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Republican Presidential Debate
January 26, 2000
New Hampshire


Question: Mr. Keyes, you advocate a national sales tax to replace the federal income tax. Let's assume for a moment that Congress doesn't pass your national sales tax plan. What then? What would be your fallback position on taxes?

KEYES: I have to tell you, I actually think that that would not be an appropriate question for me to answer. I think that we have to move away from the slave income tax, and that I am working to put together a coalition of people around the country who understand that we have surrendered control of our income to the government, giving them a preemptive claim that they then determine the extent of over our money. As long as that is the case, in principle the government controls every penny that is made and earned in the United States, and anything left in our pockets is left there by the sufferance of our politicians. This is an unacceptable situation.

And so I am not going to answer a question based on the notion that the people of this country should acquiesce, and that we should simply continue to do what my colleagues want to do tinker around with a system where they get to be the gatekeepers of our money. I will not allow that to continue. I will work to change that, and we must move to abolish the income tax, and replace it with the original Constitution of the country. I believe that that is the alternative that needs to be placed before the American people. And if we can effectively put together in this election the coalition to support that, then the Congress will respond to the will of the people.

Question: Can you offer us some more specifics on your national sales tax proposal? Is it a tax on goods and services, and what percentage would you put on that tax?

KEYES: I support a "fair tax" proposal that is out there on the table, that would replace both the income tax and the payroll tax. The rate would probably have to be, for that purpose, around 20% or 23%. It would be on the retail sales; that is, it is not a tax on production. I think that what the Europeans have done in the way of VAT's and other taxes that intervene in the production process actually burdens productivity and discourages it. You want an end tax, on consumption, of retail sales, excluding a certain market basket of goods and services that represent the essential necessities of life so that the poor and those on fixed incomes would be able to exempt themselves from taxation through their own judicious use of the proper choice, and others, who feel that they cannot bear the burden of the sales tax, would be able, by following that frugality track, to do the same thing.

Question: According to population experts, within years whites will no longer be a racial majority in the United States of America. Should our national dialogue drop the words "minority," "majority"?

KEYES: I think that it would be advisable, and I have always argued, in fact, that categorizing people according to race and group is bad in this country. I think that one of the things that has been done by quotas and other approaches that people say are to benefit minorities is that in fact we have retained the categories of racial discrimination and racial consciousness. I think we would do better to focus on our common American identity, to renew our allegiance to those moral principles that define that common American identity, so that we can move forward. And if there are people in this society that need help, we should give them that help based on their need, based on the scars that they have suffered, perhaps, from past abuse and discrimination, not based on race and minority background of that kind

. . .

Question by Ambassador KEYES: Senator McCain, in my past questioning I think I have established that you support the Clinton policy "don't ask, don't tell" on gays in the military. But I heard today that you had been asked a question about what you would say if your daughter was ever in a position where she might need an abortion. And you said at first, as I understand it, that the choice would be up to her, and then that you would have a family conference.

I have got to admit, I think that displayed a profound lack of understanding of the basic issue of principle involved in abortion. After all, if your daughter came to you and said she was contemplating killing her grandmother for the inheritance, you wouldn't say "let's have a family conference." You would look at her and say, "Just say no, because that is morally wrong."

It is God's choice that that child is in the womb. And for us to usurp that choice in contradiction of our Declaration principles is just as wrong. Therefore, how can you take the position that would subject such a choice to a family conference or any other human choice? Isn't it God's choice that protects the life of that child in the womb?

Senator McCain: I am proud of my pro-life record in public life. I'm the only one here who has gone to the floor of the Senate and voted in the preservation of the life of the unborn. I have worked very hard for the ban of partial birth abortion. I have sought for approval and legislation requiring parental consent and parental notification. I am proud of that pro-life record, and I will continue to maintain it. I will not draw my children into this discussion.

KEYES: Meaning no offense, Senator, the question wasn't about your record. It was about your understanding. If we take a position on this issue, and are then nominated by this party, we will have to go forward to defend that position in a field where Bill Bradley and Al Gore aren't going to take your record as an answer. They will need a persuasive justification before the American people as to why that position is consonant with our principles and our heritage. And the answer you gave today does not display that kind of understanding. How can we trust you to move forward and defend our position on this issue?

McCain: Because unlike you, I have a 17 year voting record and record of service to this country, including doing everything that I can to preserve the rights of the unborn. I have spoken as eloquently as I can on that issue. I am proud of my record. And that record I will stand on. And I am completely comfortable with the fact that, as a leader of a pro-life party, with a pro-life position, that I will persuade which is what really this is all about to have young Americans understand the importance the preservation of the rights of the unborn.

. . .

Governor Bush: To Alan Keyes. What's it like to be in a mosh pit?

KEYES: It's a lot of fun, actually; I enjoyed it.

Bush: On the stage after us will be two Democrats. And if you listen carefully to what they are saying, it sounds like they loved what the Clintons tried to do to health care. They want to federalize health care. They want the federal government to manage our health care. I know you, and the rest of us here, concerns about health care all over New Hampshire. What is your view? Give us your principles on health care for America.

KEYES: I actually think it is very important not to turn health care over to government domination, because we will get the same kind of results that sadly we have gotten in our education system, where we spend more and we get less, in terms of quality, as a result. We have to take an approach that empowers those who are out there looking for health care services to be the ones who can make the choices and make the decisions that will enforce, within that system, a relationship between the money you pay and the quality you get. That is something that empowered consumers should be able to do.

We should voucherize the federal program, so that individuals will have a stake in making the right judgments about how they get their health care. We need to set up medical savings accounts, and other mechanisms, that will allow people to build up what they need in order to meet their health care needs by making judicious choices that will give them the power to go to the right doctor, to the right way of providing medical services, according to their choice. I think that is the principle that we need.

And by the way, that will help to keep costs down. Bureaucracies can't do that job. But as we find in every other sector of our economy, when you empower consumers to make choices, when you give them a range of choices, so they can go away from those providers who are not giving them cost-effective provision of services, that's when you are going to get the costs down, and when we will have more medical dollars available to meet problems like long-term health care, which is catastrophic for individual families, and which they can't bear on their own.

Bush: Do you agree with me that it seems like the administration kind of loves to dangle Medicare reform, kind of get people talking about it, and then turn the tables for political reasons?

KEYES: I think they have done that in every respect, as a matter of fact. Their aim, I believe, is to try to lure more and more people into a government dominated system. And once you get the reins of control over medical care into that government system, you will then, as unfortunately we have found in other countries, be able to lower the quality and not give people the kind of service that they need, while at the same time shortchanging the providers of services so that you reduce the incentive for training and quality care. That is the result we will get from socialism, and I frankly am proud of the Republican Party for having stood together to resist the socialization of medicine in this country. It was the right thing to do, and I think it also helped, by the way, to safeguard the situation that allowed us to continue on the road of prosperous expansion in our economy.

Question: The President tomorrow night is expected in his State of the Union message to propose federal subsidies to help low-income families overcome the so-called "digital divide." Is it an appropriate use of government funds to hand out computers, and provide internet access to those who can't afford it? And if not, why not?

KEYES: I think this is another case where politicians try to jump on the bandwagon of something that is going on in the economy, so everybody is going to think that they actually had something to do with the result, when they don't.

There is no need for this. We are already seeing out there proposals for the distribution of free PC's, not based on some politician making a judgment and spending taxpayer money, but based on the self-interest of those who are involved in a new world, a new world in which participation is the key to profit, and in which there is actually a strong incentive among those who participate in the private sector to give access to individuals, so that they can improve their opportunities for profit, for information sharing.

That is what has already been going on. It will continue. There is no need for the government to pretend that it needs to take leadership here. I think that is just political posturing.

Question: Mr. Keyes, what is your position on the death penalty?

KEYES: I believe that there are certain circumstances in which the death penalty is in fact essential to our respect for life. If we do not, in our law, send the message to everybody that by calculatedly, coldly taking a human life in a way that, for instance, assaults the structures of law in a society, or shows a cold-blooded and studied disregard for the value of that life if we are not willing to implement the death penalty in those circumstances, then we are actually sending a message of contempt for human life. We are encouraging people to believe that that step is not in fact a terminal step, when they faithfully and fatally decide to move against the live of another human being. So I think that there are circumstances under which it is essential, in fact, that we have and apply the death penalty in order to send a clear moral message to people throughout our society that we will not tolerate that kind of disrespect for life.

Question: In particular, in your judgment, what should be the minimum death penalty age for young felons convicted of deadly crimes?

KEYES: I am not one of those folks who think that we ought to be lowering the age at which we adjudge people to be adults. I believe that the tendency in that direction now, to want to treat our children as if they are adults, is a confession of our own failure as a society to maintain the structures of family life, to maintain the basis of moral education. As a result, yes, we have children now in whom there exists a howling moral void, and those children engage in some acts that are heinous and shocking to us. But at the same time, I think we need to respect the difference that exists between children and adults. We need to insist, from adults, on moral accountability and moral responsibility. We need to help our children develop that ability to be mature adults. But I don't think that we should take out our failure of moral education on younger and younger children. I think that this is a great error.

Question: Should it be a felony for the President to lie to the American people?

KEYES: I think that lying under oath is clearly a felony. But we shouldn't think that that is how you take care of a President when he lies and disregards his oath. That is the responsibility not of the courts, but of Congress. And I think that this Congress, under the corrupt pressure from a Democrat Party that surrounded its corrupt President, that refused, in fact, to apply the necessary strictures in order to call this nation back to accountability and integrity they need to be held accountable. The way in which you deal with a President's failure to respect his oath is the impeachment process, and willingness to remove him from office.

If Congress doesn't have the guts to do that, then our Constitution has been gutted.

KEYES: I'd like to address my question to Steve Forbes. Steve, I'm very concerned with the surrender of America's national sovereignty, and steps that have been taken in recent years that undermine our allegiance and application of our Constitution. Particularly I am concerned that by joining the World Trade Organization, and subjecting the American people directly to decisions taken by an unrepresentative body, that will then be applied directly to their affairs without the intervention of their elected representatives in the Congress or elsewhere, we subvert the American Constitutional system.

Would you join me in a pledge, because of that assault on the Constitution which it represents, to withdraw this nation from this unrepresentative body, the World Trade Organization, and reestablish the sovereignty of the American people in their international economic affairs?

Forbes: I believe in the sovereignty of the American nation and the American people. I believe in a U.S.., not a U.N., foreign policy. I believe that we should destroy or send the International Monetary Fund to political equivalent of Jurassic Park, given what it has done.

Concerning the World Trade Organization, Clinton and Gore have made a total hash of the thing. The whole thing was supposed to be designed to mediate trade disputes, so they can reduce barriers that are in the way of our products and surfaces. We are the biggest trading nation in the world, and they discriminate against our products like no other nation. The WTO is like the wooly mammoth. I think we have to take direct action. If that organization can't get its act together, let it stay on the side and we take direct action, as I propose to do, in reducing trade barriers with our partners, starting with the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement with Ireland and Britain. And we should do the same thing with Australia and other countries in the Pacific Rim. That way we can stop this discrimination against our products, and the WTO can go its own way.

KEYES: Sadly speaking, though I will try to be as polite about it as I can, I seem to suffer from Gary's problem. I asked you a yes or no question and could not get a yes or no answer. I think that the World Trade Organization . . . and this isn't a question just of its effects out there in the world. In principle we have done something that undercuts the sovereignty of the American people, and that puts us in a position that violates the Constitutional principle no legislation without representation. Will you withdraw us from this unrepresentative body?

Forbes: I'm not gonna withdraw us from that body, for the very simple reason, it's supposed to be there to help reduce barriers. If it doesn't, then we bid it goodbye. We are a sovereign nation. If they do something that is truly egregious, and breaks agreements on reducing trade barriers, we have the power to take direct action and pull out, and say "no," we're not going to abide with it. So this is an organization we should try to use to reduce our barriers, 'cause our farmers are discriminated against, our manufacturers are discriminated against, our services are discriminated against. We need every vehicle and diplomatic tool possible to get those barriers down, because when you have a level playing field, America reigns supreme. And that's what I want, and if the WTO can't do it, I've got direct action in reducing those barriers.

That's the key. We are sovereign; other nations are discriminating against us. As a businessman, I have seen how they do it. I know how to get these barriers down, unlike the Clinton/Gore administration.

Bauer: Alan, a couple of weeks ago you criticized my good friend John McCain because he expressed some support of, or interest in, a controversial music group. In view of that, I was a little surprised this week to see you fall into a mosh pit, while a band called "The Machine Rages On" or "Rage Against the Machine" played. That band is anti-family, it's pro-cop-killer, and it's pro-terrorist. It's the kind of music that the killers at Columbine High School were immersed in. Don't you think you owe an apology to parents and policemen on that one?

KEYES: Actually, I don't, because I was in no . . . accusing me of having some complicity in that music would be like accusing me of being responsible for the color of my skin. When you can't control things, Gary, you are not morally responsible for them. And I was not morally responsible for the music that was playing as I stepped out of my rally, and faced Michael Moore, whatever his name was, doing whatever he was doing. That's his concern, not mine. And until you told me this fact, I had no idea what that music was.

Contrary to our friend John McCain, who expressed the view that this was his favorite rock group. I think telling somebody that it is your favorite thus and such is actually taking responsibility for the choice, and making it clear to folks that this is something that you prefer, and that this is something that you care about, and so forth and so on. To do it in a light-hearted way, rather than having it imposed on you by circumstances over which you have no control, is something that I think is totally unacceptable. So I think that I would beg to differ with you. I had nothing to do with that music, disclaim any knowledge of it.

Admittedly, I was willing to fall into the mosh pit. But I'll tell you something. Do you know why I did that? Because I think that exemplifies the kind of trust in people that is the heart and soul of the Keyes campaign. It's about time we got back to the understanding that we trust the people of this country to do what is decent. And when you trust them, they will in fact hold you up - whether it is in terms of giving help to you when you are falling down, or caring for their own children.

So I thought that as an emblem of that trust, it was the right thing to do. And anyway, my daughter thought it was a good idea.

Bauer: Well, daughters are extremely important. Alan, let me read a quote from you. You said that one of the most important things is the dignity of the presidency. In fact, you said that it is important that those of us that aspire to be president not act like guests on the Jerry Springer show, which is incompatible with the dignity of politics. Now, I will concede from your answer, you didn't know about the music. But nobody made you jump in the mosh pit. (KEYES: Oh, that's very true.) Do you think that is consistent with the dignity of the presidency?

KEYES: Well, I would leave that to the judgment of the American people. I do know that when I got down, one of the folks who was there with one of the news crews looked at me, and he said, "You know, you are the only person I've ever seen dive into a mosh pit and come out with his tie straight." And I think that . . . do you know the real test of dignity? The real test of dignity is how you carry it through hard times. I think I learned that from my people. We went through slavery, when we didn't have the outward signs of what others would call dignity, because we understood that dignity comes from within. And that whatever circumstance you are going through, you can carry that dignity with you, and no one can take it away.

So I think you may have a misunderstanding of dignity. It doesn't come from what you do in a mosh pit. It comes from what you do as a result of the convictions of your heart. And I'll leave it to the American people to judge the convictions of my heart.

. . .

Question: Senator McCain, because of Mr. Keyes' references to you, you've earned a rebuttal. Thirty seconds.

McCain: You know, Mr. Keyes, you attacked me earlier on about my position defending the rights of the unborn. I want to tell you something. I've seen enough killing in my life. I know how precious human life is, and I don't need a lecture from you.

KEYES: One small comment. I didn't lecture you, Senator McCain. (McCain: The next time, try decaf.) I simply pointed out that your answer showed no understanding of the issue of moral principle involved in abortion. And that inadequacy is not a "lecture." It's simply an observation of fact.

. . .

Question: The commission for presidential debates has issued its criteria for determining which candidates will be admitted to the nationally televised debates this fall. One of the requirements is that all candidates must be showing 15% in the polls. Some feel that 15% rule has the potential to exclude independent candidates, specifically the Reform Party nominee. Do you think that is fair?

KEYES: I think it is totally unfair. I think it would give a dangerous power to pollsters and to those who are capable of manipulating those polls. And I think it would be anathema to the process that ought to leave these choices in the hands of the people. You won't get 50 people on a stage, if you set the threshold of participation in those debates at the proper level of qualification in states around the country.

It was not easy for the Reform Party to meet the qualification, but once they have objectively met the qualification to be on the ballot in a sufficient number of states to win the electoral votes needed for the presidency, no polls or anything else ought to keep them out of the debates. You are depriving the American people, when you do that, of a proper choice.

. . .

Question: Mr. Keyes, in the interest of human rights, should the United States government fully open to the world its files on General Augusto Pinochet, the former dictator of Chile?

KEYES: I believe that would in fact be a proper move to make. I believe that information, (to) spread knowledge among people in order to make sure that everyone will understand what the record is, is a correct and appropriate thing to do. We are a society in which that kind of freedom of expression is the foundation of integrity. So I would have no argument with it, provided that you scrutinized that information to make sure that you released nothing that would be damaging to the national security of the United States. With that proviso, I think we ought to do what is necessary in order to help people in the world understand the truth, in order to help people who may have been victims of injustice to seek redress of their grievances. I think that is a step that is not only in the best interest of justice, but it is most consistent with America's ideal of justice for individual human beings.

Question: Could the United States be culpable in the disappearance of thousands of Chileans under the Pinochet regime?

KEYES: I would certainly hope not. But it seems to me that is the kind of question that you ought to examine with an open mind, look at the facts, and if those facts lead to culpability of individuals who happen to be Americans, then we would pursue that according to our law and Constitution, just as I believe it is appropriate for people in Chile and other countries to pursue those matters in ways that are appropriate with their laws and their Constitution and their sovereignty.

We should not countenance, in this country, human rights abuses by people who are Americans. We don't believe in that, and I think that we would move forward to do something about it. I don't think we ought to assume, however, that that is the case. But I don't think that we should fear to pursue justice in those cases.

. . .

Keyes: I think the choice that Republicans face - you need to consider it in light of the fact that standing on this stage we have one fellow who would give you Clinton's policy on gays in the military - "don't as, don't tell," another who would support Clinton's policy on social security, another who will give you Clinton's trade policy and Clinton's globalism in foreign policy. I think that as Republicans we need to have a consistency in principle, go before the American people challenging them to meet the moral crisis that is the chief issue of our day, and standing on conservative principles across the board, in a way that will allow us effectively and coherently to answer the attacks of our Democratic opponents, and offer a positive alternative to the American people.
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