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Bush Announces Participation in Presidential Debates

Aired September 3, 2000 - 4:42 p.m. ET


GENE RANDALL, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Gene Randall in Washington.

We are going to take you now to Austin, Texas. Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush is at the podium.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: ... presidential and vice presidential debates. All will be seen in primetime. All will be available to networks and news outlets, and will be carried on a unique new venue, the Internet.

The debates we are accepting begin early next week, because we're eager to compare the specifics of our plans for more individual freedom, choice and responsibility with our opponent's plan for bigger, more intrusive Washington bureaucracy that dictates and mandates from afar.

There are important differences in this campaign. My opponent trusts Washington. I trust you, individual Americans to make decisions with your own money, for your own children and schools, for your own health and your own retirement. There's another important difference. My opponent is still making the same promises he made in 1992 and 1996 because they were unable to deliver on promises made. I ran for governor in '94 and '98 on a platform of specific proposals and accomplished them by working with both Republicans and Democrats. My opponent says he will debate me any time, any place, and he's accepted the debates that I am accepting today.

It's important for the American people to be able to trust the next president, to keep his commitments, and therefore I take Al Gore at his word that he will be there.

The debates we are accepting are these: presidential debate next Tuesday, September 12, in Washington in a primetime -- a special primetime edition of "Meet the Press" moderated by Tim Russert; presidential debate on October 3 in Los Angeles in a primetime edition of "LARRY KING LIVE" that will be seen worldwide and on a Spanish- language network; two vice presidential debates, one October 11, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, sponsored by the Presidential Debate Commission, and a forum yet to be decided for the second vice presidential debate; and a final presidential debate on October 17 at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, sponsored by the Presidential Debate Commission. This will give the American people an opportunity to see the candidates in a wide range of locations and formats, from free-flowing spontaneous discussion with Larry King, to tough question-and-answer sessions with a moderator like Tim Russert, to the more formal and structured setting of those set by the presidential commission. These five debates offer an opportunity for the American people to see the candidate in different formats in different parts of the country.

As I said earlier, my opponent has accepted these invitations, as you will see on these videotapes.

Need sound.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't make any judgment on that. I think that most people would like to see a one- on-one -- a set of one-on-one debates with -- between Governor Bush and myself, and the debate commission has scheduled three of them and they have their own of deciding who's involved and who's not. I have accepted for two or three months now your invitation to debate on this program. Have you gotten a yes from Governor Bush yet?

TIM RUSSERT, HOST: His campaign says he will debate you, and the request is under active consideration.

GORE: He will debate me on "Meet the Press"?

RUSSERT: He will debate this fall, and the specific request for here...

GORE: Well, have you talked to him?

RUSSERT: Yes, I have.

GORE: What did he say to you?

RUSSERT: It's under active consideration.

GORE: It -- well, he didn't say yes.

RUSSERT: Not yet.


RUSSERT: But if he does, September 10 right here.

GORE: Well, how are you going to persuade him to say yes?

RUSSERT: Well, maybe you are helping today.

GORE: Well, do you think so? But what kind of approach -- can you get Jack Welch involved?


RUSSERT: I would never do a thing like that. We are totally independent from G.E.

We did get Al Gore and Bill Bradley at the table in December, and we're trying to...


GORE: Yes. Well, I accepted that one.

And incidentally, I had the most wonderful event with Bill Bradley this past year. It was teriffic.



GORE: The second challenge is to eliminate the 30 second and 60 second TV and radio ads and instead, debate twice a week with a different issue each time.

Would you be willing to host one of the first debates, Larry?

LARRY KING, HOST: Absolutely.

GORE: Well, I accept. I accept.


BUSH: I will answer some questions.

Yes, Tom.

QUESTION: Governor, you are rejecting two of the three that the commission proposed. Why is that? Did you think that they were unfairly structured?

BUSH: No, not necessarily, Tom. I just think this would be a better format. I thought we ought to have one on the West Coast. I think it's important being in a city like Los Angeles, and I just thought this would be a better format.

QUESTION: Why do you not want to go to Boston? There was some talk that you didn't want to get close because of a Democratic state?

BUSH: I don't think so.

I just thought this would be a better series of debates. I said -- I think I said on the plane that a George Bush Library would be helpful.

QUESTION: Governor, by doing particular network TV shows, aren't you cutting out the other networks from being able to deliver those debates to the people thereby limiting the audience that would see the debates?

BUSH: Well, I think there is going to be a lot of different formats. There will be C-Span and just a lot of different cable -- well, there is one right there, a cable outlet. I think if people really want to watch, R.G., they'll watch.

Yes, Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Governor, is this your response to the Democratic criticism that you have been dragging your feet on this because you don't really want to debate?

BUSH: No, I do want to debate. I look forward to debating.

CROWLEY: But is it -- you're coming out here today and, you know, saying...

BUSH: We were up and our people -- Don Evans, who will be glad to answer some questions about the process of how this happened, is here, they just got back on Friday, I listened to what they had to say and made my mind up.

Yes, Stretch.

QUESTION: Can you walk us through the format on each of these three? It's a little ambiguous.

BUSH: Well, as I understand, I don't happen to know all the details, but as I understand it's going to be just a free-flowing format, particularly on a Larry King-type debate, and Tim Russert is a person that will ask tough questions and he's a good questioner, and he'll keep the process moving along. It's -- and then the presidential debates are what they are.


BUSH: They just seem like reasonable dates. I wanted to get started relatively early, particularly because of the Olympics. There seems to be some concern that the Olympics may crowd out American politics, and if that's the case, we ought to get started early in the process, and there just seems to be -- just a nice rhythm to them.



BUSH: I think they are going to offer the best format, the most wide-ranging discussion. It -- and I repeat, I think it's important to have one of these events on the West Coast as well. That's something that the Presidential Commission Debates did not do. And interesting -- one of the interesting things is, is that the St. Louis site turns out is the, as I recall in '96, the Clinton-Gore folks decided not to do all three of the presidential debates, as you may remember -- maybe some of the older veterans here -- and I think the site that got -- that was left out was the St. Louis site, if I'm not mistaken.

OK, listen, Evans is here. The chairman will be happy to talk to you about some of the decisions.

Yes, John. QUESTION: How long are these debates? (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: I think the presidential is 90, if I'm not mistaken.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) commission debates?

BUSH: Probably 60 minutes, John.

Anyway, Chairman Evans will be glad to discuss things.

See you on the airplane, the new airplane.

RANDALL: So let me go through my notes and see if we can decipher all this. Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush says he has accepted a series of debates, but only one of the three proposed by the Commission on Presidential Debates. He has announced these dates: on September 12 here in Washington, a primetime edition of NBC's "Meet the Press"; on October 3 in Los Angeles, a special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE" here on CNN; an October 17th date, the only one of the three debate events sponsored by the Commission on Debates which George Bush is willing to accept, that will be in St. Louis, once again, that's October 17.

He said there will be two vice presidential debates for the running mates on the two national tickets: on October 11, the Debate Commission event in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the Republican presidential candidate said a second date was to be determined.

We are not clear at this moment if the Gore campaign has agreed to all this, but this apparently is what George W. Bush has prepared to accept. His people have been -- increasingly been forced to answer questions about the debates and what the candidate was willing to do, and this afternoon in Austin, Texas, he spelled that out.

Governor Bush will be going to Philadelphia -- or rather will be going to the Midwest later today for his Labor Day activities. On the Democratic side, Vice President Al Gore will travel to Philadelphia with his running mate, Senator Joseph Lieberman. They will campaign in Michigan, Florida, and Kentucky, 24 hours of around-the-clock campaigning to mark Labor Day.

Is Candy Crowley with us?

OK, we will be back in just a moment.



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