Former President Clinton, in his first televised mini-debate with Republican Bob Dole, said Sunday that a tax cut at a time when war is looming in Iraq is "bad economics."
Dole, Clinton's opponent in the 1996 election, said the Bush administration has started a global war to protect the American way of life, "which means, among other things, the freedom to save or invest our own money."
The retired politicians have agreed to revive the "Point-Counterpoint" segment on CBS' "60 Minutes," television's most popular newsmagazine.
In the two-minute debate, the two will face off on a subject of their choosing. Sunday's segment was the first, and Clinton chose to talk about his successor's proposed tax cut; Dole gets to choose the next segment.
Clinton said a conflict with Iraq and the subsequent rebuilding will cost many billions of dollars when the U.S. is running a deficit.
"Now when we're cutting back on everything from homeland security to education and with Iraq still to pay for, your party wants another big tax cut," Clinton said. "Never before have we had a big tax cut in times of national crisis. Lincoln didn't. FDR didn't. With over 200,000 young Americans in the Persian Gulf, we shouldn't. It's wrong and it's bad economics."
Dole responded that it didn't have to be one or the other.
"For President Bush to practice the economics of 'either/or' would not only invite political attack from your friends who want his job, it would risk winning the battle and losing the war," the former Senate majority leader said.
After their initial 45-second segments, both politicians were given 15 more seconds to make another point.
"Leadership is about choosing," Clinton said. "So let's give up our tax cut."
No way, Dole said, arguing that many of the nation's economic problems could be traced to an economic hangover from the roaring 1990s.
"The Bush tax cut has barely kicked in," Dole said. "But I'll tell you what. I'll gladly donate my tax cut to a worthy charity, if you will. Maybe even to the Clinton library."