04a: Ben Affleck / Nelly
Jim Lehrer....Chris Parnell
President Geroge W. Bush....Will Forte
Senator John Kerry....Seth Meyers
Jim Lehrer: Good evening. From the University of Miami Convocation Center in Coral Gables, Florida, I'm Jim Lehrer of the News Hour on PBS. [expecting applause] Hm? [audience quiet] Okay.
Anyway, I welcome you to the first of the 2004 Presidential debates between President George W. Bush, the Republican nominee, and Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee. Before we begin, let's go over the ground rules, which have been carefully worked out by representatives of the two campaigns. As moderator I will ask all questions, including follow-ups. The candidates may not ask each other questions, interrupt one another, wave to each other, or make any unnecessary eye contact. In addition, the candidates have agreed not to leave their respective podiums to approach on another. And in order to enforce this rule they have been fitted with special collars, which will keep them inside an invisible fence running 30 inches out from the center of their lecterns. And here I would like to acknowledge the generous assistance of the good folks at Smart Fence Incorporated - for forty years, Southern Florida's leader in world class pet containment systems. Now let's meet the candidates.
[cut to show Bush and Kerry greeting each other, Kerry seemingly about two feet taller than Bush]
Jim Lehrer: Both candidates know the format. I will direct the first question to President Bush, and whatever the nature of the question, he will try to change the subject to 9/11. After a follow-up I will ask Senator Kerry to respond, and the Senator will remind the audience that he served in Vietnam. Following Senator Kerry's rebuttal, there will be a brief disruption by demonstrators from Act Up, and after order is restored we will continue with a question for the Senator. So let's begin.
President Bush, the official position of your administration continues to be that Iraq will hold elections in January. Given the chaotic situation in that country, how will this be possible?
President George W. Bush: Jim, uh, our plan in Iraq has always been a three-phase plan. Phase One: invade the country, free a people and remove a brutal dictator. No one will deny that Phase One was a complete success.
Jim Lehrer: What about Phase Two?
President George W. Bush: As we all know, there are those in Iraq who want freedom- who don't want freedom for that country. The Saddam loyalists, the insurgents, the terrorists. In Phase Two we smoke these folks out, by letting them think they're winning, you know. Convincing them that we don't know what we're doing. In other words, lulling them into a false sense of security. And that's where we are right now - Phase Two, the Lulling Phase. And, despite what our critics would tell you, it's- it's workin'! Terrorist confidence and moral have never been higher.
Jim Lehrer: And what happens in Phase Three?
President George W. Bush: Jim, uh... you know, uh... we're will working on Phase Three. You know, uh... and believe me, uh, we're workin' hard. Cause it's... you know, it's hard work. And we're... workin' hard. Just... every day, you know... workin' evenings... ordering in. Workin' hard together.
[cut to split-screen with Bush and Kerry, who is taking a ridiculous amount of notes]
President George W. Bush: Now, to answer your question, we, uh... we don't know all the details yet. But, basically in Phase Three, we crush the terrorists, then hold elections so the Iraqi people can choose their own destiny. 'Cause I believe all people want freedom, don't you?
Jim Lehrer: Absolutely, but when you say "crush the terrorists", how exactly do you plan to do that?
President George W. Bush: Well, uh... by workin' hard... workin' Saturdays...
Jim Lehrer: ... So your plan is to crush the terrorists by coming in on Saturdays?
President George W. Bush: If that's what it takes.
Jim Lehrer: Senator Kerry, your response.
Sen. John Kerry: A Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts.
Jim Lehrer: Excuse me?
Sen. John Kerry: Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you were asking me what decorations I won in Vietnam.
Jim Lehrer: No, I wanted your reaction to the President's plan.
Sen. John Kerry: [gesturing excessively] Jim, the fact is this administration lied to the American people. We were told Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. That it was about to acquire these weapons. That it was involved closely with al Qaeda. [cut to split-screen, showing Bush looking completely bewildered] And after misleading us into a war, we now find out this President doesn't even have a plan to win the peace. He doesn't, but I do.
Jim Lehrer: And what is your plan, Senator?
Sen. John Kerry: [still gesturing] I will do what this President should have done in the first place, which is enlist the help of our European allies so that the future of Iraq is not solely America's responsibility.
Jim Lehrer: But Senator, given that many European governments were reluctant to come on board before the invasion, how would you convince them to step in now?
Sen. John Kerry: [still gesturing] Jim, I would sit down with the leaders of France, Germany and Russia, and I would explain to them why we simply can't afford to ignore Iraq. I would remind them that Iraq maintains vast stock piles of weapons of mass destruction, that it's actively seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, that it's closely allied with al Qaeda, it was almost certainly behind 9/11.
Jim Lehrer: But, just a few minutes ago, didn't you say that none of that was true?
Sen. John Kerry: I changed my mind.
Jim Lehrer: Mr. President, continuing with Senator Kerry's point, suppose we fail to stop the insurgency in Iraq, do you have a contingency plan to restore stability in the country?
President George W. Bush: Well, of course we do, Jim... we, uh, we work hard, you know... we came up with the contingency plan., you know, uh... that's our job, you know and... and it's hard work, thinking of a plan, you know, uh... let alone two plans, you know... a regular plan and a contingency plan, you know, uh... a lotta long hours... reading documents and, uh... sitting in meetings and, you know, like, you know, uh... we came in on Sunday once.
Jim Lehrer: Could you describe the contingency plan?
President George W. Bush: Well, you know, let me first say I don't believe this contingency plan will be necessary because, you know, the fact is we are, uh, you know... we're winning. But, uh, you know if by some chance it should prove impossible to restore stability in time for elections, you know, the backup plan would be to replace Mr. Allawi with a more forceful, authoritarian leader. Someone who can bring order to Iraq until it's ready for democracy.
Jim Lehrer: And that leader would be...?
President George W. Bush: ... Saddam Hussein?
Jim Lehrer: [pause] So... you're considering restoring Saddam Hussein to power?
President George W. Bush: You know, uh, that's the back-up plan... was that our first choice? Of course not! You know, that's why it's just a backup... uh, although I will say that, you know, if you're looking for a strong, decisive leader, you could do a lot worse that Saddam Hussein. He ran the country for thirty years, so he's got the experience, you know, uh... there would be no on-the-job training with Saddam Hussein. First day, he'd hit the ground running, you know, plus he... you know, he works hard... puts in the, you know, the... long hours. Eats at his desk. Comes in weekends... and, uh, unlike my opponent, once- once Saddam Hussein takes a position, he sticks to it. You know, he doesn't shift in the wind.
Jim Lehrer: Senator, the President appears to be leveling a charge he frequently repeats against you, that you're a flip-flopper. How do you respond?
Sen. John Kerry: My opponent will like you to believe that I've changed my opinion on the war. The fact is I have one position, and one position only. Was Saddam a threat? Yes. I've said so since day one. Was his regime dangerous to the security of the United States? Of course not. Did he deserve to be removed? You bet. Was it the right action to remove him from power? No way. Was he in possession of weapons of mass destruction? Absolutely. Did he possess these weapons? No he did not. And that has always been my position.
Jim Lehrer: President Bush, your response.
President George W. Bush: He, you know, he... there he goes again, Jim. I don't know how you can win a war if you keep saying "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time."
Jim Lehrer: I don't think he said that.
President George W. Bush: Well, I- I thought I heard him say that.
Jim Lehrer: No, sir, he did not. He said plenty of nonsensical things, anyone of which you could very easily refute. But just now he did not say anything close to "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time."
[cut to split-screen]
President George W. Bush: You didn't?
[Kerry shakes his head]
Jim Lehrer: With that this debate comes to a close. Each candidate will now make a brief closing statement. Senator Kerry.
Sen. John Kerry: You know, this President like to talk, about how I called Iraq the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time. That a few days later, how I say that anyone who doesn't think the world is a safer place without Saddam Hussein, is not fit be Commander in Chief. But what he doesn't tell you is that when I denounced the war in Iraq , I was speaking to an anti-war group. And when I endorsed the war, I was addressing a pro-war delegation from the UGA. The fact of the matter is I have consistently supported the war in front of pro-war audiences, and condemned it when speaking to groups that oppose it. That is not flip-flopping, that is pandering! And America deserves a President who knows the difference. Thank you.
Jim Lehrer: President Bush.
President George W. Bush: You know, September 11th changed how America must look at the world. I wake up everyday... and work hard. You know, thinking about how to protect America, you know... it's my job. And it's hard... it's hard work. Frankly, I don't know why- why my opponent even wants this job, you know... cause it's hard. You know, a lot of people... working at meetings and... you know, it's hard work and... [a buzzer interrupts]
Jim Lehrer: And with that, tonight's debate comes to a close. Thank you, and live from New York, it's Saturday Night.
Submitted by: Maria Hartman