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CBS 60 Minutes Transcript

Location: Unknown

January 25, 2004 Sunday

HEADLINE: Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, his campaign for Democratic presidential candidacy



ED BRADLEY, co-host:

Had John Kerry, the four-term senator from Massachusetts, not stumbled coming out of the starting gate, and had not had trouble breaking away from the field in the race to become the Democrats' candidate for president, there were those in his party who say he would have been a runaway winner. Now, with a win in last week's Iowa caucus, he's back on track. At least, the smart money thinks he's got a good shot...

(Footage of John Kerry and people at a campaign event)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) ...maybe the best shot at getting his party's coveted nomination.

You think you're doing a better job at connecting with people today than you did at the beginning of your campaign?

Senator JOHN KERRY: Yes.

BRADLEY: What happened?

Sen. KERRY: It just-it's sometimes like spring training. You kind of have to get out of Washington, get away from the language, get away from the sort of formality and break out. And that's what I did.

(Footage of Kerry and reporter; Kerry baby photo; photo of Kerry's mother; photo of Kerry's father; photo of Kerry siblings)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) But Kerry's formality comes as much from growing up in a patrician family as from the years spent in Washington as a senator. Born in 1943, his mother was a Boston blue blood and his father was an Army Air Corps pilot who later became a foreign service officer, which meant that Kerry, the second of four children, moved from place to place in the United States and Europe.

Sen. KERRY: I can remember the 12-year-old kid, I actually rode my bicycle into the east sector of Berlin-which is a huge no-no-using my diplomatic passport, until my dad found out and I was firmly grounded and my passport was yanked.

(Photo of St. Paul's School sign; news clipping of Kerry; Kerry Navy photo; Kerry and others in Vietnam photo)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) In eighth grade, Kerry went to St. Paul's, a boarding school in New Hampshire, and then to Yale where he was a member, as George W. Bush was, of Skull and Bones, an elite private club. He enlisted in the Navy and in 1968 went to Vietnam, where Lieutenant Kerry earned three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, and a Silver Star commanding what were known as swift boats, patrolling the rivers of the Mekong Delta.

How'd you get the Silver Star?

Sen. KERRY: You know, I got it surviving, I guess is the best way to put it. I think most people who walk around with medals in this country may be proud of the medals, and I am, but are much more, sort of, thoughtful and remembering of the people who didn't come home, who are really the heroes. And I just am not comfortable sort of going into the story.

BRADLEY: When did you decide the war was wrong?

Sen. KERRY: Within weeks, almost, of being there.

BRADLEY: And what was it that changed your mind?

(File footage of war scenes in Vietnam)

Sen. KERRY: (Voiceover) It was the-it was the totality of the experience that I saw, the lesser role the Vietnamese were playing in their own country, the rules that we were enforcing on them, the free fire zone, the harassment and interdiction fire. The more I saw of these missions, the more I said, 'This is a folly.'

BRADLEY: You came back and became part of the-the Vietnam veterans who were part of that war protest movement.

Sen. KERRY: I certainly did.

(File footage of Arlington Cemetery march)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) At one point, in 1971, there was a march on Arlington Cemetery.

Sen. KERRY: (Voiceover) Yes.

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) And the doors were locked. Do you remember that?

Sen. KERRY: (Voiceover) I do remember that. I do remember that. It was-it was a bitter, sad moment for every veteran there, because all we were going to go do is pay tribute to the fallen, and we were so distrusted that they barred the doors.

(Footage of Kerry in Senate meeting)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) That very week, Lieutenant Kerry was invited to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Sen. KERRY: (From file footage) How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

(To reporter) It was a huge moment in my life. I just launched into what came from my gut and my heart, I-I, in a sense, it had been building up for a long time.

BRADLEY: It's still emotional after all these years.

Sen. KERRY: Sure. Sure.

BRADLEY: Vietnam is something that just doesn't leave you.

Sen. KERRY: It's young people dying young for the wrong reasons, because leaders don't do the things that they should do to protect them.

BRADLEY: Do you see a parallel with Iraq?

Sen. KERRY: Yes, I do. I believe this president breached faith with the lesson that I just expressed to you that we learned in Vietnam. You truly should go to war as a matter of last resort. I'm afraid this president rushed with war without a plan to win the peace.

BRADLEY: But this was the war that you voted for.

Sen. KERRY: No, I think a better way to phrase that is I voted for a process by which war would be the last resort. And those are the conditions the president himself established. He said, 'I will build a coalition. We're going to use the United Nations, we will inspect, and I will go to war as a last resort.' He did not do any three of those things. So yes, I believe we should have stood up to Saddam Hussein. I thought it was important for our nation's security. There was a right way to do it, and there was a wrong way to do it. The president chose the wrong way.

(Footage of Kerry and reporter)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) And for those who say he should have voted no, Kerry added this.

Sen. KERRY: If anyone believes that I would have used that authority the way George Bush did, they should not vote for me, period.

BRADLEY: Wesley Clark has said that he has won a war. He has negotiated a peace agreement. 'I'm not worried about John Kerry. He's a lieutenant. I'm a general.'

Sen. KERRY: Well, that's the first time I've heard a general be so dismissive of lieutenants, who bleed a lot in wars. I think that the general is entitled to his feelings and his opinions.

BRADLEY: John Edwards, do you think he has the experience?

Sen. KERRY: That's not for me to judge. That's for the American people to judge.

BRADLEY: You were critical of him at one point.

Sen. KERRY: (From speech) When I came back from Vietnam in 1969, ladies and gentleman, I'm not sure if John Edwards was out of diapers then yet or not. I'm truly not sure. I don't know.

(To reporter) I immediately said afterwards, 'I'm only joking,' and I said, 'No, of course, he wasn't,' and I then proceeded to praise him as a very talented and capable person. And I believe that about him. And, obviously, you can't joke at all, and I shouldn't.

(Footage of Kerry and reporter)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) Kerry certainly doesn't joke about George W. Bush.

Sen. KERRY: I disagree with President Bush on number one, his economic policy, which is driving the country into debt and not creating jobs, giving tax cuts to wealthy Americans at the expense of the average American; the energy bill, which has been transformed into $50 billion of oil and gas subsidies; almost every policy in the environment is going backwards. I disagree with his approach to health care, which is no approach at all; and I disagree deeply, profoundly, with the way he is conducting his war on terror that is breaking our relationships around the planet, isolating the United States. That's what a disagree with for starters.

BRADLEY: A lot said. Did you leave anything out?

Sen. KERRY: There's more. There's more, my friend.

(From speech) We'll send George Bush back to Texas, and we will stand up and we will say, Mission Accomplished!

(Footage of Kerry at campaign speech; President Bush at fundraiser)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) But it will take money and lots of it to have a chance to give the president that pink slip. Mr. Bush is expected to raise an unprecedented $200 million for his reelection campaign.

BRADLEY: How do you top that?

Sen. KERRY: I'm not worried about his money.

(Footage of Kerry and Howard Dean at campaign event)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) Because Kerry and Governor Dean are the only Democratic candidates to forgo public financing, there is no cap on the amount of money they can raise.

Sen. KERRY: If I win this nomination early, I will have the ability to mobilize the full power of the Democratic Party to raise money. And unlike Al Gore's cycle, I'll have the ability to answer back and fight back. They may have the money, but I think we have the ideas and the people.

BRADLEY: Let's touch briefly on some of the knocks that critics...

Sen. KERRY: Sure.

BRADLEY: ...bring out about you. They say that you're too aloof, you lack a common touch, that you're a politician who lacks a real core. How do you respond to them?

Sen. KERRY: I think Iowa responded to them.

(Footage of Kerry, Ted Kennedy and Michael Dukakis; Kerry senate campaign event; Iran Contra hearing; Manuel Noriega; John McCain and Kerry; fountain; Kerry and McCain; file footage of Kerry and first wife; photo of Kerry and children; photo of Theresa Heinz-Kerry; Heinz-Kerry; Kerry and Heinz-Kerry)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) Kerry's first elective office was in 1982 as lieutenant governor to Michael Dukakis. He was elected to the Senate in 1984, where he focused on investigations into Iran Contra, Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, and joined fellow Vietnam vet John McCain in looking into the fate of missing POWs in Southeast Asia.

But his political career took a toll on his marriage. He separated from his first wife in 1982, and they divorced six years later. Kerry was a single father of two daughters when he met his current wife, Teresa Heinz, widow of Senator John Heinz, who was killed in a plane crash in 1991. She was left with three sons, a half-billion-dollar fortune, and control of a billion-dollar charitable foundation. Born in Mozambique, Africa, her father was a Portuguese doctor. She and Kerry have been married for eight years.

BRADLEY: What would be your role as-as first lady? How would you...

Ms. TERESA HEINZ-KERRY: Keeping him honest, strong, up, when they knock him, and real humble when they praise him too much. And you know Washington. They always do that. You know, you're either a devil or you're a saint, and we-none of us are either, or most of us are not.

BRADLEY: Were you ever opposed to this campaign? I mean, did you-were you a tough sell?

Ms. HEINZ-KERRY: I was a tough sell until about a year and a half ago.

BRADLEY: And today?

Ms. HEINZ-KERRY: I support him completely.

BRADLEY: Are-are you a part of strategy sessions in this campaign?

Ms. HEINZ-KERRY: No, not one.

BRADLEY: So what is your role in the campaign?

Ms. HEINZ-KERRY: I just go out and do my thing, get them all into trouble, is what I do.

(Photo of Kerry and Heinz-Kerry)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) And what about her vast fortune?

BRADLEY: For you, Senator, does the money ever get in the way? Does it cast a giant shadow?

Sen. KERRY: At first I was a little bit, actually, sort of intimidated by that. I think it's one of the reasons I was cautious. But then, you know, emotions and feelings take precedence, and you take what comes with it. I'm not worried about it.

Ms. HEINZ-KERRY: Give me a break.

Sen. KERRY: Anyway...

Ms. HEINZ-KERRY: I came with it. Come on.

Sen. KERRY: No, but I mean-I don't mean that. What I mean is-that's what I'm-that's my point, that I didn't worry. You know, just-it doesn't matter anymore. But I can't tell you in an honest way that I didn't sort of have to step over that kind of barrier, sure.

(Footage of Kerry and Heinz-Kerry; Kerry townhouse; Kerry and Heinz-Kerry)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) By law, his wife can only contribute $2,000 of her own money to his campaign. But the Kerrys have mortgaged their jointly-owned townhouse in Boston to pump money into the race. Mrs. Heinz-Kerry says she'll spend her own money independent of the campaign to defend her family against negative attacks.

Thirty-three years ago, my colleague Morley Safer asked you if you wanted to be president.

Sen. KERRY: I know. I remember that.

MORLEY SAFER, co-host:

(From file footage) Do you want to be president?

Sen. KERRY: (From file footage) Of the United States? No.

BRADLEY: You laughed. You said, "No. That's such a crazy question at a time like this, when there are so many things that have to be done and so many changes that have to be made. I just don't think it's something that you should plan."

Sen. KERRY: I thought that my anti-war activities would probably disqualify me from running for office, as he asked that. And I think that's what I was referring to.

BRADLEY: Every Democrat elected president in the last 40 years has been a Southerner. Republicans tell us that they can't wait to pull out all of their Dukakis comparisons if you are indeed...

Sen. KERRY: Yeah.

BRADLEY: ...the nominee. Do you really think that a Massachusetts liberal can win, say, the South, for example?

Sen. KERRY: I think what people are looking for is not regional, where you come from. They're looking for what's in your gut. The people in the South that I talk to want jobs just as much as people in the rest of the country. They want health care just as much as anybody else. They want their kids to go to a great school. And Michael Dukakis didn't lose the presidency because he came from Massachusetts. The truth is, Americans are going to look at your character and they're going to look at your vision for the country. And they're going to test whether your words are real, and whether you'll fight for them.

BRADLEY: You're convinced you can close this deal?

Sen. KERRY: I am convinced. I'm convinced I'm going to beat George Bush and lead this country to a better place.

Copyright 2004 CBS Worldwide Inc.

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