Vice President Al Gore Discusses the First Presidential Debate on the TODAY Show
(October 4, 2000)

KATIE COURIC, co-host:

Vice President Al Gore is up early after his big night.

Mr. Vice President, good morning to you.

Vice President AL GORE: Good morning, Katie.

COURIC: What grade would you give yourself for last night's performance?

Vice Pres. GORE: Well, I'd give Jim Lehrer and the debate sponsors an A-plus. I--I thought that it was a great opportunity for the American people to--to listen to both candidates. I'm not sure that I'm up to grading my own performance. I felt good about it.

COURIC: That's it? I mean, you felt good? I mean, if you--obviously, you must be assessing it, and--and kind of figuring out where you did well, and where you didn't.

Vice Pres. GORE: Well, they're short nights here in Boston, Katie, and I haven't gotten a full assessment of it. But I think it went very well.

COURIC: Most polls, Mr. Vice President, show you winning last night. But they also say that you didn't really move very many votes or those crucial undecided voters. You weren't able to convince them to move to your side. Are you disappointed?

Vice Pres. GORE: Oh, not at all. I said before the debate that I don't see these things as a competition so much as a--a joint opportunity to speak directly to the American people. I had a chance to--to tell the American people about my agenda for improving education, my proposal to give middle-class families a tax credit for most college tuition, up to $ 10,000 a year. I thought we had a lot of good exchanges that brought out the differences in our--in our two approaches. I'll balance the budget every year and pay down the debt, and protect Medicare and Social Security, and give a middle-class tax cut. His--his approach is very different.

COURIC: You know, one columnist I read this morning, Mr. Vice President, said that you knew more, but George W. Bush knew enough to seem presidential and to allay any fears about his intellect. What's your reaction to that?

Vice Pres. GORE: I've never raised any questions about his intellect. And, you know, I--I think that it was a good opportunity for him, and for me, to speak directly to a big audience all over the country, and by that measure, I thought it was a successful debate.

COURIC: One of the governor's main arguments last night was that you and President Clinton have had two terms to get some of the things done that you're now talking about doing. For example, prescription drugs. Why should we believe that President Gore could accomplish something on prescription drugs that a two-term Clinton/Gore administration could not?

Vice Pres. GORE: Well, it's just now risen to the top of the agenda. It was part of the--the plan that was defeated by the Congress some years ago. But we've covered a lot of ground since then in America. And all over the nation, Katie, this issue of giving a prescription drug benefit under Medicare has risen to the top of the priority list. And I promise you, if I'm entrusted with the presidency, we will have a prescription drug benefit for all seniors under Medicare.

COURIC: One thing that people we spoke with last night, Vice President Gore, said that bothered him--bothered them, rather, during the course of this debate, was that they could hear you audibly sighing or sounding exasperated as Governor Bush was answering questions. Do you think that's presidential behavior?

Vice Pres. GORE: Well, I guess sometimes the mike picks up your reaction to the other person, and I'll try to be more careful on that.

COURIC: Are--are you going to keep meeting with the 13 ordinary citizens that you've sort of gathered to--to give you advice on--on the debates and on the campaign in general?

Vice Pres. GORE: I'm going to keep in very close touch with them. We're going to have conference calls. I will be meeting with them again. It hasn't been determined when. But let me tell you, they were extremely helpful. You know how people do focus groups these days. Well, this was like a constant focus group, and they had such good suggestions, no kidding. And a lot of their suggestions, I took and used. And they were present for the debate last night. It was--it was great to see them back in the crowd. And they were cheering afterwards.

COURIC: Did you speak with them afterwards?

Vice Pres. GORE: I saw--I saw a couple of them, but they were way back in the--in the audience, and I did not get a chance to speak to every one of them afterwards. But I--but I will. And I'll be able to express my gratitude to them. This morning, bright and early on the way down here for this interview, I saw Susan Faddley from Columbus, Ohio, and she was heading home.

COURIC: All right. Let me ask you. I know you did speak with President Clinton last night. He phoned you. What did he have to say?

Vice Pres. GORE: Congratulations.

COURIC: That's it?

Vice Pres. GORE: Basically, yeah. Basically, he said he thought it went very well.

COURIC: All right. Well, Vice President Al Gore, Mr. Vice President, thanks so much for talking with us this morning.

Vice Pres. GORE: Glad to do it, Katie. Thank you.

COURIC: And we'll have more reaction to the debate a little later. But now let's bring in Al Roker for a check of the weather.

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