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Transcript: Who could best prevent another 9/11?


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The first question asked which candidate would best prevent a terrorist attack against the United States.
TRANSCRIPT
Full transcript of the September 30, 2004 presidential debates. 
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CORAL GABLES, Florida (CNN) -- The following is a transcript of the first section of the debate between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry held Thursday night at the University of Miami. The topic of the debate was foreign affairs and, and the moderator was Jim Lehrer of PBS.

The transcript is divided by questions and a link to the next section is at the bottom of the page and in the box on the right.

LEHRER: Good evening from the University of Miami Convocation Center in Coral Gables, Florida. I'm Jim Lehrer of "The NewsHour" on PBS.

And 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.

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 their rules on them.

The umbrella topic is foreign policy and homeland security, but the specific subjects were chosen by me, the questions were composed by me, the candidates have not been told what they are, nor has anyone else.

For each question there can only be 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's up. There is also a backup buzzer system if needed.

Candidates may not direct a question to each other. There will be two-minute closing statements, but no opening statements.

There is an audience here in the hall, but they will remain absolutely silent for the next 90 minutes, except for now, when they join me in welcoming President Bush and Senator Kerry.

Good evening, Mr. President, Senator Kerry.

As determined by a coin toss, the first question goes to you, Senator Kerry. You have two minutes.

Do you believe you could do a better job than President Bush in preventing another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States?

KERRY: Yes, I do.

But before I answer further, let me thank you for moderating. I want to thank the University of Miami for hosting us. And I know the president will join me in welcoming all of Florida to this debate. You've been through the roughest weeks anybody could imagine. Our hearts go out to you. And we admire your pluck and perseverance.

I can make American safer than President Bush has made us.

And I believe President Bush and I both love our country equally. But we just have a different set of convictions about how you make America safe.

I believe America is safest and strongest when we are leading the world and we are leading strong alliances.

I'll never give a veto to any country over our security. But I also know how to lead those alliances.

This president has left them in shatters across the globe, and we're now 90 percent of the casualties in Iraq and 90 percent of the costs.

I think that's wrong, and I think we can do better.

I have a better plan for homeland security. I have a better plan to be able to fight the war on terror by strengthening our military, strengthening our intelligence, by going after the financing more authoritatively, by doing what we need to do to rebuild the alliances, by reaching out to the Muslim world, which the president has almost not done, and beginning to isolate the radical Islamic Muslims, not have them isolate the United States of America.

I know I can do a better job in Iraq. I have a plan to have a summit with all of the allies, something this president has not yet achieved, not yet been able to do to bring people to the table.

We can do a better job of training the Iraqi forces to defend themselves, and I know that we can do a better job of preparing for elections.

All of these, and especially homeland security, which we'll talk about a little bit later.

LEHRER: Mr. President, you have a 90-second rebuttal.

BUSH: I, too, thank the University of Miami, and say our prayers are with the good people of this state, who've suffered a lot.

September the 11th changed how America must look at the world. And since that day, our nation has been on a multi-pronged strategy to keep our country safer.

We pursued Al Qaeda wherever Al Qaeda tries to hide. Seventy-five percent of known Al Qaeda leaders have been brought to justice. The rest of them know we're after them.

We've upheld the doctrine that said if you harbor a terrorist, you're equally as guilty as the terrorist.

And the Taliban are no longer in power. Ten million people have registered to vote in Afghanistan in the upcoming presidential election.

In Iraq, we saw a threat, and we realized that after September the 11th, we must take threats seriously, before they fully materialize. Saddam Hussein now sits in a prison cell. America and the world are safer for it.

We continue to pursue our policy of disrupting those who proliferate weapons of mass destruction.

Libya has disarmed. The A.Q. Khan network has been brought to justice.

And, as well, we're pursuing a strategy of freedom around the world, because I understand free nations will reject terror. Free nations will answer the hopes and aspirations of their people. Free nations will help us achieve the peace we all want.

Next question: Would a Kerry win increase risk of terror?


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