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CBS Face the Nation Transcript

Location: Emmetsburg, IA

September 14, 2003 Sunday

HEADLINE: Senator John Kerry discusses the war in Iraq and presidential politics



And with us now from Emmetsburg, Iowa, where it looks like a beautiful day, Senator John Kerry.

Senator, welcome to the broadcast. Well, you just heard...

Senator JOHN KERRY (Democrat, Massachusetts; Democratic Presidential Candidate): Thank you, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: ...the secretary of Defense. You've heard him outline the reasons for doing what he's doing, and saying what he's saying. I would just ask you for your—your response.

Sen. KERRY: My reaction is that the secretary and the administration still don't get it. The $87 billion is the price tag for their arrogance and their miscalculation. And I believe that is continuing. It is extraordinary to me to hear the—the secretary say what do we need troops for. There are countless numbers of experts who believe that troops are needed to guard the pipelines, for instance, to help to guard critical facilities, to help to train people more rapidly.

Bob, I have a plan that can do a better job of dealing with Iraq than this administration, and it's as follows: Number one, we need a United Nations resolution for a multinational force under US command, but a multinational force. And part of that is the second piece of the resolution which is to turn the political, humanitarian government's component of this over to the United Nations. That is the fastest way to get additional countries invested. It is the best way to reduce the cost to the American people. And we need to set a date by which we will turn over the administration of Iraq through the United Nations to the Iraqis themselves.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you this. You voted—you authorized the president to take military action. Do you feel in any way responsible for—or what—what is happening there?

Sen. KERRY: I feel responsible as a s—as a United States senator for all policies that—that—of the country. But, look, the answer is very simple. I think I voted the right way. I know I voted the right way. It was the right thing to do to hold Saddam Hussein accountable and to have the threat of force, and to probably use it if we had to, but this president didn't do it right. It's very simple, Bob. The president promised he would go to war as a matter of last resort. He didn't. The president promised he would build a coalition and work through the United Nations. He didn't. We're paying the price for the reckless way in which this president approached this. It's a failure of diplomacy, and today it's a failure of leadership.

SCHIEFFER: All right.

Sen. KERRY: What we expected, what we had a right to expect in the Congress, was that the president would keep his word and do this effectively.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Let's let Doyle in.

Mr. DOYLE McMANUS (The Los Angeles Times): Senator, you—you now face a decision whether to vote for that $87 billion appropriation, and you've just called on the president...

Sen. KERRY: Right.

Mr. McMANUS: set a date for turning this over to the UN. If he doesn't actually set that date, will you vote for the $87 billion anyway?

Sen. KERRY: Well, Senator Biden and I are introducing a effort to try to link the $87 billion to the reduction of the Bush tax cut at the high end, and we're doing that as a matter of shared sacrifice. We believe that the American people expect that if—if we're going to have to ante up money additionally in order to safeguard our troops and get this job done, that there should be a shared sacrifice in America, and I believe that.

Mr. McMANUS: And if...

Sen. KERRY: And I think it's right...

Mr. McMANUS: And it—it—if...

Sen. KERRY: I think we need—I think we need to roll back the top end of the Bush tax cut.

Mr. McMANUS: If that amendment does not pass, will you then vote against the $87 billion?

Sen. KERRY: I don't think any United States senator is going to abandon our troops and recklessly leave Iraq to—to whatever follows as a result of simply cutting and running. That's irresponsible. What is responsible is for the administration to do this properly now. And I am laying out the way in which the administration could unite the American people, could bring other countries to the table, and I think could give the American people a sense that they're on the right track. There's a way to do this properly. But I don't think anyone in the Congress is going to not give our troops ammunition, not give our troops the ability to be able to defend themselves. We're not going to cut and run and not do the job.

Look, we could—we could do this job over a period of time at greater loss, at greater risk, and with much loss around the world with respect to the United States. The question is will we do this the best way possible so that we do the best to protect our troops and the best to advance the safety and security of the United States?

SCHIEFFER: Senator, let me...

Sen. KERRY: My plan will do that.

SCHIEFFER: All right. And I think we've given you a chance to...

Sen. KERRY: Yeah.

SCHIEFFER: lay that out. Let me just ask you a little about politics, because to get your plan enacted...

Sen. KERRY: Sure.

SCHIEFFER: ...the first you've got to do is get the nomination.

Sen. KERRY: Politics.

SCHIEFFER: Most people thought at this point that you would be the front-runner. You are not. Howard Dean seems to be lead—be leading both in Iowa, where you are now, and in—in New Hampshire, where those early primaries are coming. You have said some pretty tough things about him, and he said the other day, when asked why you kind of went easy on him during the debate in New Mexico, he said, 'I wish he would say to my face what he says behind my back.' Have you decided to go easy on him now?

Sen. KERRY: Well, first of all—first of all, Bob, we're doing very well. These races are not decided in August. It was always clear there would be a race, and I welcome it. Secondly, with respect to the comment you just made, I welcome Governor Dean's challenge. If he wants a challenge and he wants us to go face-to-face, I accept. Let's get together, let's have a debate, and let's talk about the real issues for the country and show people the differences between us. And maybe you want to moderate that. We can do it in Iowa. We can do it in New Hampshire. I'm perfectly willing to do it. In those one-minute exchanges with nine people on the stage, it's very, very difficult to really get at and explain the differences between candidates. So I welcome the opportunity to do that one-on-one with Governor Dean, and I'm glad he wants to do it.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, you say you will be there. I'll be there. That's two of us. If we can get...

Sen. KERRY: I'll look forward to it.

SCHIEFFER: ...if we can get Governor Dean to do that, I'll see what we can do about that, and maybe I could even get a little extra time on FACE THE NATION. So, Doyle.

Sen. KERRY: Well, I'd be happy to do it, and let's find the right place, the right time. We could find an hour out in Iowa, I think people would love to see the differences between us.

SCHIEFFER: All right, Doyle.

Sen. KERRY: And there are many.


Mr. McMANUS: Senator, let me—if—if I could go back to Iraq for—for just a moment. You said that when you voted back in October to authorize military action, it ended up being on the basis of information that turned out to be untrue. Let me just put it as plainly as this. If you had known then what you know now, would you have voted the same way?

Sen. KERRY: Well, it wasn't only on that basis. If you read my speech, I was very clear. Saddam Hussein could not be left to his own devices based on everything we learned about him for seven and a half years while we were inspecting in Iraq. People have forgotten that for seven and a half years, we found weapons of mass destruction. We were destroying weapons of mass destruction. We were, the United States of America, together with Ambassador Butler, and the United Nations.

SCHIEFFER: Senator...

Sen. KERRY: No one, I think—yes.

SCHIEFFER: ...I—I—I'm very sorry...

Sen. KERRY: It wo—it wo...

SCHIEFFER: ...we've miscalculated here. We've just run out of time. Thank you so much and we'll talk to you again...

Sen. KERRY: I apologize. Thank you very much, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: to you again down the trail. Thank you.

Sen. KERRY: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: Back in a minute.

Copyright 2003 Burrelle's Information Services CBS News Transcripts

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