry based on grains of sand, literally writing whole worlds on grains of sand.

If we can do that with sand, silicon, why in the world can't we do that with corn and wheat and other agricultural products — find new uses. We need to do more R&D and we will have more demand for our products.

Ryerson: Thank you, Mr. Forbes.

Senator Hatch.

Hatch: I'm on the Senate Finance Committee. On that committee, I'm dedicated to getting rid of the death taxes that I think are wrecking the family farmer.

Family farmers are land rich and cash poor.

Also, on ethanol, John, I've got to tell you ethanol has produced 14 billion gallons of gas and oil. Some estimate as much as 35 percent alleviation of dependency on foreign gas and oil.

I believe we've got to do everything in our power to help the farmer. And I've been voting for this. I've voted for every farm bill since I've been in the Senate. And I'm going to continue to do so.

Ryerson: Senator McCain?

McCain: Orrin, everyone of those gallons can help neither the consumer nor the environment. And there's study, after study, after study that indicates that. Ethanol was a program that came in during the gas crisis in the 1970s. And like most government programs, it lived on forever.

I want the farmer not to be dependent upon government subsidies. I want them to be independent. And I think the best way we can do that is give them the maximum flexibility that they can, and get their products — one third of the output of the farms — agricultural output in America is exported. And that's where we ought to focus most of our attention.

Ryerson: Thank you, Senator.

Ambassador Keyes.

Keyes: I read an article the other day in which the New York Times basically declared the death of the family farm and acted like it was a good thing. It's not.

The family farm has been the source of an important contribution to the moral culture of this country — the sense of individualism and community that we rely upon. That's why we need to give special priority to the family and independent farmers in the administration of all of our programs.

But we can't count on that. We need to get to the root of the problem.

The family farm has been under the gun ever since we consolidated control of the banking system at the national level. We need to change that fundamental fact.

Ryerson: Governor Bush.

Bush: I think one of the — a good use of the federal government is to provide research money, research and development money. I think there's some incredible value-added processing opportunities for our agricultural sector. Who knows, we may have biomass fuel. We won't know unless we put a focused and concerted effort on researching what the opportunities and hopes are for — for renewable resources, much of which is grown right here in Iowa.

Ryerson: Thank you, Governor.

And Gary Bauer.

Bauer: One of the provisions of the Freedom to Farm Act would be that there would be a commission that would look at an income subsidy program. Everybody in Washington recognized there would be some years where you just couldn't make it on the family farm. As a conservative, I'm willing to go forward with that. We ought to be there to provide some help for income of farmers in the really bad years.

One final thing, ethanol isn't being subsidized, it's just not being taxed.

Unknown: Right.

Bauer: Not taxing something, John, isn't a subsidy. Not taxing it is what we ought...

McCain: If everybody else pays, it is.

Bauer:... to do with more products, not fewer.

Ryerson: OK. Thank you very much. I'd now like to introduce a student from an Iowa community college for a question for you all. He's Adam Glawe of Peyton, Iowa. He's a participant in The Register's students and the caucuses program. Adam's a student at Des Moines Area Community College.

And Adam, thanks for being with us this morning. Go ahead and ask your question.

Glawe: Thank you. During a December debate here in Iowa, each of you was asked who you consider to be your role model as a political philosopher or thinker. How specifically would you as president improve the dignity of the Oval Office and restore the moral excellence of our great nation?

Ryerson: Thank you very much for the question. Mr. Bauer, you're first with an answer, please.

Bauer: Well, Adam, this is extremely important. I worked for Ronald Reagan for eight years. And, you know, Ronald Reagan would not go into the Oval Office without his coat and tie on. That office meant something. It was not just his office. It belonged to the American people.

Presidents had sat at that desk and had sent our sons off to foreign battlefields. Reagan knew what that office meant. I don't have to remind or embarrass this audience about what the current president did in that office.

We do need men and women of integrity in Washington. I will bring reliable standards of right and wrong to the White House. Our young people will be proud again of our institutions.

I think we can do that. I think we know how to do that. I think the seven — the last seven years has been an aberration, not a reflection of the values of the American people. I will be dedicated to returning good values to the Oval Office and to my administration.

Ryerson: Thank you.

Senator Hatch.

Hatch: Well, Elaine and I have been married for 43 years. We're in our 43rd year now. We have six children and 19 grandchildren. I've been appalled at what's happened in Washington. I don't want to go into that, because I don't want to malign anybody back there. But I've got to tell you: I did spend 28 minutes on television, and it's on today. [laughter]

And every one of you ought to watch it because it's the most definitive, substantive statement made about this administration.

Hatch: And it proves that perhaps it's the most deceitful and corrupt in our nation's history.

It hasn't been right for our kids. When this president said on MTV, "I didn't inhale," that sent the wrong message to every kid in this country, because all those kids knew that he had to inhale, and he did inhale. And if he did, then a lot of them think, well, why can't they.

Now that's the kind of example we've got to get rid of. We've got people — better than 51 percent of the people in this country today — don't believe marriage is a sanctified institution anymore. It's time to get back to where it should be, and I'll put it there if you'll give me the chance. I'm asking for your votes.

Ryerson: Ambassador Keyes.

Keyes: I think we ought to stop kidding ourselves here. That wasn't Bill Clinton's problem, it was our problem. And our problem is that we have turned our back on the fundamental premise of this nation's life: that our rights come from God and must be exercised with respect for the authority of God.

Anybody who gets into that Oval Office and isn't willing, whatever the political cost, to confront us with the fact that we have made the wrong choice on abortion, that we are making the wrong choice in supporting the radical homosexual agenda, that we are making the wrong choice in believing that we can have sexual licentiousness and liberty at the same time, is not going to help this nation.

You want to know the truth? Bill Clinton's not the only one who needs to shape up. We all need to shape up, starting with getting back to our allegiance to the fundamental moral principles that are this nation's strength and that ought to shape its heart. I will challenge the nation to do that. And in doing so, we will set an example with our courage in our choices, to which our children will respond.

Ryerson: Senator McCain.

McCain: The first and primary responsibility of the President of the United States is to protect its security and conduct foreign policy.

This administration has conducted foreign policy in a feckless, photo-op way that will cause us perhaps to have to expend our most precious assets: our American blood and treasure.

I will not take a poll as president of the United States as to how to conduct foreign policy. The recent crisis in Kosovo that we stumbled into without having to get into was conducted by polls, where the president refused to mass — to prepare for ground operations so Mr. Milosevic was able to more efficiently murder, rape and kill innocent civilians.

We dropped bombs from 15,000 feet, thereby killing innocent civilians. This conduct of foreign policy has got to be changed, and the leadership of this nation has got to rest in the hands of someone who understands it, is prepared for it. And I am fully prepared.

Ryerson: Governor Bush.

Bush: Exactly what channel was that on tonight, Orrin? [laughter]

Hatch: Five and eight.

Bush: Five and eight. [laughter]

Hatch: I'm glad — Governor, thank you so much.

Bush: My — my response to the young questioner is this: The office is greater than the occupant. So whoever is elected — and I hope it's one of us — when we put our hand on the Bible, we will swear to uphold the laws of the land, but we will also swear to uphold the honor and the dignity of the office.

A president also brings an administration to Washington, D.C. The administration I'll bring is a group of men and women who are focused on what's best for America — honest men and women, decent men and women. Women who will see service to our country as a great privilege, and who will not stain the house.

Ryerson: Thank you very much.

Mr. Forbes.

Forbes: Thank you.

The dignity of the office has been besmirched. The office will recover because it is greater than any single individual. Harry Truman and others showed that people with seemingly limited abilities could rise to the occasion and just not treat it as some play thing — political play thing.

So it will take deeds. It will also though, in a larger sense, mean a reappreciation of the Declaration of Independence with those immortal words penned by Thomas Jefferson, that we are indeed endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights. Among these, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And one of the great tasks of the president is not just to have programs, but to create an environment where the American people can experience a spiritual and moral renewal. You can feel it beginning to happen in America.

And that's why the life issue is important. If you put liberty before life, that's a license to kill. We need to have life sanctified again in the American nation.

And then, other proposals like allowing you to choose your own schools, this is to give you...

Ryerson: Thanks, Mr. Forbes.

Forbes:... power over your own lives, and to restore America.

Ryerson: Let me now introduce our second student. She is Jessie Clark of Ankeny. And she's also a student at Des Moines Area Community College.

Jessie, thanks for being with us today. Go ahead and ask your question.

Clark: Thank you.

I've been watching the debates. And I've been hearing some candidates talking about increasing the federal role in state-funded education. And I'm very concerned about the government over-stepping it's constitutional bounds. And I was wondering how much power do you think the federal government should have over state education, within the frame of the Constitution, of course?

Ryerson: Thank you, Jessie.

Again, we will start with Mr. Forbes.

Forbes: Thank you very much, Jessie. The more the federal government is involved in education, the greater an education crisis we will have.

The key to education renaissance in America — renewal — is to put parents not politics, in charge of our schools. One thing I will do as president is take that money from the Education Department, earmark it, block grant it back to states and municipalities, with the provision that parents have true choice in picking their schools.

The federal government should not be determining what test qualifies and what test doesn't. That's federal control of the curriculum. And we must also eliminate school-to-work and Goals 2000 and these other intrusions.

And I know with the American people having that true choice of choosing the school you think best for your child, we have the best grade schools and high schools in the world, bar none.

But if we wait for three years, if we try to have the federal government be a catalyst for reform, that's a formula for disaster. Trust the parents, not politics.

Ryerson: Thank you.

Ambassador Keyes.

Keyes: I think it's absolutely critical that we put the control of our educational system back in the hands of our parents. In order to do that, though, we're going to have to overcome the arguments that those parents don't have the responsibility, don't have the concern, don't have the love, don't have the capacity to do the right thing. That's what Clinton and his liberal buddies are always saying. They play on our lack of moral confidence.

So, the first thing we have to do is restore our allegiance to those moral principles that restore that moral confidence on the basis of which we reclaim control of our schools. To symbolize that reclaimed control, my goal would be to abolish the Department of Education, and to make it clear that is primarily the leadership of the parents — not any level of government — that we have to rely on in this society.

When you have parents like a Jim Navarro and his wife willing to give their all for their children, don't we recognize that that heart has no substitute in government or bureaucracy. And it's that parent's heart that we should rely on to guarantee the effectiveness and quality of education.

So, let the money follow the choice of the parents not the choice of educrats, bureaucrats and politicians. That's what we need in education today.

Ryerson: Senator McCain.

McCain: Choice and competition are the key to the future of the education in America. And if we don't keep that decisionmaking process at the state and local level then we'll just see a repetition of what we've seen in the past, which is a very unfortunate situation. Students in America rank at the bottom in the most important disciplines, such as physics, science and chemistry.

I believe that we should try charter schools all over America. In my state of Arizona, they are very popular.

I would take the gas and oil, ethanol and sugar subsidies and take that money and put it into a test voucher program over three years to be used in every poor school district in every state in America.

Governor Bush has a similar program. It's — I've forgotten the name of it. It's French for vouchers. But we — his takes the money out of existing education. I want to take the money out of the gas and oil and sugar and ethanol subsidies and other programs that don't benefit the taxpayer.

Choice and competition, that's the answer. And I think that we will be well served to use those as our principles.

Ryerson: Thank you, Senator.

Ryerson: Mr. Bauer.

Bauer: As I — I was undersecretary of education for Ronald Reagan for a number of years. And I was in charge of a $17 billion budget. And I had thousands of federal bureaucrats working for me, or so they claimed. And I can tell you first hand that the problem is Washington D.C.; it's not the answer.

Look, these bureaucrats were nice people. But they came to me with the dopiest ideas you've ever heard of in your life. [laughter]

They all thought they knew how to run the schools of Iowa and every other state better than the parents and teachers and school boards of those states do.

I will block grant the money. It was $17 billion then, it's $38 billion now. Only one dollar out of four gets to the classroom, to the pupils and to the teachers. This is outrageous.

I support vouchers, credits for all forms of education, including home schoolers. I think we can get the bureaucracy out of the way and begin to have some real good things happen in the classroom again, which is what every American, Republican or Democrat, wants. It's not a money problem; it's a will problem.

Ryerson: Thank you.

Governor Bush.

Bush: I'm not running for federal superintendent of schools, and I don't want to be the federal principle. I want to pass power back from Washington, D.C., to states. I've had a lot of experience when it comes to improving public education. It starts with trusting local people to make the right decisions for their schools.

I strongly believe in local control of schools and so I will work with the Congress to pass power back from Washington, D.C., in block grant form to states and local jurisdictions.

But when the federal government spends money like it does on the poorest of the poor, I'm going to ask this question, what are the results? We must ask school districts and states that accept federal money to develop on their own — not a federal test, but on their own — an accountability system.

We must measure. And we find success, we need to praise the teachers and principals who are working hard. But when we find failure, if we find our children trapped in failed schools, we must liberate their parents to make different choices, different options. In my judgment, in my view of America, there are no second-rate children in this country, and there are no second rate dreams. One size does not fit all in education.

Ryerson: Thank you.

Senator Hatch.

Hatch: George, we don't need a test that the teachers can teach to, so that the kids make the test. Really, the federal government puts 7 percent of the money into education, and it requires 50 percent of the paperwork, that nobody reads — or virtually nobody reads.

The fact of the matter is that we have a wonderful system of government. Our founding fathers were much wiser than a lot of these people today, who are advocating for federal education programs.

Our founding fathers believed that we have 13 state laboratories — now 50 state laboratories — where we could compare back and forth, and determine which state is the best one, which one is the best laboratory. Can we learn from this state? Can we learn from that? That's the way you do it, with the families having the control.

Now let me just say this to you. I visited three schools in the last three days in this state — Osceola, I visited in Marion, and I visited in inner city Des Moines. You're doing a great job in Iowa. But two of those schools had a high percentage of kids in poverty. And we've got to help there. We've got to help with civil rights. We've got to help with a few other ways as well.

Ryerson: OK, thank you, Senator.

I know you've been eager to get back into the tax area — a hot issue in the last couple of weeks, particularly. And Bernard Hayes of Cedar Rapids is going to aim you just in that direction.

He wants to know what's so fair about married couples and families paying an additional tax of $1,400 a year.

Senator McCain.

McCain: It's not fair and that's why it's an integral part of the program that I have. In fact, not only does my proposal take care of the working mom, but also the nonworking mom.

But again, the crux of this issue is, do we want to give middle income and lower income Americans a much-needed tax break and also take care of the other obligations that we have made over the years?

We are staggering under a $5.6 trillion national debt. My friends, we can't lay that burden on future generations of Americans.

The Social Security trust fund is a ticking time bomb. We all know that at 2014 more money will be going out that coming in.

I want to take this surplus, put it into — 62 percent of it into Social Security, help Medicare, pay down the debt, and give Americans a tax break. And part of that will be paid for by eliminating a lot of this corporate welfare and wasteful spending.

I think that if we bank on these surpluses — George, three years ago people were saying there are going to be surpluses as far as — deficits as far as we can see. Now they're saying they will have surpluses as far as the eye can see. I'm not so sure.

Ryerson: Ambassador Keyes.

Keyes: I think that as you listen to all these folks, you need to get a little aggravated with the fact that they're all going to give you something. And if you stand back and realize what it is, you will realize that it's your own money. [laughter]

And at some point — at some point you need to start asking yourself, I don't want them to give me this and give me that. Why won't they give you back control over your own money? Why won't they let us go back to the Constitution our founders wrote, which had a tax system based on tariffs, duties and excise taxes, sales taxes, that put the people themselves in charge of the incidents of taxation, so that you can decide that if you need a tax cut today, all you will need to do is change your habits of consumption.

Keyes: You will be back in control of your own destiny. That is the tax approach that I recommend, radically different from what they're all talking about. They want to remain of the gatekeepers of your money. I want to put you back in charge of that money.

It's the only basis on which we can hope to regain that freedom that we're supposed to have as a people.

Abolish the income tax, return to the original Constitution of our country, and put the people of this country back in control of their own destiny.

Ryerson: Mr. Bauer.

Bauer: Well, the $1,400 marriage penalty is outrageous. And it's outrageous for a lot of reasons, but one of them is there's not a politician in Washington that ever defends it. Everyone of them when they're home campaigning says they're against it.

Isn't it funny that every year we're still stuck with it? It never gets taken care of.

Tax reform is important, but let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that devil is in the details. Governor Bush's plan is sort of moving chairs around on the deck of the Titanic. There's not real reform there.

Mr. Forbes' plan sounds like real reform, but listen to some of these details. How would you like if you're a homeowner to lose your mortgage deduction. That's what Mr. Forbes plan does; it takes away your mortgage deduction.

If you're a pastor of a church or head of a non-profit group, have you looked at the details in Mr. Forbes' plan?

Bauer: You lose the charitable deduction to your charity.

Now there's a great idea. Let's cut back government so that the private sector can pick it up, and then cut the legs out from underneath charities and churches. My flat tax is fair and pro-family.

Ryerson: Thank you, Mr. Bauer.

Senator Hatch.

Hatch: You know, if we cut — if we cut out the national debt, we'd save $300 billion a year. That'd more than take care of Social Security. The fact of the matter is, we're not knocking down the national debt.

I've got to say, I like all of the tax plans that have been given here. But I live with reality. They're now saying that the Democrats may very well take over the House. But even if they didn't and we have the same ratio today in the Senate and the House, there isn't one of these plans that's going to go through. The Democrats will fight it tooth and nail. And then the Senate will filibuster.

The fact of the matter is, we're going to have to have somebody who knows how to get a tax plan through. And I've got to tell you, I'm on the Senate Finance Committee and I know just exactly how it works. And it's horrendous. It's going to take somebody who basically will repeal the outrageous Clinton tax increases, who will double the family exemption, who will try to bring down marginal tax rates, who will make Social Security deductible so that the people who basically — that's their biggest tax, get some benefit there. And I could go on and on.

But it's going to take somebody with experience to get it done, not just a bunch of promises.

Ryerson: Thank you, Senator.

Mr. Forbes.

Forbes: We do need to push the line back on taxes and not accept ideas of just simply holding the line on taxes and going with the status quo of simply treating the code as if it's sacrosanct. We need to get rid of the code.

It is an abomination, an unnecessary weight on the American people. This way, we truly get rid of the marriage penalty. Unlike George Bush's proposal, this flat tax would help stay-at-home moms, not just those in the work force.

It would also help charitable giving in America, because it lets you keep more of what you earn. When the American people have more, they give more.

It encourages home ownership. Why? Because it lowers interest rates, allows you to keep more of what you earn, and, therefore, you have more to buy — with which to buy a house.

This code is only loved by those special interests in Washington, D.C. — 67,000 lobbyists — 100 for each member of Congress. You take away this code, and half of them are going to earn an honest living. And I will provide job retraining for them. [laughter and applause]

And thank you.

Ryerson: Governor Bush.

Bush: I'm the one person on this stage who has fought for and signed tax cuts. I signed the two largest tax cuts in my state's history. I have laid out a plan that is realistic, that is doable, that achieves a couple of the main objectives. One, to make sure our economy continues to grow. And that's why I cut the rates on all people who pay taxes.

I've got a plan that makes the code more fair. The marriage penalty's unfair. The death tax is unfair. The earnings test on Social Security is unfair.

I've got a plan that hears the call of people who live on the outskirts of poverty. I believe by cutting the bottom rate from 15 percent to 10 percent, we help people access the middle class.

I believe it's important to have a tax cut. I will tell you what's going to happen. If we leave money in Washington, D.C., the people are going to spend it on bigger government and on more programs.

I agree with the idea of trying to trim down budgets, John. But the best way to reduce the fat in Washington is to send money back to the people who pay the taxes. And that's exactly what I intend to do.

Ryerson: Senator McCain, 30 seconds on this.

McCain: George, you say that the money, if it remains in Washington, Congress will spend it. The president of the United States is not a hapless bystander. Just last fall, just last fall in November Congress passed one of the most obscene pieces of work that I've seen — a pork-laden bill that spent the entire $14 billion surplus. I fought against that bill. I voted against it. I railed against it. You said you supported it, and would have signed it. The president of the United States can force the Congress of the United States to spend less money. And if they won't, he can make them famous.

Ryerson: Ambassador Keyes.

Keyes: If I made a deal with you that I was going to give you a preemptive claim to a certain percentage of my income, determined by you, how much of my money would you control?

Bush: All of it.

Keyes: You're right. That's the principle of the income tax. Now, when I work, or you work, and somebody else controls 100 percent of the fruits of our labor, what do we call that? Slavery.

The simple logic of the income tax is that it's a slave tax. These gentlemen argue about whether the chains should be lighter, whether they should be heavier. I think it's time that as a tax-enslaved people, we rise up and make it clear, we want the chains off. Abolish the income tax and return to our original constitution of liberty.

Ryerson: Mr. Bauer.

Bauer: Under my flat tax plan, American families make out well. You have your income at the top, you subtract the first $20,000. After that, you subtract your mortgage deduction, your charitable giving, and what's left, you only pay 16 cents on the dollar. This will be a major tax cut for working class families, and for the middle class.

What I do not do, is give a brand new tax write off to big corporations like Mr. Forbes does. He's going to claim that I'm hurting the farmer. The farmer will be fine under my plan. But I don't think big corporations should pay zero while you're paying 25 percent between the flat tax and the Social Security tax.

Ryerson: Senator Hatch.

Hatch: I could be for any of these programs. The fact of the matter is, if you do a flat tax, it won't be three years until Congress will have it in the same convoluted mess we have today.

Governor Bush's approach basically doesn't do anything about ending the IRS as we know it.

John McCain's approach, by gosh, Al Gore and Bill Bradley, they really love it. But the Republicans don't and there's good reason for it. The fact of the matter is I think we could have gotten President Clinton to give a bigger tax cut than John McCain's tax cut is. But it's still better than nothing.

The fact of the matter is, is that Alan's right. We really need to change the IRS as we know it and change the whole system.

Ryerson: Thank you.

Mr. Forbes.

Forbes: We do indeed need to get rid of this tax code. We do indeed need to help small business people and farmers by allowing them to recover the cost of their tractor and their equipment, which my proposal would do.

But also, too, simply trying to cope with this code, as George Bush and John McCain would do, the timid tax cutters, is not going to get to the heart of the fundamental problem. And that is an abomination that no one understands.

And also, in Texas, George, your tax cuts are more apparent than real. Most tax — most Texans have never seen those tax cuts and the same thing is going to happen with your proposal on the federal level.

Ryerson: Governor.

Bush: Well, you know something, Steve, I — nearly 69 percent of the Texans said overwhelmingly in 1998, You're the man; we appreciate your tax cuts.

Not only are my tax cuts real, they've reduced the baseline of the budget. And that's why it's important to cut taxes. It's important to cut taxes to give — make sure the economy continues to grow. But John, it's also important to cut taxes to make sure that the federal budgets don't become bloated and don't grow.

Now I've got a good record. I'm the only one on this stage who's had a record endorsed by the people.

Forbes: Well, George, six out of 10 districts in Texas never saw the tax cuts in 1999. In four out of 10 districts, the tax rate went up.

Ryerson: In 20 seconds governor.

Forbes: In two our of 10, there was no change.

Bush: Steve, look...

Forbes: That's good research.

Bush: Yes — it's not true.

Forbes: Six out of 10. That's a — that's a Clinton tax cut. That's the kind he would like. Raise the tax and call it a tax cut.

Bush: Steve, look, the — Senator Dole actually wrote a pretty interesting advertisement in the Des Moines newspaper. He said, if you're going to talk about a man's record, tell the whole record. And I cut taxes. Our budget would have grown by $3 billion in the state of Texas. We cut taxes.

Ask the elderly person — ask the elderly person whose homestead exemption was raised by $10,000. Ask her whether or not that permanent tax cut isn't real. It may not be real in million dollar houses, but it's real if you've got a $40,000 house and you get a $10,000 homestead increase — that's a 25 percent cut. It's really real for a lot of folks who live in my state.

Ryerson: Let's move on to the next question, gentlemen. Thank you very much.

Forbes: Six out of ten didn't get a choice.

Ryerson: This — this question's from David Clark of Carroll, Iowa. And he asked this — listen carefully, gentlemen. [laughter]

We have a little mini-debate over here. [crosstalk]

Here's the question. How do you post the Ten Commandments in schools without telling children who are not in the Judeao-Christian heritage that their form of religious expression is invalid?

Let's begin with Mr. Forbes.

Forbes: I think that the key — there is nothing wrong with posting the Ten Commandments in our schools today because they are the basis of Western civilization.

And I also think when you look at what's happened in the last 40 years to the quality of life in this country, when prayer was barred from school, I think it's fitting and proper that we have voluntary prayer. But that's why I support true parental control of education, where parents can make those choices.

If you want to send your child to a parochial school; you should have the freedom to do so. And the government should not stand in your way. If you want to home school your child, you should be free to do so and not be — have the whole bureaucracy on your backs with truancy and junk like that to try to block you.

You should have that freedom. If you want your child in a secular school, go ahead. Freedom of choice for parents is absolutely critical.

And then, we'll have, I think, a more moral people, a better educated people and a stronger America.

Ryerson: OK, Senator Hatch.

Hatch: My gosh, I believe that almost anybody would say if you read the Ten Commandments that that applies universally. You don't have to be a Christian to have it apply. It applies to Jewish people, it applies to everybody. Even the Muslims treat — treat Moses as a great prophet.

The fact of the matter is, is that we've been losing our moorings. And it started with Engel v. Vittale, when they did away with school prayer.

The fact is, if I had my way, I'd have a silent prayer reflection constitutional amendment that would give kids a moment of silent prayer reflection at the beginning of every school day, so they can at least think there might be somebody higher than they are.

I'd pass a flag amendment that would protect our flag from people urinating on it, defecating on it, tearing it and burning it with contempt.

I'll tell you this, I'd do a lot of things to get rid of the partial birth abortion procedure in our country. That has not justification at all. It's barbaric.

And I can tell you this: there's nothing wrong with the Ten Commandments. We should not be so doggone sensitive. The founding fathers were concerned that they would develop a national church. That's what they were concerned about, not that we might have the best principles on earth...

Ryerson: Thank you, Senator.

Hatch:... shown to our kids.

Ryerson: OK, Senator McCain.

McCain: You know it's interesting that we begin our proceedings every day in the United States Senate with a prayer. Now, it doesn't have the beneficial effect that some desire, but it seems to be...[laughter]... but it seems to be acceptable for the United States Senate to do that.

Earlier last year, I had the opportunity to go with Bill Bennett to a charter school in Phoenix, Arizona. Low income children there. Some of them didn't speak Spanish when they first got there.

We walked into the third grade classroom. There on the teacher's desk was the Children's Book of Virtues. The teacher was teaching the virtue of the month — the importance to tell the truth. She was telling the students why is it important you tell the truth. What happens when you don't? What do your parents think?

I think the virtue of the month as exemplified in the Ten Commandments could be and should be taught in every school in America.

Ryerson: Thank you.

Ambassador Keyes.

Keyes: Well, frankly, the Ten Commandments are etched into the walls of the Supreme Court. I find it rather hard to believe that it could be inappropriate to fit them on the walls of our schools.

That illustrates the problem we have here: a phony doctrine that's being foisted on us, pretending that somehow or another the federal government, through the courts, has the right to dictate uniformity of religion or irreligion. It's not true.

Through the 14th Amendment, some of these lawyers tried to pretend that the judges can do what the amendment explicitly forbids the Congress from doing: dictating religious practices at the state and local level.

This whole approach is wrong. All of this should be left up to the choice of the people themselves, up to the choice of parents in their schools. It's part of the reason school choice is so important — so we not only have people in schools who pray, but schools in the hands of people who pray by their own choice and so without the need to fear or give into any form of government domination. That's the way we should go.

Ryerson: Governor Bush.

Bush: Well, it seems like to me thou shalt not kill is pretty universal. I think districts ought to be allowed to post the Ten Commandments no matter what a person's religion is there's some inherent values in those great commandments that would make our society a better place for everybody.

I also believe our schools ought to expand character education. I think it's a good for the federal government to encourage school districts through joint venture money to have character education that teaches children right from wrong, good from bad, the basic values of life.

I also believe our after-school programs ought to be opened to faith-based programs, programs of good heart and good will that will say to our children, "We care for you a lot, but want you to know, in order to access the American dream, there are right decisions to make in life and there are wrong decisions to make in life."

That's what I've done in the state of Texas, and that's what I intend to do as president.

Ryerson: Thank you very much. We've got time for one question.

Bauer: Wait a minute, I didn't get to...

Ryerson: Oh, I'm sorry...

Bauer: Nice try though. [laughter]

You know out at Columbine High School where the terrible shootings took place, Eric and Dylan, the killers, were coming to school every day and they were giving each other the Nazi salute in the hallway. Nobody said anything to them. Nobody called their parents in for a little parent teacher conference. Nobody took them to the principal's office.

But if a teacher at Columbine High School had hung up the Ten Commandments in her classroom, she would have been in the principal's office the same day. She would have been told take them down or lose your job.

We've got things upside down in this country, my friends.

The other day in New Jersey, they voted down a requirement to begin the school day with the reading of the key words of the Declaration of Independence, where it says "all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain rights." The legislators said it sounded too much like a prayer.

When I'm president, there will be no more Nazi salutes in the schools, and it will be OK to hang the Ten Commandments up again, not only there but in the Oval Office.

Ryerson: Thank you very much. And I'm sorry about...

Bauer: That's OK; thank you.

Ryerson: We have time for one more question, but we will just to have quick answers of 30 seconds each.

This is from Burt Miller of Mount Pleasant and he asks, "Do you think tougher laws are needed to protect our environment?"

Governor Bush.

Bush: I think we ought to have high standards set by agencies that rely upon science, not by what may feel good or what sounds good.

And I think it's important to give people time to say we're going to conform to standards. And if they don't, I think we ought to fine them. I mean, I think we ought to be tough when it comes to our environmental laws.

But I don't — I don't believe that this administration's got a right when it comes to the environment. They try to sue our way to clean air and clean water or regulate our way to clean air and clean water. I think we need to lead our way by bringing stakeholders to the table and rely upon the new technologies that are coming so that we can have clean air and clean water.

Ryerson: Thank you, Governor.

Mr. Forbes.

Forbes: Well, clearly, we all want a better quality of life, cleaner air, purer water and the like. The technology is there to do it. Unfortunately this administration's been wasting considerable resources on junk science, using resources for unproductive uses. They also go for these fashionable things that have no real proof in science, lasting proof, such as global warming. Trying — they know that the Kyoto treaty could never be approved by the Senate, so they're trying to do it by regulatory decree.

Take a practical approach. Toxic waste dumps, for example, just get rid of them.

Ryerson: Thank you, Mr. Forbes.

Forbes: Don't let the lawyers get involved. Sixty percent of our money on toxic waste dumps go for lawyers. Cut them out, get the job done.

Ryerson: OK. Mr. Bauer.

Bauer: Well, this issue, like so many, require balancing. None of us want polluted water or polluted air. We also don't want out-of-control federal regulators that don't care about people's jobs or who see the American people as the enemy. Want to keep us out of the national parks, want to keep us out of recreation areas.

I'm a conservationist in the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt. I believe the resources are there to be used by the American people. But I believe they need to be used in a way so that my children and grandchildren will also be able to enjoy them in the future.

Ryerson: Senator Hatch.

Hatch: We're spending billions of dollars on lawyers with false science and a lot of other things that just aren't working because the federal government's documenting.

The first day in office I will get rid of the Kyoto accords that could add $3,000 to everybody's fuel bill in America, plus making us uncompetitive.

But most importantly, if I'm president I'm not going to misuse the office of the president with executive orders that set aside huge, huge, vast lands without consulting with Congress and without consulting with the people in those particular states.

Ryerson: Thanks, Senator.

Ambassador Keyes.

Keyes: I think we need tough law enforcement, particularly on point-source polluters and people like this who are disregarding environmental decency. But we not only need to be tougher, we need to be smarter. After all, take the preservation of species, for instance. Is there any shortage of chickens in the world? Why not?

I'll tell you why not, because we eat them — that's why. Because there is a use for them. Because somebody has a major interest in making sure they survive.

You can harness self-interest. You can harness the enlightened interests of our people in ways that will serve the environment — the way the people at the Competitive Enterprise tell us we can do.

Ryerson: Thank you.

Keyes: That smarter approach is what we need if we really care.

Ryerson: Thank you, Ambassador.

Senator McCain.

McCain: I believe we have to examine all the Internet — all the environmental laws — that are on the books today. They're long overdue for reauthorization and reexamination. And that would have to be one of the top priorities of a new administration.

But I want to talk just for a minute. Theodore Roosevelt was my hero and is to this day. He was responsible for the national parks system, the crown jewels of America. They are $6 billion underfunded. They're under enormous strain. We've got to figure out ways to preserve our great national park system. And that must be — must be a top priority.

Ryerson: Thank you, Senator.

We're going to have to trim the closing remarks and keep them very brief to just 30 seconds.

I apologize for that, but we're running out of time.

Governor Bush.

Bush: Well, I want to thank Senator Grassley, the four Congressmen, former Congressman Branstad — former Governor Branstad — for helping me in this campaign. I'm asking for your vote. I've got a message that's positive and hopeful. I'll work hard to unite our party so we can go to victory. And I'll work hard to unite our country so that we can achieve great things.

On January the 24th, the people of this good state are going to be able to send the first message to America. If you're for me, I want to thank you. And I urge you to go to your caucuses a week from Monday night.

Thank you very much, and God bless.

Ryerson: Thank you Governor.

Mr. Forbes.

Forbes: Well, thank you all very, much. I'm an independent outsider. I see, like you, great possibilities for America — what Abraham Lincoln called a "new birth of freedom." Whether it's the freedom to be born, freedom from fear of the IRS, freedom to choose your own schools, freedom to choose your own doctors, freedom to be in charge of your own health care, freedom to be safe and secure in this world, which means building up, not running down, our military.

But politics as usual is not going to achieve these goals. It is going to take a strong independent outsider to do it. That's why I need your help. Together we can make history. Thank you.

Ryerson: Thanks, Mr. Forbes.

Ambassador Keyes.

Keyes: You know, I know I'm supposed to address you vox populi, vox dei, as if you all are God. But I would like to ask you, instead, to join me in a very brief prayer to the creator whom our founders acknowledged to be our true God.

Dear Lord, our God, give us the wisdom and the sense of humility that we will return to those principles which will acknowledge your authority as the source of our rights and our liberties. And that guided by that sense of humility, we will go into the voting booth, not to do what is best for ourselves, but to do, Lord our God, what is best for our country.

Ryerson: Thank you Ambassador.

Senator McCain.

McCain: I want to thank all of you for being here. I've enjoyed, as usual, these debates. They've been remarkable.

I'm committed to the concept of reform. I want to get the special interests out of Washington and give the government back to you. I want to reform the tax code, the military, education. I can't do that unless we get the money and the special interests out of Washington, D.C.

I want to pay down the debt. I want to save Social Security. I think those are important issues as we go through this campaign. But most of all, I want to inspire a generation of Americans to commit themselves...

Ryerson: Thank you, Senator.

McCain:... to causes greater than their self-interest.

Ryerson: Mr. Bauer.

Bauer: Ladies and gentlemen, I know how average people live. I'm the son of a janitor. I'm not going to forget who I grew up with. I've got the experience that's necessary in Washington. I ran a $17 billion budget. I was Ronald Reagan's chief domestic policy adviser.

I will defend your values. I'll end abortion on demand and preserve marriages being between one man and one woman. I'll lower taxes and preserve Social Security. And I will have a policy towards China that is firm, like the policy that Ronald Reagan taught us when he brought the Soviet Union down.

I want your vote on caucus night. I want to be your president. Thank you.

Ryerson: Thank you, Mr. Bauer.

Senator Hatch.

Hatch: I'm really concerned about beating Al Gore and Bill Bradley. They are far left. The next president is going to appoint the other 50 percent of the federal judiciary and up to five Supreme Court justices. I'd like to be that person. I'd do a good job.

Elaine and I came up the hard way. Everything we have, we've earned. She was a farm girl from northern Utah. I was a janitor in college. [laughter]

And I learned a trade, a skilled trade. I worked my way through every step of the way. And let me tell you something, I have the experience to beat Bill Bradley and Al Gore.

And that's what's going to count here in the end. And we've got to beat them.

Ryerson: Thank you, Senator.

That concludes our Republican presidential debate. We certainly appreciate all of the candidates for being with us today. It's been a wonderful experience for us, and I hope for all of you as well.

I'd like to thank the staff of Iowa Public Television for their efforts in broadcasting this event. And I'd like to thank my colleagues at the Des Moines Register for their hard work in doing all of the many things necessary to make such an event like this happen.

Make sure to mark January 24th in your calendars and participate in your party's precinct caucuses. Goodbye. [applause]

APP Acknowledgement: Debate transcript source provided by David Casalaspi.

Presidential Candidate Debates, Republican Presidential Candidates Debate in Johnston, Iowa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/305685

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