Vice President Dick Cheney
Senator John Edwards (D-N.C.)
Moderator: Gwen Ifill, Washington Week, Public Broadcasting Service
Case Western Reserve University
October 5, 2004
GWEN IFILL: Good evening from Case Western Reserve University's Veale Center, here in Cleveland, Ohio. I'm Gwen Ifill of the NewsHour and Washington Week on PBS. And I welcome you to the first and the only vice presidential debate between Vice President Dick Cheney, the Republican nominee, and Senator John Edwards, the Democratic nominee. These debates are sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Tonight's will last 90 minutes following detailed rules of engagement worked out by representatives of the candidates.
I have agreed to enforce the rules they have devised for themselves to the best of my ability. The questions tonight will be divided between foreign and domestic policy, but the specific topics were chosen by me. The candidates have not been told what they are.
The rules: For each question there can be only a two-minute response; a 90-second rebuttal, and at my discretion, a discussion extension of one minute. A green light will come on when 30 seconds remain in any given answer, yellow at 15, red at five seconds, and then flashing red means time is up. There is also a back-up buzzer system if needed. Candidates may not direct questions to one another. There will be two-minute closing statements, but no opening statements. There is an audience here in the hall. But they have been instructed to remain silent throughout. The order of the first question was determined by the candidates in advance. And the first one goes to Vice President Cheney.
Vice President Cheney, there have been new developments in Iraq, especially having to do with the administration's handling. Paul Bremer, the former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, gave a speech in which he said, we have never had enough troops on the ground— or "we never had enough troops on the ground." Donald Rumsfeld said he has not seen any hard evidence of a link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Was this the fruit of a report that you requested, that you received a week ago that showed there was no connection between Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein?
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: Gwen, I want to thank you and I want to thank the folks here at Case Western Reserve for hosting us tonight. It's a very important event, and they've done a superb job of putting it together.
It's important to look at all of our developments in Iraq within the broader context of the global war on terror. And after 9/11, it became clear that we had to do several things to have a successful strategy to win the global war on terror, specifically that we had to go after the terrorists wherever we might find them, that we also had to go after state sponsors of terror those who might provide sanctuary or safe harbor for terror. And we also then, finally, had to stand up democracies in their stead afterwards because that was the only way to guarantee that these states would not again become safe harbors for terror, for the development of deadly weapons.
Concern about Iraq specifically focused on the fact that Saddam Hussein had been for years listed on the state sponsor of terror, that he had established relationships with Abu Nidal, who operated out of Baghdad. He paid $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers. And he had an established relationship with al Qaeda, specifically look at George Tenet, the CIA director's, testimony before the Committee on Foreign Relations two years ago when he talked about the 10-year relationship.
The effort that we've mounted with respect to Iraq focused specifically on the possibility that this was the most likely nexus between the terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. The biggest threat we face today is the possibility of terrorists smuggling a nuclear weapon or a biological agent into one of our own cities and threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans. What we did in Iraq was exactly the right thing to do. If I had it to recommend all over again, I would recommend exactly the right— same course of action. The world is far safer today because Saddam Hussein is in jail. His government is no longer in power. And we did exactly the right thing.
IFILL: Senator Edwards, you have 90 seconds to respond.
SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS: Thank you, Gwen, for moderating this debate. Thank you to the folks of Case Western, and all the people in Ohio for having us here.
Mr. Vice President, you are still not being straight with the American people. I mean, the reality you and George Bush continue to tell people, first, that things are going well in Iraq. The American people don't need us to explain this to them. They see it on their television every single day. We lost more troops in September than we lost in August; lost more in August than we lost in July; lost more in July than we lost in June.
The truth is our men and women in uniform have been heroic; our military has done everything they've been asked to do. And it's not just me that sees the mess in Iraq. There are Republican leaders like [Senator] John McCain [R-Ariz.], like [Senator] Richard Lugar [R-Ind.], like [Senator] Chuck Hagel [R-Neb.], who've said Iraq is a mess and it's getting worse. And when they were asked why, Richard Lugar said, because of the incompetence of the administration.
What [former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq] Paul Bremer said yesterday is they didn't have enough troops to secure the country. They also didn't have a plan to win the peace. They also didn't put the alliances together to make this successful.
We need a fresh start. We need a president who will speed up the training of the Iraqis, get more staff in for doing that. We need to speed up the reconstruction so the Iraqis see some tangible benefit. We need a new President who has the credibility, which John Kerry has, to bring others into this effort.
IFILL: Would you like 30 seconds to respond, Mr. Vice President?
CHENEY: I would. We've made significant progress in Iraq. We've stood up a new government that's been in power now only 90 days. The notion of additional troops is talked about frequently. But the point of success in Iraq will be reached when we have turned governance over to the Iraqi people, they've been able to establish a democratic government. They're well on their way on their way to doing that. They'll have free elections next January for the first time in history.
We also are actively rapidly training Iraqis to take on the security responsibility. Those two steps are crucial to success in Iraq. They're well in hand, well under way, and I'm confident that, in fact, we'll get the job done.
IFILL: You have 30 seconds.
EDWARDS: Yes. Mr. Vice President, there is no connection between the attacks of September 11 and Saddam Hussein. The 9/11 Commission has said it, your own secretary of state has said it. And you've gone around the country suggesting that there is some connection. There's not. And, in fact, the CIA is now about to report that the connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein is tenuous, at best. And, in fact, the secretary of defense said yesterday that he knows of no hard evidence of the connection. We need to be straight with the American people.
IFILL: Time for a new question, but the same topic, at this time, to you, Senator Edwards. You and Senator Kerry have said that the war in Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time. Does that mean that if you had been president and vice president, that Saddam Hussein would still be in power?
EDWARDS: Here's what it means, it means that Saddam Hussein needed to be confronted. John Kerry and I have consistently said that. It's why we voted for the resolution. But it also means it needed to be done the right way. And doing it the right way meant that we were prepared, that we gave the weapons inspectors time to find out what we now know, that, in fact, there were no weapons of mass destruction. That we didn't take our eye off the ball, which are al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, the people who attacked us on September the 11.
Now, remember, we went into Afghanistan— which, by the way, was the right thing to do; that was the right decision. And our military preformed terrifically there. But we had Osama bin Laden cornered at Tora Bora. We had the 10th Mountain Division up in Uzbekistan available. We had the finest military in the world on the ground, and what did we do? We turned— this is the man who masterminded the greatest mass murder and terrorist attack in American history. And what did the administration decide to do? They gave the responsibility of capturing and/or killing Saddam— I mean, Osama bin Laden to Afghan warlords who just a few weeks before had been working with Osama bin Laden.
Our point in this is not complicated. We were attacked by al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. We went into Afghanistan and very quickly the administration made a decision to divert attention from that, and instead began to plan for the invasion of Iraq. And these connections— and I want the American people to hear this very clearly— listen carefully to what the vice president is saying, because there is no connection between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of September 11, period. The 9/11 Commission has said that's true, [Secretary of State] Colin Powell has said it's true, but the vice president keeps suggesting that there is. There is not, and in fact any connection with al Qaeda is tenuous at best.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President, you have 90 seconds to respond.
CHENEY: The senator has got his facts wrong. I have not suggested there's a connection between Iraq and 9/11. But there's clearly an established Iraqi track record with terror. And the point is that that's the place where you're most likely to see the terrorists come together with weapons of mass destruction, the deadly technologies that Saddam Hussein had developed and used over the years.
Now, the fact of the matter is, the big difference here, Gwen, is that they are not prepared to deal with states that sponsor terror. They've got a very limited view about how to use U.S. military force to defend America. We heard Senator Kerry say the other night that there ought to be some kind of a global test before U.S. troops are deployed preemptively to protect the United States. That's part of a track record that goes back to the 1970s when he ran for Congress the first time and said troops should not be deployed without U.N. approval; then in the mid-'80s he ran on the basis of cutting most of our major defense programs. In 1991, he voted against Desert Storm. It's a consistent pattern over time of always being on the wrong side of defense issues.
A little tough talk in the midst of a campaign, or as part of a presidential debate, cannot obscure a record of 30 years of being on the wrong side of defense issues, and they give absolutely no indication, based on that record, of being willing to go forward and aggressively pursue the war on terror with the kind of strategy that will work, that will defeat our enemies, and will guarantee that the United States doesn't again get attacked by the likes of al Qaeda.
IFILL: We will return to that topic, but first I want to ask you, for two minutes, senator— Vice President Cheney, tonight we mentioned Afghanistan. We believe that Osama bin Laden is hiding, perhaps, in a cave somewhere along the Afghan-Pakistan border. If you get a second term, what is your plan to capture him, and then to neutralize those who have sprung up to replace him?
CHENEY: Gwen, we have— we've never let up on Osama bin Laden from day one. We've actively and aggressively pursued him. We've captured or killed thousands of al Qaeda, various places around the world and especially in Afghanistan. We'll continue to very aggressively pursue him and I'm confident eventually we'll get him.
The key to success in Afghanistan has been, again, to go in and go after the terrorists, which we've done, and also take down the Taliban regime, which had allowed them to function there, in effect, sponsors, if you will, of the al Qaeda organization.
John Edwards, two-and-a-half years ago, six months after we went into Afghanistan, announced that it was chaotic, the situation was deteriorating, the warlords were about to take over. Here we are two-and-a-half years later. We're four days away from the democratic election, first one in history in Afghanistan. We've got 10 million voters who've registered to vote, nearly half of them women. That election will put in place a democratically elected government that will take over next December. There's been enormous progress in Afghanistan in exactly the right direction, in spite of what John Edwards said two-and-a-half years ago. He just got it wrong.
Now, the fact is, as we go forward in Afghanistan, we will pursue Osama bin Laden and the terrorists as long as necessary. We're standing up Afghan security forces so they can take on responsibility for their own security. We'll keep U.S. forces there— we have about 16,000 there today— as long as necessary to assist the Afghans in terms of dealing with their security situation. But they're making significant progress. We've got— President [Hamid] Karzai is in power. They have done wonders— writing their own constitution for the first time ever. Schools are open. Young girls are going to school. Women are going to vote. Women are even eligible to run for office. This is major, major progress. There will be democracy in Afghanistan. Make no doubt about it, freedom is the best antidote to terror.
IFILL: Senator Edwards, you have 90 seconds to respond.
EDWARDS: Someone did get it wrong, but it wasn't John Kerry and John Edwards. They got it wrong. When we had Osama bin Laden cornered, they left the job to the Afghan warlords. They then diverted their attention from the very people who attacked us, who were at the center of the war on terror, and so Osama bin Laden is still at large.
Now, I want to go back to something the vice president said just a minute ago, because these distortions are continuing. He said that— made mention of this global test. What John Kerry said is just as clear as day to anybody who was listening. He said, we will— we will find terrorists where they are and kill them before they ever do harm to the American people, first. We will keep this country safe. He defended this country as a young man. He will defend this country as president of the United States.
He also said, very clearly, that he will never give any country veto power over the security of the United States of America. Now, I know the vice president would like to pretend that wasn't said, and the president would, too. But the reality is— reality is, it was said.
Here's what's actually happened in Afghanistan, regardless of this rosy scenario that they paint on Afghanistan, just like they do Iraq. What's actually happened is, they're— they're now providing 75 percent of the world's opium. Not only are they providing 75 percent of the world's opium, large parts of the country are under the control of drug lords and war lords. Big parts of the country are still insecure. And the reality is, the part of Afghanistan, Eastern Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden is, is one of the hardest places to control, and the most insecure.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President, 30 seconds.
CHENEY: All right, Gwen. Twenty years ago we had a similar situation in El Salvador. We had— a guerrilla insurgency controlled roughly a third of the country, 75,000 people dead, and we held free elections. I was there as an observer, on behalf of the Congress. The human drive for freedom, the determination of these people to vote was unbelievable. And as the terrorists would come in and shoot up polling places, as soon as they left, the voters would come back and get in line and would not be denied their right to vote. And today El Salvador is a whale of a lot better because we held free elections. The power of that concept is enormous, and it will apply in Afghanistan and it will apply, as well, in Iraq.
EDWARDS: The vice president just said that we should focus on state sponsors of terrorism. Iran has moved forward with its nuclear weapons program. They are more dangerous today than they were four years ago. North Korea has moved forward with their nuclear weapons program, gone from one to two nuclear weapons to six to eight nuclear weapons. This vice president has been an advocate for over a decade for lifting sanctions against Iran, the largest state sponsor of terrorism on the planet. It's a mistake. We should not only not lift them, we should strengthen those sanctions.
IFILL: New question to you, Senator Edwards, but I don't want to let go of the "global test" question first, because I want people to understand exactly what it is, as you said, that Senator Kerry did say.
EDWARDS: Yes, ma'am.
IFILL: He said, "You've got to do— he was asked about preemptive action at the last debate. He said, "You've got to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test, where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing, and can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons." What is a global test if it's not a global veto?
EDWARDS: Well, let me say first, he said, in the same segment— I don't remember precisely where it was connected with what you just read, but he said, point blank, we will never give anyone a veto over the security of the United States of America. What he's saying is we're going to go back to the proud tradition of the United States of America and presidents of the United States of America for the last 50 to 75 years.
First, we're going to actually tell the American people the truth. We're going to tell them the truth about what's happening. We're not going to suggest to them that things are going well in Iraq or anyplace else when, in fact, they're not. We're going to make sure that the American people know the truth about why we're using force and what the explanation for it is. And it's not just the American people— we're also going to make sure that we tell the world the truth, because the reality is, for America to lead, for America to do what it's done for 50 years— before this president and vice president came into office— it is critical that we be credible, it is critical that they believe that when America takes action they can trust what we're doing, what we say, what we say at the United Nations, what we say in direct conversations with leaders of other world— other countries— they need to know that the credibility of the United States is always good— because they will not follow us without that.
And, unfortunately, we're seeing the consequences of that right now. It's one of the reasons that we're having so much difficulty getting others involved in the effort in Iraq. You know, we've taken 90 percent of the coalition casualties. American taxpayers have borne 90 percent of the costs of the effort in Iraq. And we see the result of there not being a coalition— the first Gulf War cost America $5 billion. We're at $200 billion and counting. John Kerry will never give control over the security of the United States of America to any other country. We will not out-source our responsibility to keep this country safe.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President, you have 90 seconds to respond.
CHENEY: Well, Gwen, the 90-percent figure is just dead wrong. When you include the Iraqi security forces that have suffered casualties, as well as the allies, they've taken almost 50 percent of the casualties in operations in Iraq, which leaves the U.S. with 50 percent, not 90 percent. With respect to the cost, it wasn't $200 billion. You probably weren't there to vote for that, but the $120 billion is, in fact, what has been allocated to Iraq. The rest of it is for Afghanistan and the global war on terror.
The allies have stepped forward and agreed to reduce and forgive Iraqi debt to the tune of nearly $80 billion, by one estimate, and that, plus $14 billion they promised in terms of direct aid, puts the overall allied contribution financially at about $95 billion— not to the $120 billion we've got, but better than 40 percent. So your facts are just wrong, senator.
You also have a situation where you talk about credibility. It's awfully hard to convey a sense of credibility to allies when you voted for the war and then you declared, wrong war, wrong place, wrong time. You voted for the war, and then you voted against supporting the troops when they needed the equipment, the fuel, the spare parts and the ammunition and the body armor. You're not credible on Iraq because of the enormous inconsistencies that John Kerry and you have cited time after time after time during the course of the campaign. Whatever the political pressures of the moment requires, that's where you're at. But you've not been consistent, and there's no indication at all that John Kerry has a conviction to successfully carry through on the war on terror.
IFILL: Senator Edwards, you have 30 seconds.
EDWARDS: What the vice president has just said is just a complete distortion. The American people saw John Kerry on Thursday night. They don't need the vice president or the president to tell them what they saw. They saw a man who was strong, who had conviction, who is resolute, who made it very clear that he will do everything that has to be done to find terrorists, to keep the American people safe. He laid out his plan for success in Iraq, made it clear that we were committed to success in Iraq. We have to be, because we have troops on the ground there, and because they've created a haven for terrorists.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President, you have 30 seconds.
CHENEY: Your rhetoric, senator, would be a lot more credible, if there was a record to back it up. There isn't, and you cannot use talk tough during the course of a 90 minute debate in a presidential campaign to obscure a 30-year record in the United States Senate and prior to that by John Kerry, who has consistently come down on the wrong side of all the major defense issues that he's faced as a public official.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President, a new question for you. You have two minutes to respond. When the President says that Senator Kerry is emboldening enemies, and you say that we could get hit again if voters make the wrong choice in November, are you saying that it would be a dangerous thing to have John Kerry as president?
CHENEY: I'm saying specifically that I don't believe he has the qualities we need in a commander-in-chief, because I don't think, based on his record, that he would pursue the kind of aggressive policies that need to be pursued if we're going to defeat these terrorists. We need to battle them overseas so we don't have to battle them here at home.
I'm not challenging John Kerry's patriotism. I said in my acceptance speech in New York City at the Republican convention that we respected his service in Vietnam, and I got applause for that. We've never criticized his patriotism. What we question is his judgment. And his judgment is flawed, and the record is there for anybody who wants to look at it.
In 1984, when he ran for the Senate, he opposed, or called for the elimination of a great many major weapons systems that were crucial to winning the Cold War and are important today to our overall forces. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and occupied it in 1990 and '91, he stood up on the floor of the Senate and voted against going in to liberate Kuwait and push Saddam Hussein back to Iraq.
The problem we have is that if you look at his record, he doesn't display the qualities of somebody who has conviction. And with respect to this particular operation, we've seen a situation in which first they voted to commit the troops, to send them to war, John Edwards and John Kerry. Then they came back, and when the question was whether or not you provide them with the resources they needed, body armor, spare parts, ammunition, they voted against it.
I couldn't figure out why that happened, initially, and then I looked and figured out that what was happening was Howard Dean was making major progress in the Democratic primaries, running away with the primaries based on an anti-war record. So they, in effect, decided they would cast an anti-war vote, and they voted against the troops. Now, if they couldn't stand up to the pressures that Howard Dean represented, how can we expect them to stand up to al Qaeda?
IFILL: Senator Edwards, you have 90 seconds to respond.
EDWARDS: Thank you. One thing that's very clear is that a long resume does not equal good judgment. I mean, we've seen over and over and over the misjudgments made by this administration. I want to go back to what this— what the vice president just said, because it's a continuation of the things he's been doing, unfortunately, on the campaign trail; it's a continuation of what he began his first answer with tonight.
John Kerry has voted for the biggest military appropriations bill in the country's history. John Kerry has voted for the biggest intelligence appropriations in the country's history. This vice president, when he was secretary of defense, cut over 80 weapons systems, including the very ones he's criticizing John Kerry for voting against. These are weapons systems, a big chunk of which the vice president, himself, suggested we get rid of after the Cold War.
The reality is that John Kerry has consistently supported the very men that he served with in Vietnam and led. On the $87 billion, it was clear at the time of that vote that they had no plan to win the peace. We're seeing the consequences of that every day on the ground right now. We stood up and said, for our troops we must have a plan to win the peace. We also thought it was wrong to have a $20 billion fund, out of which $7.5 billion was going to go toward a no-bid contract for Halliburton, the vice president's former company. It was wrong then; it's wrong now.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President, you have 30 seconds.
CHENEY: Well, Gwen, I think the record speaks for itself. These are two individuals who have been for the war when the headlines were good, and against it when their poll ratings were bad. We have not seen the kind of consistency that the commander-in-chief has to have in order to be a leader in wartime, and in order to be able to see the strategy through to victory. If we want to win the war on terror, it seems to me it's pretty clear, the choice is George Bush, not John Kerry.
IFILL: And 30 seconds.
EDWARDS: John Kerry has been absolutely clear and consistent from the beginning that we must stay focused on the people who attacked us, that Saddam Hussein was a threat that needed to be addressed directly, that the weapons inspectors needed to have time to do their job. Had they had time to do their job, they would have discovered what we now know, that, in fact, Saddam Hussein had no weapons, that, in fact, Saddam Hussein has no connection with 9/11, that, in fact, Saddam Hussein has little or no connection with al Qaeda.
IFILL: Senator Edwards, new question to you, and you have two minutes to respond. Part of what you have said, and Senator Kerry has said, that you're going to do in order to get us out of the problems in Iraq is to internationalize the effort. Yet, French and German officials have both said they have no intention, even if John Kerry is elected of sending any troops into Iraq for any peacekeeping effort. Does that make your effort, or you plan to internationalize this effort seem kind of naive?
EDWARDS: Well, let's start with what we know. What we know is that the president and the vice president have not done the work to build the coalition that we need— so dramatically different than the first Gulf War. We know that they haven't done it, and we know they can't do it. They didn't, by the way, just reject the allies going to lead up to the war; they also rejected them in the effort to do the reconstruction in Iraq. And that has consequences.
What we believe is, as part of our entire plan for Iraq— and we have a plan for Iraq. They have a plan for Iraq, too, more of the same. We have a plan for success, and that plan includes speeding up the training of a military. We have less than half of the staff that we need there to complete that training. Second, make sure that the reconstruction is sped up in a way that the Iraqis see some tangible benefit for what's happening.
And by the way, if we need to, we can take Iraqis out of Iraq to train them. It is not secure enough. It's so dangerous on the ground that they can't be trained there, we can take them out of Iraq for purposes of training. We should do whatever has to be done to train the Iraqis and to speed up that process.
That works in conjunction with making sure the elections take place on time. Right now the United Nations, which is responsible for the elections in January, has about 35 people there. Now, that's compared with a much smaller country, like East Timor, where they had over 200 people on the ground. You need more than 35 people to hold an election in Cleveland, much less in Iraq. And we— and they keep saying the election is on schedule, this is going to happen. The reality is we need a new President with credibility with the rest of the world, and who has a real plan for success.
Success breeds contribution, breeds joining the coalition. Not only that, I want to go back to what the vice president said. He attacks us about the troops? They sent 40,000 American troops into Iraq without the body armor they needed. They sent them without the armored vehicles they needed. While they were on the ground fighting, they lobbied the Congress to cut their combat pay. This is the height of hypocrisy.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President, you have 90 seconds.
CHENEY: Well, Gwen, it's hard to know where to start, there's so many inaccuracies there.
The fact of the matter is the troops wouldn't have what they have today if you guys had had your way. When you talk about internationalizing the effort, they don't have a plan, basically— it's an echo. You made the comment that the Gulf War coalition in '91 was far stronger than this. No, we had 34 countries then, we've got 30 today. We've got troops beside us.
It's hard, after John Kerry referred to our allies as a "coalition of the coerced and the bribed" to go out and persuade people to send troops and to participate in this process. You end up with a situation in which— talk about demeaning, in effect, you demean the sacrifice of our allies when you say it's wrong war, wrong place, wrong time, oh, by the way, send troops. It makes no sense at all. It's totally inconsistent. There isn't a plan there.
Our most important ally in the war on terror in Iraq, specifically, is Prime Minister [Ayad] Allawi. He came recently and addressed a joint session of Congress that I presided over, with the speaker of the House, and John Kerry rushed out immediately after his speech was over with— where he came and he thanked America for our contributions and our sacrifice and pledged to hold his election in January— went out and demeaned him, criticized him, challenged his credibility. That is not the way to win friends and allies. You're never going to add to the coalition with that kind of attitude.
IFILL: Senator Edwards, 30 seconds.
EDWARDS: Thank you. The vice president suggests that we have the same number of countries involved now that we had in the first Gulf War. The first Gulf War cost the American people $5 billion. And regardless of what the vice president says, we're at $200 billion and counting. Not only that, 90 percent of the coalition casualties, Mr. Vice President— the coalition casualties— are American casualties. Ninety percent of the cost of this effort are being borne by American taxpayers. It is the direct result of the failures of this administration.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President.
CHENEY: Classic example, he won't count the sacrifice and the contribution of our Iraqi allies. It's their country, they're in the fight, they're increasingly the ones out there putting their necks on the line to take back their country from the terrorists and the old regime elements that are still left. They're doing a superb job, and for you to demean their sacrifice, that strikes me as—
EDWARDS: Oh, I'm not—
CHENEY: --beyond the pale. It is, indeed. You suggested that somehow—
EDWARDS: No, sir—
CHENEY: --they shouldn't count, because you want to be able to say that the Americans are taking 90 percent of the sacrifice. You cannot succeed in this effort if you're not willing to recognize the enormous contribution the Iraqis are increasingly making to their own future. We'll win when they take on responsibility for governance, which they're doing; and when they take on responsibility for their own security, which they increasingly are doing.
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, which is the question of American intelligence. If the FSC report that we 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 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 where 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, an 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 are being kidnapped, people are being beheaded, parts of the country under the control of insurgents, even today under the control of the insurgents. The vice president has still made— 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. And it's 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. When John Kerry is 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 they 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. That's part of my job as vice president. A CIA spokesman was quoted in that story as saying they'd not yet reached the bottom line and there's still debate over this question of the relationship between [Abu Musab] 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 Kurmal, 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.
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, "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 think— 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— the International Atomic Energy Agency, a non-proliferation treaty.
We've 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 have been negotiating with the Iranians. We recently were actively involved in meeting with the Board of Governors of 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 United Nations Security Council for the application of 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 byproducts, for example, of what we did in Iraq and Afghanistan is that five days after we captured Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi, 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 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 subsidiaries, 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 sanctions— 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. [Laughter.]
CHENEY: Well, the reason they keep mentioning Halliburton is because they're trying to throw up a smoke screen. They know the charges are false. They know if you go, for example, to factcheck.com, an independent website 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, is 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.
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 peacemaking 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— let me just say a couple preliminary things, and then I'll 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. Now, if I can just, for a moment, tell you a personal story. I was in Jerusalem a couple 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— 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, but 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 is 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— 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 the Israeli people.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President, 90 seconds.
CHENEY: 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 of 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. You're 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 the 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.
With 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 have in the past is because Saddam's 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, the 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 under Yasir Arafat. There has to be reform in 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 will 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.
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: Goes to Senator Edwards.
IFILL: It goes to senator— it's to you, I just asked him about Israel, even though we didn't actually talk about it much.
CHENEY: I concede the point. [Laughter.]
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 ranks 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. We think the key is to address some basic fundamental issues that the president is already working on. I think probably the most successful thing we can do with respect to ending poverty is to get people jobs. There is 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 adequate medical care and make certain that we can, in fact, create the opportunities that are vital to that process.
I 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, 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 for 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 the majority students and minority students. We're making significant progress.
IFILL: Senator Edwards, you have 90 seconds.
EDWARDS: 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 has been in office, 4 million more Americans have fallen into poverty. And one of the most striking and startling things, is they are the first presidency in 70 years— and I'm talking Democrats, Republicans, 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 tax— by the way, they're for outsourcing jobs. I want to make sure people hear that. It's a 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 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. That's from 2003. It doesn't include any of the gains that we've made in the last year, as we've added 1.7 million jobs to the economy.
IFILL: Thirty seconds.
EDWARDS: The vice president and president alike talk about their experience on the campaign trail. Millions of people have lost their jobs. Millions have fallen into poverty. Family incomes are down, where the cost of everything is going up. Medical costs 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.
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. If you look at 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 in 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 dollars of debt to our children and our grandchildren.
So here's what we're going to do, to answer your 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 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, 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 are in too deep of a hole. But we can cut the deficit in half, and 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 ten new jobs in America are created by small businesses. You do not want to tax them, 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 words 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: Thank you. We have 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, voted or cosponsored, 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 the 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.
IFILL: 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 as an experience, your family 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 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 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 in 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 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, they— millionaires sitting by their swimming pool, collecting their statement to see how much money their 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 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.
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— 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. Those are not the kind of things that John Kerry and I believe in and 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, go back 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