T Nation

1st Debate Transcript

I’m sorry for starting another thread on the first debate, but I see the others already show signs of straying off-topic and into various other directions.

I’ve taken the time to organize the transcript so that we may more easily reference it (avoiding too much who said what banter) and cite it to help support our arguments about the merits and arguments of each candidate.

(Truth is, I wanted to steal away the crown from BB for longest copy & paste EVER!)

Good evening, Mr. President, Senator Kerry. As determined
by a coin toss, the first question goes to you, Senator
Kerry. You have two minutes.

Do you believe you could do a better job than President
Bush in preventing another 9/11-type terrorist attack on
the United States?

Mr. Lehrer Ninety-second rebuttal.

Mr. Lehrer Ninety-second response, Senator Kerry.

Mr. Lehrer New question, two minutes, Senator Kerry.
Colossal misjudgments, what colossal misjudgments, in your
opinion, has President Bush made in these areas?

Mr. Lehrer Ninety-second response, Mr. President.

Mr. Lehrer New question, Mr. President. Two minutes. What
about Senator Kerry’s point, the comparison he drew between
the priorities of going after Osama bin Laden and going
after Saddam Hussein?

Mr. Lehrer Senator Kerry, 90 seconds.

Mr. Lehrer Let’s do one of these one-minute extensions. You
have 30 seconds.

Mr. Lehrer Thirty seconds, Senator.

Mr. Lehrer We’ll come back to Iraq in a moment. But I want
to come back to where I began on homeland security. This is
a two-minute new question, Senator Kerry. As president,
what would you do specifically in addition to or
differently to increase the homeland security of the United
States than what President Bush is doing?

Mr. Lehrer Ninety-second response, Mr. President.

Mr. Lehrer Yes, 30 seconds.

?[quote]Mr. Bush Of course we’re doing everything we can to protect
America. I wake up every day thinking about how best to
protect America. That’s my job. I work with Director
Mueller of the F.B.I. He comes into my office when I’m in
Washington every morning talking about how to protect us.
There’s a lot of really good people working hard to do so.
It’s hard work

But again I want to tell the American people: We’re doing
everything we can at home, but you better have a president
who chases these terrorists down and brings them to justice
before they hurt us again.
Mr. Lehrer New question, Mr. President. Two minutes. What
criteria would you use to determine when to start bringing
U.S. troops home from Iraq?

Mr. Lehrer Ninety seconds, Senator Kerry.

?Mr. Bush Jim.

Mr. Lehrer All right, go ahead, yes, sir.
Mr. Bush I
think it’s worthy for a follow-up if you don’t mind.

Mr. Kerry Let’s change the rules we can have a-

Lehrer We can do 30 seconds each here.

Mr. Lehrer Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.

Mr. Lehrer All right, new question, two minutes, Senator
Kerry. Speaking of Vietnam, you spoke to Congress in 1971
after you came back from Vietnam and you said, "How do you
ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?’’ Are
Americans now dying in Iraq for a mistake?

Mr. Lehrer Ninety seconds.

Mr. Lehrer Thirty seconds, Senator.

Mr. Lehrer Thirty seconds, Mr. President.

Mr. Lehrer New question, Mr. President. Two minutes. You
have said there was a "miscalculation’’ of what the
conditions would be in post-war Iraq. What was the
miscalculation? And how did it happen?

Mr. Lehrer Ninety seconds, Senator Kerry.

Mr. Lehrer New question, Senator Kerry, two minutes. You
have repeatedly accused President Bush, not here tonight
but elsewhere before, of not telling the truth about Iraq,
essentially, of lying to the American people about Iraq.
Give us some examples of what you consider to be his not
telling the truth.

Mr. Lehrer Ninety seconds, Mr. President.

Mr. Lehrer Ninety-30 seconds. We’ll do a 30-second here.

Mr. Lehrer Thirty seconds, Mr. President.

Mr. Lehrer New question, Mr. President. Two minutes. Has
the war in Iraq been worth the cost in American lives:
1,052 as of today?

Mr. Lehrer Senator, 90 seconds.

Mr. Lehrer All right, sir, go ahead, 30 seconds.

Mr. Lehrer Senator Kerry, you have 30 seconds. Then a new

Mr. Lehrer Speaking of your plan, new question, Senator
Kerry, two minutes. Can you give us specifics in terms of a
scenario, timelines, etc., for ending major U.S. military
involvement in Iraq?

Mr. Lehrer Ninety seconds.

Mr. Lehrer Thirty seconds.

? Mr. Bush Yeah, let me ?[

Mr. Lehrer Yes, 30 seconds.

Mr. Lehrer Mr. President, new question, two minutes. Does
the Iraq experience make it more likely or less likely that
you would take the United States into another pre-emptive
military action?

Mr. Lehrer Senator Kerry, 90 seconds.

?Mr. Bush First, listen -

Mr. Lehrer Thirty seconds.

Mr. Lehrer Thirty seconds, Senator.

Mr. Lehrer New question, two minutes, Senator Kerry. What
is your position on the whole concept of pre-emptive war?

Mr. Lehrer Ninety seconds.

Mr. Lehrer New question, Mr. President. Do you believe that
diplomacy and sanctions can resolve the nuclear problems
with North Korea and Iran, taking them in any order you
would like?

Mr. Lehrer Senator Kerry, 90 seconds.

Mr. Lehrer I want to make sure-

Mr. Lehrer
Yes sir, we-but in this one minute, I want to make sure
that we understand - that the people watching here
understand the differences between the two of you on this.
You want to continue the multinational talks. Correct?

Mr. Lehrer And you want - you’re willing
to do it.

[quote]Mr. Kerry Both. I want bilateral talks which put all of the
issues from the armistice of 1952, the economic issues, the
human rights issues, the artillery disposal issues, the
D.M.Z. issues and the nuclear issues on the table.
Mr. Lehrer And you’re opposed to that, sir. Right?

Mr. Lehrer New question, two minutes. Senator Kerry, you
mention Darfur, the Darfur region of Sudan, 50,000 people
have already died in that area, more than a million are
homeless. It has been labeled an act of ongoing genocide,
yet neither one of you or anyone else connected with your
campaigns or your administration that I can find has
discussed the possibility of sending in troops. Why not?

Mr. Lehrer Ninety seconds.

Mr. Bush Back to Iran just for
a second. It was not my administration that put the
sanctions on Iran. That happened long before I arrived in
Washington, D.C.

In terms of Darfur, I agree it’s genocide. And Colin Powell
so stated. We’ve committ

(I guess it couldn’t all fit…here’s the rest, not as neatly dilineated–sorry)

Mr. Bush Back to Iran just for
a second. It was not my administration that put the
sanctions on Iran. That happened long before I arrived in
Washington, D.C.

In terms of Darfur, I agree it’s genocide. And Colin Powell
so stated. We’ve committed $200 million worth of aid. We’re
the leading donor in the world to help the suffering people
there. We will commit more over time to help. We were very
much involved at the U.N. on the sanction policy of the
Bashir government in the Sudan. Prior to Darfur Ambassador
Jack Danforth had been negotiating a north south agreement
that we would hope would have brought peace to the Sudan.

I agree with my opponent that we shouldn’t be committing
troops. That we ought to be working with the African Union
to do so. Precisely what we did in Liberia. We helped
stabilize the situation with some troops. And when the
African Union came we moved them out.

My hope is that the African Union moves rapidly to help
save lives. Fortunately, the rainy season will be ending
shortly which will make it easier to get aid there and help
the long-suffering people there.

Mr. Lehrer New question, President Bush. There are clearly,
as we have heard, major policy differences between the two
of you. Are there also underlying character issues that you
believe, that you believe are serious enough to deny
Senator Kerry the job as commander in chief of the United

Mr. Bush Whew. That’s a loaded question. First of all, I
admire Senator Kerry’s service to our country. I admire the
fact that he is a great dad. I appreciate the fact that his
daughters have been so kind to my daughters in what has
been a pretty hard experience for I guess young girls
seeing their dads out there campaigning.

I admire the fact that he’s served for 20 years in the
Senate. Although I’m not so sure I admire the record.

I won’t hold it against him that he went to Yale. Nothing
wrong with that.

My concerns about the senator is that in the course of this
campaign I’ve been listening very carefully to what he
says. And he changes positions on the war in Iraq. Changed
positions on something as fundamental as what you believe
in your core, in your heart of hearts is right for, in

You cannot lead if you send mixed messages. Mixed messages
send the wrong signals to our troops. Mixed messages send
the wrong signal to our allies. Mixed messages send the
wrong messages to the Iraqi citizens. And that’s my biggest
concern about my opponent.

I admire his service. But I’m, I just know how this world
works. And that in the counsels of government there must be
certainty from the U.S. president. Of course, we change
tactics when need to but we never change our beliefs, the
strategic beliefs that are necessary to protect this
country and the world.

Mr. Lehrer Ninety-second response, Senator.

Mr. Kerry
Well, first of all, I appreciate enormously the personal
comments the president just made, and I share them with
him. I think only if you’ve - if you’re doing this, and
he’s done it more than I have in terms of the presidency,
can you begin to get a sense of what it means to your
families. And it’s tough. And so I acknowledge - his
daughters, I’ve watched them, I’ve chuckled a few times at
some of their comments. And-

Mr. Bush Trying to put a leash on them.

Mr. Kerry Well, I
know- I’ve learned not to do that. And I have great respect
and admiration for his wife. I think she’s a terrific

Mr. Bush Thank you.

Mr. Kerry -and a great first lady. But we do have
differences. I’m not going to talk about a difference of
character. I don’t think that’s my job or my business. But
let me talk about something that the president just sort of
finished up with. Maybe someone would call it a character
trait, maybe somebody wouldn’t. But this issue of
certainty: It’s one thing to be certain, but you can be
certain and be wrong. It’s another to be certain and be
right or be certain and be moving in the right direction or
be certain about a principle and then learn new facts and
take those new facts and put them to use in order to change
and get your policy right.

What I worry about with the president is that he’s not
acknowledging what’s on the ground. He’s not acknowledging
the realities of North Korea, he’s not acknowledging the
truth of the science of stem cell research or of global
warming and other issues. And certainty sometimes can get
you in trouble.

Mr. Lehrer Thirty seconds.

Mr. Bush Well, I think - listen I fully agree that, uh,
that one should shift tactics and we will. In Iraq our
commanders have got all the flexibility to do what is
necessary to succeed. But what I won’t do is change my core
values because of politics or because of pressure. And it
is, ah, it’s one of the things I’ve learned in the White
House is that there’s enormous pressure on the president
and you cannot wilt under that pressure otherwise the world
won’t be better off.

Mr. Lehrer Thirty seconds.

Mr. Kerry I have no intention of wilting. I’ve never wilted
in my life. And I’ve never wavered in my life. I know
exactly what we need to do in Iraq and my position has been
consistent. Saddam Hussein is a threat. He needed to be
disarmed. We needed to go to the U.N. The president needed
the authority to use force in order to be able to get him
to do something because he never did it without the threat
of force. But we didn’t need to rush to war without a plan
to win the peace.

Mr. Lehrer New question. Two minutes, Senator Kerry. If you
are elected president, what will you take to that office
thinking is the single-most serious threat to the national
security of the United States?

Mr. Kerry Nuclear proliferation. Nuclear proliferation.
There are some 600-plus tons of unsecured materials still
in the former Soviet Union, in Russia. At the rate that the
president is currently securing that it’ll take 13 years to
get it.

I did a lot of work on this. I wrote a book about it
several years ago, maybe six or seven years ago, called
“The New War,” which saw the difficulties of this
international criminal network.

And back then we intercepted a suitcase in a Middle Eastern
country with nuclear materials in it. And the black market
sale price was about $250 million.

Now there are terrorists trying to get their hands on that
stuff today. And this president, I regret to say, has
secured less nuclear material in the last two years, since
9/11, than we did in the two years preceding 9/11.

We have to do this job. And to do the job you can’t cut the
money for it. The president actually cut the money for it.
You have to put the money into it and the funding and the

And part of that leadership is sending the right message to
places like North Korea. Right now the president is
spending hundreds of millions of dollars to research
bunker-busting nuclear weapons. The United States is
pursuing a new set of nuclear weapons. It doesn’t make

You talk about mixed messages: We’re telling other people
you can’t have nuclear weapons but we’re pursuing a new
nuclear weapons that we might even contemplate using.

Not this president. I’m going to shut that program down.
And we’re going to make it clear to the world we’re serious
about containing nuclear proliferation. And we’re going to
get the job of containing all of that nuclear material in
Russia done in four years. And we’re going to build the
strongest international network to prevent nuclear

This is the scale of what President Kennedy set out to do
with the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. It’s our generation’s
equivalent and I intend to get it done.

Mr. Lehrer Ninety seconds, Mr. President.

Mr. Bush
Actually, we’ve increased funding for, for dealing with
nuclear proliferation. About 35 percent since I’ve been the

Secondly, we’ve set up what’s called the - well, first of
all, I agree with my opponent that the biggest threat
facing this country is weapons of mass destruction in the
hands of a terrorist network. And that’s why we’ve put
proliferation as one of the centerpieces of a multiprong
strategy to make the country safer.

My administration started what’s called the proliferation
security initiative. Over 60 nations involved with
disrupting the transshipment of information and or weapons
of mass destruction materials. And we’re, been effective.

We busted the A.Q. Khan network. This was a proliferator
out of Pakistan that was selling secrets to places like
North Korea and Libya. We convinced Libya to disarm, it’s a
essential part of dealing with weapons of mass destruction
and proliferation.

I tell you another way to help protect America in the long
run is to continue with missile defenses. And we’ve got a
robust research and development program that has been
ongoing during my administration. We’ll be implementing a
missile defense system relatively quickly. and that is
another way to help deal with the threats that we face in
the 21st century. My opponent is opposed to the missile

Mr. Lehrer Just for this one-minute discussion here, is it

  • just for whatever seconds it takes: so it’s correct to
    say that if somebody’s listening to this, that both of you
    agree - if you’re re-elected, Mr. President, and if you are
    elected, the single most serious threat you believe - both
    of you believe is nuclear proliferation.

Mr. Bush I do - in the hands of a terrorist enemy.

Kerry Weapons of mass destruction, nuclear proliferation.
But again, the test of the difference between us: the
president’s had four years to try to do something about it.
And North Korea’s got more weapons. Iran is moving toward
weapons. And at his pace it’ll take 13 years to secure
those weapons in Russia.

I’m going to do it in four years and I’m going to
immediately set out to have bilateral talks with North

Mr. Lehrer Your response to that.

Mr. Bush Yeah, I, again, I can’t tell you how big a mistake
I think that is to have bilateral talks with North Korea.
It’s precisely what Kim Jong Il wants. It’ll cause the
six-party talks to evaporate. It means that China no longer
is involved in convincing, along with us, for Kim Jong Il
to get rid of his weapons. It’s a big mistake to do that.
We must have China’s leverage on Kim Jong Il, besides
ourselves. And if you enter bilateral talks, they’ll be
happy to walk away from the table. I don’t think that’ll

Mr. Lehrer All right, Mr. President, this is the last

Mr. Lehrer All right. Mr. President, this is the last
question and two minutes. It’s a new subject, new question
and it has to do with President Putin and Russia. Did you
misjudge him or are you - do you feel that what he is doing
in the name of anti-terrorism by changing some democratic
processes is O.K.?

Mr. Bush No, I don’t think it’s O.K. and said so publicly.
I think that there needs to be checks and balances in a
democracy. And made that very clear, that by consolidating
power in a central government, he’s sending a signal to the
Western world and United States that perhaps he doesn’t
believe in checks and balances. And I’ve told him that.

He’s also a strong ally in the war on terror. He is,
listen, they went through a horrible situation in Beslan
where these terrorist gunned down young school kids. But
it’s nature of the enemy. By the way, that’s why we need to
be firm in resolve in bringing them to justice. It’s
precisely what Vladimir Putin understands as well.

I’ve got a good relation with Vladimir. And it’s important
that we do have a good relation because that enables me to
better comment to him and to better to discuss with him
some of the decisions he makes. I found that in this world,
that it’s important to establish good personal
relationships with people so that when you have
disagreements, you’re able to disagree in a way that is
effective. And so I’ve told him my opinion. I look forward
to discussing it more with him as time goes on.

Russia’s a country in transition. Vladimir’s - is going to
have to make some hard choices, and I think it’s very
important for the American president, as well as other
Western leaders, to remind him of the great benefits of
democracy, that democracy will best, uh, help the people
realize their hopes and aspirations and dreams. And I will
continue working with him over the next four years.

Mr. Lehrer Ninety seconds, Senator Kerry.

Mr. Kerry Well,
let me just say quickly that I had an extraordinary
experience of watching, up close and personal, that
transition in Russia because I was there right after the
transformation and I was probably one of the first
senators, along with Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire,
former senator, to go down into the K.G.B. underneath
Treblinka Square and see reams of files with names in them.
And it sort of brought home the transition to democracy
that Russia was trying to make.

I regret what’s happened in these past months. And I think
it goes beyond just the response to terror.

Mr. Putin now controls all the television stations. His
political opposition is being put in jail.

And I think it’s very important for the United States,
obviously, to have a working relationship that is good.
This is a very important country to us, and we want a

But we always have to stand up for democracy. As George
Will said the other day, freedom on the march, not in
Russia right now.

Now, I’d like to come back for a quick moment if I can to
that issue about China and the talks because that’s one of
the most critical issues here - North Korea. Just because
the president says it can’t be done, that you’d lose China,
doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

I mean this is the president who said there were weapons of
mass destruction, said mission accomplished, said we could
fight the war on the cheap; none of which were true.

We can have bilateral talks with Kim Jong Il and we can get
those weapons at the same time as we get China because
China has an interest in the outcome too.

Mr. Lehrer Thirty seconds, Mr. President.

Mr. Bush You
know my opinion on North Korea. I can’t say it any more

Mr. Lehrer Right, well, what - he used the word truth

Mr. Bush Pardon me?

Mr. Lehrer Talking about the truth of the matter. Used the
word truth again. Did that raise any hackles with you?

Mr. Bush I’m a pretty calm guy. I mean, I don’t take it
personally. But, you know, look, we looked at the same
intelligence. And came to the same conclusion. That Saddam
Hussein was a grave threat. And I don’t hold it against him
that he said grave threat. I don’t, I’m not going to go
around the country saying he didn’t tell the truth when he
looked at the same intelligence I did.

Mr. Kerry It was a threat. That’s not the issue. The issue
is what you do about it. The president said he was going to
be build a true coalition, exhaust the remedies of the U.N.
and go to war as a last resort. Those words really have to
mean something. And unfortunately, he didn’t go to war as a
last resort. Now we have this incredible mess in Iraq, two
hundred billion dollars. It’s, it’s not what the American
people thought they were getting when they voted.

Mr. Lehrer All right. That brings us to closing statements.
And as, and again as determined by a coin toss, Senator
Kerry, you go first and you have two minutes.

Mr. Kerry Thank you, Jim, very much. Thank you very much to
the university again. Thank you, Mr. President.

My fellow Americans, as I said at the very beginning of
this debate, both President Bush and I love this country
very much. There’s no doubt, I think, about that. But we
have a different set of convictions about how we make our
country stronger here at home and respected again in the

I know that for many of you sitting at home, parents of
kids in Iraq, you want to know who’s the person who could
be a commander in chief who can get your kids home and get
the job done and win the peace - and for all the rest of
the parents in America who are wondering about their kids
going to a school or anywhere else in the world what kind
of world they’re going to grow up in - let me look you in
the eye and say to you: I defended this country as a young
man in war and I will defend it as president of the United

But I have a difference with this president. I believe
we’re strongest when we reach out and lead the world and
build strong alliances. I have a plan for Iraq. I believe
we can be successful. I’m not talking about leaving. I’m
talking about winning. And we need a fresh start, a new
credibility, a president who can bring allies to our side.

I also have a plan to win the war on terror - funding
homeland security, strengthening our military, cutting off
finances, reaching out to the world, again, building strong

I believe America’s best days are ahead of us because I
believe that the future belongs to freedom, not to fear.
That’s the country that I’m going to fight for. And I ask
you to give me the opportunity to make you proud. I ask you
to give me the opportunity to lead this great nation so
that we can be stronger here at home, respected again in
the world and have responsible leadership that we deserve.
Thank you and God bless America.

Mr. Lehrer Mr. President, two minutes.

Mr. Bush Thank you
very much tonight, Jim. Thank you, senator. If America
shows uncertainly or weakness in this decade, the world
will drift toward tragedy. That’s not going to happen so
long as I’m your president. In the next four years, we will
continue to strengthen our homeland defenses, we will
strengthen our intelligence gathering services, we will
reform our military - military will be an all-volunteer
army. We will continue to stay on the offense. We will
fight the terrorists around the world so we do not have to
face them here at home. We’ll continue to build our
alliances. I’ll never turn over America’s national security
needs to leaders of other countries as we continue to build
those alliances.

And we’ll continue to spread freedom. I believe in the
transformational power of liberty. I believe that a free
Iraq is in this nation’s interests. I believe a free
Afghanistan is in this nation’s interests, and I believe
both a free Afghanistan and a free Iraq will serve as a
powerful example for millions who plead in silence for
liberty in the broader Middle East.

We’ve done a lot of hard work together over the last three
and a half years. We’ve been challenged and we’ve risen to
those challenges. We’ve climbed the mighty mountain. I see
the valley below, and it’s a valley of peace. By being
steadfast and resolute and strong, by keeping our word, by
supporting our troops, we can achieve the peace we all

I appreciate your listening tonight. I ask for your vote.
And may God continue to bless our great land.

You win RSU - the longest post EVER.

There is no transcription of all the “uhhs” and “umms”.

There is no transcription of all the Bush smirks and scowls.

No mention of Bush leaning heavily on the podium, apparently unable to support his own bodyweight.

Somebody do a search on the transcripts and see how many times Bush said being president was “hard work”. At least 6 times, I’d bet.

That would explain the month-long vacation for all of August, just two weeks before 9-11. Bush was too tired to go to work.

If it’s such hard work, maybe we should give Bush a rest and let sonmebody else take over. Bush looked and sounded like he’s all worn out.

[quote]Lumpy wrote:
There is no transcription of all the “uhhs” and “umms”.

There is no transcription of all the Bush smirks and scowls.

No mention of Bush leaning heavily on the podium, apparently unable to support his own bodyweight.
True, very true…there should also be a series of ellipses where he hesitated for 3…4…5 seconds at a time, searching for words like “teared up.”

If it’s such hard work, maybe we should give Bush a rest and let sonmebody else take over. Bush looked and sounded like he’s all worn out.[/quote]

Sounds like a good idea to me Lumpy – see you at the polls, and bring some friends!