MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

By:  John Kerry
Date: Dec. 5, 2012
Location: Unknown

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MATTHEWS: Senator, thanks for joining us.

It`s hard for me to understand the ideological warfare this seems to have stirred. It reminds me of the old fluoride debates you and I grew up with, where there is some imaginary notion of something taking over in our world where we have to fight, even though we can`t put our finger on it. What are they afraid of on the right to vote for disability rights?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, they argued that they are afraid that we were giving up some sovereignty of nation and that somehow the United Nations was going to be able to tell us what to do. Neither are true. There is no requirement in this treaty whatsoever that any law in the United States would be changed. No new right was created that hasn`t existed or doesn`t exist in the United States today. And most importantly, because of the terminology of the treaty, under treaty language that it`s not self-executing, that means nobody has recourse in any court in the United States of America to enforce the treaty.

So, you might ask, well, why sign up to the treaty, then? The reason is this treaty is based on the gold standard of how America treats people with disabilities. It`s based on Americans With Disabilities Act. And it raises other countries to our standard.

It`s really exporting American sovereignty to other nations. It`s exporting our values. And, most importantly, it makes a real difference in the lives of people with disabilities, you know, people who are born with a disability or something happens to them in life and they have one, or veterans, for instance, who want to travel abroad, work abroad, study abroad, you know, just visit.

This would have raised their quality of life. And these senators turned their back on that out of completely fictitious, totally made-up, entirely sort of fear-marketing rationale. We have to change that, and we will.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Here`s the floor manager on the other side, Tea Party Senator Mike Lee of Utah. By the way, he was the fellow that beat Bob Bennett, conservative Bob Bennett, by running to his right. He was, as I said, the floor manager opposing the treaty. Here`s some of what he argued yesterday on the floor.

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SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: I and many of my constituents, including those who homeschool their children or send their children to private or religious schools, have justifiable doubts that a foreign U.N. body, a committee operating out of Geneva, Switzerland, should decide what is in the best interest of the child at home with his or her parents in Utah or in any other state in our great union.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Oh, my God.

KERRY: Well...

MATTHEWS: It`s -- let me go -- let me go to Ted Kennedy on that, Senator, just for a minute. Ted, you have to deal with disability. You lost a leg to cancer years ago. I`ve always admired how you`ve handled it. What does it mean to someone disabled, this bill, to an American, for example?

TED KENNEDY, JR., DISABILITY ADVOCATE: Well, for disabled Americans, we feel the Republican Party have really turned their backs, because what this treaty does, as Senator Kerry, who, by the way, has been our champion on this and so many other issues. And I commend Senator Kerry, as well as Senator Lugar and the eight Republican senators who bucked the trend of the incredible pressure by the extremists in the right wing of this party to somehow mischaracterize this treaty.

The treaty is simple. It simply says that a disabled American, including disabled American veterans, are afforded the same rights overseas as they are here at home, which is why 21 leading veterans organizations, including the VFW, the American Legion, the Wounded Warrior project, hardly left-wing organizations, have been strong backers of this treaty.

In addition, as Senator Kerry knows, and has eloquently described so well, this treaty was also endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Why? Because it expands opportunity -- business opportunities. Many of the -- there`s a billion people with disabilities living around the world. Many of whom will need wheelchairs and medical products that are designed and fabricated by companies here in the United States.

So, we just feel that our rights have been neglected. And that is why we want to support those senators who stuck their necks out --

MATTHEWS: Let`s talk, Senator, about the other -- you have to read the votes up there and count them. All these senators you lost on this vote, you fell five short. Can you get them back early next year? How soon do you think you can win them back when they`re -- a lot are facing primary threats? I guess that`s what`s stopping them from doing this.

KERRY: First of all, we had two senators who voted yes on the floor and then they changed their votes because of what was happening. In addition to that, there are several senators who have said to me, when we`re out of the lame duck session and beyond the fiscal cliff, they`ll be prepared to vote for it.

In addition to that, I believe we can satisfy with additional language to resolution of ratification, I believe we can satisfy even these sort of out of the blue sky, fictitious concerns.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

KERRY: We`ll address them. I think we can come back within the first three months of next year.

And I want to say to Bob Dole and to every person with disabilities who cares about what happened yesterday, this is not going to go away. We`re going to come back. We I think can address the concerns of people and hopefully we`ll pass it because it makes a difference to the quality of life of Americans traveling abroad and to all those people abroad living with disabilities, whose standards will be raised because of what we`ve done.

This is -- this is as pro-America as pro-American values and as noninvolved with the United Nations as you can be. The only thing the United Nations has is its name on the treaty. It has no rights, no ability whatsoever to change one thing that we do in the United States.

MATTHEWS: OK. Well, one of those who likes the phrase "United Nations". But thank you. I guess I know the politics on the hard right.

Ted Kennedy, thank you for coming on.

KENNEDY: Thank you. Thanks.

MATTHEWS: Advocate for disabilities. Thank you, Senator Kerry.

KERRY: Thank you.

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