Here is the text of the debate between Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John Edwards:
IFILL: OK, we'll move on. This goes to Senator Edwards.
Flip-flopping has become a recurring theme in this campaign, you may have noticed.
Senator Kerry changed his mind about whether to vote to authorize the president to go to war. President Bush changed his mind about whether a homeland security department was a good idea or a 9/11 Commission was a good idea.
What's wrong with a little flip-flop every now and then?
EDWARDS: Well, first of all, let me say that John Kerry has -- I can use his name now?
EDWARDS: OK. John Kerry has been, as have I, been completely consistent about Iraq. We've made very clear from the beginning -- and not an afterthought; we said it at the time -- that we had to confront Saddam Hussein and that we had to have a coalition and a plan to be successful.
And the vice president didn't say much about it in your earlier question, but Paul Bremer has now made clear that they didn't have enough troops and they didn't have a plan.
And the American people are seeing the results of that every single day, in spite of the proud and courageous service of our men and women in uniform.
Now, flip-flops: They should know something about flip-flops. They've seen a lot of it during their administration.
They were first against the 9/11 Commission; then they were for it. They were for a department of homeland security -- I mean, they were against the Department of Homeland Security; then they were for it.
They said they were going to put $2 trillion of the surplus when they came into office aside to protect Social Security; then they changed their minds. They said that they supported the troops; and then while our troops were on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, they went to the Congress and lobbied to have their combat pay cut.
They said that they were going to do something about health care in this country. And they've done something: They've made it worse.
They said that they were going to fund their No Child Left Behind; $27 billion short today.
Over and over, this administration has said one thing and done another.
This president said -- I listened to him the other night at his 2000 debate saying: I'm for a national patients bill of rights.
I know something about this. John McCain and Senator Kennedy and I wrote it, got it passed in the Senate. We don't have a patients bill of rights because of one man today, the president of the United States. They've gone back and forth.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President? CHENEY: Well, Gwen, I can think of a lot of words to describe Senator Kerry's position on Iraq; "consistent" is not one of them.
I think if you look at the record from voting for sending the troops then voting against the resources they needed when they got there, then saying I actually voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it, saying in response to a question knowing everything I know now, yes, I would have cast exactly the same vote and then shortly after that saying wrong war, wrong place, wrong time, consistency doesn't come to mind as I consider that record.
The question of troops is an interesting and important one. We have looked to our commanders on the ground in Iraq for guidance on what they think they need. If they need more troops, they'll ask us.
But the key here is not to try to solve the problems in Iraq by putting in more American troops. The key is to get the Iraqis to take on the responsibility for their own security. That's exactly what we're doing.
If you put American troops in there in larger number and don't get the Iraqis into the fight, you'll postpone the day when you can in fact bring our boys home. It's vital that we deal with any need for additional troops by putting Iraqis into the effort.
Forty-nine percent increase in funding for elementary and secondary education under No Child Left Behind; that's a lot of money even by Massachusetts standards.
IFILL: You have 30 seconds if you choose.
EDWARDS: Yes, but they didn't fund the mandates that they put on the schools all over this country. That's the reason 800 teachers -- one of the reasons -- 800 teachers have been laid off, right here in Cleveland. One-third of our public schools are failing under this administration. Half of African-Americans are dropping out of high school. Half of Hispanic-American are dropping out of high school.
John and I have -- and I don't have the time now -- but we have a clear plan to improve our public schools that starts with getting our best teachers into the schools where we need them the most by creating incentives for them to go there.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President?
CHENEY: Gwen, No Child Left Behind, they were for it; now they're against it. They voted for it; now they're opposed to it.
We are making significant progress there. We are closing the achievement gap. The results coming in from a number of studies show, without question, that on math and reading, that in fact our minority students, our Hispanic and African-American students are doing better, and that gap between them and the majority population is, in fact, closing.
So we are doing exactly the right thing. They're the ones who have been for the Patriot Act and against it, for No Child Left Behind and then against it.
IFILL: Mr. Vice President, our final -- I'm sorry, you have 30 seconds, Senator Edwards.
EDWARDS: Are you sure -- yes, he started. Yes, 30 seconds, please, yes.
We are for accountability, and we are for high standards. John and I voted for No Child Left Behind because we thought that accountability and standards were the right thing to do.
But they make -- did you figure out you were wrong?
IFILL: I did figure out I was wrong.
EDWARDS: Well, in fairness, if you feel like you need to go to him, we'll -- I'll stop.
IFILL: Well, I do, because we're actually on the final question. I apologize for giving you an extra 15 seconds there. I go now to Vice President Cheney.
Whichever one of you is elected in November -- you mentioned those three electoral votes in Wyoming and how critical they've turned out to be.
But what they're a sign of also is that you're going to inherit a very deeply divided electorate, economically, politically, you name it.
How will you set out, Mr. Vice President, in a way that you weren't able to in these past four years, to bridge that divide?
CHENEY: Well, I must say it's one of the disappointments of the last four years, is that we've not been able to do what the president did in Texas, for example, when he was able to reach across the aisle and bring Democrats along on major issues of the day.
We had some success early on, I think, in No Child Left Behind, when we, in fact, had broad, bipartisan support.
We had a lot of support for the Patriot Act, when we passed that on a bipartisan basis. Now we're seeing objection to that by the other side. All I know is to continue to try to work it.
It's a disappointment, in a sense, that I remember from my earlier service when things worked much differently, when, in fact, some of my best friends in the Congress were people I worked with, like Tom Foley, who was a majority leader and later speaker of the House. One of my strongest allies in Congress when I secretary of defense was Jack Murtha, a Democrat who is chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.
We used to be able to do more together on a bipartisan basis than seems possible these days. I'm not sure exactly why. I think, in part, it may be the change in the majority-minority status in the Senate has been difficult for both sides to adjust to.
And the Senate, of course, has been very evenly divided, 50-50, then 51-49, then 49-51 the other way.
We'll keep working at it.
I think it's important for us to try. I believe that it is essential for us to do everything we can to garner as much support from the other side of the aisle as possible. We've had support -- we had our keynote address at our convention was delivered by Zell Miller. So there are some Democrats who agree with our approach.
And hopefully in a second term, we'll see an improvement along those lines.
IFILL: Senator, there's 90 seconds.
EDWARDS: Thank you.
The president said that he would unite this country, that he was a uniter, not a divider.
Have you ever seen America more divided? Have you ever seen Washington more divided?
The reality is it is not an accident. It's the direct result of the choices they've made and their efforts that have created division in America. We can do better than that in this country.
Now I want to go back to the whole issue of health care, because we touched it, but I think the American people deserve to know what we would do different.
I mean, 5 million people losing their health care -- everyone who's watching this knows health insurance premiums are through the roof.
We need to talk about what we will do that they haven't done.
First, we're going to make the same health care that's available to members of Congress available to all Americans. We're going to cover all kids.
Not only that, we're going to bring down costs by pooling the catastrophic costs so we bring down premiums.
And we're going to give tax breaks directly to families, save them up to $1,000 a year, and to businesses -- the vice president talked about that a few minutes ago -- so that they can provide health care to their employees.
And we're also going to finally do something about the cost of prescription drugs.
They've blocked allowing prescription drugs into this country from Canada. We're going to allow it.
They would not allow the government to use its negotiating power to get discounts for seniors. We're going to allow it.
We're also going to stand up to the drug companies and do something about these drug company ads on television which are out of control.
IFILL: You have 30 seconds to respond to that, Mr. Vice President.
CHENEY: Well, Gwen -- I'm sorry, it's hard to know where to start.
The fact of the matter is, the most important and significant change in health care in the last several years was the Medicare reform bill this year. It's the most sweeping change in 40 years.
Medicare used to pay for heart bypass surgery but didn't pay for the prescription drugs that might allow you to avoid it.
The fact is that when that came up, Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards voted against it. It'll provide prescription drug benefits to 40 million senior citizens. It's a very, very significant piece of legislation.
IFILL: Thirty seconds.
EDWARDS: They had a choice on allowing prescription drugs into this country from Canada, of being with the American people or with the drug companies.
They were with the drug companies.
They had a choice on negotiating discounts in the Medicare prescription drug bill of being with the American people or with the drug companies. They were with the drug companies.
They had a choice on the patients' bill of rights, allowing people to make their own health care decisions and not having insurance companies make them, be with the American people, be with the big insurance companies.
They're with the insurance companies.
John Kerry and I will always fight for the American people.
IFILL: As previously agreed, we'll go to closing statements now, two minutes each.
Coin toss, Senator Edwards, you begin.
EDWARDS: Thank you.
Thank you, Gwen.
Thank you, Mr. Vice President, for being here.
You know, when I was young and growing up, I remember coming down the steps into the kitchen, early in the morning, and I would see the glow of the television.
And I'd see my father sitting at a table. He wasn't paying bills, and he wasn't doing paperwork from work.
What he was doing was learning math on television.
Now, he didn't have a college education, but he was doing what he could do to get a better job in the mill where he worked. I was proud of him. I'm still proud of him.
And I was also hopeful, because I knew that I lived in a country where I could get a college education.
Here's the truth: I have grown up in the bright light of America. But that light is flickering today.
Now, I know that the vice president and the president don't see it, but you do.
You see it when your incomes are going down and the cost of everything -- college tuition, health care -- is going through the roof. You see it when you sit at your table each night and there's an empty chair because a loved one is serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. What they're going to give you is four more years of the same.
John Kerry and I believe that we can do better. We believe in a strong middle-class in this country. That's why we have a plan to create jobs, getting rid of tax cuts for companies outsourcing your jobs; give tax cuts to companies that'll keep jobs here in America.
That's why we have a health care plan. That's why we have a plan to keep you safe and to fix this mess in Iraq.
The truth is that every four years you get to decide. You have the ability to decide where America's going to go. John Kerry and I are asking you to give us the power to fight for you, to fight to keep that dream in America, that I saw as a young man, alive for every parent sitting at that kitchen table.
IFILL: Vice President Cheney?
CHENEY: Gwen, I want to thank you.
It's been a privilege to serve as your vice president these last four years and to work alongside President Bush to put our economy on an upward path.
We've cut taxes, added 1.7 million new jobs in the last year, and we'll continue to provide opportunities for business and for workers.
We won't be happy until every American who wants to work can find a job.
We believe that all Americans ought to have access to available -- to medical care and that they ought to have access to the finest schools in the world.
We'll do everything we can to preserve Social Security and to make certain that it's there for future generations.
I've worked for four presidents and watched two others up close, and I know that there's no such thing as a routine day in the Oval Office.
We saw on 9/11 that the next president -- next decision a president has to make can affect the lives of all of us.
Now we find ourselves in the midst of a conflict unlike any we've ever known, faced with the possibility that terrorists could smuggle a deadly biological agent or a nuclear weapon into the middle of one of our own cities.
That threat -- and the presidential leadership needed to deal with it -- is placing a special responsibility on all of you who will decide on November 2nd who will be our commander in chief.
The only viable option for winning the war on terrorism is the one the president has chosen, to use the power of the United States to aggressively go after the terrorists wherever we find them and also to hold to account states that sponsor terror.
Now that we've captured or killed thousands of Al Qaida and taken down the regimes of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, it's important that we stand up democratically elected governments as the only guarantee that they'll never again revert to terrorism or the production of deadly weapons.
This is the task of our generation. And I know firsthand the strength the president brings to it.
The overall outcome will depend upon the ability of the American people and the strong leadership of the president to meet all the challenges that we'll face in the days and years ahead.
I'm confident we can do it.
IFILL: And with that, we come to the end of tonight's debate.
On behalf of the commission and the candidates, I'd like to extend a special thank you to the students and administration here at Case Western Reserve University.
A reminder: The second presidential debate takes place this coming Friday at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Charles Gibson of ABC News will serve as moderator of that encounter, where the candidates will field questions from an audience.
Then, on October 13th, from Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, Bob Schieffer of CBS News will moderate a debate on domestic issues.
For now, thank you, Vice President Cheney, Senator Edwards.
From Cleveland, Ohio, I'm Gwen Ifill. Thank you, and goodnight.