Informal Exchange With Reporters on the Presidential Candidates Debate

 

September 26, 1988

 

Q. Mr. President, who won the debate last night? Who won the debate?

 

The President. I think the Vice President was excellent. I think that he was the only one who was really stating facts and truth.

 

Q. He didn't know which missiles and -- how come he didn't know what programs to cut from the defense budget?

 

The President. I didn't hear what you --  --

 

Q. He didn't know about the defense budget.

 

The President. What?

 

Q. He was mixed up on the defense budget.

 

Mr. Fitzwater. Must mean Dukakis, huh?

 

The President. You mean Dukakis? What?

 

Q. George Bush, on what weapons he would cut from the defense budget.

 

Mr. Fitzwater. Something weapon -- I don't know. I don't know what she's saying -- something about the defense budget, but it's hard to tell. I think we'd better go.

 

The President. I think the simplest statement about the defense budget and who is to blame for what is happening is the fact that over a 5-year period the Congress cut $125 billion from the budgets I've presented, but added $250 billion to the nondefense spending.

 

Q. How did Dukakis do?

 

The President. What?

 

Q. How did Dukakis do in the debate?

 

The President. He didn't thrill me.

 

Note: The exchange began at 9:07 a.m. at the South Portico of the White House, prior to the President's departure for New York City. Vice President George Bush and Gov. Michael Dukakis participated in the first Presidential candidates debate on September 25.