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ABC This Week with George Stephanopoulos - Transcript

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ABC News Transcripts

SHOW: THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (10:30 AM ET) - ABC

HEADLINE: INTERVIEW TED KENNEDY

BODY:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS

(Off Camera) Now to the Democratic convention and the man who brought it to Boston Senator Ted Kennedy. I visited with him yesterday at the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport. We walked the lawn where family played those famous games of touch football.

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY,

DEMOCRAT, MASSACHUSETTS

Well, I played end. I played left end at Harvard is where people say I got my politics.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) And the Senator showed me the house in the back where his brother John spent election night 1960.

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY

And he came over here and he went to bed and he was sure he was elected. You know, at that time he couldn't lose it at that time, you know, the way the electoral vote was, and then it began to change and all during the night.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) And nobody woke him up?

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY

And nobody woke him up. And then 7:15 in the morning Caroline went in and woke him up and said you're president of the United States.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) Young John Kerry once had the chance to sail with President Kennedy here in Hyannisport but he didn't meet Ted Kennedy for another decade. It was 1971 when Kerry came to Congress to testify against the Vietnam War. That night the veterans took their protest to the mall. The police were threatening to shut it down so in a show of support, Senator Kennedy joined them and spoke to Kerry for the first time.

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY

That discussion I saw right into his soul, saw the inner angst, the suffering that he had experienced, the sense of loss that he had seen and the passion that he had in terms of a failed and mistaken national policy and the willingness and the ability to lead all of these veterans. I've had a lot of conversations with him since, but this one was the most meaningful to me, and, you know, beyond that fought the war, tried to end it and then brought about the reconciliation with Vietnam. There wasn't any political payoff in that, and really pursued the MIA issue. It was a completion. It shows that when he starts something he finishes it. That's a very, very important quality for any political leader and particularly for a president of the United States. Willing to take on a tough issue, willing to follow through and see it through. I think those are very important qualities.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) That relationship now has gone on now for 33 years. And there has to have been some tension in the relationship because he's had to carve out a career in many ways in your shadow. You were the legislative champion so he focuses on investigations. You focus on domestic policy, he focuses on foreign policy.

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY

Well, we have very, very aggressive staffs and so they're always trying to get the press release out before the other. I mean, nickel and dime kind of stuff. But there was never an issue really affecting Massachusetts. I'm a very strong believer in John Kerry and I think the people have, make a judgment at the time he announces they'll make a judgment on Thursday night when they see him. They'll make a judgment on him at the time he has his first debate and they'll make a judgment about him when he's sworn in as president of the United States. I think people look at each of those at a different kind of time in a different kind of way and they'll certainly by the fall they'll have a good look at him.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) That speech Thursday night is no doubt the biggest speech of his life and he calls you one of the smartest strategists he knows. What does he need to do that night?

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY

It's really to portray what his campaign is about and that is a campaign of strength, understanding, the importance of having strong protection in terms of our country and our allies, and determination also to restore the United States to a position of leadership internationally. That's enormously important.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) He's got to do more than that doesn't he? Doesn't he have to give the American people that sense of his soul that you said you saw in 1971?

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY

Well, I think it's, we've been seeing it over the course of the campaign. And you know, sometimes it's difficult for you as an individual to say I got the soul. This is what I'm sort of about. He has a certain round of shyness. I think a lot of that is still churning from the Vietnam experience. But if you see him back home, you see him in New Bedford or Fall River with fishermen or with workers on him he's as good a political figure as the rest.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) That's not what I hear from others in Massachusetts. You're the Senator they love. He's the one they respect. How do you loosen him up?

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY

Well, he's, I think Teresa loosens him up. She's a real individual who sees obviously, there's a terrific love affair there and you see him loosened up when he campaigns with her and him. It's a different kind of a candidate. I think John Edwards campaigned with him, has loosened him up. I think there's a terrific chemistry between them, with Elizabeth and Teresa and John Kerry and John Edwards. So this is a, if our greatest problem is getting him loosened up, I think we're way, way ahead of it because people want this on issues.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) Is John Kerry a Liberal?

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY

You know, he'd say probably as I've listened to him say labels really don't have much meaning today. George Bush calls himself a conservative and we now have $550 billion in deficit. Is that conservativism? Is that preserving our basic financial integrity as a country? Is that Liberal, or is that conservative?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) But you're doing what I see Democrats and Liberals always do when they're forced to answer that question. You know, you talk to a conservative and ask are you a conservative and they say yes, I'm a proud conservative. Democrats don't do that. Is that a problem for the party and for Liberals?

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY

Not at all. I think they would define themselves, I'm sure John would define himself as sort of a progressive in terms of trying to deal this, getting new ideas and recognizing, well, to some people I suppose in certain parts of the country it would. I've never shied from it myself.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) One of the things the Republican party is determined to do outside Massachusetts is to lash John Kerry to you. Say that you know, Haley Barber says that John Kerry is a taller leaner John Kennedy.

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY

Well, he's taller and leaner, but the, I think as I have found and as John Kerry found in the course of the primaries, he had the same message, whether it was in Iowa, whether it was in New Hampshire or Michigan or the southwest and it was responsive. He won those primaries. He had the same message, people listened to him. They're gonna be laying on bumper stickers, bumper stickers, bumper stickers for the rest of the time and it isn't going to work this time.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) Are you sure about that, because when they say John Kerry's voting record, according to the Americans for Democratic Action, it's even more Liberal than Ted Kennedy. "National Journal" even more Liberal than Ted Kennedy's.

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY

I don't think it has, and I don't think it does. To be honest they'll try it. They've said it. He's running a positive message for something. The Bush administration is running away from its record which it hasn't got and it's attacking it and attack works in some cases but you don't win presidential elections because people are tired of it.

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY

What happened between you and President Bush?

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY

There's in the education, patient's bill of rights ...

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) At the beginning of the administration, you were down at the White House all the time.

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY

That's right, well, we had the basic initial kind of fallout was because I have worked with Republican presidents. I've worked with Bush One on the Americans with Disability. We had a long tough negotiations and we came together and important judgments were made at the end and everyone kept their word and stayed the course on it and it's made a major difference. If you ask President Bush One about one of his major achievements he'd say the Americans with Disabilities Act. I thought we were gonna have the same opportunity to work with this president on education. He made it an important element in the course of his campaign and brought the people together, we worked on through the substance of this issue, but we understood that reform needed resources and, that's it. Absolutely. We had a whole kind of a program to do that but you can't do it with a tin cup budget. Now, I say it's a tin cup budget. They say we've increased the money a percentage. You don't have to ask me. Ask any schoolteacher, ask any school board, ask any principal, ask any, in any part of the country and they will tell you the same thing.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) One issue you'll never see eye to eye on is Iraq. You've called it George Bush's Vietnam, you voted against the authority to go to war. John Kerry voted for it. What does that say about him and what kind of a president he would be?

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY

I've talked to John Kerry repeatedly before the vote came. I'm absolutely convinced, I know what was going on in his mind. I do know. He was thinking if he were president of the United States would he want this authority, would he want this power? That was what he was thinking. You have to take a look. You ask what was he thinking about? That was what he was thinking about. I'm personally convinced if John Kerry was president of the United States during that time we never would have had an Iraq war. We never would have gone to war.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) But then Saddam Hussein would still be in Iraq.

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY

Well, you don't know how further you would have isolated him. Very interesting about what could have been done in terms of further kinds of isolation on that part. I'm not sure where he would be today. I just am not sure but I know for one thing we wouldn't have 900 American dead and 5,000 wounded and have spent $200 billion that could have been spent here at home in terms of education and health care and dealing with the problems that we have here. I'm absolutely convinced that would have been the case, and I'm absolutely convinced that the war on terror which is really the most important part, really the most important part were continue to be pursued in Afghanistan where it should have been, we never would have let bin Laden off the hook like we did when we went into Iraq and that would have been pursued, and we would have either caught him or finished the job on this. Now we're going, we're playing catch-up with that over there. We have to think of what was really in the security interest of the people here. It's Osama bin Laden. It wasn't in terms of the imminent threat to the United States that's not there. We're making these preparations on Boston not because of Saddam Hussein but because of Osama bin Laden.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) This convention is in Boston. Your hometown and a lot of people are describing it as your last hurrah. You're laughing. You don't think it is.

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY

Well, I'm looking forward, I love Boston. This is where eight of my grandparents came into Boston in 1848. This is the place my grandfather represented in the Congress. Was the mayor of this city. My brother represented. So I am proud of Boston. I'm proud of my roots and I'm proud of the role that Boston played in American history. But just to get back to your first question, I'm looking forward, my hope and idea is we have a great convention, have a wonderful John Kerry speech and a John Edwards speech and I'm looking forward to being on the floor of the United States Senate in January and February when we get John Kerry's health insurance bill and we get their programs on education. I want to be there to battle that and achieve it. That's what I'm looking forward to.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) But when you see him up on the stage on Thursday night and you've worked with nine presidents, you wanted to be president yourself. He's the junior Senator from Massachusetts. Wouldn't you feel any kind of a twinge?

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY

Listen, in the early '80s as I've said my pursuit is public service not the constant pursuit of the presidency. I said that almost 25 years ago, so I have been honored to serve in the United States Senate. I love the United States Senate and we've been able to get a number of things done in the United States Senate and I'm looking forward to that. That's where my ambition is and that's what I'll look forward to. I personally believe this is even looking at 1960, looking at 1968, looking at 1980, this is the most important election of my lifetime. I believe that very, very strongly and I think it's that importance and that's in consequence that we've worked hard for John Kerry and we're looking forward to working harder.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS

(Off Camera) Senator Kennedy, thank you very much.

SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY

Thank you very much.

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