Bill Clinton in Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debates

On Budget & Economy: Cut defense & ask wealthy Americans to pay their share

Q: You are promising to create jobs, reduce the deficit, reform health care, rebuild infrastructure, guarantee college education, all with financial pain only for the rich. Is it possible?

CLINTON: I believe we can increase investment and reduce the deficit, if we not only ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their share; we also provide $100 billion in tax relief and $140 billion of spending cuts. Take money from defense cuts and reinvest it in transportation, communications and environmental clean-up systems.

BUSH: I don't like trickle down government. Clinton says grow government. Government doesn't create jobs. If they do, they're make-work jobs. It's the private sector that creates jobs.

PEROT: We still have a significant deficit under each of their plans. There's only one way out of this, and that is to have a growing job base. My plan balances the budget within 6 years. We didn't do it faster than that because we didn't want to disrupt the economy.

Source: The Third Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate Oct 19, 1992

On Environment: Increase fuel efficiency from 27 mpg to 40 mpg

BUSH: [to Clinton]: One mistake [Clinton] has made is fuel efficiency standards at 40 to 45 miles a gallon will throw auto workers out of work. There's a pattern here of appealing to the auto workers and then trying to appeal to the spotted owl crowds or the extremes in the environmental movement.

CLINTON: Let's talk about fuel efficiency standards. They are now 27.5 miles per gallon per automobile fleet. We ought to have a goal of raising the fuel efficiency standards to 40 miles a gallon. We ought to have incentives to do it. It is good for America to improve fuel efficiency. We also ought to convert more vehicles to compressed natural gas. That's another way to improve the environment.

Source: The Third Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate Oct 19, 1992

On Foreign Policy: Should not have tried to reason with Saddam the tyrant

In 1988 when the war between Iraq and Iran ended, we knew Saddam Hussein was a tyrant. We know he's dropping mustard gas on his own people, we know he's threatened to incinerate half of Israel. In '89 the president signed a secret policy saying we were going to continue to try to improve relations with him, and we sent him some sort of communication on the eve of his invasion of Kuwait that we still wanted better relations. The responsibility was in coddling Saddam Hussein.
Source: The Third Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate Oct 19, 1992

On Free Trade: For NAFTA with enforcement and job training

PEROT: [to Clinton]: You implement NAFTA, the Mexican trade agreement, where they pay a dollar an hour, have no health care, no retirement, no pollution controls, etc., and you're going to hear a giant sucking sound of jobs being pulled out of this country. We don't have good trade agreements across the world.

BUSH: I am for the North American Free Trade Agreement. I think free trade is going to expand our job opportunity. I think it is exports that have saved us when we're in a recession. We need more free trade agreements.

CLINTON: I say it does more good than harm if we can get protection for the environment so that the Mexicans have to follow their own environmental standards, their own labor law standards, and if we have a genuine commitment to reeducate and retrain American workers who lose their jobs.

Source: The Third Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate Oct 19, 1992

On Foreign Policy: End of Cold War brings incredible opportunity for change

BUSH [to Clinton]: Since I became President, 43 or 44 countries have gone democratic. This new world order to me means freedom and democracy. I think we will have a continuing responsibility, as the only remaining superpower, to stay involved. The Soviet Union is no more. Now we're working to help them become totally democratic through the FREEDOM Support Act that I led on.

CLINTON: The end of the cold war brings an incredible opportunity for change, the winds of freedom blowing around the world, Russia demilitarizing. It also requires us to maintain some continuity, some bipartisan American commitment to certain principles. Number one, we do have to maintain the world's strongest defense. Number two, if you don't rebuild the economic strength of this country at home, we won't be a superpower. Number three, we need to be a force for freedom and democracy. We need to use our unique position to support freedom.

Source: The Second Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate Oct 15, 1992

On Government Reform: Opposes Congressional term limits; bad for smaller states

BUSH: I strongly support term limits for Members of Congress. The President's terms are limited to two, a total of 8 years. What's wrong with limiting the terms of Congress to 12? Congress has gotten kind of institutionalized. I think you get a certain bureaucratic arrogance if people stay there too long. So I strongly favor term limits.

CLINTON: I know they're popular, but I'm against them. I'll tell you why. I believe, number one, it would pose a real problem for a lot of smaller States in the Congress who would have enough trouble now making sure their interests are heard. Number two, I think it would increase the influence of unelected staff members in the Congress who have too much influence already. I want to cut the size of the congressional staffs, but you'd have too much influence there with people who were never elected who have lots of expertise.

PEROT: If you put term limits in and don't reform Government, you won't get the benefit you thought. It takes both.

Source: The Second Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate Oct 15, 1992

On Gun Control: National system to check criminal history for gun purchase

Q: When our Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they did not mean for the right to bear arms to apply to 12-year-olds.

CLINTON: I support the right to keep and bear arms. I live in a State where over half the adults have hunting or fishing licenses or both. But I believe we have to have some way of checking the criminal history, the mental health history, and the age of people who are buying them. Therefore, I support the Brady bill, which would impose a national waiting period, unless and until a State did what only Virginia has done now, which is to automate its records. Once you automate your records, then you don't have to have a waiting period, but at least you can check.

PEROT: The Brady bill is a timid step in the right direction, but it won't fix it. So why pass a law that won't fix it?

BUSH: I am not for national registration of firearms. Some of the States that have the toughest antigun laws have the highest levels of crime.

Source: The Second Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate Oct 15, 1992

On Civil Rights: People of all races are equal in the eyes of God

Q: What would you do to end racial division?

CLINTON: I grew up in the segregated south, thankfully raised by a grandfather with almost no formal education but with a heart of gold who taught me early that all people were equal in the eyes of God. I saw the winds of hatred divide people and keep the people of my State poorer than they would have been, spiritually and economically. I've done everything I could in my public life to overcome racial divisions. We are too divided by race, by income, by region. I have devoted a major portion of this campaign to going across this country and looking for opportunities to go to African-American groups, Latino groups, Asian-American groups, and say the same thing: If the American people cannot be brought together, we can't turn this country around. If we can come together, nothing can stop us.

BUSH: I think Gov. Clinton is committed. But I do think it's fair to note that Arkansas is one of the few States that doesn't have any civil rights legislation.

Source: The First Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate Oct 11, 1992

On Drugs: My brother would not be alive today if drugs were legal

Q: What about drug legalization?

BUSH: No. I just don't believe that's the answer. And I oppose it, and I'm going to stand up and continue to oppose it.

PEROT: Any time you think you want to legalize drugs, go to a neonatal unit. Just look at those crack babies, and if anybody can even think about legalizing drugs, they've lost me.

CLINTON: Like Mr. Perot, I have held crack babies in my arms. But I know more about this, I think, than anybody else up here because I have a brother who's a recovering drug addict. I'm very proud of him. But I can tell you this: If drugs were legal, I don't think he'd be alive today. I am adamantly opposed to legalizing drugs. He is alive today because of the criminal justice system. What should we do? First, we ought to prevent more of this on the street. We need 100,000 more police on the street. I have a plan for that. Secondly, we ought to have treatment on demand. Thirdly, we ought to have boot camps for first-time nonviolent offenders.

Source: The First Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate Oct 11, 1992

On Foreign Policy: Don't coddle tyrants in China; they respond when we stand up

Q: You've accused the President of coddling tyrants, including those in Beijing. What would you do?

CLINTON: Our relationships with China are important, and I don't think we want to isolate China. But I think it is a mistake for us to do what this administration did when all those kids went out there carrying the Statue of Liberty in Tiananmen Square, and Mr. Bush sent two people in secret to toast the Chinese leaders and basically tell them not to worry about it. When Congress insisted that we do something about China, look what has happened. China has finally agreed to stop sending us products made with prison labor not because we coddled them but because the administration was pushed into doing something about it.

BUSH: We were the first major country to stand up against the abuse in Tiananmen Square. We are the ones that worked out the prison labor deal. To do what Congress & Gov. Clinton are suggesting, you would isolate and ruin Hong Kong. Gov. Clinton's philosophy is to isolate them.

Source: The First Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate Oct 11, 1992

On Health Care: Managed competition, not socialized medicine

Q: In 1965 when Rep. Wilbur Mills (D, AR) was pushing healthcare, the charge against it was it's socialized medicine.

CLINTON: Mr. Bush made that charge. Bush is trying to run against Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter and everybody but me in this race. I have proposed a managed competition plan for health care. You cannot control health care costs simply by cutting Medicare. If you don't control the health care costs of the entire system, you cannot get control of it. Look at our program. We've set up a national ceiling on health care costs tied to inflation and population growth set by health care providers, not by the Government. We provide for managed competition, not Government models, in every State, and we control private and public health care costs.

BUSH: Gov. Clinton failed to take on the malpractice suit people, these frivolous trial lawyers' lawsuits that are running costs of medical care up by $25 billion to $50 billion. He refuses to put any controls on these crazy lawsuits

Source: The First Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate Oct 11, 1992

On Principles & Values: Time for a change from the last 12 years

Q: What do you believe is the single most important separating issue of this campaign?

CLINTON: The most important distinction in this campaign is that I represent real hope for change: a departure from trickle-down economics, a departure from tax-and-spend economics, to invest and grow. But before I can do that I must challenge the American people to change, and they must decide. Tonight I say to the President: Mr. Bush, for 12 years you've had it your way. You've had your chance, and it didn't work. It's time to change. I want to bring that change to the American people, but we must all decide first we have the courage to change for hope and a better tomorrow.

BUSH: I think one thing that distinguishes is experience. Change for change's sake isn't enough. We saw that message in the late seventies when we heard a lot about change. And what happened? That "misery index" went right through the roof.

Source: The First Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate Oct 11, 1992

On Tax Reform: Raise taxes on income over $200K; reduce taxes under $60K

Q: At what income level can families be guaranteed no tax increase?

CLINTON: The tax increase I have proposed triggers in at family incomes of $200,000 and above. Those are the people who, in the 1980's, had their incomes go up while their taxes went down. Middle-class people, with incomes of $52,000 and down, had their incomes go down while their taxes went up in the Reagan-Bush years because of six increases in the payroll taxes. So that is where my income limit would trigger.

Q: So there will be no tax increases below $200,000?

CLINTON: Notwithstanding my opponent's ad, my plan triggers in at gross family incomes of $200,000 and above. And then we want to give modest middle-class tax relief to restore some fairness, especially to middle-class people with families with incomes of under $60,000.

BUSH: Clinton also says he wants to raise $150 billion. Taxing people over $200,000 will not get you $150 billion, [especially] when you add in his other spending proposals, regrettably.

Source: The First Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate Oct 11, 1992

On War & Peace: No troops to Bosnia, but no-fly zone & blockade

Q [to Bush]: How can you watch the killing in Bosnia and not want to use America's might?

BUSH: We are helping. American airplanes are helping today on humanitarian relief for Sarajevo. But you have ancient ethnic rivalries--it isn't going to be solved by sending in the 82d Airborne, and I'm not going to do that.

CLINTON: I agree that we cannot commit ground forces to become involved in the quagmire of Bosnia. But I think that it's important to recognize that there are things that can be done short of that. There are two million refugees, the largest number since World War II, and there may be hundreds of thousands of people who will starve or freeze to death in this winter. The US should try to work with its allies and stop it. I urged the President to support this air cover, and he did, and I applaud that. I applaud the no-fly zone. I think we should stiffen the embargo on the Belgrade government. We can't get involved in the quagmire, but we must do what we can.

Source: The First Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debate Oct 11, 1992

The above quotations are from The Clinton-Bush-Perot Presidential Debates, Oct. 1992.
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Page last updated: Jan 06, 2014