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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Pennsylvania Town Hall Meeting
Aired October 14, 2004 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi. Welcome to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a land where, for centuries, barns have been places for neighbors to gather, exchange ideas and come to momentous decisions.
Good evening and welcome. I'm Paula Zahn.
Here inside this historic barn in Tinicum Township, we are joined by about 125 voters. They, like you, have yet another momentous decision to make in just 19 days.
ZAHN (voice-over): History runs deep here. From the times when Quakers sought a peaceful refuge to George Washington's Christmas crossing of the Delaware, it has always been a place of patriots. But these days it is politically divided. This is Bucks County, half rural, staunchly Republican, the other half progressive, diehard Democrats, a divided county in a divided state in a divided nation.
Here, neither side is afraid to talk about the issues, like the war.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love that women in Iraq can go to school now and that there is clean water.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What Iraq are you talking about? There is no school. There is nothing going on there but war and death.
ZAHN: George Bush and John Kerry have come to Pennsylvania often.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's good to be back in Pennsylvania.
ZAHN: The president every month since January.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I can't tell you what a pleasure it is to come to Pennsylvania.
ZAHN: Kerry every month since March. Unemployment in Bucks County is slightly below the national average of 5.4 percent. But the economy is a major concern here, where so many small business owners and farmers make their living here. Restaurant and theater owner William Quigley (ph) is worried about the deficit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It affects my vote because we've gone from an economy where we had almost no deficit to a $200 billion deficit in a period two of years. That frightens me.
ZAHN: Family farmer Matthew Maximus (ph) is also worried about the economy. But he believes the president can handle things.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With all of the rising costs of fuel and everything else, it is definitely going to be at the top of my mind.
ZAHN: Bucks County is a battleground in a bellwether state. So tonight, with just 19 days until the nation decides, we have come here to Bucks County for answers.
ANNOUNCER: This is a special edition of PAULA ZAHN NOW, "A Town Hall Meeting: The Undecided Vote."
Live from Erwinna, Pennsylvania, here's Paula Zahn.
ZAHN: Thank you. Thank you very much. Welcome. Glad to have you all with us here tonight.
This year, Pennsylvania's 21 electoral votes are especially crucial. John Kerry desperately needs to hold the state, which narrowly went for Al Gore in the year 2000. The president and the senator are in a dead heat here. And even after three presidential debates, one in five members of our audience still has not decided how to vote.
To take their questions, I am joined by Kiki McLean, a senior adviser to the Kerry/Edwards campaign. And representing the Bush/Cheney campaign tonight, one of the vice president's daughters, Liz Cheney.
ZAHN: These are multitasking women. They're both working very hard in the campaigns and they both left home some brand new infants.
So thank you for your time tonight.
And although this is farm country, Bucks County is hardly remote. Sometimes the rest of the world is dangerously close; 14 Bucks County residents died at the World Trade Center in 2001. Two more died aboard Flight 93, which crashed into western Pennsylvania.
So we begin our town meeting with the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. As you have been watching on CNN, the U.S. launched a new offensive against insurgents in Fallujah, following another day of suicide bombings in Baghdad that claimed American and Iraqi lives.
Now it is time to open up our forum to the voters here of Pennsylvania. Let's get started right here. Please, introduce yourself and fire away.
RUSSA STEINER, WIFE OF SEPTEMBER 11 VICTIM: Hi. My name is Russa Steiner. I'm the widow of William Steiner, who was a victim of the terrorist attacks on September 11.
And my question I would like to address to Kiki.
A priority responsibility for a president is homeland security, to defend and protect its people. President Bush took the initiative, unpopular as it was, to seek out and find the terrorists wherever they are. My question would be, what options would Mr. Kerry have for a preemptive strike other than waiting until we're attacked?
KIKI MCLEAN, KERRY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: First of all, Mrs. Steiner, let me say thank you to you for being here tonight and also let me offer my condolences to you and let you know that you and so many who have shared your loss have been in the prayers of many others and my family as well for you.
When it comes to homeland security and what we have to deal with and what we're facing as a nation, it means taking decisive action and it means recognizing where there are decisions and turns in the road to make. John Kerry and John Edwards have committed themselves to a plan and a path for homeland security that hopefully will take us really to where the terrorists are, not leaving al Qaeda untracked, as has been had now that we're in Iraq, not leaving the terrorists to actually bubble up in more cells around the world, but to actually hunt them down, stop them and frankly do what we have to do here at home.
That phrase homeland security is also about what we have to do here securing our borders. Our borders have not been secured. Many steps have been taken, but we're not nearly where we need to go. And John Kerry and John Edwards want to make sure that we're working on both tracks, hunting the terrorist downs and killing them, as well as making sure that we're doing what we have to do here at home.
ZAHN: Just a really brief rejoinder here, though. There is a perception in the public that John Kerry would not take preemptive action. He used the word global test in a debate, which of course the Bush/Cheney campaign has used to show that he would not fight terrorism as aggressively as the president.
ZAHN: Just a brief response.
MCLEAN: I think he made very clear last night in the debate that he reserves the right to use unilateral force in defense of this nation and our interests and he's made that very clear. As president, he considers that a resource and a decision that he can make.
ZAHN: Liz, Kiki just brought up the issue of the borders. Could this administration be doing more to make those borders more secure?
LIZ CHENEY, DAUGHTER OF VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, I think this president, as Mrs. Steiner pointed out -- and, again, also, our prayers are with you in the loss that you suffered on September 11 as well.
STEINER: Thank you.
CHENEY: But, as you so accurately pointed out, this president gets up every morning and goes to bed every night focused on what we can do to keep this country safe.
As the 9/11 Commission said, we are safer today than we were on September 10. And it is very important to remember, as Kiki said, that we can't just keep our borders secured here. We can't only try to keep the terrorists out here. We have to be on the offense. And it is important not to just pay lip service to that, frankly. It is important to recognize that the war on terror is not just in Afghanistan.
Of course we have to fight al Qaeda in Afghanistan. But Senator Kerry said that we ought to ask General Franks whether or not resources were diverted from Afghanistan to fight the war in Iraq. And General Franks said, no, they weren't. He said that absolutely we have to fight across the board. And Iraq is a critical part of that.
And Iraq was the place, it was the nexus after September 11 where terrorists who want to do America harm were most likely to either be able to get the weapons or the capacity to make those weapons. And what President Bush did was exactly the right thing. And frankly it is critically important that we have a commander in chief who doesn't waver. And as I've traveled around the country and talked to security moms, in particular people are very concerned about Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards wavering in the course of this campaign.
ZAHN: We'll need to come back to this, I know, because
MCLEAN: It is a big issue. It is important.
ZAHN: It is a huge issue and there is some contradiction that have been exposed in the debates by both of the candidates.
MCLEAN: And there's a big difference.
ZAHN: So let's move on to our next question. And I'm sure we'll get back to that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. My name is Andy McPhee (ph) from Doylestown.
My question is for Ms. Cheney. After 9/11, the president made it very clear that the threat from terrorism was a new threat, an unconventional threat, and he used those terms and he continues to do so. And my question is why we then waged an almost completely conventional war in Iraq, sweeping across the countryside, taking over Baghdad, deposing the regime, which is about as conventional as you can get. So I'm wondering what happened there.
CHENEY: Well, I would disagree actually with your characterization.
I think, first of all, what the president has said is, this is a new threat. We're not facing an enemy here that we can negotiate with or an enemy that is trying to protect any of its territory or an enemy that cares at all about human life. So it is a new kind of threat. We have to have a new approach.
One of those new approaches is for President Bush to say to the world, not only are we going to go after the terrorists, but if you are a government harboring terrorists, you are just as guilty. And the president took very decisive action to protect this country and to protect America by liberating Iraq. And, again, I would say there has been a lot of confusion in this campaign, a lot of attempt to sort of cause confusion about Iraq as a central front in the war on terror.
But there is no question but that we're safer today because we have liberated Iraq, because the people of Iraq are no longer living under the dictatorship of Saddam, because he sits in a prison cell and he no longer is able to try to produce weapons of mass destruction or to give that technology to terrorists.
ZAHN: I just was going to ask you this, because Tommy Franks, who was the chief architect of the military plan, told me in an interview that he really wished that the U.S. government had put more troops in place in Tora Bora because it might have -- although we're not sure exactly, he said, where Osama bin Laden was at the time, it might have raised the chances to actually find him.
CHENEY: Well, I know that's not what Tommy Franks has said to the president.
And I think it also reflects a lack of understanding about what General Franks has said across the board.
ZAHN: Well, he just said this in an interview to me.
CHENEY: Well, in neither case, neither in Afghanistan, nor in Iraq, is the objective to flood those countries with American troops.
The point here is to use -- have Afghans stand up and fight for their country and have Iraqis stand up and fight for their country. And it is simply just false to say what Senator Kerry has said repeatedly, which is that we somehow took our eye off the ball or that we knew where Osama bin Laden was and let him escape. It is just not true.
ZAHN: We'll give you a chance to respond to that after this short break. We need to take that break right now.
And when we come back, what everyone is talking about after last night's debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KERRY: We're all God's children, Bob. And I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter, who is a lesbian, she would tell you that she's being who she was, she's being who she was born as.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: And we will return with our Bucks County, Pennsylvania, town meeting in just a moment.
Please stay with us.
ZAHN: And welcome back to our town hall meeting here in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. We open the question back up to Kiki McLean, who wanted to respond to some of the dialogue we had here about Iraq and the accusation, particularly now that your candidate has been hammered over the last week about an interview he did where he said he hoped that terrorism ultimately would be treated like a nuisance. There is a perception that he wouldn't take preemptive action.
MCLEAN: Well, understanding the point that we eradicate it so that it is not a function of our daily lives.
But something I think that is really important to both of our first round of questions to understand is, when we talk about fighting the war on terror and what Senator Kerry wants to do both overseas and at home is to remember that this president stood against the creation of the Homeland Security Department for five months before that agency was created.
He finally came around and agreed to support its efforts. So recognizing the actions he needed to take to help deal with what we're fighting here at home, as well as abroad, I think it is really important that people understand that and that making sure that we can operate on a series of fronts and, frankly, that, ultimately, this comes down to a series of choices. Knowing what we know now, commissioner reports, did we go to war on a series of facts that are no longer true? And it appears that we did.
And recognizing those decisions and frankly being up front about it and taking responsibility for it I think it important. And that is something this president hasn't done and that is something Senator Kerry believes is very important.
ZAHN: Just quickly defend the rationale for going to war now that we know that there were no weapons of mass destruction.
CHENEY: I think it is absolutely clear, as I said before, after September 11, no American president can ever stand by and watch threats gather, wait until threats become imminent. We have to protect against the gravest danger we face.
ZAHN: But do you think there was a linkage between September 11 and Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden?
CHENEY: We have been absolutely clear. There is a link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. The 9/11 Commission has said that there is a link between them.
Nobody has claimed on our side a link between Saddam Hussein and September 11, as much as they've...
CHENEY: We haven't. Between Saddam Hussein and September 11.
And let me finish the point about the rationale for the war. After September 11, it was critically important that the president not let threats gather. And the threat of a terrorist loose in one of our cities with a weapon of mass destruction is the gravest threat we face.
And if you look at Saddam Hussein, if you look at the fact that he was carried as a state sponsor of terror on our State Department's list for many, many years, he was paying $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers, he was harboring terrorists, he had connections with al Qaeda, Abu Nidal was inside Iraq, Zarqawi was inside of Iraq, there is no question but that he who had made and used weapons against -- weapons of mass destruction against his own people and who was a sworn enemy of the United States, was interested in doing that again.
Now, we gave him 12 years. We gave him multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions and made it absolutely clear that, you know, the president of the United States cannot cede the responsibility for protecting America to U.N. Security Council members.
ZAHN: I need a very quick rebuttal on the issue of whether John Kerry believed Saddam Hussein could represented a growing threat.
MCLEAN: Saddam Hussein is a bad guy. We all agree on that. He's a bad guy.
The question is, do you admit what happened and the circumstances under which we went to war and make responsible decisions now and take responsibility for it? John Kerry and John Edwards will take responsibility for it and they'll deal with the facts. That's not happening
ZAHN: All right, we're going to move on now, because we have a lot of territory to cover.
ZAHN: As you no doubt could tell from the audience tonight, we do have some folks pledged to John Kerry, some pledged to the president. But a good one-fifth of this audience tonight clearly has still not made up its mind.
We're going to move on to the issue of gay marriage. It's one of the most controversial issues in this campaign. President Bush supports a constitutional amendment to forbid it. John Kerry does not. And, as we saw before the break, when John Kerry was asked during last night's debate whether homosexuality was a choice, he invoked the name of the vice president's lesbian daughter, Mary. That comment sparked a furious post-debate exchange. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYNNE CHENEY, WIFE OF VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: This is not a good man. This is not a good man. And, of course, I am speaking as a mom and a pretty indignant mom. This is not a good man. What a cheap and tawdry political trick.
ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS: It makes me really sad that that's Lynne's response. I think that it indicates a certain degree of shame with respect to her daughter's sexual preferences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: And here representing the Bush/Cheney campaign, as we introduced you to earlier, Liz Cheney, the vice president older daughter, and Kiki McLean, a senior adviser to the Kerry-Edwards campaign.
What was your reaction to the exchange last night?
CHENEY: I do want to get to that, because it's very important.
But I want to say one more thing about this last issue first, which is that I think that Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards' rhetoric on the issue of keeping America safe would be much more convincing if there was any records to back it up.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) CHENEY: And if you look at the last...
ZAHN: Let's try to keep the partisanship down, because that's not going to help anybody decide how to vote here.
CHENEY: If you look at the last 20 years of John Kerry's record in the United States Senate, he's been wrong on every important national security issue facing this country.
And if you look at where he's been just for the last two years in terms of Iraq, he voted to send our troops to war and then he turned his back on them once they were there, because, as Joe Biden has said, senator, Democratic senator, leading foreign policy adviser for Senator Kerry, Senator Kerry saw that the poll numbers were not going in his direction. He gave in to the pressure of Howard Dean. So I think that's an important point to make.
ZAHN: And I think it is very important for people to understand the distortions on both sides that we've seen in the campaign because a general testified before Congress that there wasn't enough body armor provided in the original send-off to war.
Just a very quick, quick reaction to that. We have really got to move on.
MCLEAN: Well, the reality is that votes matter and what is attached to legislation matters. And people in this room know that and people in America are smart enough to understand it.
And, frankly, you don't have to make a big argument. Americans are seeing the results of George Bush's decisions every day right now in Iraq. And that's what we're dealing with.
ZAHN: Back to the issue of last night's exchange during the debate where John Kerry was asked a very specific question about whether homosexuality is a choice. Were you offended by the fact that he mentioned your sister
CHENEY: I was offended.
ZAHN: And tell me why.
CHENEY: I think that it was out of bounds.
CHENEY: For Senator Kerry to exploit the child of his opponent to make political point on his own, for his own political gain. And I have to say I think that I, like many Americans all across this country today, are wondering what kind of a man would do that.
ZAHN: Was your sister offended? CHENEY: It was a very offensive thing for him to do, yes.
ZAHN: Did you talk to her about it?
CHENEY: It was very offensive. I think I'll just leave it there. I think people can make their own judgment about what he said.
CHENEY: It has nothing do with shame. And I think Mrs. Edwards was also out of line. Mary is one of my heroes. And it has nothing to do with being ashamed of Mary.
The issue is whether or not Senator Kerry or Senator Edwards, who did the same thing, frankly, in the debate with my father, have the right to exploit her, to bring her up in a situation in which they're clearly trying to make some kind of political point or some kind of political gain. And I think it is actually unprecedented in the history of American presidential politics that you would see that happen.
ZAHN: Why isn't this a cheap political trick on John Kerry's part?
MCLEAN: With all due respect to Liz, I have admiration for her, I have a sister I love and I'm tremendously proud of, too. And I know I -- any time I heard her name raised by somebody I didn't know very well, I would probably bristle a little bit and wonder.
ZAHN: But is her sexuality being discussed?
MCLEAN: No. But I think what was going on is, I think the Cheneys have demonstrated a great amount of pride in their family.
And I think that what both Senator Edwards and Senator Kerry did was just acknowledge that and so much so that her own father thanked the vice president for that. And I can understand. Look, we're in the last 19 days of a campaign. It is getting tough out there.
ZAHN: Getting tough? It is ugly.
MCLEAN: It is getting tough and it is going to be a long 19 days. And I don't think any harm was intended. And, in fact, I think it was an acknowledgement of the pride the Cheneys have shown in their own family.
ZAHN: We're going to take a short break.
When we come back, the state of health care and why doctors are leaving Pennsylvania. We will have more from our voters and campaign representatives when our town meeting continues.
Please stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think a big problem is health care. My wife takes a lot of pills. And it seems, like every couple of months, they don't go up a little bit. They jump $10, $12 a month.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I'm going to lose most of my pension check for paying for medical.
LISA MONACO, VOTER: It is a crime that they're forcing the doctors out of here. I personally don't know what I would do without having my doctor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: And welcome back to our town hall meeting in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Voter registration numbers indicate the county is strongly Republican. But in the last three presidential elections, the Democratic nominee has won.
And here with me now hoping to make it four out of four, Kiki McLean, a senior adviser to the Kerry/Edwards campaign, along with Liz Cheney of the Bush/Cheney campaign.
She's one of the vice president's daughters.
ZAHN: We just talked about the issue of health care and how important it is.
On to our next question now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello. My name is Liz Sigidy (ph). I'm a mother of four. I'm a lawyer and I'm a volunteer at Doylestown Hospital, one of our local nonprofit hospitals.
My question concerns the medical malpractice crisis that we have here in Pennsylvania and in many other states. At Doylestown Hospital, four of the last 12 credentialing committee meetings were canceled because there are no doctors to review. The average age of surgeons is well over 50 years old with no hope at present of fulfilling those positions.
Other than penalizing attorneys for filing frivolous lawsuits, which I think both campaigns are willing to do, but which I don't think will completely solve the problem, what would your candidate do to reduce the malpractice premiums and to ensure that our community has enough doctors to serve our families?
ZAHN: Let's let Liz take that one first.
CHENEY: Well, I think it is a very, very important point. I also have four children.
And I -- as I traveled around the country, I have talked especially with OB-GYNs. And I know Pennsylvania has got a real problem with doctors who simply are no longer able to practice because the liability insurance premiums have gotten so high. And what happens is, they start turning away high-risk patients. And so it tends to be women who are poor, women who don't have access to better care who can't get treatment. So this is something that is at the top of our list in terms of looking at ways...
ZAHN: How do you change that?
CHENEY: Well, in terms of looking at ways that we can ensure, first of all, that the -- there are limits placed on punitive damages, also looking at the extent at which every time an award is given by a jury, many times the victim at issue sees maybe 50 percent of that award. And attorneys fees and administrative costs take much more.
I think we need medical liability reform across the board. It is something the president is committed to, both because of what it means for health care system, but also because of what it means for our economy in general.
ZAHN: Is there any problem you have with anything Liz has said here tonight?
CHENEY: But it is important to point out that Senators Kerry and Edwards have opposed this. They voted against medical liability reform. They do have a plan in place that would do what you're saying in terms of putting sort of lawyers in charge of deciding what is a frivolous lawsuit and what isn't. But I think that's kind of like letting the chicken guard the henhouse.
MCLEAN: Well, to your point, there is a plan about making sure that there is a three-strikes-you're-out rule against lawyers who engage in frivolous lawsuits. And I think it is good that those who know the law and understand the legal ramifications are helping make that judgment so they know what kind of judgment to make.
ZAHN: And they should trust a former litigator in the form of John Edwards is the rap you hear on the campaign trail all the time.
MCLEAN: But, you know, the other thing is about responsible lawyers.
We have a legal system because people need it. And there is a fine balance that we have in terms of, there is a willingness on the part of Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards. And they support capping some levels of punitive damages to make -- make sure that we have an opening for the moment egregious cases. There are some people that you have got to be able to stand up and fight for and they have got to have a channel and a place when they've been wronged significantly to do that.
And so I think there is a window of opportunity for that and Senator Kerry believes in it. But it is also important to remember that, if you want to get health care costs, it is not just about medical malpractice reform, OK? Medical costs, health care costs have skyrocketed under this administration. And there are four million more people under George Bush's presidency without health insurance than there were before.
Liz and I both have shared some of our new mother stories just before the show and it is something that we have in common. And it is important to find things that we have in common.
It's important to find things that we have in common. But I know what it was like because I also delivered my second child with a different O.B. than my first because my first obstetrician quit practicing. So I just experienced this.
And you know what? I'm really fortunate. I had a lot of resources to find another doctor. Some women don't and so we've got to address the whole picture, not just medical malpractice.
PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Let's move on to an e-mail question we've heard from nearly 10,000 of you by way of e-mail with your questions for the campaigns. We're going to get to one of those now.
Ruth Seco (ph) in Warminster, Pennsylvania. Did I say that correctly, Warminster? Yay, good. She e-mailed us this question. She asked, "President Bush, half of this country doesn't like you. Senator Kerry, half of this country doesn't like you."
All right. We've established that. "Whoever wins, what are your plans to heal this division and help make us feel united again?"
LIZ CHENEY, BUSH/CHENEY CAMPAIGN: You know, President Bush said last night one of his greatest disappointments in coming to Washington has been just the incredible partisanship in this city.
When he first came into office, he had several big successes at the very beginning in terms of things like No Child Left Behind, which he was able to pass on a bipartisan basis, Medicare reform on a bipartisan basis.
And since then, however, the mood in Washington has really become very, very partisan, and it's too bad. And he attributed it last night to special interests to some extent. I think it's very important...
ZAHN: Do you think he's responsible for any of it? CHENEY: I think it is very important that we do what we can to come together as a nation. I think we are a country that's evenly divided. And I think that that contributes to some extent to the mood in Washington.
But I think at the end of the day, you know, we have to have a leader who's willing to do whatever it takes, frankly, to keep us safe. And I think to the extent that that sometimes makes people angry in the United States or frankly abroad, I'd much rather have a commander in chief, a president who is going to do what he knows is right no matter what.
ZAHN: But with these clear divisions that Liz just talked about, what would John Kerry do differently that would unite these warring members of Congress?
MCLEAN: Well, it's not just warring members of Congress.
ZAHN: Special interest groups. We understand all that.
MCLEAN: There are lots of people are involved in this. I mean, let's not forget, you know, that there are people who went out and attacked John Kerry's record as a Vietnam hero, somebody who was wounded in battle. And there are people who like to stir up the political debate.
But I think John Kerry's made it very clear that as president he wants to be a president for all of America. And being a strong president means sometimes you'll disagree with some of the people you work for.
But it also means that you can handle yourself and take responsibility for your decisions so that people respect you. And that's important. Not just at home, but that's important abroad right now. too.
ZAHN: Let me see a show of hands.
MCLEAN: And you can see that happening.
ZAHN: How many in our audience tonight actually think that any leader, no matter how talented, could bring together these -- these chasms and these deep divides that exist in Washington. You do? All right.
MCLEAN: I think Senator Kerry believes that Americans want that. It's not really just the leader. I think you to have faith in the American people to do that. And I think that's where it ultimately happens.
ZAHN: We're going to move on now. Still ahead, how will John Kerry pay for the programs you were just talking about here tonight, particularly when it comes to health care?
There's more of our PRIME TOWN POLITICS town hall meeting from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, coming up right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ZAHN: And welcome back to our town hall meeting. It continues now with 125 voters in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Answering questions from our audience from the Bush campaign, Liz Cheney, one of the vice president's daughters, and Kerry campaign senior adviser, Kiki McLean.
Welcome back. It is your turn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. This is for Kiki. I'm Mike Nosker (ph). I'm from Plumstead.
John Kerry said he'll reduce the deficit in half in four years. He's also said he's not going to raise taxes on anybody that makes less than 200,000 bucks.
Now, he's going to increase the troops in Iraq. He's going to fully fund No Child Left Behind. And about a trillion dollars worth of other things. How do you intend for him to pay for that?
MCLEAN: Well, first of all, there have been studies that have come out that have said, No. 1, because John Kerry believes in a pay as you go system, he demonstrates where closing corporate loopholes, OK, and the tax giveaways that they've gotten and rolling back those tax giveaways that have been given to them under Bush/Cheney is going to help offset that.
You know, it's important to understand that the Bush/Cheney campaign really likes to talk about Senator Kerry's record. So let's make sure everybody understands two things.
No. 1, he was one of the principle architects of the Graham- Hollings-Rudman Act and the Budget Deficit Reduction Act.
And No. 2, he was one of the principle architects in the Senate of the Balanced Budget Amendment.
This against a record of an administration that squandered away a historic surplus. We now have the biggest trade deficit we've ever had. I mean, their economic record isn't holding out -- holding water very well. And the Kerry record and the Kerry plan shows that it will.
ZAHN: You've seen estimates of what his plan would cost, particularly when it comes to health care. The numbers are all over the place. What number do you go with? Six hundred billion to, you know, as high as $1 trillion.
MCLEAN: But the point is...
ZAHN: How would he pay for that?
MCLEAN: Pay as you go. Well, he's going to roll back the tax giveaway the Bush/Cheney gave to corporate America. And he's also going to make sure that when we invest and we do give support to corporations, there are those that are making jobs here in America and not outsourcing everything overseas.
ZAHN: The fact remains, there are so many, a number of...
MCLEAN: Take Goldman Sachs. They're the ones who...
ZAHN: ... who suggested that neither one of these candidates' plans for reducing the deficit work. And they're going to have to make some really tough choices down the road and cut some programs perhaps they're not talking about now. Do you concede that?
CHENEY: I think that there are a couple of really important points here.
One is that Senator Kerry voted 274 times against the pay-go budget caps that he now says he supports. Everybody needs to remember that. This is another situation where the rhetoric does not match his record.
Secondly, the president's budget is a thousand pages long. He's got four volumes where he lays out very clearly how we're going to cut the deficit in five years, what we're going to spend money on, how much the tax cuts are going to cost. John Kerry has one page of numbers.
So your question is a terrific one. Nobody knows how he's going to pay for this.
Now when they talk about the fact that they're going to roll back the taxes on the top one or two percent, I can't keep track of where they are right now, you know, what they're talking about doing would at most cover one-third of what they propose to spend, first of all.
And secondly, over 900,000 small businesses are in that category. And those are the businesses that create seven out of 10 new jobs in this country.
So Senator Kerry's proposal would stop economic growth. It would stop our job creation and, frankly, nobody knows how much it would cost. And finally, Senator Edwards said John Kerry is going to drive us deeper and deeper into deficit.
MCLEAN: John Kerry and John Edwards have both said they're going to make the tough choices. There's a plain record here. Look at the deficit. Look at where the economy is today. Look at the jobs that are lost. That says it all.
If you want even more specifics on what Senator Kerry wants to do, JohnKerry.com. They're laid out right there on the web site so that you can see the kinds of choices he's willing to make.
ZAHN: All right. But I think the audience also needs to understand independent observers are saying that John Kerry's health plan will sufficiently add to the deficit and that two-thirds of the president's -- the deficit is created by the president's tax cut. So...
CHENEY: We've been through as a nation -- this president came into office, he inherited a recession. We were then attacked on September 11. We lost one million jobs in the three months after the September 11 attacks.
This economy is coming back. We've created over 1.9 million new jobs in the last 13 months. We've created 100,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector in the last six months. We're coming back. Unemployment is down. It's where it was in 1996.
ZAHN: Kiki is shaking her head no. We've got to move onto the next question.
MCLEAN: You want to take responsibility for it, that's the amazing thing.
CHENEY: I'll take responsibility for the economy any day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name in Lori from Warminster. This question is for Liz.
Recently, I witnessed the death of my father to Alzheimer's disease. Stem cell research offers hope for a cure for this disease and others. Explain to me, without imposing any religious views upon me as to when life begins, how the administration can justify not allowing stem cell research with frozen human embryos.
CHENEY: It's a very, very important issue. My grandmother died of Parkinson's Disease. So it's an issue that my family feels very strongly about and understands the tremendous potential that stem cells provide.
This president is the first president in history to provide federal funds for embryonic stem cell research. So the notion that there's a ban, that we're not allowing embryonic stem cell research, is just wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it's...
CHENEY: What the president has said, though, is that we're going to use existing lines. Now, there are thousands of lines that have already gone out to researchers around the country. There are thousands more that are available for more research.
But the president has been very up-front in saying there is an ethical question about whether or not it is right to take life in order to save life. And so he's made a decision that he feels is one that takes into account that ethical problem, but also recognizes the tremendous potential of embryonic stem cell research.
Now at the same time there's -- there is no ban at all on private funding for embryonic stem cell research, and there is tremendous work also going on with adult stem cells. So it's an area that offers incredible hope and one that we're pursuing. ZAHN: Kiki, hold your thought. We're going to take a short break and let you answer or at least address what Liz just had to say right after the short break. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH CUTIOSE, BUCKS COUNTY RESIDENT: There's no more middle class. Due to certain states over which I have no control over, I still have to work.
IDA JACKOWSKI, BUCKS COUNTY RESIDENT: We started just doing it one day a week. And it was going to be more or less fun and a little extra income. And now we have to actually do it three days a week.
JOSEPH MAXIAN, BUCKS COUNTY RESIDENT: God bless America. It's a great country. Because even the little guys like us could really start out of nothing and build.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: And welcome back to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and our town hall meeting. We brought together 125 voters and representatives from both campaigns. One of the vice president's daughters, Liz Cheney, is with us with the Bush/Cheney campaign. Well, of course. Who else would she be representing? And Kerry senior adviser Kiki McLean.
MCLEAN: We're happy to welcome her to the...
ZAHN: Back to the issue of stem cell research that we were talking before we hit the break. And Liz was making the point that the Bush administration has provided for federal funding of stem cell research, and she's -- you have to balance that with the notion of whether you should be destroying a life to save a life.
How does the Kerry campaign view that critical question?
MCLEAN: Well, philosophy -- philosophy is one thing. The reality is if you talk to the researchers and the people who are working with these lines. That policy has had a chilling effect, and it stopped research on about 99.9 percent of the lines out there.
ZAHN: You don't see them as -- those issues interwoven?
MCLEAN: But the reality -- the reality -- But we have to deal with the reality of what the outcome of that policy is. And the outcome of that policy is it's not productive.
And -- and the medical researchers around the country and around the world are telling us it's not a productive policy. And that's where it's stymieing, and it's having a chilling effect on what hope we can have for so many solutions. There's not anyone here who's not touched by your question for your mother, by Liz's grandmother. My goddaughter has a severe genetic disorder that we don't know what it could do for her, because there have been links to some of the Alzheimer's research for her. You know, there's...
ZAHN: Do you think there's false hope implicit in your argument, which is what the Bush/Cheney campaign has charged?
MCLEAN: I don't think it's false hope when we know that there's science that can move us forward in this. That's not false.
ZAHN: All right. Another question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good evening. My name is Gay McFee (ph)...
ZAHN: Say your name again?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gay McFee (ph). I think this issue was skirted in last night's debate. So my question is, President Bush opposes abortion. If re-elected, will he advocate for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion? Would you state for the record yes or no does he support overturning Roe v. Wade?
CHENEY: The president has never said that he was going to work to overturn Roe v. Wade. And what he said, in fact, is he won't have a litmus test for his judges.
The issue comes up in terms of who you're going to appoint to the federal bench, in particular. And while the Kerry campaign has said they will have a litmus test. They will not -- they will ask their judges what do you believe about this issue, and I don't know, perhaps others, as well.
President Bush has said he won't do that. President Bush wants judges who are going to defend the Constitution, who are going to interpret the Constitution, and...
ZAHN: But he did skirt the question we were just talking about last night. He did not come out and directly say, "I will not work to overturn"...
CHENEY: Roe v. Wade is the law of the land. And I think he's been very clear about that fact that this is a sensitive issue, and it's an issue that we ought to try to find common ground on. We ought to see where we can come together on it.
The president is -- is very committed to things like the partial- birth abortion ban, which I think 70 percent of Americans agree this is a horrific practice. It's a ban that he worked hard for and that he signed into law and that John Kerry voted against.
President also is very committed to things like the Laci Peterson law, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, where an unborn fetus is considered a human being in terms of taking a life. And John Kerry voted against that, as well. ZAHN: Back to Roe v. Wade.
CHENEY: You have to find issues that you can come together on on this issue.
MCLEAN: John Kerry is pro-choice. He's pro-choice.
ZAHN: John Kerry -- but there are people who say that he wants it both ways. He talks about being a practicing Catholic, that he personally is opposed to abortion but he thinks women should have the right to choose. How do you reconcile that?
MCLEAN: As a woman, I reconcile it by the fact that that's what -- how his faith informs him, and I have the right to choose. It's very simple, Paula.
ZAHN: Is it -- is it Senator Kerry's belief...
MCLEAN: ... Constitution. I have yet to find anybody who wants to choose abortion. OK? People make choices based on what their circumstances are and what their heart and what their faith informs them to do. And that's not something you can legislate.
The reality is when you talk about what brings this country together, I challenge you to find somebody who hasn't made up their mind on this position.
ZAHN: But yes or no, do you believe if President Bush is elected that we will not do what Liz is saying, that he will try to overturn Roe v. Wade?
MCLEAN: I don't know. I don't think he's been consistent. I don't know the answer to that. I don't think -- I don't know that his record tells us that he would be supportive of a pro-choice position.
CHENEY: He's been absolutely clear in saying we need to value a culture of life and that there are certain things at stake here.
MCLEAN: I think -- I think women's reproductive health rights are at risk under his presidency, and I think as the Supreme Court ages they become more at risk in the next four years.
ZAHN: All right, you two. We're going to leave it there with that. We'll take another breather. We have more questions from -- for both campaigns from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, when we come back.
ZAHN: Welcome back to our town meeting from Bucks County, Pa. On to an e-mail now, this one from Charles Carpenter in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. He writes, "Every plan has the chance of failure. Given this fact, what is Kerry's backup plan regarding Iraq? What will he do if the summit that he would hold produces no more allies? And please actually answer. Don't just say, 'It won't fail,' because a plan is only foolproof to the fool who came up with it."
Good bit of editorializing there.
MCLEAN: That's all right. He's engaged, and we like that.
Actually, no plan rests on one action either. There are lots of legs on the stool, if you will, to John Kerry's plan for Iraq. Part of it is restoring diplomatic efforts.
Part of it is making sure we step up the training of Iraqis so they can take control of their own nation and enjoy their own democracy and freedom. Part of it is making sure that we shore up our own forces now by 40,000 troops, which have been depleted, and that we do what we need to, to make sure that we're strong enough to be there, should any of those plans fail.
ZAHN: Liz? Thirty seconds.
CHENEY: John Kerry's plan for Iraq is an echo of George Bush's plan. A lot of what he's talking about we're already doing.
And I would also point out that his approach when Prime Minister Allawi, the leader of a free Iraq, one of our most important allies in the war in terror, came to visit us in the United States. John Kerry skipped his speech at the joint session of Congress and then went out attacked him in a press conference.
The prime minister of Poland issued a statement after the first presidential debate saying that he felt Senator Kerry's comments were immoral in terms of degradating the coalition.
I do not understand how somebody thinks they can build alliances by saying join me in the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.
ZAHN: Sir, you get the final question of the night here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening. My name is George Fernandez. Thank you for coming this evening, ladies. My question is to both of you.
If elected, how will you address the growing problem of our illegal immigrants, mostly Hispanics and Latinos in this country, which last count was about eight, nine million and still growing every week, when at end of the day all they want to do is work here, pay taxes and be able to go home.
ZAHN: Kiki, you want to start off?
MCLEAN: I grew up in Texas. I grew up in San Antonio, Texas, very -- living in a border town a couple of hours inland from the border. And so it's an issue hat I grew up around.
I think that the obvious problem we have now is we don't have a sound immigration policy at all. And thousands of illegal aliens are coming across our borders. And it's important to balance that against those who legitimately want to come and be a part of the American dream. And that we not promote sort of a political plan. You know, President Bush offered an immigration plan last year that was really sort of a -- I call it the Karl Rove plan to attract the Hispanic voters. When in fact, what it did was it really iced the Hispanic community out, because it asked people who were working hard and playing by the rules to -- to make themselves vulnerable to being sent home without the chance to be part of the American dream.
What you have to have is a comprehensive immigration policy. And now an immigration policy is also a part of a homeland security plan, and they have to be joined.
CHENEY: President Bush believes that we need to have safe borders. We have to keep our borders protected. It's a security issue. He believes in a temporary workers card that will allow people who are in this country to get access to a job if there are not Americans who want those jobs.
Senator Kerry wants amnesty. And that's just wrong. President Bush does not believe that you should put people ahead of others in line. People who have been in this country, who are working hard, playing by the rules, deserve to have a chance to become citizens. We don't agree with Senator Kerry's position of allowing amnesty for illegal aliens.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.
ZAHN: All right. We have another question here. Left side of the room. Quickly, because we've only got a couple of minutes left here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. This is for Liz Cheney. And I think you answered part of this before, but it does go back to the issue of weapons of mass destruction, which were such a big issue for the last couple of years. And it just seems now that it's something we barely hear about, and it almost has disappeared. So I'm just wondering if you can help us understand that.
CHENEY: Well, it's an issue that -- the president has said and we have got a commission that's studying why we haven't found stockpiles. Everybody thought we would find stockpiles and we haven't.
Saddam Hussein had previously produced and used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. And the real danger that Saddam Hussein's Iraq posed was the nexus between that technology and that capability and terrorists.
And when you're dealing with a mad man, I don't believe the president of the United States should take the word of that mad man when he's charged with protecting the safety and the security of this nation. And George Bush will never do that. And he'll never seek a permission slip and look for some kind of global test or popularity contest before he defends us. MCLEAN: If -- if George Bush had let the inspectors do their job, we might have known that they didn't exist. And again, I would say to you, he doesn't take responsibility for the fact that they're just not there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Chip Carman (ph). My name is Chip Carman (ph), and I was wondering -- I had a question about Social Security. Last night President Bush...
ZAHN: Oh, boy. We just have one minute until the end of the show.
The world's quickest question. That's all you're going to get.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In relation to -- in relation to President Bush's discussion last night, I was wondering whether you felt that he was gambling with our future?
ZAHN: All right. You get 15 seconds a piece. I know you can do it.
MCLEAN: The most important thing we can do for Social Security is make sure that we have a strong economy so we can fund it. Right now you've got a president with a record of an economy falling apart.
CHENEY: John Kerry is a part of the problem. If we deal with the problem according to Kerry, it will cost us $10 trillion. He's ignored it for 20 years. George Bush is committed to providing Social Security benefits to all Americans, and he wants to make sure that it meets the needs of the 21st century.
ZAHN: All right. You can always count on multitasking women to get a cue here. Thank you. Liz Cheney, Kiki McLean. You represent women well. People always worried what's going to happen when people disagree on the issues. They didn't lead to any of those stereotypes of women, did they, this evening?
Thank you. Thank you all for joining us. Hope you all learned something today.
Just 19 days until the election. We have two more town hall meetings for you next week. Next week, I will join swing voters in Clark County, Ohio, along with representatives of both the Bush and Kerry campaigns. That's on October 21. And then finally on November 1, the eve of the election, I'll be in Kissimmee, Florida, near Orlando.
Please visit our website, CNN.com/Paula, if you'd like to submit a question for our upcoming town hall meetings.
That is it for all of us here tonight. Thanks so much to our audience for coming out and asking some very good questions tonight. Thanks again to Kiki and Liz for your time and effort in getting here tonight. And thanks to all the good people of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, for your graciousness here this evening.
"LARRY KING LIVE" is next with the latest on the Scott Peterson trial. For all of us here at PAULA ZAHN NOW: PRIME TIME POLITICS, have a good night.
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