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CNBC Capital Report Transcript

Location: Boston, MA

December 11, 2003 Thursday

HEADLINE: Senator John Kerry, Democratic presidential candidate, discusses his views on Iraq and the candidacy of Howard Dean


ALAN MURRAY, co-host:

Welcome back to CAPITAL REPORT.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry is taking on corporate corruption in America. Today Kerry unveiled a plan to clean up corporate corruption and restore investor confidence. He joins us now from Boston.

Senator, thank you very much for being with us.

Senator JOHN KERRY (Democrat, Massachusetts; Presidential Candidate): I'm delighted. Thank you.

MURRAY: This is a very tough speech, but you've also proposed creating a new regulatory agency to oversee the mutual fund industry. Do we really need a new regulator to do this job?

Sen. KERRY: Well, I think the evidence is we do because the SEC has proven itself both unwilling to regulate the other industries as well as that, and I think there's a serious problem. Look, I'm not a big regulator, regulator, regulator person. In fact, I've voted for deregulation when appropriate. And I honor the notion that there are many, many, many businesses, many CEOs, the vast majority, who feel they're injured by what is happening today. They play by the rules. They know we need a marketplace where there is trust. And what I want is to re-create that trust.

I'm not trying to single out business across the board, but we have seen a growth in the abuses. And we have seen-I mean, when you have 15 mutual fund companies and some 12 brokerage houses all engaging in this rather extraordinary 'place your bet when you know the outcome' routine, something is profoundly wrong. And when you add that to WorldCom, to Enron and the other problems, America-you know, we've gone up to, you know, about 44 million Americans who invested in the marketplace by 1998.

MURRAY: But this is...

Sen. KERRY: We want more people to do that, but they've got to trust it. And I think we have to restore trust.

MURRAY: And you blame this on President Bush?

Sen. KERRY: I blame the lax enforcement on him, absolutely. Look at his appointment to the SEC. We finally, only in a storm of outrage, got the former SEC leader out of there so that we could move forward. We're not even filling the roles of enforcement within the SEC. The positions that are there today are not being filled. There is a lax ethic of enforcement. And when you add to it the sort of corporate bonanza that's taking place in Washington and the halls of Congress-- $50 billion of oil and gas subsidies that adds $18 billion to the deficit-I know conservative Republican friends, CEOs of companies, who are outraged by the fiscal irresponsibility of Washington today. And that is directly attributable to a president who's left the barn door open.


Well, the president apparently said at a Cabinet meeting this morning that he is not going to back off of the Pentagon's decision to exclude the Russians, the French and the German companies from Iraqi contracts. What do you say to that?

Sen. KERRY: That's a terrible decision. I think it's a terrible decision. I think it's a decision that says to the world, 'Our occupation of Iraq is about Halliburton and business and the president's friends.' And I think that we send a message around the world-at the very moment we should be attracting other countries to help us to reduce the targeting of American troops, the president is sending a message, 'To hell with all of you.'

I must tell you the job of the commander in chief is, first and foremost, to protect the security of our country and to protect the troops in the field. And I think the longer our troops are on the ground alone, or almost alone, bearing the burden of an occupation, they are in greater danger than they have to be. The president should permit the turnover of the reconstruction of Iraq to the UN or to some other entity within the UN, outside the UN, that we work together...

BORGER: Senator...

Sen. KERRY: We should have a special-sorry.

BORGER: No, go ahead. Go ahead.

Sen. KERRY: Well, I'm just going to say that I think Paul Bremer and this current structure send the wrong message. They send a message of American occupation. And we need better leadership.

BORGER: Senator, there was very big news this week, obviously. Al Gore decided to endorse Howard Dean. You have been saying that Al Gore is backing the wrong Howard Dean. And you accuse Howard Dean, in essence, of flip-flopping on the war, saying that Dean backed a resolution in Congress that would have led to the war. So are you saying that you and Howard Dean are on the same page on the war?

Sen. KERRY: I think it's very important-and I want you to use the right words.


Sen. KERRY: I didn't accuse. I pointed out the facts. The facts are that on October 6th, five days before we voted in the United States Senate, Howard Dean publicly said he supported a resolution that gave authority to the president to go to war. He also said he thought Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that he should be disarmed. The American people want a president who is a straight talker. For months Howard Dean has been going around the country saying, 'What are all these other people doing who voted for the president's war? I'm the only guy who was against it,' when he himself said he supported a resolution...

MURRAY: But...

Sen. KERRY: ...that gave the president the authority to go to war.

BORGER: So is he lying?

Sen. KERRY: I think that he has not been candid with the American people. I think the American people don't know that Howard Dean took the same position that all of us took to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. He took a position to give the president authority to go to war, and I think the American people don't know that.

MURRAY: Senator, I want to play for you something that Howard Dean said on the Chris Matthews show the other night and get you to respond to it.

Sen. KERRY: Sure.

(Excerpt from "Hardball with Chris Matthews")

CHRIS MATTHEWS (Host): When you went into the draft board that day, were you hoping to get deferred?

Dr. HOWARD DEAN (Democratic Presidential Candidate): I was not looking forward to going to Vietnam.

MATTHEWS: Were you hoping to be deferred?

Dr. DEAN: Yes.

(End of excerpt)

MURRAY: Is that an issue for you?

Sen. KERRY: No. Look, I'm proud that I served. I'm proud that I got the experience I got. I'm proud of the people I served with. And I will forever be grateful for having survived it and come home alive, and I think it gives me a special responsibility. And I also think it gives me special insights as a potential president of the United States. I think it gives me more qualifications.

MURRAY: What do you...

Sen. KERRY: But we decided long ago, many of us, not to make an issue out of those who made a different decision, and I'm not going to start now.

MURRAY: What do you think more generally about Al Gore's call on all of you to stop criticizing each other?

Sen. KERRY: I'm not-all I'm doing at this point is-I mean, Al Gore, of all people-I recall some sharp debates with Bill Bradley, where he drew distinctions about Bradley's health-care plan. I hope this isn't a new reinvention of Al Gore. The fact is that I am simply pointing out differences. I think the American people need to know that this man who claimed he was the only person who opposed the war or was the opponent of the war, in fact, criticized the judgment that others of us made; in fact, made the same judgment himself. He made the judgment that he supported a resolution that gave the president authority to go to war. He said there were weapons of mass destruction. He said we needed to disarm Saddam Hussein. And I think the American people want a president who talks straight to them and who sticks by the things that he or she says.

BORGER: Well, you said before that he's not candid. So what you're really saying, Senator Kerry, though, is that he's twisting the facts? Is that what I'm just sort of hearing here, that Howard Dean is lying? I go back to that.

Sen. KERRY: I think Howard Dean took a position that was the same position that we took, and then I think he went out to the country and basically ran away from that position and never has been candid, ever, about what position he took when.

BORGER: Well, Senator John Kerry, Democratic presidential candidate, we would be remiss if we didn't end this interview by saying happy 60th birthday. So happy birthday.

Sen. KERRY: Thank you very much.

BORGER: And thanks so much for being with us, Senator.

Sen. KERRY: I'm honored. Thank you.

MURRAY: Thank you.

Copyright 2003 CNBC, Inc.

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