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Inside Politics

Transcript Part III: Cheney, Edwards discuss qualities of a VP

Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John Edwards
Full transcript of the October 5, 2004 vice presidential debates. 
• Question 19 -- Is changing positions bad? 
Real-time rips and raves:  Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson  blog tonight's debate
Second presidential debate: Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri

October 13
Third presidential debate: Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona

All debates start at 9 p.m. ET
• Audio Slide Show: Debate history
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America Votes 2004
Dick Cheney
John Edwards

CLEVELAND, Ohio (CNN) -- The following is part three 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 14 -- Has John Edwards, a former trial lawyer, been part of the problem of higher medical costs?

IFILL: OK, then we'll move on to the next question. This one is for you, Mr. Vice President. President Bush has derided John Kerry for putting a trial lawyer on the ticket. You yourself have said that lawsuits are partly to blame for higher medical costs. Are you willing to say that John Edwards, sitting here, has been part of the problem?

CHENEY: Well, Gwen...

IFILL: Mr. Vice President?

CHENEY: First of all, I'm not familiar with his cases. My concern is specifically with what's happened to our medical care system because of rising malpractice insurance rates, because we failed to adequately reform our medical liability structure.

I was in New Mexico the other day and met with a group of OB/GYN docs.

And they were deeply concerned because they were fearful that there'd be another increase in malpractice insurance rates as a result of what they believe are frivolous lawsuits and that that would put them out of business.

And one doctor indicated that her rates have gone up so much that she's now to the point where she is screening patients. She won't take high-risk patients anymore because of the danger that that will generate a lawsuit, and a lawsuit will put her out of business.

This has had a devastating impact in a lot of communities. My home state of Wyoming, we've lost the top insurer of malpractice insurance in the state. The rates for a general practitioner have gone from $40,000 a year to $100,000 a year for an insurance policy.

We think this has a devastating impact on the quality of health care.

As I say, high risk patients don't get covered anymore. We've lost one out of 11 OB/GYN practitioners in the country. We think it can be fixed, needs to be fixed.

Now, specifically, what we need to do is cap non-economic damages, and we also think you need to limit the awards that the trial attorneys take out of all of this. Over 50 percent of the settlements go to the attorneys and for administrating overhead.

We passed medical liability reform through the House of Representatives. It's been blocked in the Senate. Senator Kerry's voted 10 times against medical liability reform, and I don't believe Senator Edwards supports it, either, not the kind that would be meaningful.

IFILL: Senator Edwards?

EDWARDS: Yes. Well let me say, first of all, I'm proud of the work I did on behalf of kids and families against big insurance companies, big drug companies and big HMOs.

We do have too many lawsuits. And the reality is there's something that we can do about it.

John Kerry and I have a plan to do something about it. We want to put more responsibility on the lawyers to require, before a case, malpractice, which the vice president just spoke about, have the case reviewed by independent experts to determine if the case is serious and meritorious before it can be filed; hold the lawyers responsible for that, certify that and hold the lawyer financially responsible if they don't do it; have a three-strikes-and-you're-out rule so that a lawyer who files three of these cases without meeting this requirement loses their right to file these cases.

That way we keep the cases out of the system that don't belong in the system. They talk about frivolous cases. We believe cases that don't belong in the system should never be in the system.

But we don't believe that we should take away the right of people like Valerie Lakey, who was the young girl who I represented, five years old, severely injured for life, on a defective swimming pool drain cover.

It turns out the company knew of 12 other children who had either been killed or severely injured by the same problem. They hid it. They didn't tell anybody. They could have fixed it with a 2-cent screw. That's wrong.

John Kerry and I are always going to stand with the Valerie Lakeys of the world, and not with the insurance companies.

(Back to top)

Question 15 -- Is Edwards being personally attacked when Cheney talks about legal reform and the president talks about a trial lawyer?

IFILL: Senator Edwards, new question to you, same topic. Do you feel personally attacked when Vice President Cheney talks about liability reform and tort reform and the president talks about having a trial lawyer on the ticket?

EDWARDS: Am I personally attacked?

I think the truth is that what they're doing is talking about an issue that really doesn't have a great deal to do with what's happening with medical policy in this country, which I think is a very serious issue.

And I would be the first to say that what the vice president described a few minutes ago, problems with malpractice premiums, that's true, it's real. It's very real. What doctors talk about is very serious.

And they're getting squeezed from both sides. I mean, because, they have trouble getting reimbursed, first of all, for the care that they provide, you know, from the government or from health-care companies. And, on the flip side, their malpractice costs are going up.

That's very real, which is why we have proposed a plan to keep cases out of the system that don't belong there.

But it's very important to put this in context. Because, in context, everything they're proposing, according to the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office, amounts to about half of 1 percent of health-care costs in this country -- half of 1 percent.

We have double-digit inflation in health care costs. We've seen the largest rise in medical costs in the last four years in the country's history: $3,500 nationally. And nobody who's watching this debate needs me to explain this to them. They know it.

Medicare premiums are up 17 percent on their watch. Again, largest increase in Medicare premiums in the history of Medicare.

We think we have a plan to keep cases that don't belong in the system out, but we also do what they haven't done.

Five million Americans have lost their health care coverage. Medical costs are skyrocketing. We have a serious health care plan to bring down costs for everybody, to cover millions more Americans and to actually stand up to drug companies and insurance companies which this administration has been unwilling to do.

IFILL: Mr. Vice President?

CHENEY: Gwen, we think lawsuit abuse is a serious problem in this country. We think we badly need tort reform.

I was in Minnesota the other day, where I visited an aircraft manufacturing plant. It's a great success story. This is a company that started 20 years ago with nothing. Today they're the second- leading producer of piston-driven aircraft in the country.

He told me that if it weren't for the increased cost of his liability insurance, in this case product liability, he could hire 200 more people in his factory. We've built into the system enormous costs as a result of our practice with respect to litigation. We have to find ways to get a handle on it.

He mentioned Medicare up 17 percent, somehow that that was something we caused. No. The 17 percent increase in Medicare premiums was the direct result of a statute adopted in 1997. John Kerry voted for it.

It establishes the formula for Part B of Medicare that says, in effect, it has to cover 25 percent of the cost of the program. And the reason the money had to go into the trust fund was to make certain that we could cover those eligible for benefits.

While you were in private practice in law and as a senator, you had the advantage of a special tax loophole, Subchapter S corporation, which you set up so you could avoid paying $600,000 in Medicare taxes that would have gone into the fund.

And it's those kinds of loopholes that necessitate a premium increase under the law that was enacted in 1997, supported by John Kerry.

IFILL: You have 30 seconds to respond.

EDWARDS: Well, first of all, I have paid all the taxes that I owe.

When the vice president was CEO of Halliburton, they took advantage of every offshore loophole available. They had multiple offshore companies that were avoiding taxes.

Those are the kind of things that ought to be closed. They ought to be closed. They ought to be closed for anybody. They ought to be closed whether they're personal, and they ought to be closed whether they apply to a corporation.

But the reality is health care costs are going up every day for the American people, and I hope we're going to get a chance to talk more about health care.

IFILL: Thirty seconds, Mr. Vice President.

CHENEY: We've done a lot to reduce the cost of health care. The Medicare drug benefit that we'll be providing to seniors beginning in 2006 will provide upwards to $1,300 a year to help them buy prescription drugs.

The drug savings -- drug discount card that's now available saves an estimated 15 percent to 30 percent off the cost of prescription drugs for senior citizens.

So we're moving in as many areas as we can to make certain we hold down and reduce the health care costs.

(Back to top)

Question 16 -- What can the government do about AIDS?

IFILL: I will talk to you about health care, Mr. Vice President. You have two minutes. But in particular, I want to talk to you about AIDS, and not about AIDS in China or Africa, but AIDS right here in this country, where black women between the ages of 25 and 44 are 13 times more likely to die of the disease than their counterparts. What should the government's role be in helping to end the growth of this epidemic?

CHENEY: Well, this is a great tragedy, Gwen, when you think about the enormous cost here in the United States and around the world of the AIDS epidemic -- pandemic, really. Millions of lives lost, millions more infected and facing a very bleak future.

In some parts of the world, we've got the entire, sort of, productive generation has been eliminated as a result of AIDS, all except for old folks and kids -- nobody to do the basic work that runs an economy.

The president has been deeply concerned about it. He has moved and proposed and gotten through the Congress authorization for $15 billion to help in the international effort, to be targeted in those places where we need to do everything we can, through a combination of education as well as providing the kinds of medicines that will help people control the infection.

Here in the United States, we've made significant progress. I have not heard those numbers with respect to African- American women. I was not aware that it was -- that they're in epidemic there, because we have made progress in terms of the overall rate of AIDS infection, and I think primarily through a combination of education and public awareness as well as the development, as a result of research, of drugs that allow people to live longer lives even though they are infected -- obviously we need to do more of that.

IFILL: Senator Edwards, you have 90 seconds.

EDWARDS: Well, first, with respect to what's happening in Africa and Russia and in other places around the world, the vice president spoke about the $15 billion for AIDS. John Kerry and I believe that needs to be doubled.

And I might add, on the first year of their commitment, they came up significantly short of what they had promised.

And we probably won't get a chance to talk about Africa. Let me just say a couple of things.

The AIDS epidemic in Africa, which is killing millions and millions of people and is a frightening thing not just for the people of Africa but also for the rest of the world, that, combined with the genocide that we're now seeing in Sudan, are two huge moral issues for the United States of America, which John Kerry spoke about eloquently last Thursday night.

Here at home we need to do much more. And the vice president spoke about doing research, making sure we have the drugs available, making sure that we do everything possible to have prevention. But it's a bigger question than that.

You know, we have 5 million Americans who've lost their health care coverage in the last four years; 45 million Americans without health care coverage. We have children who don't have health care coverage.

If kids and adults don't have access to preventative care, if they're not getting the health care that they need day after day after day, the possibility of not only developing AIDS and having a problem -- having a problem -- a life-threatening problem, but the problem of developing other life-threatening diseases is there every day of their lives.

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Question 17 -- What qualifies Edwards to be vice president?

IFILL: OK, we'll move on. This goes to you, Senator Edwards, and you have two minutes. Ten men and women have been nominees of their parties since 1976 to be vice president. Out of those 10, you have the least governmental experience of any of them. What qualifies you to be a heartbeat away?

EDWARDS: The American people want in their president and in their vice president basically three things: They want to know that their president and their vice president will keep them safe. They want to know that they have good judgment. And they want to know that you'll tell them the truth.

John Kerry and I will tell the American people the truth.

During the time that I have served on the Intelligence Committee in the Senate, traveling to some of the places we've talked about tonight -- Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle East, Turkey -- meeting with the leaders of NATO, I have a very clear idea of what has to be done to keep this country safe.

The threats we face: terrorism, killing terrorists and stopping them before they can do damage to us, making sure that we stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

I agree with John Kerry from Thursday night, that the danger of nuclear weapons getting in the hands of terrorists is one of the greatest threats that America faces.

But the one thing that we know from this administration is -- and I -- first of all, I don't claim to have the long political resume that Vice President Cheney has. That's just the truth, and the American people know that and deserve to know it. But what we know from this administration is that a long resume does not equal good judgment.

Here are the judgments I would make: My first priority would be to keep this country safe. I would find terrorists where they are and stop them and kill them before they do harm to us.

We would stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

And we would also strengthen this military, which means providing the equipment and training that they need.

We want to raise the active-duty forces by 40,000, double the special forces so we can find terrorists where they are, and provide the kind of support for families -- health care, housing -- that they deserve while their loved ones are serving and protecting us.

IFILL: Mr. Vice President, you have 90 seconds.

CHENEY: You want me to answer a question about his qualifications?

IFILL: That was the question.

CHENEY: I see.

Well, I think the important thing in picking a vice president probably varies from president to president. Different presidents approach it in different ways.

When George Bush asked me to sign on, it obviously wasn't because he was worried about carrying Wyoming. We got 70 percent of the vote in Wyoming, although those three electoral votes turned out to be pretty important last time around.

What he said he wanted me to do was to sign on because of my experience to be a member of the team, to help him govern, and that's exactly the way he's used me.

And I think from the perspective of the nation, it's worked in our relationship, in this administration. I think it's worked in part because I made it clear that I don't have any further political aspirations myself. And I think that's been an advantage.

I think it allows the president to know that my only agenda is his agenda. I'm not worried about what some precinct committeemen in Iowa were thinking of me with respect to the next round of caucuses of 2008.

It's a very significant responsibility when you consider that at a moment's notice you may have to take over as president of the United States and make all of those decisions. It's happened several times in our history.

And I think that probably is the most important consideration in picking a vice president, somebody who could take over.

IFILL: You have 30 seconds, if you'd like to respond to that.

EDWARDS: I think the most important thing I've learned from this process is what I now know about John Kerry. I knew him before. I know him better now.

He's the one candidate who's led troops in battle. He was a prosecutor, putting people behind bars to protect neighborhoods from crime. He fought for 100,000 cops on the street, and went with John McCain to Vietnam to find out what happened to our POWs.

And the American people saw for themselves on Thursday night the strength, resolve, and backbone that I, myself, have seen in John Kerry.

He is ready to be commander in chief.

IFILL: Mr. Vice President, you have 30 seconds to respond.

CHENEY: Well, I clearly believe that George W. Bush would be a better commander in chief. He's already done it for four years.

And he's demonstrated, without question, the conviction, the vision, the determination to win this war against terror. He understands it's a global conflict that reaches from the United States all the way around the globe to Jakarta.

And those very special qualities are vital in a commander in chief. And I think the president has them, and I'm not at all convinced his opponent does.

(Back to top)

Question 18 -- Without mentioning [the presidential candidates] by name, how are you different from the other vice presidential candidate?

IFILL: Mr. Vice President, picking up on that, you both just sang the praises of the tops of your ticket. Without mentioning them by name at all, explain to us why you are different from your opponent, starting with you, Mr. Vice President.

CHENEY: Why I am different from John Edwards. Well, in some respects, I think, probably there are more similarities than there are differences in our personal story.

I don't talk about myself very much, but I've heard Senator Edwards, and as I listen to him, I find some similarities.

I come from relatively modest circumstances. My grandfather never even went to high school. I'm the first in my family to graduate from college.

I carried a ticket in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for six years. I've been laid off, been hospitalized without health insurance. So I have some idea of the problems that people encounter.

So I think the personal stories are, in some respects, surprisingly similar.

With respect to how we've spent our careers, I obviously made a choice for public service. And I've been at it for a good long time now, except for those periods when we lost elections. And that goes with the turf, as well, too.

I'm absolutely convinced that the threat we face now, the idea of a terrorist in the middle of one of our cities with a nuclear weapon, is very real and that we have to use extraordinary measures to deal with it.

I feel very strongly that the significance of 9/11 cannot be underestimated. It forces us to think in new ways about strategy, about national security, about how we structure our forces and about how we use U.S. military power.

Some people say we should wait until we are attacked before we use force. I would argue we've already been attacked. We lost more people on 9/11 than we lost at Pearl Harbor. And I'm a very strong advocate of a very aggressive policy of going after the terrorists and those who support terror.

IFILL: Senator Edwards, you have 90 seconds.

EDWARDS: Mr. Vice President, we were attacked. But we weren't attacked by Saddam Hussein. And one thing that John Kerry and I would agree with you about is that it is...

IFILL: You just used John Kerry's name.

EDWARDS: Oh, I'm sorry. I broke the rule.

One thing that we agree about is the need to be offensive in going after terrorists.

The reality is that the best defense is a good offense, which means leading -- America returning to its proud tradition of the last 75 years, of once again leading strong coalitions so we can get at these terrorist cells where they are, before they can do damage to us and to the American people.

John Kerry made clear on Thursday night that -- I'm sorry, I broke the rules. We made clear -- we made clear on Thursday night that we will do that, and we will do it aggressively.

But there are things that need to be done to keep this country safe that have not yet been done.

For example, three years after 9/11, we find out that the administration still does not have a unified terrorist watch list. It's amazing. Three years. What are we waiting for? You know, we still don't have one list that everyone can work off of to see if terrorists are entering this country.

We're screening our passengers going onto airplanes, but we don't screen the cargo.

There are so many things that could be done to keep this country safe.

You have to be strong, and you have to be aggressive. But we also have to be smart. And there are things that have not been done that need to be done to keep the American people safe.

IFILL: Would you like to respond? Thirty seconds.


(Back to top)

Question 19 -- Is changing positions bad?

IFILL: OK, we'll move on. This goes to Senator Edwards. Flip-flopping has become a recurring theme in this campaign, you may have noticed. Senator Kerry changed his mind about whether to vote to authorize the president to go to war. President Bush changed his mind about whether a homeland security department was a good idea or a 9/11 Commission was a good idea.

What's wrong with a little flip-flop every now and then?

EDWARDS: Well, first of all, let me say that John Kerry has -- I can use his name now?


EDWARDS: OK. John Kerry has been, as have I, been completely consistent about Iraq. We've made very clear from the beginning -- and not an afterthought; we said it at the time -- that we had to confront Saddam Hussein and that we had to have a coalition and a plan to be successful.

And the vice president didn't say much about it in your earlier question, but Paul Bremer has now made clear that they didn't have enough troops and they didn't have a plan.

And the American people are seeing the results of that every single day, in spite of the proud and courageous service of our men and women in uniform.

Now, flip-flops: They should know something about flip-flops. They've seen a lot of it during their administration.

They were first against the 9/11 Commission; then they were for it. They were for a Department of Homeland Security -- I mean, they were against the Department of Homeland Security; then they were for it.

They said they were going to put $2 trillion of the surplus when they came into office aside to protect Social Security; then they changed their minds. They said that they supported the troops; and then while our troops were on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, they went to the Congress and lobbied to have their combat pay cut.

They said that they were going to do something about health care in this country. And they've done something: They've made it worse.

They said that they were going to fund their No Child Left Behind; $27 billion short today.

Over and over, this administration has said one thing and done another.

This president said -- I listened to him the other night at his 2000 debate saying: I'm for a national patients bill of rights.

I know something about this. John McCain and Senator Kennedy and I wrote it, got it passed in the Senate. We don't have a patients bill of rights because of one man today, the President of the United States. They've gone back and forth.

IFILL: Mr. Vice President?

CHENEY: Well, Gwen, I can think of a lot of words to describe Senator Kerry's position on Iraq; "consistent" is not one of them.

I think if you look at the record from voting for sending the troops then voting against the resources they needed when they got there, then saying I actually voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it, saying in response to a question knowing everything I know now, yes, I would have cast exactly the same vote and then shortly after that saying wrong war, wrong place, wrong time, consistency doesn't come to mind as I consider that record.

The question of troops is an interesting and important one. We have looked to our commanders on the ground in Iraq for guidance on what they think they need. If they need more troops, they'll ask us.

But the key here is not to try to solve the problems in Iraq by putting in more American troops. The key is to get the Iraqis to take on the responsibility for their own security. That's exactly what we're doing.

If you put American troops in there in larger number and don't get the Iraqis into the fight, you'll postpone the day when you can in fact bring our boys home. It's vital that we deal with any need for additional troops by putting Iraqis into the effort.

Forty-nine percent increase in funding for elementary and secondary education under No Child Left Behind; that's a lot of money even by Massachusetts' standards.

IFILL: You have 30 seconds if you choose.

EDWARDS: Yes, but they didn't fund the mandates that they put on the schools all over this country. That's the reason 800 teachers -- one of the reasons -- 800 teachers have been laid off, right here in Cleveland. One-third of our public schools are failing under this administration. Half of African-Americans are dropping out of high school. Half of Hispanic-Americans are dropping out of high school.

John and I have -- and I don't have the time now -- but we have a clear plan to improve our public schools that starts with getting our best teachers into the schools where we need them the most by creating incentives for them to go there.

IFILL: Mr. Vice President?

CHENEY: Gwen, No Child Left Behind, they were for it; now they're against it. They voted for it; now they're opposed to it.

We are making significant progress there. We are closing the achievement gap. The results coming in from a number of studies show, without question, that on math and reading, that in fact our minority students, our Hispanic and African-American students are doing better, and that gap between them and the majority population is, in fact, closing.

So we are doing exactly the right thing. They're the ones who have been for the Patriot Act and against it, for No Child Left Behind and then against it.

IFILL: Mr. Vice President, our final -- I'm sorry, you have 30 seconds, Senator Edwards.

EDWARDS: Are you sure -- yes, he started. Yes, 30 seconds, please, yes.

We are for accountability, and we are for high standards. John and I voted for No Child Left Behind because we thought that accountability and standards were the right thing to do.

But they make -- did you figure out you were wrong?

IFILL: I did figure out I was wrong.

EDWARDS: Well, in fairness, if you feel like you need to go to him, we'll -- I'll stop.

IFILL: Well, I do, because we're actually on the final question. I apologize for giving you an extra 15 seconds there.

(Back to top)

Question 20 -- How can the divisions in the United States be bridged?

IFILL: Well, I do, because we're actually on the final question. I apologize for giving you an extra 15 seconds there.

I go now to Vice President Cheney. Whichever one of you is elected in November -- you mentioned those three electoral votes in Wyoming and how critical they've turned out to be.

But what they're a sign of also is that you're going to inherit a very deeply divided electorate, economically, politically, you name it. How will you set out, Mr. Vice President, in a way that you weren't able to in these past four years, to bridge that divide?

CHENEY: Well, I must say it's one of the disappointments of the last four years, is that we've not been able to do what the president did in Texas, for example, when he was able to reach across the aisle and bring Democrats along on major issues of the day.

We had some success early on, I think, in No Child Left Behind, when we, in fact, had broad, bipartisan support.

We had a lot of support for the Patriot Act, when we passed that on a bipartisan basis. Now we're seeing objection to that by the other side. All I know is to continue to try to work it.

It's a disappointment, in a sense, that I remember from my earlier service when things worked much differently, when, in fact, some of my best friends in the Congress were people I worked with, like Tom Foley, who was a majority leader and later speaker of the House. One of my strongest allies in Congress when I secretary of defense was Jack Murtha, a Democrat who is chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

We used to be able to do more together on a bipartisan basis than seems possible these days. I'm not sure exactly why. I think, in part, it may be the change in the majority-minority status in the Senate has been difficult for both sides to adjust to.

And the Senate, of course, has been very evenly divided, 50-50, then 51-49, then 49-51 the other way. We'll keep working at it.

I think it's important for us to try. I believe that it is essential for us to do everything we can to garner as much support from the other side of the aisle as possible. We've had support -- we had our keynote address at our convention was delivered by Zell Miller. So there are some Democrats who agree with our approach.

And hopefully in a second term, we'll see an improvement along those lines.

IFILL: Senator, there's 90 seconds.

EDWARDS: Thank you.

The president said that he would unite this country, that he was a uniter, not a divider.

Have you ever seen America more divided? Have you ever seen Washington more divided?

The reality is it is not an accident. It's the direct result of the choices they've made and their efforts that have created division in America. We can do better than that in this country.

Now I want to go back to the whole issue of health care, because we touched it, but I think the American people deserve to know what we would do different.

I mean, 5 million people losing their health care -- everyone who's watching this knows health insurance premiums are through the roof.

We need to talk about what we will do that they haven't done.

First, we're going to make the same health care that's available to members of Congress available to all Americans. We're going to cover all kids.

Not only that, we're going to bring down costs by pooling the catastrophic costs so we bring down premiums.

And we're going to give tax breaks directly to families, save them up to $1,000 a year, and to businesses -- the vice president talked about that a few minutes ago -- so that they can provide health care to their employees.

And we're also going to finally do something about the cost of prescription drugs.

They've blocked allowing prescription drugs into this country from Canada. We're going to allow it.

They would not allow the government to use its negotiating power to get discounts for seniors. We're going to allow it. We're also going to stand up to the drug companies and do something about these drug company ads on television which are out of control.

IFILL: You have 30 seconds to respond to that, Mr. Vice President.

CHENEY: Well, Gwen -- I'm sorry, it's hard to know where to start.

The fact of the matter is, the most important and significant change in health care in the last several years was the Medicare reform bill this year. It's the most sweeping change in 40 years.

Medicare used to pay for heart bypass surgery but didn't pay for the prescription drugs that might allow you to avoid it.

The fact is that when that came up, Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards voted against it. It'll provide prescription drug benefits to 40 million senior citizens. It's a very, very significant piece of legislation.

IFILL: Thirty seconds.

EDWARDS: They had a choice on allowing prescription drugs into this country from Canada, of being with the American people or with the drug companies. They were with the drug companies.

They had a choice on negotiating discounts in the Medicare prescription drug bill of being with the American people or with the drug companies. They were with the drug companies.

They had a choice on the patients' bill of rights, allowing people to make their own health care decisions and not having insurance companies make them, be with the American people, be with the big insurance companies.

They're with the insurance companies.

John Kerry and I will always fight for the American people.

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Closing Statements

IFILL: As previously agreed, we'll go to closing statements now, 2 minutes each. Senator Edwards, you begin.

EDWARDS: Thank you.

Thank you, Gwen.

Thank you, Mr. Vice President, for being here.

You know, when I was young and growing up, I remember coming down the steps into the kitchen, early in the morning, and I would see the glow of the television.

And I'd see my father sitting at a table. He wasn't paying bills, and he wasn't doing paperwork from work.

What he was doing was learning math on television.

Now, he didn't have a college education, but he was doing what he could do to get a better job in the mill where he worked. I was proud of him. I'm still proud of him.

And I was also hopeful, because I knew that I lived in a country where I could get a college education.

Here's the truth: I have grown up in the bright light of America. But that light is flickering today.

Now, I know that the vice president and the president don't see it, but you do.

You see it when your incomes are going down and the cost of everything -- college tuition, health care -- is going through the roof. You see it when you sit at your table each night and there's an empty chair because a loved one is serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. What they're going to give you is four more years of the same.

John Kerry and I believe that we can do better. We believe in a strong middle-class in this country. That's why we have a plan to create jobs, getting rid of tax cuts for companies outsourcing your jobs; give tax cuts to companies that'll keep jobs here in America.

That's why we have a health care plan. That's why we have a plan to keep you safe and to fix this mess in Iraq.

The truth is that every four years you get to decide. You have the ability to decide where America's going to go. John Kerry and I are asking you to give us the power to fight for you, to fight to keep that dream in America, that I saw as a young man, alive for every parent sitting at that kitchen table.

IFILL: Vice President Cheney.

CHENEY: Gwen, I want to thank you.

It's been a privilege to serve as your vice president these last four years and to work alongside President Bush to put our economy on an upward path.

We've cut taxes, added 1.7 million new jobs in the last year, and we'll continue to provide opportunities for business and for workers.

We won't be happy until every American who wants to work can find a job.

We believe that all Americans ought to have access to available -- to medical care and that they ought to have access to the finest schools in the world.

We'll do everything we can to preserve Social Security and to make certain that it's there for future generations. I've worked for four presidents and watched two others up close, and I know that there's no such thing as a routine day in the Oval Office.

We saw on 9/11 that the next president -- next decision a president has to make can affect the lives of all of us.

Now we find ourselves in the midst of a conflict unlike any we've ever known, faced with the possibility that terrorists could smuggle a deadly biological agent or a nuclear weapon into the middle of one of our own cities.

That threat -- and the presidential leadership needed to deal with it -- is placing a special responsibility on all of you who will decide on November 2 who will be our commander in chief.

The only viable option for winning the war on terrorism is the one the president has chosen, to use the power of the United States to aggressively go after the terrorists wherever we find them and also to hold to account states that sponsor terror.

Now that we've captured or killed thousands of al Qaeda and taken down the regimes of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, it's important that we stand up democratically elected governments as the only guarantee that they'll never again revert to terrorism or the production of deadly weapons.

This is the task of our generation. And I know firsthand the strength the president brings to it.

The overall outcome will depend upon the ability of the American people and the strong leadership of the president to meet all the challenges that we'll face in the days and years ahead.

I'm confident we can do it.

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