LEHRER: All right, new question. Two minutes, Senator Kerry.
Speaking of Vietnam, you spoke to Congress in 1971, after you came back from Vietnam, and you said, quote, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
LEHRER: Are Americans now dying in Iraq for a mistake?
KERRY: No, and they don't have to, providing we have the leadership that we put -- that I'm offering.
I believe that we have to win this. The president and I have always agreed on that. And from the beginning, I did vote to give the authority, because I thought Saddam Hussein was a threat, and I did accept that intelligence.
But I also laid out a very strict series of things we needed to do in order to proceed from a position of strength. Then the president, in fact, promised them. He went to Cincinnati and he gave a speech in which he said, "We will plan carefully. We will proceed cautiously. We will not make war inevitable. We will go with our allies."
He didn't do any of those things. They didn't do the planning. They left the planning of the State Department in the State Department desks. They avoided even the advice of their own general. General Shinsheki, the Army chief of staff, said you're going to need several hundred thousand troops. Instead of listening to him, they retired him.
KERRY: The terrorism czar, who has worked for every president since Ronald Reagan, said, "Invading Iraq in response to 9/11 would be like Franklin Roosevelt invading Mexico in response to Pearl Harbor."
That's what we have here.
And what we need now is a president who understands how to bring these other countries together to recognize their stakes in this. They do have stakes in it. They've always had stakes in it.
The Arab countries have a stake in not having a civil war. The European countries have a stake in not having total disorder on their doorstep.
But this president hasn't even held the kind of statesman-like summits that pull people together and get them to invest in those states. In fact, he's done the opposite. He pushed them away.
When the Secretary General Kofi Annan offered the United Nations, he said, "No, no, we'll go do this alone."
To save for Halliburton the spoils of the war, they actually issued a memorandum from the Defense Department saying, "If you weren't with us in the war, don't bother applying for any construction."
KERRY: That's not a way to invite people.
LEHRER: Ninety seconds.
BUSH: That's totally absurd. Of course, the U.N. was invited in. And we support the U.N. efforts there. They pulled out after Sergio de Mello got killed. But they're now back in helping with elections.
My opponent says we didn't have any allies in this war. What's he say to Tony Blair? What's he say to Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland? You can't expect to build an alliance when you denigrate the contributions of those who are serving side by side with American troops in Iraq.
Plus, he says the cornerstone of his plan to succeed in Iraq is to call upon nations to serve. So what's the message going to be: "Please join us in Iraq. We're a grand diversion. Join us for a war that is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time?"
I know how these people think. I deal with them all the time. I sit down with the world leaders frequently and talk to them on the phone frequently. They're not going to follow somebody who says, "This is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time."
BUSH: I know how these people think. I deal with them all the time. I sit down with the world leaders frequently and talk to them on the phone frequently.
They're not going to follow somebody who says this is the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time. They're not going to follow somebody whose core convictions keep changing because of politics in America.
And finally, he says we ought to have a summit. Well, there are summits being held. Japan is going to have a summit for the donors; $14 billion pledged. And Prime Minister Koizumi is going to call countries to account, to get them to contribute.
And there's going to be an Arab summit, of the neighborhood countries. And Colin Powell helped set up that summit.
LEHRER: Forty seconds, Senator.
KERRY: The United Nations, Kofi Annan offered help after Baghdad fell. And we never picked him up on that and did what was necessary to transfer authority and to transfer reconstruction. It was always American-run.
Secondly, when we went in, there were three countries: Great Britain, Australia and the United States. That's not a grand coalition. We can do better.
LEHRER: Thirty seconds, Mr. President.
BUSH: Well, actually, he forgot Poland. And now there's 30 nations involved, standing side by side with our American troops.
BUSH: And I honor their sacrifices. And I don't appreciate it when candidate for president denigrates the contributions of these brave soldiers.
You cannot lead the world if you do not honor the contributions of those who are with us. He called them coerced and the bribed. That's not how you bring people together.
Our coalition is strong. It will remain strong, so long as I'm the president.
LEHRER: New question, Mr. President, two minutes. You have said there was a, quote, "miscalculation," of what the conditions would be in post-war Iraq. What was the miscalculation, and how did it happen?
BUSH: No, what I said was that, because we achieved such a rapid victory, more of the Saddam loyalists were around. I mean, we thought we'd whip more of them going in.
BUSH: But because Tommy Franks did such a great job in planning the operation, we moved rapidly, and a lot of the Baathists and Saddam loyalists laid down their arms and disappeared. I thought they would stay and fight, but they didn't.
And now we're fighting them now. And it's hard work. I understand how hard it is. I get the casualty reports every day. I see on the TV screens how hard it is. But it's necessary work.
And I'm optimistic. See, I think you can be realistic and optimistic at the same time. I'm optimistic we'll achieve -- I know we won't achieve if we send mixed signals. I know we're not going to achieve our objective if we send mixed signals to our troops, our friends, the Iraqi citizens.
We've got a plan in place. The plan says there will be elections in January, and there will be. The plan says we'll train Iraqi soldiers so they can do the hard work, and we are.
BUSH: And it's not only just America, but NATO is now helping, Jordan's helping train police, UAE is helping train police.
We've allocated $7 billion over the next months for reconstruction efforts. And we're making progress there.
And our alliance is strong. And as I just told you, there's going to be a summit of the Arab nations. Japan will be hosting a summit. We're making progress.
It is hard work. It is hard work to go from a tyranny to a democracy. It's hard work to go from a place where people get their hands cut off, or executed, to a place where people are free.
But it's necessary work. And a free Iraq is going to make this world a more peaceful place.
LEHRER: Ninety seconds, Senator Kerry.
KERRY: What I think troubles a lot of people in our country is that the president has just sort of described one kind of mistake. But what he has said is that, even knowing there were no weapons of mass destruction, even knowing there was no imminent threat, even knowing there was no connection with Al Qaida, he would still have done everything the same way. Those are his words.
KERRY: Now, I would not. So what I'm trying to do is just talk the truth to the American people and to the world. The truth is what good policy is based on. It's what leadership is based on.
The president says that I'm denigrating these troops. I have nothing but respect for the British, Tony Blair, and for what they've been willing to do.
But you can't tell me that when the most troops any other country has on the ground is Great Britain, with 8,300, and below that the four others are below 4,000, and below that, there isn't anybody out of the hundreds, that we have a genuine coalition to get this job done.
KERRY: You can't tell me that on the day that we went into that war and it started -- it was principally the United States, the America and Great Britain and one or two others. That's it. And today, we are 90 percent of the casualties and 90 percent of the costs. And meanwhile, North Korea has got nuclear weapons. Talk about mixed messages. The president is the one that said, "We can't allow countries to get nuclear weapons." They have. I'll change that.
LEHRER: New question. Senator Kerry, two minutes. You just -- you've repeatedly accused President Bush -- not here tonight, but elsewhere before -- of not telling the truth about Iraq, essentially of lying to the American people about Iraq. Give us some examples of what you consider to be his not telling the truth.
KERRY: Well, I've never, ever used the harshest word, as you did just then. And I try not to. I've been -- but I'll nevertheless tell you that I think he has not been candid with the American people. And I'll tell you exactly how.
First of all, we all know that in his state of the union message, he told Congress about nuclear materials that didn't exist.
KERRY: We know that he promised America that he was going to build this coalition. I just described the coalition. It is not the kind of coalition we were described when we were talking about voting for this.
The president said he would exhaust the remedies of the United Nations and go through that full process. He didn't. He cut if off, sort of arbitrarily.
And we know that there were further diplomatic efforts under way. They just decided the time for diplomacy is over and rushed to war without planning for what happens afterwards.
Now, he misled the American people in his speech when he said we will plan carefully. They obviously didn't. He misled the American people when he said we'd go to war as a last resort. We did not go as a last resort. And most Americans know the difference.
Now, this has cost us deeply in the world. I believe that it is important to tell the truth to the American people. I've worked with those leaders the president talks about, I've worked with them for 20 years, for longer than this president. And I know what many of them say today, and I know how to bring them back to the table.
KERRY: And I believe that a fresh start, new credibility, a president who can understand what we have to do to reach out to the Muslim world to make it clear that this is not, you know -- Osama bin Laden uses the invasion of Iraq in order to go out to people and say that America has declared war on Islam.
We need to be smarter about now we wage a war on terror. We need to deny them the recruits. We need to deny them the safe havens. We need to rebuild our alliances.
I believe that Ronald Reagan, John Kennedy, and the others did that more effectively, and I'm going to try to follow in their footsteps.
LEHRER: Ninety seconds, Mr. President.
BUSH: My opponent just said something amazing. He said Osama bin Laden uses the invasion of Iraq as an excuse to spread hatred for America. Osama bin Laden isn't going to determine how we defend ourselves.
BUSH: Osama bin Laden doesn't get to decide. The American people decide.
I decided the right action was in Iraq. My opponent calls it a mistake. It wasn't a mistake.
He said I misled on Iraq. I don't think he was misleading when he called Iraq a grave threat in the fall of 2002.
I don't think he was misleading when he said that it was right to disarm Iraq in the spring of 2003.
I don't think he misled you when he said that, you know, anyone who doubted whether the world was better off without Saddam Hussein in power didn't have the judgment to be president. I don't think he was misleading.
I think what is misleading is to say you can lead and succeed in Iraq if you keep changing your positions on this war. And he has. As the politics change, his positions change. And that's not how a commander in chief acts.
Let me finish.
The intelligence I looked at was the same intelligence my opponent looked at, the very same intelligence. And when I stood up there and spoke to the Congress, I was speaking off the same intelligence he looked at to make his decisions to support the authorization of force.
LEHRER: Thirty seconds. We'll do a 30 second here.
KERRY: I wasn't misleading when I said he was a threat. Nor was I misleading on the day that the president decided to go to war when I said that he had made a mistake in not building strong alliances and that I would have preferred that he did more diplomacy.
I've had one position, one consistent position, that Saddam Hussein was a threat. There was a right way to disarm him and a wrong way. And the president chose the wrong way.
LEHRER: Thirty seconds, Mr. President.
BUSH: The only consistent about my opponent's position is that he's been inconsistent. He changes positions. And you cannot change positions in this war on terror if you expect to win.
BUSH: And I expect to win. It's necessary we win.
We're being challenged like never before. And we have a duty to our country and to future generations of America to achieve a free Iraq, a free Afghanistan, and to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction.