I always look forward to the Vice Presidential debate. It's always
ten times more interesting than the Presidential debates, because the kid
are off and the candidates usually pull no punches in brutally
attacking and slandering their opponents.
The 1992 debate is like the Holy Grail of Vice Presidential debates.
In one corner, meet Vice President Dan Quayle. The media "darling"
for being a buffoon, running for re-election on President George Bush (Sr.)'s ticket. In the opposite corner, meet Senator Al Gore, who
somehow managed to stop doing his impression of an inanimate object long
enough to show up to the debate and defend the Democratic presidential
nominee, Governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton.
And in the middle, Vice Admiral James Stockdale (retired), running
for Vice President on an independent ticket alongside self-made billionaire
Ross Perot. War hero. POW for over 7 years during the Vietnam
War. Recepient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Not
a politician. Not a public speaker. Definitely not
prepared for a showdown on live television with two professional politicians
with all of America watching at home.
The entire transcript is quite lengthy, so I've trimmed it down to just
the real juicy parts (it's still lengthy). Breaks in time are marked
by a horizontal rule. Any highlighting you see is mine, but no words
were altered. The full transcript is available at http://www.debates.org/pages/trans92d.html.
I'd also recommend reading a terrific interview with Stockdale about the
whole experience at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/debatingourdestiny/interviews/stockdale.html
HAL BRUNO: Good evening from Atlanta and welcome to the vice presidential
debate sponsored by the Nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.
It's being held here in the Theater for the Arts on the campus of Georgia
Tech. I'm Hal Bruno from ABC News and I'm going to be moderating tonight's
debate. The participants are Republican Vice President Dan Quayle.
Democratic Senator Al Gore.
And retired Vice Admiral James Stockdale, who is the vice presidential
-- for independent candidate Ross Perot.
Now, the ground rules for tonight's debate. Each candidate will have
2 minutes for an opening statement. I will then present the issues to be
discussed. For each topic, the candidates will have a minute and 15 seconds
to respond. Then this will be followed by a 5 minute discussion period
in which they can ask questions of each other if they so choose.
Now, the order of response has been determined by a drawing and we'll
rotate with each topic. At the end of the debate, each candidate will have
2 minutes for a closing statement.
Our radio and TV audience should know that the candidates were given
an equal allocation of auditorium seats for their supporters. So I'd like
to ask the audience here in the theater to please refrain from applause
or any partisan demonstration once the debate is under way because it takes
time away from the candidates. So with that plea from your moderator let's
And we'll turn first to Senator Gore for his opening statement.
SENATOR GORE: Good evening. It's great to be here in Atlanta for this
debate where America will be showcased to the world when the 1996 Olympics
are put on right here. It's appropriate because in a real sense, our discussion
this evening will be about what kind of nation we want to be 4 years from
now. It's also a pleasure to be with my 2 opponents this evening. Admiral
Stockdale, may I say it's a special honor to share this stage with you.
Those of us who served in Vietnam looked at you as a national hero even
before you were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
And Mr. Vice President -- Dan, if I may -- it was 16 years ago that
you and I went to the Congress on the very first day together. I'll make
you a deal this evening. If you don't try to compare George Bush to Harry
Truman, I won't compare you to Jack Kennedy.
Harry Truman --
VICE PRESIDENT QUAYLE: Do you remember the last time someone compared
themselves to Jack Kennedy? Do you remember what they
GORE: Harry Truman, it's worth remembering, assumed the presidency
when Franklin Roosevelt died here in Georgia -- only one of many occasions
when fate thrust a vice president into the Oval Office in a time of crisis.
It's something to think about during the debate this evening. But our real
discussion is going to be about change. Bill Clinton and I stand for change
because we don't believe our nation can stand 4 more years of what we've
had under George Bush and Dan Quayle.
When the recession came they were like a deer caught in the headlights
-- paralyzed into inaction, blinded to the suffering and pain of bankruptcies
and people who were unemployed. We have an environmental crisis, a health
insurance crisis, substandard education. It is time for a change.
Bill Clinton and I want to get our country moving forward again, put
our people back to work, and create a bright future for the US of America.
BRUNO: Okay, the next statement will be from Vice President Quayle.
QUAYLE: Well, thank you, Senator Gore, for reminding me about my performance
in the 1988 vice presidential debate. This is 1992, Bill Clinton is running
against President George Bush. There are 2 things that I'm going to stress
during this debate: one, Bill Clinton's economic plan and his agenda will
make matters much, much worse -- he will raise your taxes, he will increase
spending, he will make government bigger, jobs will be lost; second, Bill
Clinton does not have the strength nor the character to be president of
Let us look at the agendas. President Bush wants to hold the line on
taxes, Bill Clinton wants to raise taxes. President Bush is for a balanced
budget amendment, Bill Clinton is opposed to it. We want to reform the
legal system because it's too costly, Bill Clinton wants the status quo.
We want to reform the health care system, Bill Clinton wants to ration
health care. Bill Clinton wants to empower government, we want to empower
In St. Louis, Missouri, in June of this year, Bill Clinton said
this: "America is the mockery of the world." He is wrong.
At some time during these next 4 years there is going to be a crisis
-- there will be an international crisis. I can't tell you where it's going
to be, I can't even tell you the circumstances -- but it will happen. We
need a president who has the experience, who has been tested, who has the
integrity and qualifications to handle the crisis. The president has been
tested, the president has the integrity and the character. The choice is
You need to have a president you can trust. Can you really trust Bill
BRUNO: Admiral Stockdale, your opening statement, please, sir?
ADMIRAL STOCKDALE: Who am I? Why am I here?
(Laughter and applause)
I'm not a politician -- everybody knows that. So don't expect me to
use the language of the Washington insider. Thirty-seven years in the
Navy, and only one of them up there in Washington. And now I'm an academic.
The centerpiece of my life was the Vietnam War. I was there the day
it started. I led the first bombing raid against North Vietnam. I was
there the day it ended, and I was there for everything in between. Ten
years in Vietnam, aerial combat, and torture. I know things about the
Vietnam War better than anybody in the world. I know some things about
the Vietnam War better than anybody in the world.
And I know how governments, how American governments can be -- can
be courageous, and how they can be callow. And that's important. That's
one thing I'm an insider on.
I was the leader of the underground of the American pilots who were
shot down in prison in North Vietnam. You should know that the American
character displayed in those dungeons by those fine men was a thing of
I look back on those years as the beginning of wisdom, learning everything
a man can learn about the vulnerabilities and the strengths that are ours
Why am I here tonight? I am here because I have in my brain and in my
heart what it takes to lead America through tough times.
(this is where Bruno just totally loses control, about 5 minutes
into the debate)
BRUNO: Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Admiral Stockdale, it's your turn
to respond next, and then Senator Gore will have his chance to respond.
STOCKDALE: Okay. I thought this was just an open session, this 5-minute
thing, and I didn't have anything to add to his. But I will --
GORE: Well, I'll jump in if you don't want --
QUAYLE: I thought anyone could jump in whenever they wanted to.
BRUNO: Okay, whatever pleases you gentlemen is fine with me. You're
QUAYLE: But I want Admiral Stockdale's time.
(Laughter and applause)
BRUNO: This is not the Senate, where you can trade off time. Go ahead,
GORE: I'll let you all figure out the rules, I've got some points that
I want to make here, and I still haven't gotten an answer to my question
on when you guys are going to start worrying about this country, but I
want to elaborate on it before --
QUAYLE: Why doesn't the Democratic Congress -- why doesn't the Democratic
BRUNO: Mr. Vice President, let him say his thoughts, and then you can
GORE: I was very patient in letting you get off that string of attacks.
We've been listening to --
QUAYLE: Good points.
BRUNO: Can we give Admiral Stockdale a chance to come in, please --
And again, audience --
QUAYLE: (Inaudible) here's what he said. I mean, this is the Persian
Gulf War -- the most important event in his political lifetime and here's
what Bill Clinton says. If it's a close vote, I'd vote with the majority.
BRUNO: Let's give Admiral Stockdale a chance to come in.
QUAYLE: But he was the minority. That qualifies you for being president
of the US. I hope America is listening very closely to this debate tonight.
STOCKDALE: And I think America is seeing right now the reason this
nation is in gridlock.
The trickle downs and the tax and spends, or whatever you want to call
them are at swords points. We can't get this economy going. Over here we've
got Dan whose president is going to take 8 years to balance the budget
and on my left, the senator, whose boss is going to get it half way balanced
in 4 years. Ross Perot has got a plan to balance the budget 5 years in
length from start to finish. And we're -- people of the non-professional
category who are just sick of this terrible thing that's happened to the
country. And we've got a man who knows how to fix it, and I'm working for
BRUNO: I was a little bit worried that there might not be a free
flowing discussion tonight.
GORE: And look at manufacturing. We have lost 1.4 million jobs in manufacturing
under George Bush and Dan Quayle. They have even -- we learned 2 weeks
ago -- taken our tax dollars and subsidized the moving of US factories
to foreign countries. Now don't deny it because 60 Minutes and Nightline
and the nation's newspapers have investigated this very carefully.
When are you going to stop using our tax dollars to shut down American
factories and move 'em to foreign countries and throw Americans out of
BRUNO: Vice President Quayle.
QUAYLE: Senator, don't always believe what you see on television.
Let me tell you: the media have been wrong before. We have never subsidized
any country -- or any company to move from the US to Latin America. You
know full well the Caribbean Basin Initiative, you've supported that.
QUAYLE: That is a program there --
GORE: I voted against it.
QUAYLE: You voted for it and your record --
QUAYLE: Okay. Well, we'll -- we'll have a lot of interesting debate
after this debate.
GORE: It's going on right now; it happened in Tennessee, in Decaturville,
Tennessee. When George Bush went to Nashville, the employees who lost
their jobs asked to meet with --
QUAYLE: I want to get back --
GORE: I talked with them. Let me tell you what they're feeling. Some
of them are in their 50s and 60s. They want to know where they're going
to get new jobs when their jobs have been destroyed. And there are 1.4
million manufacturing jobs that have been lost because of the policies
of you and George Bush. Do you seriously believe that we ought to continue
the same policies that have created the worst economy since the Great
QUAYLE: I hope that when you talked to those people you said: and the
first thing that Bill Clinton and I are going to do is to raise $150 billion
in new taxes.
GORE: You got that wrong, too.
QUAYLE: And the first -- that is part of your plan.
GORE: No, it's not.
QUAYLE: A hundred and fifty billion dollars in new taxes. Well, you're
going to disavow your plan.
GORE: Listen, what we're proposing --
QUAYLE: You know what you're doing, you know what you're doing? You're
pulling a Clinton.
And you know what a Clinton is? And you know what Clinton is? A Clinton
is, is what he says -- he says one thing one day and another thing the
next day -- you try to have both sides of the issues. The fact of the
matter is that you are proposing $150 billion in new taxes.
QUAYLE: The president does have a commitment from Boris Yeltsin to
eliminate the SS-18s. That is a commitment to --
GORE: Is it an agreement?
QUAYLE: It is a commitment.
QUAYLE: Let's talk about, let's talk about --
GORE: Well, he said he'd --
BRUNO: Let him talk, Senator.
QUAYLE: Lighten up here, Al.
(Laughter and applause)
QUAYLE: These are inconsistencies. Bill Clinton has trouble telling
the truth. And he will have a very difficult time dealing with somebody
like President Yeltsin or Chancellor Kohl or Prime Minister
Major or President Mitterrand, because truth and integrity are prerequisites
to being president of the US.
GORE: I want to respond to that, I want to respond to that. George
Bush, in case you've forgotten, Dan, said "Read my lips -- no new taxes."
(Laughter and applause)
And you know what?
QUAYLE: I didn't think I was going to hear that tonight.
BRUNO: Admiral Stockdale, you had something you wanted to say here?
STOCKDALE: I know that -- I read where Senator Gore's mentor had disagreed
with some of the scientific data that is in his book. How do you respond
to those criticisms of that sort? Do you --
QUAYLE: Deny it.
GORE: Well --
BRUNO: Okay, let's move on now. I would like to remind the audience
of one thing. Trying to stop you from applauding may be a lost cause.
I didn't say anything about hissing, but I do think it is discourteous,
and there's no call for that, and it reflects badly on the candidate you're
supporting. So let's knock that off.
GORE: How can you talk about family values, Dan, and twice veto the
Family Medical Leave Act?
BRUNO: Mr Vice President.
QUAYLE: Pass our Family Leave Act, because it goes to small businesses
where the major problem is. Your proposal excluded small business. That's
Now, let me talk about health care and --
GORE: Did you require it? Did you require it?
QUAYLE: My turn -- (holding hand up at Gore)
GORE: Did you require (inaudible) --
QUAYLE: My turn.
GORE: It's a free discussion.
QUAYLE: Take a breath, Al. Inhale.
GORE: It's a free discussion.
Did you require family leave in that legislation? Yes or no?
QUAYLE: We offered incentives to small businesses. Yes or no --
GORE: That's a no, isn't it?
QUAYLE: Was small business exempted under your proposal?
QUAYLE: Yes. And that's where the biggest problem is --
GORE: Did you require it of anyone?
QUAYLE: I'm going to get back to the topic again --
GORE: Did you require it of anyone?
QUAYLE: One time Bill Clinton says term limits -- we ought to limit
terms, it's ridiculous that a member of Congress can serve for 30, 40,
50 years, and you limit the terms of the president -- but that's another
GORE: We're fixing to limit one.
BRUNO: Admiral Stockdale.
STOCKDALE: I believe that a woman owns her body and what she does with
it is her own business, period.
BRUNO: That's it?
BRUNO: Let's stick with the question, Mr Vice President.
QUAYLE: How long did he have --
GORE: I know you want to change the subject, Dan, but let's stay on
this one for a while.
QUAYLE: How long did he have to wait -- or how quickly did he change
his position on education? He changes his position all the time.
GORE: Let's stay with this issue for a while.
QUAYLE: Bill Clinton -- Bill Clinton has trouble telling the truth.
3 words he fears most in the English language.
BRUNO: Does anybody have any view about the appointment of judges on
QUAYLE: Tell the truth.
GORE: Yeah, I want to talk about this, because the question was not
about free trade or education. The question --
QUAYLE: Talk about waffling. You're the one who brought up the --
GORE: Now, I let you talk.
QUAYLE: -- issue of waffling. He's waffled on the abortion issue.
GORE: I let you talk. Let me talk now. It's going to be a long evening
if you're like this, now.
QUAYLE: Oh, no, it's not --
GORE: Don't change the subject --
BRUNO: Let's get on with it. Gentlemen, let's get on with it.
GORE: Don't change the subject --
QUAYLE: Well, answer my questions, then.
GORE: What you have done --
QUAYLE: Answer my questions. On the 24 hour waiting period -- do you
GORE: I have had the same position --
QUAYLE: Do you support that?
GORE: I have had the same position on abortion in favor of a woman's
right to choose. Do you support a woman's right to choose --
QUAYLE: Do you support a 24 hour waiting period to have --
GORE: You're still avoiding --
QUAYLE: How about avoiding the question?
GORE: -- the question. Now, wait a minute. Let me tell you why this
is so important. There are millions of women in this country who passionately
believe in the right of a woman to privacy. And they want to stack the
Supreme Court with justices who will take away the right to privacy.
Make no mistake about it. That is their agenda --
And if you support them, don't be surprised if that is exactly what
they want to do and that is why Dan Quayle refuses to say this evening
that he supports the right of a woman to choose.
I agree with Admiral Stockdale and the vast majority of Democrats
and Republicans in this country. You know, one of the reasons so many
Republicans are supporting the Clinton- Gore ticket is because they've
turned over the party to this right-wing extremist group which takes
positions on issues like abortion that don't even allow exceptions for
rape and incest.
BRUNO: Senator --
GORE: Again, can't you just say you support the right of a woman to choose?
BRUNO: Could we give Admiral Stockdale a chance to jump in here if he
wants to, if he dares to.
STOCKDALE: I would like to get in -- I feel like I'm an observer
at a ping pong game, where they're talking about well, you know,
they're expert professional politicians that massage these intricate plots
and know every nuance to 'em. And meantime, we're facing a desperate situation
in our economy. I've seen the cost of living double in my lifetime. A new
granddaughter was born in my family -- my granddaughter- -3 weeks ago.
And according to the statistics that we have -- that is, the Perot group
-- the chances of her seeing a doubling of the standard of living are nil.
In fact, her children will be dead before another -- this standard of living
is doubled. So what the heck! Let's get on with talking about something
BRUNO: Admiral Stockdale, would you like to have the last word in this
STOCKDALE: I -- I come down on the side of freedom of school choice.
The -- and there's a lot of misunderstandings that I've heard here tonight,
that I may have the answer to. The -- starting at, you know, for the last,
almost a decade, we've worried about our schools officially through Washington,
and the president had a meeting of all the governors, and then they tried
the conventional fixes for schools, that is, to increase the certification
of -- requirements for the teachers, to lengthen the school day, to lengthen
the school year and nothing -- this is a very brief overview of the thing
-- but nothing happened. And it's time to change the school's structure.
In schools, bureaucracy is bad and autonomy is good. The only good schools
-- we have are those run by talented principals and devoted teachers,
and they're running their own show. How many times have I thrived? You
know, the best thing I had when I ran that civilization, it succeeded,
and it's a landmark. The best thing I had going for me was I had no
contact with Washington for all those years.
BRUNO: We have to go on. What I'm about to say doesn't apply to the
debate tonight; it applies to the campaign that's been going on outside
this auditorium. With 3 weeks to go, this campaign has at times been very
ugly, with the tone being set by personal negative attacks.
As candidates, how does it look from your viewpoint? And are these tactics
really necessary? Admiral Stockdale -- it's your turn to go first.
STOCKDALE: You know, I didn't have my hearing aid turned on. Tell
(in response to a question about the personal negative attacks
occuring during the 1992 election)
QUAYLE: Let me answer the question.
BRUNO: Go ahead.
QUAYLE: Hal, you said -- and I wrote it down here -- "personal negative
attacks." (Laughs) Has anyone been reading my press clippings for the
last 4 years?
BRUNO: All right, gentlemen, the control room advises me that in order
to have time for your closing statements, which we certainly want, there
simply is not going to be time for a discussion period on this particular
So let's go to the closing statements. You have 2 minutes each. And
we'll start with Admiral Stockdale.
STOCKDALE: I think the best justification for getting Ross Perot in
the race again is to say that we're seeing this kind of chit-chat back
and forth about issues that don't concentrate on where our grandchildren
-- the living standards of our children and grandchildren. He is, as
I have read in more than one article, a revolutionary; he's got plans out
there that are going to double the speed at which this budget problem is
being cared for. It was asked how, if we would squeeze down so fast that
we would strangle the economy in the process. That is an art, to follow
all those variables and know when to let up and to nurse this economy
back together with pulls and pushes.
And there's no better man in the world to do that than that old artist,
Ross Perot. And so I think that my closing statement is that I think
I'm in a room with people that aren't the life of reality. The US is in
deep trouble. We've got to have somebody that can get up there and
bring out the firehoses and get it stopped, and that's what we're about
in the Perot campaign.
BRUNO: Thank you.