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MSNBC Decision '08 - Transcript

Interview

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MR. OLBERMANN: Senator John Kerry was the Democratic nominee for president four years ago. And this year, of course, he's come out in favor of Barack Obama. Senator Kerry has joined us now from Capitol Hill.

Senator, thanks for your time tonight.

SEN. KERRY: Good to be with you. Thank you.

MR. OLBERMANN: What do you read tonight? What do you look for? Is it just wins and losses? Is it margin of victory? Is it exit polling information? What are you looking for, as somebody who's a supporter of Senator Obama?

SEN. KERRY: (Laughs.) Trust me, I certainly don't look at the exit polling, I promise you that.

MR. OLBERMANN: (Laughs.)

MR. MATTHEWS: (Laughs.) I know why.

SEN. KERRY: I think we look for who won and we look for how much, and obviously both count. I think it's important. But, look, I think just the fact that Barack Obama is in this place where Hillary Clinton has skedaddled out of town and is down in Texas, already just saying goodbye to these primaries, is a remarkable situation. It's a remarkable statement.

And I think that people really need to step back and measure the full weight of what tonight means. Just winning, whether he wins by one point or by more points, is a big deal for the Barack Obama campaign.

MR. OLBERMANN: In terms of practical politics, I mean, I use an analogy that probably is a little unfair, but the whole Rudy Giuliani scheme on the right side of things was, "Wait, wait, wait, wait. Wait till you see what I do in Florida." And while he was waiting and his supporters were waiting, the entire campaign got away from him.

Is there any kind of analogy, or is that unfair to Senator Clinton about this month?

SEN. KERRY: Well, it's premature; put it that way. There are three weeks now, and this is a fight. I mean, nobody underestimates the 20-year machine that has been built up around a president, then ex-president, first lady, the people who have been in the Cabinet, the people who are connected or friends. It's a powerful machine, which is why I say that these last days are so remarkable.

I mean, the fact is that Barack Obama has built a new coalition across the country, people like Ben Nelson of red-state Nebraska, Kathleen Sebelius of red-state Kansas, Arizona, Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Tim Kaine in Virginia, moving all the way from Maine to Washington in the last few days, the Virgin Islands.

This is a big movement that is happening. And I think that, you know, it's important for everybody to take stock of the nature of that coalition. Don't just look at how many delegates there are. Look at the mosaic of different people who are coming to the table to vote for Barack Obama -- young, old, rich, poor, middle class, you know, all across the demographics.

And I think that's impressive, and it's something that is really going to change the situation as we go into November. It's one of the reasons why I'm convinced he is the more powerful candidate to change the country as well as win in November. And how you win is essential as to how you change the country, what you're able to do.

MR. OLBERMANN: You mentioned the mosaic. To that point, I apologize for the first flashback to 2004, but there's another one here. In a press release from Senator Clinton's campaign today that referenced you, it makes the case that she is, quote, "the Democrat to beat Senator John McCain in Ohio and Texas because," again quoting, "she's built a strong coalition of women and Latino voters. These two groups made the difference in 2004, swinging the election from Senator John Kerry to President George Bush."

First of all, Senator John Kerry, do you take issue with that assessment, and do you take issue with the argument that Senator Obama can't compete against Senator McCain in those states for those reasons?

SEN. KERRY: I take issue with both, with the assessment and with the assertion that Barack Obama can't compete with John McCain there.

First of all, Barack Obama, I believe, will have an enormous ability to be able to motivate and energize and have credibility with voters that John McCain will not be able to reach because it's the Republican policies that have lost their jobs.

It's the Republican policies that have shut some of those schools. It's the Republican policies that have built up the deficit. It's the Republican policies that have prolonged this war and got us in it in the first place and spent, you know, billions of dollars, hundreds of billions of dollars, that could have gone into America's infrastructure and competitiveness.

So I believe that John McCain is going to have a lot to answer for in a place like Ohio, where they've lost unbelievable numbers of jobs, where the middle class is getting ground down by the cost of health care, energy costs, tuitions, and their wages have frozen, if they have them at all. And that's going to count a lot.

So I think, you know, Barack Obama against John McCain is a generational shift that Hillary doesn't bring. It is also a dramatic contrast on the war. You know, John McCain can turn to Hillary and say, "Well, you voted for that just like I did." He can turn to her on Iran and say, "You voted for that just like I did." And he can draw, I think, a clearer line, because he's been a leader on some of the reform issues.

The fact is, Barack Obama had a different position, a clarity to it, on all of those things, including ethics reform, where he championed the broadest ethics reform we've had in the Senate in the entire time that I've been here. That's change, and that's what the American people want. And I believe that that's a clear contrast.

Now, you can pick any number of things. As you know, I lost by one state and a few votes in Ohio, and the fact is that it wasn't Hispanics there or women that made that difference. So I do take an issue with that particular assertion. And I think we're going to have to see what happens in the next days.

Barack has, you know, several weeks to go to Texas, to go to Ohio, to compete on the ground, just the way he did in Iowa and elsewhere in the country. And I think he looks forward to that. I think the campaign wants that contrast. And I think he's ready for it.

MR. MATTHEWS: You mentioned reform in ethics, Senator. It's Chris Matthews. Should Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton -- I believe he already has -- release their tax returns to the public as part of their transparency in offering themselves for president?

SEN. KERRY: Well, Chris, first of all, with that voice, you don't have to identify yourself.

MR. MATTHEWS: (Laughs.)

SEN. KERRY: But secondly, yes, I think everybody should. I did. I always have, every race I've ever run for the Senate and otherwise. And I think one should, yes.

MR. MATTHEWS: Okay, thank you very much.

MR. OLBERMANN: One question here to just sort of wrap it up since we gave you a hard time, basically, Senator.

SEN. KERRY: That's all right.

MR. OLBERMANN: Is it true that your old SUV is for sale in Virginia? Is this some -- what's this all about? Do you want to do a sales pitch for it or anything?

SEN. KERRY: This is true. I understand that that somehow got onto a blog, and it's sitting out there, I think, at Koons Chevrolet or Koons Ford -- Koons Ford; there you go.

MR. OLBERMANN: Falls Church, Virginia.

SEN. KERRY: There's the plug. I get nothing for it. There's no money to me. It's their car. And good luck to them. (Laughs.)

MR. MATTHEWS: This is like Jon Voight's car on "Seinfeld," right?

MR. OLBERMANN: Something like that.

MR. MATTHEWS: I think Jon Voight owned this car.

MR. OLBERMANN: All right, so you can look the phone number up. There's no 800 number.

Senator John Kerry --

SEN. KERRY: Thank you.

MR. OLBERMANN: -- speaking on behalf of the Obama campaign. Thank you, sir. Good to talk to you.

SEN. KERRY: Thanks a lot.


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