Tuesday, October 05, 2004
You know what he's thinking: Who is this Tom Galvin?
Mr. Lehrer: Good evening from the University of Miami Convocation Center in Coral Gables, Fla. I'm Jim Lehrer of "The NewsHour" on PBS, and I welcome you to the first of the 2004 presidential debates between The Galvin Opinion's Thomas Galvin, and Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee. As determined by a coin toss, the first question goes to you, Senator Kerry. You have two minutes.
Do you believe you could do a better job than President Bush in preventing another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States?
TG: John Kerry could not do a better job than President Bush in preventing another large scale attack. Mr. Kerry says he can lead alliances. The problem is that Kerry can't lead alliances if our allies don't know where he's taking them. President Bush is a steadfast leader. He has built various alliances in Afghanistan, Iraq and other hot spots around the world. Some allies have not been with us in Iraq but they have and still are with us in Afghanistan. Leadership isn't proven by having summits, it's by setting an example. President Bush has appointed a dedicated public servant, Tom Ridge, to direct Homeland Security. Since 9/11, many terror plots on our soil have been thwarted and security measures have been executed. There have been no terror attacks on our soil, large or small, since 9/11 and remember how in the days after 9/11 people predicted another terrorist attack would be a matter of "when not if."
Mr. Lehrer: Do you believe the election of Senator Kerry on Nov. 2 would increase the chances of the U.S. being hit by another 9/11-type terrorist attack?
TG: I don't think Senator Kerry's election would invite more terrorist attacks but I do believe that mistakes and wrong choices will be made during the War on Terror. Senator Kerry's problem is that he is unsure of what to believe when it comes to dealing with Islamic fanatics who are hell-bent on destroying our way of life. Senator Kerry has a history of regretting his foreign policy decisions. He voted against the successful 1991 Gulf War that was composed of a world-wide coalition. He then voted to invade Iraq but has since come out against it. He tried to bolster his standing with the anti-war wing of his party by voting to deny $87 billion of aid to American troops. He has been more worried about what our European critics think of our self-defense measures than worrying about what America can do to protect itself.
Mr. Lehrer: Colossal misjudgments, what colossal misjudgments, in your opinion, has President Bush made in these areas?
TG: Senator Kerry talks about diverting attention away from Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. He didn't think that way in 2002 because he voted for the invasion of Iraq. Kerry is wrong about a "diversion" because Osama bin Laden is not the only terrorist in the world. Islamo-fascists come in many forms, live in many countries and have the support of many governments. Senator Kerry talks about colossal errors of judgment but his own Senate votes have been colossal misjudgments. By voting against the 1991 Gulf War and against funding for our troops, Kerry has shown himself to be a politician with a short-sighted vision and a candidate influenced by the winds of politics. President Bush had a plan and stuck to it. He gave Saddam Hussein plenty of time to comply with UN resolutions. He spoke to the UN about the necessity of allowing weapons inspectors in Iraq and disarming Saddam. President Bush kept to his word when he gave Saddam Hussein a deadline to comply with the wishes of the UN. President Bush didn't flip-flop.
Mr. Lehrer: What about Senator Kerry's point, the comparison he drew between the priorities of going after Osama bin Laden and going after Saddam Hussein?
TG: Again, Osama bin Laden is not the world's only terrorist. Saddam Hussein proved his terrorist credentials by invading countries like Kuwait and engaging in costly wars that imperiled millions of his people. He has gassed his own people and launched dozens of Scud missiles into Israel. Senator Kerry says he will keep his eye on the ball but I say that he can't multi-task. We are more than capable of dealing with terrorists where they are.
Abu Zarqawi has always been a terrorist. He was when Kerry voted for the war and still is even though Kerry voted against providing funding help for our troops. Zarqawi and the other terrorists who are now beheading people weren't mild mannered teachers, architects and accountants roused to anger by our invading Iraq. They have always been terrorists and we must deal with them.
But, Senator Kerry neglects to mention that we have toppled the Taliban, seriously diminished Al Qaeda's power and have caught bin Laden's followers all over the world with the help of our many allies.
Mr. Lehrer: We'll come back to Iraq in a moment. But I want to come back to where I began on homeland security. This is a two-minute new question, Senator Kerry. As president, what would you do specifically in addition to or differently to increase the homeland security of the United States than what President Bush is doing?
TG: Kerry complains that we are spending too much money in Iraq. By voting against money for our troops Kerry has revealed his policy that there is such a thing as paying too much money for our troops safety. That is his problem. President Bush will never put a price cap on doing what it takes, militarily, to protect and take care of our soldiers. We have provided funding for tunnels and bridges and Kerry is absolute dead wrong when he says the NYC subway was closed for the convention, and he knows it. We are continuing to spend more and more on taking care of Homeland Security. Security procedures have been implemented, the Department is coordinating with law enforcement agencies from around the country. From New York City to small towns in the heartland, we are working with police officers and other first responders to take care of our citizens.
Mr. Lehrer: Senator Kerry. Speaking of Vietnam, you spoke to Congress in 1971 after you came back from Vietnam and you said, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?'' Are Americans now dying in Iraq for a mistake?
TG: John Kerry thinks his vote to go to war with Iraq was a mistake. I happen to think that John Kerry was right to vote for invading Iraq. The only mistake we could make is if we don't keep our word to our allies and most importantly, our troops. President Bush did the right thing in leading the coalition to invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein's time was up. He had been flouting the UN authority since 1991. Countless resolutions took place before it dawned upon the world that Saddam Hussein was not going to comply with common sense. The only mistakes made were those by Saddam when he underestimated the commitment of the coalition that eventually toppled him from power. John Kerry argues for summits instead of action. In this post-9/11 world, terrorists like Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden must be dealt with action, not summits.
Mr. Lehrer: New question, Mr. President. Two minutes. You have said there was a "miscalculation'' of what the conditions would be in post-war Iraq. What was the miscalculation? And how did it happen?
TG: Before the invasion of Iraq, many anti-war protestors predicted a massive world-wide catastrophe. John Kerry agreed with President Bush that despite the dire predictions it was still necessary to disarm Saddam Hussein. Now, the miscalculation did occur in that Baghdad fell after only three weeks of fighting. Many of the Sunni Baathists were able to disappear into the background after the Shiite fighters were dispatched with so quickly. However, the most pessimistic predictions of disease, anarchy and a flood of refugees never came to fruition. While some terrorists are fighting the arrival of democracy in Iraq, most Iraqis have done the hard work to help put their country together after more than 30 destructive years of Saddam's tyranny.
Mr. Lehrer: New question, Mr. President. Has the war in Iraq been worth the cost in American lives: 1,052 as of today?
TG: The loss of any American life while in the line of duty is tragic. President Bush made a hard decision to attack both Afghanistan and Iraq. Don't forget that soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan. However, we lost 3,000 civilians in the matter of 2 hours on 9/11. Has the war on terror been worth the cost of their lives? This is not a war of our choosing. Terrorists have declared war on the United States. That awful September morning is seared in our memory and no American will forget how they felt when they saw their fellow citizens being slaughtered simply for having freedoms that are the envy of the world. Our troops abroad know that they are fighting our enemies abroad so that their mothers, sisters, fathers and brothers don't have to worry about terrorists doing more killing on our soil.
Mr. Lehrer: Mr. President, Does the Iraq experience make it more likely or less likely that you would take the United States into another pre-emptive military action?
TG: The decision to go to Iraq, and results of that decision, should not influence the overall aim of doing whatever it takes to defend our country. Unfortunately, Mr. Kerry believes that one of bad news means the war is wrong but a good news day means that war was a good idea. A president has to stick to his beliefs, decisions and word. President Bush will do whatever it takes to protect our Homeland. Whether solutions can be found militarily or diplomatically, he will not take any option off the table.
Mr. Lehrer: Do you believe that diplomacy and sanctions can resolve the nuclear problems with North Korea and Iran, taking them in any order you would like?
TG: War should always be, and always has been, the last resort for dealing with international problems. Of course North Korean should be dealt with diplomatically, but in the right way. The previous administration made a horrible deal with North Korea in 1994's Agreed Framework. While we were giving them aid, fuel, and building their civilian reactors, the North Koreans were secretly enriching uranium. By the time their deceit was uncovered, North Korea had already developed nuclear capability.
That's where John Kerry is wrong in Iran. We should absolutely not give Iran the same deal that we gave to North Korea, but that is what John Kerry proposes. Instead of dealing with these two countries on a bilateral basis, this is the right time to engage our allies and make sure that they stand with us when it comes to dealing with nuclear proliferation.
When it came to Iraq, France and Germany rejected our request for help. But, when it comes to North Korea and Iran countries like China and Japan and others are more than willing to take part in multi-lateral talks. John Kerry is wrong to turn them away.
Mr. Lehrer: There are 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?
TG: The American people are going to have to decide who they want to be commander-in-chief over the next 4 years. We are facing serious issues and are fighting seriously determined enemies. They won't stop until they kill as many innocents as they can. It is the job of the president to stop the terrorists and eliminate them before they can do any harm. John Kerry is too inconsistent to be president at this critical time. His second-guessing of his own decisions will lead to more indecision and this country and our allies can not afford that risk. President Bush is steadfast and resolute in his goals. The goal is to take the fight to the terrorists on their turf so that we don't have to deal with them at home. By utilizing laws like the Patriot Act, dismantling the Taliban, routing Al Qaeda and apprehending Saddam Hussein, the United States has made terrific progress in the War on Terror in only 3 years. But, there is so much more work that needs to be done.
Mr. Lehrer: Senator Kerry. If you are elected president, what will you take to that office thinking is the single-most serious threat to the national security of the United States?
TG: Agreed, nuclear proliferation is terrible. But, a president must constantly be aware that threats to the United States come in all forms, large and small. The single most devastating attack on American soil occurred without any nuclear weapons. Dealing with one large issue won't take America's problems, not even most of our worries. President Bush is pursuing and will pursue a multi-faceted agenda that will deter nuclear proliferation, that will pre-emptively deal with threats of weapons of mass destruction, that will kill terrorists before they get the opportunity to strike and will fortify our safety with systems like missile defense and bunker busting bombs.
CLOSING STATEMENT: President Bush is the right man, at the right time, at the right place. We can ill afford to take the risk of choosing someone who shifts with the political winds. George W. Bush is the best man for the job of president because he has a vision and has set goals for our safety and our nation's future. Just four years ago, the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were free to run in terrorist circles. Today, that evil club is a lot smaller and its getting closer to going out of business with each passing day. President Bush is not done dealing with terrorists and will never be satisfied into thinking that we are "too safe." No option, measure, plan or law will ever be off the table when it comes to deciding how to best defend our land. We are better off today and safer today than we were four years ago, because of President George W. Bush.
God bless America.
[Note: Most, but not all, of the questions were answered above. 12 out of 15 questions, I believed. Here are Kerry's (and Bush's) answers to ALL of the questions, the actual debate transcript: The New York Times: Transcript of the Candidates' First Debate in the Presidential Campaign]