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CNN American Morning Transcript

Location: Manchester, NH

January 27, 2004 Tuesday 7:07 AM Eastern Time

HEADLINE: Interview with Senator John Kerry

GUESTS: John Kerry

BYLINE: Bill Hemmer

HIGHLIGHT: After his surprise win back in Iowa, Senator John Kerry will settle for status quo in New Hampshire. He is now the leader of the Democratic pack.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: After his surprise win back in Iowa, John Kerry will settle for status quo here in New Hampshire-now the leader of the Democratic pack.

A bit earlier today, I talked with Senator Kerry, asking him if he would now consider it a disappointment if his campaign does not match the polling numbers we've seen that give him a wide victory already by about double digits.

Here's Senator Kerry on that.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My gosh, three weeks ago, you guys were writing me off. This is the comeback trail. If I win here, I think that's enormous. And I'll take one point, given where the campaign was judged to be by most people in the media a couple of months ago, I think we've got a lot of energy here.

And I'm not looking at polls. I'm out there looking for votes and talking to the citizens of New Hampshire. There are still people undecided.

I want them to understand that I am the strongest candidate to go against George Bush, the only candidate in this field who brings 35 years of experience fighting powerful interests and standing up for people on the domestic agendas-schools, education, health care-and who has 35 years of experience in foreign policy, national security and military affairs. And we need leadership in this dangerous time that is prepared to really make America safer and respect our relationships in the world.

So, that's what I'm talking about, and I'm just focused on reaching voters right up until the polls close.

HEMMER: Senator, the war continues to be a big hot-button issue here in New Hampshire, especially between you and Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont. You voted against the first Gulf War. You voted in favor of the past war in Iraq. Howard Dean says your logic is backwards. He told Wolf Blitzer yesterday-and I'll quote him now-"Perhaps my foreign policy experience and judgment might be better in the White House than his"-meaning you-"since he seemed to have voted wrong on both wars."

Your response to that is what, Senator?

KERRY: Well, it's interesting. A couple of days ago, Governor Dean said he was going to stop running a negative attack campaign, and within two days he attacked Alan Greenspan, he attacked every single candidate, he's attacked me. You know, I think the question is when he's going to stop running a negative campaign.

But, look, there is a very direct answer to both of those questions. I said we had to kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. I said his invasion would not stand. I knew we had to use force ultimately, or might have to use force ultimately. I simply thought, given my experience in Vietnam and given Colin Powell, who was joint chiefs of staffs, reservations and other people, we ought to take another month or two to build the support in our country. And I though it was worth building that support, because when you go to war, you want to make sure the American people are really supportive if things go badly.

Secondly, with respect to this, nobody voted precisely for a war. They voted for a process. They voted to go to the U.N. They voted to build an international coalition that was legitimate, voted to have inspections exhausted, and voted to go to war as a last resort, which is what the president promised us. The president broke every single one of those promises, not to mention misled America with respect to the intelligence, which we now all know.

So, I believe that Mr. Dean is completely wrong, that I stood up for the security and the common sense with respect to the soldiers who fight wars. I've been one of those soldiers. I know what it means when you lose the consent and legitimacy of the American people in a war. And as a president, I think there is a special test as to when you send young American men and women off to fight and die. I know that test, and as president, I will live up to the highest standard with respect to that.

HEMMER: Senator, you say Howard Dean is criticizing you. Others suggest exactly the opposite. In fact, this past week, you say the tax plan and foreign policy of Howard Dean are-quote-"just going to kill us."

What's wrong with his plan?

KERRY: Raising taxes on the middle class. I don't want to raise taxes on the middle class. I think the middle class is already taxed enough and is already suffering enough trying to pay tuitions and health care, heating bills, and make ends meet. What I want to do is roll back the tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, so we can invest in education and health care.

But if we learned anything in the 1990s with Bill Clinton when we balanced the budget, when we paid down the debt of our nation, when we created 23 million new jobs, had the lowest inflation and the lowest unemployment in years, we don't need to do it on the backs of the middle class. I think that's a very important policy difference in this race.


HEMMER: Senator Kerry from a short time ago here in Manchester.

Content and programming Copyright 2004 Cable News Network Transcribed under license by FDCH e-Media, Inc.

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