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MSNBC Countdown Transcript

Location: Durham, NH

December 9, 2003 Tuesday

HEADLINE: COUNTDOWN for December 9, 2003

BYLINE: Keith Olbermann; Tracie Potts; Andrea Mitchell; Robert Bazell

GUESTS: Andrew Goldberg; Mickey Sherman; Phil Bronstein; John Kerry

Has Michael Jackson been exonerated? Then, interview with John Kerry.

OLBERMANN: As promised, the Democratic debate in New Hampshire is just over. And from there, we are now joined by Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Thank you very kindly for your time this evening, Senator.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm glad to be with you, Keith. How are you?

OLBERMANN: I'm well.

Sir, if you would be so kind as to give us your reaction to Mr. Gore's endorsement of Governor Dean.

KERRY: Well, as I said in the debate, this race is going to be decided by voters. It just makes me work harder. I'm a fighter. And it fuels my energy.

I'm convinced that the people in New Hampshire make up their own mind, as they do in Iowa. And I know that my numbers are moving. I'm moving. My campaign is growing. So I'm very, very confident. No one endorsement ever makes the difference in these races. I have been in many of them before. I have run in one with no endorsements, none, zero. So I look forward to this fight.

You know, what I really want to talk about, Keith, is what matters to Americans. We need to provide health insurance to every single American. And we did not get a chance to talk about that tonight. So I think we ought to talk about the things that really make a difference. Americans don't care about polls. They care about their lives, their income, their health care, their jobs. And that's what we ought to talk about.

OLBERMANN: Is this presidential election going to be decided on those points, or is it going to be, in effect, decided in Iraq? Or is it going to be decided on the divisiveness that appears to exist between the two major parties?

KERRY: I think Americans are looking for leadership and they are looking for genuine hope and understanding about how we can make life safer in America and how we strengthen our economy here at home.

This is a fiscally irresponsible administration. And I can tell you, personally, it is about a year ago now that I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. I can stand in front of you tonight cured and cancer-free because I had the best health care in the world. Most Americans don't get what I had. And I am going to make it possible for every single American to get the same health care that members of Congress get. And we are going to make every single family's health care as important as the politicians'.

And I think those are the kinds of things that people want to know: How are we going to do it? How are we going to pay for it? I am going to roll back the tax cut that George Bush gave to the wealthy. And I am going to invest in health care and education.

OLBERMANN: Senator, as it pertains to Iraq, it seems fair to say that-and this was contained in Mr. Gore's statement today. In fact, it may have been weighted heavily by the view of the war there and particularly the legislation authorizing the president to act in Iraq. And Mr. Gore said-and let me quote it exactly-"The only major candidate for the nomination of my party who had the good judgment and good sense to feel and see and articulate the right choice was Howard Dean."

Do you feel that that remark was directed at you, because you had voted in favor of that legislation?

KERRY: No, I don't.

But I think that Vice President Gore is wrong. And I think he is actually misinformed, because the fact is that, on October 6, five days before we voted in the United States Senate, Howard Dean said he supported giving authority to the president in a resolution very similar to the one we voted on. So, in effect, Howard Dean, at the time we voted, had the same judgment about giving authority to the president. And he also made the judgment that there were weapons of mass destruction, he believed, in Iraq.

So, I think Al Gore's either badly informed or I don't know which policy he is referring to. But I intend to the run on the basis that I know how to provide for the security of our nation. I can stand up to George Bush. I think I know something about aircraft carriers for real. And I look forward to a good debate in this country against George Bush about how we really make America safer.

OLBERMANN: Senator, let me ask you one last question. And then we'll let you go, with our thanks.

I must bring this issue of personal loyalty having been raised. Senator Lieberman spoke to it this morning. On November 20 of 1999, the then-vice president was virtually tied in the polls with Senator Bradley. You endorsed Al Gore. Much of that endorsement was based on your agreement with him on foreign policy. Do you feel a personal sense of loss or estrangement because Mr. Gore did not endorse you?

KERRY: No. No, I really don't.

I think I had no anticipation of it. And, as I have said before, I'm running on my own two feet. I'm running on the basis of my record, my leadership. I have stood up and fought fights in this country for 35 years against special interests. I led the fight to stop the drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. I led the fight to put 100,000 cops on the streets of America.

I led the fight against Ronald Reagan's illegal war in Central America. I led the fight against a big bank that was coming illegally into America. I led the fight against Newt Gingrich on clean air and clean water. I have a record of fighting for the average American. And what Americans want is a president who is going to fight for them. And that's exactly what I intend to do.

OLBERMANN: Senator John Kerry, many thanks for your time tonight. And happy holidays.

KERRY: Good to be with you. Thank you very much. Same to you. Thank you, Keith.

Content and programming copyright 2003 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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