Americans are "not looking for more of the same", Says Joe Biden


IFILL: Vice President Cheney's interpretation of the vice presidency?

BIDEN: Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history. The idea he doesn't realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that's the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.

And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there's a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.

The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote. He has no authority relative to the Congress. The idea he's part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive and look where it has gotten us. It has been very dangerous.

IFILL: Let's talk conventional wisdom for a moment. The conventional wisdom, Gov. Palin with you, is that your Achilles heel is that you lack experience. Your conventional wisdom against you is that your Achilles heel is that you lack discipline, Sen. Biden. What id it really for you, Gov. Palin? What is it really for you, Sen. Biden? Start with you, governor.

PALIN: My experience as an executive will be put to good use as a mayor and business owner and oil and gas regulator and then as governor of a huge state, a huge energy producing state that is accounting for much progress towards getting our nation energy independence and that's extremely important.

But it wasn't just that experience tapped into, it was my connection to the heartland of America. Being a mom, one very concerned about a son in the war, about a special needs child, about kids heading off to college, how are we going to pay those tuition bills? About times and Todd and our marriage in our past where we didn't have health insurance and we know what other Americans are going through as they sit around the kitchen table and try to figure out how are they going to pay out-of-pocket for health care? We've been there also so that connection was important.

But even more important is that world view that I share with John McCain. That world view that says that America is a nation of exceptionalism. And we are to be that shining city on a hill, as President Reagan so beautifully said, that we are a beacon of hope and that we are unapologetic here. We are not perfect as a nation. But together, we represent a perfect ideal. And that is democracy and tolerance and freedom and equal rights. Those things that we stand for that can be put to good use as a force for good in this world.

John McCain and I share that. You combine all that with being a team with the only track record of making a really, a difference in where we've been and reforming, that's a good team, it's a good ticket.

IFILL: Senator?

BIDEN: You're very kind suggesting my only Achilles Heel is my lack of discipline.

Others talk about my excessive passion. I'm not going to change. I have 35 years in public office. People can judge who I am. I haven't changed in that time.

And, by the way, a record of change -- I will place my record and Barack's record against John McCain's or anyone else in terms of fundamental accomplishments. Wrote the crime bill, put 100,000 cops on the street, wrote the Violence Against Women Act, which John McCain voted against both of them, was the catalyst to change the circumstance in Bosnia, led by President Clinton, obviously.

Look, I understand what it's like to be a single parent. When my wife and daughter died and my two sons were gravely injured, I understand what it's like as a parent to wonder what it's like if your kid's going to make it.

I understand what it's like to sit around the kitchen table with a father who says, "I've got to leave, champ, because there's no jobs here. I got to head down to Wilmington. And when we get enough money, honey, we'll bring you down."

I understand what it's like. I'm much better off than almost all Americans now. I get a good salary with the United States Senate. I live in a beautiful house that's my total investment that I have. So I -- I am much better off now.

But the notion that somehow, because I'm a man, I don't know what it's like to raise two kids alone, I don't know what it's like to have a child you're not sure is going to -- is going to make it -- I understand.

I understand, as well as, with all due respect, the governor or anybody else, what it's like for those people sitting around that kitchen table. And guess what? They're looking for help. They're looking for help. They're not looking for more of the same.

IFILL: Governor?

PALIN: People aren't looking for more of the same. They are looking for change. And John McCain has been the consummate maverick in the Senate over all these years.

He's taken shots left and right from the other party and from within his own party, because he's had to take on his own party when the time was right, when he recognized it was time to put partisanship aside and just do what was right for the American people.

That's what I've done as governor, also, take on my own party, when I had to, and work with both sides of the aisle, in my cabinet, appointing those who would serve regardless of party, Democrats, independents, Republicans, whatever it took to get the job done.

Also, John McCain's maverick position that he's in, that's really prompt up to and indicated by the supporters that he has. Look at Lieberman, and Giuliani, and Romney, and Lingle, and all of us who come from such a diverse background of -- of policy and of partisanship, all coming together at this time, recognizing he is the man that we need to leave -- lead in these next four years, because these are tumultuous times.

We have got to win the wars. We have got to get our economy back on track. We have got to not allow the greed and corruption on Wall Street anymore.

And we have not got to allow the partisanship that has really been entrenched in Washington, D.C., no matter who's been in charge. When the Republicans were in charge, I didn't see a lot of progress there, either. When the Democrats, either, though, this last go- around for the last two years.

Change is coming. And John McCain is the leader of that reform.

IFILL: Senator...

BIDEN: I'll be very brief. Can I respond to that?

Look, the maverick -- let's talk about the maverick John McCain is. And, again, I love him. He's been a maverick on some issues, but he has been no maverick on the things that matter to people's lives.

He voted four out of five times for George Bush's budget, which put us a half a trillion dollars in debt this year and over $3 trillion in debt since he's got there.

He has not been a maverick in providing health care for people. He has voted against -- he voted including another 3.6 million children in coverage of the existing health care plan, when he voted in the United States Senate.

He's not been a maverick when it comes to education. He has not supported tax cuts and significant changes for people being able to send their kids to college.

He's not been a maverick on the war. He's not been a maverick on virtually anything that genuinely affects the things that people really talk about around their kitchen table.

Can we send -- can we get Mom's MRI? Can we send Mary back to school next semester? We can't -- we can't make it. How are we going to heat the -- heat the house this winter?

He voted against even providing for what they call LIHEAP, for assistance to people, with oil prices going through the roof in the winter.

So maverick he is not on the important, critical issues that affect people at that kitchen table.

IFILL: Final question tonight, before your closing statements, starting with you, Sen. Biden. Can you think of a single issue -- and this is to cast light for people who are just trying to get to know you in your final debate, your only debate of this year -- can you think of a single issue, policy issue, in which you were forced to change a long-held view in order to accommodate changed circumstances?

BIDEN: Yes, I can. When I got to the United States Senate and went on the Judiciary Committee as a young lawyer, I was of the view and had been trained in the view that the only thing that mattered was whether or not a nominee appointed, suggested by the president had a judicial temperament, had not committed a crime of moral turpitude, and was -- had been a good student.

And it didn't take me long -- it was hard to change, but it didn't take me long, but it took about five years for me to realize that the ideology of that judge makes a big difference.

That's why I led the fight against Judge Bork. Had he been on the court, I suspect there would be a lot of changes that I don't like and the American people wouldn't like, including everything from Roe v. Wade to issues relating to civil rights and civil liberties.

And so that -- that -- that was one of the intellectual changes that took place in my career as I got a close look at it. And that's why I was the first chairman of the Judiciary Committee to forthrightly state that it matters what your judicial philosophy is. The American people have a right to understand it and to know it.

But I did change on that, and -- and I'm glad I did.

IFILL: Governor?

PALIN: There have been times where, as mayor and governor, we have passed budgets that I did not veto and that I think could be considered as something that I quasi-caved in, if you will, but knowing that it was the right thing to do in order to progress the agenda for that year and to work with the legislative body, that body that actually holds the purse strings.

So there were times when I wanted to zero-base budget, and to cut taxes even more, and I didn't have enough support in order to accomplish that.

But on the major principle things, no, there hasn't been something that I've had to compromise on, because we've always seemed to find a way to work together. Up there in Alaska, what we have done is, with bipartisan efforts, is work together and, again, not caring who gets the credit for what, as we accomplish things up there.

And that's been just a part of the operation that I wanted to participate in. And that's what we're going to do in Washington, D.C., also, bring in both sides together. John McCain is known for doing that, also, in order to get the work done for the American people.

IFILL: Let's come full circle. You both want to bring both sides together. You both talk about bipartisanship. Once again, we saw what happened this week in Washington. How do you change the tone, as vice president, as number-two?

BIDEN: Well, again, I believe John McCain, were he here -- and this is a dangerous thing to say in the middle of an election -- but he would acknowledge what I'm about to say.

I have been able to work across the aisle on some of the most controversial issues and change my party's mind, as well as Republicans', because I learned a lesson from Mike Mansfield.

Mike Mansfield, a former leader of the Senate, said to me one day -- he -- I made a criticism of Jesse Helms. He said, "What would you do if I told you Jesse Helms and Dot Helms had adopted a child who had braces and was in real need?" I said, "I'd feel like a jerk."

He said, "Joe, understand one thing. Everyone's sent here for a reason, because there's something in them that their folks like. Don't question their motive."

I have never since that moment in my first year questioned the motive of another member of the Congress or Senate with whom I've disagreed. I've questioned their judgment.

I think that's why I have the respect I have and have been able to work as well as I've been able to have worked in the United States Senate. That's the fundamental change Barack Obama and I will be bring to this party, not questioning other people's motives.

IFILL: Governor?

PALIN: You do what I did as governor, and you appoint people regardless of party affiliation, Democrats, independents, Republicans. You -- you walk the walk; you don't just talk the talk.

And even in my own family, it's a very diverse family. And we have folks of all political persuasion in there, also, so I've grown up just knowing that, you know, at the end of the day, as long as we're all working together for the greater good, it's going to be OK.

But the policies and the proposals have got to speak for themselves, also. And, again, voters on November 4th are going to have that choice to either support a ticket that supports policies that create jobs.

You do that by lowering taxes on American workers and on our businesses. And you build up infrastructure, and you rein in government spending, and you make our -- our nation energy independent.

Or you support a ticket that supports policies that will kill jobs by increasing taxes. And that's what the track record shows, is a desire to increase taxes, increase spending, a trillion-dollar spending proposal that's on the table. That's going to hurt our country, and saying no to energy independence. Clear choices on November 4th.

IFILL: Gov. Palin, you get the chance to make the first closing statement.

PALIN: Well, again, Gwen, I do want to thank you and the commission. This is such an honor for me.

And I appreciate, too, Sen. Biden, getting to meet you, finally, also, and getting to debate with you. And I would like more opportunity for this.

I like being able to answer these tough questions without the filter, even, of the mainstream media kind of telling viewers what they've just heard. I'd rather be able to just speak to the American people like we just did.

And it's so important that the American people know of the choices that they have on November 4th.

I want to assure you that John McCain and I, we're going to fight for America. We're going to fight for the middle-class, average, everyday American family like mine.

I've been there. I know what the hurts are. I know what the challenges are. And, thank God, I know what the joys are, too, of living in America. We are so blessed. And I've always been proud to be an American. And so has John McCain.

We have to fight for our freedoms, also, economic and our national security freedoms.

It was Ronald Reagan who said that freedom is always just one generation away from extinction. We don't pass it to our children in the bloodstream; we have to fight for it and protect it, and then hand it to them so that they shall do the same, or we're going to find ourselves spending our sunset years telling our children and our children's children about a time in America, back in the day, when men and women were free.

We will fight for it, and there is only one man in this race who has really ever fought for you, and that's Sen. John McCain.

IFILL: Thank you, Governor. Sen. Biden.

BIDEN: Gwen, thank you for doing this, and the commission, and Governor, it really was a pleasure getting to meet you.

Look, folks, this is the most important election you've ever voted in your entire life. No one can deny that the last eight years, we've been dug into a very deep hole here at home with regard to our economy, and abroad in terms of our credibility. And there's a need for fundamental change in our economic philosophy, as well as our foreign policy.

And Barack Obama and I don't measure progress toward that change based on whether or not we cut more regulations and how well CEOs are doing, or giving another $4 billion in tax breaks to the Exxon Mobils of the world.

We measure progress in America based on whether or not someone can pay their mortgage, whether or not they can send their kid to college, whether or not they're able to, when they send their child, like we have abroad -- or I'm about to, abroad -- and John has as well, I might add -- to fight, that they are the best equipped and they have everything they need. And when they come home, they're guaranteed that they have the best health care and the best education possible.

You know, in the neighborhood I grew up in, it was all about dignity and respect. A neighborhood like most of you grew up in. And in that neighborhood, it was filled with women and men, mothers and fathers who taught their children if they believed in themselves, if they were honest, if they worked hard, if they loved their country, they could accomplish anything. We believed it, and we did.

That's why Barack Obama and I are running, to re-establish that certitude in our neighborhoods.

Ladies and gentlemen, my dad used to have an expression. He'd say, "champ, when you get knocked down, get up."

Well, it's time for America to get up together. America's ready, you're ready, I'm ready, and Barack Obama is ready to be the next president of the United States of America.

May God bless all of you, and most of all, for both of us, selfishly, may God protect our troops.

IFILL: That ends tonight's debate. We want to thank the folks here at Washington University in St. Louis, and the Commission on Presidential Debates.

There are two more debates to come. Next Tuesday, October 7th, with Tom Brokaw at Belmont University in Nashville, and on October 15th at Hofstra University in New York, with Bob Schieffer.

Thank you, Gov. Palin and Sen. Biden. Good night, everybody.

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