First Debate Transcript: Page 5

Oct. 3, 2000 -- LEHRER: New question.

How would you go about, as president, deciding when it was in thenational interest to use U.S. force? Generally.

BUSH: Well, if it’s in our vital national interests. And thatmeans whether or not our territory — our territory is threatened, ourpeople could be harmed, whether or not our alliances — our defensealliances are threatened, whether or not our friends in the MiddleEast are threatened. That would be a time to seriously consider theuse of force.

Secondly, whether or not the mission was clear, whether or not itwas a clear understanding as to what the mission would be.

Thirdly, whether or not we were prepared and trained to win,whether or not our forces were of high morale and high standing andwell-equipped.

And finally, whether or not there was an exit strategy.

I would take the use of force very seriously. I would be guardedin my approach. I don’t think we can be all things to all people inthe world. I think we’ve got to be very careful when we commit ourtroops.

The vice president and I have a disagreement about the use oftroops. He believes in nation-building. I would be very carefulabout using our troops as nation builders.

I believe the role of the military is to fight and win warand, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place.

And so I take my responsibility seriously. And it starts withmaking sure we rebuild our military power.

Morale in today’s military is too low. We’re having troublemeeting recruiting goals. We met the goals this year, but in theprevious years, we have not met recruiting goals. Some of our troopsare not well-equipped. I believe we’re overextended in too manyplaces.

And, therefore, I want to rebuild the military power. It startswith a billion dollar pay raise for the men and women who wear theuniform, a billion dollars more than the president recently signedinto law, to make sure our troops are well-housed and well-equipped;bonus plans to keep some of our high-skilled folks in the services;and a commander in chief who clearly sets the missions, and themission is to fight and win war, and, therefore, prevent war fromhappening in the first place.

LEHRER: Vice President Gore, one minute.

GORE: Let me tell you what I’ll do. First of all, I want tomake it clear: Our military is the strongest, best-trained, best-equipped, best-lead fighting force in the world and in the history ofthe world. Nobody should have any doubt about that, least of all ouradversaries or potential adversaries.

If you entrust me with the presidency, I will do whatever isnecessary in order to make sure our offices stay the strongest in theworld.

In fact, in my 10-year budget proposal, I have set aside morethan twice as much for this purpose as Governor Bush has in hisproposal.

Now, I think we should be reluctant to get involved insomeplace, in a foreign country. But, if our national security is atstake, if we have allies, if we’ve tried every other course, if we’re sure military action will succeed, and if the costs are proportionateto the benefits, we should get involved.

Now, just because we don’t want to get involved everywheredoesn’t mean we should back off anywhere it comes up.

And I disagree with the — with the proposal that maybe only whenoil supplies are at stake that our national security is at risk. Ithink that there are situations, like in Bosnia or Kosovo wherethere’s a genocide, where our national security is at stake there.

LEHRER: Governor?

BUSH: I agree that our military is the strongest in the worldtoday. That’s not the question. The question is will it be strongestin years to come? And the warning signs are real. Everywhere I goaround the campaign trail, I see people who — moms and dads whose sonor daughter may wear the uniform, and they tell me about howdiscouraged their son and daughter may be.

A recent poll was taken amongst 1,000 enlisted personnel, as wellas officers, over half of whom are going to leave the service whentheir time of enlistment is up. The captains are leaving the service.

There is a problem, and it’s going to require a new commander inchief to rebuild the military power.

The other day, I was honored to be flanked by Colin Powell andGeneral Norman Schwarzkopf, who stood by my side and agreed with me.

They said we could, even though we’re the strongestmilitary, that if we don’t do something quickly, we don’t have aclearer vision of the military, if we don’t stop extending our troopsall around the world in nation-building missions, then we’re going tohave a serious problem coming down the road. And I’m going to preventthat. I’m going to rebuild our military power. It’s one of the majorpriorities of my administration.

LEHRER: Vice President Gore, how should the voters go aboutdeciding which one of you is better suited to make the kind ofdecisions we’ve been — whether it’s Milosevic or whether it’s whatever, in the military and foreign policy area?

GORE: Well, they should look at our proposals and look at us aspeople and make up their own minds.

When I was a young man, I volunteered for the Army. I served mycountry in Vietnam. My father was a senator who strongly opposed theVietnam War. I went to college in this great city and most of mypeers felt against the war, as I did.

But I went anyway, because I knew if I didn’t, somebody else inthe small town of Carthage, Tennessee, would have to go in my place.

I served for eight years in the House of Representatives, and Iserved on the Intelligence Committee, specialized in looking at armscontrol. I served for eight years in the United States Senate andserved on the Armed Services Committee. For the last eight years,I’ve served on the National Security Council.

And when the conflict came up in Bosnia, I saw a genocide in theheart of Europe, with the most violent war on the continent of Europesince World War II. Look, that’s where World War I started, in theBalkans.

GORE: My uncle was a victim of poison gas there. Millions ofAmericans saw the results of that conflict.

We have to be willing to make good, sound judgments.

And, incidentally, I know the value of making sure our troopshave the latest technology. The governor’s proposed skipping the nextgeneration of weapons. I think that’s a big mistake, because I thinkwe have to stay at the cutting edge.

LEHRER: Governor, how would you advise the voters to make thedecision on this issue?

BUSH: Well, I think you’ve got to look at how one has handledresponsibility in office, whether or not — it’s the same in domesticpolicy as well, Jim, whether or not you’ve got the capacity toconvince people to follow, whether or not one makes decisions based onsound principles, or whether or not you rely upon polls and focusgroups on how to decide what the course of action is.

We’ve got too much polling and focus groups going on inWashington today. We need decisions made on sound principles.

I’ve been the governor of a big state. I think one of thehallmarks of my relationship in Austin, Texas, is, is that I’ve hadthe capacity to work with both Republicans and Democrats. I thinkthat’s an important part of leadership. I think of what it means tobuild consensus. I’ve shown I know how to do so.

As a matter of fact, tonight in the audience there’s one electedstate senator who’s a Democrat, a former state rep who’s a Democrat, couple of — one statewide officer’s a Democrat. I mean, there’s a lot of Democrats who are here in the debate too …

LEHRER: Go ahead.

GORE: Go ahead.

BUSH: … because they want to show their support, that shows Iknow how to lead.

And so the fundamental answer to your question: Who can lead,and who has shown the ability to get things done.

GORE: If I could say one thing …


LEHRER: All right. We’re way over the three-and-a-half minutes.Go ahead.

GORE: I think one of the key points in foreign policy andnational security policy is the need to reestablish the old-fashionedprinciple that politics ought to stop at the water’s edge.

When I was in the United States Congress, I worked with formerPresident Reagan to modernize our strategic weaponry and to pursuearms control in a responsible way. When I was in the United StatesSenate, I worked with former President Bush, your father, and was oneof only a few Democrats in the Senate to support the Persian Gulf War.

I think bipartisanship is a national asset, and we have to findways to reestablish it in foreign policy and national security policy.

LEHRER: In a word, do you have a problem with that?

BUSH: Yes, why haven’t they done it in seven years?

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