Republican Presidential Candidates Debate in Manchester, New Hampshire
Gary Bauer (President, Family Research Council);
Governor George W. Bush (TX);
Steve Forbes (Businessperson);
Former Ambassador Alan Keyes;
Senator John McCain (AZ)
Karen Brown, WMUR-TV; and
Bernard Shaw, CNN
Brown: Good evening and thank you for joining us for this final round of presidential debates before Tuesday's primary here in New Hampshire. This evening we offer voters in this state and across the nation an unusual opportunity to see Republicans square off and then the Democrats on the same night in back-to-back debates.
Shaw: The Republican contenders will go first. During the next 90 minutes, Karen and I will be posing different questions to each of these candidates. Then we will ask questions that all the candidates will answer. The candidates will also have time to question one another and then to give closing remarks.
Brown: We want to welcome the five Republican candidates who are with us here tonight. Former Reagan administration official Gary Bauer. Senator John McCain of Arizona. Texas Governor George W. Bush. Publisher Steve Forbes. And former State Department official Alan Keyes. By draw, we determined that we would begin the questioning with Gary Bauer.
Good evening, Mr. Bauer.
Bauer: Hi, Karen. How are you?
Brown: Good. Let me ask you this. There's been relatively little discussion on the issue of health care between the Republican candidates for president. Here in New Hampshire, 73 percent of uninsured families have at least one family member who is working full time, yet they cannot afford coverage for their families, which would cost anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000 a year. What do you propose to help these families?
Bauer: Karen, there are a lot of things we can do. I'm in favor of medical savings accounts so that in good years people can put a little bit of money aside that they can take off of their taxes and then if there's a medical crisis the next year they can use it for that or for health insurance costs.
I think we can do things on the whole area of the Patient Bill of Rights.
I think a lot of people in my party got off on the wrong foot on this. My 76 year-old mother has to deal with an HMO. Why in the world would somebody think it's a conservative idea or a Republican idea to say that she shouldn't have the right to get redress if she's the victim of a medical malpractice.
I think we need to do something on long-term care and on prescription drugs. And what I would do is let older Americans buy into the really nice health care plan that politicians in Washington, D.C., have. They've got a great plan that covers them and federal employees. They get to pick among 200 policies that cover things like long-term care and prescription drugs. We can let older Americans buy into that plan and end up saving tens of billions of dollars in Medicare while providing better coverage for more Americans.
So, those are some of the things we can do.
Brown: A follow-up question, specifically aimed now at long-term care.
Brown: In New Hampshire, according to Citizens for Long-Term Care, 8,000 people reside in nursing facilities, 25,000 more receive care from home health care agencies. It's really not an elder issue. There are many young people who suffer from disabilities or chronic illness. There are also those who suffer from Alzheimer's.
Long-term care often forces patients into poverty. So what do you specifically propose on long-term care that would help these patients and their families?
Bauer: Well, Karen, there are people in a lot of different age groups. But the overwhelming majority of people in long-term care are older Americans. And so my plan of allowing them to buy into the federal health insurance program, which provides long-term care, would work.
Let me mention another area of long-term care, and that's veterans' benefits. Many Americans are treated in those veterans hospitals, and I have to tell you, I think it's outrageous that we are closing veterans hospitals.
My father was in a veterans hospital for two years. My mother was able to visit him there because it was close to home. These men kept their end of the bargain. And now we're making them stand in line, hat in hand, to beg for the benefits that are theirs. When I am president of the United States, these men and women are going to be taken care of.
Brown: Thank you.
Shaw: Governor Bush, if you could write a two-sentence amendment to the United States Constitution on abortion, what would it be?
Bush: It would be that every child, born and unborn, should be protected in law. And every child should be welcomed in life.
I believe it's important for our party to maintain our pro-life position. I believe it's important for the next president to recognize good people can disagree on this issue. And so the next president must elevate the issue of life to convince people of the preciousness of life, not only for the young, but for the elderly as well.
The next president must lead our country toward policies that will reduce abortions. I will sign a partial-birth abortion ban. I will promote adoption. I will promote abstinence programs in our school systems.
The life issue is an important issue for our party. And our party must not abandon our pro-life position, but we must welcome people from different persuasions into our party — or different points of view into our party.
Shaw: So will the Republican Party platform plank on abortion be your bible?
Bush: I'm a pro-life candidate, and I've been a pro-life governor. I have set the tone in my state to bring people together. I fought for and signed the first parental notification bill in my state's history. I brought Democrats and Republicans together to value life. This is a bill that will reduce the number of abortions in the state of Texas.
I also worked with both Democrats and Republicans to encourage adoptions in my state of Texas.
Brown: Mr. Keyes, you advocate a national sale's tax to replace the federal income tax. Let's assume for a moment that Congress doesn't pass your national sales tax plan. What then? What would be your fall-back position on taxes?
Keyes: Well, I have to say, I actually think that that would not be an appropriate question for me to answer. I think that we have to move away from the slave income tax. And that I am working to put together a coalition of people around the country who understand that we have surrendered control of our income to the government, giving them a preemptive claim that they then determine the extent of over our money.
As long as that is the case, in principle, the government controls every penny that is made and earned in the United States. And anything left in our pockets is left there by the sufferance of our politicians. This is an unacceptable situation.
And so I am not going to answer a question based on the notion that the people of this country should acquiesce and that we should simply continue to do what my colleagues want to do — tinker around with a system where they get to be the gatekeepers of our money.
I will not allow that to continue. I will work to change that, and we must move to abolish the income tax and replace it with the original Constitution of the country.
I believe that that is the alternative that needs to be placed before the American people. And if we can effectively put together in this election the coalition to support that, then the Congress will respond to the will of the people.
Brown: Can you offer us some more specifics on your national sales tax proposal? Is it a tax on goods and services? And what percentage would you put on that tax?
Keyes: I support a fair tax proposal that is out there on the table, that would replace both the income tax and the payroll tax. The rate would probably have to be for that purpose around 20 to 23 percent. It would be on the retail sales. That is, it's not a tax on production. I think that what the Europeans have done in the way of that and other taxes that intervene in the production process actually burdens productivity and discourages it.
You want to end tax on consumption of retail sales, excluding a certain market basket of goods and services that represent the essential necessities of life so that the poor and those on fixed incomes would be able to exempt themselves from taxation through their own judicious use of the proper choice, and others who feel that they cannot bear the burden of the income tax, would be able by following that frugality track to do the same thing.
Shaw: Senator McCain, you have an ad running here in New Hampshire underscoring your service in uniform.
But one of the implications is that Bush, Forbes, Keyes and Bauer would be lesser leaders. Is that fair?
McCain: It's neither the intention nor the implication of the ad. The ad states clearly what I believe, and that is that I am fully qualified, I am the best prepared to lead this nation in the next century in very dangerous times.
Unfortunately, this administration has conducted a feckless, photo-op foreign policy for which we may have to pay a very heavy price in the future in American blood and treasure.
I have a coherent, cohesive concept of what I want the world to look like and what the interests and the values are and where the threats lie.
I understand the problems of the men and women in the military. I think it's an absolute disgrace that there's 15,000 — 12,000 proud, brave, young enlisted families that are on food stamps in the military. There will be no food stamp military when I am president of the United States.
I am simply stating and will repeat: I am fully prepared to be president of the United States.
Shaw: Is not having served in the military a handicap?
McCain: No, it's not a handicap; it's not at all. But this is the first administration with the president of the United States and the secretary of defense and the secretary of state that have never spent on minute wearing the uniform of the armed services of the United States, and I promise you that won't happen on my watch.
Brown: Good evening, Mr. Forbes.
Forbes: Good evening.
Brown: India's nuclear testing in 1998 prompted the United States to impose economic sanctions.
President Clinton is expected to visit India in March, and administration officials now talk of wanting closer relations.
Is it time to lift those economic sanctions and resume two-way trade with India — trade, I might add that's worth about $10 billion a year?
Forbes: Well, I think in the case of India and Pakistan — both of which are now nuclear powers — it's essential to go beyond their stop-go approach with the Clinton-Gore administration. They had no clue that those tests were going to take place. They had no clue that Pakistan would try to heat up the conflict in Kashmir, which is the real flash point in the sub-continent.
And so, when you have a clueless administration, it's no surprise they're always caught short. They're always surprised. So putting on the economic sanctions did not work. India is going ahead with their nuclear program. So we need far more effective diplomacy. Our people did not know, in the White House, that apparently Pakistani operatives were behind that recent hijacking. And so what we have to do is have real diplomacy there, and try to diffuse those tensions.
But also, too, we have to rebuild our own military. And we must move ahead with energy, and a sense of emergency with our own missile defense system, to tell these states that aspire to be nuclear powers, forget it. As soon as your rocket leaves the launch pad, we're going to knock it down, or our allies are going to be able to knock it down. Have those defensive measures, and you reduce the likelihood of a nuclear war with India and Pakistan, and elsewhere.
Brown: You have indicated that you don't work in cases such as this.
But since that is what was imposed against India, would you then advocate lifting those economic sanctions at this point in time?
Forbes: I would advocate having a real diplomacy with India, and find out what their true intentions are. And then, yes, then, we can look at those sanctions, if it looks like that they want to have a real settlement on the continent, subcontinent. After all, they've had over three wars. And they nearly went to war this summer when Pakistan started to heat things up in Kashmir.
And so, those flash points have to be dealt with. This administration has taken a passive approach. They probably had to look on the map where India and Pakistan were.
So clearly, it has not worked there. And I think in the case of Pakistan, they did nothing when the Chinese transferred nuclear technology to Pakistan, which helped heat things up. This administration winked an eye. That's why India set off its bomb.
Brown: Thank you.
Shaw: Beginning with Governor Bush, this next question is for all candidates to respond to.
According to population experts, within years, whites will no longer be the racial majority in the United States of America. Should our national dialogue drop the words minority, majority?
Bush: It's a great question. I'm from a state where over 50 percent of the kindergarten students are Hispanic, and we view each other as Texans. We view us all under the great flag of the Lone Star. Yes, I think so.
I would hope our country would get beyond group-thought and would herald each individual, regardless of their heritage and regardless of their background. The ideal world is one in which all of us are viewed as Americans first and foremost.
Brown: Mr. Keyes.
Keyes: I think it would be advisable, and I have always argued, in fact, that categorizing people according to race and group is bad in this country. I think one of the things that has been done by quotas and other approaches that people say are to benefit minorities is that in fact we have retained the categories of racial discrimination and racial consciousness.
I think we would do better to focus on our common American identity, to renew our allegiance to those moral principles that define that common American identity so that we can move forward.
And if there are people in this society that need help, we should give them that help based on their need, based on the scars that they have suffered, perhaps, from past abuse and discrimination, not based on race and minority background of that kind.
McCain: I would think so, because then we could eliminate quotas which I think neither helps the beneficiary nor improves the effort to improve equality in America.
But I also think that it's very important that we preserve our rich heritage. In my state, Hispanic heritage has made us wonderful and great and noble. And I want to preserve that. I also want to underscore the fact that we still have a lot of people down at the economic — bottom rung of the economic ladder that need a lot of help and a lot of assistance no matter what their ethnic makeup is. And we have to address this issue.
Brown: Mr. Forbes.
Forbes: Quotas are wrong. What makes America unique is judging us as individuals, not as members of groups.
My grandfather was a penniless immigrant, as tens of millions of other Americans were. What brings us together is not a single ancestry or religion or a common race. What unites us is a shared set of ideas and ideals: the belief in freedom and liberty, democracy, individual equality before the law, opportunity. That's what makes us unique, and that's what we need to get back to.
Shaw: Mr. Bauer.
Bauer: Winston Churchill referred to us as the American race. Very interesting phrase. It obviously wasn't a reference to the color of our skins. He knew that there was an idea that defined Americans, and it's in the Declaration of Independence: All men created equal, et cetera.
But I want to add, one of the reasons for the trends you're talking about, and I don't have any problem with the trends, but one of the reasons for them I do have a problem with, and that's illegal immigration. In Governor Bush's state, in Southern California, illegal immigrants are pouring into this country and my party ought to stand against it. A great nation protects its borders.
Brown: Thank you.
We're now going to move to a round where candidates are allowed to question each other by draw.
Mr. Keyes, you get the first question.
Keyes: Thank you very much.
Well, Senator McCain, in my past questioning I think I've kind of established that you support the Clinton policy, "don't ask, don't tell," on gays in the military. But I heard today...
McCain: I think — I think we've pretty well massaged that.
Keyes: I heard today that you had been asked a question about what you would say if your daughter was ever in a position where she might need an abortion, and you said that at first that it, as I understand it, that the choice would be up to her and then that you'd have a family conference.
I've got to admit I think that that displayed a profound lack of understanding of the basic issue of principle involved in abortion. After all, if your daughter came to you and said she was contemplating killing her grandmother for the inheritance, you wouldn't say let's have a family conference. You would look at her and just say no, because that is morally wrong.
Well, it is God's choice that that child is in the womb. And for us to usurp that choice in contradiction of our Declaration principles is just as wrong.
Therefore, how can you take the position that you would subject such a choice to a family conference or any other human choice? Isn't it God's choice that protects the life of that child in the womb?
McCain: I'm proud of my pro-life record in public life. I'm the only one here who has gone to the floor of the Senate and voted in the preservation of the life of the unborn. I have worked very had for the ban of partial birth abortion. I have sought for approval and legislation requiring parental consent and parental notification.
I am proud of that pro-life record and I will continue to maintain it. I will not draw my children into this discussion.
Keyes: But meaning no offense, Senator, the question isn't about your record. It was about your understanding. If we take a position on this issue and are then nominated by this party, we will have to go forward to defend that position in a field where Bill Bradley and Al Gore aren't going to take your record as an answer. They will need a persuasive justification before the American people as to why that position is consonant with our principles and our heritage.
And the answer you gave today does not display that kind of understanding. How can we trust you to move forward and defend our position on this issue?
McCain: Because unlike you, I have a 17-year voting record and record of service to this country, including doing everything that I can to preserve the rights of the unborn.
I have spoken as eloquently as I can on that issue. I am proud of my record. And that record, I will stand on.
And I am completely comfortable of the fact that as the leader of a pro-life party, with a pro-life position, that I will persuade — which is what really this is all about — to have young Americans understand the importance of the preservation of the rights of the unborn.
Brown: Mr. Forbes, you get the next question.
Forbes: I'll ask it of Governor Bush.
Bush: I was hoping so.
Forbes: I'm sure.
When you ran for governor in 1994, you criticized Anne Richards for the fact that Texas had 13,000 more state employees than did New York state. Since then, the gap is now 36,000. Texas has 36,000 more employees than the state of New York does at state-level. Under your leadership spending has gone up 36 percent — almost twice the rate of the Clinton-Gore administration.
On your so-called tax cuts, your own budget director said that six out of 10 Texans did not get a tax cut in this last round. And on education, you've dumbed down the standards to the point where in Texas, your SAT ranking has gone from 40th in the nation to 46th in the nation. What can you tell the people of New Hampshire, and of America, that you won't do in Washington what you've done in Texas?
Bush: So many half-stories, so little time.
I — let's start with education. People who've looked at the state of Texas have consistently said that because we've set high standards, abolished social promotion, got a vibrant charter school movement, have got a public school choice movement, that we're making the best progress in the nation for improvement amongst minority students; that our minority students because of our strong accountability system are making tremendous improvement; that are schools are some — ranked as some of the best in the country, Steve. Our public school system is meeting the challenge.
In terms of the budget, I've slowed the rate of growth down. And when you take out population growth and inflation, it's by far the slowest rate of growth ever in my state's history.
In terms of tax cuts, I not only led our state to a billion-dollar tax cut in '97, I led our state to a $2 billion tax cut in 1999. Real, meaningful tax cuts.
But I guess the way to answer your question is, you know, the people of Texas took a look at my record, the second-biggest state in the Union, a mighty important electoral state for any Republican running for president, and they said, Mr. Governor, we accept your record, and they overwhelmingly voted me back into office. I nearly got 70 percent of the vote.
Forbes: Well, George, on, again, on SATs, Texas is one of the few states where minority scores have gone down, not up. Standards have been dumbed down. Eight-grade science tests in Texas shows four — picture of four insects and says pick out the fly.
So, that's why the test scores have been not going up. Now again, how are you going to improve education nationally when in Texas it's gone down?
And in terms of tax cuts, yours is a tax cut that only Clinton and Gore could love when most people don't get it.
Forbes: Your own budget director said six out of 10 didn't get it.
Bush: Let me answer, OK.
I — you know the people of Texas looked at the real facts. I just explained them to you. Our test scores...
Forbes: What are the real facts on SAT's?
Bush: Please don't interrupt me. Let me finish, OK.
Forbes: Well, answer the question.
Bush: The test scores in my state on the NAPE test, which compares state to state, show dramatic improvement. And that's — objective analysis after objective analysis has ranked Texas as one of the best education states in the country. It's not only because of me. It's because of teachers and principles and parents.
One reason our — our SAT scores have improved since I've been the governor, you need to get your researchers to do a better job, but unlike many states ...
Forbes: Your ranking went down.
Bush: Unlike many states, we make sure as many kids can take the SAT as possible. We include all kinds of children. We want our children in Texas to take the SAT.
Brown: Thank you very much. Senator McCain, you get the next question.
Bauer: Yes, Senator.
McCain: The United States Supreme Court issued a decision day before yesterday concerning campaign finance reform. It was a marvelous decision. It affirmed everything that I have fought for, including the fact, in the words of one judge, money is property, not free speech.
We know the corruption that has taken place in the Clinton and Gore campaign as a result of the 1996 election and the unlimited campaign contributions. We know how important it is now to have an opportunity to enact real, meaningful campaign finance reform. I'd like your views on that very important Supreme Court decision.
Bauer: Senator, your summary doesn't even get close to how bad the situation is. I mean, as you know, in the last election, we had Chinese money coming in through companies controlled by the Peoples Liberation Army, into the American presidential campaign. Unbelievable and unacceptable.
I think there are a couple of things that can be done here. My own approach on this is that individuals should be able to give more to candidates like us than they can right now. I think $1,000 is too little. I hope none of us can be bought for $1,000. I know that I can't.
I think as long as we get that money reported immediately that that would be an acceptable change. But I agree with you on a major point. There is something terribly wrong when big unions and big corporations can dump $4 million, $5 million, $6 million into the coffers of the two political parties.
Now, reform is important. I want to make sure it doesn't hurt just our party. That's not acceptable. But when Teddy Roosevelt and the early reformers said that big unions and big business should not be able to buy that kind of access, they knew what they were talking about. And as president, I would do away with that kind of soft money in campaigns.
McCain: The Supreme Court said there is little reason to doubt that sometimes large contributions will work actual corruption of our political system and no reason to question the existence of a corresponding suspicion among voters.
Do you know that the Republican Party is now taking — setting up a mechanism for this huge soft money thing. The Democrats are also. We're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, that are going to be washing around in this next presidential campaign usually in the form of negative ads. And don't you think we as candidates ought to say we will have nothing to do with that corruption of our system?
Bauer: I agree and, John, let me tell you a very real way where this money is hurting our party. We — and I must say this to some of colleagues up here tonight — there is a lot of fuzzy, soft thinking about China. Some of these debates from some of you, I thought I was debating Bill Clinton.
And why is that? Why is the party of Ronald Reagan confused about most-favored-nation status? Very simply reason: Because there are some big corporations giving a lot of money to the Republican National Committee and pulling strings on that issue.
Steve Forbes, you can't figure out where you are on most favored-nation-status for China.
Forbes: Oh, come on Gary...
Bauer: One week you say one thing and one week you say something...
Forbes: ... I've laid out a policy on China.
Bauer: ... else. Governor Bush, you agree...
Use your own time. Use your own time.
Forbes: You should listen to it. Gary, I'll give you — I'll give you a copy of my book and you can find it.
Bauer: Governor Bush, you've got a policy on China that looks just like Bill Clinton's when it comes to most-favored-nation status. So I think you guys are already affected by some of these big money contributions.
Forbes: No one has ever bought me Gary and never will.
McCain: I'm the only guy that has a commercial running that morph's Bill Clinton's face into mine.
Brown: Governor Bush, you get to ask the next question.
Bush: To Alan Keyes. What's it like to be in a mosh pit? [laughter]
Keyes: It's a lot of fun, actually. I enjoyed it.
Bush: On the stage after us will be two Democrats. And if you listen carefully to what they're saying, it sounds like they loved what the Clintons tried to do to health care. The want to federalize health care. They want to — they want the federal government to manage our health care.
I know you and the rest of us hear concerns about health care all over New Hampshire. What is your view? Give us your principles on health care for America.
Keyes: Well, I actually think it's very important not to turn health care over to government domination, because we'll get the same kind of results that, sadly, we have gotten in our education system, where we spend more, and we get less in terms of quality as a result. We have to take an approach that empowers those who are out there looking for health care services, to be the ones who can make the choices and make the decisions that will enforce, within that system, a relationship between the money you pay, and the quality you get.
That's something that empowered consumers should be able to do. We should voucherize the federal programs, so that individuals will have a stake in making the right judgments about how they get their health care. We need to set up medical savings accounts and other mechanisms that will allow people to build up what they need in order meet their health care needs, by making judicious choices that will give them the power to go to the right doctor, to the right way of providing medical services according to their choice.
I think that is the principle that we need. And by the way, that will help to keep costs down.
Bureaucracies can't do that job. But as we find in every other sector of our economy, when you empower consumers to make choices, when you give them a range of choices so they can go away from those providers who are not giving them cost-effective provision of services, that's when you're going to get the costs down and when we'll have more medical dollars available to meet problems like long-term health care, which is catastrophic for individual families and which they can't bear on their own.
Brown: You get a follow-up, Governor.
Bush: Do you agree with me that it seems like the administration kind of loves to dangle Medicare reform, kind of get people talking about it, and then turn the tables for political reasons?
Keyes: Well, I think they have done that in every respect, as a matter of fact. Their aim, I believe, is to try to lure more and more people into a government-dominated system, and once you get the reins of control over medical care into that government system you will then, as unfortunately we have found in other countries, be able to lower the quality and not give people the kind of service that they need, while at the same time shortchanging the providers of services so that you reduce the incentive for training and quality care.
That is the result we'll get from socialism. And I, frankly, am proud of the Republican Party for having stood together to resist the socialization of medicine in this country. It was the right thing to do. And I think it also helped, by the way, to safeguard the situation that allowed us to continue on the road of prosperous expansion in our economy.
Brown: Mr. Bauer, you get the last question in this round of candidate questioning and it will go to Mr. Forbes.
Well, Steve, we can continue this conversation about China. Steve, you've had about four different positions on this during this campaign. I still don't know quite where you are.
Let me summarize for you what's been happening with China. They're in the middle of a massive arms buildup. They've taken technology from the United States, sold to them by American companies. We've got companies from China controlled by the People's Liberation Army pouring stuff in here. We've got threats on Taiwan. This Chinese defense minister said two weeks ago: War with the United States was inevitable.
Will you repeal most-favored-nation status for China? I will in my first week in office.
Forbes: Good, Gary. Thank you for the question on China.
I believe that we must let the Chinese know what the rules of engagement are. If they want a prosperous relationship, they can have it. But you have to lay down the rules because then if they break those rules then you can take a course of action and unite this country and unite our allies.
The rules of engagement would include the understanding — we'd make it clear that they cannot run us out of Asia as they're trying to do now. And they cannot use force against Taiwan. Where they've made an agreement not to use force against Taiwan, we're going to hold them to it.
And that means we must rebuild our military instead of run it down. And we must move ahead with a missile defense system.
On human rights abuses, we will criticize them in every international forum possible. Dissidents in China have told me and others how important that is to put the spotlight on.
In terms of trade, of course we want trade with China. But it has to be two way. They have to genuinely reduce barriers, not the fake promises they've made to the — to the gullible Clinton-Gore administration.
And if China wishes to pass technology on to rogue states like North Korea or to Pakistan, we should put sanctions on specific Chinese companies, particularly those controlled by the People's Liberation Army.
So you let them know what the rules are. If they don't adhere to those rules, then you take the appropriate steps, including taking trade sanctions.
Bauer: Steve, you know, you've done it again. You had over a minute and 15 seconds. You can't answer a simple question...
Forbes: I said Gary...
Bauer: Let me finish my follow-up.
Bauer: All of the things that you just said hypothetically has already been done by China. You refuse to answer a simple question: Will you repeal most-favored-nation status for China or not?
Forbes: I'm trying to make it clear, Gary, in very simple terms. If China violates those rules of engagement, now that they know what they are, then trade is going to be on the table, including most-favored-nation. And most-favored-nation will be withdrawn if they want that confrontation. But you must first, if you are a responsible president, lay out to the Chinese what those rules are. Then, if they break those rules, you can take the appropriate steps.
You want to do it when you get right in. I want to let the Chinese know there's a new foreign policy in the United States of America, a real one based on strength, based on values. And if they want a relationship with us, here's how you can have it. If not, they can have that confrontation, and we'll win against them, just as we did against the Soviets and other tyrants in this century.
Bauer: You're ignoring 10 years of history. The verdict's already in, Steve.
Brown: Thank you very much.
We're going to move to the next round. One question — you all will have an opportunity to answer it, 30 seconds each.
The president tomorrow night is expected in his State of the Union message to propose federal subsidies to help low income families overcome the so-called "digital divide."
Is it an appropriate use of government funds to hand out computers and provide Internet access to those who can't afford it? And if not, why not?
We will begin with Mr. Keyes.
Keyes: I think this is another case where politicians try to jump on the band wagon of something that's going on in the economy so everybody is going to think that they actually had something to do with the result when they don't.
There is not need for this. We are already seeing out there proposals for the distribution of free PCs, not based on some politician making a judgment and spending taxpayer money, but based on the self-interest of those who are involved in a new world, a new world in which participation is the key to profit, and in which there is actually a strong incentive among those who participate in the private sector to give access to individuals so that they can improve their opportunities for profit, for information sharing. That's what has already been going on. It will continue. There is not need for the government to pretend that it needs to take leadership here. I think that's just political posturing.
Brown: Senator McCain.
McCain: I believe that we do have a problem and that is that there is a growing gap between the haves and the have-nots in America, those that are able to take part in this information technology and those that haven't.
We took a major step forward when we decided to wire every school and library in America to the Internet. That's a good program. We have to have step two, three and four, which means good equipment, good teachers and good classrooms.
Now, I would do it directly, but there are lots of ways that you can encourage corporations, who in their own self-interest would want to provide — receive tax benefits, would receive credit, and many other ways for being involved in the schools and upgrading the quality of the equipment that they have, the quality of the students, and thereby providing a much needed, well-trained work force.
Brown: Thank you.
Forbes: The key to helping Americans, who are born with the least in terms of education, is allowing parents to pick the schools they think best for their children. Then those schools will get their act together.
Government getting involved in this will just breed corruption, a lot of interests breaking off money on this.
The way you get universal access is to let technology flourish. The price of computing is plummeting. Access is becoming easier and more and more accessible. The government won't guarantee universal access. The free flow of technology will.
Brown: Thank you.
Bauer: Well, the facts of the matter are that in rural areas of America and in the inner city, kids are being left behind when it comes to the Internet. Once again we're leaving some of our children back instead of making sure they can take part in all the advances that I think are down the road.
The marketplace is great, but it doesn't always work perfectly. And as president, I would be willing to use the bully pulpit of my office in order to try to make sure that access was there. Also tax incentives for companies, I think that's a fair thing to do. While we're running a surplus, it seems to me these are some useful ways to use a little bit of that money.
Brown: Governor Bush.
Bush: I want to take off where Steve was. I think one of the — what he — what he mentioned was right, and that is our technology is changing so quickly that government programs are often obsolete as the marketplace changes. And I think about my rural Texas where we're going to have two-way satellite technology, broad-width technologies that will enable us to beam information from big cities to rural Texas.
And I worry about government funding and government programs that are haphazard and will be obsolete before they're even funded.
McCain: It was a government program that invented the Internet.
Shaw: Now questions from we moderators, for you candidates.
Keyes: I thought it was Al Gore.
McCain: I think it was Al Gore. I invented television.
Shaw: Senator McCain.
Shaw: You and President Clinton propose setting aside about two-thirds of the federal budget surplus and making it off limits for tax cuts. What do you say to critics who say your tax plan looks too much like President Clinton's?
McCain: Well, I think maybe President Clinton's looks too much like mine. He looked too much like me when he signed the Welfare Reform Act. He looked too much like me in a number of shifts that he made to the center for political expediency.
Look, we all know we've got a ticking time bomb out there, and it's called the Social Security trust fund, Bernie. And starting in 2014 there will be more money going out than in. According to Senator Gregg, Governor Bush's campaign chairman here in New Hampshire, there's a $5 trillion unfunded liability out there in the form of the Social Security trust fund.
It has to — if we can put the money in quick, then we will be able to allow people to invest their payroll taxes into investments of their choosing and make a huge amount of difference in the solvency of their retirement fund. This is a very, very important issue, because in good times — in good times, not bad times — when we have a surplus, we should give the middle-income Americans a tax break.
They need it. They pay as much as 40 percent of their income in taxes. But at the same time, people in New Hampshire are telling me, Senator McCain, save Social Security, put some money into Medicare, and pay down that debt, and don't put that burden on future generations of Americans.
More young Americans believe Elvis is alive than they believe that they'll ever see a social security check.
Shaw: But if this budget surplus...
Shaw: Projected surplus...
McCain: Sure, which is one trillion.
Shaw: Is less — is less — if it's less, what do you do?
McCain: Less than what? Less than projected?
Shaw: Than what's projected.
McCain: That's why I have percentages of the surplus to be put in. Sixty-two percent of the surplus to be put into social security, 23 percent in the tax cuts, 10 percent into Medicare and the remainder into paying down the debt.
And I agree with you, these estimates are economists' words for guesses. And I'm not positive that we will continue to have the surpluses as they are presently envisioned. So, therefore, we want to be cautious.
I think it's conservative in good times to put money into Social Security; it's conservative to pay down the debt; and it's conservative clearly to try to save Medicare; and at the same time, give these tax breaks to American families, including making that tax flatter up and up and up.
I want to lift the 15 percent tax bracket up to couples making $70,000 a year. I think we can do it.
Brown: Mr. Forbes, NASA has all but given up on its Mars explorer, Mars lander that is, a $165 million loss. It is the second such high profile Mars mission that's gone bust.
If you are elected president, would you encourage continued funding for Mars exploration?
Forbes: I think the answer is basically, yes, I would. I think NASA still has a role. It's very different today than it was 30 years ago when they were the only agency to be able to get real exploration and win that race to the moon.
So they are very good in terms of trying to get satellites up there, rockets up there to do research. What happened with Mars was a clear case of mismanagement. They tried to hasten the building of that particular vehicle, and then micro-manage it on the way. That doesn't work.
What I think we need more with NASA and with the Pentagon is less of this micro-managing, which adds hugely to costs, and have a fundamental reform of contracting where you say what your goals are with a vehicle or a weapons system, and then put it in what they call skunk works, where you say get the job done, we're not going to micro-manage you.
When that has been tried in government contracting with the Pentagon, it has led to good weapons systems, it has led to far lower costs and a far better timetable. And the same thing should be done with NASA. We want to go out to the stars. We want to go out to space. We are a curious people, and that's not going to stop. But NASA has to realize it's got to do it better and use those resources better to leave for the private sector.
Brown: Well, then let me follow up with a question as to how aggressive America would — America's space program would be in the 21st century, if you should become president?
Forbes: Oh, we're going to have a very aggressive space program. But unlike what we had 30 years ago, in the 1960s, 30, 40 years ago, you're going to see a lot more involvement by the private sector.
Thanks to technology this is becoming, in effect, cheaper and cheaper. They're finding new ways to get these rocketships up, and they should bear the risks when they don't work instead of American taxpayers.
So NASA has a role as prodder, with doing exploration, getting information. But I want the private sector to be more aggressively involved. Just as we did exploring the Earth, we can do now, thanks to technology, the same thing with space.
Brown: Thank you.
Shaw: Gary Bauer, six loyal and six capable Republicans dropped out of this race for your party's nomination. A prime reason, the front-loaded campaign calendar, not to mention money. Is it time to change the process?
Bauer: Well, Bernie, I don't know, but I have to tell you I would rather not answer process questions. You know we can have those debates in college universities and TV talk shows, I guess. But you know I don't think Americans are sitting around worried about the process of electing a president. I think they're worried about real problems that are effecting real families.
You know, the Second Amendment is under attack in courts all over this country. The fact that today 4,000 unborn children lost their lives because of abortion on demand. The schools not working. Babies being found in trash cans.
Those are the issues, Bernie, that I think voters in this state and around the country are focused on instead of the process of, gee, are we electing the president right? Should it be a primary or a caucus?
I think people want this campaign to be about them, about their families, their jobs, and their futures, and that's what I want to spend my time dealing with in this debate.
Shaw: If it becomes clear that you would not win your party's presidential nomination, when would you drop out?
Bauer: There you go again, Bernie. Look, you know, process questions may be great for Inside Politics when you've got about 10 minutes and you've got a few seconds with a candidate. You think that a worker here in New Hampshire that's not making enough money to get health insurance, or a mother here who sends her child off to school worried about whether there's going to be a school shooting, or a law-abiding citizen of this state that sees these liberal judges trying to change the law so that men can marry men and women can marry women, do you think they're worried about whether Gary Bauer is going to drop out, stay in or whatever?
This campaign shouldn't be about questions like that, it ought to be about the real concerns of these voters in this state.
Brown: Governor Bush, last week in New Hampshire, the wind chill temperature dropped in some places to 30 below. Also last week, home heating oil prices spiked 40 percent to where it now averages $1.72 a gallon. There are shortages of heating oil and kerosene and diesel fuel.
Yesterday, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said he would not tap U.S. strategic petroleum reserves in order to drive down prices, saying those reserves are for emergencies. But given the shortages that exist, do you consider this an appropriate time to tap those reserves?
Bush: No, I don't. I think I agree with the energy secretary that the strategic petroleum reserve is meant for a national wartime emergency.
What I think the president ought to do is he ought to get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say we expect you to open your spigots. One reason why the price is so high is because the price of crude oil has been driven up. OPEC has gotten its supply act together, and it's driving the price, like it did in the past. And the president of the United States must jawbone OPEC members to lower the price.
And if in fact there is collusion amongst big oil, he ought to intercede there as well.
I used to be in the oil business. I was little oil — really little oil. And so I understand the — I understand what can happen in the marketplace.
I think it's very important for us, though, to recognize that our country better become less dependent on foreign crude. That's why I am for the exploration of ANWR. That's why I'm for the exploration of natural gas, which is hemispheric. It's not subject to price.
In the meantime, I support the congressional delegation here in New England attempt to fund LIHEAP, which is that low-income heating assistance program.
Brown: Let me follow up by asking what pressures — specifically what pressures should be brought on OPEC nations to lift those production curbs?
Bush: Well, we've got good relations with a lot of members of OPEC. If the president does his job, the president will earn capital in the Middle East, and the president should have good standing with those nations. It's important for the president to explain, in clear terms, what high energy prices will not only do to our economy, but what high energy prices will do to the world economy.
It is in the Saudis' best interest for the price of oil to mellow out. It's not only in our country's best interests. It needs to be explained to them, it's in their best interests.
Brown: Thank you.
Bush: And I will do so.
Shaw: Mr. Keyes, what is your position on the death penalty?
Keyes: I believe that there are certain circumstances in which the death penalty is in fact essential to our respect for life. If we do not in our law send the message to everybody that by calculatedly, coldly taking a human life in a way that, for instance, assaults the structures of law in a society, or shows a cold-blooded and studied disregard for the value of that life, if we are not willing to implement the death penalty in those circumstances, then we are actually sending a message of contempt for human life.
We are encouraging people to believe that that step is not in fact a terminal step, when they fatefully and fatally decide to move against the life of another human being.
So I think that there are circumstances under which it is essential, in fact, that we have and apply the death penalty in order to send a clear, moral message to people throughout our society that we will not tolerate that kind of disrespect for life.
Shaw: In particular, in your judgment, what should be the minimum — the minimum death penalty age for young felons convicted of deadly crime?
Keyes: I'm not one of those folks who thinks that we ought to be lowering the age at which we adjudge people to be adults. I believe that the tendency in that direction now, to want to treat our children as if they are adults, is a confession of our own failure — our own failure as a society to maintain the structures of family life, to maintain the basis of moral education.
As a result, yes, we have children now in whom there exists a hollowing moral void. And those children engage in some acts that are heinous and shocking to us.
But at the same time, I think we need to respect the difference that exists between children and adults. We need to insist from adults on moral accountability and moral responsibility. We need to help our children develop that ability to be mature adults. But I don't think that we should take our failure of moral education on younger and younger children. I think that this is a great error.
Shaw: Beginning with Mr. Forbes, this question for all candidates.
Should it be a felony for the president to lie to the American people?
Forbes: This president has lied repeatedly. And I don't think it's going to work to, say, try to get in a situation where he may not say something for national security reasons, as Dwight Eisenhower did. But that is very different from lying under oath, which this president did. That is a felony, and he should have been removed for it.
It's also very different when he takes — has the FBI send over 900 files on his political opponents to his political operatives. That should have made removal from office. Real crimes, yes, absolutely.
Bauer: Bernie, lying under oath is a felony. That's absolutely right. The president I worked for, for eight years, Ronald Reagan, talked to me several times about what the Oval Office meant to him, that he would not go into that room without his coat and tie on. Presidents have sat there in that office and have made decisions that resulted in our sons going off to foreign battlefields.
This president sat in that office and we know what he did. In fact, he was on the phone with a member of Congress, talking about sending our sons to Bosnia, while he was in the middle of a disgusting act with a White House intern. This brings shame to our country.
Bush: Lying under oath is a felony. And all of us on this stage, can make the pledge that we will swear to uphold the laws of the land and the honor and integrity of the office to which we have been elected. That is going to be my pledge for the people of the country. And it's a pledge I'll keep, should I be fortunate enough to earn the presidency.
Keyes: Well, I think that lying under oath is clearly a felony, but we shouldn't think that that's how you take care of a president when he lies and disregards his oath. That is the responsibility not of the courts, but of Congress.
And I think that this Congress, under the corrupt pressure from a Democrat Party that surrounded its corrupt president, that refused, in fact, to apply the necessary strictures in order to call this nation back to accountability and integrity, they need to be held accountable.
The way in which you deal with a president's failure to respect his oath is the impeachment process and a willingness to remove him from office. If Congress doesn't have the guts to do that, then our Constitution has been gutted.
Shaw: Senator McCain.
McCain: I voted to convict the president of the United States on grounds that he lied under oath. In fact, there was a discussion at the time as to whether we expect the same standards of a member of the military as the president of the United States. No, we don't expect the same standards, we expect a higher standards from members — from the president of the United States than members of the military.
The people of this country are suffering from Clinton fatigue, and it's because they want someone who will look them in the eye and tell them the truth. That's the pledge I've made to the people of New Hampshire and the people of this country.
Shaw: Senator McCain, it is your turn now to lead the part of the debate that all of you candidates seem to enjoy most: questioning one another.
McCain: George, strangely enough.
Bush: My buddy.
McCain: We all know Washington spends too much money. In fact, last November there was an incredible bill passed full of earmarked pork barrel spending.
They spent the then-$14 billion surplus that was going to — supposed to be there for this year. And you said you supported that bill, and that you sign it as president of the United States. I voted against it, said as president I would veto it, and saw it as one of the most egregious practices.
Tell me, what corporate loopholes would you close? And what spending cuts would you make?
Bush: I'll tell you what I'm going to do. If I'm the president and you're a senator, you can come in my office and you can outline all the different corporate loopholes you think are wrong, and we can pick and choose.
But what I'm doing, John, is I'm selling my tax cut plan, without claiming I'm going to close some kind of a corporate loophole. I believe we've got $4 trillion over 10 years; $2 trillion of which will go to save Social Security and pay down debt; $1 trillion available for debt repayment and other programs; and $1 trillion over a 10-year period, for a meaningful, substantial, real tax cut to the people.
Your plan uses so-called "corporate loopholes" to pay for it; I use cash to pay for it. And if the money stays in Washington — my problem with your plan is that it's going to be spent on bigger government.
I believe that cutting the taxes will encourage economic growth. I believe cutting all marginal rates will keep the economy growing. I believe we ought to get rid of the death tax. I believe we ought to get rid of the earnings test on Social Security. I believe we ought to mitigate the marriage penalty. I believe we ought to use this time of prosperity to get money out of Washington, and into the pockets of the taxpayers.
McCain: George, you seem to depict the role of the president as a hapless bystander. This president is threatening to shut down the government and vetoing bills to force the Congress to spend more money. An active president of the United States — i.e., me — will veto bills and threaten to shut down the government to make them spend less money.
Look, you have been talking about how you want to increase the military. We don't have unlimited funds. Tell me, is there any military programs that you would reduce spending on?
Bush: Well, obviously, John, what's needed to happen is a top-down review of the military, so that there's a strategic plan to make sure that we spend properly.
I will give you an example of the Crusader, Howitzer program. Looks like it's too heavy. It's not lethal enough.
There's going to be a lot of programs that aren't going to fit into the strategic plan for a long-term change of our military.
But let me also say to you that it's the president's job to make sure Congress doesn't have the money to spend in the first place. It is the president's job to stand up, express the will of the people, advocate and fight for a meaningful, real tax cut. And that's what I'm going to do.
McCain: And I appreciate new dedication to reducing the debt. I — your plan...
Brown: Thank you, Senator. [crosstalk]
McCain: ... and I could have written myself. And I congratulate you.
Bush: No, no. Al Gore would have written your plan, Mr. Senator.
Brown: Governor Bush, you get to ask the next question.
Bush: To John — education has been a top priority of mine, and I've laid out a comprehensive plan to reform our schools. I believe in local control of schools, high standards and accountability. So part of my plan, John, says the schools that receive federal money to help disadvantaged students, must measure the results. If the students improve, the schools will be rewarded. If not, the parents will be free to make a different choice for their students, their children.
I know this works because I've seen dramatic improvement in schools in Texas by setting high standards and results. But two people have openly criticized this plan: you and the vice president. Why don't you think — why don't you think that high expectations will work? Why don't you think this plan will work?
McCain: Well, first of all, George, if you're saying that I'm like Al Gore, then you're spinning like Bill Clinton. OK. Let's — let's clear that one up.
Second of all, I believe that we need choice and competition in schools. The problem with yours is you give too much power to the federal bureaucracy in Washington. I want the states to make those decisions. I want to encourage charter schools. I want to have a test voucher program using ethanol, gas and oil subsidies and sugar subsidies so we can start a test program in the poorest school districts in every state in America.
You want to use funds from public education. I don't want to take funds from public education, I want to take it from the subsidies that you support. You went to Iowa and supported ethanol subsidies. You went to Florida and support the sugar subsidies. And we know how you feel about oil and gas subsidies. That's why I had the question about which subsidy would you do away with.
But the point is that if we have choice and competitions, charter schools, voucher programs, merit pay for teachers based on student performance, then we will give every American parent the choice that they deserve. And that is to send their child to the school of their choice. And that's an important element in any overall education program and proposal.
And moms and dads and kids deserve a lot better than what they're getting today.
Bush: So you support continuing spending federal money on Title I without any measurement, without any knowledge as to whether or not children are learning, without any information whatsoever as to whether or not local authorities have developed high standards and accountability measures. Do you support the current system?
McCain: George, as a governor you should understand and I thought you would cherish the rights and authority of the state rather than handing it over to Washington. Your proposal has that decision made by some nameless, faceless bureaucrat in Washington, D.C. They're the ones that tell the states they're not meeting the standards.
I want the folks in my state to set the standards and tell them when they're meeting the standards. That's the critical part.
Bush: Well, that's what my plan does, John.
McCain: No, you have the federal bureaucracy make it.
Bush: No, I beg your pardon, I wrote the plan.
McCain: But the overall problem too is that you're asking — you're asking to — money to take out of public education for vouchers when they need that money. Let's — let's kill off that sugar subsidy, let's kill off that ethanol subsidy that helps nobody except perhaps Archer Daniels Midland. And let's take that money and put it into the education of our children. That's where we can really help parents in America.
Shaw: Governor Bush, you have a rebuttal to that. Thirty seconds.
Bush: My rebuttal is that we spend a lot of money on disadvantaged children, which I support, but there must be high standards set at the state level. My program says states, John. I am a governor and I understand what federal controls are and I understand federal mandates, which I've opposed.
But I believe we owe it to our children to say to the state, You owe — You need to set standards and you need to measure.
And if the schools don't rise to the challenge, as opposed to allowing the status quo to reign, we need to free the children. We need to free the parents so they can make...
Shaw: Time's up.
Bush: ... so they can make a different choice.
Brown: Mr. Keyes, you get the next question.
Keyes: Thank you very much.
I'd like to address my question to Steve Forbes.
Steve, I'm very concerned with the surrender of America's national sovereignty, and steps that have been taken in recent years that undermined our allegiance and application of our Constitution. Particularly, I'm concerned that by joining the World Trade Organization and subjecting the American people directly to decisions taken by an unrepresentative body, that will then be applied directly to their affairs without the intervention of their elected representatives in the Congress or elsewhere, we subvert the American constitutional system.
Would you join me in a pledge, because of that assault on the Constitution which it represents, to withdraw this nation from this unrepresentative body, the World Trade Organization, and re-establish the sovereignty of the American people in their international economic affairs?
Forbes: I believe in the sovereignty of the American nation and the American people. I believe in a U.S., not a U.N. foreign policy. I believe that we should destroy or send the International Monetary Fund to the political equivalent of Jurassic Park, given what it's done.
Concerning the World Trade Organization, Clinton and Gore have made a total hash of the thing. The whole thing was supposed to be designed to mediate trade disputes, so they can reduce barriers that are in the way of our products and services. We're the biggest trading nation in the world. And they discriminate against our products like no other nation.
The WTO is like the woolly mammoth. I think we have to take direct action. If that organization can't get it's act together, let it stay on the side and we take direct action, as I propose to do, in reducing trade barriers with our partners, starting with the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement with Ireland and Britain. And we should do the same thing with Australia and other countries in the Pacific rim. That way we can stop this discrimination against our products and the WTO can go it's own way.
Keyes: Sadly speaking, though I will try to be as polite about it as I can. I seem to suffer from Gary's problem. I asked you a yes or no question and could not get a yes or no answer.
I think that the World Trade Organization — and this isn't a question just of its effects out there in the world. In principle, we have done something that undercuts the sovereignty of the American people, and that puts us in a position that violates the constitutional principle, no legislation without representation.
Will you withdraw us from the unrepresentative body?
Forbes: I'm not going to withdraw us from that body for the very simple reason, it's supposed to be there to help reduce barriers. If it doesn't, then we bid it goodbye.
We are a sovereign nation. If they do something that is truly egregious and breaks agreements on reducing trade barriers, we have the power to take direct action and pull out and say, No, we're not going to abide with it.
So this is an organization we should try to use to reduce our barriers, because our farmers are discriminated against, our manufacturers are discriminated against, our services are discriminated against. We need every vehicle and diplomatic tool possible to get those barriers down. Because when you have a level playing field, America reigns supreme.
And that's what I want. And if the WTO can't do it, I've got direct action in reducing those barriers. That's the key. We are sovereign.
Other nations are discriminating against us. As a businessman, I've seen how they do it. I know how to get these barriers down, unlike the Clinton-Gore administration.
Shaw: Mr. Forbes, it's your turn to ask a question of Mr. Bauer.
Forbes: Gary, there's a lot of movement now, that we read, about peace in the Middle East, and a lot of pressure being put by President Clinton on Barak to make an agreement with Syria, and make an agreement with the Palestinians.
It's two-part question. Do you believe, as I do, that this administration is pushing them to make a premature agreement that could hurt the sovereignty, and hurt the security of Israel, our own democratic ally in the Middle East? And, if they do push them into an agreement, would you go along with using tens of billions of taxpayers' dollars to finance an agreement with Syria and Israel?
Bauer: Steve, this administration has been tougher on Israel than it has been on China. You know, it looks the other way every time the Chinese have another affront against us. It gives them Most Favored Nation status, as you want to give them Most Favored Nation status. It continues to make deals with China, as you want to make deals with China.
But to specifically address your question, I think it's outrageous that our ally, Israel, has been getting the back of the hand from this administration. You've got this little democratic country in the middle of the Mid-East, surrounded by adversaries, with much more land. And what are we doing, and the rest of the world expecting, that little Israel has to sacrifice more land for peace and security?
If somebody told us that Governor Bush had to sacrifice a little bit of Texas for peace and security, we'd tell them where to go. I will stand with Israel as president of the United States, and I will not waste billions of dollars of the taxpayers' money to try to make up for mistakes that this administration is making in the Middle East.
Forbes: In terms of Syria, I think we'd all agree and I hope you do too, that at the very least we should demand of Syria that they cease financing terrorist organizations. This administration's turned a blind eye to it. And we should demand that Syria withdraw its strategic alliance with North Korea and Iran in developing missile technology.
Would you join with me in making that minimal demand of Syria?
Bauer: Steve, I — of course I will. But I just think you've got blinders on. You know the threat to America is not Syria. I will be very tough on Syria about their transfer of weapons, of supporting terrorists, but I'll do that to China, too.
You know that's the big challenge for America. I'm going to be tough in American foreign policy, not just against Syria but also against the Chinese and Beijing.
Shaw: Mr. Bauer, for Mr. Keyes.
Bauer: Alan, a couple of weeks ago, you criticized my good friend John McCain because he expressed some support of or interest in a controversial music group. In view of that I was a little surprised this week to see you fall in to a mosh pit while a band called "The Machine Rages On," or "Rage Against the Machine" played. That band is anti-family. It's pro-cop killer, and it's pro-terrorist.
It's the kind of music that the killers at Columbine High School were immersed in.
Bauer: I don't know, don't you think you owe an apology to parents and policemen on that one?
Keyes: Actually I don't, because I was in no — accusing me of having some complicity in that music would be accusing me of, I don't know, being responsible for the color of my skin.
When you can't control things, Gary, you're not morally responsible for them. And I was not morally responsible for the music that was playing as I stepped out of my rally and faced Michael Moore, whatever his name was, doing whatever he was doing. That's his concern, not mine. And until you told me this fact I had no idea what that music was. Contrary to our friend John McCain, who expressed the view that this was his favorite rock group. I think telling somebody that it's your favorite thus and such is actually taking responsible for the choice and making it clear to folks that this is something that you prefer and that this is something that you care about and so forth and so on.
To do it in a lighthearted way, rather than having it imposed on you by circumstances of which — over which you have no control is something that I think is totally unacceptable. So I think that I would beg to differ with you. I had nothing to do with that music, disclaim any knowledge of it.
Admittedly, I was willing to fall into the mosh pit, but I'll tell you something. You know why I did that? Because I think that exemplifies the kind of trust in people that is the heart and soul of the Keyes campaign. It's about time we got back to the understanding that we trust the people of this country to do what's decent. And when you trust them, they will in fact hold you up, whether it's in terms of giving help to you when you're falling down or caring for their own children.
So I thought that, as an emblem of that trust, it was the right thing to do. And anyway, my daughter thought it was a good idea.
Bauer: Well, daughters are extremely important.
Al, let me read a quote from you. You said that one of the most important things is the dignity of the presidency. In fact, you said that it's important that those of us that aspire to be president not act like guests on "The Jerry Springer Show," which is incompatible with the dignity of politics.
Now, I'll concede from your answer you didn't know about the music. But nobody made you jump in the mosh pit. Do you think that's consistent with...
Keyes: Oh, that's very true.
Bauer: ... do you think that's consistent with the dignity of the presidency?
Keyes: Well, I would leave that to the judgment of the American people. I do know that when I got down, one of the folks who was there with one of the news crews, looked at me and he said, You know, you're the only person I've ever seen dive into a mosh pit and come out with his tie straight.
And I think that — you know the real test of dignity, the real test of dignity is how you carry it through hard times. I think I learned that from my people. We went through slavery when we didn't have the outward signs of what others would call dignity. Because we understood that dignity comes from within, and that whatever circumstance you are going through, you can carry that dignity with you and no one can take it away.
So, I think you may have a misunderstanding of dignity. It doesn't come from what you do in a mosh pit. It comes from what you do as a result of the convictions of your heart. And I'll leave it to the American people to judge the convictions of my heart.
Shaw: Senator McCain, because of Mr. Keyes references to you, you've earned a rebuttal, 30 seconds.
McCain: You know, Mr. Keyes, you attacked me earlier on about my position on defending the rights of the unborn. I want to tell you something. I've seen enough killing in my life. I know how precious human life is. And I don't need a lecture from you.
Brown: Thank you. We're going to move on now.
Keyes: Excuse me. You gave Mr. Bush a rebuttal to his rebuttal. One small comment. I didn't lecture you, Senator McCain. I simply pointed out that...
McCain: The next time, try decaf.
Keyes: ... your answer showed no understanding of the issue of moral principle involved in abortion. And that inadequacy is not a lecture; it's simply an observation of fact.
Brown: We're going to move on to a question that all of you will have an opportunity to answer, 30 seconds each, beginning with Mr. Bauer. The question is this: The Commission for Presidential Debates has issued its criteria for determining which candidates will be admitted to the nationally televised debates this fall. One of the requirements is that all candidates must be showing 15 percent in the polls. Some feel that 15-percent rule has the potential to exclude independent candidates, specifically the Reform Party nominee. Do you think that's fair?
Bauer: I don't think it's fair. In fact, I think we should stop relying on polls period, whether it's to pick who's a serious presidential candidate, or what's even worse, to decide what policies we ought to be pursuing in Washington, D.C.
This process ought to be as open as possible. The American people deserve that. And they certainly deserve not to have elites, whether it's some organization of pollster somewhere, deciding who they're going to get a chance to hear from and who they're not going to have a chance to hear from.
Bush: Yes, I think it's fair. I do. Because I think otherwise there's going to be a stage with 50 people and it's going to be hard for the candidates who are — who have a chance to become the president to be able to make their case.
I hope the debates don't turn out to be a kind of Oprah Winfrey-style — who can walk around and who can feel people's pain the best.
I hope there're open, honest, straightforward dialogues based upon the philosophy. And I'm confident that any of us up here can take our philosophy and make the case to the American people, compared to who we may be running against.
Brown: Mr. Keyes.
Keyes: I think it's totally unfair. And I think it would give a dangerous power to pollsters, and to those who are capable of manipulating those polls. And I think it would be an anathema to the process that ought to leave these choices in the hands of the people.
You won't get 50 people on a stage if you set the threshold of participation in those debates at the proper level of qualification in states around the country. It was not easy for the Reform Party to meet the qualifications. But once they have objectively met the qualification to be on the ballot in a sufficient number of states to win the electoral votes needed for the presidency, no polls or anything else ought to keep them out of the debates. You are depriving the American people, when you do that, of a proper choice.
Brown: Senator McCain.
McCain: I don't know, I love debates. They're all fun. And the more the merrier. It's fine with me. By the way, George, we've had several offers for you and I to debate one on one. I've accepted them. I hope you will...
Bush: Well, that's because I wanted my other buddies to be here with us.
Bush: I didn't want to exclude anybody.
McCain: We can include them, and we can exclude them. We can have lots of debates. We've had several that they've just asked you and me to engage in.
Look, it's an important part of the political process. I think it's a great chance for people to really get to know the candidates. It's part of this political process. And I enjoy it. And I hope we can have lots of them.
Brown: Mr. Forbes.
Forbes: I think it is grossly unfair to put that kind of power in the hands of pollsters and elites. In Iowa the pollsters had me down. The media elites wanted to cut me out of the debates as best as they could. So I want to put it in the hands of the people, and not the elites. In terms of the debates, the reason they get to set those criteria is because taxpayers' money is used to finance those campaigns.
I want individuals to be able to finance America's campaigns and not have it subsidized by the federal government, where your money is used to subsidize views you may not agree with.
And also, too, in New York state, I've seen what the elites have done to try to knock us off the ballot if we're not chosen Soviet style.
Brown: Thank you...
Forbes: John McCain's a victim of it. I've been too. We've got stop it...
Brown: Thank you, Mr. Forbes...
McCain: Well said.
Brown: We're going to move on now to another round of questions from the moderators.
McCain: Help me out, George...
Brown: Governor Bush, the federal sentencing guidelines, which are applied for all federal convictions, have been criticized by many federal judges for being too inflexible and for not allowing a sentencing judge to take into account all relevant circumstances in passing sentence.
Should we restore greater discretion to the judiciary in deciding the appropriate sentence in each case?
Bush: No, no. I worry about federal judges who will use the bench to interpret the law the way they see fit. I think it's really important to have a president who appoints people who strictly interpret the Constitution and do not use the benches to write law. And I think it's very important for the legislative branch, with the signature of the president, to instruct federal judges as to how they ought to handle a case across jurisdictional lines. There ought to be a certain commonality.
So, no, I don't think we ought to be giving federal judges a lot of flexibility on sentencing guidelines.
Brown: Under the guidelines that exist, though, many non-violent first time offenders are incarcerated. Is that necessary or appropriate?
Bush: Not necessarily. I don't know all the federal laws, I'll be frank with you. In my state, we have given — you know, we've given first-time offenders some leniency. And I don't know all the federal law. I just worry about giving federal judges, who've been appointed for life, all kinds of leeway and latitude when it comes to sentencing.
Brown: Thank you.
Shaw: Mr. Keyes, in the interest of human rights, should the United States government fully open to the world its files on General Augusto Pinochet, the former dictator of Chile?
Keyes: I believe that would in fact be a proper move to make. I believe that information, the kind of thing that you spread knowledge amongst people in order to make sure that everyone will understand what the record is, is a correct and appropriate thing to do. We are a society in which that kind of freedom of expression is the foundation of integrity.
So I would have no argument with it, provided that you scrutinized that information to make sure that you release nothing that would be damaging to the national security of the United States.
With that proviso, I think we ought to do what is necessary in order to help people in the world understand the truth, in order to help people who may have been victims of injustice to seek redress of their grievances. I think that that is a step that is not only in the best interest of justice, but it's most consistent with America's ideal of justice for individual human beings.
Shaw: Could the United States be culpable in the disappearance of thousands of Chileans under the Pinochet regime?
Keyes: Well, I would certainly hope not. But it seems to me that that's the kind of question that you ought to examine with an open mind, look at the facts, and if those facts lead to culpability on the part of individuals who happen to be Americans, then we would pursue that according to our law and Constitution. Just as I believe it's appropriate for people in Chile and other countries to pursue those matters in ways that are appropriate with their laws and their constitution and their sovereignty.
We should not countenance, in this country, human rights abuses by people who are Americans. We don't believe in that, and I think we would move forward to do something about it. I don't think we ought to assume, however, that that is the case. But I don't think that we should fear to pursue justice in those cases.
Brown: Senator McCain, I want to return to a subject matter you alluded to earlier in our debate. The U.S. Supreme Court this week upheld the rights of states to cap the amount of an individual's contributions to political candidates. The court rejected the notion that contributions deserve First Amendment free speech protection.
Although the court didn't address the issue of soft money contributions, is this court's ruling seen as a stepping stone, in your eyes, to further campaign finance reform?
McCain: This court ruling is a magnificent affirmation of the efforts that I and reformers have been making for many years. And you know, Governor Bush says that it's unilateral disarmament if we get the special interests out of Washington. I see it as a clear road to victory. Because when I'm in the debate with Al Gore, I'm going to turn to Al Gore and I'm going to say, You and Bill Clinton debased the institutions of government in 1996 when you were engaged in reprehensible conduct, and then you said there was no controlling legal authority.
I'm going to give you a controlling legal authority. And I'm going to make what they did illegal.
And, George, when you're in that debate, you're going to stand there and you'll have nothing to say because you're defending this system.
You know, you've said that it's bad for our party if we have campaign finance reform. I've always had the belief that's what good for our country is good for our party.
Brown: Let me follow-up by asking you then, Senator, by and large the Republican establishment opposes the campaign finance reforms that you propose. Why is that?
McCain: Because there's an iron triangle in Washington, D.C., my friends, that have deprived you of your representation. It's big money and lobbyists and legislation that deprive you of your representation.
I'm going to break that iron triangle. They're scared to death down in Washington, in the lobbying community, because they know it's not going to be business as usual. And if there's anybody around that wants business as usual, they don't want to vote for John McCain.
I'm not proud when the Republican Party is taking $7 million from the tobacco companies. I'm appalled when I hear of these new setups of millions and millions of uncontrolled money that will never be disclosed.
We know what happened in '96; Chinese money flowed into the United States of America and our national security was compromised. That's wrong.
Brown: Thank you, Senator.
McCain: That's wrong. Until the last breath I draw, I'll give the government back to the American people.
Brown: Time. Governor Bush, I'm going to give you 30 seconds.
Bush: John, I don't appreciate the way you've characterized my position. I'm for reform. I sure am. Wait a — I'm for reform. I'm for getting rid of the corporate soft money and labor union soft money. But I want to make sure big labor — big labor toes the line, too.
And that's the difference between what you're for and I'm for. You are not — you are not...
McCain: You know and I know that labor gives millions of dollars...
Bush: May I finish please, John?
McCain: ... and it would be effective, also.
Bush: May I finish please?
McCain: Fine, I'll be glad to.
Bush: Please. Thank you.
You are — paycheck protection is important to make sure the playing field is level. And you can call all kinds of names you want, but the truth of the matter is, an overwhelming number of your members of the United States Senate, on the Republican side, do not support your plan, because it's not fair. And that's the reason why.
Brown: Thank you.
McCain we're going to — John McCain, we're going to give you 30 seconds to rebut.
McCain: Well, I mean look, we know what happened. We know what's happening. It's now legal in America for a Chinese army-owned corporation, with a subsidiary in the United States of America, to give unlimited amounts of money to an American political campaign. I don't know how you defend that.
We know that the labor bosses go down with the big checks. We know the trial lawyers go down with the big checks. We would ban that. Clearly we want paycheck protection, but we really we also know what's going on with some of your people right now. They're setting up soft money to be used in the general — at least the media reports — in the general campaign.
My friends, we've got to fix this system before it lurches out of control, and young Americans won't take part in the political process. We had the lowest voter turnout in history in the 1998 election.
Brown: Thank you, Senator.
McCain: These young people need to be brought back into the political process. I'll do that.
Shaw: Steve Forbes, this question for you.
If local and network television were to grant presidential candidates five minutes — five minutes of free air time, collectively, in prime time, nightly, would you forego using 30-second ads?
Forbes: Bernie, the answer is no, for a very basic reason. You just saw here, you violated the rules that you set for this debate. And the American people want to hear from all of the candidates. They want to hear it straight from the candidates. When you set — when you say you'll give candidates free time, nothing comes free from the federal government. There'll be strings attached. There'll be regulations. And this whole system in the last 25-years has been designed to keep outsiders out and to give incumbents real protection.
That's why the Supreme Court was wrong when it allowed those limits to stay in place. I want individuals to be able to have the freedom to give as much as they want to a candidate or a campaign as long as there's full and prompt disclosure.
Thirty years ago, in 1968, that was how a senator from Minnesota could challenge a sitting president. The rules are designed to perpetuate the establishment.
And so if you can get your message out in 30 seconds, do it. If you want to do it and raise the funds for 30 minutes, go do it. If you do it with the Internet, which I've done, getting a whole message out and showing that I have the real tax reform, unlike two of my colleagues here tonight who want to preserve the IRS as we know it, and not make fundamental tax reform, that is how you get the message you. You have a variety of ways to do it.
The government suppresses the free flow of information.
Shaw: Mr. Forbes, I'm confused by part of your answer. At one point you said you broke the rules here. Were you referring to the way this debate is being conducted?
Forbes: I was referring to the fact that you had a set with George Bush and John McCain, because, let's face it, the media thinks that's where the contest is. I wanted to put it in the hands of the voters. And I'm tired of these debates...
Shaw: What was agreed to, sir — what was agreed to, sir, was that if one of you attacked the other, the person being attacked would have a chance to respond for 30 seconds.
Forbes: OK. But in these debates, they always seem to try to have the rules, and they make rules and then they violate those rules. Gary and I could have a real set-to on China. Alan and I could probably do it on the woolly mammoth WTO. But it should be equal time for the candidates.
Brown: Mr. Bauer, you have said that you would require a litmus test for your Supreme Court nominees on the issue of abortion.
Brown: How far would you take that litmus test? Would you also require it for your secretary of education, your secretary of state, your secretary of defense and others?
Bauer: Right. Karen, I'm going to do as president whatever I have to do to end abortion on demand. This is the premier moral issue of our time. If we don't get this right, we're not going to get anything right.
We are destroying one-and-a-half million children a year. We've been doing that for 27 years. America is better than this.
It's interesting that you would call it a litmus test. That's the word liberals use to cower conservatives into doing what they ought not to do. A litmus test is just another word for a deeply held principle. This is a deeply held principle for me. I've got a 20-year record on it.
I'm going to appoint pro-life judges and pro-life people to everyplace in my administration, because I'm going to want the people in my administration to agree with me.
And I would just add that Governor Bush said this week that he thought Roe v. Wade was — quote-unquote — "a reach."
Governor, a reach? One-and-a-half million children a year. It's a darn sight more than a reach. It's a national tragedy.
My judges will be pro-life and abortion on demand will be over in my administration.
Brown: Mr. Bauer, since you have criticized Governor Bush about his stance on abortion, are you willing to say right now that you would not consider him for a post in your administration?
Bauer: You know, Karen, I'll answer the question, but I want to be sure...
Bush: Better ask me that question first.
Bauer: I want to be sure that you give the governor 30 seconds to respond to my attack on him, as we've seen several times here tonight.
The governor is a fine man, but I'm going to make sure that my running mate agrees with me on the issues. And I've asked the governor in four straight debates whether he will agree to appoint pro-life judges if he gets the nomination.
And four times in a row, Governor, you won't answer the question.
Bush: Well, let's make it five.
Bush: I will...
Bauer: I'm glad that you're honest about it.
Bush: I will appoint judges who strictly interpret the Constitution and who will not use the bench to legislate. And, you know, it's interesting, Ronald Reagan was asked this question in the 1980 debate. You probably remember it.
Bauer: I do remember it. I was with him.
Bush: Same answer. I gave the same answer. And I don't remember you standing up and saying, "Now, Governor, you gave the wrong answer."
Bauer: There's a big difference. There's a big difference. There's a big difference, Governor, and here's the difference. We've been promising, as Republicans, for 20 years that we would do something about this. And instead of keeping our promise, we've put judges like David Souter on the court. Seven of the current nine judges were appointed by my party.
Abortion ought to be over. We have not been serious about it. That's why I'm pressing you so hard on it.
Brown: Thank you very much.
We are now going to move to closing statements from the candidates.
Shaw: Thirty seconds each, beginning with you, Mr. Forbes.
Forbes: Thank you very much. It's been a great pleasure to be here tonight.
I'm an independent outsider. The Washington special interests have no hooks in me. I've got the conservative principles: Getting rid of this tax code and allowing you to keep more of what you earn, do it now, not five years from now.
I've got a plan of action on moving the life issue forward to the human life amendment; of giving you choice on choosing your own schools and choosing your own doctors, and having control of your Social Security system; of rebuilding our military and keeping faith with our veterans.
Forbes: But that can't be done with politics as usual, and I plead for your support. Thank you very much.
Brown: Senator McCain.
McCain: This may be the last time I have a chance to talk directly to the people of New Hampshire. My dear friends, thank you for letting Cindy and me be your temporary neighbors. This has been one of the most wonderful and uplifting experiences in my life. I will cherish this memory always.
I just had my 103rd town hall meeting in Plymouth Armory, and it, like every other, was an enlightening and wonderful experience for me. I'm grateful. I promise you again, I will always tell the truth. I'll reform the government.
McCain: And I'll inspire a generation of Americans to commit themselves to causes greater than their self-interest. And I thank you.
Shaw: Mr. Keyes.
Keyes: Well, I think the choice that Republicans face, you need to consider it in light of the fact that standing on the stage, we have one fellow who would give you Clinton's policy on gays in the military, "don't ask, don't tell," another who would support Clinton's policy on Social Security, another who will give you Clinton's trade policy and Clinton's globalism in foreign policy.
I think that as Republicans, we need to have a consistency in principle, go before the American people, challenging them to meet the moral crisis that is the chief issue of our day, and standing on conservative principles across the board in a way that will allow us effectively and coherently to answer the attacks of our Democratic opponents and offer a positive alternative to the American people.
Bush: I want to thank Senator Gregg and Congressman Bass and all of my friends here in the great state of New Hampshire for your hospitality and for your hard work. Keep at it. Election time is right around the corner.
I appreciate the people of this state giving me a chance to talk about my economic tax cut plan, to talk about educational excellence, to talk about rebuilding the military to keep the peace.
I want to remind the folks of this state I've got a positive record as the governor of the state of Texas, that I'm a uniter, not a divider. And I intend to lead our country to a better day.
Thank you very much, and I'm asking for your vote.
Shaw: Mr. Bauer.
Bauer: I'm the son of a janitor, and I know what it's like to live in a house where the paycheck lasts until Thursday but the bills last until Friday. I'm not going to forget average Americans.
I've had eight years of experience at the highest levels of government with Ronald Reagan. I know how the city works. I know how to get things done. I know what Reagan's values were and I want to finish his unfinished work.
Finally, I'm going to defend your values.
I will stop abortion on demand. I will protect the Second Amendment. We're going to stop illegal immigration.
With your vote, I can help America, together with you, become a shinning city upon a hill again.
God bless you and thank you very much.
Shaw: That concludes our Republican debate. Karen and I thank each of you, the candidates.
APP Acknowledgement: Debate transcript source provided by David Casalaspi.
Presidential Candidate Debates, Republican Presidential Candidates Debate in Manchester, New Hampshire Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/305687