Presidential Debate Transcript
Full transcript of the first 2012 presidential debate.
— -- PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA AND FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, PARTICIPATE IN A CANDIDATES DEBATE, UNIVERSITY OF DENVER, COLORADO
OCTOBER 3, 2012
SPEAKERS: FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R-MASS.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
JIM LEHRER, MODERATOR
JANET BROWN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR,COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES,
FRANK FAHRENKOPF,CO-CHAIRMAN,COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES
MIKE MCCURRY,CO-CHAIRMAN,COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES,
BROWN: We'd like to get started on the program that you will see unfold here before the debate actually starts in the next -- slightly less than 30 minutes. My name is Janet Brown. I'm the executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates. And I'd like to welcome you to the first debate of the 2012 general election season. We are very...
We're very grateful to be here on this beautiful campus, very grateful to the leadership of the university, to the entire community, to the city of Denver, to the state of Colorado.
My happy duty is to introduce some people that will thank a lot of the organizations and individuals who have been working for two years to make tonight possible. There are many of them, and their contribution is critical to what you will see unfold here over the next hour-and-a-half.
BROWN: I am going to start by introducing the co-chairmen of the Commission on Presidential Debates, Frank Fahrenkopf and Mike McCurry.
FAHRENKOPF: Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman. And welcome to this great city, this great hall, and this most important debate.
This is actually a very, very important time for the Commission on Presidential Debates because this is our 25th anniversary. It was in 1987 when then Democratic Chairman Paul Kirk, when I was chairman of the Republican National Committee, formed the Commission on Presidential Debates. Tonight is the 23rd debate in the general elections that we've conducted through seven terms, seven different cycles. So it's a very, very important -- important time for us.
But it's also in one way a sad one for me, and that is that Paul Kirk is no longer the co-chairman of this commission. For most of you in this audience in Washington that you know, that when Ted Kennedy passed away, Paul was appointed and to serve in his seat until the special election was held in Massachusetts. And Paul at that time resigned.
But Paul was with us for 25 years. We know that he and Gail (ph) are sitting out on Cape Cod right now watching this on C-SPAN. And all of us on the commission, not only the members of the commission, but the people behind these cameras, the people backstage in lighting and the people with sound who have been doing this for 25 years, we miss Paul, we respect the great dedication he gave to this commission. And our best to him and Gail (ph).
It is also special because of the change in format that you're going to see tonight from what you've seen in the past 22 debates. The commission for a long time has wrestled with the question of how can we get more depth in discussion on the issues that are so important to the American people in making a decision who they're going to vote for.
And so the commission has proposed -- and you will see it put in place tonight -- 90 minutes divided into six pods, if you will, six sections of time, which will be covering six different subjects. And the moderator tonight, Jim Lehrer, focusing on domestic relations and domestic matters, will have the power to follow up and hopefully drill down and really give to the American people clear status from these two candidates of what they will do if they're elected by the American people on November 6th.
The same format will be held in the final debate, which will be held in Florida later this month. Bob Schieffer of CBS News will moderate that. And that focus will be on foreign policy.
We're also happy tonight to have with us in this audience four of the commissioners, members of the commission. I don't think we've ever had six of us together at one debate (inaudible). So I'm going to ask them if they would please stand when I call their name. The first, a former United States senator from the great state of Missouri, John "Jack" Danforth.
From the great state of Wyoming, former United States Senator Al Simpson.
From the state of California -- and I've always got to look at Antonia's (ph) title, because she's been with us so many years, she's the president of the California Community Foundation of Los Angeles, Antonia Hernandez (ph). Been with us for many years. Welcome, Antonia (ph).
And the newest member of the commission, which means a lot to me, I have a daughter and a son-in-law who are Golden Domers, who graduated from Notre Dame, and we're happy to add to our list tonight Father John Jenkins (ph), president of Notre Dome -- Notre Dame University in South Bend.
Now I have to lecture -- I have to lecture first about these things. Please not only but them on silent running, turn them off. This hall will be dark as we go forward. And, you know, even if you're -- you've got it on silent running and you turn it on, it flashes a light.
Hopefully we can live for 90 minutes without these things on. So please won't you join us, turn them off, keep them off, so that we won't interfere.
Secondly, this is not the primary debates, folks. And all the cheering that we just heard, we hope that we won't hear that anymore until the end of the debate. There are many people in this audience who really are part of history tonight, because you're here in person. But there'll be somewhere between 50 million and 100 million people sitting at home watching this, listening very carefully to the president and to Governor Romney, trying to make determinations as to what they're going to on November 6th.
FAHRENKOPF: It's wrong for us to intrude on them. So please, don't clap, don't cheer, don't make any noise. Jim Lehrer will talk to you again about this in a moment.
And we have a little surprise for those who don't follow the rules. This is a hockey arena, and what you don't know is we've built in secret trap doors under every seat. You can look down. You won't see it. But if you break the rules, a button will be pushed and you will be swimming with the fishes.
So please, very, very seriously, it's important that this be done in a way that we maintain the dignity of this event and we don't interfere with those people at home.
And now, my last chore is not a chore at all, but a great, great delight, to welcome the new co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates. Most of you will recognize him as the first press secretary in the White House for William Jefferson Clinton.
Mike, it's all yours, buddy.