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National Public Radio Day to Day Transcript

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March 1, 2004 Monday

HEADLINE: Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry discusses his campaign and his position on various issues



In politics, tomorrow is Super Tuesday, with electoral contests in 10 states, including California, New York, Ohio, Georgia and Maryland. We're joined now by Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. In the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, he has won 18 of the 20 primaries and caucuses so far.

Senator, welcome to DAY TO DAY.

Senator JOHN KERRY (Democratic Presidential Candidate): Oh, I'm glad to be with you. And thank you for having me.

CHADWICK: I think you're fairly comfortably ahead in all of these contests scheduled for tomorrow. If you do win, isn't it time to start talking about someone to run with you? And what would you be looking for?

Sen. KERRY: Well, first of all, let me be very, very clear. I take absolutely nothing for granted. I'm campaigning very hard. And I'm not thinking about anything else right now except for the polls being open tomorrow morning and closing in the evening. And then we'll see where we are.

CHADWICK: OK. Let's move on to some policy questions, if we can. At a candidates debate yesterday in New York, you talked about the US response to this crisis in Haiti. And you criticized the Bush administration for being late as usual, as you put it. What would you have done differently if you were president? And do you think US troops should be there?

Sen. KERRY: Well, yes. US troops should be there now, but they should have mediated at a much earlier stage and not in a way that gave the power to the insurgents. What they effectively did was say to the parties, 'We're going to withhold all aid until you come to agreement.' Well, of course, the insurgents had no interest in coming to agreement, and they continued to be insurgents. The result is an awful lot of people in Haiti suffered. I think the better role would have been for the administration to say, 'Look, you know, we're going to give you X number of hours; otherwise, we're bringing people in from outside and, you know, neither of you are going to wind up on top.' But the administration basically didn't like Aristide. I know he had problems; I'm not suggesting that everything he did was defensible at all. He had some serious problems. But it still was a democracy, and the democratic process ought to be respected.

CHADWICK: On the theme of US troops, sir, Iraq's Governing Council now has agreed on a draft for an interim constitution for this transfer of sovereignty by June 30th. How long do you think American troops are going to be needed in Iraq, and what do you think the United States should be prepared to spend to support them?

Sen. KERRY: To support...

CHADWICK: The US troops abroad. You voted against the $87 billion.

Sen. KERRY: Well, I voted against it because I think the policy was wrong. It's not because I don't support the troops. Obviously, I support the troops, and I said at the time I'd do anything necessary to support the troops. But that money wasn't critical at that particular instant. I also put an amendment in to pay for the $87 billion immediately, not to add it to the deficit. And we could have done it by reducing George Bush's tax cut that we can't afford by $87 billion. I think that would have been a more responsible way to deal with it, and that's what I voted for.

CHADWICK: Let me ask you about gay marriage. You say that you are against gay marriage, but also against a constitutional ban on it, saying it should be left to the states. It's likely that in a few months, your state, Massachusetts, will have legalized gay marriage. Are you against that decision on the part of the state? And what is it in your beliefs that make you against same-sex couples getting married?

Sen. KERRY: Well, I don't think it's a foregone conclusion at all what Massachusetts will wind up doing. The Legislature is wrestling with a constitutional amendment right now. I think the president is playing the politics of division. I think he's playing politics with the Constitution of the United States of America. You know, different people have different beliefs. I happen to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. That's just my belief. But if people vote otherwise or decide otherwise, that's the democratic process in the United States. I think you ought to leave it up the states. The states have all the ability in the world to deal with this issue.

CHADWICK: Can you explain that belief of yours? That is, if a same-sex couple said to you, 'Why shouldn't we be able to get married?'...

Sen. KERRY: I think they're entitled to all the rights in the world, and I'm for rights. I'm for civil unions, I'm for partnership rights, I'm for the federal tax rights being attributed. I think you should get all of what we call spousal rights. I think those rights ought to attach to people. I believe in the application of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, obviously. But as long as you afford the rights, then you have equal treatment in America. What you call it is not important. What people view it as a status is not important as long as the right's attached to people.

CHADWICK: Senator Kerry, thank you for joining us on DAY TO DAY.

Sen. KERRY: I'm delighted to be with you. Thanks so much.

Copyright 2004 National Public Radio ®. All rights reserved.

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