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Presidential debate, full transcript, Sept. 30, 2004

(The following transcript was provided by the Commission on Presidential Debates at their website: www.debates.org .)

The First Bush-Kerry Presidential Debate

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES' DEBATE, SPONSORED BY THE MICCOSUKEE TRIBE OF INDIANS OF FLORIDA, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI, CORAL GABLES, FLORIDA

SPEAKERS: GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

U.S. SENATOR JOHN F. KERRY (MA), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE

JIM LEHRER, ANCHOR AND EXECUTIVE EDITOR, PBS'S "THE NEWSHOUR"

LEHRER: Good evening from the University of Miami Convocation Center in Coral Gables, Florida. I'm Jim Lehrer of "The NewsHour" on PBS.

And I welcome you to the first of the 2004 presidential debates between President George W. Bush, the Republican nominee, and Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee.

These debates are sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

Tonight's will last 90 minutes, following detailed rules of engagement worked out by representatives of the candidates. I have agreed to enforce their rules on them.

The umbrella topic is foreign policy and homeland security, but the specific subjects were chosen by me, the questions were composed by me, the candidates have not been told what they are, nor has anyone else.

For each question there can only be a two-minute response, a 90- second rebuttal and, at my discretion, a discussion extension of one minute.

A green light will come on when 30 seconds remain in any given answer, yellow at 15, red at five seconds, and then flashing red means time's up. There is also a backup buzzer system if needed.

Candidates may not direct a question to each other. There will be two-minute closing statements, but no opening statements.

There is an audience here in the hall, but they will remain absolutely silent for the next 90 minutes, except for now, when they join me in welcoming President Bush and Senator Kerry.

(APPLAUSE)

LEHRER: Good evening, Mr. President, Senator Kerry.

As determined by a coin toss, the first question goes to you, Senator Kerry. You have two minutes.

Do you believe you could do a better job than President Bush in preventing another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States?

KERRY: Yes, I do.

But before I answer further, let me thank you for moderating. I want to thank the University of Miami for hosting us. And I know the president will join me in welcoming all of Florida to this debate. You've been through the roughest weeks anybody could imagine. Our hearts go out to you. And we admire your pluck and perseverance.

I can make American safer than President Bush has made us.

And I believe President Bush and I both love our country equally. But we just have a different set of convictions about how you make America safe.   Continued...

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