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Inside Politics

Key points of 2nd presidential debate

Audience member John Horstman asks about importing prescription drugs from Canada.
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Second debate between Bush and Kerry (Part 1)
(Part 2)
(Part 3)

• CNN Fact Check:  Bush-Kerry and the truth
• Transcript:  The St. Louis debate
•'s  Showdown Game
• Cartoon Clicks:  Debate stakes
October 13
Third and final presidential debate: Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona

Debate starts at 9 p.m. ET
• Audio Slide Show: Debate history
• Formats
Who won the second presidential debate?
President Bush
John Kerry
Evenly matched
George W. Bush
John F. Kerry
America Votes 2004

ST. LOUIS, Missouri (CNN) -- President Bush and Sen. John Kerry debated for a second time Friday night. Here are the highlights. The candidate who was asked the question is listed first. Issues are not in chronological order.

Is Kerry wishy-washy?

Kerry: President's ads are misleading. "Now, the three things they try to say I've changed position on ... I haven't."

Bush: Kerry does changes his positions because of politics. "You've got to be consistent when you're the president. There's a lot of pressures. And you've got to be firm and consistent."

Plans for Iraq

Kerry: There is "chaos in Iraq." Would reach out to allies "in way this president hasn't." Would speed up training and reconstruction.

Bush: Reconstruction efforts are beginning to take hold, according to Iraq finance minister. Kerry's plan same as Bush's except Kerry wants a summit, which will not work for him because no one will follow someone who called it the "wrong war."

Federal spending

Bush: A recession at the beginning of his presidency cost nation some revenue. The war has been expensive. Has not vetoed any spending bills "because we worked together."

Kerry: President was handed a $5.6 trillion surplus (over 10 years) and U.S. has a $2.6 trillion deficit. First time this nation has ever had a tax cut when we were at war.


Kerry: Will cut it in half in four years. We are going to close tax loopholes for big companies, especially ones that go to other countries. Refuted president's figure for new programs.

Bush: Kerry proposed $2.2 trillion in new programs so he has to raise taxes. He has voted for higher taxes 98 times.


Kerry: "I can't take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn't share that article of faith." Would counsel people and talk to them about making other choices, but abortion is constitutionally legal.

Bush: Will not spend taxpayer's money on abortion. Reasonable people can agree on how to reduce abortions in the country. Also, good adoption laws are an alternative.

Patriot Act

Bush: Every action being taken against terrorist requires court order and scrutiny. Part of FBI couldn't share intelligence under old laws. "The intelligence-gathering and the law-enforcement arms of the FBI just couldn't share intelligence under the old law. And that didn't make any sense."

Kerry: "People's rights have been abused." The Patriot Act is needed to coordinate the FBI and the CIA. "We need to be stronger on terrorism," but the United States cannot "let the terrorists change the Constitution of the United States in a way that disadvantages our right."

A military draft?

Bush: All-voluntary army is sufficient. Military is being transformed through new weapons systems. Manpower can be reduced in Europe, Korean Peninsula. "We're not going to have a draft so long as I am the president."

Kerry: Our military is overextended. Guard and Reserve are doing too many tours. Would add 40,000 active duty forces. "You've got stop-loss policies, so people can't get out when they were supposed to. You've got a back-door draft right now."

Relations with other nations

Bush: Made some unpopular decisions with Europeans, but did what he thought was best for nation. Presidents should worry more about what is right, not try to be popular. "I don't think you want a president who tries to become popular and does the wrong thing."

Kerry: Will build alliances with other countries. President hasn't tried to work with other nations when he disagreed with them. "He gave you a speech and told you he'd plan carefully, take every precaution, take our allies with us. He didn't. He broke his word."


Kerry: Can't rely just on U.N. sanctions. Threat has grown while president was preoccupied with Iraq. Must join with other nations to stop nuclear proliferation. And "if we have to get tough with Iran, believe me, we will get tough."

Bush: Iran threat is fully understood and has been working with other nations on the threats nations other than Iraq. "... In my speech to the Congress I said, 'There's an 'Axis of Evil:' Iraq, Iran and North Korea.' And we're paying attention to it. And we're making progress."

Stem cell research

Kerry: We can save lives, with ethically guided embryonic stem cell research. Scientists say research will lead to cures for major diseases and spinal cord injuries. "I think it is respecting life to reach for that cure."

Bush: Embryonic stem cell research requires destroying life. We need to be very careful about balancing ethics and science. Adult stem cell research needs more funding.

Canadian drugs

Bush: Administration wants to make sure the drugs from Canada are safe. Some drugs appear to be from Canada but are from a Third World country. Trying to make drugs cheaper and trying to get more generics to market.

Kerry: Bush said four years ago that getting cheaper drugs from Canada was a good idea. Kerry and other Senators passed a bill allowing them but president blocked it. "I'm fighting to let you get those drugs from Canada."


Bush: Plan to increase wetlands by 3 million acres. Proposed Clear Skies Initiative to reduce air pollutants by 70 percent. Has proposed Healthy Forest bill. "I'm a good steward of the land."

Kerry: "His environmental enforcement chief air-quality person at the EPA resigned in protest over what they're doing to what are calling the new source performance standards for air quality." United States walked away instead of working with the other nations on the Kyoto agreement.

Supreme Court

Bush: Will pick someone who will make decisions based on law, not personal opinion.

Kerry: Bush said he would pick conservative judges. Kerry would make sure judges will interpret the Constitution according to the law.

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