October 15, 1992
The Second Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate
(First Half of Debate)
This is the first half of the transcript of the Richmond debate. The October 15th “town hall” format debate was moderated by Carole Simpson. She explains the format in her opening remarks. The length of this printed transcript is approximately 20 pages.
CAROLE SIMPSON: Good evening and welcome to this second of three presidential debates between the major candidates for president of the US. The candidates are the Republican nominee, President George Bush, the independent Ross Perot and Governor Bill Clinton, the Democratic nominee.
My name is Carole Simpson, and I will be the moderator for tonight’s 90-minute debate, which is coming to you from the campus of the University of Richmond in Richmond, Virginia.
Now, tonight’s program is unlike any other presidential debate in history. We’re making history now and it’s pretty exciting. An independent polling firm has selected an audience of 209 uncommitted voters from this area. The candidates will be asked questions by these voters on a topic of their choosing — anything they want to ask about. My job as moderator is to, you know, take care of the questioning, ask questions myself if I think there needs to be continuity and balance, and sometimes I might ask the candidates to respond to what another candidate may have said.
Now, the format has been agreed to by representatives of both the Republican and Democratic campaigns, and there is no subject matter that is restricted. Anything goes. We can ask anything.
After the debate, the candidates will have an opportunity to make a closing statement.
So, President Bush, I think you said it earlier — let’s get it on.
PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: Let’s go.
SIMPSON: And I think the first question is over here.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: Yes. I’d like to direct my question to Mr. Perot. What will you do as president to open foreign markets to fair competition from American business and to stop unfair competition here at home from foreign countries so that we can bring jobs back to the US?
ROSS PEROT: That’s right at the top of my agenda. We’ve shipped millions of jobs overseas and we have a strange situation because we have a process in Washington where after you’ve served for a while you cash in, become a foreign lobbyist, make $30,000 a month, then take a leave, work on presidential campaigns, make sure you’ve got good contacts and then go back out.
Now, if you just want to get down to brass tacks, first thing you ought to do is get all these folks who’ve got these 1-way trade agreements that we’ve negotiated over the years and say fellas, we’ll take the same deal we gave you. And they’ll gridlock right at that point because for example, we’ve got international competitors who simply could not unload their cars off the ships if they had to comply — you see, if it was a 2-way street, just couldn’t do it. We have got to stop sending jobs overseas.
To those of you in the audience who are business people: pretty simple. If you’re paying $12, $13, $14 an hour for a factory worker, and you can move your factory south of the border, pay $1 an hour for labor, hire a young — let’s assume you’ve been in business for a long time. You’ve got a mature workforce. Pay $1 an hour for your labor, have no health care — that’s the most expensive single element in making the car. Have no environmental controls, no pollution controls and no retirement. And you don’t care about anything but making money. There will be a job-sucking sound going south.
If the people send me to Washington the first thing I’ll do is study that 2000-page agreement and make sure it’s a 2-way street.
One last point here. I decided I was dumb and didn’t understand it so I called a “Who’s Who” of the folks that have been around it, and I said why won’t everybody go south; they said it will be disruptive; I said for how long. I finally got ’em for 12 to 15 years. And I said, well, how does it stop being disruptive? And that is when their jobs come up from a dollar an hour to $6 an hour, and ours go down to $6 an hour; then it’s leveled again, but in the meantime you’ve wrecked the country with these kind of deals. We got to cut it out.
SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Perot. I see that the president has stood up, so he must have something to say about this.
BUSH: Carole, the thing that saved us in this global economic slowdown has been our exports, and what I’m trying to do is increase our exports. And if indeed all the jobs were going to move south because there are lower wages, there are lower wages now and they haven’t done that. And so I have just negotiated with the president of Mexico the North American Free Trade Agreement — and the prime minister of Canada, I might add — and I want to have more of these free trade agreements, because export jobs are increasing far faster than any jobs that may have moved overseas. That’s a scare tactic, because it’s not that many. But any one that’s here, we want to have more jobs here. And the way to do that is to increase our exports.
Some believe in protection. I don’t; I believe in free and fair trade, and that’s the thing that saved us. So I will keep on as president trying to get a successful conclusion to the GATT Round, the big Uruguay Round of trade which will really open up markets for our agriculture particularly. I want to continue to work after we get this NAFTA agreement ratified this coming year. I want to get one with Eastern Europe; I want to get one with Chile. And free and fair trade is the answer, not protection.
And, as I say, we’ve had tough economic times, and it’s exports that have saved us, exports that have built.
SIMPSON: Governor Clinton.
GOVERNOR CLINTON: I’d like to answer the question, because I’ve actually been a governor for 12 years, so I’ve known a lot of people who have lost their jobs because of jobs moving overseas, and I know a lot of people whose plants have been strengthened by increasing exports.
The trick is to expand our export base and to expand trade on terms that are fair to us. It is true that our exports to Mexico, for example, have gone up and our trade deficit has gone down; it’s also true that just today a record high trade deficit was announced with Japan.
So what is the answer? Let me just mention three things very quickly. Number one, make sure that other countries are as open to our markets as our markets are to them, and, if they’re not, have measures on the books that don’t take forever and a day to implement.
Number two, change the tax code. There are more deductions in the tax code for shutting plants down and moving overseas than there are for modernizing plant and equipment here. Our competitors don’t do that. Emphasize and subsidize modernizing plant and equipment here, not moving plants overseas.
Number three, stop the federal government’s program that now gives low-interest loans and job training funds to companies that will actually shut down and move to other countries, but we won’t do the same thing for plants that stay here.
So more trade but on fair terms — and favor investment in America.
SIMPSON: Thank you. I think we have a question over here.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: This is for Governor Clinton. In the real world, that is, outside of Washington, DC, compensation and achievement are based on goals defined and achieved. My question is about the deficit. Would you define in specific dollar goals how much you would reduce the deficit in each of the 4 years of a Clinton administration and then enter into a legally binding contract with the American people, that if you did not achieve those goals that you would not seek a 2nd term? Answer yes or no and then comment on your answer, please.
CLINTON: No, and here’s why. And I’ll tell you exactly why. Because the deficit now has been building up for 12 years. I’ll tell you exactly what I think can be done. I think we can bring it down by 50% in 4 years and grow the economy. Now, I could get rid of it in 4 years in theory on the books now, but to do it you’d have to raise taxes too much and cut benefits too much to people who need them and it would even make the economy worse.
Mr. Perot will tell you, for example, that the expert he hired to analyze his plan says that it will bring the deficit down in 5 years but it will make unemployment bad for 4 more years. So my view is, sir, you have to increase investment, grow the economy and reduce the deficit by controlling health care costs, prudent reductions in defense, cuts in domestic programs and asking the wealthiest Americans and foreign corporations to pay their fair share of taxes and investing and growing this economy.
I ask everybody to look at my economic ideas and 9 Nobel prize winners and over 500 economists and hundreds of business people, including a lot of Republicans said, this is the way you’ve got to go. If you don’t grow the economy you can’t get it done. But I can’t foresee all the things that will happen, and I don’t think a president should be judged solely on the deficit.
Let me also say, we’re having an election today. You’ll have a shot at me in 4 years and you can vote me right out if you think I’ve done a lousy job and I would welcome you to do that.
SIMPSON: Mr. President.
BUSH: Well, I’m a little confused here, because I don’t see how you can grow the deficit down by raising people’s taxes. You see, I don’t think the American people are taxed too little. I think they’re taxed too much. I went for one tax increase and when I make a mistake I admit it. I said that wasn’t the right thing to do.
Governor Clinton’s program wants to tax more and spend more — $150 billion in new taxes, spend another $220. I don’t believe that’s the way to do it.
Here’s some thing that’ll help. Give us a balanced budget amendment. He always talks about Arkansas having a balanced budget and they do, but he has a balanced budget amendment. Have to do it. I’d like the government to have that. And I think it would discipline not only the Congress, which needs it, but also the executive branch.
I’d like to have what 43 governors have — the line item veto, so if the Congress can’t cut, and we’ve got a reckless spending Congress, let the president have a shot at it by wiping out things that are pork barrel or something of that nature.
I’ve proposed another one. Some sophisticates think it may be a little gimmicky. I think it’s good. It’s a check- off. It says to you as a taxpayer — say you’re going to pay a tax of 1000 bucks or something. You can check 10% of that if you want to, in the 1 box, and that 10%, $100, or if you’re paying $10,000, whatever it is, $1000, check it off and make the government, make it lower the deficit by that amount.
And if the Congress won’t do it, if they can’t get together and negotiate how to do that, then you’d have a sequester across the board. You’d exempt Social Security — I don’t want to tax or touch Social Security. I’m the president that said hey, don’t mess with Social Security, and we haven’t.
So I believe that we need to control the growth of mandatory spending, back to this gentleman’s question. That’s the main growing thing in the budget. The program that the president — two-thirds of the budget, I as president never get to look at, never get to touch. We’ve got to control that growth to inflation and population increase, but not raise taxes on the American people now. I just don’t believe that would stimulate any kind of growth at all.
SIMPSON: How about you, Mr. Perot?
PEROT: Well, we’re $4 trillion in debt. We’re going into debt an additional $1 billion, little more than $1 billion every working day of the year.
Now, the thing I love about it — I’m just a businessman. I was down in Texas taking care of business, tending to my family. This situation got so bad that I decided I’d better get into it. The American people asked me to get into it. But I just find it fascinating that while we sit here tonight we will go into debt an additional $50 million in an hour and a half.
Now, it’s not the Republicans’ fault, of course, and it’s not the Democrats’ fault. And what I’m looking for is who did it? Now, they’re the 2 folks involved so maybe if you put them together, they did it.
Now, the facts are we have to fix it. I’m here tonight for these young people up here in the balcony from this college. When I was a young man, when I got out of the Navy I had multiple job offers. Young people with high grades can’t get a job. People — the 18- to 24-year-old high school graduates 10 years ago were making more than they are now. In other words, we were down to 18% of them were making — 18- to 24-year- olds were making less than $12,000. Now that’s up to 40%. And what’s happened in the meantime? The dollar’s gone through the floor.
Now, whose fault is that? Not the Democrats. Not the Republicans. Somewhere out there there’s an extraterrestrial that’s doing this to us, I guess. And everybody says they take responsibility. Somebody somewhere has to take responsibility for this.
Put it to you bluntly, American people. If you want me to be your president, we’re going to face our problems. Weâ€™ll deal with our problems, weâ€™ll solve our problems. We’ll down our debt. We’ll pass on the American dream to our children, and I will not leave our children a situation that they have today.
When I was a boy it took 2 generations to double the standard of living. Today it will take 12 generations. Our children will not see the American dream because of this debt that somebody somewhere dropped on us.
SIMPSON: You’re all wonderful speakers, and I know you have lots more to add, but I’ve talked to this audience, and they have lots of questions on other topics. Can we move to another topic, please? We have one up here, I think.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: Yes, I’d like to address all the candidates with this question. The amount of time the candidates have spent in this campaign trashing their opponents’ character and their programs is depressingly large. Why can’t your discussions and proposals reflect the genuine complexity and the difficulty of the issues to try to build a consensus around the best aspects of all proposals?
SIMPSON: Who wants to take that one? Mr. Perot, you have an answer for everything, don’t you? Go right ahead, sir.
PEROT: No, I don’t have an answer for everything. As you all know, I’ve been buying 30-minute segments to talk about issues. And tomorrow night on NBC, from 10:30 to 11 Eastern, we’re going to talk about how you pay the debt down, so we’re going to come right down to that one. We’ll be on again Saturday night, 8 to 9 o’clock on ABC. So the point is —
BUSH: Like Jerry Brown, the 800 number.
PEROT: — I couldn’t agree with you more, couldn’t agree with you more. And I have said again and again and again let’s get off mud wrestling, let’s get off personalities and let’s talk about jobs, health care, crime, the things that concern the American people. I’m spending my money — not PAC money, not foreign money, my money — to take this message to the people.
SIMPSON: Thank you, Mr. Perot. So that seems directed; he would say it’s you gentlemen that have been doing that. Mr. Clinton, Governor Clinton — oh, President Bush, how would you like to respond?
BUSH: Well, in the first place, I believe that character is a part of being president. I think you have to look at it. I think that has to be a part of a candidate for president or being president. In terms of programs, I’ve submitted, what, 4 different budgets to the US Congress in great detail. It’s so heavy they’d give you a broken back. And everything in there says what I am for.
Now I’ve come out with a new agenda for America’s renewal, a plan that I believe really will help stimulate the growth of this economy. My record on world affairs is pretty well known because I’ve been president for 4 years, so I feel I’ve been talking issues.
You know, nobody likes who shot John, but I think the first negative campaign run in this election was by Governor Clinton, and I’m not going to sit there and be a punching bag; I’m going to stand up and say, hey, listen, here’s my side of it.
But character is an important part of the equation. The other night Governor Clinton raised my — I don’t know if you saw the debate the other night. You did — suffered through that? Well, he raised the question of my father — it was a good line, well rehearsed and well delivered. But he raised the question of my father and said, well, your father, Prescott Bush, was against McCarthy, you should be ashamed of yourself, McCarthyism. I remember something my dad told me — I was 18 years old going to Penn Station to go on into the Navy, and he said write your mother — which I faithfully did; he said serve your country — my father was an honor, duty and country man; and he said tell the truth. And I’ve tried to do that in public life, all through it. That says something about character.
My argument with Governor Clinton — you can call it mud wrestling, but I think it’s fair to put it in focus is — I am deeply troubled by someone who demonstrates and organizes demonstration in a foreign land when his country’s at war. Probably a lot of kids here disagree with me. But that’s what I feel. That’s what I feel passionately about. I’m thinking of Ross Perot’s running mate sitting in the jail. How would he feel about it? But maybe that’s generational. I don’t know.
But the big argument I have with the governor on this is this taking different positions on different issues — trying to be one thing to one person here that’s opposing the NAFTA agreement and then for it — what we call waffling. And I do think that you can’t turn the White House into the Waffle House. You’ve got to say what you’re for and you’ve got to —
SIMPSON: Mr. President, I’m getting time cues and with all due respect —
BUSH: Excuse me. I don’t want to —
SIMPSON: I’m sorry.
BUSH: I don’t want to —
SIMPSON: Governor Clinton.
BUSH: I get wound up because I feel strongly —
SIMPSON: Yes, you do.
CLINTON: Let me say first of all to you that I believe so strongly in the question you asked that I suggested this format tonight. I started doing these formats a year ago in New Hampshire and I found that we had huge crowds because all I did was let people ask questions and I tried to give very specific answers. I also had a program starting last year. I’ve been disturbed by the tone and the tenor of this campaign. Thank goodness the networks have a fact check so I don’t have to just go blue in the face anymore. Mr. Bush said once again I was going to have $150 billion tax increase. When Mr. Quayle said that all the networks said, that’s not true. He’s got over $100 billion of tax cuts and incentives.
So I’m not going to take up your time tonight, but let me just say this. We’ll have a debate in 4 days and we can talk about this character thing again. But the Washington Post ran a long editorial today saying they couldn’t believe Mr. Bush was making character an issue and they said he was the greatest quote “political chameleon” for changing his positions of all times. Now, I don’t want to get into that —
BUSH: Please don’t get into the Washington Post.
CLINTON: Wait a minute. Let’s don’t — you don’t have to believe it. Here’s my point. I’m not interested in his character. I want to change the character of the presidency. And I’m interested in what we can trust him to do and what you can trust me to do and what you can trust Mr. Perot to do for the next 4 years. So I think you’re right and I hope the rest of the night belongs to you.
SIMPSON: May I — I talked to this audience before you gentlemen came and I asked them about how they felt about the tenor of the campaign. Would you like to let them know what you thought about that, when I said are you pleased with how the campaign’s been going? (Audience: “No.”)
SIMPSON: Who wants to say why you don’t like the way the campaign is going? We have a gentleman back here.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: And forgive the notes here but I’m shy on camera.
The focus of my work as a domestic mediator is meeting the needs of the children that I work with, by way of their parents, and not the wants of their parents. And I ask the three of you, how can we, as symbolically the children of the future president, expect the two of you, the three of you to meet our needs, the needs in housing and in crime and you name it, as opposed to the wants of your political spin doctors and your political parties?
SIMPSON: So your question is?
AUDIENCE QUESTION: Can we focus on the issues and not the personalities and the mud? I think there’s a need, if we could take a poll here with the folks from Gallup perhaps, I think there’s a real need here to focus at this point on the needs.
SIMPSON: How do you respond? How do you gentlemen respond to —
CLINTON: I agree with him.
BUSH: Let’s do it.
SIMPSON: President Bush?
BUSH: Let’s do it. Let’s talk about programs for children.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: Could we cross our hearts? It sounds silly here but could we make a commitment? You know, we’re not under oath at this point but could you make a commitment to the citizens of the US to meet our needs, and we have many, and not yours again? I repeat that. It’s a real need, I think, that we all have.
BUSH: I think it depends how you define it. I mean, I think in general, let’s talk about these issues. Let’s talk about the programs. But in the presidency, a lot goes into it. Caring goes into it. That’s not particularly specific. Strength goes into it. That’s not specific. Standing up against aggression. That’s not specific in terms of a program. This is what a president has to do.
So in principle, though, I’ll take your point and think we ought to discuss child care or whatever else it is.
SIMPSON: And you, too?
CLINTON: Ross had his hand up.
PEROT: Just no hedges, no ifs, ands and buts. I’ll take the pledge because I know the American people want to talk about issues and not tabloid journalism. So I’ll take the pledge and will stay on the issues.
Now, just for the record, I don’t have any spin doctors. I don’t have any speechwriters. Probably shows. I make those charts you see on television.
But you don’t have to wonder if it’s me talking. See, what you see is what you get and if you don’t like it, you got two other choices, right?
CLINTON: Wait a minute. I want to say just one thing now, Ross, in fairness. The ideas I express are mine. I’ve worked on these things for 12 years and I’m the only person up here who hasn’t been part of Washington in any way for the last 20 years. So I don’t want the implication to be that somehow everything we say is just cooked up and put in our head by somebody else. I worked 12 years very hard as a governor on the real problems of real people. I’m just as sick as you are by having to wake up and figure out how to defend myself every day. I never thought I’d ever be involved in anything like this.
PEROT: May I finish?
SIMPSON: Yes, you may finish.
PEROT: Very briefly?
SIMPSON: Yes, very briefly.
PEROT: And I don’t have any foreign money in my campaign. I don’t have any foreign lobbyists on leave in my campaign. I don’t have any PAC money in my campaign. I’ve got 5.5 million hard-working people who put me on the ballot, and I belong to them. And they’re interested in what you’re interested in.
I take the pledge. I’ve already taken the pledge on cutting the deficit in half. I never got to say that. There’s a great young group, Lead or Leave, college students, young people, who don’t want us to spend their money. I took the pledge we’d cut it out.
SIMPSON: Thank you. We have a question here.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: Yes. I would like to get a response from all three gentlemen. And the question is, what are your plans to improve the physical infrastructure of this nation, which includes the water system, the sewer system, our transportation systems, etcetera. Thank you.
SIMPSON: The cities. Who’s going to fix the cities and how?
BUSH: I’ll be glad to take a shot at it.
BUSH: I’m not sure that — and I can understand if you haven’t seen this, because there’s been a lot of hue and cry. We passed this year the most furthest looking transportation bill in the history of this country since Eisenhower started the interstate highways — $150 billion for improving the infrastructure. That happened when I was president. And so I’m very proud of the way that came about and I think it’s a very, very good beginning.
Like Mr. Perot, I am concerned about the deficits and $150 billion is a lot of money, but it’s awful hard to say we’re going to go out and spend more money when we’re trying to get the deficit down. But I would cite that as a major accomplishment. We hear all the negatives. When you’re president you expect this. Everybody’s running against the incumbent. They can do better. Everyone knows that.
But here’s something that we can take great pride in because it really does get to what you’re talking about. Our home initiative — our home ownership initiative — HOPE — that passed the Congress is a good start for having people own their own homes instead of living in these deadly tenements.
Our enterprise zones, that we hear a lot of lip service about in Congress, would bring jobs into the inner city. There’s a good program. And I need the help of everybody across this country to get it passed in a substantial way by the Congress.
When we went out to south central in Los Angeles — some of you may remember the riots there. I went out there. I went to a boys’ club. And everyone of them — the boys’ club leaders, the ministers — all of them were saying pass enterprise zones. We go back to Washington and very difficult to get it through the Congress. But there’s going to be a new Congress. No one likes gridlock. There’s going to be a new Congress because the old one — I don’t want to get this man made at me — but there was a post office scandal and a bank scandal. You’re going to have a lot of new members of Congress. And then you can sit down and say, help me do what we should for the cities. Help me pass these programs.
SIMPSON: Mr. President, aren’t you threatening to veto the bill — the urban aid bill — that included enterprise zones?
BUSH: Sure, but the problem is, you get so many things included in a great big bill that you have to look at the overall good. That’s the problem with our system. If you had a line item veto you could knock out the pork. You could knock out the tax increases and you could do what the people want, and that’s create enterprise zones.
SIMPSON: Governor Clinton, you’re chomping at the bit.
CLINTON: That bill pays for these urban enterprise zones by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more. And that’s why he wants to veto it, just like he vetoed an earlier bill this year. This is not mud slinging. This is fact slinging — a bill earlier this year. This is facts — that would have given investment tax credits and other incentives to reinvest in our cities, in our country. But it asked the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more. Mr. Perot wants to do the same thing. I agree with him. I mean, we agree with that.
But let me tell you specifically what my plan does. My plan would dedicate $20 billion a year in each of the next 4 years for investments in new transportation, communications, environmental clean-ups and new technologies for the 21st century. And we would target it especially in areas that have been either depressed or which have lost a lot of defense related jobs. There are 200,000 people in California, for example, who have lost their defense related jobs. They ought to be engaged in making high speed rail. They ought to be engaged in breaking ground in other technologies, doing waste recycling, clean water technology and things of that kind.
We can create millions of jobs in these new technologies- -more than we’re going to lose in defense — if we target it. But we’re investing a much smaller percentage of our income in the things you just asked about than all of our major competitors, and our wealth growth is going down as a result of it. It’s making the country poorer, which is why I answered the gentleman the way I did before. We have to both bring down the deficit and get our economy going through these kinds of investments in order to get the kind of wealth and jobs and incomes we need in America.
SIMPSON: Mr. Perot, what about your plans for the cities? You want to tackle the economy and the deficit first.
PEROT: First you’ve got to have money to pay for these things. So you’ve got to create jobs. There are all kinds of ways to create jobs in the inner city. I’m not a politician, but I think I could go to Washington in a week and get everybody holding hands and get this bill signed because I talk to the Democratic leaders and they want it. I talk to the Republican leaders and they want it. But since they’re bred from childhood to fight with one another rather than get results, you know, I would be glad to drop out and spend a little time and see if we couldn’t build some bridges.
Now, results is what counts. The president can’t order Congress around. Congress can’t order the president around. That’s not bad for a guy that’s never been there, right? But you have to work together.
Now, I have talked to the chairmen of the committees that want this. They’re Democrats. The president wants it, but we can’t get it because we sit here in gridlock because it’s a campaign year. We didn’t fund a lot of other things this year, like the savings and loan mess. That’s another story that we’re going to pay a big price for right after the election.
The facts are though — the facts are — the American people are hurting. These people are hurting in the inner cities. We’re shipping the quote, “low paying jobs” overseas. What are low paying jobs? Textiles, shoes, things like that that we say are yesterday’s industries. They’re tomorrow’s industries in the inner cities.
Let me say in my case, if I’m out of work, I’ll cut grass tomorrow to take care of my family; I’ll be happy to make shoes, I’ll be happy to make clothing, I’ll make sausage. You just give me a job. Put those jobs in the inner cities instead of doing diplomatic deals and shipping them to China where prison labor does the work.
SIMPSON: Mr. Perot, everybody thought you won the first debate because you were plain-speaking and you made it sound, oh, so simple. Well, just do it. What makes you think that you’re going to be able to get the Democrats and Republicans together any better than these guys?
PEROT: If you ask me if I could fly a fighter plane or be an astronaut, I can’t. I’ve spent my life creating jobs. That’s something I know how to do. And, very simply, in the inner city, they’re starved — you see, small business is the way to jump start the inner city, not —
SIMPSON: Are you answering my question?
PEROT: You want jobs in the inner city? Do you want jobs in the inner city? Is that your question?
SIMPSON: No, I want you to tell me how you’re going to be able to get the Republicans and Democrats in Congress to work together better than these two gentlemen.
PEROT: Oh, I’m sorry. Well, I’ve listened to both sides, and if they would talk to one another instead of throwing rocks, I think we could get a lot done. And, among other things, I would say, okay, over here in this Senate committee to the chairman who is anxious to get this bill passed, the president who is anxious, I’d say rather than just yelling at one another, why don’t we find out where we’re apart, try to get together, get the bill passed and give the people the benefits and not play party politics right now. And I think the press would follow that so closely that probably they would get it done.
That’s the way I would do it. I doubt if they’ll give me the chance, but I will drop everything and go work on it.
SIMPSON: Okay, I have a question here.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: My question was originally for Governor Clinton, but I think I would welcome a response from all three candidates. As you are aware, crime is rampant in our cities. And in the Richmond area — and I’m sure it’s happened elsewhere — 12-year-olds are carrying guns to school. And I’m sure when our Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution they did not mean for the right to bear arms to apply to 12-year-olds. So I’m asking: Where do you stand on gun control, and what do you plan to do about it?
SIMPSON: Governor Clinton?
CLINTON: I support the right to keep and bear arms. I live in a state where over half the adults have hunting or fishing licenses, or both. But I believe we have to have some way of checking hand guns before they’re sold, to check the criminal history, the mental health history, and the age of people who are buying them. Therefore I support the Brady bill which would impose a national waiting period unless and until a state did what only Virginia has done now, which is to automate its records. Once you automate your records, then you don’t have to have a waiting period, but at least you can check.
I also think we should have frankly restrictions on assault weapons whose only purpose is to kill. We need to give the police a fighting chance in our urban areas where the gangs are building up.
The third thing I would say — it doesn’t bear directly on gun control, but it’s very important — we need more police on the street. There is a crime bill which would put more police on the street, which was killed for this session by a filibuster in the Senate, mostly be Republican senators, and I think it’s a shame it didn’t pass, I think it should be made the law — but it had the Brady bill in it, the waiting period.
I also believe that we should offer college scholarships to people who will agree to work them off as police officers, and I think, as we reduce our military forces, we should let people earn military retirement by coming out and working as police officers. Thirty years ago there were three police officers on the street for every crime; today there are three crimes for every police officer.
In the communities which have had real success putting police officers near schools where kids carry weapons, to get the weapons out of the schools, are on the same blocks, you’ve seen crime go down. In Houston there’s been a 15- percent drop in the crime rate in the last year because of the work the mayor did there in increasing the police force. So I know it can work; I’ve seen it happen.
SIMPSON: Thank you. President Bush?
BUSH: I think you put your finger on a major problem. I talk about strengthening the American family and it’s very hard to strengthen the family if people are scared to walk down to the corner store and, you know, send their kid down to get a loaf of bread. It’s very hard.
I have been fighting for very strong anti-crime legislation — habeas corpus reform, so you don’t have these endless appeals, so when somebody gets sentenced, hey, this is for real. I’ve been fighting for changes in the exclusionary rule so if an honest cop stops somebody and makes a technical mistake, the criminal doesn’t go away.
I’ll probably get into a fight in this room with some but I happen to think that we need stronger death penalties for those that kill police officers.
Virginia’s in the lead in this, as Governor Clinton properly said, on this identification system for firearms. I am not for national registration of firearms. Some of the states that have the toughest anti-gun laws have the highest levels of crime. I am for the right, as the governor says- -I’m a sportsman and I don’t think you ought to eliminate all kinds of weapons. But I was not for the bill that he was talking about because it was not tough enough on the criminal.
I’m very pleased that the Fraternal Order of Police in Little Rock, Arkansas endorsed me because I think they see I’m trying to strengthen the anti-crime legislation. We’ve got more money going out for local police than any previous administration.
So we’ve got to get it under control and there’s one last point I’d make. Drugs. We have got to win our national strategy against drugs, the fight against drugs. And we’re making some progress, doing a little better on interdiction. We’re not doing as well amongst the people that get to be habitual drug-users.
The good news is, and I think it’s true in Richmond, teenage use is down of cocaine, substantially, 60% in the last couple of years. So we’re making progress but until we get that one done, we’re not going to solve the neighborhood crime problem.
SIMPSON: Mr. Perot, there are young black males in America dying at unprecedented rates —
PEROT: I didn’t get to make a comment on this.
SIMPSON: Yes, I’m getting to that.
PEROT: Oh, you’re going to let me. Excuse me.
SIMPSON: The fact that homicide is the leading cause of death among young black males 15 to 24 years old. What are you going to do to get the guns off the street?
PEROT: On any program, and this includes crime, you’ll find we have all kinds of great plans lying around that never get enacted into law and implemented. I don’t care what it is — competitiveness, health care, crime, you name it. Brady Bill, I agree that it’s a timid step in the right direction but it won’t fix it. So why pass a law that won’t fix it? Now, what it really boils down to is can you live — we become so preoccupied with the rights of the criminal that we’ve forgotten the rights of the innocent. And in our country we have evolved to a point where we’ve put millions of innocent people in jail because you go to the poor neighborhoods and they’ve put bars on their windows and bars on their doors and put themselves in jail to protect the things that they acquired legitimately. That’s where we are.
We have got to become more concerned about people who play by the rules and get the balance we require. This is going to take first, building a consensus at grassroots America. Right from the bottom up, the American people have got to say they want it. And at that point, we can pick from a variety of plans and develop new plans. And the way you get things done is bury yourselves in the room with one another, put together the best program, take it to the American people, use the electronic town hall, the kind of thing you’re doing here tonight, build a consensus and then do it and then go on to the next one. But don’t just sit here slow dancing for 4 years doing nothing.
SIMPSON: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Perot.
We have a question up here.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: Please state your position on term limits, and, if you are in favor of them, how will you get them enacted?
BUSH: Any order? I’ll be glad to respond.
SIMPSON: Thank you.
BUSH: I strongly support term limits for members of the US Congress. I believe it would return the government closer to the people, the way that Ross Perot is talking about. The president’s terms are limited to 2, a total of 8 years. What’s wrong with limiting the terms of members of Congress to 12? Congress has gotten kind of institutionalized. For 38 years one party has controlled the House of Representatives, and the result, a sorry little post office that can’t do anything right and a bank that has more overdrafts than all the Chase Bank and Citibank put together. We’ve got to do something about it.
And I think you get a certain arrogance, bureaucratic arrogance, if people stay there too long. And so I favor, strongly favor, term limits.
And how to get them passed? Send us some people that will pass the idea. And I think you will. I think the American people want it now. Every place I go I talk about it, and I think they want it done. Actually, you’d have to have some amendments to the Constitution because of the way the Constitution reads.
SIMPSON: Thank you. Governor Clinton.
CLINTON: I know they’re popular, but I’m against them. I’ll tell you why. I believe, number one, it would pose a real problem for a lot of smaller states in the Congress who have enough trouble now making sure their interests are heard. Number 2, I think it would increase the influence of unelected staff members in the Congress who have too much influence already. I want to cut the size of the congressional staffs, but I think you’re going to have too much influence there with people who were never elected, who have lots of expertise.
Number 3, if the people really have a mind to change, they can. You’re going to have 120 to 150 new members of Congress.
Now, let me tell you what I favor instead. I favor strict controls on how much you can spend running for Congress, strict limits on political action committees, requirements that people running for Congress appear in open public debates like we’re doing now. If you did that you could take away the incumbents’ advantage because challengers like me would have a chance to run against incumbents like him for House races and Senate races, and then the voters could make up their own mind without being subject to an unfair fight.
So that’s how I feel about it, and I think if we had the right kind of campaign reform, we’d get the changes you want.
SIMPSON: Mr. Perot, would you like to address term limitations?
PEROT: Yes. Let me do first on a personal level. If the American people send me up to do this job, I intend to be there one term. I do not intend to spend one minute of one day thinking about re-election. And as a matter of principle — and my situation is unique, and I understand it — I would take absolutely no compensation; I go as their servant.
Now, I have set as strong an example as I can, then at that point when we sit down over at Capitol Hill — tomorrow night I’m going to be talking about government reform — it’s a long subject, you wouldn’t let me finish tonight. If you want to hear it, you get it tomorrow night — you’ll hear it tomorrow night.
But we have got to reform government. If you put term limits in and don’t reform government, you won’t get the benefits you thought. It takes both. So we need to do the reforms and the term limits. And after we reform it, it won’t be a lifetime career opportunity; good people will go serve and then go back to their homes and not become foreign lobbyists and cash in at 30,000 bucks a month and then take time off to run some president’s campaign.
They’re all nice people, they’re just in a bad system. I don’t think there are any villains, but, boy, is the system rotten.
SIMPSON: Thank you very much. We have a question over here.
AUDIENCE QUESTION: I’d like to ask Governor Clinton, do you attribute the rising costs of health care to the medical profession itself, or do you think the problem lies elsewhere? And what specific proposals do you have to tackle this problem?
CLINTON: I’ve had more people talk to me about their health care problems I guess than anything else, all across America — you know, people who’ve lost their jobs, lost their businesses, had to give up their jobs because of sick children. So let me try to answer you in this way. Let’s start with a premise. We spend 30% more of our income than any nation on earth on health care, and yet we insure fewer people. We have 35 million people without any insurance at all — and I see them all the time. A hundred thousand Americans a month have lost their health insurance just in the last 4 years.
So if you analyze where we’re out of line with other countries, you come up with the following conclusions. Number one, we spend at least $60 billion a year on insurance, administrative cost, bureaucracy, and government regulation that wouldn’t be spent in any other nation. So we have to have, in my judgment, a drastic simplification of the basic health insurance policies of this country, be very comprehensive for everybody.
Employers would cover their employees, government would cover the unemployed.
Number 2, I think you have to take on specifically the insurance companies and require them to make some significant change in the way they rate people in the big community pools. I think you have to tell the pharmaceutical companies they can’t keep raising drug prices at three times the rate of inflation. I think you have to take on medical fraud. I think you have to help doctors stop practicing defensive medicine. I’ve recommended that our doctors be given a set of national practice guidelines and that if they follow those guidelines that raises the presumption that they didn’t do anything wrong.
I think you have to have a system of primary and preventive clinics in our inner cities and our rural areas so people can have access to health care.
The key is to control the cost and maintain the quality. To do that you need a system of managed competition where all of us are covered in big groups and we can choose our doctors and our hospitals, a wide range, but there is an incentive to control costs. And I think there has to be — I think Mr. Perot and I agree on this, there has to be a national commission of health care providers and health care consumers that set ceilings to keep health costs in line with inflation, plus population growth.
Now, let me say, some people say we can’t do this but Hawaii does it. They cover 98% of their people and their insurance premiums are much cheaper than the rest of America, and so does Rochester, New York. They now have a plan to cover everybody and their premiums are two-thirds of the rest of the country.
This is very important. It’s a big human problem and a devastating economic problem for America, and I’m going to send a plan to do this within the first 100 days of my presidency. It’s terribly important.
SIMPSON: Thank you. Sorry to cut you short but President Bush, health care reform.
BUSH: I just have to say something. I don’t want to stampede. Ross was very articulate across the country. I don’t want anybody to stampede to cut the president’s salary off altogether. Barbara’s sitting over here and I — but what I have proposed, 10% cut, downsize the government, and we can get that done.
She asked a question, I think, is whether the health care profession was to blame. No. One thing to blame is these malpractice lawsuits. They’re breaking the system. It costs $20-25 billion a year, and I want to see those outrageous claims capped. Doctors don’t dare to deliver babies sometimes because they’re afraid that somebody’s going to sue them. People don’t dare — medical practitioners, to help somebody along the highway that are hurt because they’re afraid that some lawyer’s going to come along and get a big lawsuit. So you can’t blame the practitioners for the health problem.
And my program is this. Keep the government as far out of it as possible, make insurance available to the poorest of the poor, through vouchers, next range in the income bracket, through tax credits, and get on about the business of pooling insurance. A great big company can buy — Ross has got a good-sized company, been very successful. He can buy insurance cheaper than Mom and Pop’s store on the corner. But if those Mom and Pop stores all get together and pool, they too can bring the cost of insurance down.
So I want to keep the quality of health care. That means keep government out of it. I want to do — I don’t like this idea of these boards. It all sounds to me like you’re going to have some government setting price. I want competition and I want to pool the insurance and take care of it that way and have — oh, here’s the other point.
I think medical care should go with the person. If you leave a business, I think your insurance should go with you to some other business. You shouldn’t be worrying if you get a new job as to whether that’s gonna — and part of our plan is to make it what they call portable — big word, but that means if you’re working for the Jones Company and you go to the Smith Company, your insurance goes with you. I think it’s a good program. I’m really excited about getting it done, too.
SIMPSON: Mr. Perot.
PEROT: We have the most expensive health care system in the world. Twelve percent of our gross national product goes to health care. Our industrial competitors, who are beating us in competition, spend less and have better health care. Japan spends a little over 6% of its gross national product. Germany spends 8%.
It’s fascinating. You’ve bought a front row box seat and you’re not happy with your health care and you’re saying tonight we’ve got bad health care but very expensive health care. Folks, here’s why. Go home and look in the mirror.
You own this country but you have no voice in it the way it’s organized now, and if you want to have a high risk experience, comparable to bungee jumping, go into Congress some time when they’re working on this kind of legislation, when the lobbyists are running up and down the halls. Wear your safety toe shoes when you go. And as a private citizen, believe me, you are looked on as a major nuisance.
The facts are you now have a government that comes at you. You’re supposed to have a government that comes from you.
Now, there are all kinds of good ideas, brilliant ideas, terrific ideas on health care. None of them ever get implemented because — let me give you an example. A senator runs every 6 years. He’s got to raise 20,000 bucks a week to have enough money to run. Who’s he gonna listen to — us or the folks running up and down the aisles with money, the lobbyists, the PAC money? He listens to them. Who do they represent? Health care industry. Not us.
Now, you’ve got to have a government that comes from you again. You’ve got to reassert your ownership in this country and you’ve got to completely reform our government. And at that point they’ll just be like apples falling out of a tree. The programs will be good because the elected officials will be listening to — I said the other night I was all ears and I would listen to any good idea. I think we ought to do plastic surgery on a lot of these guys so that they’re all ears, too, and listen to you. Then you get what you want, and shouldn’t you? You paid for it. Why shouldn’t you get what you want, as opposed to what some lobbyist cuts a deal, writes a little piece in the law and he goes through. That’s the way the game’s played now. Till you change it you’re gonna be unhappy.
SIMPSON (continuing): You wanted one brief point in there.
CLINTON: One brief point. We have elections so people can make decisions about this. The point I want to make to you is, a bipartisan commission reviewed my plan and the Bush plan and there were as many Republicans as Democratic health care experts on it. They concluded that my plan would cover everybody and his would leave 27 million behind by the year 2000 and that my plan in the next 12 years would save $2.2 trillion in public and private money to reinvest in this economy and the average family would save $1200 a year under the plan that I offered without any erosion in the quality of health care
So I ask you to look at that. And you have to vote for somebody with a plan. That’s what you have elections for. If people would say, well, he got elected to do this and then the Congress says, okay, I’m going to do it. That’s what the election was about.
END of first half of 1992 Debate 2