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CNN Newsnight Aaron Brown Transcript

Location: Unknown

October 27, 2003 Monday

HEADLINE: Fire Devastates Southern California; Suicide Bombers Kill 30 in Iraq; Interview With John Kerry

GUESTS: Gray Davis, David Gergen, John Kerry

BYLINE: Aaron Brown, Martin Savidge, Frank Buckley, David Mattingly, Jane Arraf, Jamie McIntyre, Suzanne Malveaux

Fires rage in Southern California. Then, suicide bombers killed 30 in Iraq today. Finally, interview with Democratic presidential contender John Kerry.

BROWN: It's a common complaint that candidates for president oversimplify complex issues in their pursuit of votes. This might not be the best complaint to hurl at Senator John Kerry, a decorated war hero wounded in Vietnam, a leader of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War when he returned. He voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq, but, last week, voted against the $87 billion in additional funding.

On the stump, he says he's for winning the war in Iraq, but worries, the administration's upbeat reaction to the weekend's bombing sound—quote—"frighteningly like the 'light at end of the tunnel' rhetoric of Vietnam." The senator has written a book, "A Call to Service: My Vision For a Better America," in which, we can presume, it's all made clear.

We're delighted to have Senator Kerry with us tonight in New York.

Senator, nice to see you.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We hope it is made clear, Aaron. It's great to be with you.

BROWN: Thank you.

I asked David Gergen this. You may have heard it. Do you worry that your campaign, all of your—all the Democratic campaigns are being hijacked by the Iraqi issue, that no one is hearing anything else?

KERRY: Not in the least, no.

People I'm talking to are deeply concerned about their jobs, the economy. I'm running because I know how to put America back to work. I think we can hold on to our manufacturing base, create jobs. We can be more fiscally responsible. And we can provide health care to Americans, which people are just screaming about.

Everywhere I go, you hear about the cost of health care and how it's taking every wage increase anybody gets or even becoming impossible to pay for it. So the answer is, no, it is not going to squeeze it out. But it is an enormously important issue for the nation, for the world. And it belongs on the table.

BROWN: It certainly does. Let's talk about some of it.

One of the things I hear a lot about the Democratic candidates is that they do criticize well, but what would they do different? So, in this postwar period, what would President John Kerry do that President George W. Bush is not doing right now?

KERRY: Conduct real and effective diplomacy.

The president has really driven other nations away from us, not pulled them to us. You cannot go to the United Nations and just demand. You have to work the process in a way that brings people to our cause. And the president has missed three opportunities to do that now: when we passed our vote, when they entered Iraq and Baghdad, and, finally, when he went to the U.N. three weeks ago.

I think you have to turn over to the United Nations genuine authority, ask them, with a little humility, to be involved in the process of the transformation of Iraq and bring them to the table for the humanitarian, the infrastructure and governance—the governing part of Iraq. If you did that, that will build the kind of coalition you need in order to deal with the on-the-ground issues, which strengthen our forces on the ground.

It takes the target off of American soldiers. It reduces the sense of American occupation. I think, Aaron, it's foreign policy 101, fundamental, that the United States should not have looked for a way to occupy a Middle Eastern nation almost alone. And the president's got to find a way out of that.

BROWN: You voted last week against the $87 billion. If your vote had been the deciding vote, if it had made the difference, your vote, up or down, would you have still voted against that money?

KERRY: I would never desert the troops. I would never not do what we need to do to be successful.

But the truth is, if the vote were that close, I guarantee you that, before they took the vote, they would have worked something out, so that you would have had a different structure and a different vote. That's the way it works in the United States Senate. If it didn't, I can guarantee you, as a former soldier, I'm not going to leave our soldiers without the money they need.

But the fact is, they wouldn't be left without the money, because this money—we've already put $79 billion on the table. This money doesn't run out for several months. So there was plenty of room here to be able to get this right. I voted the way I voted because the president is going down a dark road which is going to cost America more money. It is going to put our troops at greater risk. And the job of the president is to reduce that risk and to maximize the chances for success.

He may well be successful ultimately going down the road he's going. But the question for Americans to ask is at what cost in lives and at what cost in dollars and at what cost in terms of our reputation and influence in the region.

BROWN: Just quickly, Senator, do you think that the war and the postwar will be the deciding issue, both in the nominating process and ultimately in the election?

KERRY: No, I don't. I think it's one.

I think the issue of American security is on the table. But American security is not just international and national security. It is also job security, income security, retirement security, health security, education. And I think that Americans understand that. This election will be fought out on all of those issues. And they are all front and center in people's minds.

BROWN: Senator, it's kind of strange. You're in New York and I'm in Washington. It ought to be the other way.

KERRY: Well, no, it isn't. No, it ought to be this way. I like it here better. You stay there.


BROWN: Thank you. It's nice to see you, sir. Thank you very much.

KERRY: Thank you.

BROWN: Senator John Kerry.

We'll check a handful of morning papers a few other things, as we continue from Washington.


Content and programming Copyright 2003 Cable News Network Transcribed under license by FDCH e-Media, Inc.

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