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ABC This Week with George Stephanopoulos Transcript

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January 25, 2004 Sunday

HEADLINE: HEADLINERS DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES GIVE INTERVIEWS

BODY:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Voice Over) Saturday's poll showed John Kerry pulling away. At his first event in Concord he piles on with a packed house and a key endorsement.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY,

DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

I want to thank the League of Conservation Voters. The league represents all of the groupings of our major environmental groups in the nation. And this is an endorsement that has huge meaning to me personally. A huge meaning.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) Senator Kerry, welcome back on the bus.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

Glad to be here, thank you. This is great. We're rolling.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) We are rolling.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

In the bus.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) You know, last week we were talking and I called you the front- runner and you demurred. There's no denying it now.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

I disagree. You know, this state is a very independent-minded state. And I have enormous respect for the voters. I'm campaigning as hard as I can. I'm going to ask everybody I can get to for their vote and talk about the things that are important to people, George, and you got to respect the independence of voters. I always do, I always have, and I will.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) So no coasting.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

I'm going full speed. And I'm asking every person I can meet, and I'm gonna try and persuade every undevoted, undecided voter I can find.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) We talked to a lot of them on Thursday night. I watched the debate with six undecided voters here and they thought you did just fine, but I want to show you a little bit of our discussion, show some of the doubts they still have in these final days. Let's play it.

VOTER

He talks too much. He uses too many words. He doesn't express himself clearly. He doesn't get to the point.

VOTER

Angry and frustrated with Congress, with the Senate, all, all what they do and don't do and Kerry has been there for a long time. And although he is excellent person, but he is attached to that group.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) How do you answer that?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

Well, very easily. She's right. Sometimes I've done that, but people have made me a much better candidate in this race.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) How so?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

Just listening, hearing their stories. Communicating with them. I'm sharper, tighter, more direct. People are hurting. It's that simple, George, and the workplace is unfair. I'm going to make it fair. And that gets me to the second, to the gentleman's question. I have fought those interests, all the time, I may have been in Washington but I've been fighting against those interests. I fought against Newt Gingrich destroying the Clean Air, Clean Water Act. We stopped it. I fought against the oil interests who wanted to drill in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. We stopped them. I took on Ronald Reagan and his illegal war in Central America. We held him accountable. I've done the things that I think, you know, I don't even take the Political Action Committee money, special interest money in my campaigns so I've lived the effort to make Washington accountable. And as president I will do that.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) How about taking on the Democratic establishment, there's an article in this morning's "New York Times" by David Brooks, the columnist. And he says that in your past you know, you have these speeches where you come out for education reform, take on the teachers unions, you come out for affirmative action reform, take on constituencies in the Democratic party, but then he concludes but comparing you unfavorably to John McCain and he says that you don't follow through on the reform and he says he will momentarily embrace daring ideas but if they threat core constituencies he often abandons them returning meekly to the Democratic choir. This is the difference between speech-ifying and leadership.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

See, I don't agree with that obviously. I did exactly what Bill Clinton did. I said affirmative action needed to be mended, not ended. We fixed it. We actually took the quota problem out and we fixed it but I believe in affirmative action. I still do. I believe in education reform. I don't believe in disrespecting teachers. See, some people see these things as just black and white. They're not. The problem is that, yes, we need increased accountability in schools. We need to raise the standards. But you don't have to do it in a way that disrespects teachers and literally throws the baby out with the bathwater which is what they're doing.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) Where do you think the party has to change now?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

I think the party needs to, well, I think we need to do many of the things we were doing under Bill Clinton, which is be fiscally responsible but invest in the future of America. I'm going to, I want to cut the deficit in half in four years and move responsibly towards the investments we need in health care and education and the environment and things we need to do for the next generation.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) But a lot of Howard Dean's appeal has been, for example, to take on the establishment of the party, he says it's gonna be a grassroots revolution. How can you do that?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

George, I've always been a grassroots person. I came out of grassroots politics. Some people may talk about it but I've done it for 35 years. I was part of the grassroots effort in the antiwar movement, the women's movement, I marched for women's rights, marched for civil rights. I think my record is different from any other candidate in this field, 35 years of fighting the special interests on the domestic side, 35 years of standing up to make America safer and live up to our values in foreign policy.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) You know when I was talking to General Clark yesterday, he says, yeah, you been talking about foreign policy in the Senate but he's been doing it at the highest level, his executive experience. How do you respond?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

I stand by my record of 35 years of doing. I led the fight to stop the war in Vietnam. I wrote the Agent Orange legislation for veterans. I helped create the post-Vietnam stress syndrome outreach for veterans and kept faith with them. I led the fight to get rid of the dictator Marcos in the Philippines and bring Cory Aquino to power. John McCain and I led the fight to open up Vietnam and make peace in Vietnam and we succeeded. I led the fight to get rid of anti-satellite weaponry and we succeeded. I've led the fight to try to hold the Khmer Rouge accountable in Cambodia and negotiated personally the tribunals with the United Nations that will help do that. I've been involved in arms control issues for 19 years. I blew the whistle on Oliver North, his private aid network. I have been doing in foreign policy for 20 years in the Senate and for 35 years as a citizen and an activist and I think I have the record to show that leadership over that course of time.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) What did you think when he said, you know, after all you were just a lieutenant and he was a general?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

I'm not, you know, I'm not going to worry about it. Others can make their decisions about it. I'm proud of my service. I'm proud of lieutenants and noncommissioned officers, enlisted men. They are the ones who make up the brunt of those who go into battle and I'm proud of my role and I have no other comment about it.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) One last question, only a couple days to go here in New Hampshire, but the race changes pretty dramatically the day after New Hampshire. All of a sudden you go all across the country, seven states on February 3rd. Whole bunch more after that. How do you make the conversion to a national campaign?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

George, we're going to do it. I can't tell you because I'm focused right now on New Hampshire. I'm focused on the voters here. And one step at a time. That's been my philosophy in this campaign, first Iowa and now New Hampshire. I want to respect the voters here.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) And you'll compete everywhere, everywhere on February 3rd.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

I plan to compete, if the New Hampshire voters honor me by going out of here in good shape I intend to compete in every state in the country, absolutely.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) Senator Kerry, thanks very much.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

Thank you.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) One final note we were also on the trail yesterday with Governor Dean. He declined to be interviewed. We'll be right back with "The List."

ANNOUNCER

"This Week with George Stephanopoulos," brought to you by ...

Copyright 2004 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.

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