Second Presidential Debate -- Question Four
Washington University in St. Louis - St. Louis, MO -
October 8, 2004

GIBSON: The next question is for President Bush, and it comes from Nikki Washington.

WASHINGTON: Thank you.

Mr. President, my mother and sister traveled abroad this summer, and when they got back they talked to us about how shocked they were at the intensity of aggravation that other countries had with how we handled the Iraq situation.

Diplomacy is obviously something that we really have to really work on.

What is your plan to repair relations with other countries given the current situation?

BUSH: No, I appreciate that.  I -- listen, I -- we've got a great country.  I love our values.  And I recognize I've made some decisions that have caused people to not understand the great values of our country.

I remember when Ronald Reagan was the president; he stood on principle.  Somebody called that stubborn.  He stood on principle standing up to the Soviet Union, and we won that conflict.  Yet at the same time, he was very -- we were very unpopular in Europe because of the decisions he made.

I recognize that taking Saddam Hussein out was unpopular.  But I made the decision because I thought it was in the right interests of our security.

You know, I've made some decisions on Israel that's unpopular.  I wouldn't deal with Arafat, because I felt like he had let the former president down, and I don't think he's the kind of person that can lead toward a Palestinian state.

And people in Europe didn't like that decision.  And that was unpopular, but it was the right thing to do.

I believe Palestinians ought to have a state, but I know they need leadership that's committed to a democracy and freedom, leadership that would be willing to reject terrorism.

I made a decision not to join the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which is where our troops could be brought to -- brought in front of a judge, an unaccounted judge.

I don't think we ought to join that.  That was unpopular.

And so, what I'm telling you is, is that sometimes in this world you make unpopular decisions because you think they're right.

We'll continue to reach out.

Listen, there is 30 nations involved in Iraq, some 40 nations involved in Afghanistan.

People love America.  Sometimes they don't like the decisions made by America, but I don't think you want a president who tries to become popular and does the wrong thing.

You don't want to join the International Criminal Court just because it's popular in certain capitals in Europe.

GIBSON: Senator Kerry, a minute and a half.

KERRY: Nikki, that's a question that's been raised by a lot of people around the country.

Let me address it but also talk about the weapons the president just talked about, because every part of the president's answer just now promises you more of the same over the next four years.

The president stood right here in this hall four years ago, and he was asked a question by somebody just like you, "Under what circumstances would you send people to war?"

And his answer was, "With a viable exit strategy and only with enough forces to get the job done."

He didn't do that.  He broke that promise.  We didn't have enough forces.

General Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, told him he was going to need several hundred thousand.  And guess what?  They retired General Shinseki for telling him that.

This president hasn't listened.

I went to meet with the members of the Security Council in the week before we voted.  I went to New York.  I talked to all of them to find out how serious they were about really holding Saddam Hussein accountable.

I came away convinced that, if we worked at it, if we were ready to work and letting Hans Blix do his job and thoroughly go through the inspections, that if push came to shove, they'd be there with us.

But the president just arbitrarily brought the hammer down and said, "Nope. Sorry, time for diplomacy is over.  We're going."

He rushed to war without a plan to win the peace.

Ladies and gentleman, he gave you a speech and told you he'd plan carefully, take every precaution, take our allies with us.  He didn't.  He broke his word.

GIBSON: Mr. President?

BUSH: I remember sitting in the White House looking at those generals, saying, "Do you have what you need in this war?  Do you have what it takes?"

I remember going down to the basement of the White House the day we committed our troops as last resort, looking at Tommy Franks and the generals on the ground, asking them, "Do we have the right plan with the right troop level?"

And they looked me in the eye and said, "Yes, sir, Mr. President."  Of course, I listen to our generals.  That's what a president does. A president sets the strategy and relies upon good military people to execute that strategy.

GIBSON: Senator?

KERRY: You rely on good military people to execute the military component of the strategy, but winning the peace is larger than just the military component.

General Shinseki had the wisdom to say, "You're going to need several hundred thousand troops to win the peace."  The military's job is to win the war.

A president's job is to win the peace.

The president did not do what was necessary.  Didn't bring in enough nation.  Didn't deliver the help.  Didn't close off the borders. Didn't even guard the ammo dumps.  And now our kids are being killed with ammos right out of that dump.

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