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Special Report / The Democratic Presidential Debate

On The Record

Candidates Bill Bradley and al Gore squared off Wednesday night, sharing their visions of America's future.

March 02, 2000

The following is a transcript of the presidential debate between former Sen. Bill Bradley and Vice President Al Gore:

Bernard Shaw: From the historic Los Angeles Times headquarters building and the Harry Chandler Auditorium, good evening and welcome.

This is the ninth occasion in which Vice President Al Gore and former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley will have responded to questions in their quest for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.

We thank the Los Angeles Times for co-sponsoring this evening. Both campaign staffs have agreed to the following rules for this 90-minute debate.

Each candidate will have one minute to respond to a question and then 30 seconds for a rebuttal. Now, most questions will come from a group of undecided Democratic voters selected here in California by the Los Angeles Times. A coin toss has determined that the first question goes to Sen. Bradley.

Steve Teitelbaum: Senator, Steve Teitelbaum, Santa Monica, California: Many Americans were very happy to hear Sen. [John] McCain condemn the Christian far right leadership for their derisive effects on American politics.

Would you each be willing to echo what the senator said about that and even take it a step farther?

Senator Bradley: Well, first let me thank the Los Angeles Times and CNN for hosting this debate. I'm very pleased to be in this building again. I've been in this building many times with the editorial board--with California water, on international trade issues, on diversity issues, and I'm very pleased to be here and have a chance to debate Al one more time in this setting.

Let me say to you I think that we have a country where there is freedom of religion. And I think that there should be freedom of religion. I think that the far right has gone too far time after time after time on social issues and has tried to dominate this country with their particular viewpoint.

I think it's important to resist that. I've always resisted that as a United States senator. I've never voted in ways that they wanted, and I would be very emphatic in saying that religion should not be a part of politics.

Gore: Well, let me respond to the same question and thank you for asking it. I would also like to thank the L.A. Times and CNN for hosting this debate and the people of Los Angeles, Mayor [Richard] Riordan for hosting us here. All Democrats are looking forward to the [Democratic National] Convention out here.

You know, I thought that Sen. McCain's speech made a very powerful point. And I agree with him on a lot of the points that he made. I agree with him in his advocacy of campaign finance reform. I agree with him in taking on big tobacco and the special interests.

But I think his speech illustrated that the Republican Party today is in the midst of an identity crisis. They're trying to figure out who they are. And, frankly, he was introduced by [former Republican presidential candidate] Gary Bauer for that speech. Both he and Gov. [George W.] Bush are for taking away a woman's right to choose. Neither had the guts to speak out against the Confederate flag flying above the State Capitol building in South Carolina. Both are in the hip pocket of the NRA [National Rifle Assn.].

So I agreed with the speech as far as it went.

Shaw: Time, Sen Bradley, for 30 seconds.

Bradley: I think that if you look at what the two Republican candidates have done, they have gone to South Carolina, and Gov. Bush has gone to Bob Jones University, the university that practices racial discrimination. And he has gone there to give a speech on the new conservatism. Based on going there, and sending that symbolic message, I believe that the new conservatism from his standpoint is not a lot different than the old conservatism.

Gore: I want to make one other point. James Madison in the "Federalist Papers" pointed out that what he called "faction"--the word we would use now is maybe ultra-partisanship--can stir passions that come about because of relatively small differences and then can unleash an amount of energy that's seemingly out of all proportion for the cause of the disagreement.

And I think that some on the extreme right have allowed themselves to get carried away by so much hostility toward the people they disagree with that they've lost perspective.

Shaw: Mr. Vice President, you have the next question.

Gore: All right.

Nurit Robin: Hello, Nurit Robin, Los Angeles, California.

If elected president, what criteria would you use to select the new Supreme Court justices?

Gore: I would look for justices of the Supreme Court who understand that our Constitution is a living and breathing document, that it was intended by our founders to be interpreted in the light of the constantly evolving experience of the American people. The right of privacy, just to take one example, was found by Justice Harry Blackmun in the Constitution even though the precise words are not there.

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