Republicans for Clean Air/comments by George W. Bush

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The following comments by George W. Bush about Republicans for Clean Air were made on CBS News Face the Nation, March 5, 2000:

BOB SCHIEFFER, host: And now joining us from Austin, Texas, the governor of Texas, George W. Bush. Governor, thank you very much for coming this morning. Well, you heard what Senator McCain said. He said basically you are simply not ready for prime time. And he cites as an example for saying that these ads that you ran about--accusing him of being against breast cancer research up in New York and some of your comments that you said after it was learned that his sister has breast cancer. What's your response to that, Governor?

Governor GEORGE W. BUSH (GOP Presidential Candidate): Well, my response is the Republican Party and Independents are going to nominate me because I'm talking about things that matter for America. I'm talking about an education system that will have high standards, local control of schools, strong accountability. I'm talking about keeping the peace by res--by--by restoring the military, by strengthening the military. I'm talking about an economic growth plan that will share some of the surplus with people who pay the bills. That's why I'm going to be the nominee.

I--you know, Gloria, when you--when you mentioned the breast cancer, ab--about the sister, I expressed concern about the sister. I was--I've got a lot of friends myself who have had breast cancer here in the state of Texas. I--I--I help support the Komen Foundation, for example. My wife has been very much involved in breast cancer awareness. What--what my ad said, Bob and Gloria, was this. It said that John listed a--a series of projects called garden variety pork on his Web page that caught the attention of my campaign, but as importantly, caught the attention of people who are concerned about breast cancer on the is--on Long Island. And the ad does not question his votes. The ad questions the programs that he said he was going to reduce or eliminate. That's exactly what it said. Now he can try to convert this into something different. But this is a...

SCHIEFFER: But...

Gov. BUSH: ...man who says he's going to elimi--this is a man who says he's going to eliminate pork, and we listed the pork he said he was going to eliminate.

SCHIEFFER: But, Governor, what--what happened here is the--the vote that they picked out was an appropriation that had been stuck into a defense appropriations bill. There had been no debate on it. There had been no discussion of it, and--and the question...

Gov. BUSH: No, but...

SCHIEFFER: ...you could raise is, 'Well, why should people in New York deserve that appropriation anymore than the folks down in Austin?'

Gov. BUSH: No, but--but, Bob...

SCHIEFFER: The fact of the matter is that Governor--that Senator McCain has voted for breast cancer research at least 10 times.

Gov. BUSH: That's fine.

SCHIEFFER: Isn't it a little unfair to say he's against that?

Gov. BUSH: That--n--no, that's fine that he did that. But the ad s--this ad spoke specifically to programs that he listed he was going to eliminate, programs that related to--to Long Island and breast cancer research. This ad took specific programs that he listed on his own Web page. The problem with discussing all these ads--and it's fine to discuss them--is that it doesn't allow me time to discuss what I want to do for America.

SCHIEFFER: Well--but the fact is that you have launched these ads and that your friends have spent $2 1/2 million now...

Gov. BUSH: Well, these are--these are...

SCHIEFFER: ...on a--on an ad that you say you know nothing about, attacking his environmental record. I mean, isn't that just exactly what Senator McCain says has gone haywire in America? Where somebody can come in, spend all this money, no one would have known who spent this money up there, attacking his environmental record if the reporters hadn't rooted it out? And yet he--these friends may wind up spending more in New York than you and Senator McCain are spending up there.

Gov. BUSH: Bob, there are people spending ads that say nice things about me. There are people spending money on ads that say ugly things about me.

BORGER: Should...

Gov. BUSH: That's part of the American--let me finish. That's part of the American process. There have been ads, independent expenditures, that are saying bad things about me. I don't particularly care when they do, but that's what freedom of speech is all about. And this allegation somehow that I'm involved with this is just totally ridiculous. It is uncalled for. There is no--no truth whatsoever. This--the notion that this man who ran the ads spent the night in the governor's mansion--I think Senator McCain just made that allegation--they're--they're just not true.

BORGER: Well, Governor...

Gov. BUSH: It is--yeah?

BORGER: ...do you think you should stop these ads?

Gov. BUSH: You know, let me--let me say something to you. People have the right to run ads. They have the right to do what they want to do, under the--under the First Amendment in America. I don't think these ads are particularly helpful to me. But I have to spend...

BORGER: So you have the right to ask them to stop.

Gov. BUSH: I have--I spent--loo--the--the--I spend more time talking about these ads than I talk about education programs that's going to make America a much better place. I would much ra...

SCHIEFFER: Well, then why don't you...

Gov. BUSH: I would much rather be talking about children than some independent expenditure or independent expenditures that are against me. You got to understand, there's a lot...

BORGER: So if you tell them to stop--if you tell him to stop, then you would be talking about the other issues. Why not just say, 'Stop the ads'?

Gov. BUSH: These are independent expenditures, Gloria. These are--this was a decision made totally independent from my campaign. And I heard the senator say the guy spent the night at the mansion? I want to hear that--I want to see some substantiation on that.

SCHIEFFER: Well, how is it, Sena--Governor, that people can see someone spend $ 2 1/2 million on your behalf--this is someone that's contributed to your campaign as governor. I--I don't know the details, but I understand he also does business with the state of Texas. How can people sit here and look at this and say, 'This fellow is just for good government. He doesn't want a thing from Governor Bush or he won't need a thing from President Bush. He's just for good government and that's why he's spending all this money.' Isn't that one reason that people just find politics so disgusting these days?

Gov. BUSH: Bob, this is a guy who contributed to Senator McCain when he was a senator, I understand. This is a man who made a decision to spend money on his own. Obviously, the ads aren't that helpful to me. I'm spending more time talking about ads than I am talking about my agenda.

SCHIEFFER: Well, again, I go back to the question then: Why don't you tell him to stop, so you can get to talking about what you need to be talking about?

Gov. BUSH: Because these are independent expenditures. I don't--I don't want to--you--you--you know, you say, 'Are they coordinated?' Why should I pick up the phone and coordinate with him to get them down? He--you know, they're not helping me. Just like the Sierra Club doesn't help me when they run ads. What I'd rather be talking about is an education plan. That--we've got a huge difference of opinion on education here in this primary. And I want to keep talking about that, and that's what I'm going to do when I go out to California.

BORGER: Governor, Senator McCain, just a few minutes ago, called your campaign disgraceful and shameful.

Gov. BUSH: Yeah.

BORGER: How do you respond to that?

Gov. BUSH: Well, one of the--I just respond by saying look at the results. People are pouring into our party because I've energized the Republican Party. I'm going to unite our party. I'm bringing new folks into the primary. I'm getting the young vote. Young people don't come in and vote in this primary if they don't--if they don't hear a message of--optimistic and hopeful. I'm painting a picture for a better tomorrow. I'm talking about giving people some of their own money back. We've got a surplus, and yet, taxes are the highest they have been since World War II. I've got a plan that says children are not going to be left behind in American schools, and people are hearing that call. People know that I'm going to lift the spirits of this country when I become the nominee and the president, and that's why they're coming on my side.

BORGER: Governor, you have also said that McCain is running an angry campaign. Are you raising that issue of his temperament and whether he's temperamentally suited to be president of the United States?

Gov. BUSH: No. I--I've always said that if John's the nominee, I'll support him. We just have a disagreement. I happen to think I'll be a better president and a better leader for our party. And a better leader for...

BORGER: But he says you're raising that issue.

Gov. BUSH: Well, he may--he can say what he wants to say. I'm just telling you that--that I--I'm going to be a better candidate. I'm going to be the person that can paint a picture that is optimistic and hopeful. I've had a record of leadership in the state of Texas. The results here in this state are--are impressive when it comes to the education of our children and our party ought to have a standard bearer who is able to say to America, 'Look what we--look what's happened. Here are the tangible results. Our--our students are learning.' Our party ought to have somebody say, 'I can reach out to Hispanic voters and African-American voters to be able to help us not only win but help America realize its potential.'

SCHIEFFER: Governor, I asked Senator McCain just a minute ago about your appearance at Bob Jones University. He revealed--or--or we have discovered that at the same time he was criticizing you, in fact, his campaign was also negotiating for an appearance for him to go there. But I want to ask you something. On reflection, if you had it to do over again, would you go back to Bob Jones University?

Gov. BUSH: You know, I would have. And I would have said, 'We're all God's children.' And I would have said, 'There's great religions in America that make America great, inc--in--including the Catholic faith.' I regret missing an opportunity. I really do. When I was there, I talked about uniting America, and I talked about the plans for education and the plans to keep the peace and the plans for economic growth. I talked--I've talked to a lot of Catholic leaders since then. They know where my heart is, Bob. They know I've been an inclusive governor, somebody who's brought people together. I really believe this issue has backfired on John. I believe that he raised a lot of doubts about my heart and people are overwhelmingly responding. I was in parade--a parade yesterday in upstate New York and there were signs all over the place saying, 'I'm a proud Catholic for George W. Bush.'

BORGER: Governor, why is it that every major New York newspaper today seems to have endorsed John McCain's candidacy?

Gov. BUSH: I don't know. You better ask the editors up there. He can have the editorial page endorsements. I want the votes of the people who are going to decide who the Republican nominee is. I think I've got a good chance in New York. I came back late last night from Connecticut and New York. And--and the response has been overwhelming. We've got a great grassroots organization. And people are fired up because of the positive message. People aren't listening to all this squabbling about, you know, these ads. What people want is somebody to lead us. And--and lead us to a better tomorrow by having an education system that works, and an economy that's strong. I keep talking about this, but America's got to understand that taxes are the highest they've been on the working people since World War II. And we better share some of the surplus with people who pay the taxes so the economy will continue to grow.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Governor, we have to leave it there. Thank you very much for being with us this morning. As we wished Senator McCain, we also wish you good luck down the campaign trail.

Gov. BUSH: Thanks a lot.

SCHIEFFER: Be back in a moment with a final word. Thank you, Governor.