The following are excerpts from the third presidential debate between President Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry:
War on Terrorism
KERRY: Will we ever be safe and secure again? Yes. We absolutely must be. That's the goal.
Now, how do we achieve it is the most critical component of it.
I believe that this president, regrettably, rushed us into a war, made decisions about foreign policy, pushed alliances away. And, as a result, America is now bearing this extraordinary burden where we are not as safe as we ought to be.
The measurement is not: Are we safer? The measurement is: Are we as safe as we ought to be? And there are a host of options that this president had available to him, like making sure that at all our ports in America, containers are inspected. Only 95 percent of them -- 95 percent come in today uninspected. That's not good enough.
BUSH: Yes, we can be safe and secure, if we stay on the offense against the terrorists and if we spread freedom and liberty around the world.
I have got a comprehensive strategy to not only chase down the al Qaeda, wherever it exists -- and we're making progress; three-quarters of al Qaeda leaders have been brought to justice -- but to make sure that countries that harbor terrorists are held to account.
As a result of securing ourselves and ridding the Taliban out of Afghanistan, the Afghan people had elections this weekend. And the first voter was a 19-year-old woman. Think about that. Freedom is on the march.
K: When the president had an opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, he took his focus off of them, outsourced the job to Afghan warlords, and Osama bin Laden escaped. Six months after he said Osama bin Laden must be caught dead or alive, this president was asked, Where is Osama bin Laden? He said:
'I don't know. I don't really think about him very much. I'm not that concerned.'
We need a president who stays deadly focused on the real war on terror.
B: Gosh, I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations.
Of course we're worried about Osama bin Laden. We're on the hunt after Osama bin Laden. We're using every asset at our disposal to get Osama bin Laden.
Flu Vaccine Shortage
B: We relied upon a company out of England to provide about half of the flu vaccines for the United States . . . and it turned out that the vaccine they were producing was contaminated. And so we took the right action and didn't allow contaminated medicine into our country.
We're working with Canada to hopefully -- that they'll produce a -- help us realize the vaccine necessary to make sure our citizens have got flu vaccinations during this upcoming season.
My call to our fellow Americans is if you're healthy, if you're younger, don't get a flu shot this year. Help us prioritize those who need to get the flu shot, the elderly and the young. . . .
I haven't gotten a flu shot, and I don't intend to because I want to make sure those who are most vulnerable get treated.
K: This really underscores the problem with the American health-care system. It's not working for the American family. And it's gotten worse under President Bush over the course of the last years.
Five million Americans have lost their health insurance in this country. . . . This president has turned his back on the wellness of America.
Jobs Lost to Overseas Markets
B: I've got policies to continue to grow our economy and create the jobs of the 21st century. And here's some help for you to go get an education. Here's some help for you to go to a community college.
We've expanded trade adjustment assistance. We want to help pay for you to gain the skills necessary to fill the jobs of the 21st century.
You know, there's a lot of talk about how to keep the economy growing. We talk about fiscal matters. But perhaps the best way to keep jobs here in America and to keep this economy growing is to make sure our education system works.
K: I want you to notice how the president switched away from jobs and started talking about education principally.
Let me come back in one moment to that, but I want to speak for a second, if I can, to what the president said about fiscal responsibility.
Being lectured by the president on fiscal responsibility is a little bit like Tony Soprano talking to me about law and order in this country.
But guess what, America? The wages of Americans have gone down. The jobs that are being created in Arizona right now are paying about $13,700 less than the jobs that we're losing.
And the president just walks on by this problem.
Rising Health Care Costs
B: Gosh, I sure hope it's not the administration [that's responsible].
There's a -- no, look, there's a systemic problem. Health care costs are on the rise because the consumers are not involved in the decision-making process. Most health care costs are covered by third parties. And therefore, the actual user of health care is not the purchaser of health care. And there's no market forces involved with health care.
It's one of the reasons I'm a strong believer in what they call health savings accounts. These are accounts that allow somebody to buy a low-premium, high-deductible catastrophic plan and couple it with tax-free savings. Businesses can contribute, employees can contribute on a contractual basis. But this is a way to make sure people are actually involved with the decision-making process on health care.
Secondly, I do believe the lawsuits -- I don't believe, I know -- that the lawsuits are causing health care costs to rise in America. That's why I'm such a strong believer in medical liability reform.
K: The reason health care costs are getting higher -- one of the principal reasons is that this administration has stood in the way of common-sense efforts that would have reduced the costs.
Let me give you a prime example. In the Senate we passed the right of Americans to import drugs from Canada. But the president and his friends took out in the House, and now you don't have that right. The president blocked you from the right to have less expensive drugs from Canada.
Fixing Social Security
B: First, let me make sure that every senior listening today understands that when we're talking about reforming Social Security, that they'll still get their checks. . . .
We'll honor our commitment to our seniors. But for our children and our grandchildren, we need to have a different strategy.
I believe that younger workers ought to be allowed to take some of their own money and put it in a personal savings account, because I understand that they need to get better rates of return than the rates of return being given in the current Social Security trust.
K: You just heard the president say that young people ought to be able to take money out of Social Security and put it in their own accounts.
Now, my fellow Americans, that's an invitation to disaster.
The CBO said very clearly that if you were to adopt the president's plan, there would be a $2 trillion hole in Social Security, because today's workers pay in to the system for today's retirees. And the CBO said -- that's the Congressional Budget Office; it's bipartisan -- they said that there would have to be a cut in benefits of 25 percent to 40 percent.