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Page Two: Boston Presidential Debate

eMediaMillWorks

___ Debate Referee ___

Referee Washington Post staff writer Charles Babington makes the calls, examining the candidates' claims and charges from tonight's debate. Click on the "referee" icons in the text below to see Babington's analysis. Staff writers Glenn Kessler and Ceci Connolly contributed to this feature. Related Story


eMediaMillWorks
Tuesday, October 3, 2000

Following is the continuation of the transcript of tonight's presidential debate between Vice President Gore (D) and Texas Gov. George W. Bush (R). The nationally televised debate was moderated by Jim Lehrer of PBS.

Second of three pages.

LEHRER: All right, on the Supreme Court question, should a voter assume--you're pro-life. You just stated your position.

BUSH: I am pro-life.

LEHRER: Should a voter assume that all judicial appointments you make to the Supreme Court or any other federal court will also be pro-life?

BUSH: Voters should assume that I have no litmus test on that issue or any other issue. The voters will know I'll put competent judges on the bench, people who will strictly interpret the Constitution and will not use the bench to write social policy.

And that's going to be a big difference between my opponent and me. I believe that--I believe that the judges ought not to take the place of the legislative branch of government, that they're appointed for life and that they ought to look at the Constitution as sacred. They shouldn't misuse their bench. I don't believe in liberal, activist judges. I believe in--I believe in strict constructionists. And those are the kind of judges I will appoint.

I've named four Supreme Court judges in the state of Texas, and I would ask the people to check out their qualifications, their deliberations. They're good, solid men and women who have made good sound judgments on behalf of the people of Texas.

LEHRER: What kind of appointments should they expect from you, Vice President Gore?

GORE: Both of us use similar language to reach an exactly opposite outcome. I don't favor litmus tests, but I know that there are ways to assess how a potential justice interprets the Constitution. And, in my view, the Constitution ought to be interpreted as a document that grows with our country and our history.

And I believe, for example, that there is a right of privacy in the Fourth Amendment. And when the phrase that strict constructionist is used, and when the names of Scalia and Thomas are used as benchmarks for who would be appointed, those are code words, and nobody should mistake this, for saying that the governor would appoint people who would overturn Roe v. Wade. I mean, just--it's very clear to me.

And I would appoint people who have a philosophy that I think would make it quite likely that they would uphold Roe v. Wade.

LEHRER: Is the vice president right? Is that a code word for overturning Roe v. Wade?

BUSH: Sounds like the vice president is not very right many times tonight. I just told you the criteria in which I'll appoint judges. I've had a record of appointing judges in the state of Texas. That's what a governor gets to do. A governor gets to name Supreme Court judges, and I've given...

(CROSSTALK)

BUSH: He also reads all kinds of things into my tax plan and into my Medicare plan. And I just want the viewers out there to listen to what I have to say about it.

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER: Reverse the question. What code phrases should we read by what you said about what kind of people you will appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court?

GORE: It'd be very likely that they'd uphold Roe v. Wade. But I do believe it's wrong to use a litmus test.

But if you look at the history of a lower court judge's rulings, you can get a pretty good idea of how they're going to interpret questions. Now, a lot of questions are first impression. And these questions that have been seen many times comes up in a new context.

And so, but--you know, this is a very important issue, because a lot of young women in this country take this right for granted, and it could be lost.

It is on the ballot in this election, make no mistake about it.

BUSH: I'll tell you what kind of judges he'll put on there. He'll put liberal, activist judges who will use their bench to subvert the legislature. That's what he'll do.

GORE: That's not right.

LEHRER: New subject, new question.

Vice President Gore, if President Milosevic of Yugoslavia refuses to accept the election results and leave office, what action, if any, should the United States take to get him out of there?

GORE: Well, Milosevic has lost the election. His opponent, Kostunica, has won the election. It's overwhelming. Milosevic's government refuses to release the vote count. There's now a general strike going on. They're demonstrating.

I think we should support the people of Serbia and the Yugoslavia, as they call Serbia plus Montenegro. And put pressure in every way possible to recognize the lawful outcome of the election.

The people of Serbia have acted very bravely in kicking this guy out of office. Now he is trying to not release the votes, and then go straight to a so-called run off election without even announcing the results of the first vote.

Now, we've made it clear, along with our allies, that when Milosevic leaves, then Serbia will be able to have a more normal relationship with the rest of the world. That is a very strong incentive that we have given them to do the right thing.

GORE: Bear in mind, also, Milosevic has been indicted as a war criminal, and he should be held accountable for his actions.

Now, we have to take measured steps, because the sentiment within Serbia is, for understandable reasons, still against the United States, because their nationalism has led--even if they don't like Milosevic, they still have some feelings lingering from the NATO action there. So we have to be intelligent in the way we go about it.

But make no mistake about it: We should do everything we can to see that the will of the Serbian people, expressed in this extraordinary election, is done. And I hope that he'll be out of office very shortly.

LEHRER: Governor Bush, one minute.

BUSH: Well, I'm pleased with the results of the elections, as the vice president is. It's time for the man to go. And it means that the United States must have a strong diplomatic hand with our friends in NATO. That's why it's important to make sure our alliances are as strong as they possibly can be, to keep the pressure on Mr. Milosevic.

But this'll be an interesting moment for the Russians to step up and lead as well, be a wonderful time for the--for the Russia to step into the Balkans and convince Mr. Milosevic it's in his best interest and his country's best interest to leave office. The Russians have got a lot of sway in that part of the world, and we'd like to see them use that sway to encourage democracy to take hold.

And so it's an encouraging election. It's time for the man to leave.

LEHRER: But what if he doesn't leave, Mr. Vice--what if all the things, all the diplomatic efforts, all the pressure from all over the world and he still doesn't go? Is this the kind of thing, to be specific, that you as president would consider the use of U.S. military force to get him gone?

GORE: In this particular situation, no. Bear in mind that we have a lot of sanctions in force against Serbia right now. And the people of Serbia know that they can escape all those sanctions if this guy is turned out of power.

Now, I understand what the governor has said about asking the Russians to be involved. And under some circumstances, that might be a good idea. But being as they have not yet been willing to recognize Kostunica as the lawful winner of the election, I'm not sure that it's right for us to invite the president of Russia to mediate this dispute there, because we might not like the result that comes out of that.

They currently favor going forward with a runoff election. I think that's the wrong thing. I think the governor's instinct is not necessarily bad, because we have worked with the Russians in a constructive way, in Kosovo, for example, to end the conflict there. But I think we need to be very careful in the present situation before we invite the Russians to play the lead role in mediating.

BUSH: Well, obviously we wouldn't use the Russians if they didn't agree with our answer, Mr. Vice President.

GORE: Well, they don't.

BUSH: But let me say this to you: I wouldn't use force. I wouldn't use force.

LEHRER: You wouldn't use force?

BUSH: No.

LEHRER: Why not?

BUSH: Because it's not in our national interest to use force in this case. I would keep pressure. I would use diplomacy.

There's a difference between what the president did, who I supported, in Kosovo and this. And it's up for the people in this region to figure out how to take control of their country.

LEHRER: New question.

How would you go about, as president, deciding when it was in the national interest to use U.S. force? Generally.

BUSH: Well, if it's in our vital national interests. And that means whether or not our territory--our territory is threatened, our people could be harmed, whether or not our alliances--our defense alliances are threatened, whether or not our friends in the Middle East are threatened. That would be a time to seriously consider the use of force.

Secondly, whether or not the mission was clear, whether or not it was a clear understanding as to what the mission would be.

Thirdly, whether or not we were prepared and trained to win, whether or not our forces were of high morale and high standing and well-equipped.

And finally, whether or not there was an exit strategy.

I would take the use of force very seriously. I would be guarded in my approach. I don't think we can be all things to all people in the world. I think we've got to be very careful when we commit our troops.

The vice president and I have a disagreement about the use of troops. He believes in nation-building. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation builders.

I believe the role of the military is to fight and win war and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place.

And so I take my responsibility seriously. And it starts with making sure we rebuild our military power.

Morale in today's military is too low. We're having trouble meeting recruiting goals. We met the goals this year, but in the previous years, we have not met recruiting goals. Some of our troops are not well-equipped. I believe we're overextended in too many places.

And, therefore, I want to rebuild the military power. It starts with a billion dollar pay raise for the men and women who wear the uniform, a billion dollars more than the president recently signed into law, to make sure our troops are well-housed and well-equipped; bonus plans to keep some of our high-skilled folks in the services; and a commander in chief who clearly sets the missions, and the mission is to fight and win war, and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place.

LEHRER: Vice President Gore, one minute.

GORE: Let me tell you what I'll do. First of all, I want to make it clear: Our military is the strongest, best-trained, best-equipped, best-lead fighting force in the world and in the history of the world. Nobody should have any doubt about that, least of all our adversaries or potential adversaries.

If you entrust me with the presidency, I will do whatever is necessary in order to make sure our offices stay the strongest in the world.

In fact, in my 10-year budget proposal, I have set aside more than twice as much for this purpose as Governor Bush has in his proposal.

GORE: Now, I think we should be reluctant to get involved in someplace, in a foreign country. But, if our national security is at stake, if we have allies, if we've tried every other course, if we're sure military action will succeed, and if the costs are proportionate to the benefits, we should get involved.

Now, just because we don't want to get involved everywhere doesn't mean we should back off anywhere it comes up.

And I disagree with the--with the proposal that maybe only when oil supplies are at stake that our national security is at risk. I think that there are situations, like in Bosnia or Kosovo where there's a genocide, where our national security is at stake there.

LEHRER: Governor?

BUSH: I agree that our military is the strongest in the world today. That's not the question. The question is will it be strongest in years to come? And the warning signs are real. Everywhere I go around the campaign trail, I see people who--moms and dads whose son or daughter may wear the uniform, and they tell me about how discouraged their son and daughter may be.

A recent poll was taken amongst 1,000 enlisted personnel, as well as officers, over half of whom are going to leave the service when their time of enlistment is up. The captains are leaving the service.

There is a problem, and it's going to require a new commander in chief to rebuild the military power.

The other day, I was honored to be flanked by Colin Powell and General Norman Schwarzkopf, who stood by my side and agreed with me.

They said we could, even though we're the strongest military, that if we don't do something quickly, we don't have a clearer vision of the military, if we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road. And I'm going to prevent that. I'm going to rebuild our military power. It's one of the major priorities of my administration.

LEHRER: Vice President Gore, how should the voters go about deciding which one of you is better suited to make the kind of decisions we've been--whether it's Milosevic or whether it's whatever, in the military and foreign policy area?

GORE: Well, they should look at our proposals and look at us as people and make up their own minds.

When I was a young man, I volunteered for the Army. I served my country in Vietnam. My father was a senator who strongly opposed the Vietnam War. I went to college in this great city and most of my peers felt against the war, as I did.

But I went anyway, because I knew if I didn't, somebody else in the small town of Carthage, Tennessee, would have to go in my place.

I served for eight years in the House of Representatives, and I served on the Intelligence Committee, specialized in looking at arms control. I served for eight years in the United States Senate and served on the Armed Services Committee. For the last eight years, I've served on the National Security Council.

And when the conflict came up in Bosnia, I saw a genocide in the heart of Europe, with the most violent war on the continent of Europe since World War II. Look, that's where World War I started, in the Balkans.

My uncle was a victim of poison gas there. Millions of Americans saw the results of that conflict.

We have to be willing to make good, sound judgments.

And, incidentally, I know the value of making sure our troops have the latest technology. The governor's proposed skipping the next generation of weapons. I think that's a big mistake, because I think we have to stay at the cutting edge.

LEHRER: Governor, how would you advise the voters to make the decision on this issue?

BUSH: Well, I think you've got to look at how one has handled responsibility in office, whether or not--it's the same in domestic policy as well, Jim, whether or not you've got the capacity to convince people to follow, whether or not one makes decisions based on sound principles, or whether or not you rely upon polls and focus groups on how to decide what the course of action is.

We've got too much polling and focus groups going on in Washington today. We need decisions made on sound principles.

I've been the governor of a big state. I think one of the hallmarks of my relationship in Austin, Texas, is, is that I've had the capacity to work with both Republicans and Democrats. I think that's an important part of leadership. I think of what it means to build consensus. I've shown I know how to do so.

As a matter of fact, tonight in the audience there's one elected state senator who's a Democrat, a former state rep who's a Democrat, couple of--one statewide officer's a Democrat. I mean, there's a lot of Democrats who are here in the debate too...

LEHRER: Go ahead.

GORE: Go ahead.

BUSH: ... because they want to show their support, that shows I know how to lead.

And so the fundamental answer to your question: Who can lead, and who has shown the ability to get things done.

GORE: If I could say one thing...

(CROSSTALK)

LEHRER: All right. We're way over the three-and-a-half minutes. Go ahead.

GORE: I think one of the key points in foreign policy and national security policy is the need to reestablish the old-fashioned principle that politics ought to stop at the water's edge.

When I was in the United States Congress, I worked with former President Reagan to modernize our strategic weaponry and to pursue arms control in a responsible way. When I was in the United States Senate, I worked with former President Bush, your father, and was one of only a few Democrats in the Senate to support the Persian Gulf War.

I think bipartisanship is a national asset, and we have to find ways to reestablish it in foreign policy and national security policy.

LEHRER: In a word, do you have a problem with that?

BUSH: Yes, why haven't they done it in seven years?

LEHRER: New subject, new question.

Should the voters of this election, Vice President Gore, see this on domestic area--in the domestic area, as a major choice between competing political philosophies?

GORE: Oh, absolutely. This is a very important moment in the history of our country. Look, we've got the biggest surpluses in all of American history.

The key question that has to be answered in this election is, will we use that prosperity wisely in a way that benefits all of our people and doesn't go just to the few? Almost half of all the tax cut benefits, as I said, under Governor Bush's plan, go to the wealthiest 1 percent.

I think we have to make the right and responsible choices.

I think we have to invest in education, protecting the environment, health care, a prescription drug benefit that goes to all seniors, not just to the poor; under Medicare, not relying on HMOs and insurance companies.

I think that we have to help parents and strengthen families by dealing with the kind of inappropriate entertainment material that families are just heartsick that their children are exposed to.

I think we have got to have welfare reform taken to the next stage.

I think that we have got to balance the budget every single year, pay down the national debt. And, in fact, under my proposal, the national debt will be completely eliminated by the year 2012.

I think we need to put Medicare and Social Security in a lockbox. The governor will not put Medicare in a lockbox. I don't think it should be used as a piggy bank for other programs. I think it needs to be moved out of the budget and protected. I'll veto anything that takes money out of Social Security or Medicare for anything other than Social Security or Medicare.

Now, the priorities are just very different. I'll give you a couple of examples: For every new dollar that I propose for spending on health care, Governor Bush spends $3 for a tax cut of the wealthiest 1 percent. Now, for every dollar that I propose to spend on education, he spends $5 on a tax cut for the wealthiest 1 percent. Those are very clear differences.

LEHRER: Governor, one minute.

BUSH: Man's practicing fuzzy math again. There's differences.

Under Vice President Gore's plan, he's going to grow the federal government in the largest increase since Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1965. We're talking about a massive government, folks. We're talking about adding to or increasing 200 new programs, 200 programs, 20,000 new bureaucrats. Imagine how many IRS agents it's going to take to be able to figure out his targeted tax cut for the middle class that excludes 50 million Americans.

There is a huge difference in this campaign. He says he's going to give you tax cuts; 50 million of you won't receive it. He said, in his speech, he wants to make sure the right people get tax relief. That's not the role of a president to decide right and wrong. Everybody who pays taxes ought to get tax relief.

After my plan is in place, the wealthiest Americans will pay a higher percentage of taxes than they do today, and the poorest of Americans, 6 million families, 7 million people, won't pay any tax at all.

It is a huge difference. It's the difference between big, exploding federal government that wants to think on your behalf and a plan that meets priorities and liberates working people to be able to make decisions on your own.

GORE: Let me just say, Jim, you haven't heard the governor deny these numbers. He's called them phony, he's called them fuzzy. But the fact remains, almost 30 percent of his proposed tax cut goes only to Americans that make more than $1 million per year.

LEHRER: Let's...

GORE: More money goes to the...

(CROSSTALK)

GORE: Can I have a rebuttal here?

LEHRER: Sure, but I just want to see if he buys that.

BUSH: No, here, let me just tell you what the facts are. The facts are, after my plan, the wealthiest of Americans pay more taxes of the percentage of the whole than they do today.

Secondly, if you're a family of four making $50,000 in Massachusetts, you get a 50 percent tax cut.

Let me give you one example, the Strunk family in Allentown, Pennsylvania, I campaigned with them the other day. They make $51,000 combined income. They pay about $3,800 in taxes or $3,500 in taxes. Under my plan, they get $1,800 of tax relief. Under Vice President Gore's plan, they get $145 of tax relief.

Now you tell me, who stands on the side of the rich? You ask the Strunks.

GORE: Well, he's...

BUSH: You ask the Strunks...

GORE: If I could get my...

BUSH: ... whose plan--it makes more sense. And there's a difference of opinion. He would rather spend the Strunks' $1,800, and I would rather the Strunks spend their own money.

LEHRER: Do you see it that way, Vice President Gore?

GORE: No, I don't. And I'm not going to go to calling names on his facts, I'm just going to tell you what the real facts are. The analysis that he's talking about leaves out more than half of the tax cuts that I have proposed. And if you just add the numbers up--he still hasn't denied it. He spends more money on a tax cut for the wealthiest 1 percent than all of his new proposals for prescription drugs, health care, education and national defense combined. Now those are the wrong priorities--$665 billion over 10 years for the wealthiest 1 percent.

And as I said, almost 30 percent of it goes to Americans that make more than $1 million per year.

Referee
Debate Referee
Every middle class family is eligible for a tax cut under my proposal.

Let me give you some specific examples: I believe that college tuition up to $10,000 a year ought to be tax deductible so middle class families can choose to send their children to college. I believe that all seniors should be able to choose their own doctors and get prescription drugs from their own pharmacist with Medicare paying half the bill. I believe that parents ought to have more choices with charter schools and public school choice to send their kids always to a safe school. I think we need to make education the number one priority in our country and treat teachers like the professionals that they are. And that's why I have made it the number one priority in my budget, not a tax cut for the wealthiest.

BUSH: Let me talk about tax cuts one more time. This is a man whose plan excludes 50 million Americans.

GORE: Not so.

BUSH: He doesn't believe that--well, take for example the marriage penalty. If you itemize your tax return, you get no marriage penalty relief. He picks and chooses. He decides who the right people are. It's a fundamental difference of opinion.

I want my fellow Americans to hear one more time. We're going to spend $25 trillion. We're going to collect $25 trillion dollars of revenue over the next 10 years, and we're going to--projected to spend $21 trillion. Now, surely, we can send 5 percent of that back to you all who pay the bills. There is a problem.

I want to say something, Jim, wait a minute.

LEHRER: OK.

BUSH: This man's been disparaging my plan with all this Washington-fuzzy math.

I want you to hear a problem we've got in America. If you're a single mother making $22,000 a year and you've got two children, under this tax code, for every additional dollar you make, you pay a higher marginal rate on that dollar than someone making $200,000 a year. And that is not right.

And so my plan drops the rate from 15 percent to 10 percent and increases the child credit from $500 to $1,000 to make the code more fair for everybody, not just a few...

LEHRER: All right.

BUSH: ... not just, you know, a handful. Everybody who pays taxes ought to get some relief.

LEHRER: All right, having cleared that up...

(LAUGHTER)

... we're going to a new question. Education.

Governor Bush, both of you have promised dramatically--to change dramatically public education in this country. But of the public money spent on education, only 6 percent of it is federal money.

BUSH: Right.

LEHRER: You want to change 100 percent of public education with 6 percent of the money. Is that possible?

BUSH: Well, I tell you, we can make a huge difference by saying, if you receive federal money, we expect you to show results.

Let me give you a story about public ed, if I might, Jim. It's about KIPP Academy in Houston, Texas. It's a--it's a charter school run by some people from Teach for America, young folks that said, "Well, I'm going to do something good for my country. I want to teach." A guy named Michael runs the school.

It's a school full of so-called at-risk children. It's how we, unfortunately, label certain children. It means basically they can't learn. It's a school of strong discipline and high standards. It's one of the best schools in Houston.

And here are the key ingredients: high expectations, strong accountability. What Michael says is, "Don't put all these rules on us. Just let us teach and hold us accountable for every grade."

And that's what we do. And as a result, these young, mainly Hispanic, youngsters are some of the best learners in Houston, Texas. That's my vision for public education all around America.

Many of you viewers don't know, but Laura and I sent our girls to public school. They went to Austin High School. And many of the public schools are meeting the call.

But, unfortunately, a lot of schools are trapping children in schools that just won't teach, and we'll change that.

Here's the role of the federal government: One is to change Head Start into a reading program. Two is to say that if you want to access reading money, you can do so because the goal is for every single child to learn to read. There must be K-2 diagnostic tools, teacher training money available. Three, we got to consolidate federal programs to free districts, to free the schools to encourage innovators like Michael to let schools reach out beyond the confines of the current structure to recruit--teach for the children type teachers. Four, we're going to say, if you receive federal money, measure third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth grade, seventh grade, eighth grade, and show us whether or not children are learning to read and write and add and subtract. And, if so, there will be a bonus plan and, and--but if not, instead of continuing to subsidize failure, the money will go to the parent so the parent can choose a different public school. Federal money attributed to the child will go to the parent for a public school or a charter school or a tutorial or a Catholic school.

What I care about is children, and so does Michael Feinberg. And you know what? It can happen in America with the right kind of leadership.

LEHRER: Vice President Gore?

GORE: Look, we agree on a couple of things on education.

I strongly support new accountability; so does Governor Bush. I strongly support local control; so does Governor Bush.

I'm in favor of testing as a way of measuring performance, every school, every school district, have every state test the children. I've also proposed voluntary national tests in the fourth grade and eighth grade, and a form of testing that the governor has not endorsed. I think that all new teachers ought to be tested, including in the subjects that they teach.

We've got to recruit 100,000 new teachers, and I have budgeted for that. We've got to reduce the class size so that the student who walks in has more one-on-one time with the teacher. We ought to have universal preschool. And we ought to make college tuition tax deductible up to $10,000 a year.

I'd like to tell you a quick story. I got a letter today, as I left Sarasota, Florida. I'm here with a group of 13 people from around the country who helped me prepare and we had a great time. But two days ago we ate lunch at a restaurant and the guy who served us lunch sent--got me a letter today. His name is Randy Ellis (ph), he has a 15-year-old daughter named Kailey (ph), who's in Sarasota High School. Her science class was supposed to be for 24 students. She is the 36th student in that classroom, sent me a picture of her in the classroom. They can't squeeze another desk in for her, so she has to stand during class.

I want the federal government, consistent with local control and new accountability, to make improvement of our schools the number one priority so Kailey (ph) will have a desk and can sit down in a classroom where she can learn.

LEHRER: All right. So, having heard the two of you, voters have just heard the two of you, what's the difference? What's the choice between the two of you on education, Governor?

BUSH: Well, the first is--the difference is, there is no new accountability measures in Vice President Gore's plan. He says he's for voluntary testing. You can't have voluntary testing. You must have mandatory testing. You must say that if you receive money, you must show us whether or not children are learning to read and write and add and subtract. That's the difference.

You may claim you've got mandatory testing, but you don't, Mr. Vice President. And that is a huge difference.

Testing is the cornerstone of reform. You know how I know? Because it's the cornerstone of reform in the state of Texas. Republicans and Democrats came together and asked the question, "What can we do to make our public education the best in the country?" And we've done a long way working together to do so.

And the cornerstone is to have strong accountability and return for money. And in return for flexibility, we're going to ask you to show us whether or not--and we ask to post the results on the Internet. We encourage parents to take a look at the comparative results of schools. We've got a strong charter school movement that I signed the legislation to get started in the state of Texas.

I believe if we find poor children trapped in schools that won't teach, we need to free the parents. I think we need to expand education savings accounts. That's something the vice president's vice presidential running mate supports.

Now, there's big differences of opinion. He won't support freeing local districts from the strings of federal money.

LEHRER: All right. How do you see the differences?

GORE: Well, first of all, I do have mandatory testing. I think the governor may not have heard what I said clearly. The voluntary national test is in addition to the mandatory testing that we require of states, all schools, all school districts, of students themselves, and required teacher testing, which goes a step farther than Governor Bush has been willing to go.

Here are a couple of differences, though, Jim: Governor Bush is in favor of vouchers, which take taxpayer money away from public schools and give them to private schools that are not accountable for how the money is used and don't have to take all applicants. Now, private schools play a great role in our society.

All of our children have gone to both public schools and private schools. But I don't think private schools should have a right to take taxpayer money away from public schools at a time when Kailey Ellis is standing in that classroom.

Let me give you another example. I went to a school in Dade County Florida where the facilities are so overcrowded, the children have to eat lunch in shifts with the first shift for lunch starting at 9:30 in the morning.

Look, this is a funding crisis all around the country. There are fewer parents of school-age children in the--as a percentage of the voting population and there's the largest generation of students ever.

We're in an information age when learning is more important than ever. Ninety percent of our kids go to public schools. We have to make it the number one priority: modernize our schools, reduce the class size, recruit new teachers, give every child a chance to learn with one-on-one time in a quality--high-quality, safe school. If it's a failing school, shut it down and reopen it under a new principal, with a turnaround team of specialists, the way Governor Jim Hunt does in North Carolina.

Here's another difference: The governor, if it's a failing school, would leave the children in that failing school for three years and then give a little bit of money to the parents, a down payment on a down payment for private school tuition, and pretend that that would be enough for them to go out and go to a private school.

BUSH: Wait a minute. Wait a minute.

LEHRER: Thirty seconds, Governor. OK.

BUSH: OK. First of all, most good governance is at the state level. See, here's the mentality: I'm going to make the state do this; I'm going to make the state do that.

All I'm saying is, if you spend money, show us results, and test every year, which you do not do, Mr. Vice President. You do not test every year. You can say you do into cameras, but you don't, unless you've changed your plan here on the stage.

GORE: I didn't say that. I didn't say that.

BUSH: Secondly--and you need to test every year, because that's where you determine whether or not children are progressing to excellence.

Secondly, one of the things that we've got to be careful about in politics is throwing money at a system that has not yet been reformed. More money is needed, and I'd spend more money. But step one is to make sure we reform the system, to have the system in place that leaves no child behind, to stop this business about asking, "Gosh, how old are you?" If you're ten, we're going to put you here, if you're 12, we'll put you here, and start asking the question, "What do you know?" And if you don't know what you're supposed to know, we'll make sure you do early and before it is too late.

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