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Public Statements

ABC This Week with George Stephanopoulos Transcript

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Date:
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January 18, 2004 Sunday

HEADLINE: SENATOR JOHN KERRY INTERVIEW

BODY:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS

(Off Camera) That was Peter Jennings on the bus with Howard Dean yesterday and now joining us on the bus this morning, joining George Will and me is Senator John Kerry, the new front-runner in Iowa.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY,

DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

Oh, don't do that to me.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) Well, but, it's just true. "Des Moines Register" poll out this morning does have you ahead. And a month ago, you're third and falling. Now, you come back here in January, I was talking to a friend of yours last night. He called you Seabiscuit. What happened?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

George, I, you know, that's for Iowa voters to decide. This race ends Monday night and not today, and I'm out there looking for every vote. Iowa voters are remarkably independent. They study this. They look. They work at it. And I'm going to keep campaigning for every vote out here.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) They also make up their minds at the last minute. The "Des Moines Register" poll says 5 percent undecided.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

Sure.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) Up to 50 percent could still change their minds and in the last week it is you and John Edwards. You and John Edwards are surging over the last week. And what do you say to these Iowa voters who are deciding between you and John Edwards? Why should they take you and not John Edwards?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

Because I have 35 years of consistent experience in leading this country on domestic issues, fighting for things that make a difference to the lives of Americans and 35 years of leadership in foreign policy, national security, military affairs. And we are in a dangerous world today. This is not the time for on-the-job training or guessing about where a president might go in national security. Our nation is threatened. I believe we can run a more effective war on terror. I know how to do that. And I have been involved in those issues in a way that can give confidence to the American people that the Democratic party actually knows how to make America stronger and safer in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt or Harry Truman or John Kennedy, Bill Clinton, we know how to do it. I know how to do it. I have that experience. I'm the only candidate running who combines the domestic experience, the priorities of health care, education, the environment, fighting for children, jobs, and who has the foreign policy experience.

GEORGE WILL, ABC NEWS

(Off Camera) Senator, Howard Dean says he will win because he can bring people to the polls who have never come before. It's what the Conservatives in the Goldwater campaign called the Conservatives in the woodwork. They'll come out of the woodwork this time. "The Des Moines Register" does say that in Johnson County where the University of Iowa is registration is up 300 percent in the last six months over six months four years ago. Is it possible that we have no clue who is going to vote in Iowa? That the turnout might be double the 61,000 of last time?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

George, you know what that's all speculation and I'm not here to speculate. I'm here to talk to the voters of Iowa. I've got, you know, 36 hours left to make it clear that I have a health care plan that lowers the costs of health care for every American who has it today. No other presidential candidate lowers the cost for people who are groaning under the increased premiums, co-pays, deductibles. We're registering lots of kids ourselves. I was in Iowa City last night. A thousand people showed up. One of the largest crowds to show up for any candidate yet. I'm convinced that people are listening because I'm prepared to take on and fight powerful special interests in Washington that prevent us from getting health care. Harry Truman started talking about health care in 1948. We still don't have it. Why? Because powerful interests have fought for their own place rather than for a solution. I've taken them on. I'm the only candidate in this race who has the longest, the long record of actually standing up to the oil and gas industry, to the power companies, to the drug companies and that's what Americans want. Someone who is going to fight to make the workplace fair.

GEORGE WILL

(Off Camera) But in your first answer to George you stressed national security and terrorism and the danger and no on-the-job training. Is that because education spending by the Federal government is up 60 percent since 2000, everyone's 401(k) is beginning to look better, prescription drug entitlement has been passed. It looks as though the Bush administration says we're going to take all these issues off the table and make this a national security referendum. Are you worried that ...

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

George, if it is national security. No, I'm not. In fact, I'm ready to go in other direction. I will raise both, I will raise the national security issue because I think this administration has run the most reckless, arrogant, inept and ideological foreign policy in modern history. I think they've overextended our troops, they've put America in greater danger, but that said, their recovery is not a recovery for the American people. It's a recovery for corporations, 46 percent increase in corporate profits, three cents an hour increase for the workers of America. In fact, the workers of America have lost income, $1,500 a family. George, the workers aren't getting ahead. I met, let me just finish, there's a guy named Bob Anderson I met at Waterloo the other day. Bob Anderson is 49 years old. He's been out of work for two years. He can't afford to pay for his Cobra to get health insurance. His wife has now been diagnosed with MS. He doesn't know where to turn. Now, George Bush's recovery is not taking care of the Bob Andersons of this world and people all across Iowa and all across the country know it. They have no agenda on the environment, no agenda for health care. They're going backwards on air quality, water quality. They're abandoning children by the millions in our schools. I'd love to have a debate on the domestic agenda. They're even cutting the cops program which I fought to put in place.

GEORGE WILL

(Off Camera) But with the Dow up 25 percent in 2003, everyone that gets their 401(k) statement says this is working for me and that's a lot of Americans.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

Let me tell you something, the Dow is not the measurement of the economy in America. I know a lot of Republicans don't like to hear that but the Dow is not the measurement of the economy. The economy is a much broader, look, Ohio has lost over 160,000 plus jobs. Go to Ohio and ask those factory workers and people about the Dow. You know, come to Cedar Rapids or to Davenport or Dubuque, and ask people about the Dow, they'll laugh in your face. They'll tell you, they don't have that stock now, in fact, they've lost confidence in the stock market where the mutual funds are fixing the marketplace and the brokerage houses are playing games with their favorite investors so they can bet on the market after it closes while the average American takes it. The companies that go to Bermuda take $400 million off the table in America and stick the American people with the bill. George, the workplace in America is the most unfair workplace I've seen in all of my public life. And people in Iowa and across this country want a champion who is going to fight to make it fair. Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican president, took on those kinds of powerful interests and made it fairer. That's what we need today in America.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) If that's the case you're up against President Bush but first we still got a date here in Iowa and the Democratic primaries.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

No, that's the case, George, that I'm making everyday in this race. I'm not talking about my opponents, I'm talking about the target, the target is George Bush and Democrats want the most effective candidate to run against and beat George Bush. I'm that candidate because I'm the only candidate who combines national security experience and the domestic struggle that keeps faith with the values of our party.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) You may, you may not be talking about your opponents but your opponents have complained that while you're out there on the stump talking about President Bush you're sending out a lot of mail that attacks them and I want to show you first of all a mailing that is out in New Hampshire and here in Iowa, that your campaign put up, it shows Howard Dean, constant gaffes show he's not ready to be president. Wes Clark, Washington lobbyist who votes Republican, the second page is an even more detailed attack against Wes Clark. And it shows he was a Washington lobbyist, raised money for Republican, was not a Democrat when he started running for president. How do you reconcile those-mailings with what you just said?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

I think that there are comparative realities in all of us as candidates, George. I mean, you have to be who you are in this race, and you bring your life history to the table. The fact is that AP and "New York Times" both pointed out the fact that Howard Dean is the one who over a year ago began the process of negative campaigning. I don't want to go there. That's not what people want to talk about.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) Well, but your campaign is going there. I mean, you are putting that in the-mail.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

I've put no, I've put no television ads on at all that are negative, George. We have put out some-mailings that show the comparison of the candidates. Now, I think, that was in response incidentally to some other mailings that came at us. We never began that process. Never. And I think it's important to show the distinctions between candidacies. That's all. I mean, these are fair distinctions. People need to be informed about who candidates are, what the differences are. For instance, do you think it's important to know that a candidate wants to raise your taxes and another candidate doesn't? And that's a fact of policy. I believe it is important. I want to protect the middle class. Two other candidates in this race that I'm running against want to raise taxes. Now, now, people need to be able to talk about the legitimate differences between policies.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) And one of the differences you talk about is the background of Wes Clark as a lobbyist. And his campaign has sent a letter to you today. I mean, they're sending a letter to you today. We've gotten a copy of it.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

You get the copy before I do. There's an interesting tactic.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) Well, here's what they have to say. They say, "I call on you to release the full list of lobbyists who have given to your campaign. You should also make available to the public the records of which lobbyists you or your Senate staff have met with and what issues and legislation were discussed. I also urge you to release your tax returns for the past five years. In the interest of full disclosure for the voting public, join General Clark in making the full public record available to voters." Will you do that? He put out his tax records on Friday.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

George, George, I began the process of putting out tax returns long before Wesley Clark was a Democrat. I released all my tax returns for 20 years. I have never not released my tax returns throughout my political career. What's more, I'm the only candidate running for this job, and I'm the only Senator in the Senate today who's been elected four times who has voluntarily refused in any of my campaigns to ever take one dime of special interest political action committee money. I ran the first PAC-free United States Senate race in 1984. Paul Wellstone and I wrote the legislation called Clean Elections Law to try to have public campaign financing and matching money in order to get the big money out of American politics. I will happily release any lobbyist meeting I've ever had because I'm not ashamed of them. Anybody I've ever met with I'm not ashamed of. They're public, it's open to the scrutiny. When I'm president I'm going to require everyone as a matter of record to allow their, any meeting with a lobbyist is a matter of official public record, subject to the scrutiny of the American people. Absolutely.

GEORGE WILL

(Off Camera) "The New York Times" poll this morning has some interesting numbers that for years now the Democrats have benefited from what was called a gender gap, very strong votes among women, "The New York Times" poll this morning shows that the approval of George Bush's job performance is the same among men and women and that George Bush has a huge advantage among married women. What's changed?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

You know, George, I don't care about what those polls say today. I don't care about what polls say in a month or five months. What's important is what you're fighting for and what you want to do for Americans. Americans don't care about polls. Americans care about a politics of honesty and they care about real leadership that takes our country to a better place. Right now you have nine or now I guess eight candidates running around. It is a mish-mash. People aren't focused. When we have a nominee, I look forward when I am the nominee, I look forward to drawing the distinctions between us. George Bush is taking us backwards on water quality, backwards on air quality. No parent in America has written to their legislator and said give me dirtier air for my kid to breathe, give me dirtier water for my children to drink, but that's what we're doing, George. No one in America has said leave our children without an after-school program but that's what we're doing. Teachers are being insulted. The schools have been being stripped of their money. This president went back on his promise to fund education. We're going, look at health care. President Bush has no plan at all to bring 43 million Americans into the system, no plan at all to lower the cost for Americans. I do.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) He said he's gonna release one on Tuesday.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

Well, of course he is, because we're talking about it and now he's listening. That's not leadership. That's follower-ship. What the American people want is real leadership. And I'm gonna have a -I mean, I will look forward over the next months to drawing the differences between his agenda and our agenda and the poll that's going to matter is November second this year.

GEORGE WILL

(Off Camera) But the poll that matters is going to be shaped by moving the undecideds. How many people in America are undecided about George Bush today? Usually people are about 20 percent going into Labor Day perhaps. Most people are now 7 percent.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

George can I say, can I say something?

GEORGE WILL

(Off Camera) Yeah.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

If, if the polls meant anything, I wouldn't be sitting here today. I mean, if you guys can't learn that the polls aren't what this is about after this race, it is about issues. It is about people. It's about people's concerns. And as we go around this country and point out the millions of children left behind, the education system in disarray, the health care system imploding on itself. The dreams of Americans for retirement broken by Enron, WorldCom, by scandals on Wall Street. By the abuses of the system. When people look at an energy bill where we have $50 billion of oil and gas subsidies instead of investing in alternative or renewable energy and fighting for energy independence. We're not setting under this administration the real agenda of our nation. And I will and when that agenda is clearly defined to the country, you watch.

GEORGE WILL

(Off Camera) It is the job of the opposition to do what you just did which is say the country is going to hell in a handcart.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

It is not, it's not ...

GEORGE WILL

(Off Camera) But the country doesn't seem to be seething with fear and anger.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

(Off Camera) George, I disagree with you. I think bubbling up under the surface, what you have is a country that to some degree has walked away from the system because people just don't feel that Washington and politicians get it, listen to them or will make a difference. This campaign is about proving to people that we actually can mean what we say and say what we mean. This is the biggest say one thing do another administration in modern history. Look at the appointment of Charles Pickering in recess yesterday. That's a disgrace. On the weekend of Martin Luther King's birthday, this president chooses to appoint a cross-burning defending judge to the court. Someone the Senate clearly thought was ill-equipped or at least a sufficient number that they couldn't pass him otherwise. Last time on Martin Luther King's birthday they challenge affirmative action and take the court, the challenge to Michigan. That's an insult to African- Americans across the country, an insult to the bringing together of America. This president was elected by the narrowest margin, if elected at all. The supreme court decided this case and they have now proceeded as if they had an enormous mandate camouflaging their real intent in this sort of right wing agenda. I think it is clear, George, that give us time and over the next months we're gonna organize the greatest grassroots movement this country has ever seen and we're going to restore real democracy to America.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) There may be plenty of time for that. We only have a little bit of time left here today. I want to end on something that happened yesterday. Remarkable moment on the campaign frail. Jim Raspman, a man whose life you saved in 1969. And we're gonna show our viewers now that moment. (inaudible) First time you've seen him since 1969. I just wanted to ask you what was that like?

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

Oh, God, it was very, very moving, very moving. I mean, here's a guy I haven't seen, excuse me, in 35 years and the last time I saw him we were both about to be killed. It was very touching and what was most touching is he called the campaign the day before. He wanted to be involved. You know, we've just sort of gone separate ways. As it was in Vietnam, you encounter people, have these terrifying moments. You'd be joined together in this incredible bond for a moment and then missions would take you elsewhere and you wouldn't see each other. There are lots of people like that whom you were in harm's way with and you've never seen since. But you're forever connected. And it was very special.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) Senator Kerry, thanks very much.

SENATOR JOHN KERRY

Thank you. Great to be with you.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) We'll be back with RNC chair Ed Gillespie in just a moment.

ANNOUNCER

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

Copyright 2004 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.

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