In case you missed it, both candidates agreed in Friday night’s debate that the U.S. needs to put an end to torture. It’s great to see both candidates recognize that opposing torture just isn’t something that should be up for debate.
LEHRER: This is the last — last lead question. You have two minutes each. And the question is this, beginning with you, Senator McCain.What do you think the likelihood is that there would be another 9/11-type attack on the continental United States?
MCCAIN: I think it’s much less than it was the day after 9/11. I think it — that we have a safer nation, but we are a long way from safe.
And I want to tell you that one of the things I’m most proud of, among others, because I have worked across the aisle. I have a long record on that, on a long series of reforms.
But after 9/11, Senator Joe Lieberman and I decided that we needed a commission, and that was a commission to investigate 9/11, and find out what happened, and fix it.
And we were — we were opposed by the administration, another area where I differed with this administration. And we were stymied until the families of 9/11 came, and they descended on Washington, and we got that legislation passed.
And there were a series of recommendations, as I recall, more than 40.
And I’m happy to say that we’ve gotten written into law most of those reforms recommended by that commission. I’m proud of that work, again, bipartisan, reaching across the aisle, working together, Democrat and Republican alike.
So we have a long way to go in our intelligence services. We have to do a better job in human intelligence. And we’ve got to — to make sure that we have people who are trained interrogators so that we don’t ever torture
a prisoner ever again.
We have to make sure that our technological and intelligence
capabilities are better. We have to work more closely with our allies. I know our allies, and I can work much more closely with them.
But I can tell you that I think America is safer today than it was on 9/11. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a long way to go.
And I’d like to remind you, also, as a result of those recommendations, we’ve probably had the largest reorganization of government since we established the Defense Department. And I think that those men and women in those agencies are doing a great job.
But we still have a long way to go before we can declare America safe, and that means doing a better job along our borders, as well.
LEHRER: Two minutes, Senator Obama.
OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think that we are safer in some ways.
Obviously, we’ve poured billions of dollars into airport security. We have done some work in terms of securing potential targets, but we still have a long way to go.
We’ve got to make sure that we’re hardening our chemical sites. We haven’t done enough in terms of transit; we haven’t done enough in terms of ports.
And the biggest threat that we face right now is not a nuclear missile coming over the skies. It’s in a suitcase.
This is why the issue of nuclear proliferation is so important. It is the — the biggest threat to the United States is a terrorist getting their hands on nuclear weapons.
And we — we are spending billions of dollars on missile defense. And I actually believe that we need missile defense, because of Iran and North Korea and the potential for them to obtain or to launch nuclear weapons, but I also believe that, when we are only spending a few hundred million dollars on nuclear
proliferation, then we’re making a mistake.
The other thing that we have to focus on, though, is al Qaeda. They are now operating in 60 countries. We can’t simply be focused on Iraq. We have to go to the root cause, and that is in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s going to be critical. We are going to need more cooperation with our allies.
And one last point I want to make. It is important for us to understand that the way we are perceived in the world is going to make a difference, in terms of our capacity to get cooperation and root out terrorism.
And one of the things that I intend to do as president is to restore America’s standing in the world. We are less respected now than we were eight years ago or even four years ago.
And this is the greatest country on Earth. But because of some of the mistakes that have been made — and I give Senator McCain great credit on the torture issue, for having identified that as something that undermines our long-term security — because of those things, we, I think, are going to have a lot of work to do in the next administration to restore that sense that America is that shining beacon on a hill.