McCain: Yes. Sen. Obama, I am not President Bush

Schieffer: Do either of you think you can balance the budget in four years? You have said previously you thought you could, Sen. McCain.

McCain: Sure I do. And let me tell you...

Schieffer: You can still do that?

McCain: Yes. Sen. Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago. I'm going to give a new direction to this economy in this country.

Sen. Obama talks about voting for budgets. He voted twice for a budget resolution that increases the taxes on individuals making $42,000 a year. Of course, we can take a hatchet and a scalpel to this budget. It's completely out of control.

The mayor of New York, Mayor Bloomberg, just imposed an across- the-board spending freeze on New York City. They're doing it all over America because they have to. Because they have to balance their budgets. I will balance our budgets and I will get them and I will...

Schieffer: In four years?

McCain: ... reduce this -- I can -- we can do it with this kind of job creation of energy independence.

Now, look, Americans are hurting tonight and they're angry and I understand that, and they want a new direction. I can bring them in that direction by eliminating spending.

Sen. Obama talks about the budgets I voted for. He voted for the last two budgets that had that $24 billion more in spending than the budget that the Bush administration proposed.

He voted for the energy bill that was full of goodies for the oil companies that I opposed. So the fact is, let's look at our records, Sen. Obama. Let's look at it as graded by the National Taxpayers Union and the Citizens Against Government Waste and the other watchdog organizations.

I have fought against spending. I have fought against special interests. I have fought for reform. You have to tell me one time when you have stood up with the leaders of your party on one single major issue.

Schieffer: Barack.

Obama: Well, there's a lot of stuff that was put out there, so let me try to address it. First of all, in terms of standing up to the leaders of my party, the first major bill that I voted on in the Senate was in support of tort reform, which wasn't very popular with trial lawyers, a major constituency in the Democratic Party. I support...

McCain: An overwhelming vote.

Obama: I support charter schools and pay for performance for teachers. Doesn't make me popular with the teachers union. I support clean coal technology. Doesn't make me popular with environmentalists. So I've got a history of reaching across the aisle.

Now with respect to a couple of things Sen. McCain said, the notion that I voted for a tax increase for people making $42,000 a year has been disputed by everybody who has looked at this claim that Sen. McCain keeps on making.

Even FOX News disputes it, and that doesn't happen very often when it comes to accusations about me. So the fact of the matter is that if I occasionally have mistaken your policies for George Bush's policies, it's because on the core economic issues that matter to the American people, on tax policy, on energy policy, on spending priorities, you have been a vigorous supporter of President Bush.

Now, you've shown independence -- commendable independence, on some key issues like torture, for example, and I give you enormous credit for that. But when it comes to economic policies, essentially what you're proposing is eight more years of the same thing. And it hasn't worked.

And I think the American people understand it hasn't worked. We need to move in a new direction.

Schieffer: All right...

McCain: Let me just say, Bob.

Schieffer: OK. About 30 seconds.

McCain: OK. But it's very clear that I have disagreed with the Bush administration. I have disagreed with leaders of my own party. I've got the scars to prove it.

Whether it be bringing climate change to the floor of the Senate for the first time. Whether it be opposition to spending and earmarks, whether it be the issue of torture, whether it be the conduct of the war in Iraq, which I vigorously opposed. Whether it be on fighting the pharmaceutical companies on Medicare prescription drugs, importation. Whether it be fighting for an HMO patient's bill of rights. Whether it be the establishment of the 9/11 Commission.

I have a long record of reform and fighting through on the floor of the United States Senate.

Schieffer: All right.

McCain: Sen. Obama, your argument for standing up to the leadership of your party isn't very convincing.

Schieffer: All right. We're going to move to another question and the topic is leadership in this campaign. Both of you pledged to take the high road in this campaign yet it has turned very nasty.

Schieffer: Sen. Obama, your campaign has used words like "erratic," "out of touch," "lie," "angry," "losing his bearings" to describe Sen. McCain.

Sen. McCain, your commercials have included words like "disrespectful," "dangerous," "dishonorable," "he lied." Your running mate said he "palled around with terrorists."

Are each of you tonight willing to sit at this table and say to each other's face what your campaigns and the people in your campaigns have said about each other?

And, Sen. McCain, you're first.

McCain: Well, this has been a tough campaign. It's been a very tough campaign. And I know from my experience in many campaigns that, if Sen. Obama had asked -- responded to my urgent request to sit down, and do town hall meetings, and come before the American people, we could have done at least 10 of them by now.

When Sen. Obama was first asked, he said, "Any place, any time," the way Barry Goldwater and Jack Kennedy agreed to do, before the intervention of the tragedy at Dallas. So I think the tone of this campaign could have been very different.

And the fact is, it's gotten pretty tough. And I regret some of the negative aspects of both campaigns. But the fact is that it has taken many turns which I think are unacceptable.

One of them happened just the other day, when a man I admire and respect -- I've written about him -- Congressman John Lewis, an American hero, made allegations that Sarah Palin and I were somehow associated with the worst chapter in American history, segregation, deaths of children in church bombings, George Wallace. That, to me, was so hurtful.

And, Sen. Obama, you didn't repudiate those remarks. Every time there's been an out-of-bounds remark made by a Republican, no matter where they are, I have repudiated them. I hope that Sen. Obama will repudiate those remarks that were made by Congressman John Lewis, very unfair and totally inappropriate.

So I want to tell you, we will run a truthful campaign. This is a tough campaign. And it's a matter of fact that Sen. Obama has spent more money on negative ads than any political campaign in history. And I can prove it.

And, Sen. Obama, when he said -- and he signed a piece of paper that said he would take public financing for his campaign if I did -- that was back when he was a long-shot candidate -- you didn't keep your word.

And when you looked into the camera in a debate with Sen. Clinton and said, "I will sit down and negotiate with John McCain about public financing before I make a decision," you didn't tell the American people the truth because you didn't.

And that's -- that's -- that's an unfortunate part. Now we have the highest spending by Sen. Obama's campaign than any time since Watergate.

Schieffer: Time's up. All right.

Obama: Well, look, you know, I think that we expect presidential campaigns to be tough. I think that, if you look at the record and the impressions of the American people -- Bob, your network just did a poll, showing that two-thirds of the American people think that Sen. McCain is running a negative campaign versus one-third of mine.

And 100 percent, John, of your ads -- 100 percent of them have been negative.

McCain: It's not true.

Obama: It absolutely is true. And, now, I think the American people are less interested in our hurt feelings during the course of the campaign than addressing the issues that matter to them so deeply.

And there is nothing wrong with us having a vigorous debate like we're having tonight about health care, about energy policy, about tax policy. That's the stuff that campaigns should be made of.

The notion, though, that because we're not doing town hall meetings that justifies some of the ads that have been going up, not just from your own campaign directly, John, but 527s and other organizations that make some pretty tough accusations, well, I don't mind being attacked for the next three weeks.

What the American people can't afford, though, is four more years of failed economic policies. And what they deserve over the next four weeks is that we talk about what's most pressing to them: the economic crisis.

Sen. McCain's own campaign said publicly last week that, if we keep on talking about the economic crisis, we lose, so we need to change the subject.

And I would love to see the next three weeks devoted to talking about the economy, devoted to talking about health care, devoted to talking about energy, and figuring out how the American people can send their kids to college.

And that is something that I would welcome. But it requires, I think, a recognition that politics as usual, as been practiced over the last several years, is not solving the big problems here in America.

McCain: Well, if you'll turn on the television, as I -- I watched the Arizona Cardinals defeat the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Obama: Congratulations.

McCain: Every other ad -- ever other ad was an attack ad on my health care plan. And any objective observer has said it's not true. You're running ads right now that say that I oppose federal funding for stem cell research. I don't.

You're running ads that misportray completely my position on immigration. So the fact is that Sen. Obama is spending unprecedented -- unprecedented in the history of American politics, going back to the beginning, amounts of money in negative attack ads on me.

And of course, I've been talking about the economy. Of course, I've talked to people like Joe the plumber and tell him that I'm not going to spread his wealth around. I'm going to let him keep his wealth. And of course, we're talking about positive plan of action to restore this economy and restore jobs in America.

That's what my campaign is all about and that's what it'll continue to be all about.

But again, I did not hear a repudiation of Congressman...

Obama: I mean, look, if we want to talk about Congressman Lewis, who is an American hero, he, unprompted by my campaign, without my campaign's awareness, made a statement that he was troubled with what he was hearing at some of the rallies that your running mate was holding, in which all the Republican reports indicated were shouting, when my name came up, things like "terrorist" and "kill him," and that you're running mate didn't mention, didn't stop, didn't say "Hold on a second, that's kind of out of line."

And I think Congressman Lewis' point was that we have to be careful about how we deal with our supporters.


McCain: You've got to read what he said...


Obama: Let -- let -- let...

McCain: You've got to read what he said.

Obama: Let me -- let me complete...

Schieffer: Go ahead.

Obama: ... my response. I do think that he inappropriately drew a comparison between what was happening there and what had happened during the civil rights movement, and we immediately put out a statement saying that we don't think that comparison is appropriate.

And, in fact, afterwards, Congressman Lewis put out a similar statement, saying that he had probably gone over the line.

The important point here is, though, the American people have become so cynical about our politics, because all they see is a tit- for-tat and back-and-forth. And what they want is the ability to just focus on some really big challenges that we face right now, and that's what I have been trying to focus on this entire campaign.

McCain: I cannot...

Obama: We can have serious differences about our health care policy, for example, John, because we do have a difference on health care policy, but we...

McCain: We do and I hope...

Obama: ... talking about it this evening.

McCain: Sure.

Obama: But when people suggest that I pal around with terrorists, then we're not talking about issues. What we're talking about...

McCain: Well, let me just say I would...

Schieffer: (inaudible)

McCain: Let me just say categorically I'm proud of the people that come to our rallies. Whenever you get a large rally of 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 people, you're going to have some fringe peoples. You know that. And I've -- and we've always said that that's not appropriate.

But to somehow say that group of young women who said "Military wives for McCain" are somehow saying anything derogatory about you, but anything -- and those veterans that wear those hats that say "World War II, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq," I'm not going to stand for people saying that the people that come to my rallies are anything but the most dedicated, patriotic men and women that are in this nation and they're great citizens.

And I'm not going to stand for somebody saying that because someone yelled something at a rally -- there's a lot of things that have been yelled at your rallies, Sen. Obama, that I'm not happy about either.

In fact, some T-shirts that are very...

Obama: John, I...

McCain: ... unacceptable. So the point is -- the point is that I have repudiated every time someone's been out of line, whether they've been part of my campaign or not, and I will continue to do that.

But the fact is that we need to absolutely not stand for the kind of things that have been going on. I haven't.

Obama: Well, look, Bob, as I said...

Schieffer: I mean, do you take issue with that?

Obama: You know, here's what I would say. I mean, we can have a debate back and forth about the merits of each other's campaigns. I suspect we won't agree here tonight.

What I think is most important is that we recognize that to solve the key problems that we're facing, if we're going to solve two wars, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, if we can -- if we're going to focus on lifting wages that have declined over the last eight years and create jobs here in America, then Democrats, independents and Republicans, we're going to have to be able to work together.

And what is important is making sure that we disagree without being disagreeable. And it means that we can have tough, vigorous debates around issues. What we can't do, I think, is try to characterize each other as bad people. And that has been a culture in Washington that has been taking place for too long. And I think...

McCain: Well, Bob, you asked me a direct question.

Schieffer: Short answer, yes, short answer.

McCain: Yes, real quick. Mr. Ayers, I don't care about an old washed-up terrorist. But as Sen. Clinton said in her debates with you, we need to know the full extent of that relationship.

We need to know the full extent of Sen. Obama's relationship with ACORN, who is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy. The same front outfit organization that your campaign gave $832,000 for "lighting and site selection." So all of these things need to be examined, of course.

Schieffer: All right. I'm going to let you respond and we'll extend this for a moment.

Obama: Bob, I think it's going to be important to just -- I'll respond to these two particular allegations that Sen. McCain has made and that have gotten a lot of attention.

In fact, Mr. Ayers has become the centerpiece of Sen. McCain's campaign over the last two or three weeks. This has been their primary focus. So let's get the record straight. Bill Ayers is a professor of education in Chicago.

Forty years ago, when I was 8 years old, he engaged in despicable acts with a radical domestic group. I have roundly condemned those acts. Ten years ago he served and I served on a school reform board that was funded by one of Ronald Reagan's former ambassadors and close friends, Mr. Annenberg.

Other members on that board were the presidents of the University of Illinois, the president of Northwestern University, who happens to be a Republican, the president of The Chicago Tribune, a Republican- leaning newspaper.

Mr. Ayers is not involved in my campaign. He has never been involved in this campaign. And he will not advise me in the White House. So that's Mr. Ayers.

Now, with respect to ACORN, ACORN is a community organization. Apparently what they've done is they were paying people to go out and register folks, and apparently some of the people who were out there didn't really register people, they just filled out a bunch of names.

It had nothing to do with us. We were not involved. The only involvement I've had with ACORN was I represented them alongside the U.S. Justice Department in making Illinois implement a motor voter law that helped people get registered at DMVs.

Now, the reason I think that it's important to just get these facts out is because the allegation that Sen. McCain has continually made is that somehow my associations are troubling.

Let me tell you who I associate with. On economic policy, I associate with Warren Buffett and former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker. If I'm interested in figuring out my foreign policy, I associate myself with my running mate, Joe Biden or with Dick Lugar, the Republican ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, or General Jim Jones, the former supreme allied commander of NATO.

Those are the people, Democrats and Republicans, who have shaped my ideas and who will be surrounding me in the White House. And I think the fact that this has become such an important part of your campaign, Sen. McCain, says more about your campaign than it says about me.

McCain: Well, again, while you were on the board of the Woods Foundation, you and Mr. Ayers, together, you sent $230,000 to ACORN. So -- and you launched your political campaign in Mr. Ayers' living room.

Obama: That's absolutely not true.

McCain: And the facts are facts and records are records.

Obama: And that's not the facts.

McCain: And it's not the fact -- it's not the fact that Sen. Obama chooses to associate with a guy who in 2001 said that he wished he had have bombed more, and he had a long association with him. It's the fact that all the -- all of the details need to be known about Sen. Obama's relationship with them and with ACORN and the American people will make a judgment.

And my campaign is about getting this economy back on track, about creating jobs, about a brighter future for America. And that's what my campaign is about and I'm not going to raise taxes the way Sen. Obama wants to raise taxes in a tough economy. And that's really what this campaign is going to be about.

Schieffer: All right. Let's go to the next topic and you -- we may want to get back into some of this during this next discussion. I want to ask both of you about the people that you're going to bring into the government.

And our best insight yet is who you have picked as your running mates.

Schieffer: So I'll begin by asking both of you this question, and I'll ask you to answer first, Sen. Obama. Why would the country be better off if your running mate became president rather than his running mate?

Obama: Well, Joe Biden, I think, is one of the finest public servants that has served in this country. It's not just that he has some of the best foreign policy credentials of anybody. And Democrats and Republicans alike, I think, acknowledge his expertise there.

But it's also that his entire life he has never forgotten where he came from, coming from Scranton, fighting on behalf of working families, remembering what it's like to see his father lose his job and go through a downward spiral economically.

And, as a consequence, his consistent pattern throughout his career is to fight for the little guy. That's what he's done when it comes to economic policies that will help working families get a leg up.

That's what he's done when it comes to, for example, passing the landmark 1994 crime bill, the Violence Against Women's Act. Joe has always made sure that he is fighting on behalf of working families, and I think he shares my core values and my sense of where the country needs to go.

Because after eight years of failed policies, he and I both agree that what we're going to have to do is to re-prioritize, make sure that we're investing in the American people, give tax cuts not to the wealthiest corporations, but give them to small businesses and give them to individuals who are struggling right now, make sure that we finally get serious about energy independence, something that has been languishing in Washington for 30 years, and make sure that our kids get a great education and can afford to go to college.

So, on the key issues that are of importance to American families, Joe Biden's always been on the right side, and I think he will make an outstanding president if, heaven forbid, something happened to me.

Schieffer: Senator?

McCain: Well, Americans have gotten to know Sarah Palin. They know that she's a role model to women and other -- and reformers all over America.

She's a reformer. She is -- she took on a governor who was a member of her own party when she ran for governor. When she was the head of their energy and natural resources board, she saw corruption, she resigned and said, "This can't go on."

She's given money back to the taxpayers. She's cut the size of government. She negotiated with the oil companies and faced them down, a $40 billion pipeline of natural gas that's going to relieve the energy needs of the United -- of what they call the lower 48.

She's a reformer through and through. And it's time we had that bresh of freth air (sic) -- breath of fresh air coming into our nation's capital and sweep out the old-boy network and the cronyism that's been so much a part of it that I've fought against for all these years.

She'll be my partner. She understands reform. And, by the way, she also understands special-needs families. She understands that autism is on the rise, that we've got to find out what's causing it, and we've got to reach out to these families, and help them, and give them the help they need as they raise these very special needs children.

She understands that better than almost any American that I know. I'm proud of her.

And she has ignited our party and people all over America that have never been involved in the political process. And I can't tell how proud I am of her and her family.

Her husband's a pretty tough guy, by the way, too.

Schieffer: Do you think she's qualified to be president?

Obama: You know, I think it's -- that's going to be up to the American people. I think that, obviously, she's a capable politician who has, I think, excited the -- a base in the Republican Party.

And I think it's very commendable the work she's done on behalf of special needs. I agree with that, John.

I do want to just point out that autism, for example, or other special needs will require some additional funding, if we're going to get serious in terms of research. That is something that every family that advocates on behalf of disabled children talk about.

And if we have an across-the-board spending freeze, we're not going to be able to do it. That's an example of, I think, the kind of use of the scalpel that we want to make sure that we're funding some of those programs.

Schieffer: Do you think Sen. Biden is qualified?

McCain: I think that Joe Biden is qualified in many respects. But I do point out that he's been wrong on many foreign policy and national security issues, which is supposed to be his strength.

He voted against the first Gulf War. He voted against it and, obviously, we had to take Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait or it would've threatened the Middle Eastern world supply.

In Iraq, he had this cockamamie idea about dividing Iraq into three countries. We're seeing Iraq united as Iraqis, tough, hard, but we're seeing them. We're now about to have an agreement for status of forces in Iraq coming up.

There are several issues in which, frankly, Joe Biden and I open and honestly disagreed on national security policy, and he's been wrong on a number of the major ones.

But again, I want to come back to, notice every time Sen. Obama says, "We need to spend more, we need to spend more, that's the answer" -- why do we always have to spend more?

Why can't we have transparency, accountability, reform of these agencies of government? Maybe that's why he's asked for 860 -- sought and proposed $860 billion worth of new spending and wants to raise people's taxes in a time of incredible challenge and difficulty and heartache for the American families.

Schieffer: Let's go to -- let's go to a new topic. We're running a little behind.

Let's talk about energy and climate control. Every president since Nixon has said what both of you...

McCain: Climate change.

Schieffer: Climate change, yes -- has said what both of you have said, and, that is, we must reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

When Nixon said it, we imported from 17 to 34 percent of our foreign oil. Now, we're importing more than 60 percent.

Would each of you give us a number, a specific number of how much you believe we can reduce our foreign oil imports during your first term?

And I believe the first question goes to you, Sen. McCain.

McCain: I think we can, for all intents and purposes, eliminate our dependence on Middle Eastern oil and Venezuelan oil. Canadian oil is fine.

By the way, when Sen. Obama said he would unilaterally renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Canadians said, "Yes, and we'll sell our oil to China."

You don't tell countries you're going to unilaterally renegotiate agreements with them.

We can eliminate our dependence on foreign oil by building 45 new nuclear plants, power plants, right away. We can store and we can reprocess.

Sen. Obama will tell you, in the -- as the extreme environmentalists do, it has to be safe.

Look, we've sailed Navy ships around the world for 60 years with nuclear power plants on them. We can store and reprocess spent nuclear fuel, Sen. Obama, no problem.

So the point is with nuclear power, with wind, tide, solar, natural gas, with development of flex fuel, hybrid, clean coal technology, clean coal technology is key in the heartland of America that's hurting rather badly.

So I think we can easily, within seven, eight, ten years, if we put our minds to it, we can eliminate our dependence on the places in the world that harm our national security if we don't achieve our independence.

Schieffer: All right. Can we reduce our dependence on foreign oil and by how much in the first term, in four years?

Obama: I think that in ten years, we can reduce our dependence so that we no longer have to import oil from the Middle East or Venezuela. I think that's about a realistic timeframe.

And this is the most important issue that our future economy is going to face. Obviously, we've got an immediate crisis right now. But nothing is more important than us no longer borrowing $700 billion or more from China and sending it to Saudi Arabia. It's mortgaging our children's future.

Now, from the start of this campaign, I've identified this as one of my top priorities and here is what I think we have to do.

Number one, we do need to expand domestic production and that means, for example, telling the oil companies the 68 million acres that they currently have leased that they're not drilling, use them or lose them.

And I think that we should look at offshore drilling and implement it in a way that allows us to get some additional oil. But understand, we only have three to four percent of the world's oil reserves and we use 25 percent of the world's oil, which means that we can't drill our way out of the problem.

That's why I've focused on putting resources into solar, wind, biodiesel, geothermal. These have been priorities of mine since I got to the Senate, and it is absolutely critical that we develop a high fuel efficient car that's built not in Japan and not in South Korea, but built here in the United States of America.

We invented the auto industry and the fact that we have fallen so far behind is something that we have to work on.

Now I just want to make one last point because Sen. McCain mentioned NAFTA and the issue of trade and that actually bears on this issue. I believe in free trade. But I also believe that for far too long, certainly during the course of the Bush administration with the support of Sen. McCain, the attitude has been that any trade agreement is a good trade agreement. And NAFTA doesn't have -- did not have enforceable labor agreements and environmental agreements.

And what I said was we should include those and make them enforceable. In the same way that we should enforce rules against China manipulating its currency to make our exports more expensive and their exports to us cheaper.

And when it comes to South Korea, we've got a trade agreement up right now, they are sending hundreds of thousands of South Korean cars into the United States. That's all good. We can only get 4,000 to 5,000 into South Korea. That is not free trade. We've got to have a president who is going to be advocating on behalf of American businesses and American workers and I make no apology for that.

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