Gibson: Good evening, I'm Charles Gibson of ABC News and "Good Morning America." Tonight, we have assembled a townhall meeting with 140 of the uninformed, indecisive swing voters who will determine the next President of the United States. The first question comes from Cheryl Otis.
Otis: Senator Kerry, I know many people who think you're wishy-washy. You don't think you are, do you?
Kerry: No, I certainly don't, Cheryl, because the president didn't find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq so he turned his campaign into a weapon of mass deception… … [crickets chirping]… …. This president has lost 1.6 million jobs. He's the first president to lose jobs in 72 years. And as we all know, it's the president who controls the entire American economy through a series of levers and pulleys installed in the Oval Office during the Roosevelt Administration.
Bush: I can see why people thinks he changes positions a lot. 'Cuz he does [wink]. I don't see how you can lead this country in a time of war, in a time of uncertainty, if you change your mind because of politics.
Robin Dahle: President Bush, do really honestly believe that we had to stop Saddam Hussein before he had any weapons?
Bush: After 9/11 we had to look at the world differently. I'm the candidate that realizes 9/11 changed everything. Everyone including France and Senator Kerry thought Iraq had the weapons.
Kerry: Robin, I have a plan to answer your question, but I want to talk more about lost jobs and healthcare first. I'm a 9/10 candidate. I have never changed my mind about Iraq. Let me tell you straight up: I'm for-gainst it. You see, I would use force wisely by not using it at all. Only hindsight is 20/20. So when I'm elected, I will create a time machine to take the Duelfer report back in time.
Anthony Baldi: Senator Kerry, the U.S. is preparing a new government in Iraq. Would you?
Kerry: I would not. There's chaos in Iraq. King Abdullah of Jordan said just yesterday that you can't hold elections in Iraq. And who knows more about democratic elections than a king? We have to keep our eye on the ball. Once we find Osama bin Laden the war on terror will be over. I have a secret plan to do that.
Bush: We're on the hunt for bin Laden. Already got 75 percent of his people.
Nikki Washington: My mother and sister traveled abroad this summer, and they found that a lot of countries don't like us. Do you have a plan to make people like us again?
Bush: I'd rather do what's right than what's popular. That's why I won't deal with that terrorist Arafat or put our soldiers on trial in some kangaroo court.
Kerry: The president's answer just promises you more of the same. More fighting terrorism instead of negotiating with terrorism. I mean, the president is working on another defensive weapon. How can we get terrorist countries to give up their weapons programs if we won't surrender ours first?
Bush: That answer almost made we want to scowl [wink].
Daniel Farley: Mr. President, do you plan to reinstitute a draft?
Bush: I hear there's rumors on the internets that we're gonna have a draft. We're not. We have some really interesting technologies to have a military that's lighter, quicker...more facile.
Kerry: I don't support a draft. By the way, did I mention that fiveyeah that's right, five!military men support me for president. Let me name each of them. That's one more than I named in the last debate!
Gibson: Mr. Presi
Bush: Outta my way, Charlie.
Gibson: You can
Bush: It denigrates our alliances to say we're going it alone, to discount their sacrifices.
Kerry: But I have a secret plan. And my secret, untested plan will do a better job.
Ann Bronsing: If elected, Senator Kerry, what will you do to assure our safety?
Kerry: It's a question of when, it's a question ofexcuse menot a question of if, but a question of when. I can't keep America safe.
Gibson: Now let's turn to domestic issues.
Kerry: I have a plan. As a lawyer, I have a plan to lower the cost of healthcare. I have a plan to cover all of our children. But I need you to roll back the president's tax cuts. You see, the only war I will rush to is a class war. We need to raise taxes on the percentage of Americans that create jobs and advance new technologies that improve the lives of all Americans. I will look right into the camera and say we need to punish them for their success and innovations.
Bush: Senator Kerry is a big liberal. He wants to tax and spend. That's what liberals do.
Kerry: Shhh! I don't want people to know I'm a big liberal, that's why I keep invoking Republican senators and Ronald Reagan and the military, and keep talking tough. I have a plan to fool these swing voters into thinking I'm running as a Republican.
James Hubb: President Bush, as Commander in Chief, how are you fulfilling your constitutional role to protect the environmement?
Bush: I am the steward of the earth as the Good Book says.
Kerry: Let me set up a joke to show I'm in touch with the common man. The president isn't living in a world of reality. Now that's okay if you're an aficionado of the Boston City baseball sporting club...[crickets chirping]. On the environment, I'm the candidate of science. I not only want to submit our nation's defense to a global test, but our environment and our economy as well through the Kyoto Treaty.
Bush: You see, that's one of those deals where, in order to be popular in the halls of Europe, you sign a treaty [wink].
Gibson: I'm going to extend for a minute.
Kerry: Did you know the president got $84 from a timber company he owns? That counts as a small business. Dick Cheney's job as vice president counts as a small business. That's how they do things.
Bush: I own a timber company? That's news to me. … Got wood?
Rob Fowler: Mr. President, why are all of our rights being taken away by the Patriot Act?
Bush: I hope you don't really believe that. The Patriot Act doesn't take away our rights, it makes things harder for the terrorists. They want to take away our rights by killing us.
Kerry: Let me be clear. I support the Patriot Act. That's why we have to change it. When I'm president, I will go to the U.N. and form a coalition to remove John Ashcroft from this country. We can't let the terrorists change the Constitution by standing in the way of terrorists who want to destroy the Constitution.
Elizabeth Long: Senator Kerry, as the candidate of science, why do you insist on destroying human lives for stem cells that have never proven effective in treating anything, instead of using adult stem cells which actually work.
Kerry: I "respect" that question. I understand the fanaticism that motivates it, and I just want to say how enormously I "respect" it. But I've consulted leading experts on stem cell research, including Dr. Michael J. Fox from TV's "Family Ties" and "Spin City." And I think it's okay to destroy lives in the name of science.
Bush: I think you have to balance science with ethics.
Jonathan Michaelson: Mr. President, who would you choose to sit on the Supreme Court?
Bush: I'm not telling [wink]. I want them all to vote for me. But I would pick someone who would interpret the Constitution.
Kerry: Yes, he would pick someone like Justices Scalia or Thomas who actually have the gall to respect the Constitution. I want to ignore the Constitution in favor of a bunch of made up "rights" like what I will call cravenly call "choice." You see, I subscribe to the Potter Stewart rule: I can't define my policy positions, but I know them when I see them.
Sarah Degenhart: Senator Kerry, what would you say to a voter who doesn't want to support abortion with tax dollars because it is murder?
Kerry: First of all, I can't tell you how much I deeply, truly, really "respect" your irrational faith. I call myself a Catholic [clouds darken above the auditorium and a deep rumbling is heard], but I will only legislate the article of faith that abortion is merely an article of faith. As the candidate of science, I have a plan to ignore the science on this question. In fact, I believe you can support abortion without being pro-abortion. Let me fill the remaining time by repeating the far-fetched example of a girl raped by her father since it has no bearing on either the science or the ethics of this question.
Bush: I'm trying to decipher that [wink]. As president, I have promoted and will continue to promote what Pope John Paul II calls "a culture of life" in America.
Gibson: The final question is for President Bush.
Bush: Charlie, you gave me a head fake [wink].
Linda Grabel: During the last four years you have made thousands of decisions. The Democrats and the media say most of these were bad decisions. Can you give me three examples of why they're right?
Bush: Might of made some mistakes on appointments or whether the internet is a singular or plural noun, but I don't want to join the media in attacking me. I'm running for president because I actually think I should be reelected. History will look back and judge my administration, and I will take the responsibility.
Kerry: The president made a huge mistake by going after terrorism as if 9/11 actually meant something.
Bush: Listen carefully. If he was president, Saddam Hussein would still be in power and Iraq would be a safe haven for terrorists.
Kerry: Not necessarily. I mean, uh, he could have died peacefully in his sleep…or just retired…or…become a housemate on "Big Brother 7" maybe.
Gibson: And now closing statements.
Kerry: I have a plan to talk tough. I have a plan to find Osama bin Laden. I have a plan to provide healthcare to all Americans. I have a plan to provide for our schools. I have a plan on the environment. That's five plans!
Bush: We're on the move. Had a chance to discuss with you how I'm getting things done at home. Abroad, we're at war. We're on the hunt for terrorists wherever they are. But freedom is on the march.
Gibson: That concludes tonight's debate. I want to thank everyone here at Washington, and especially to the producer who cut to a wide shot to show everyone at home I'm just reading this mindlessly off a teleprompter. I'm Charles Gibson. Good night.