Schieffer: By coin toss, the first question goes to Senator Kerry. Senator, I want to set the stage for this discussion with an unnecessarily lengthy and convoluted question that ties foreign and domestic policy together in this, the third debate, by addressing a concern that I think hangs over all of our politics today and indeed in the hearts and minds of many of the people watching this debate tonight, both young and old alike, and that is, will our children and grandchildren ever live in a world as safe and secure as the world in which we grew up?
Kerry: Yes, we must absolutely feel safe and secure again. Regrettably, this president decided to stand up to terrorism and now we are in this icky war. The real measure of how safe we are is not whether the terrorists have to change their lives, but the extent to which we have to change ours. That's why I have a plan to follow in the footsteps of my mentor Ronald Reagan who won the Cold War through increased baggage inspection at airports.
Bush: Yes, we can be safe and secure, if we stay on the offense and spread peace, love, and understanding around the world. For my opponent, terrorism is just a nuisance distracting Americans from becoming wards of the state. That's dangerous. I have a comprehensive strategy to chase down terrorists wherever they hide and bring them to justice.
Kerry: We need a president who stays deadly focused on the real war on terror, finding Osama bin Laden. Once we find him, the war on terror will be over.
Schieffer: New question, Mr. President. We're talking about protecting ourselves, but I'd like to segue awkwardly from the serious matter of the global war on terror to the sniffles that many of us will catch this winter. Will there be enough Nyquil and ginger ale on hand for all Americans?
Bush: We're working with Canada to hopefullythat they'll produce auh, help us cook up enough chicken noodle soup to make sure our citizens make it through the upcoming season.
Kerry: Thank you, Bob. This question gives me the opportunity to drone on with several talking points and boring statistics about healthcare in an effort to scare Americans into thinking that the healthiest, richest country on the face of the planet is actually a Third World nation thanks to President Bush. As president, I have a plan to make sure that children will never get sick again. The major news networks support this plan and are voting for me. And I'd like to put in a plug for my good friends at Blue Cross/Blue Shield. I need your votes, too, fellas.
Bush: Not so sure it's credible to quote leading news organizationsoh never mind [wink]. A plan is not a litany of complaints. And a plan is not to lay out programs you can't pay for. It's an empty promise. It's called a bait and switch.
Schieffer: Senator Kerry, a new long-winded question. Let's talk about economic security. You looked into the camera and pledged during the last debate that you would not raise taxes on those making less than $200,000 a year. But the price of everything is going up, and we all know it. Health care costs, as you all are talking about, is skyrocketing, the cost of the war, gasoline, designer jeans….
Kerry: Is there a question, Bob?
Schieffer: My question is, how can you or any president, whoever is elected next time, whether it's you, or President Bush, or perhaps a third party candidate who surges ahead in the final days, but whoever it is taking the oath of office on January 20, 2005, how can you, or that person, keep that pledge without running this country deeper into debt and passing on more of the bills that we're running up on all of these things to our children?
Kerry: During the 1990s, we were all fiscally conservative and favored a balanced budget. That's why I have a plan to click my heels three times and to go back to the golden age of the '90s when all we worried about was domestic policy.
Bush: Well, his rhetoric doesn't match his record. He's been a senator for 20 years. Bet you didn't know that. He voted to increase taxes 98 times. He voted against reducing taxes 127 times. He voted to waive the budget caps 277 times. I sent my Budget Man to Congress with a detailed plan to restore fairness and responsibility.
Schieffer: Mr. President, what do you say to someone in this country who has lost his job to someone overseas who's being paid a fraction of what that job paid here in the United States?
Bush: I'd say, Bob, when we're talking about jobs, what we're really talking about is education. I went to Washington to solve problems. And so I said: let's raise the standards. I'll give you money to go to school.
Kerry: First let me say that being lectured by the president on fiscal responsibility is like crafting a debate punchline with a committee of Democratic advisors and handlers. But guess what, America? As the man who single-handedly controls the entire economy, President Bush is ruining the country on purpose.
Bush: Whew! Let me talk to the workers. You've got more money in your pocket because of the tax relief we passed and he opposed. His record doesn't match his rhetoric. Voted to increase taxes 98 times and to bust the budget 277 times.
Schieffer: Senator Kerry?
Kerry: Bob, I don't want to talk about my 20 years in the Senate or what I may or may not have voted for. Everyone knows that.
Bush: Voted to increase taxes 98 times. Voted against reducing taxes 126 times. Voted to violate the budget cap 277 times. As a matter of fact, with your record, Ted Kennedy is the conservative senator from Massachusetts. Now that's how you craft a punchline, you sleepy-faced clod.
Schieffer: Mr. President, let's get back to economic issues. But let's shift to some other questions here. Both of you are opposed to gay marriage. But to understand how you have come to that conclusion, I want to ask you a more basic question. Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?
Bush: You know, Bob, I don't know. I just don't know. I do know we should treat people with tolerance and respect and dignity. I also know in a free society, we can live any way we want to, and every perversion is to be honored. But we shouldn't have to change the sanctity of marriage. We don't want to end up with marriage being defined by activist judges.
Kerry: We're all God's children. Even Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbo daughter. Yep, that's right. In case you didn't catch my running mate's announcement in the vice presidential debate, Cheney's got a daughter butch enough to be a tennis pro.
Schieffer: Senator Kerry, a new question for you. The New York Times reports that some Catholic archbishops are actually encouraging Catholics to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church. What is your reaction to that?
Kerry: I "respect" their views. I completely "respect" their views. I really, really, completely, wholeheartedly, and in every way possible, "respect" those crazy, extremist views. But I am a Cafeteria Catholic. I do not believe that God can legislate an article of His faith for me. I believe that the choice [to murder your baby] is a woman's choice [to murder her baby]. It's between a [selfish] woman, [a disapproving] God, and her [baby-murdering] doctor.
Bush: I think reasonable people can come together to find ways to reduce the number of abortions. Take the ban on partial birth abortion. It's a brutal practice. Both parties voted overwhelmingly for the ban. Made a lot a sense. My opponent, out of the mainstream, voted against it.
Schieffer: Let's go back to economic issues by talking more about healthcare for the next several minutes, in case anyone wants to switch over to the Yankees/Red Sox game.
[The Yankees' Jon Lieber pitched a shutout into the eighth inning with John Olerud getting a two-run homer in the sixth off a tired Pedro Martinez. The Yankees beat the Red Sox 3-1 for a 2-0 lead in AL championship series.]
…and that's why veterans are getting good healthcare, and will continue to do so during the next four years.
Schieffer: Mr. President, the next question is to you. We all know that Social Security is running out of money, and it has to be fixed. You have proposed to fix it by letting people put some of the money collected to pay benefits into private savings accounts. But the critics say that's going to mean finding $1 trillion over the next 10 years to continue paying benefits as those accounts are being set up.
Bush: What's your question, Bob?
Schieffer: Where do you get the money? Are you going to increase the deficit by that much over 10 years?
Bush: First, let me make sure every senior listening today understands that they'll still get the checks. I remember in 2000, people said: if W.'s elected, you won't get your checks. People got their checks, and they'll still continue to get their checks. But there's a real problem for our youngsters, and that's why I'm working with both parties to fix it. The cost of doing nothing, the cost of saying the current system is okay, far exceeds the costs of trying to make sure we save the system for our children.
Kerry: I have a record of fighting for fiscal responsibility, much like my personal hero and longtime political ally Ronald Reagan. But I want to ignore problems and hope they go away on their own, whether it's the Cold War, the war on terror, or fixing Social Security.
Schieffer: Let's go to a new question, Mr. President. I got more e-mail on this question than any other question. It's about immigration. Some people believe this is a security issue, as you know. Some believe it's an economic issue. Some see it as a human rights issue. How do you see it? And what do we need to do about it?
Bush: I'm against amnesty. If thousands of people want to come into our country, I say please show your I.D. at the door first. Just as I.D.s have ended voter fraud and underage drinking in our time, we won't have to worry no more about having guards at the border.
Kerry: The borders are leaking more today than they were before 9/11. That's why I want an amnesty program for all illegals who vote Democratic, even if we now have people from the Middle East, allegedly, coming across the border.
Schieffer: Next question for you, Senator Kerry. The gap between the rich and poor is growing wider. More people are dropping into poverty. Yet the minimum wage has been stuck at, what, $5.15 an hour now for about seven years. Is it time to raise it?
Kerry: Well, I'm glad to answer such an impartial question. It's long overdue time to raise the minimum wage. And America, this is one of those issues that separates the president and myself. I think the government controls the economy. The president thinks you do.
Bush: When we're talking about the minimum wage, what we're really talking about is education. I don't want to raise the minimum wage. I want to raise standards. I remember a lady in Houston, Texas told me "reading is the new civil right." Now that's just crazy talk, but I support it, because it sounds compassionate.
Schieffer: Mr. President, I ask you directly, would you like to overturn Roe v. Wade?
Bush: When we're talking about Roe v. Wade, what we're really talking about is will I have a litmus test for my judges. Answer is no.
Schieffer: Mr. President, you still have a minute and 45 seconds.
Schieffer: Senator Kerry?
Kerry: Do I get to give my 30-second or my 90-second canned remarks?
Schieffer: You have 90 seconds.
Kerry: I'll answer it straight. Our rights as citizens come from our Supreme Court judges. And I will not let the U.S. Constitution get in their way.
Schieffer: All right, let's go to another question. And it is to Senator Kerry. You have two minutes, sir. Just as I do to ask this question. Senator, in the last debate, President Bush said he did not favor a draft. You agreed with him. But our National Guard and Reserve forces are being severely strained because many of them are being held beyond their enlistments. Some of them say that it's a back-door draft just like you did in the last debate. Is there any relief that could be offered to these brave Americans and their families? If you became president, Senator Kerry, what would you do about this situation of holding National Guard and Reservists for these extended periods of time and these repeated call-ups that they're now facing?
Kerry: Thank you again, Bob, for another question that doesn't challenge me, but that instead repeats my own talking points. Our military is overextended. We can fight a more effective war on terror with less pressure on the National Guard and the Reserve, by fighting a war only against one man, Osama bin Laden, instead of all the other terrorists actively seeking to destroy us.
Bush: The best way to take the pressure off our troops is to win. When I talk to them, their spirits are high. They are proud to serve their country. My opponent talks about a global test. How can our troops win the war on terror if they're surrendering like a bunch of Frenchmen? We'll be resolute, we'll be strong, we'll wage a comprehensive war.
Kerry: I have never suggested a test where we turn over our security to any one nation. We would turn it over to all the United Nations.
Schieffer: Mr. President, new question. Why didn't you encourage the Congress to extend the ban on assault weapons.
Bush: I made my views clear. I believe law-abiding citizens ought to be able to own a gun, but I support background checks to make sure guns don't get in the hands of people that shouldn't have them.
Kerry: I am a huntsman. I have been a huntsman for years, just like many ordinary Americans. Yes, ever since I was a lad, I would spend many an afternoon at the estate hunting hare or fox with the family hounds. But most law enforcement agencies want that ban. They don't want to be on a drug bust facing an AK-47, since as we all know, most criminals acquire their weapons legally. I was just talking with a sheriff who was on a drug bust where the guy they arrested had an AK-47 lying on the bed. That just shows the ban is working and needs to be extended.
Schieffer: Let's go to a new question. For you, Senator Kerry, two minutes. Affirmative action: do you see a need for affirmative action programs, or have we moved far enough along that we no longer need to patronize minorities and use race and gender as a cynical way of dividing Americans against each other for votes?
Kerry: If we don't bribe and scare people for votes with the help of the NAACP, how will Democrats retain political control in this country?
Bush: When we're talking about affirmative action, what we're really talking about is education. We spend more money on education. Make sure every child learns to read, write, add, and subtract early.
Schieffer: Mr. President, as a crazy, snake-handling evangelical, what role does your faith play in your policy-making?
Bush: My faith plays a big part in my life. My faith is veryit's very personal. I pray for strength. I pray for wisdom. I pray for our troops. And I feel people praying for me. My faith sustains me through the storms of the presidency. But in a free society, you can worship the Almighty or choose not to. If you're a Christian, Jew, or Muslim, you're equally an American. That's the great thing about America.
Kerry: I "respect" everything that the president has said and I certainly "respect" his retrograde, inbred faith. I went to church school, and I'd like to quote more of the Bible, because leftists will still support me if they think I'm faking it. Which I am, of course.
Schieffer: Senator Kerry, after 9/11and this is a new question for youit seemed to me that the country came together as I've never seen it come together since World War II. But some of that seems to have melted away. I think it's fair to say we've become pretty polarized, perhaps because of the political season. But if you were elected president, or whoever is elected president, whether it's you or President Bush, will you set a priority in trying to bring the nation back together? Or what would be your attitude on that?
Kerry: In those days after 9/11, I thought the president did a terrific job rallying the patriotism of the country. We were not Democrats and liberals. We were all Americans. But 9/11 was three years ago, and regrettably the president is still trying to rally the patriotism of the country. We need to change that. We need to go back to being Democrats and liberals, and not Americans, and undermine this president at every turn. And we need to further John McCain's campaign finance reform so that all who stand in our way can be silenced.
Bush: My biggest disappointment in Washington is how partisan the town is. And when we're talking about partisanship, we're really talking about education. We made progress on education with my good friend Ted Kennedy. My opponent also mentioned John McCain. I'm glad he did. John McCain is voting for me, not him, because he wants to win the war on terror.
Schieffer: We've come, gentlemen, to our last question. And it occurred to me as I came to this debate tonight that the three of us share something. None of us performs well in debates. Plus, all three of us are surrounded by very strong women. We're all married to strong women. Each of us have two daughters that make us very proud. These so-called debates are already such controlled, scripted farces that I'd like to ask each of you, in what will surely go down as the worst debate question in the history of recorded time, what is the most important thing you've learned from these strong women?
Bush: To stand up straight and not scowl [ba dum bum ch]. We have a compassionate, strong first lady in Laura Bush. I can't tell you how lucky I am. I met her at a real Texas barbeque and it was love at first sight. I can't tell you how much I love my wife and my daughters.
Kerry: Well, I guess the president and you and I are three examples of lucky people who married up. And some would say maybe me more so than others. I can't tell you how lucky I am. The first time I saw Theresa's money, it was love at first sight. I can't tell you how much I love my wife's money. So let me tell you instead about my mother. Her dying words to me were "Integrity, integrity, integrity." That's the same integrity I use to suppress my Senate record and portray myself as a devout Catholic and a conservative in this race. It's the integrity I use to invoke the name of Ronald Reagan as if I didn't oppose everything he stood for in the '80s. And it's the integrity that pushes me to lie, and scare, and pander, to win at all costs, even if it means making America more vulnerable. At least I'll have won the election.
Schieffer: Well, that brings these debates to a close, but the campaign goes on. I'm Bob Schieffer at CBS News. Goodnight, everyone.