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CBS The Early Show Transcript

Location: Unknown

December 4, 2003 Thursday

HEADLINE: Senator John Kerry, Democratic presidential candidate, discusses his campaign


RENE SYLER, co-host:

With the presidential primary season just over a month away, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry is still trying to distinguish himself in a large Democratic field. His latest attempt, taking aim at President Bush's foreign policy agenda, saying he would reverse most of it if he's elected to the White House. Senator Kerry, good morning.

Senator JOHN KERRY (Democratic Presidential Candidate): Good morning.

SYLER: Hopefully, you dressed warmly.

Sen. KERRY: Gosh, I see the storm coming. I'm-I'm not ready for it.

SYLER: Yeah. Well, you'd better get ready. Yeah. You were here yesterday. You gave a major policy address yesterday...

Sen. KERRY: Yes.

SYLER: the Council on Foreign Relations. And in it, you called President Bush's foreign policy arrogant, inept and reckless. Give us some specifics.

Sen. KERRY: Yes, I did. It is. Well, it's arrogant and inept because it hasn't made us safer. The president has broken so many alliances and relationships around the world. He departed from the United Nations without showing the patience to build the kind of true coalition that would have made our troops safer, and I believe we could have been far less costly financially and far less costly in lives to the American soldiers had we built a true coalition and done this more effectively.

SYLER: And you say that's one of your major goals, should you be elected, which would be to...

Sen. KERRY: Well...

SYLER: alliances.

Sen. KERRY: ...this is the most dangerous world, Rene, we've lived in in a long time, and it is a very different world. We need to go back to building alliances and to working cooperatively with the world on nuclear proliferation, chemical, biological proliferation, on drugs, on global warming, on AIDS in Africa, on the Middle East peace process, on North Korea-everywhere. This administration has been reluctant to participate with other people, and they have not made America safer in the process.

SYLER: There's been a lot of change for you and your campaign. You fired your campaign manager not that long ago, some other staff changes. Is your campaign foundering?

Sen. KERRY: Oh, we're doing very, very well. We're on a very fast track now, and I feel very, very positive about it. In Iowa, we've got a tremendous amount of movement that I think people are signing on. I think people have sensed a change in the campaign, which is what I wanted to do.

SYLER: Yeah. All right. I-hey, since you brought up Iowa, let's look at the Iowa numbers, because there was a poll that was released earlier this week showing Howard Dean with 26 percent, Dick Gephardt 22 percent and you with 9 percent. And yet, you still say you have momentum?

Sen. KERRY: No, no, no, no, we were with 18 percent or 19 percent.

SYLER: Well, this is the Zogby Poll that was released on Tuesday.

Sen. KERRY: Yeah. We-first of all, we are, I think, moving in Iowa, and the polls that we have show that. Polls aren't important right now. What's really important right now is do you have energy in the campaign? Are people signing on? Are they beginning to grow? I have more legislators supporting me in the state of Iowa than Dean and Gephardt put together, and we have a campaign on the ground that is geared to do well towards the caucuses. So I don't care what those other public or generic polls show. We're moving.

The main thing is people are listening to what I'm saying. I have a health-care plan that will put all Americans with the availability to the same health care that senators and congressmen get. I'm going to lower the cost of health care for all Americans. We're going to put people back to work. What people really care about is not who's managing my campaign, but what I'm saying and what I'm going to do for America to make it safer and stronger.

SYLER: All right. In Iowa at least, though, Howard Dean appears to be the man to beat. And question for you: Do you think you underestimated him early on?

Sen. KERRY: No. Let me tell you something. John McCain was 30 points behind Bush in New Hampshire at this point in time. Dick Gephardt was at about 2 percent in 1988 and he wound up winning. The polls are not what matter right now. What matters is what is an individual going to do to make America stronger, safer, put people to work, provide health care? I have very specific plans to do those things, and I think people want somebody who's ready to be president of the United States.

You know, this is not the time for on-the-job training in the presidency for foreign policy, national security and military affairs. And I think people are only just now tuning in. Who's ready to be president? I bring 35 years of experience a-and-and-and proven capacity to take on the special interests that are running away with Washington right now, the energy bill, the Medicare bill. People are very angry about what's happening, and we need somebody who's going to stand up to them and lead America to a better place. I'm going to do that.

SYLER: All right. All right. But the immediate challenge looks to be Iowa. Senator Kerry, thanks for coming by.

Sen. KERRY: Thanks a lot.

SYLER: Yeah.

Copyright 2003 Burrelle's Information Services CBS News Transcripts

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