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Text: Richard B. Cheney on NBC's 'Meet the Press'

Sunday, August 27, 2000

Following is the transcript of Republican vice presidential nominee Richard B. Cheney's appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," hosted by Tim Russert. Other guests included Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio).

RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: Bush and Gore battle over military preparedness.


GOVERNOR BUSH: The next president will inherit a military in decline.

VICE PRESIDENT GORE: It's the wrong message to send our allies and adversaries across the world.


RUSSERT: With us, the Republican nominee for vice president, former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney.

And the candidates exchange fire over tax cuts.


VICE PRESIDENT GORE: I will never support a tax cut for the wealthy at the expense of everyone else, that wrecks our economy in the process.

GOVERNOR BUSH: I believe the surplus is the people's money, and we ought to send some of it back to the people who pay the bills.


RUSSERT: With us, Gore supporter and vice presidential finalist John Kerry of Massachusetts, Bush supporter and former presidential candidate John Kasich of Ohio. Kerry and Kasich square off.

And the debate over debates. It's not new.

Our MEET THE PRESS minute from 16 years ago this very weekend--


RONALD REAGAN CAMPAIGN MANAGER JAMES BAKER: We will be listening to proposals from the other side, because the other side are the ones who are making all the noise about debates.


RUSSERT: But, first, joining us now from his home state of Wyoming, the man who wants to be vice president, Dick Cheney.

Good morning. Welcome.

CHENEY: Good morning, Tim.

RUSSERT: Ever since Al Gore selected Joe Lieberman and the Democrats had their convention in Los Angeles, every national poll now shows Gore-Lieberman ahead of Bush-Cheney. Have you become the underdogs?

CHENEY: Well, I don't know, Tim. It looks to me like they got a good post-convention bounce out of their show in California, but it also would seem that it's starting to fade now, and I think by the time we get to Labor Day this will be a close race. We always thought it would be and I think it will be.

RUSSERT: Do you think Al Gore's message of "the people, not the powerful" is resonating?

CHENEY: I really don't think so. I find--of course, I'm out there on the campaign trail, too, and what I find as I travel around, is that this notion of trying to, sort of, pit "we against them," or "we're fighting against the powerful"...

I mean, these guys have been running the country for the last seven and a half years, supposedly, a good president of the United States, vice president of the United States, and if they aren't powerful, I don't know who is.

It strikes me that it's a--it sounds harsh and strident. It's exactly the wrong kind of approach, if you want to try to change the tone in Washington, if you want to end the partisan bickering. If you want to try to build bipartisan coalitions and seriously get something done for the country, that's not the way to go about it.

RUSSERT: The issue of military preparedness--let me show you what Joe Lieberman had to say in his acceptance speech in Los Angeles.


SENATOR JOE LIEBERMAN: Two weeks ago, our opponent claimed that America has a hollow military. I must tell you that made me angry. Our fighting men and women are the best-trained, best-equipped, most powerful fighting force in the history of the world.


RUSSERT: Is Senator Lieberman correct?

CHENEY: Well, I think if you match our forces today up against any others around the world, we've got the best force. The problem is it's in decline, and this administration has done very little to reverse that decline. They have, in fact, significantly expanded our commitments, even as they cut the size of the force.

There is an enormous amount of evidence out there, Tim, that the question in terms of readiness and morale, the problems with recruiting, problems with the retention, that the military is in trouble today.

RUSSERT: A lot of critics, Republicans and Democrats, have said that the candidate for president on the Republican side was guilty of exaggeration and hyperbole with this comment at the Republican convention in Philadelphia.


GOVERNOR BUSH: Our military is low on parts, pay and morale. If called on by the commander in chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report, "Not ready for duty, sir."


RUSSERT: That's not correct, is it, Mr. Secretary?

CHENEY: It was correct based on the data that the Army produced at the end of last year, which that statement was based on. There were, in fact, two divisions that weren't ready.

The point here--I mean, let me cite some specifics for you, Tim, if you want to get into specifics. The Army this spring released a report that showed that 40 percent of their helicopters are not combat-ready, showed that the average number of flying hours that a battalion commander, aviation battalion commander has now, 1,000 hours on average, is half of what it used to be 10 years ago.

It shows that if you look, for example, at readiness levels in the Air Force, that compared between the beginning of this administration when 85 percent of their combat units were combat-ready, today it's only about 65 percent.

You can talk about a recent survey by the General Accounting Office of over 1,000 young officers that shows basically that over half of them are getting ready to get out at the end of the first term because of their dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs. It goes on and on and on, and the only conclusion I can draw from Al Gore's comments about all of this is that either he doesn't know what's going on in the U.S. military or he chooses not to tell the truth about it.

RUSSERT: But to be commander in chief, you must be very precise in your language, and when Governor Bush said that if called on by the commander in chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report not ready. That's not accurate. Let me show what ...

CHENEY: That was the data, that was the data that was available from the Army itself at the end of last year.

RUSSERT: Well, let me show you an exchange between Senator Carl Levin of the Armed Service Committee and Richard Armitage (ph), a Bush foreign policy adviser.

Senator Levin: I want to go back to the two divisions not being ready for duty because Mr. Armitage (ph) has not answered that. Are those two divisions ready for duty or aren't they?

Richard Armitage (ph), Bush foreign policy adviser: I believe those two divisions, Senator, are ready for duty.

If a Democrat stepped forward and said two divisions were not ready for duty and in fact they were, can you imagine the response from the Republicans?

CHENEY: Well, but again, Tim, go back and look at the Army's own report, readiness report that they filed last year.

RUSSERT: Last year.

CHENEY: That's, in fact, what it said. And since then, they may well have corrected the problems in those units, so that they now meet the C-1 classification and criteria. But the bigger point here, Tim, it's not just about two divisions, it's about the entire military.

It's about the fact, for example, that both the Army and Navy for five years in a row have fell short of meeting their commissioning requirements. It's the fact that they're not meeting their recruiting requirements. It's the fact that we've got more Marine captains, for example, now, leaving the service after their term instead of re-enlisting than any time in the last ten years.

The data is there for anybody who wants to go look at it and anybody who wants to spend time on it. I can give you anecdotal examples or we give you analysis, the fact of the matter is, the military is in decline. It's not as good as it used to be, and it's going to take significant effort to reverse that and turn it around.

The even bigger problem, Tim, isn't readiness. The bigger problem's investment in the future. The fact is it takes a very long time to create a quality military force. The numbers, when I was there, was from the time Congress authorized an aircraft carrier until you had a full-up round ready to go to war was almost nine years, 25 years to train an officer capable of commanding a modern armored division in combat. When we bring on new technology for an airplane, it's as much as 13 years.

So you need to be investing in the future, you need to be invested in the new technology because the decisions you make today are about what the force looks like 15, 20 years down the road.

And we're short there as well, too. We've had the delay on ballistic missile defense. We were moving aggressively to deploy what we call global protection against limited strikes, when I was there. And what's happened, of course, is they've been dead in the water now for several years. And only within the last year or two as the election got close did they decide they wanted to do something about ballistic missile defense.

RUSSERT: All right. Democrats will say, that is precisely the problem, that decisions made eight, nine years ago are what the problem you're seeing manifested today.

This is how the Associated Press dealt with it. They said, "The shrinking of America's military now decried by George W. Bush as one of the Clinton administration's biggest sins, was pushed by his running mate, Dick Cheney, as secretary of defense for Bush's father a decade ago. Cheney, in 1990, proposed a gradual 25-percent reduction in the military. He called for withdrawing tens of thousands of troops from Europe, canceling weapons programs, removing 442,000 men and women from the military over five years."

And one of your successors, Secretary of Defense William Perry, went further. This is what he told AP. Former Clinton Defense Secretary William Perry, speaking on behalf of the Gore campaign, said that blaming Clinton for cutting the military leaves out a big piece of the story. Quote, "In fact, two-thirds of the reductions in the military have been made by the previous administration. I think people might be suffering from a case of amnesia."

How is your memory, Mr. Secretary?

CHENEY: Well, it's, I think, better than theirs. Remember what transpired here, Tim. When we came in in '89, we still had a Cold War. We had to be ready to fight an all-out global nuclear war that would begin with a few hours' notice. We had to be prepared to have 10 divisions in Europe within 10 days of a decision to mobilize and to deal with 100 Soviet-led divisions invading Western Europe from the inner German border. We had big forces then.

Then we won the Cold War. We prevailed. The Soviet Union imploded and went away. They withdrew from Eastern Europe. And all of us agreed that it was time to downsize the force and to change the basic strategy, and we did that.

But if you go look at those quotes, we said 25-percent reduction in force structure. What's happened? Well, they've cut, not 25 percent, but a lot more than that. They've gone from 18 divisions in the Army to 10 divisions. They've gone from 24 wings in the Air Force to 13 wings in the Air Force. They've gone from almost 600 ships in the Navy, now headed towards less than 300.

The fact of the matter is they've continued to cut. They've cut too far. They've cut too deep. They've also added commitments. The big part of the difficulty out there today is that the force is spread so thin.

So, without question, we did, in fact, start the drawdown as the Cold War ended. I think that was fully justified. I think that Congress would not have supported maintaining the Cold War force without a Cold War. But we had a strategy for doing it. Colin Powell, for example, helped me put together that plan that we pursued. And it was a good plan and it was a responsible plan.

What the Clinton-Gore administration has done is to short-change the military, continue to impose significant burdens on them, and not made the kinds of investments that need to be made.

It's like a huge ship, Tim. It takes a long time to turn it around, and when you get to this level, then you're going--it's going to take time to fix it. But it does need to be fixed. Again, as I say, there are two possibilities here. Either they don't know what's going on with the U.S. military, or they choose not to tell the truth about it.

RUSSERT: But Bush-Cheney cut defense spending more in real dollars than Clinton-Gore.

CHENEY: We won the Cold War, Tim. And the fact of the matter is, the efforts that were laid in the early Reagan years when we rebuilt the military contributed directly to our success in the Cold War. But you're, you know, absolutely right. When the Cold War ended, we moved and developed a whole new strategy. It wasn't just cut.

We shifted from the situation of having to be prepared to fight an all-out global conflict and moving to a regionally-based strategy, being able to defend key regions of the world that were vital to us from being dominated by a hostile power, for example, in Desert Storm.

If you go look at the data, go spend time talking to the troops, dig into the military, talk to General Zinney, who just retired as the central commander in the Persian Gulf, and he's quoted as saying, when he retired just a few weeks ago, that the military has inadequate resources and too many commitments for the size of the force. That's what we've gotten out of the Clinton administration.

RUSSERT: The Bush-Cheney campaign put out a statement, "Gore AWOL on veterans' issues." A-W-O-L. Al Gore is a Vietnam veteran. Is it appropriate to use a word like AWOL to describe his conduct?

CHENEY: I haven't seen this statement. And I think it refers specifically to veterans' issues, but I haven't seen the statement, Tim.

RUSSERT: Senator John Kerry, who's coming on next, has written a letter to you and to Governor Bush, saying it really is inappropriate to use that kind of word because it has such a powerful connotation, and you should stop using it. Do you think it is prudent to use the word AWOL to describe Al Gore?

CHENEY: I haven't used it, Tim.

RUSSERT: Well, your campaign did.

CHENEY: Well, I'm sorry. But, again, I have not used that word. And I don't think it's appropriate for you to attribute it to me, to suggest I have. I haven't.

RUSSERT: It's on Bush-Cheney campaign stationery.

CHENEY: Well, I haven't seen it.

RUSSERT: Would you recommend that your campaign not issue that word in the future?

CHENEY: Tim, I haven't seen it. When I see it, I'll be happy to form an opinion of it.

RUSSERT: Saddam Hussein has not let inspectors into Iraq for nearly two years. The United Nations has now reconstituted its inspection force. If Saddam refuses to allow inspections of his nuclear, biological and chemical piles, what should the United States do?

CHENEY: I think we have to continue to monitor the situation very carefully. There's no question but what the previous inspection regime and, before that, the military action we undertook in Desert Storm did very significant damage to Saddam's military capabilities, including in this these areas.

But, over time, we have to watch carefully to see to it that he doesn't get involved in trying to recreate this capability. And, of course, the ultimate sanction always is the possibility of having to use military force--launch air strikes to hit specific targets that are related to that production, as has happened in the past.

In the meantime, I think we want to maintain our current posture vis-a-vis Iraq. We want to see to it that we keep the coalition in force, we maintain the sanctions that are currently on, and can keep the pressure on, and hopefully there will be a change in the government in Iraq before too long.

RUSSERT: Should we insist that Saddam allow inspections to go on or there will be a military strike?

CHENEY: I think we have to insist that he allow inspections to go on or there will be no lifting of the sanctions. Whether or not there ought to be a military strike, I think, would depend on circumstances, and at this point, I don't have enough information to say there should be. I don't know enough in terms of details about whether or not that would be appropriate today.

RUSSERT: Do you regret not taking Saddam out nine years ago?

CHENEY: I don't, Tim. It was--and it's been talked about since then. But the fact of the matter is the only way you could have done that would be to go to Baghdad and occupy Iraq. If we had done that, the U.S. would have been all alone. We would not have had the support of the coalition, especially of the Arab nations that fought alongside us in Kuwait. None of them ever set foot inside Iraq.

In conversations I had with leaders in the region afterwards, they all supported the decision that was made not to go to Baghdad. They were concerned that we not get into a position where we shifted instead of being the leader of an international coalition to roll back Iraqi aggression to one in which we were an imperialist power willy-nilly moving in to capitals in that part of the world, taking down governments.

So I think we got it right. So I suppose it's one of those things that will be debated for some time. But I thought the decision was sound at the time, and I do today.

RUSSERT: Let me turn to a couple other issues. Prescription drugs. The Republicans and Governor Bush is saying he'll have a specific plan shortly. What's wrong with Al Gore's plan on prescription drugs, specifically?

CHENEY: Well, part of it is we need to really reform the Medicare system, and, of course, that hasn't happened yet. This administration has been there for seven and a half years and hasn't dealt with it or addressed it.

We're working right now. Governor Bush has made it clear that he too wants to address this issue of prescription drugs for our seniors. And work is underway, and we'll shortly have a detailed proposal to put forth, and then people will be able to compare what we're suggesting versus what the Gore campaign has suggested.

RUSSERT: But do you have any real objections with Al Gore's plan?

CHENEY: Again, Tim, I want to wait, and we'll put forward our ideas. And that will be very soon, and people can then respond to that.

RUSSERT: There's a lot of talk that President Clinton will insist this fall with Congress that his prescription drug plan be adopted, and if the Republicans don't, they'll be forced to, in fact, shut down the government.

CHENEY: Well, Tim, you know, we listen to Bill Clinton. They've been there for seven and a half years. They have squandered literally their opportunities. They haven't put forth a proposal on Social Security. They haven't dealt with Medicare reform. When they had a commission that came up with a proposal, they disavowed their own commission.

They haven't dealt with education. We had a report out just this week, the national assessment of education, which shows there's been absolutely zero improvement in reading levels among our students over the last six years, from '92 to '98.

They haven't dealt with the problems in the military, and now what we get is what we always get from Bill Clinton. There's a lot of political hoorah in the closing stages of the session, but he's not serious about dealing with real problems.

This administration hasn't been serious about dealing with the real problems; that's one of the reasons we think change is in order and one of the reasons, we believe, the American people will vote for us on November 7.

RUSSERT: One of the things Bill Clinton did was designate about 4 million acres in land out West as monuments, which would deny people the opportunity to graze or log or mine.

Let me show you some of those sites, the Canyons of the Ancients in Colorado; Cascades, Siskiyou in Oregon; Hanford Beach in Washington; Ironwood Forest in Arizona; Giant Sequoia in California; Grand Canyon in Arizona; Aqua Fria in Arizona; California Coastal in California; The Pinnacles in California; the Grand Staircase Escalante in Utah.

You said that he's approached this willy-nilly and that you would at perhaps rescinding some of those designations. Which of those monument designations would you rescind?

CHENEY: Well, I was asked specifically, Tim, whether or not the Bush administration would review those, and I said I thought we'd look at them on a case by case basis. The difficulty here, I don't think is so much any one particular problem area as it is this whole process that's been used or misused here.

When I was a Congressman from Wyoming, I got legislation passed that set aside nearly 1 million acres as wilderness in Wyoming that couldn't be developed, but we did it only after there had been extensive consultation by all the interests involved, the farmers and the environmental groups and the industrialists and tourism and so forth.

That kind of process has not taken place there. It's been a matter of Bill Clinton unilaterally using his executive authority to put areas off-limits without any consultation with the members of Congress affected, without any consultation with the governors or state legislators or county commissioners, and I think that process itself has been flawed, that what you end of with is a lot of people who are unhappy because they didn't have the opportunity to be heard before the decision was made. But that's the reaction, I think, that we're seeing in the West...

RUSSERT: But you would not specifically rescind any of those monuments?

CHENEY: First of all, it's not my decision to make. Vice presidents don't have much authority. But I do think it's appropriate for us to review the process; it would review the decisions that were made and see whether or not any of those need to be changed or modified. I think perfectly appropriate--these are executive orders, not legislation--to take a look at that. I am not here today, nor have I recommended that we change any one particular area, (inaudible) you have to look at it again on a case by case basis, decide whether or not some change or modification is appropriate.

RUSSERT: Let me turn to the issue of character and refer to you and our audience back to your speech before the convention on August 2.


CHENEY: On the first hour of the first day, he will restore decency and integrity to the Oval Office.


RUSSERT; You're, of course, speaking about George W. Bush. Do you believe that Al Gore and Joe Lieberman are incapable of restoring decency and integrity to the Oval Office?

CHENEY: I think we'd be better--I think the fact that the Democrats, in particular Al Gore and Bill Clinton,had their eight years there, that the nation really does want a change, and that's what I find as I travel the country, and we're prepared to offer it.

RUSSERT: Let me show you what you also said about Al Gore in that same speech.


CHENEY: Mr. Gore will try to separate himself his leader's shadow, but, somehow, we will never see one without thinking of the other.


RUSSERT: Now Al Gore stood up at his convention and said, "I am my own man." Has he successfully separated himself from Bill Clinton?

CHENEY: Not in my opinion, Tim. I don't know how one speech can wipe out seven and a half years.


RUSSERT: ... then pulled back at the last minute.


INTERVIEWER: And President Clinton has not uttered a single untruth in the last two years?

GORE: Not that I have heard, absolutely not. And, again, Lisa, let me say that ...

INTERVIEWER: Not a single one?

GORE: Well, yes.


RUSSERT: And the slogan says, "Think Al Gore will say anything." Why was that advertisement pulled back, killed by the Bush campaign?


CHENEY: ... campaign ad, but we were asked for our views on it, and Governor Bush made the decision because he felt the quotes from Al Gore were taken out of context, that is to say the timing of when the interview actually took place.

And he wanted to make sure we ran an appropriate campaign in keeping with the tone and tenor we wanted to set, so he recommended that the RNC not go forward with the ad, and they didn't. The only place it's been run, I believe, Tim, has been by news organizations like yours. But the paid ad never did go on the air. It was withdrawn, and I think that was appropriate.

RUSSERT: Can we expect, however, to have paid political commercials which attack Al Gore's credibility?

CHENEY: I think his credibility is an issue. I think over the years he's flip-flopped on a wide range of issues, and I don't see any reason why that's not an appropriate subject for us to discuss in connection with this campaign. But I do think it has to be done in a way that is appropriate and in keeping with the tone and tenor we want to set.

RUSSERT: Let me raise the issue about your own retirement package from the Halliburton company--a lot of discussion about potential conflict of interest. If, in fact, you are elected, then some stock options that you were given would become exercisable.

"The New York Times" weighed in with this editorial. It said: "The unseemly fact (is) that Halliburton has been unduly generous to a man who stands a good chance of becoming vice president. Instead of lawyers and bankers, Mr. Cheney needs to summon all of his gravitas and do the right thing. That means he should just say no to any options that would vest after he is in office."

And what the "Times" points out, Mr. Cheney, is that your tenure at Halliburton was very successful, that you will have access through compensation, bonus, and salary of a minimum of $40 million. Could you leave $3.5 million in future stock options on the table and say, "No, I won't take those"?

CHENEY: Tim, what I've said, repeatedly, is that I will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that there is no conflict of interest when I'm sworn in as vice president. I've got people smarter than I am in these matters looking at it now to see how those matters might be resolved.

This was not given to me as a special deal when I left Halliburton. The fact is, these options were awarded to me as part of my compensation package while I was CEO. The standard retirement package when you leave--an executive leaves--Halliburton is you continue to have the options vest in accordance with the regular schedule. I wanted that done because I did not want special treatment.

But these kind of problems have arisen before, maybe not in this exact form. Bob Rubin (ph), obviously, served successfully as secretary of the treasury without having to abandon his very substantial financial interest in Goldman Sachs.

We've got smart people looking at it, and we'll come up with a solution that meets the requirements of the office of government ethics so I have no interest, financial interest, after January 20th in the price of Halliburton stock. We'll resolve any conflict before I'm sworn in.

RUSSERT: Could one of the options very well be, I'm just not going to take them because it's just not worth the aggravation and could create a perception of conflict?

CHENEY: Well, if you--if you do what I said I'm going to do, which is to get rid of any potential conflict by January 20th and--different ways to do it.

One possibility would be, for example, to say that any increase in the options, in terms of their value, would be donated to charity. Another way is a so-called synthetic short that involves a combination of puts and calls that would fix the price before I went into office so I would have no interest in whether the Halliburton price goes up or down.

So there are ways to deal with the problem. We'll look at all of those options. I've got some very talented people doing that. And I can guarantee you, Tim, before I'm sworn in as vice president, there will be no conflict. I'll do whatever I have to do in order to comply with the office of government ethics.

RUSSERT: The last time you were on, about a month ago, we had a discussion about your health, because of your three previous heart attacks and bypass surgery more than 12 years ago, before you were secretary of defense.

And I asked you if you'd be willing to release your cholesterol, blood pressure scores, your medications you're taking and a factor called the injection fraction, which is the portion of blood in the main chamber pumped to the heart--by the heart to the body. And you said you'd talk to your doctors and get back to us. Will you release that information?

CHENEY: We don't have any plans at this point to release any more information, Tim. I just did my physical in mid-July. My blood pressure, cholesterol levels and so forth are normal. I take medication to make sure they stay that way. I have had no health problems. The doctors have vouched for me. I think we put out a very complete medical report, and we don't have any plans now to release anything else.

RUSSERT: Dick Cheney, we thank you very much for joining us. Come join us again, and stay safe on the campaign trail.

CHENEY: Thank you, Tim. It's always a pleasure.

RUSSERT: Coming next, the debate over the Bush, Gore economic plans with Democratic Senator John Kerry, Republican Congressman John Kasich.

Then our MEET THE PRESS minute with former Reagan White House chief of staff James Baker on the debate over debates. History does repeat itself. This was back in 1984, 16 years ago to this very weekend.

All coming up on MEET THE PRESS.


RUSSERT: And we're back.

John Kerry, John Kasich, welcome both.

Senator Kerry, you're a Democrat. You just heard Dick Cheney, Republican candidate for vice president, say that America's armed forces are inadequate and in grave need of help. And you've also written, as I mentioned, a letter to Governor Bush and Dick Cheney saying, don't describe Al Gore as AWOL on veterans' issues.

KERRY: Well, I think the term AWOL, Tim, is simply inappropriate. I mean, Al is a veteran, honorably discharged, served, volunteered for Vietnam. And I think anybody who has served understands that the word AWOL has powerful connotations.

It's a court-martial offense. It's a more serious kind of thing. I just think it's inappropriate. It reduces the campaign to a level that all of us, I think, are trying to avoid.

But, more importantly, Dick Cheney was just flat wrong, and George Bush has been flat wrong, about the question of preparedness. The divisions that they referred to back in November for about a three-week period had a minor issue about deployment, about redeployment from Bosnia, Kosovo.

And so they were deemed, quote, "not ready for a three-week period." By December, that was fully corrected, and at the time that George Bush spoke when he told the country, if these divisions were asked to report today, they would have to say, "Not ready for duty, sir"--that was wrong.

It was misleading, incorrect, false. So--and it's insulting to a sense, you know, those divisions were on duty at the time. They're in Kosovo and in Bosnia, so I think it's inappropriate to suggest that.

Much more important, Tim, America ought to be thinking about where we ought to be going with the military in the future. We have the best-trained, most extraordinary military in the history of humankind. And what happened in Kosovo was witness to that, 78 days of bombing, loss of two airplanes, not the loss of one pilot.

I mean, as a veteran, I've got to tell you, I marveled at the capacity to fight a war the way we did without the loss of troops, and win. And it was a tribute to the training and the capacity of our military.

Now, are there tensions in terms of retention? Are there difficulties with pay? Sure, because the private sector is doing so well. It's competitive. But we're raising the pay.

We raised that pay two years ago--the largest increase in military expenditure since the Reagan--about 20 years, I guess, even. So I think we're on the right track, and I think it is a false debate at this point in time.

RUSSERT: John Kasich, a false debate? Is America's military ready, or does it need even more money?

KASICH: Tim, we have solders that are on food stamps, to get to the bottom line about the circumstance of our military. Dick Cheney and George Bush did reduce the military because the Cold War ended.

RUSSERT: For the record, there were 20,000 soldiers on food stamps under their administration. It's down to 6,000 now.

KASICH: Well, Tim, look, here's what has happened since they have reduced the military. Between 1982 and 1993, we had 42 deployments. We involved our forces around the world 42 times.

From '93 to 2000, that number has gone from 42 to 116 deployments. In other words, what a baby boomer named Bill Clinton has done is to do something that I never dreamt that a baby boomer would do, and that is to turn the United States military into the policemen of the world.

We have just sent troops now into Nigeria, which are going to be involved in training people in Sierra Leone. We look at Somalia, which turned out to be a disaster. It cost Les Aspin, the secretary of defense, his job. We have not had any--we have not come anywhere close to the date in accords in terms of Bosnia. We have a real mess in Kosovo.

The fact is that when you use the military forces 116 times--three times as much as Ronald Reagan did--you're going to spread your military, and you're going to break them. And so what we've done this year is to pour $21 billion more into the military.

Frankly, what I'd like to see, I'd like to see us target the use of American forces to where it is in our national interest and where there is an achievable objective. And I don't think that Bill Clinton has been able to do it, and I think that's the biggest change that we need.

RUSSERT: But isn't there an inconsistency in your argument? If the Republicans want more and more money for the military, but then don't want to use it, why put more money into it?

KASICH: Well, Tim, right now, you've got these people spread out all over the world. And you've got to get them the help that they need in order to carry out their duties. I mean, I was in Bosnia. I talked to the solders there. They're very frustrated. They're stretched.

We are having trouble with recruitment. But I think what you're going to see under a Bush-Cheney administration is the narrowing of commitments, the withdrawing of forces in places where our policy is not working, and we'll make a better targeted use of the military.


RUSSERT: Go ahead, Senator.

KERRY: The most significant commitments we have today, of those many that he has listed, are Bosnia and Kosovo. The Republicans opposed Bosnia and Kosovo. We saw a Republican Party suddenly politicize our involvement in foreign affairs in a dangerous and, I think, rather remarkable way.

They supported Panama with Ronald Reagan, supported Grenada. They put our troops--it was George Bush who put our troops originally in Somalia. They supported the Contras in Central America.

All of a sudden, you had a Democrat administration with major responsibilities globally, a genocide that was taking place. No person in the United States Congress would have been content to watch what CNN was going to show us was happening in Kosovo. We had to respond.

KASICH: But, but...

KERRY: But let me...

KASICH: George Bush put troops in the Persian Gulf to take on Saddam Hussein, and only a handful of Democrats supported him.


KERRY: But it was not the question of using force that people had a difference with, it was the timing. I remember very clearly that debate. And I said, I'm going to use force and I'm prepared to draw the line. I think we should kick him out. The question was whether or not there was a rush to do that before the country was prepared to support it. And in addition to that...

KASICH: There's one big difference. Come on, John, I mean, Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait; that was a clear line of action. What we are in the middle of is ethnic and civil wars in Bosnia, where we have failed to achieve any of the critical decision-making we wanted to achieve in Bosnia. We have nothing but a partition in Bosnia.

Kosovo, and our involvement in Kosovo, has set us back around the world in the eyes of so many countries, including the Chinese whose embassy we bombed. And now when you study what goes on in Kosovo, people say, "My God, I can't think of a situation has been more confused and has met with more failures."

KERRY: Let me...

KASICH: Civil wars--getting involved in civil and ethnic wars does not work.

RUSSERT: Let me get to the overall economic plans, because defense is an important component in it.

John Kasich, how can your George W. Bush rebuild the nation's defenses, give prescription drug programs, and still offer a $1.3 to $1.6 trillion tax cut?

KASICH: It's deja vu all over again, Tim. I was here in '95 and I told you that we could rebuild defense, that we, in fact, could cut taxes, and we could balance the budget. And we put together a plan and, guess what, we've got a $4.6 trillion surplus.

Here's the plan in a nutshell. Social Security is running a $2.3 trillion surplus. We will not touch that money. We will use that money to fix Social Security and to transform Social Security, including the use of private accounts. So $2.3 trillion will be used to fix that program.

We have a $2.3 trillion surplus in the general fund. We will use a big portion of it to cut taxes. And we'll use another part of it to pay down debt and also to have some targeted spending programs.

RUSSERT: What if you don't have a surplus?

KASICH: Well, Tim, look, there's no point...

RUSSERT: What happens if you don't have a surplus?

KASICH: And you cut taxes?


KASICH: Well, first of all, one of the reasons why we...

RUSSERT: Can you reinstate the taxes?

KASICH: No. One of the reasons why...

RUSSERT: What do you do?

KASICH: One of the reasons why you want to cut taxes is to make sure this economy keeps growing so you can fix Social Security and Medicare.

But, wait a minute, Tim, the projections of these surpluses are so modest that there isn't any question we're going to continue to have economic growth. Al Gore's suggestion is that we spend this money.

Frankly, tax cuts are the best way to go. And if you cut taxes under George Bush's plan, you have an additional billion dollars in extra room, in case your plan doesn't work out.

RUSSERT: Senator Kerry, contrast, in your mind, the Gore, Bush tax plans.

KERRY: Well, first of all, to differ with John very pronouncedly, strongly, Al Gore does not just spend. Al Gore pays down debt. And the American people want to pay down debt.

In addition to that, Al Gore does give a tax cut. He gives about a $500 billion tax cut, which is targeted in a way that it reaches the people where you have the most need: families, dependent care tax credit, tax tuition for schools, tuition for long-term care for people who have difficulties caring for parents, the marriage penalty in a way that isn't unfair, estate tax in a way that isn't unfair.

The great distinction between our plan and the Republican plan is that ours is fiscally responsible. It has the component of debt paydown while simultaneously restoring money to the people who deserve to get the money.

Now, the Republican plan has--it's about $1.9 billion in tax cut, if you look at the full 10-year span of 2001 to 2011.

RUSSERT: Trillion.

KERRY: A trillion, excuse me. So you have $1.9 trillion. Then you have $954 billion that the Republicans in Congress have already passed in tax cuts. In addition to that, because you're giving so much tax cut under their plan, you lose about $200 billion worth of paydown on the debt, interest payments you're going to have to pay because they don't pay the debt down.

So, when you finish adding up their plan, they have about $3.7 trillion that totally chews up the surplus, draws down on Social Security surplus, and leaves you with the extraordinary difficulty of trying to implement his privatization of Social Security, which is a risky plan to begin with, without--and drawing down on the Social Security surplus to do it.

KASICH: Let me tell you, those numbers are absolutely false. Al Gore spends almost $1 trillion in new programs. What George Bush does is to provide a $1.3 trillion tax cut. If you want to turn the surplus over to politicians in Washington to spend the money, you vote for Gore.

If you want people to have--you want to eliminate the marriage penalty, if you want to reduce rates for all Americans, if you want to have a broad-based tax cut, Tim, not only do you have a $1.3 trillion tax cut in the general fund, but you got another trillion dollars that's left. What Gore chooses to do is to spend, not to provide the tax cuts. Under Al Gore's tax-cut plan, you have to be a trained seal with an accountant to qualify for it.

RUSSERT: On that point, the Bush plan is simple. It's across the board.

KASICH: No, it isn't. It's the marriage penalty. It does a variety of things.

RUSSERT: The major form of tax reduction is across the board, and the strength is his advisers will say--everyone gets it. His critics will say half of the tax cut goes to the top 5 percent of the people in the country.

KERRY: Thirty-seven percent of it goes to the top 1 percent.

RUSSERT: The Gore tax cut, on the other hand, Senator, if you analyze it, 50 million, about half of American taxpayers are left out of it.

KERRY: Well, actually about 40 million Americans are left out of the Bush plan, too. It depends how you target it. The question is who's left out, and the problem with the Bush tax plan is that the people who really need the help don't get the help. Eighty percent of the Bush tax cut goes to the top 20 percent income earners in America. Thirty-seven percent of it goes to the top 1 percent, 50 percent to the top 5 percent. I mean, there's ...

KASICH: Let me just respond to that. Let me show you the class warfare.

RUSSERT: That analysis came from someone called Robert McEntire.


RUSSERT: Let me show you what he also said about the Gore plan, in all fairness. In fact, Robert McEntire, Citizens for Tax Cuts, has said, Gore's package really isn't a tax cut, quote, "it's a whole bunch of government spending programs run out of the Internal Revenue Service."

KASICH: That is exactly my point. There are no real--they're very few tax cuts in the Gore plan.

But let me talk about what George Bush is doing. Let me tell you what George Bush is doing. Do you know, Tim, that there are 16 million Americans who pay no taxes, not only--and we tried to give them a tax cut. Well, they don't have any income tax liability. So you know what we do? We send them a check.

George Bush is going to take an additional six million Americans off the rolls. Wow. Now, the top 20 percent of Americans pay about 80 percent of the income tax. Now, you know, I'll bet your dad told you like my dad told me, you don't punish people when they're successful. If 20 percent of the people are paying 80 percent of the bill, why shouldn't they get a tax cut? You want to provide incentives in America to be successful.

RUSSERT: Should we use the IRS as a way to distribute money?

KERRY: The IRS has always been used as an implement to provide incentives. We do it every day: low-income housing, charitable incentives. It's the way it works. You attract capital by providing incentives for somebody to do it. That's the reduction in taxes.

So all we're doing, under the Gore plan, which is a tradition and it's worked for years and it's been effective in providing the economy we have today which is unprecedented, is provide people choice.

No one is forced, John, to make a choice. Any American can decide, I want to take the tax credit. I want to have a long-term care benefit for my parents. I want to have a benefit for the child care that I have at home. I want the marriage penalty--I mean, you have all of these available to you.

No government decision is being made. Al Gore is providing a targeted incentive. And what's different between--there's no class warfare here. I voted for countless tax cuts in the last few years. The difference between our parties is we think about something called fairness.

Is it fair to give the largest proportion of the tax cut to the people who have, in fact, done the best in the last few years, or do we, as George W. says, want to leave no child behind? You cannot leave no child behind in America and implement the tax program that George Bush has said, because you can't take $3.7 trillion--and that's what it adds up to.

KASICH: Again, that is just false. The fact is we have a $1.3 trillion--$1.3 trillion tax cut. We're paying down more debt, first of all. For Al Gore and Democrats to talk about reducing the national debt...

RUSSERT: You can not dispute the fact that ...

KERRY: It's hard for you to accept, but we're doing it.

RUSSERT: You do not dispute the fact that if you make $300,000 or more, you will get an average tax cut of $45,000 under George W. Bush and zero under Al Gore?

KASICH: Well, Tim, the question is, what was your tax liability? The fact is, is that if 20 percent of the people pay 80 percent of the taxes, what should we do? Give them nothing? We've already taken--we already have 16 million Americans who pay no taxes, and they get a big check from the government.

The question is this, if you reduce the marriage penalty, we want to reduce the marriage penalty. That's good for all Americans. We create a 10 percent bracket for the lowest-paying--lowest-earning people in America. Now I think the tax package is very balanced. It will also provide economic growth that will help us fix Social Security.

RUSSERT: Real fast, Senator.

KERRY: Just take the marriage penalty as an example of how the Republicans do this. There are 65 different places in the tax code the marriage penalty affects. They take care of only three of them, Tim. We take care of all of them. Why is theirs more expensive? Because they give a bonus to even people who get a benefit by the marriage penalty.

KASICH: If you itemize under the Gore plan, you don't qualify for the marriage penalty. If you own a home and are paying a mortgage on your home, you won't get the marriage penalty ...

RUSSERT: One question, John Kasich. You are still the chairman of the Republican House Budget Committee. Bill Clinton is going to come to you in about three weeks and say, "I'm going to spend $630 billion in outlays." You had originally said maybe $570 billion would be alright.

He said, "I'm going to do $630 billion, and we're going to pass a prescription drug program, and you're going to take it or leave it. And if you don't take it, go ahead and shut the government down."

KASICH: Well, we have a prescription drug program. We're working in the Senate to also pass one. Tim, there's no question, Bill Clinton along with Al Gore is going to demand more spending.

RUSSERT: And they have all the cards.

KASICH: And, you know what, they will get more spending. That's why we need to elect George Bush, so that we can have the tax cuts and reduce the size of government.

RUSSERT: There will be no government shutdown?

KASICH: There will be no government shutdown under any set of circumstances.

RUSSERT: John Kasich, John Kerry, a good debate, to be continued.

And we'll be right back with our "Meet The Press Minute"--the debate over debates, from 16 years ago. Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale. How did those great debates come to be? Coming up right after this.


RUSSERT: A debate over debates? That's nothing new for presidential politics.

Sixteen years ago this very weekend, Reagan White House chief of staff James Baker appeared on "Meet The Press" and confronted this issue.


QUESTION: You are the president's chief negotiator as to debates for this coming campaign. And I believe the negotiations start shortly. What is going to be the opening Reagan side proposal as to the number of debates, the format, and the timing of them?

BAKER: Well, I'm not sure we will have an opening proposal. We will be listening to proposals from the other side, because the other side is--are the ones making all the noise about debates. The president has said this, he says he believes in the principle of debates. He has always debated his opponents, and he will debate this opponent, he has said, at a reasonable time and upon reasonable terms.

Let me explain to you what our position is on debates and why we categorically reject the idea of six debates out of hand. The American people are fortunate this year in that both candidates have extensive public records. We think actions speak a lot louder than words, and that it's better to judge a candidate for public office on the basis of what he does when he's in public office than what he might promise in a debate.

And we want to focus on those records, and that's one reason we're not interested in having six debates. Quite frankly, the polls bear us out on this. The American people don't want six debates.


RUSSERT: There were two prime-time debates between Mondale and Reagan in 1984, the first of which helped boost the candidacy of Walter Mondale. Reagan rebounded after the second debate and put to rest concerns about his age with this one-liner.


REAGAN: I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience.



RUSSERT: Reagan went on to win a landslide, carrying 49 states. Mondale won only the District of Columbia and his home state of Minnesota.


RUSSERT: And we welcome Emma and Reese Kasich to the world, two new twins. And the word from Arizona Senator John McCain, a full recovery. He will be back, enjoying the battle, in the fray none too soon. Welcome back, Senator McCain.

That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's "Meet The Press."

© 2000 The Washington Post Company

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