Transcript Part II: Cheney, Edwards spar over Iraq, taxes
CLEVELAND, Ohio (CNN) -- The following is part two of a transcript of the debate between Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John Edwards held Tuesday night at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.
The questions from moderator Gwen Ifill of PBS were divided between foreign and domestic policy.
All answers are linked to the questions in the box to the right.
Question 7- Can any administration get accurate intelligence on terrorism?
IFILL: New question, similar topic, because I want to circle back to a question which I'm not quite certain we got an answer to.
But I will direct it to you first, Senator Edwards.
It's a question of American intelligence.
If this report that we've read about today is true, and if Vice President Cheney ordered it and asked about this, do you think that, in the future, that your administration or the Bush administration would have sufficient and accurate enough intelligence to be able to make decisions about where to go next?
EDWARDS: Well, let me speak, first of all, to what the vice president just said, and then I'll answer that question.
This, unfortunately -- what the vice president is telling people is inconsistent with everything they see every single day. It's a continuation of, "Well, there's a strong connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein." It's not true. It's a continuation of at least insinuating that there's some connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. It's not true.
It's saying to the American people, as the president said last Thursday, and the vice president continues to say tonight, that things are going well in Iraq, contrary to what people who have been there have seen, including Republican leaders, contrary to what everyone in America sees on their television every day -- Americans being kidnapped, people being beheaded, parts of the country under the control of insurgents, even today, under the control of the insurgents.
The vice president has still not said anything about what Mr. Bremer said, about the failure to have adequate troops, the failure to be able to secure the country in the short term. You know, remember "shock and awe"?
Look at where we are now. It is a direct result of the failure to plan, the failure to have others involved in this effort. This is not an accident.
Now, let me go back to your question.
If we want to do the things that need to be done to keep this country safe, we can't be dragged kicking and screaming to it.
One thing that everybody does agree on is that 9/11 did change things.
But what's happened is this administration opposed the creation of a 9/11 Commission to find out why it happened and what we needed to do.
They opposed the creation of a Department of Homeland Security, and then they were for it.
We can't react that way. We must be more aggressive.
With John Kerry as president of the United States, we are committed to immediately implementing all of the reforms suggested by the 9/11 Commission, so that we have the information we need to find terrorists and crush them before hey hurt us.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President?
CHENEY: Gwen, the story that appeared today about this report is one I asked for. I ask an awful lot of questions as part of my job as vice president. A CIA spokesman was quoted in that story as saying they had not yet reached the bottom line and there is still debate over this question of the relationship between Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein.
The report also points out that at one point some of Zarqawi's people were arrested. Saddam personally intervened to have them released, supposedly at the request of Zarqawi
But let's look at what we know about Mr. Zarqawi. We know he was running a terrorist camp, training terrorists in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. We know that when we went into Afghanistan that he then migrated to Baghdad. He set up shop in Baghdad, where he oversaw the poisons facility up at Kermal (ph), where the terrorists were developing ricin and other deadly substances to use.
We know he's still in Baghdad today. He is responsible for most of the major car bombings that have killed or maimed thousands of people. He's the one you will see on the evening news beheading hostages.
He is, without question, a bad guy. He is, without question, a terrorist. He was, in fact, in Baghdad before the war, and he's in Baghdad now after the war.
The fact of the matter is that this is exactly the kind of track record we've seen over the years. We have to deal with Zarqawi by taking him out, and that's exactly what we'll do.
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Question 8 -- Should sanctions be lifted against Iran?
IFILL: Mr. Vice President, in June of 2000 when you were still CEO of Halliburton, you said that U.S. businesses should be allowed to do business with Iran because, quote, "Unilateral sanctions almost never work."
After four years as vice president now, and with Iran having been declared by your administration as part of the "Axis of Evil," do you still believe that we should lift sanctions on Iran?
CHENEY: No, I do not. And, Gwen, at the time, I was talking specifically about this question of unilateral sanctions.
What happens when we impose unilateral sanctions is, unless there's a collective effort, then other people move in and take advantage of the situation and you don't have any impact, except to penalize American companies.
We've got sanctions on Iran now. We may well want to go to the U.N. Security Council and ask for even tougher sanctions if they don't live up to their obligations under the initial -- International Atomic Energy Agency Non-Proliferation Treaty. We dealt with Iran differently than we have Iraq partly because Iran has not yet, as Iraq did, violated 12 years of resolutions by the U.N. Security Council.
We're working with the Brits and the Germans and the French, who've been negotiating with the Iranians.
We recently were actively involved in a meeting with the board of governors in the International Atomic Energy Agency. And as I say, there will be a follow-up meeting in November to determine whether or not Iran's living up to their commitments and obligations.
And if they aren't, my guess is then the board of governors will recommend sending the whole matter to the U.N. Security Council for the application of the international sanctions, which I think would be exactly the right way to go.
We're addressing North Korea on a similar basis, working with the Chinese, the South Koreans, the Japanese and others to try to bring them around. One of the great by-products, for example, of what we did in Iraq and Afghanistan is that five days after we captured Saddam Hussein, Moammar Gadhafi in Libya came forward and announced that he was going to surrender all of his nuclear materials to the United States, which he has done.
This was one of the biggest sources of proliferation in the world today in terms of the threat that was represented by that. The suppliers network that provided that, headed by Mr. A.Q. Khan, has been shut down.
We've made major progress in dealing here with a major issue with respect to nuclear proliferation. And we'll continue to press very hard on the North Koreans and the Iranians as well.
IFILL: Senator Edwards?
EDWARDS: Well, the vice president talks about there being a member, or someone associated with al Qaeda, in Iraq. There are 60 countries who have members of al Qaeda in them. How many of those countries are we going to invade?
Not only that, he talks about Iran. The reality about Iran is that Iran has moved forward with their nuclear weapons program on their watch. They ceded responsibility to dealing with it to the Europeans.
Now, the vice president, as you pointed out, spoke out loudly for lifting the sanctions on Iraq. John Kerry and I believe we need to strengthen the sanctions on Iraq, including closing the loophole that allows companies to use a subsidiary, offshore subsidiaries to do business with Iran.
I mentioned Halliburton a few minutes ago in connection with the $87 billion, and you raised it in this question. This is relevant, because he was pushing for lifting sanctions when he was CEO of Halliburton. Here's why we didn't think Halliburton should have a no-bid contract.
While he was CEO of Halliburton, they paid millions of dollars in fines for providing false information on their company, just like Enron and Ken Lay.
They did business with Libya and Iran, two sworn enemies of the United States.
They're now under investigation for having bribed foreign officials during that period of time.
Not only that, they've gotten a $7.5 billion no-bid contract in Iraq, and instead of part of their money being withheld, which is the way it's normally done, because they're under investigation, they've continued to get their money.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President?
CHENEY: I can respond, Gwen, but it's going to take more than 30 seconds.
IFILL: Well, that's all you've got.
CHENEY: Well, the reason they keep mentioning Halliburton is because they're trying to throw up a smokescreen. They know the charges are false.
They know that if you go, for example, to factcheck.com, an independent Web site sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, you can get the specific details with respect to Halliburton.
It's an effort that they've made repeatedly to try to confuse the voters and to raise questions, but there's no substance to the charges.
IFILL: Thirty seconds.
EDWARDS: These are the facts.
The facts are the vice president's company that he was CEO of, that did business with sworn enemies of the United States, paid millions of dollars in fines for providing false financial information, it's under investigation for bribing foreign officials.
The same company that got a $7.5 billion no-bid contract, the rule is that part of their money is supposed to be withheld when they're under investigation, as they are now, for having overcharged the American taxpayer, but they're getting every dime of their money.
I'm happy to let voters make their own decision about this.
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Question 9 -- What should be done to end Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
IFILL: Senator Edwards, as we wrap up the foreign policy part of this, I do want to talk to you about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Today, a senior member of Islamic Jihad was killed in Gaza. There have been suicide bombings, targeted assassinations, mortar attacks, all of this continuing at a time when the United States seems absent in the peace-making process.
What would your administration do?
First of all, do you agree that the United States is absent? Maybe you don't.
But what would your administration do to try to resolve that conflict?
EDWARDS: Well, first of all, I do agree that we've been largely absent, not entirely absent, but largely absent from the peace-making process over the last four years. And let me just say a couple of preliminary things and then talk about where we are now.
First, the Israeli people not only have the right to defend themselves, they should defend themselves. They have an obligation to defend themselves.
I mean, if I can, just for a moment, tell you a personal story. I was in Jerusalem a couple of years ago, actually three years ago, in August of 2001, staying at the King David Hotel.
We left in the morning, headed to the airport to leave, and later in the day I found out that that same day, not far from where we were staying, the Sbarro Pizzeria was hit by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem. Fifteen people were killed. Six children were killed.
What are the Israeli people supposed to do? How can they continue to watch Israeli children killed by suicide bombers, killed by terrorists?
They have not only the right to the obligation to defend themselves.
Now, we know that the prime minister has made a decision, an historic decision, to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. It's important for America to participate in helping with that process.
Now, if Gaza's being used as a platform for attacking the Israeli people, that has to be stopped. And Israel has a right to defend itself. They don't have a partner for peace right now. They certainly don't have a partner in Arafat, and they need a legitimate partner for peace.
And I might add, it is very important for America to crack down on the Saudis who have not had a public prosecution for financing terrorism since 9/11. And it's important for America to confront the situation in Iran, because Iran is an enormous threat to Israel and to the Israeli people.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President, 90 seconds.
CHENEY: Gwen, I want to go back to the last comment, and then I'll come back to Israel-Palestine.
The reason they keep trying to attack Halliburton is because they want to obscure their own record.
And Senator, frankly, you have a record in the Senate that's not very distinguished. You've missed 33 out of 36 meetings in the Judiciary Committee, almost 70 percent of the meetings of the Intelligence Committee.
You've missed a lot of key votes: on tax policy, on energy, on Medicare reform.
Your hometown newspaper has taken to calling you "Senator Gone." You've got one of the worst attendance records in the United States Senate.
Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer. I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session.
The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight.
In respect to Israel and Palestine, Gwen, the suicide bombers, in part, were generated by Saddam Hussein, who paid $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers.
I personally think one of the reasons that we don't have as many suicide attacks today in Israel as we've had in the past is because Saddam is no longer in business.
We've been strong supporters of Israel. The president stepped forward and put in place a policy basically that said we will support the establishment of two states. First president ever to say we'll establish and support a Palestinian state next door to Israelis.
But first, there has to be an interlocutor you can trust and deal with. And we won't have that, we don't have it now, in a Yasser Arafat. There has to be reform of the Palestinian system.
IFILL: Senator Edwards, it's your turn to use 30 seconds for a complicated response...
EDWARDS: That was a complete distortion of my record. I know that won't come as a shock.
The vice president, I'm surprised to hear him talk about records. When he was one of 435 members of the United States House, he was one of 10 to vote against Head Start, one of four to vote against banning plastic weapons that can pass through metal detectors.
He voted against the Department of Education. He voted against funding for Meals on Wheels for seniors. He voted against a holiday for Martin Luther King. He voted against a resolution calling for the release of Nelson Mandela in South Africa.
It's amazing to hear him criticize either my record or John Kerry's.
IFILL: Thirty seconds.
CHENEY: Oh, I think his record speaks for itself. And frankly, it's not very distinguished.
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Question 10 - What will your administration do to ease joblessness and poverty?
IFILL: In that case, we'll move on to domestic matters. And this question, I believe, goes to Senator -- to Vice President Cheney.
The Census Bureau...
CHENEY: I think it goes to Senator Edwards.
IFILL: It goes to the Senator. I see you. I just asked him about Israel, even though we didn't actually talk about it much.
CHENEY: I concede the point.
EDWARDS: No, I did talk about it, Israel. He's the one who didn't talk about it.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President, the Census Bureau ranked Cleveland as the biggest poor city in the country, 31 percent jobless rate.
You two gentlemen are pretty well off. You did well for yourselves in the private sector. What can you tell the people of Cleveland, or people of cities like Cleveland, that your administration will do to better their lives?
CHENEY: Well, Gwen, there are several things that I think need to be done and are being done.
We've, of course, been through a difficult recession, and then the aftermath of 9/11, where we lost over a million jobs after that attack.
But we think the key is to address some basic, fundamental issues that the president's already working on.
I think probably the most successful thing we can do with respect to ending poverty is to get people jobs. There's no better antidote to poverty than a good, well-paying job that allows somebody to take care of their own family.
To do that, we have to make America the best place in the world to do business. And that means we've got to deal effectively with tax policy. We've got to reduce the litigation costs that are built into our society. We've got to provide the adequate medical care and make certain that we can, in fact, create the opportunities that are vital to that process.
I'd zero in, in particular, on education. I think the most important thing we can do is have a first-class public school system. I'm a product of public schools.
And the president, his first legislative priority was the No Child Left Behind Act. It was the first piece of legislation we introduced.
We got it passed that first summer on a bipartisan basis. We even had Ted Kennedy on board for the effort.
And it does several things. It establishes high standards. It, at the same time, sets up a system of testing with respect to our school system, so we can establish accountability to parents and make certain that they understand how well their students are doing. And they have the opportunity to move students out of poorly performing schools to good schools.
It strikes me that that is absolutely the heart of what needs to be done from the standpoint of education.
It's also important, as we go forward in the next term, we want to be able to take what we've done for elementary education and move it into the secondary education.
It's working. We've seen reports now of a reduction in the achievement gap between majority students and minority students. We're making significant progress.
IFILL: Senator Edwards, you have 90 seconds.
EDWARDS: Gwen, your question was about jobs?
IFILL: It was about jobs, and it was about poverty.
EDWARDS: I thought it was about jobs and poverty. I hope we get a chance to talk about education, but that's what the vice president talked about.
Here's what's happened: In the time that they have been in office, in the last four years, 1.6 million private sector jobs have been lost, 2.7 million manufacturing jobs have been lost. And it's had real consequences in places like Cleveland.
Cleveland is a wonderful, distinguished city that's done a lot of great things, but it has the highest poverty rate in the country. One out of almost two children in Cleveland are now living in poverty.
During the time that the vice president and the president have been in office, 4 million more Americans have fallen into poverty.
During the time that the vice president and the president have been in office, 4 million more Americans have fallen into poverty.
And what the most striking and startling thing is, they are the first presidency in 70 years -- and I'm talking Democrats, Republican, presidents who led us through World war, through the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Cold War -- every one of them created jobs until this president.
We have to do better. We have a plan. We're going to get rid of -- by the way, they're for outsourcing jobs. I want to make sure people hear that, the fundamental difference with us. The administration says over and over that the outsourcing of millions of American jobs is good. We're against it.
We want to get rid of tax cuts for companies sending jobs overseas. We want to balance this budget, get back to fiscal responsibility. And we want to invest in the creative, innovative jobs of the future.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President?
CHENEY: Gwen, we've got 111 million American taxpayers that have benefited from our income tax cuts.
We've got 33 million students who've benefited from No Child Left Behind.
We've got 40 million seniors who benefited from the reform of the Medicare system. The Democrats promised prescription drug benefits. For years they've run on that platform. They never got it done. The president got it done.
We also dropped 5 million people totally off the federal income tax rolls, so they no longer have to pay any federal income tax at all.
So the story, I think, is a good one.
And the data he's using is old data. It's from 2003. It doesn't include any of the gains that we've made in the last years. We've added 1.7 million jobs to the economy.
IFILL: Thirty seconds.
EDWARDS: The vice president and president like to talk about their experience on the campaign trail. Millions of people have lost their jobs. Millions have fallen into poverty. Family incomes are down, while the cost of everything is going up.
Medical costs are up the highest they've ever been over the last four years. We have this mess in Iraq.
Mr. Vice President, I don't think the country can take four more years of this kind of experience.
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Question 11 - Can Kerry guarantee not to raise taxes and cut the deficit?
IFILL: This next question goes to you, Senator Edwards.
Senator Kerry said in a recent interview that he absolutely will not raise taxes on anyone under -- who earns under $200,000 a year. How can he guarantee that and also cut the deficit in half, as he's promised?
EDWARDS: Because we will do what they've not done. You know, if you look at what's happened over the last four years, we have gone from a $5 trillion projected surplus when George Bush took office to a $3 trillion projected deficit.
They promised they were going to put $2 trillion of the surplus aside from Social Security. Not done.
Not only that, it's the biggest fiscal turnaround in American history.
And there's no end in sight. The Washington Post just reported they have several trillion dollars of additional tax cuts and spending, no suggestion of what they're going to do about it.
John Kerry and I believe we have a moral responsibility not to leave trillions of debt to our children and our grandchildren.
So here's what we're going to do, to answer you question. To pay for the things that we believe need to be done -- and I hope to get the chance to talk about health care and also about education, because we have plans on both of those subjects -- what we're going to do is roll back tax cuts.
And I want everyone to hear this, because there have been exaggerations made on the campaign trail: Roll back tax cuts for people who make over $200,000 a year; we will do that.
We want to keep the tax cuts that are in place for people who make less than $200,000 a year and give additional tax cuts to those middle-class families, tax cuts for health care, tax cuts to help families pay for their college tuition, tax cuts for child care.
These families are struggling and hurting, and they need more tax relief, not less tax relief.
But to help get us back on the path to a balanced budget, we also want to get rid of some of the bureaucratic spending in Washington.
One of the amazing things that's happened is they've actually layered on more supervisory people, people at the supervisory level, in this government.
We also want to close some corporate loopholes.
Now, I want to be honest with people. We can't eliminate this deficit. People have heard that over and over and over in four years. We cannot do it. We're in too deep a hole.
But we can cut the deficit in half. And if we move, we can move this country back on a path to fiscal responsibility.
IFILL: You have 90 seconds, Mr. Vice President.
CHENEY: Gwen, the Kerry record on taxes is one basically of voting for a large number of tax increases -- 98 times in the United States Senate.
There's a fundamental philosophical difference here between the president and myself, who believe that we ought to let the American people keep more of what they earn and we ought to empower them to have more control over their own lives -- I think the Kerry-Edwards approach basically is to raise taxes and to give government more control over the lives of individual citizens.
We think that's the wrong way to go. There's a fundamental difference of opinion here.
They talk about the top bracket and going after only those people in the top bracket.
Well, the fact of the matter is a great many of our small businesses pay taxes under the personal income taxes rather than the corporate rate. And about 900,000 small businesses will be hit if you do, in fact, do what they want to do with the top bracket. That's not smart because seven out of 10 new jobs in America are created by small businesses.
You do not want to tax them. It's a bad idea to increase the burden on those folks.
The senator himself said, during the course of the primaries, that the Kerry plan would drive us deeper into deficit. Those were the senator's word about his running-mate.
The fact of the matter is, the president and I will go forward to make the tax cuts permanent. That's good policy. That's what we ought to do. But with fiscal restraint, we'll also drive the deficit down 50 percent in the course of the next five years.
IFILL: Thirty seconds, Senator Edwards.
EDWARDS: We are committed to cutting back anything in our programs that need to be cut back to get us back on a path to fiscal responsibility.
John Kerry, Mr. Vice President, has voted or co-sponsored over 600 times tax cuts for the American people -- over 600 times.
And there is a philosophical difference between us and them.
We are for more tax cuts for the middle class than they're for, have been for the last four years. But we are not for more tax cuts for multimillionaires. They are.
And it is a fundamental difference in what we think needs to be done in this country.
IFILL: You have 30 seconds, Mr. Vice President.
CHENEY: Yesterday, the president signed an extension of middle- class tax cuts, the 10 percent bracket, the marriage penalty relief and the increase in the child tax credit.
Senators Kerry and Edwards weren't even there to vote for it when it came to final passage.
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Question 12 - How can Cheney support Bush administration's ban on same-sex unions?
FILL: The next question goes to you, Mr. Vice President.
I want to read something you said four years ago at this very setting: "Freedom means freedom for everybody." You said it again recently when you were asked about legalizing same-sex unions. And you used your family's experience as a context for your remarks.
Can you describe then your administration's support for a constitutional ban on same-sex unions?
CHENEY: Gwen, you're right, four years ago in this debate, the subject came up. And I said then and I believe today that freedom does mean freedom for everybody. People ought to be free to choose any arrangement they want. It's really no one else's business. That's a separate question from the issue of whether or not government should sanction or approve or give some sort of authorization, if you will, to these relationships.
Traditionally, that's been an issue for the states. States have regulated marriage, if you will. That would be my preference.
In effect, what's happened is that in recent months, especially in Massachusetts, but also in California, but in Massachusetts we had the Massachusetts Supreme Court direct the state of -- the legislature of Massachusetts to modify their constitution to allow gay marriage.
And the fact is that the president felt that it was important to make it clear that that's the wrong way to go, as far as he's concerned.
Now, he sets the policy for this administration, and I support the president.
IFILL: Senator Edwards, 90 seconds.
EDWARDS: Yes. Let me say first, on an issue that the vice president said in his last answer before we got to this question, talking about tax policy, the country needs to know that under what they have put in place and want to put in place, a millionaire sitting by their swimming pool, collecting their statements to see how much money they're making, make their money from dividends, pays a lower tax rate than the men and women who are receiving paychecks for serving on the ground in Iraq.
Now, they may think that's right. John Kerry and I do not.
We don't just value wealth, which they do. We value work in this country. And it is a fundamental value difference between them and us.
Now, as to this question, let me say first that I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing. And there are millions of parents like that who love their children, who want their children to be happy.
And I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and so does John Kerry.
I also believe that there should be partnership benefits for gay and lesbian couples in long-term, committed relationships.
But we should not use the Constitution to divide this country.
No state for the last 200 years has ever had to recognize another state's marriage.
This is using the Constitution as a political tool, and it's wrong.
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Question 13 - What is Kerry and Edwards' stance on gay marriage?
IFILL: New question, but same subject.
As the vice president mentioned, John Kerry comes from the state of Massachusetts, which has taken as big a step as any state in the union to legalize gay marriage. Yet both you and Senator Kerry say you oppose it.
Are you trying to have it both ways?
EDWARDS: No. I think we've both said the same thing all along.
We both believe that -- and this goes onto the end of what I just talked about -- we both believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.
But we also believe that gay and lesbians and gay and lesbian couples, those who have been in long-term relationships, deserve to be treated respectfully, they deserve to have benefits.
For example, a gay couple now has a very difficult time, one, visiting the other when they're in the hospital, or, for example, if, heaven forbid, one of them were to pass away, they have trouble even arranging the funeral.
I mean, those are not the kind of things that John Kerry and I believe in. I suspect the vice president himself does not believe in that.
But we don't -- we do believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
And I want to go back, if I can, to the question you just asked, which is this constitutional amendment.
I want to make sure people understand that the president is proposing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage that is completely unnecessary.
Under the law of this country for the last 200 years, no state has been required to recognize another state's marriage.
Let me just be simple about this. My state of North Carolina would not be required to recognize a marriage from Massachusetts, which you just asked about.
There is absolutely no purpose in the law and in reality for this amendment. It's nothing but a political tool. And it's being used in an effort to divide this country on an issue that we should not be dividing America on.
We ought to be talking about issues like health care and jobs and what's happening in Iraq, not using an issue to divide this country in a way that's solely for political purposes. It's wrong.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President, you have 90 seconds.
CHENEY: Well, Gwen, let me simply thank the senator for the kind words he said about my family and our daughter. I appreciate that very much.
IFILL: That's it?
CHENEY: That's it.
IFILL: OK, then we'll move on to the next question.
Continued: Question 14 -- Has John Edwards, a former trial lawyer, been part of the problem of higher medical costs?