The following are excerpts from the second presidential debate between President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry:
Is Kerry Too Wishy-Washy?
KERRY: . . . The president didn't find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so he's really turned his campaign into a weapon of mass deception. And the result is that you've been bombarded with advertisements suggesting that I've changed a position on this or that or the other. Now, the three things they try to say I've changed position on are the Patriot Act; I haven't. I support it. I just don't like the way [Attorney General] John [D.] Ashcroft has applied it, and we're going to change a few things. The chairman of the Republican Party thinks we ought to change a few things. No Child Left Behind Act, I voted for it. I support it. I support the goals. But the president has underfunded it by $28 billion.
So I complain about that. I've argued that we should fully funded it. The president says I've changed my mind. I haven't changed my mind: I'm going to fully fund it.
So these are the differences.
BUSH: I can see why people at your workplace think he changes positions a lot, because he does. He said he voted for the $87 billion, and voted against it right before he voted for it. And that sends a confusing signal to people.
He said he thought Saddam Hussein was a grave threat, and now he said it was a mistake to remove Saddam Hussein from power.
No, I can see why people think that he changes position quite often, because he does.
You know, for a while he was a strong supporter of getting rid of Saddam Hussein. He saw the wisdom -- until the Democrat primary came along and Howard Dean, the antiwar candidate, began to gain on him, and he changed positions.
I don't see how you can lead this country in a time of war, in a time of uncertainty, if you change your mind because of politics.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
B: Each situation is different. . . . And obviously we hope that diplomacy works before you ever use force. The hardest decision a president makes is ever to use force.
After 9/11, we had to look at the world differently. After 9/11, we had to recognize that when we saw a threat, we must take it seriously before it comes to hurt us. In the old days we'd see a threat, and we could deal with it if we felt like it or not. But 9/11 changed it all. . . .
And I saw a unique threat in Saddam Hussein, as did my opponent, because we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. . . . We all thought there was weapons there. . . . My opponent thought there was weapons there. That's why he called him a grave threat. I wasn't happy when we found out there wasn't weapons, and we've got an intelligence group together to figure out why.
K: The world is more dangerous today. The world is more dangerous today because the president didn't make the right judgments. . . .
He's trying to attack me. He wants you to believe that I can't be president. And he's trying to make you believe it because he wants you to think I change my mind.
Well, let me tell you straight up: I've never changed my mind about Iraq. I do believe Saddam Hussein was a threat. I always believed he was a threat. Believed it in 1998 when [Bill] Clinton was president. I wanted to give Clinton the power to use force if necessary.
But I would have used that force wisely, I would have used that authority wisely, not rushed to war without a plan to win the peace.
I would have brought our allies to our side. I would have fought to make certain our troops had everybody possible to help them win the mission.
There's chaos in Iraq. King Abdullah of Jordan said just yesterday or the day before you can't hold elections in Iraq with the chaos that's going on today.
Senator Richard Lugar, the Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said that the handling of the reconstruction aid in Iraq by this administration has been incompetent. Those are the Republican chairman's words.
Is the Draft Coming Back?
B: I hear there's rumors on the Internets that we're going to have a draft. We're not going to have a draft, period. The all- volunteer army works. It works particularly when we pay our troops well. It works when we make sure they've got housing, like we have done in the last military budgets.
An all-volunteer army is best suited to fight the new wars of the 21st century, which is to be specialized and to find these people as they hide around the world.
We don't need mass armies anymore. One of the things we've done is we've taken the -- we're beginning to transform our military. . . .
Now, forget all this talk about a draft. We're not going to have a draft so long as I am the president.
K: . . . I don't support a draft.
But let me tell you where the president's policies have put us.
The president -- and this is one of the reasons why I am very proud in this race to have the support of General John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Admiral William Crowe, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. . . .
Why? Because they understand that our military is overextended under the president.
Our Guard and Reserves have been turned into almost active duty. You've got people doing two and three rotations. You've got stop-loss policies, so people can't get out when they were supposed to. You've got a backdoor draft right now.
B: I haven't yet. Just want to make sure they're safe. When a drug comes in from Canada, I want to make sure it cures you and doesn't kill you.
And that's why the FDA and that's why the surgeon general are looking very carefully to make sure it can be done in a safe way. I've got an obligation to make sure our government does everything we can to protect you.
And what my worry is is that, you know, it looks like it's from Canada, and it might be from a Third World.
And we've just got to make sure, before somebody thinks they're buying a product, that it works. And that's why we're doing what we're doing.
Now, it may very well be here in December you'll hear me say, I think there's a safe way to do it.
K: . . . You heard the president just say that he thought he might try to be for it.
Four years ago, right here in this forum, he was asked the same question: Can't people be able to import drugs from Canada? You know what he said? 'I think that makes sense. I think that's a good idea' -- four years ago.
Now, the president said, I'm not blocking that. Ladies and gentlemen, the president just didn't level with you right now again.
He did block it, because we passed it in the United States Senate. We sent it over to the House, that you could import drugs. We took care of the safety issues.
Medicare and the Deficit
B: Now, he [Kerry] talks about Medicare. He's been in the United States Senate 20 years. Show me one accomplishment toward Medicare that he accomplished.
I've been in Washington, D.C., three-and-a-half years and led the Congress to reform Medicare so our seniors have got a modern health care system. That's what leadership is all about.
K: Actually, Mr. President, in 1997 we fixed Medicare, and I was one of the people involved in it.
We not only fixed Medicare and took it way out into the future, we did something that you don't know how to do: We balanced the budget. And we paid down the debt of our nation for two years in a row, and we created 23 million new jobs at the same time.
And it's the president's fiscal policies that have driven up the biggest deficits in American history. He's added more debt to the debt of the United States in four years than all the way from George Washington to Ronald Reagan put together. Go figure.
B: We have a deficit. We have a deficit because this country went into a recession. You might remember the stock market started to decline dramatically six months before I came to office, and then the bubble of the 1990s popped. And that cost us revenue. That cost us revenue.
Secondly, we're at war. And I'm going to spend what it takes to win the war.
Bush's Environmental Record
B: We have reached an agreement to reduce pollution from off-road diesel engines by 90 percent.
I've got a plan to increase the wetlands by 3 million. We've got an aggressive brown field program to refurbish inner-city sore spots to useful pieces of property.
I proposed to the United States Congress a Clear Skies Initiative to reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury by 70 percent. . . . We proposed and passed a healthy forest bill which was essential to working with -- particularly in western states -- to make sure that our forests were protected. . . . I guess you'd say I'm a good steward of the land.
The quality of the air's cleaner since I've been the president.
K: Boy, to listen to that -- the president, I don't think, is living in a world of reality with respect to the environment. . . .
Now, when it comes to the issue of the environment, this is one of the worst administrations in modern history.
The Clear Skies bill that he just talked about, it's one of those Orwellian names you pull out of the sky, slap it onto something, like
No Child Left Behind but you leave millions of children behind. Here they're leaving the skies and the environment behind.