December 15, 2003 Monday 8:32 AM Eastern Time
HEADLINE: Interview with Senator John Kerry
GUESTS: John Kerry
BYLINE: Anderson Cooper
HIGHLIGHT: If voters see Saddam Hussein's capture as a victory for President Bush, is it automatically defeat for the Democrats looking to take his job?
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: If voters see Saddam Hussein's capture as a victory for President Bush, is it automatically defeat for the Democrats looking to take his job?
One of those presidential candidates, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, joins us this morning from Sheridan, Iowa.
Senator, thanks very much for being with us this morning. Good morning.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Glad to be with you. Good morning.
COOPER: Let me ask you, yesterday you said, quote, "The administration can and must launch a major effort to gain international support and win peace." You said they have a unique opportunity to do that right now.
By all reports, Colin Powell was on the phone with 16 of his counterparts on Sunday, with the German, the French, Japanese and others. What more does the administration need to do?
KERRY: Well, that is the kind of thing they need to do, but they haven't been doing that. I mean, that's exactly the point.
You know, I think this is a great thing, obviously. Everybody in America is elated. We congratulate the troops. They've done an extraordinary job. We're blessed to have the best military we've ever had.
But the fact remains that many of us who said we ought to hold Saddam Hussein accountable-and we are-have felt very strongly there's a better way to do it that reduces the risk to our troops and reduces the cost to the American taxpayer. That way is not to do it unilaterally, not to have a sense of American occupation, but to have other countries participating.
This is now a golden opportunity. It's a huge opportunity. I hope the president will fully seize it. We can bring other countries to the table, reduce the burden and, frankly, turn our attention to the real war on terror, which is the effort to capture Osama bin Laden and to focus on al Qaeda around the world.
COOPER: But isn't this what the Bush administration is trying to do? I mean, Colin Powell was working the telephones on Sunday. President Bush has reached out to various potential partners. What more could they do? What would you be doing differently at this point?
KERRY: But you really don't know. Look, tomorrow, I'm going to give a speech in Iowa that will lay out the specific steps that I think should be taken.
But I've said all along-look, just telephone calls: What are they saying in the telephone calls? Are they prepared to lift their order that no other country can participate in the reconstruction? I mean, you're not going to have countries come on board if you're prohibiting any other country from being part of taking the full measure of the risk and authority.
COOPER: So you would allow France and Germany to be part of the reconstruction effort?
KERRY: If they're willing to put troops on the ground and they're willing to be part of the effort in a significant way and take the risk so we can bring some of our young Americans home, you bet your boots I would.
COOPER: Should Saddam Hussein be declared a POW?
KERRY: I think he should be treated like one. I don't think he should be declared as one.
I don't think-he represented a renegade state. He was a rogue. He was outside of the law. I think it is important for us to try him in a way that lives up to the highest standards and expectations of our country. That is also another opportunity for the United States to show the world our values.
COOPER: Does that mean an Iraqi trial in Iraq with Iraqi judges? Or perhaps an international trial or some sort of U.S. military tribunal?
KERRY: I think it would be very, very difficult and probably very suspect, without legitimacy, to do it simply as an Iraqi trial. I do think it would be better to do it in Iraq; that I think would be better. But I believe there will be some need for some international input and help because I don't think the Iraqi system is ready to do it on its own.
I would think it would be better to be able to try to do it in Iraq and to have it done by some kind of special court that is put up for the purposes.
COOPER: Finally, Senator Kerry, this morning, you and the other Democratic candidates have run on the war, have run on the economy. Both seem to be going pretty well for President Bush right now. How can the Democrats win?
KERRY: Listen, you guys are incredible in the way in which you take the capture of one person and suggest that that represents a full foreign policy or somehow ends and election.
We are in deficit an enormous degree. This is a jobless recovery for most Americans. If you're in the stock market it's pretty good for people, but if you're a worker out in Iowa or New Hampshire or places, you're still hurting. We've lost manufacturing jobs. We're losing them. And the fact is that our foreign policy still remains deeply, deeply troubled.
The capture of Saddam Hussein does not change the way in which this administration chose to go to war. It doesn't change our ignoring North Korea. It doesn't change the problem of terror around the world, and how you, in fact, conduct a better war on terror.
I think what this does is, it says that we need an experienced hand as the nominee of our party and we need an experienced person as president who really knows how to fight the war on terror more effectively, knows how to build alliances more effectively, strengthen America's hand in the world.
I know how to do that. And I'm very confident that the next days are going to prove this election is only starting.
COOPER: And there is a long way to go before the election.
Senator John Kerry, appreciate you joining us this morning. Thanks very much. Good to talk to you.
KERRY: There sure is. Thank you very much.
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