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Bush Domestic Policy Adviser Stephen Goldsmith

Free Media
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Campaign 2000
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Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2000; 6:30 p.m. EDT

The press and pundits have focused on Texas Gov. George W. Bush's foreign policy experience -- or perceived lack thereof, and have proclaimed his choice of former defense secretary Richard B. Cheney as a way to balance the ticket. However, with his positions on education, welfare, the criminal justice system and the budget, Bush's domestic policies and emphasis on "compassionate conservatism" have taken center stage in this campaign as well.

Goldsmith (File photo)

Former Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith has been a chief architect of Bush's domestic policy agenda, focusing on downsized government and faith-based institutions as a way to rebuild communities. Goldsmith has lectured at Harvard and Columbia and coordinates the campaign's positions on issues from Social Security to the environment. He talked about the Bush-Cheney campaign and its domestic policy strategies online on Wednesday, Aug. 2. The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Free Media: Good afternoon, Mayor Goldsmith, and welcome. Republicans this week are focusing an awful lot of energy on emphasizing the differences between Gov. Bush and Vice President Gore -- particularly on domestic policy. What do the two agree on?

Stephen Goldsmith: The two candidates agree that Americans need help with certain issues: prescription drugs, health insurance, education. It is not the whether, it is the how, that separates them on many issues.

Wheeling, Ill.: While I believe that the Bush campaign's strongest asset is its foreign policy experience, I also believe that you have the ability to advise Bush to make important domestic decisions. What is the number one domestic policy issue in the U.S. today? How will Bush approach the issue?

Stephen Goldsmith: Thanks. The country needs to provide help to those who have been left behind; but do it by providing them the opportunities and tools to develop wealth. So Social Security reform, education, tax cuts all are linked.

New York, N.Y.: Won't it be difficult to say the GOP ticket favors programs for early childhood development when Dick Cheney voted against Head Start?

Stephen Goldsmith: No, the governor has set very definite policies; he has encouraged more and more effective Head Start funding -- but to tie the funding to reading readiness. Mr. Cheney has stated clearly that the policies will be set by the president, and its important to note that on many of these issues it is money and performance, not just money; that was Dick Cheneys point.

Washington, D.C.: How can faith-based organizations play a role in schools and elsewhere in the pubic arena without violating the separation between church and state?

Stephen Goldsmith: By the way, I am obviously doing my own typing without corrections, so please excuse the spelling -- saves time. Faith-based organizations can help schools in several ways: tutoring in the schools, helping prepare children for school, giving them the confidence in themselves to succeed. Directly regarding schools, they can help with charter schools or accept students from poor families who might have a tax credit or voucher.

Chicago, Ill.: What has Gov. Bush done to deal with pollution and the terrible air quality in Texas?

Stephen Goldsmith: Texas is a large state. It does of course have pollution; but under Governor Bush in many areas its improvement leads the country as well. Check out the Bush Web site for more detail

Free Media: With your role as a key adviser for the Bush campaign, it's not far-reaching to assume that a Bush administration would include Stephen Goldsmith. In what capacity do you think you could best serve a president?

Stephen Goldsmith: In whatever way, or not, that he so orders. (Did you really think I would answer that one?)

Free Media: What do you think of the welfare reform plan passed by Congress during this administration and signed into law by President Clinton? What would Governor Bush have done differently?

Stephen Goldsmith: Very difficult question. Lets say the welfare reform was a great first step. Getting people off welfare is critical, but even more critical is giving them the tools to have good jobs, and develop and own their own wealth. A good education, home ownership, and many more additional issues are still at play.

Bethesda, Md.: What is Gov. Bush's plan to help schools, fund teachers and shore up the educational system?

Stephen Goldsmith: Okay, now these are one hour questions, so a bit of an answer: continue to fund education, but reduce regulatory burdens; demand performance, don't fund failure; require states to develop K-12 testing grades 3-8, math and reading each year, with posted disaggregated scores for failing schools; for schools that continue to fail, allow the parents to have control over those dollars; strengthen head start, and much more...a strong federal role but a role which allows maximum local flexibility.

Raleigh, N.C.: When will Gov. Bush make an ambush trip to talk about the problems of Tennessee, like Vice President Gore did in Texas?

Stephen Goldsmith: He will of course go back to Tennessee, but he is not an ambush sort of guy. He is more into saying what he is for and in defending himself.

Alexandria, Va.: Why not get a little more specific about your role in a Bush administration? Aren't there positions you would rule out?

Stephen Goldsmith: Come on Alexandria. I have never discussed this issue with the Governor Bush -- pleased, very pleased to even to have the involvement to date.

Indianapolis, Ind.: What is your view of the recent prescription drug importation bills that have separately passed the House and Senate? Are these adequate substitutes for a Medicare drug benefit and can safety really be ensured for imported drugs?

Stephen Goldsmith: The best answer is to help low income seniors purchase drug coverage and provide them the means to do so. But with Medicare reform that gives them much more choice, not a government ordered and rationed system.

Fishers, Ind.: You have been quite successful using the private sector to streamline government and save money. Do you feel that using private insurers to administer a Medicare drug benefit can find similar success?

Stephen Goldsmith: Absolutely, but the government still has a responsibility to give low income seniors help to allow them to do so.

Philadelphia, Pa.: How can you fund education reform and pay for Medicare benefits if you take all the money in the surplus and spend it on tax cuts?

Stephen Goldsmith: A very small part of the revenues, and only a part of the surplus, will be returned to the citizens. With record surpluses there is room to do all, but with Medicare reform helps eliminate waste.

Free Media: Does George W. Bush's selection of Richard B. Cheney as his running mate only strengthen the Republican ticket on the foreign policy front, or does Cheney help Bush domestically? If so, how?

Stephen Goldsmith: I think both. Clearly, Dick Cheney provides great support in foreign policy, but he is such a broad, deep thinker that he will help everywhere -- very balanced.

Baton Rouge, La.: Hello Mr. Goldsmith,

I used to live in Indy when you were still a DA. I thank you for all the wonderful things you did for that city (my folks still live there). Was surprised to see you didn't try to run for another political office after the failed attempt at the governorship. What is your plan if Bush doesn't win?

Stephen Goldsmith: Thanks, a compliment is a nice place to end. I like to help the government operate more effectively to help people. I believe in compassionate conservatism because it is a committment to help those left behind, but in a different way -- one that assumes government should help but in a new way. One that respects individuals, and does not give bureaucrats in D.C. all authority. Helping the governor with policy has been a very great honor -- very great. If he does not win, I am currently working in several academic situations I would like to continue




Free Media: That was our last question for Stephen Goldsmith, domestic policy adviser for the Bush campaign. Thanks so much to Mayor Goldsmith, and to everyone who joined us.

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