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THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE

'Sensible Gun Safety Measures Are Warranted'

October 12, 2000

LEHRER: What do you think the United States should do right now to resolve that conflict [in the Middle East]?

GORE: The first priority has to be on ending the violence, dampening down the tensions that have risen there. We need to call upon Syria to release the three Israeli soldiers who have been captured. We need to insist that [Palestinian Authority President Yasser] Arafat send out instructions to halt some of the provocative acts of violence that have been going on.

I think that we also have to keep a weather eye toward Saddam Hussein, because he's taking advantage of this situation to once again make threats, and he needs to understand that he's not only dealing with Israel, he, he is dealing, he's dealing with us, if he, if he is making the kind of threats that he's talking about there. . . .

But one thing I would say where diplomacy is concerned. Israel should, should feel absolutely secure about one thing: Our bonds with Israel are larger than agreements or disagreements on some details of diplomatic initiatives. They are historic, they are strong, and they are enduring. And our ability to serve as an honest broker is a, is something that we need to shepherd.

BUSH: Well, I think during the campaign, particularly now, during this difficult period, we ought to be speaking with one voice. And I appreciate the way the administration has worked hard to calm the tensions. Like the vice president, I call on Chairman Arafat to have his people pull back, to make the peace.

I think credibility is going to be very important in the future in the Middle East. I want everybody to know, should I be the president, Israel's going to be our friend, I'm going to stand by Israel; secondly, that I think it's important to reach out to moderate Arab nations, like Jordan and Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. . . .

But it's important to have credibility, and credibility is formed by being strong with your friends and resolute in your determination. It's one of the reasons why I think it's important for this nation to develop an anti-ballistic missile system that we can share with our allies in the Middle East, if need be, to keep the peace, to be able to say to the Saddam Husseins of the world, or the Iranians, "Don't dare threaten our friends." It's also important to keep a, strong ties in the Middle East with--credible ties, because of the energy crisis we're now in. After all, a lot of the energy is produced from the Middle East. . . .

LEHRER: So you don't believe, Vice President Gore, that we should take sides in this. . . ?

GORE: Well, we stand with--we stand with Israel, but we have maintained the ability to serve as an honest broker. And one of the reasons that's important is that Israel cannot have direct dialogue with some of the people on the other side of conflicts, especially during times of tension, unless that dialogue comes through us. And if we throw away that ability to serve as an honest broker, then we have thrown, we will have thrown away a strategic asset that's important not only to us, but also to Israel.

LEHRER: Do you agree with that, governor?

BUSH: I do. I do think this, though: I think that when it comes to timetables, it can't be a United States timetable as to how, as to how discussions take place. It's got to be a timetable that all parties can agree to, you know, like the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Secondly, any lasting peace is going to have to be a peace that's good for both sides and, therefore, the term "honest broker" makes sense. This current administration has worked hard to keep the parties at the table. I will try to do the same thing, but it won't be on my timetable, it will be on the timetable that people are comfortable with in the Middle East.

Intervention

LEHRER: . . . In the last 20 years, there have been eight major actions involving the introduction of U.S. ground, air or naval forces. Let me name them: Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo. If you had been president, are any of those interventions--would any of those interventions not have happened?

LEHRER: . . . Lebanon?

GORE: I thought that was a mistake.

LEHRER: Grenada?

GORE: I supported that.

LEHRER: Panama?

GORE: I supported that one.

LEHRER: Persian Gulf?

GORE: Yes, I voted for it, supported it.

LEHRER: Somalia?

GORE: . . . No, I think that that was ill-considered. I did support it at the time. It was in the previous administration, in the Bush-Quayle administration. And I think in retrospect, the lessons there are ones that we, that we should take very, very seriously.

LEHRER: Bosnia?

GORE: Oh, yes.

LEHRER: Haiti?

GORE: Yes.

LEHRER: And then Kosovo.

GORE: Yes.

Lehrer then turned to Bush, who asked to preface his answers with a statement.

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