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Text Of Bush-Kerry Debate III (4)

Here is the text of the third and final debate between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry:

SCHIEFFER: Mr. President, let's go to a new question.

You were asked before the invasion, or after the invasion, of Iraq if you'd checked with your dad. And I believe, I don't remember the quote exactly, but I believe you said you had checked with a higher authority.

I would like to ask you, what part does your faith play on your policy decisions?

First, my faith plays a lot -- a big part in my life. And that's, when I answering that question, what I was really saying to the person was that I pray a lot. And I do.

And my faith is a very -- it's very personal. I pray for strength. I pray for wisdom. I pray for our troops in harm's way. I pray for my family. I pray for my little girls.

But I'm mindful in a free society that people can worship if they want to or not. You're equally an American if you choose to worship an almighty and if you choose not to.

If you're a Christian, Jew or Muslim, you're equally an American. That's the great thing about America, is the right to worship the way you see fit.

Prayer and religion sustain me. I receive calmness in the storms of the presidency.

I love the fact that people pray for me and my family all around the country. Somebody asked me one time, Well, how do you know? I said, I just feel it.

Religion is an important part. I never want to impose my religion on anybody else.

But when I make decisions, I stand on principle, and the principles are derived from who I am.

I believe we ought to love our neighbor like we love ourself, as manifested in public policy through the faith-based initiative where we've unleashed the armies of compassion to help heal people who hurt.

I believe that God wants everybody to be free. That's what I believe.

And that's been part of my foreign policy. In Afghanistan, I believe that the freedom there is a gift from the Almighty. And I can't tell you how encouraged I am to see freedom on the march.

And so my principles that I make decisions on are a part of me, and religion is a part of me.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Kerry?

KERRY: Well, I respect everything that the president has said and certainly respect his faith. I think it's important and I share it. I think that he just said that freedom is a gift from the Almighty.

Everything is a gift from the Almighty. And as I measure the words of the Bible -- and we all do; different people measure different things -- the Koran, the Torah, or, you know, Native Americans who gave me a blessing the other day had their own special sense of connectedness to a higher being. And people all find their ways to express it.

I was taught -- I went to a church school and I was taught that the two greatest commandments are: Love the Lord, your God, with all your mind, your body and your soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. And frankly, I think we have a lot more loving of our neighbor to do in this country and on this planet.

We have a separate and unequal school system in the United States of America. There's one for the people who have, and there's one for the people who don't have. And we're struggling with that today.

And the president and I have a difference of opinion about how we live out our sense of our faith. KERRY: I talked about it earlier when I talked about the works and faith without works being dead.

I think we've got a lot more work to do. And as president, I will always respect everybody's right to practice religion as they choose -- or not to practice -- because that's part of America.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Kerry, after 9/11 -- and this is a new question for you -- it seemed to me that the country came together as I've never seen it come together since World War II. But some of that seems to have melted away. I think it's fair to say we've become pretty polarized, perhaps because of the political season.

But if you were elected president, or whoever is elected president, will you set a priority in trying to bring the nation back together? Or what would be your attitude on that?

KERRY: Very much so.

Let me pay a compliment to the president, if I may. I think in those days after 9/11, I thought the president did a terrific job. And I really was moved, as well as impressed, by the speech that he gave to the Congress.

And I think the hug Tom Daschle gave him at that moment was about as genuine a sense of there being no Democrats, no Republicans, we were all just Americans. That's where we were.

That's not where we are today. I regret to say that the president who called himself a uniter, not a divider, is now presiding over the most divided America in the recent memory of our country. I've never seen such ideological squabbles in the Congress of the United States. I've never seen members of a party locked out of meetings the way they're locked out today.

We have to change that. And as president, I am committed to changing that. I don't care if the idea comes from the other side or this side. I think we have to come together and work to change it.

And I've done that. Over 20 years in the United States Senate, I've worked with John McCain, who's sitting here, I've worked with other colleagues. I've reached across the aisle. I've tried to find the common ground, because that's what makes us strong as Americans.

And if Americans trust me with the presidency, I can pledge to you, we will have the most significant effort, openly -- not secret meetings in the White House with special interests, not ideologically driven efforts to push people aside -- but a genuine effort to try to restore America's hope and possibilities by bringing people together.

And one of the ways we're going to do it is, I'm going to work with my friend, John McCain, to further campaign finance reform so we get these incredible amounts of money out of the system and open it up to average people, so America is really represented by the people who make up America.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. President?

BUSH: My biggest disappointment in Washington is how partisan the town is. I had a record of working with Republicans and Democrats as the governor of Texas, and I was hopeful I'd be able to do the same thing.

And we made good progress early on. The No Child Left Behind Act, incredibly enough, was good work between me and my administration and people like Senator Ted Kennedy.

And we worked together with Democrats to relieve the tax burden on the middle class and all who pay taxes in order to make sure this economy continues to grow.

But Washington is a tough town. And the way I view it is there's a lot of entrenched special interests there, people who are, you know, on one side of the issue or another and they spend enormous sums of money and they convince different senators to taut their way or different congressmen to talk about their issue, and they dig in.

I'll continue, in the four years, to continue to try to work to do so.

My opponent said this is a bitterly divided time. Pretty divided in the 2000 election. So in other words, it's pretty divided during the 1990s as well.

We're just in a period -- we've got to work to bring it -- my opponent keeps mentioning John McCain, and I'm glad he did. John McCain is for me for president because he understands I have the right view in winning the war on terror and that my plan will succeed in Iraq. And my opponent has got a plan of retreat and defeat in Iraq.

SCHIEFFER: We've come, gentlemen, to our last question. And it occurred to me as I came to this debate tonight that the three of us share something. All three of us are surrounded by very strong women. We're all married to strong women. Each of us have two daughters that make us very proud.

I'd like to ask each of you, what is the most important thing you've learned from these strong women?

BUSH: To listen to them.


To stand up straight and not scowl.


I love the strong women around me. I can't tell you how much I love my wife and our daughters.

I am -- you know it's really interesting. I tell the people on the campaign trail, when I asked Laura to marry me, she said, Fine, just so long as I never have to give a speech. I said, OK, you've got a deal. Fortunately, she didn't hold me to that deal. And she's out campaigning along with our girls. And she speaks English a lot better than I do. I think people understand what she's saying.

But they see a compassionate, strong, great first lady in Laura Bush. I can't tell you how lucky I am. When I met her in the backyard at Joe and Jan O'Neill's in Midland, Texas, it was the classic backyard barbecue. O'Neill said, Come on over. I think you'll find somebody who might interest you. So I said all right. I walked over there. There was only four of us there. And not only did she interest me, I guess you would say it was love at first sight.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Kerry?

KERRY: Well, I guess the president and you and I are three examples of lucky people who married up.


And some would say maybe me moreso than others.


But I can take it.


Can I say, if I could just say a word about a woman that you didn't ask about, but my mom passed away a couple years ago, just before I was deciding to run. And she was in the hospital, and I went in to talk to her and tell her what I was thinking of doing.

And she looked at me from her hospital bed and she just looked at me and she said, Remember: integrity, integrity, integrity. Those are the three words that she left me with.

And my daughters and my wife are people who just are filled with that sense of what's right, what's wrong.

They also kick me around. They keep me honest. They don't let me get away with anything. I can sometimes take myself too seriously. They surely don't let me do that.

And I'm blessed, as I think the president is blessed, as I said last time. I've watched him with the first lady, who I admire a great deal, and his daughters. He's a great father. And I think we're both very lucky. SCHIEFFER: Well, gentlemen, that brings us to the closing statements.

Senator Kerry, I believe you're first.

KERRY: My fellow Americans, as you heard from Bob Schieffer a moment ago, America is being tested by division. More than ever, we need to be united as a country.

And, like Franklin Roosevelt, I don't care whether an idea is a Republican idea or a Democrat idea. I just care whether it works for America and whether it's going to make us stronger.

These are dangerous times. I believe I offer tested, strong leadership that can calm the waters of the troubled world. And I believe that we can together do things that are within the grasp of Americans.

We can lift our schools up. We can create jobs that pay more than the jobs we're losing overseas. We can have health care for all Americans. We can further the cause of equality in our nation.

Let me just make it clear: I will never allow any country to have a veto over our security. Just as I fought for our country as a young man, with the same passion I will fight to defend this nation that I love.

And, with faith in God and with conviction in the mission of America, I believe that we can reach higher. I believe we can do better.

I think the greatest possibilities of our country, our dreams and our hopes, are out there just waiting for us to grab onto them. And I ask you to embark on that journey with me.

I ask you for your trust. I ask you for your help. I ask you to allow me the privilege of leading this great nation of ours, of helping us to be stronger here at home and to be respected again in the world and, most of all, to be safer forever.

Thank you. Goodnight. And God bless the United States of America.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. President?

BUSH: In the Oval Office, there's a painting by a friend of Laura and mine named -- by Tom Lee. And it's a West Texas painting, a painting of a mountain scene.

And he said this about it.

He said, Sara and I live on the east side of the mountain. It's the sunrise side, not the sunset side. It's the side to see the day that is coming, not to see the day that is gone.

I love the optimism in that painting, because that's how I feel about America. And we've been through a lot together during the last 3 3/4 years. We've come through a recession, a stock market decline, an attack on our country.

And yet, because of the hard work of the American people and good policies, this economy is growing. Over the next four years, we'll make sure the economy continues to grow.

We reformed our school system, and now there's an achievement gap in America that's beginning to close. Over the next four years, we'll continue to insist on excellence in every classroom in America so that our children have a chance to realize the great promise of America.

Over the next four years, we'll continue to work to make sure health care is available and affordable.

Over the next four years, we'll continue to rally the armies of compassion, to help heal the hurt that exists in some of our country's neighborhoods.

I'm optimistic that we'll win the war on terror, but I understand it requires firm resolve and clear purpose. We must never waver in the face of this enemy that -- these ideologues of hate.

And as we pursue the enemy wherever it exists, we'll also spread freedom and liberty. We got great faith in the ability of liberty to transform societies, to convert a hostile world to a peaceful world.

My hope for America is a prosperous America, a hopeful America and a safer world.

I want to thank you for listening tonight.

I'm asking for your vote.

God bless you.

SCHIEFFER: Thank you, Mr. President.

Thank you, Senator Kerry.

Well, that brings these debates to a close, but the campaign goes on.

I want to wish both of you the very best of luck between now and Election Day.

That's it for us from Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. I'm Bob Schieffer at CBS News.

Goodnight, everyone.

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