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CBS Face the Nation Transcript

Location: Unknown

January 25, 2004 Sunday

HEADLINE: Senator John Kerry, Democratic presidential candidate, discusses domestic issues, the war on terrorism and his preparations for Tuesday's New Hampshire primary



And with us, Senator John Kerry. Joining in the questioning this morning, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

And I want to say in the beginning here that is not a picture postcard behind us. That is really New Hampshire. Luckily, there's a glass wall between us and what's out there because at last report it was minus 5 degrees.

Senator, thank you very much for coming.

Senator JOHN KERRY (Democratic Presidential Candidate): Glad to be with you.

SCHIEFFER: You are riding high. You're leading in all the polls here, but the Republicans have already started. They call you the liberal senator from Massachusetts, out of sync with the rest of America, more liberal than even Ted Kennedy. Now in every poll that we've seen so far, what seems to matter most to Democrats is which candidate has the best chance to beat George Bush. So how do you counter those Republican charges?

Sen. KERRY: Oh, very easily. The American people are looking for more than labels. They want leadership. As they say in the South, Bob, 'That dog won't hunt,' and it's not going to hunt. I have led the fight for deficit reduction in 1985 with Fritz Hollings and Senator Gramm of Texas. I led the-the fight to put 100,000 police officers in the streets of America to make our justice system work and make communities safe. I have fought hard for responsible welfare reform. I voted for welfare reform. I-I think as people get to know me, and they will, they will respond to my call for a different kind of politics in our country.

The Republicans want to divert attention. They want the labels because they don't have a program to give health care to all Americans. They're going to try to play to the slogans and the cultural fight because they don't have a way to put America back to work and they don't have a response for education as they leave millions of children behind. I'm going to protect the middle class and not raise their taxes, but I'm not going to let George Bush's tax cuts for wealthy Americans and crony capitalism and crony government that is diverting millions of dollars-billions of dollars from the taxpayers' pockets stand. And we're going to stand up and fight for really bringing the country together in answering the problems of our nation.


Ms. AMY WALTER (The Cook Political Report): Well, let's-we're still in New Hampshire, but soon, after Tuesday, we move on. There are seven primaries on February 3rd. When your plane takes off Wednesday morning, where do you land? Where do you campaign?

Sen. KERRY: No, my focus o-is here in New Hampshire. I'm-I'm-I'm focused on New Hampshire. This is a fight here, and I'm taking not one vote for granted. I am fighting every single moment for the next 48 hours. This is a race. I'm going door to door today. I'm going to fight as hard as I can for every vote in this state. And New Hampshire voters are-are very independent-minded. They have e-every bit of-a-a right to expect us to be totally focused on their needs now. And I don't know where I'm going afterwards. I want to fight for those votes here and keep convincing people I am the strongest candidate to run against George Bush because I have 35 years of clear, consistent experience in fighting for the values and the agenda of our nation that puts people to work, helps people get health care. We expanded the children's health program. We've created the Family Medical Leave Act. We need to go further. I want health care for all Americans and I also have 35 years of experience in international affairs, national security and our nation desperately wants real leadership that can build our relationship in a global basis and make America safer. I can do that.

SCHIEFFER: Well, since-since we are in New Hampshire, Howard Dean is still running here. And he is quoted as saying he's worried about your judgment for some of the positions you took on Iraq. He said he'd be deeply concerned about that kind of judgment in the White House.

Sen. KERRY: Well, it's very interesting. Two days ago Howard Dean said that he was going to stop running a negative campaign and focus on his agenda. And in the last two days he's attacked Alan Greenspan, he's attacked every other candidate, including me. Now my judgment was the correct judgment, I believe, to stand up to Saddam Hussein correctly. There was a right way to do it; there was a wrong way to do it. George Bush chose the wrong way because he went back on every promise he made, the promise of building a legitimate coalition, exhausting the remedies of the United Nations and literally going to war as a last resort, Bob. Now I will put my record of fighting in a war and fighting against Richard Nixon and his war against any other candidate in this field when it comes to how you stand up for what is right. And I believe that a commander and chief should never send young people to war without having worked to built the support of the nation and without legitimacy in that effort. I don't think the president did.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you one thing. And I think you said this earlier today. You said this administration must be held accountable...

Sen. KERRY: Correct.

SCHIEFFER: ...for using weapons of mass destruction as the reason for going to war in Iraq. What does that mean? What does 'must be held accountable' mean?

Sen. KERRY: You're talking about Saddam Hussein?


Sen. KERRY: Well, it's very simple. I believe he should have been disarmed. I urged President Clinton in 1998 to take this issue to the United Nations. And after the bombing of five days, we didn't go to the UN. Senator Hagel, Senator McCain and I each said we thought that that was a moment where the United States should have held the legitimate use of force as the potential to disarm Saddam Hussein.

SCHIEFFER: But-but you s-you said the administration ought to be held accountable for using...

Sen. KERRY: Correct.

SCHIEFFER: ...WMD, weapons of mass destruction.

Sen. KERRY: No, I didn't say this administration.

SCHIEFFER: I'm sorry.

Sen. KERRY: Not our administration.

SCHIEFFER: No, I'm talking about the Bush administration.

Sen. KERRY: No, I've never suggested they ought to be accountable. I-what I said was they ought to be held accountable for using the weapons of mass destruction argument.

SCHIEFFER: Well, that's what I said. Yes.

Sen. KERRY: The argument. Oh, absolutely, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what does that mean? What does that mean, 'They should be held accountable'?

Sen. KERRY: It means that Dick Cheney and others in the administration misled the American people with respect to the true status of the weapons of mass destruction in-in-in Iraq. Now we may yet find weapons of mass destruction. Let me be clear about that. They may be found somewhere. I don't know the answer to that. As of yet, they haven't been. And David Kay has said he doesn't believe that they had them. The evidence yet doesn't support it. But Dick Cheney said they had a 45-minute deployment ability. They also said in the administration that they had aerial vehicles that were capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction. Both have already been proved to be untrue.

SCHIEFFER: Do you think it was bad intelligence...

Sen. KERRY: Let me just finish one other thing.

SCHIEFFER: ...or do you think they lied to us?

Sen. KERRY: I don't know the answer to that. But we ought to know the answer to that in America. I do know this. I do know that I was shown photographs at a briefing at the Pentagon in the presence of the secretary of Defense and the people in charge of the intelligence. And they passed the photographs around. They showed us, and they said, 'This is what's happening in this building, according to the best intelligence we have.' Now that was wrong. It wasn't what was happening in that building.

So Americans need to have accountability for our intelligence system. Because our security depends on it. And I think this administration is still allowing this patchwork of security network. I understand there's something like 50-plus watch lists still. We don't have somebody who is coordinating the-you got the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department's intelligence, various intelligence efforts. We need to do a better job of coordination, a better job of protecting America.

Ms. WALTER: So accountability-should there be hearings, should there be investigations? What-what needs to be done here?

Sen. KERRY: Well, of course there ought to be hearings. I mean, after Pearl Harbor, there was an immediate effort by the administration in charge to legitimately get at the answers. This administration is fighting that legitimate effort. I mean, Tom Kean, whom everybody understands is a man of great integrity and great reputation, has himself publicly complained about the lack of adequate cooperation from the administration. Now I hope they're getting it now. They may well be. But I do know that there's been a slow walk in the effort to try to get the answers America needs to be safer.

Ms. WALTER: I just wanted to go back. I know we're talking about New Hampshire, but I-I also want to talk about this electability argument which has been very strong. We talked about that a little bit earlier. There's-your opponents here in this primary, especially General Clark, Senator Edwards talked about the importance of the South, being able to connect with Southern voters.

Sen. KERRY: Sure.

Ms. WALTER: South Carolina primary is on February 3rd. Here's a great opportunity to talk about that. Do you need to win South Carolina to say, 'I have an ability to come in and win the South even as a candidate from the North?'

Sen. KERRY: No, absolutely not, but I'm gonna do my best to, but I-I don't have to. But, look, Senator Fritz Hollings is no novice to American politics. Seven times elected senator, a governor of the state of South Carolina, integrated the state peacefully, an extraordinary record, and he came up to New Hampshire the other day to stand with veterans to say that he thought I was the person who could win the presidency. Senator Max Cleland of Georgia is campaigning with me, other people in the South.

The South-we have to stop separating the South. The South is not a foreign country. This is America, and these Americans in the South care about the same things that we care about in New Hampshire and elsewhere. They want good schools for their kids. There are too many people in the South living in poverty. White Americans living in poverty in the South, not just African-Americans. They want clean air and clean water to breathe and to drink. They want health care. And their costs keep going up. George Bush has no plan for health care for all Americans. I do. And I will lower the cost of health care for every person who has health care in the system today. And that's what they care about in the South is how to improve their lives. I will talk mainstream, common-sense American values, and it begins by being fiscally responsible and not allowing the tax cut for the wealthiest Americans at the expense of health care and education for our kids.

SCHIEFFER: Well, George Bush says he has a health-care plan for all Americans. We had a plan that was passed in the Senate. They talk about prescription-prescription drugs.

Sen. KERRY: Bob, this is the biggest 'say one thing, do another' administration in the history of the country of all the time I've been in politics. You reminded me a moment ago that George Bush sat in this chair four years ago and said he was going to bring the country together. He was not elected by a mandate. He was elected by the Supreme Court of the United States by one vote. And yet he has set out and divided America. On Martin Luther King's birthday, he announced an attack on affirmative action in America. This year on Martin Luther King's birthday, he appointed a judge who clearly was objected to by a large number of people in the United States Senate who had fought for leniency for a cross burner in the South. What is the symbol of that to America? That doesn't bring people together.

There are so many ways in which this administration has divided the country and seeks to drive wedges. Beginning a campaign just by trying to label a potential opponent, that-that is what reduces American politics in a way that people are fed up. George Bush has served the powerful interests of this country. How else could you take a Medicare bill which could have been a legitimate Medicare prescription drug plan for seniors, and turn it into a windfall profit of $139 billion for the me-for the drug companies, prohibiting Medicare from even negotiating a lower price for seniors, prohibiting seniors from importing drugs from Canada or other countries? The only reason for doing that is to line the pockets of your friends.

I'm going to fight that kind of crony government, crony capitalism, and I'm not going to allow people to go from government into lobbying. We're going to prevent the kind of, you know, circle that George Bush seems to play to. I'm going to bring the country to a place where we talk to thoughtful Republicans, thoughtful Independents and Democrats. Throw away the labels. Let's talk about our nation and the need to provide health care to all Americans, jobs, meet the future.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just give you a chance to respond to something that General Clark has been talking about. He says that, don't forget, he was the general and you were a lieutenant. How did that strike you personally when you heard that?

Sen. KERRY: General Clark has talked to me since then, and I think that he understands that that wasn't the best choice...

SCHIEFFER: Did he apologize?

Sen. KERRY: I-let's just say that I understand tha-that that's not a place we want to fight this campaign. And I think he's a good-good man and had a distinguished career in the military. And I really think it's more important for us to talk about the things that are important to the people of New Hampshire.

This race has 48 hours to go, and I want the people in this state to understand that the one-fifth of the jobs in this state that have been lost that are manufacturing need to be replaced by a thoughtful plan for how we're going to have fair trade and how we're going to commit to education and science and research and put people back to work. We need an agenda for the working Americans. I mean, Bob, I've met people-the other day I was in-in-in Derry at Marianne's Diner. Two people sitting there, working hard-they don't have health insurance. They're 35 years old. They've never had health insurance.

You get people like Lisa and Randy Nanusio, who live in Salem. They're living next to a lake that they moved to, so their kids could enjoy the lake. They can no longer make lemonade with the water, they can no longer take showers because it's MTBE-polluted, as are one-sixth of the lakes of New Hampshire. What's George Bush doing about that? You know what he's doing? He and Tom DeLay are trying to protect those companies that have polluted those lakes from liability for doing so and stick the bill to the taxpayer. I'm going to fight that kind of irresponsibility.

SCHIEFFER: Le-let's talk about something the president talked about in his State of the Union, and that is he said he was worried about the sanctity of marriage, I believe it was.

Sen. KERRY: Yes.

SCHIEFFER: Are you worried about it?

Sen. KERRY: Well, I respect the sanctity of marriage. I think marriage i-is-is the oldest institution in the world, and it-it is important for us to honor it. I-but-but I think the president is trying to drive a wedge again in America. Marriage is a wo-is a term that sort of gets in the way of the argument here. What's really at issue is rights. Will a gay person in America have the right to be able to visit a partner in a hospital, or are they barred? Will somebody who's lived with somebody for 20 years have the right to leave them property? We have an equal protection clause in the Constitution of the United States. When the president raises his or her hand and takes the oath of office and says, 'I will protect the Constitution,' you pledge to enforce the law of equal protection. And I want to enforce that law. I think church can-is separate. Marriage can be sanctified by the church. I'm not personally supportive of gay marriage, but I am supportive of people having rights in America, and I think that's what we have to protect.

Ms. WALTER: Now, Senator, you-if you're the nominee, you can be in Boston at the convention, in your home state. By that time, the state of Massachusetts may actually be giving marriage licenses to gay couples; it's certainly a possibility. Do you see this then, as what you were just discussing here, as a wedge issue? Do you see that being used against you into the campaign? What do you say about that?

Sen. KERRY: No, it's not my position, and I've said that very clearly. I am not-I personally do not support gay marriage. I support rights. Now I think the court will wind up coming back-I don't think that'll be the situation. The Legislature has asked the court for an advisory opinion about this issue of marriage vs. civil union vs. rights. Let's wait and see how they come back.

But you know what's important? That's not what's dividing America. That's not the major issue in America. The major issue in America is people's ability to be able to survive and put food on the plate and pay their mortgage and live the dream, reach retirement. We've had seniors whose entire retirement has been blown away by Enron, by WorldCom, by mutual fund scandals. The-this administration has licensed a creed of greed that is taking the agenda away from the average American.

People want health care they can afford. I'm-I-I'm tired of hearing stories-I mean, I'll listen to them forever, but I want something to respond to these people who keep telling me, 'Senator, I don't have health care. I gotta sell my home. We can't support Mom and Pop. We have no way of-of carrying on.' And yet we're the only industrial country on the face of the planet that doesn't understand that health care is not a privilege for the wealthy and the powerful; health care is something that ought to be afforded as a right to all Americans.

SCHIEFFER: Senator, well, how do you-how would you describe the political landscape today? It-the country was obviously divided right down the middle the last time four years ago. Do you think it's still as divided as it was?

Sen. KERRY: Yes, I think it's a very divided nation, and that's why I object so much to the Bush presidency, which is leading us in a radically wrong direction. They are governing as if they have received an ideological mandate from the right and they literally shut out senators and congressmen from the conferences where they try to resolve legislation. There's no compromise. This is a 'my way or the highway' administration. And I believe that what we need is a president who truly understands the division of the country, who's prepared to reach across that divide.

I understand the cultural divisions in our nation, but I believe very deeply that people of good conscience and good faith can work across party lines, across ideological lines to find the common ground. John McCain and I did that; came from very different places, but we found the common ground by respecting each other and by looking for a solution, not a political wedge.

SCHIEFFER: That's where we have to leave it.

Sen. KERRY: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: Thank you so much, Senator, and good luck...

Sen. KERRY: Thank you very much.

SCHIEFFER: the Tuesday election.

We'll be back in a minute with another FACE THE NATION 50th anniversary Flashback.

Copyright 2004 CBS Worldwide Inc.

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