Transcript: Does Bush see Kerry character flaws?
CORAL GABLES, Florida (CNN) -- The following is a partial transcript of the debate between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry held Thursday night at the University of Miami. The topic of the debate is foreign affairs, and the moderator is Jim Lehrer of PBS:
LEHRER: New question, President Bush.
Clearly, as we have heard, major policy differences between the two of you.
Are there also underlying character issues that you believe, that you believe are serious enough to deny Senator Kerry the job as commander in chief of the United States?
BUSH: That's a loaded question.
Well, first of all, I admire Senator Kerry's service to our country.
I admire the fact that he is a great dad.
I appreciate the fact that his daughters have been so kind to my daughters in what has been a pretty hard experience for, I guess, young girls, seeing their dads out there campaigning.
I admire the fact that he served for 20 years in the Senate. Although I'm not so sure I admire the record.
I won't hold it against him that he went to Yale. There's nothing wrong with that.
My concerns about the senator is that, in the course of this campaign, I've been listening very carefully to what he says, and he changes positions on the war in Iraq.
He changes positions on something as fundamental as what you believe in your core, in your heart of hearts, is right in Iraq.
You cannot lead if you send mixed messages. Mixed messages send the wrong signals to our troops.
Mixed messages send the wrong signals to our allies. Mixed messages send the wrong signals to the Iraqi citizens.
And that's my biggest concern about my opponent. I admire his service. But I just know how this world works, and that in the councils of government, there must be certainty from the U.S. president.
Of course, we change tactics when need to, but we never change our beliefs, the strategic beliefs that are necessary to protect this country in the world.
LEHRER: Ninety second response, Senator.
KERRY: Well, first of all, I appreciate enormously the personal comments the president just made. And I share them with him.
I think only if you're doing this -- and he's done it more than I have in terms of the presidency -- can you begin to get a sense of what it means to your families.
And it's tough. And so I acknowledge that his daughters -- I've watched them.
I've chuckled a few times at some of their comments.
BUSH: I'm trying to put a leash on them.
KERRY: Well, I know. I've learned not to do that.
And I have great respect and admiration for his wife. I think she's a terrific person ...
BUSH: Thank you.
KERRY: ... and a great first lady.
But we do have differences. I'm not going to talk about a difference of character. I don't think that's my job or my business.
But let me talk about something that the president just sort of finished up with. Maybe someone would call it a character trait, maybe somebody wouldn't.
But this issue of certainty. It's one thing to be certain, but you can be certain and be wrong.
It's another to be certain and be right, or to be certain and be moving in the right direction, or be certain about a principle and then learn new facts and take those new facts and put them to use in order to change and get your policy right.
What I worry about with the president is that he's not acknowledging what's on the ground, he's not acknowledging the realities of North Korea, he's not acknowledging the truth of the science of stem-cell research or of global warming and other issues.
And certainty sometimes can get you in trouble.
LEHRER: Thirty seconds.
BUSH: Well, I think -- listen, I fully agree that one should shift tactics, and we will, in Iraq. Our commanders have got all the flexibility to do what is necessary to succeed.
But what I won't do is change my core values because of politics or because of pressure.
And it is one of the things I've learned in the White House, is that there's enormous pressure on the president, and he cannot wilt under that pressure. Otherwise, the world won't be better off.
LEHRER: Thirty seconds.
KERRY: I have no intention of wilting. I've never wilted in my life. And I've never wavered in my life.
I know exactly what we need to do in Iraq, and my position has been consistent: Saddam Hussein is a threat.
He needed to be disarmed. We needed to go to the U.N. The president needed the authority to use force in order to be able to get him to do something, because he never did it without the threat of force.
But we didn't need to rush to war without a plan to win the peace.
Next question: What's the most serious threat to national security?