December 14, 2003 Sunday
HEADLINE: Interview With John Kerry
GUESTS: John Kerry
BYLINE: Chris Wallace
WALLACE: Joining us now is presidential candidate and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, who's out on the campaign trail in Davenport, Iowa.
And, Senator, welcome and good morning.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good morning, Chris. Glad to be with you.
WALLACE: First of all, your reaction to the big news today out of Iraq?
KERRY: Well, I think it's terrific. I think it's great news, obviously, for the Iraqi people. It's great news for our own efforts.
But most of all, it's a magnificent opportunity for the president of the United States to shift gears and reduce the burden for America, reduce the burden on our soldiers, and get the world involved.
This is a great opportunity for this president to get it right for the long term. And I hope he will be magnanimous, reach out to the U.N., to allies who've stood away from us, and use this as a moment to transform the entire operation in Iraq. That's what it could be.
WALLACE: And specifically, when you say "reach out, internationalize," what would you have the president do?
KERRY: Well, I think that the memorandum the other day of the president forbidding any country that didn't take part to be part of the reconstruction, is an invitation to isolating the United States of America.
I think the capture of Saddam Hussein presents a wonderful moment for the United States to say, OK, we did the most important thing here, which is decapitating the regime completely and totally. Saddam and his sons are now really gone. This is an opportunity for the world to take a stake in the outcome in Iraq.
And the world has a stake in it. I don't think the president has done an effective job of selling that stake. And what I've argued all along is, I always knew we wanted to get rid of him, we wanted to disarm him, we wanted to hold him accountable, but I wanted to do it right.
I still believe the challenges of Iraq, the challenges of the transformation of the country, the $87 billion that Americans are being asked to pay, the targeting of American soldiers who are being lost daily or weekly, all of that is still at risk and at stake.
And what we need here is for the president to say the military component now, we've achieved that goal to the greatest degree of the decapitating of the regime. We want you other nations to be sharing this risk. All of you have a stake in not having a failed state on your doorstep in Europe, on your neighboring borders in the Middle East.
And I think you could transform this effort to reduce the cost to the American people and reduce the risk to American soldiers. You could repair relationships on a global basis, and we could begin the major transformation of the entire war on terror.
WALLACE: And, Senator, specifically, you would like to see countries that opposed the U.S. effort in Iraq-such as France, such as Germany-you would like to see them eligible to bid on these $18 billion...
KERRY: Providing, Chris, they become part of a broader coalition. Look, diplomacy is critical. You need to reach out here and bring other countries to the table. It's the lack of the United States' willingness to share the authority and responsibility that is keeping other countries from being involved.
I think every American family that I've talked to whose son or daughter is about to deploy to Iraq would love the idea that the risks to their children are being shared by other countries. That's leadership.
This should be a global effort, not a United States occupation. And notwithstanding the capture today of Saddam Hussein, which I think is terrific-and which, incidentally, you know, Governor Dean and some other people didn't even think it was great. They didn't even know that it was good to get rid of Saddam Hussein. So I think it's important for us to recognize how good it is.
But let's transform it into less risk for America's soldiers and into less sense of American occupation of a Middle Eastern country. If we do that, we have a much greater chance of faster success and a much broader chance of resisting whatever al Qaeda or other mischief- makers want to engage in in the months and weeks ahead.
WALLACE: Senator, what do you think should happen to Saddam Hussein? Should he be tried in Iraq by Iraqis? Should he be brought to the U.S.? Should he go to some international tribunal?
KERRY: I think this represents another golden moment for the United States, because what we're trying to do is show the world America at our best. We're trying to show the world how the United States and democracy work and how the rule of law works.
What is important here is not where, necessarily, it's how. We have to try Saddam Hussein and he must be held accountable in a way that has recognized world legitimacy. That could happen in Iraq. It could happen at the world court.
The most important thing is that the United States of America shows the world how decently we treat even the worst criminal and the worst thug, how much we abide by rule of law, and how critical it is to have full accountability.
I believe that there are a number of variations on how we do that, but that also can be a great lesson to the Arab world; it can be a great lesson to everybody in the world about our country and our values. And I hope we will also execute that properly.
WALLACE: Senator, I don't know if you heard the interview I just did with Bill Frist, but one of the things he said...
KERRY: I did.
WALLACE: ... is that he-I'm sure then you heard this-that he urged the Democratic presidential candidates to put partisanship aside on this enchanting day. I guess, you're not going to take him up on that offer?
KERRY: No, I welcome it. Look, this is nothing partisan in what I just said, nothing at all. What I said is this is a great opportunity for the United States to get it right.
You know, it's not partisan, Chris, to believe that your country has a better way of doing something. It's not partisan to believe that there's a better way to reduce the casualties of American soldiers. It's not partisan to believe that America can be stronger, acting in alliance with other countries who have traditionally been our allies.
Look, I've always said I voted to hold Saddam Hussein accountable, but I've always believed that we needed to have the maximum number of countries at our side, because moving from a position of strength is the way you ought to protect your troops and act on behalf of our country.
Now, it seems common sense to me-plain old American, good, down- home values-that we ought to be trying to do the best possible to protect American troops and to be successful.
I think as long as it is predominantly an American occupation, can we be successful? Yes. I mean, even last night in Iowa at a town meeting, I said to people, "Can we be successful the way we're going?" I said, yes.
But the question is, at what cost? At what cost in lives, at what cost in dollars, and at what cost in our reputation in the world? The job of the president of the United States is to minimize the risk to American soldiers and maximize the opportunity of success.
I believe it is in the best interests of the United States of America to get other nations involved with us, reduce the $87 billion cost to Americans, put some of that money at work in our schools at home, putting people back to work. That's smarter policy. That's not partisanship.
WALLACE: Senator, I want to ask you about a speech you made a few days ago to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. And let me ask you, specifically, about something you said.
"The Bush administration has pursued the most arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological foreign policy in modern history."
Given the events of today, do you want to retract any of that, Senator?
KERRY: Not one word of it. Not one word of it. The United States of America has not negotiated directly with North Korea and we have made North Korea a less safe place today because we didn't pick up where Bill Clinton left off.
Under the Bush administration, we've walked away from the global warming treaty and we slapped 160 nations and turned away from ten years of work, which we should be involved in. We haven't done the job we ought to be doing with respect to Russia's loose nuclear materials and the containment of dangerous fissionable nuclear materials that could fall into the hands of terrorists, we've been slow to rise to the challenge of AIDS on a global basis...
WALLACE: Senator, if I could just bring this back to the events...
KERRY: And we haven't pursued peace in the Middle East.
WALLACE: Excuse me, sir, if I could just bring this back to the events of today, though. I understand that some of your basic criticisms may stand, but isn't it in a realistic political sense going to be a much harder case to make to voters when you have that extraordinary mug shot of Saddam Hussein, the former brutal dictator, looking like he's been dragged into a police line-up?
KERRY: Absolutely not, because I voted to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. I knew we had to hold him accountable. There's never been a doubt about that. But I also know that if we had done this with a sufficient number of troops, if we had done this in a globalized way, if we had brought more people to the table, we might have caught Saddam Hussein sooner. We might have had less loss of life. We would be in a stronger position today with respect to what we're doing.
Look, again, I repeat, Chris, I have always said we may yet even find weapons of mass destruction. I don't know the answer to that. We will still have to do the job of rebuilding Iraq and resolving the problem between Shias and Sunnis and Kurds. There are still difficult steps ahead of us.
The question that Americans want to know is, what is the best way to proceed? Not what is the most lonely and single-track ideological way to proceed. I believe the best way to proceed is to bring other countries to the table, get some of our troops out of the target, begin to share the burden.
And it's just plain common sense. That's not Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative. that's common sense. You know, when General Eisenhower and when we invaded Europe, we had as many allies as we could. When we stood up against Kosovo, we had NATO, we built alliances. We've always had-every president through the last 50 years had worked to build alliances and America has always tried to move with other nations. We are still isolated in Iraq, and I believe this administration now has its fourth major opportunity.
They had an opportunity when we voted, they had an opportunity when the statue fell in Iraq, they had an opportunity when the president went to the U.N. this fall. Now they have another opportunity to be magnanimous, to do the big things of coalition building and bring people to the table, and I urge them to do that because I believe it will reduce the cost to America, reduce the risk to our soldiers, and increase the likelihood of faster success in Iraq.
WALLACE: Senator, briefly, a final question, if anyone has made opposition to the Iraq war the centerpiece of this candidacy, it's Howard Dean. what does this do to his campaign now?
KERRY: Well, I personally have said all along that saying "no" is not a policy. And Howard Dean has only basically been saying "no" and been angry about the war. In addition to that, Howard Dean, in a preview of a speech he's giving tomorrow said that foreign policy is about tone and about nuance.
Well, if it's about tone and nuance, Howard Dean is the man who called terrorists Hamas soldiers. Howard Dean is the man who said we shouldn't be thinking about military action against Iraq, we should be thinking about military action against North Korea, which I found astounding. Howard Dean is the man who said that we don't take sides in the Middle East. Well, we took sides in the Middle East with Israel in 1948.
So it seems to me that tone and nuance are critical, and I don't think Howard Dean has the experience or the knowledge or, in fact, ever showed the kind of thoughtfulness about Saddam Hussein and how we deal with Iraq necessary for a president of the United States.
KERRY: And if we're going to beat George Bush, we need somebody who knows how to do it.
WALLACE: Senator, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you so much for joining us on this very big news day and travel safely on the campaign trail.
KERRY: Thank you very much, Chris.
WALLACE: Up next, reaction from our panel, Brit Hume, Mara Liasson, Bill Kristol and Juan Williams. Stay tuned.
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