January 19, 2004 Monday
HEADLINE: Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry discusses his campaign
ANCHORS: HARRY SMITH
HARRY SMITH, co-host:
As we've said, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry made a late charge in Iowa and is currently at the top of the polls. And Senator Kerry joins us this morning.
Do you have a voice left, Senator?
Senator JOHN KERRY (Democratic Presidential Candidate): Oh, a little bit. Working like heck. Harry, you're from out here.
SMITH: Let me ask you this.
Sen. KERRY: You-you know how this works. So we're pushing to the limit. But, you know, Iowans are absolutely extraordinary. They are open-minded, they're independent. They really work at this process. And most importantly, they're deeply concerned about what's happening in our country: the loss of jobs, the pressure on family farms, the difficulties with health care. They want a leader who will really tackle the tough, big, powerful interests of our country that keep diverting the real concerns of the American people, and I am pledged to do that, and I think that's why people are responding to my campaign.
SMITH: Let me ask you this, Senator. A couple of months ago we were out here; visited with you. There was trouble in the campaign. You had to fire some of the-your top people. This is-this is a long, hard retail process. In these last several months, what do you think you've learned about yourself that's important in this campaign?
Sen. KERRY: Harry, I'm a fighter. People knew that from the day I came back from Vietnam and fought against Richard Nixon's war in Vietnam. I fought against Ronald Reagan's illegal war in Central America. I took on powerful interests to stop them from drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. I've always been a fighter. And I had to reach down deep in order to keep, step by step, moving. But the people of Iowa kept giving me the sense of the possible and hope, because they responded. And I knew that even as some people outside were saying, 'Wow, something's going wrong,' I could feel it here in Iowa. The folks here are-are-are just without cynicism. They have this incredible sense of the land, of America, of the dem-democratic process. I wish every American could come and just feel how powerful these meetings in a barn or a living room or a VFW post are. They're absolutely extraordinary.
Sen. KERRY: And-and what's been happening is-sorry, go ahead.
SMITH: You know, and one-one of the things that you've been doing-we just showed your reunion with Jim Rassmam-is asking veterans for support, and there has been a-a-somewhat of a cynical reaction to this reunion with Jim Rassmam, a man whose life you saved during Vietnam. Was that reunion personal or was it political?
Sen. KERRY: It was very personal. I had no idea he was-he was going to even be around in this campaign. He called the campaign, and he volunteered his services, and he said, 'I haven't seen John in 35 years. This is what happened. I'd like to help the campaign.' And my m-the chairman of my veterans organization immediately said, 'God, I want him to be with John and get together and come out here and be on the trail.' So it-you know, I just-we didn't reach out to him, we didn't look for him, we didn't ask him to sort of be part of it. He volunteered; he's a Republican. And he said he's going to change his registration.
So, you know, veterans all across the country, Harry, are angry that the administration has cut $1.8 billion from the VA budget even as we are creating new veterans. The veterans who i-who are out there today are having a harder and harder time getting help, getting access to the VA. We have 40,000 veterans who wait months just to get a doctor to sign off on their prescription drugs. I think that it's important to keep faith with veterans, and the veterans are an important part of my race.
Sen. KERRY: They understand that it's important to keep faith.
SMITH: Final question, real quickly. You're precariously at the top of the polls right now. Do you have to finish first and-or second in order to get the momentum you need to go to New Hampshire?
Sen. KERRY: You know, that's an incredible question, given the fact that almost everybody was writing off my campaign about three weeks and four weeks ago. Now suddenly people are trying to push those expectations. I've always said there are three tickets out of Iowa, and I was going to fight for one of them. I think it's quite remarkable that we're doing as well as we are at this point in time. It's a credit to the independence of the people out here who really listen. And we're going to keep fighting till the last moment. The I-I...
SMITH: All right.
Sen. KERRY: ...people of Iowa will decide who finishes in what order tonight, Harry. But I'll tell you this: America needs new leadership. We need to repair our reputation abroad...
Sen. KERRY: ...we need to get our troops out of Iraq and begin to build a new relationship, and we need to put people back to work. I have a plan to do those things...
Sen. KERRY: ...and I think that's what people are responding to.
SMITH: All right. All right, Senator Kerry. Thank you so much for your time this morning. Do appreciate it.
Sen. KERRY: Thank you, sir. Thank you, Harry.
SMITH: Now let's go back to-you bet. Now back to Julie in New York.
JULIE CHEN (Co-host): All right. Thanks a lot, Harry.
Copyright 2004 CBS Worldwide Inc.