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Debate: Bush And Gore On Foreign Policy And Energy

04 October 2000

Excerpts: Bush/Gore First Presidential Debate October 3 Their remarks on U.S. energy and foreign policy

Following are foreign policy excerpts of the October 3 Presidential Debate in Boston between Governor George W. Bush of Texas and the Vice President of the United States, Al Gore.

The moderator was Jim Lehrer, the news anchor for the Public Broadcasting System.

(begin excerpts)

LEHRER: Vice President Gore, how would you contrast your approach to preventing future oil price and supply problems like we have now to the approach of Governor Bush?

GORE: Excellent question and here's the simple difference. My plan has not only a short-term component but also a long-term component. And it focuses not only on increasing the supply, which I think we have to do, but also on working on the consumption side.

Now in the short term, we have to free ourselves from the domination of the big oil companies that have the ability to manipulate the price, from OPEC when they want to raise the price. And in the long term, we have to give new incentives for the development of domestic resources like deep gas in the Western Gulf, like stripper wells for oil, but also renewable sources of energy. And domestic sources that are cleaner and better.

And I'm proposing a plan that will give tax credits and tax incentives for the rapid development of new kinds of cars and trucks and buses and factories and boilers and furnaces that don't have as much pollution, that don't burn as much energy and that help up get out on the cutting edge of the new technologies that will create millions of new jobs. Because when we sell these new products here, we'll then be able to sell them overseas. And there's a ravenous demand for them overseas.

Now another big difference is Governor Bush is proposing to open up some of our most precious environmental treasures, like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to the big oil companies to go in and start producing oil there. I think that is the wrong choice. It would only give us a few months worth of oil and the oil wouldn't start flowing for many years into the future. And I don't think it's a fair price to pay to destroy precious parts of America's environment.

We have to bet on the future and move beyond the current technologies to have a whole new generation of more efficient, cleaner energy technologies.

LEHRER: Governor Bush, one minute.

BUSH: Well, it's an issue I know a lot about. I was a small oil person for a while in West Texas. This is an administration that's had no plan. And all of a sudden the results of having no plan have caught up with America. First and foremost, we've got to make sure we fully fund LIHEAP, which is a way to help low-income folks, particularly here in the East, pay for their high -- high fuel bills.

Secondly, we need an active exploration program in America. The only way to become less dependent on foreign sources of crude oil is to explore at home. And you bet I want to open up a small part of -- a part of Alaska because when that field is online it will produce a million barrels a day. Today we import a million barrels from Saddam Hussein. I would rather that a million come from our own hemisphere, our own country as opposed from Saddam Hussein. I want to build more pipelines to move natural gas throughout this hemisphere. I want to develop the coal resources in America and have coal -- clean coal technologies. We've got abundant supplies of energy here in America and we better get after it and better start exploring it otherwise we're going to be in deep trouble in the future because of our dependency upon foreign sources of crude.

LEHRER: So if somebody is watching tonight, listening to what the two of you just said is it fair to say, O.K., the differences between Vice President Gore and George W. Bush -- Governor Bush -- are the following. You are for doing something on the consumption end, you're for doing something on the production and drilling --

GORE: I -- I'm, let me clarify. I'm for doing something both on the supply side and production side, and on the consumption side. And let me say that I found one thing in Governor Bush's answer that we certainly agree on and that's the Low Income Heating Assistance Program, and I commend you for supporting that. I worked to get $400 million just a couple of weeks ago and to establish a permanent home heating oil reserve here in the Northeast.

Now, as for the proposals that I've worked for for renewables and conservation and efficiency and the new technologies, the fact is for the last few years in the Congress we faced a lot of opposition to them. They've only approved about 10 percent of the agenda that I've helped to send up there. And I think that we need to get serious about this energy crisis both in the Congress and in the White House. And if you entrust me with the presidency, I will tackle this problem and focus on new technologies that will make us less dependent on big oil or foreign oil.

LEHRER: How would you draw the difference, Governor?

BUSH: Well, I would first say that he should have been tackling it for the last seven years. And secondly, the difference is is that we need to explore at home. And the Vice President doesn't believe in exploration, for example, in Alaska. There's a lot of shut-in gas that we need to be moving out of Alaska by pipeline.

There's an interesting issue up in the Northwest as well. And that is whether or not we remove dams that produce hydroelectric energy. I'm against removing dams in the Northwest. I don't know where the Vice President stands. But that's a renewable source of energy we need to keep in line.

I was in coal country yesterday, in West Virginia. There's an abundant supply of coal in America. I know we can do a better job of clean coal technologies. I'm going to ask the Congress for $2 billion to make sure that we have the cleanest coal technologies in the world.

My answer to you is is that in the short term, we need to get after it here in America. We need to explore our resources and we need to develop our reservoirs of domestic production.

We also need to have a hemispheric energy policy where Canada and Mexico and the United States come together. I brought this up recently with Vicente Fox who's the newly elected president. He's a man I know from Mexico. And I talked about how best to be able to expedite the exploration of natural gas in Mexico and transport it up to the United States so we become less dependent on foreign sources of crude oil.

This is a major problem facing America. The administration did not deal with it. It's time for a new administration to deal with the energy problem.

GORE: Just briefly, Jim, I know. I found a couple of other things that we agree on. And we may not find that many this evening so I wanted to emphasize them.

I strongly support new investments in clean coal technology. I made a proposal three months ago on this. And also domestic exploration -- yes. But not in the environmental treasures of our country. We don't have to do that. That's the wrong choice. I know the oil companies have been itching to do that. But it is not the right thing for the future.

BUSH: No, it's the right thing for the consumers. Less dependency upon foreign sources of crude is good for consumers. And we can do so in an environmentally friendly way.

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 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.

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 election, 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 would be an interesting moment for the Russians to step up and lead as well. It would be a wonderful time for the president of 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 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 enforced 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 run-off 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?


LEHRER: Why not?

BUSH: Because it's not in our national interests 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?

BUSH: Well, if it's in our vital national interests and that means whether or not our territory, our territory is threatened or 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 now we were prepared and trained to win, whether or not our forces were of high moral 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 national 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'd take my responsibility seriously. And it starts with making sure we rebuild our military power. Moral in today's military -- 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, it's 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 mission. 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-led 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 forces 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.

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 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's the strongest in the world today. That's not the question. The question is will it be the 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 or 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 can, even though we were the strongest military, that if we don't do something quickly, we don't have a clearer vision of the military, we could -- if we don't stop extending our troops all around the world, and 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 kinds 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 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: I think you've got to look at how one has handled responsibility in office. Whether or not -- 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 upon 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 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, a couple of -- one statewide officer's a Democrat, I mean, there's a lot of Democrats who are here because they want to show their support that shows I know how to lead and that -- 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 -

LEHRER: All right, we're way over the three and a half minutes. Go ahead on this.

GORE: I think one of the key points in foreign policy and national security policy is the need to re-establish 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 re-establish it in foreign policy and national security policy.

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

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

(end excerpts)

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