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The News on CNBC Transcript

Location: Unknown

April 7, 2004 Wednesday


GUESTS: Robin Wright, John Kerry, John Dean

BYLINE: John Seigenthaler, Tom Aspell, Jim Miklaszewski, Andrea Mitchell, Wayne Downing, Ken Allard, Lisa Myers

SEIGENTHALER: We're back now with a man who is hoping to move into the White House next January, Senator John Kerry. We talked with him shortly after his speech at Washington's Georgetown University this afternoon outlining his economic plans.

Senator, it's good to see you. Thank you for being with us.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Glad to be with you. Thank you.

SEIGENTHALER: Senator, we'll get to your economic proposals in just a moment. But, let's start with the big news where you started today in your speech-Iraq. You've been critical of the Bush administration policies in Iraq. How does the United States get things under control there?

KERRY: I think the most important thing the United States of America needs to do is own up to the world that this is more complicated than the president thought it was. He needs to not just have a provisional authority that is put together by the United States. He needs to get another U.N. resolution and get a international entity, whether it's a combination of U.N. and NATO or an ad hoc group. There has to be an international effort to bring the world to the table to help create a stable Iraq.

The Arab countries in the region have a profound interest in not having a failed Iraq. Europe has a profound interest in not having a failed Iraq on its doorstep. Not withstanding that compelling interest, none of them are really involved in this in a very significant way, and that represents a failure of this administration's diplomacy, a failure to be willing to transfer authority to the transformation of the government, and authority for the reconstruction to some international entity that literally puts more people at risk and helping to share the burden.


KERRY: I think absent that, we're going to face the possibility of more troops in the United States, of a greater demand on the American people and a greater cost to the American people.

SEIGENTHALER: Senator, your friend, Senator Kennedy said that Iraq is President Bush's Vietnam. You served in Vietnam. Do you agree?

KERRY: I think that it doesn't have to be a Vietnam. I don't believe that it has to be a Vietnam at all. I think there are ways to avoid that, and that is why I've proposed trying to proceed more effectively through the international community, John. I know the administration is trying to do that now, and they say that, but they're not doing it in a bold, open way that acknowledges that they are prepared to shift the responsibility for the transformation of the government and the reconstruction.

They're trying to hold on to the reconstruction, and they want to be the people who effect the transformation, yet they still want other people to come to the table to take the risk. It doesn't work that way. And so they are in effect their own blocking agents. And I believe it represents one of the most dramatic and effective moments of diplomacy and foreign policy in recent memory. And it is frankly costing the American people enormous amounts of money and it's costing us lives.

SEIGENTHALER: Senator, let me turn to the economy now. You made a lot of references in your speech today about the strong economy enjoyed during the Clinton administration, but the boom, as you know, was followed by a bust and a recession, and the economists that we've talked to say that this recession came just a few months after President Bush took office, and that you can't blame him for it, so why do you want to return to the policies-the economic policies of the Clinton administration?

KERRY: Because it was the greatest period of economic growth in the history of the country, and we balanced the budget. We paid down the debt and every income level in America grew during that period of time. Now, the truth is if you talk to those economists, they'll all tell you we could have had a much softer landing much faster if this administration hadn't had as irresponsible a tax policy and as irresponsible a fiscal policy. If they had put more money into job creation in this country and they had done a lot of other things that made sense, I think we could have been booming previously.

But they have pursued a Johnny one-note policy for the United States of America, tax cut, tax cut, tax cut. And now they want to make the tax cut permanent, even though wages are going down in America and we're not creating the kinds of job that we ought to be in this nation. I have a plan to put us on a sound fiscal footing. What's more, John, look, they've got $6 trillion of unpaid for initiatives and proposals. I don't think that that's the way to conduct the fiscal affairs of our nation. I have a proposal to be fiscally responsible, cut the deficit in half and provide health care to Americans.

SEIGENTHALER: But you're promising 10 million new jobs. That's quite a promise. How do you do that?

KERRY: Well, during the 1990's, Bill Clinton promised to create eight million jobs and we created 11 million and that was over the first four years. We created 23 million over the eight years. I think, given the fact that we're a larger economy, that we have more people in our economy today, if we were to do the things necessary to help job creation here in America, if we were to do what's necessary to make an even playing field in some of our trade relationships, if we were to fight harder for a fairer tax code that doesn't disadvantage American companies, and in fact give an incentive to companies that go abroad, we could absolutely create those jobs here in the United States. It's a question of repeating what we've done before, and having faith and sound economics.


KERRY: This administration is blowing all the economic rules, and they're hurting families as they do it.

SEIGENTHALER: You know the Bush campaign in the past few days has tried to define you and it's gone awfully negative on both sides pretty early. Does the public, you think, really have the stomach for seven more months of this kind of campaigning?

KERRY: My-I'm putting out positive proposals, John. I-you know, the Bush campaign started launching these negative advertisements. They've spent $40 million. My campaign spent $8 million trying to talk about what we want to do positively. So I mean, you know you've got a 5-1 ratio in spending, and the fact is that I don't think their strategy is working. I have a positive vision for this country. I'm going to balance the budget over the years by starting with a four-year-cut the deficit in half in the first four years.

I'm going to provide health care that reduces the costs for American businesses, and makes health care more affordable to Americans by rolling back George Bush's unaffordable tax cut for people earning more than $200,000 a year. I've been absolutely direct and upfront with the choices that I think we face in this race. I think we need to keep the promise of "no child left behind" and fund education, and I think we've got to create more jobs in America.


KERRY: I have a plan to do it, and we need to do it.

SEIGENTHALER: There were several of us who were interested today that you mentioned the name of Senator John McCain several times in your speech. His name has been mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate on your ticket. But if not vice president, would you consider him in your administration?

KERRY: John, I'm not going to make any comments at all about the vice presidency or administration or appointments at this point in time.

SEIGENTHALER: Whether you'd even consider him, though?

KERRY: And again, I'm not going to, you know, get into those considerations at this point in time. I just don't think it's appropriate. What I do know is that John McCain is a close and dear friend of mine. I have enormous respect for him. He is a courageous, patriotic American who stands up for what he believes and I'm proud to call him my friend.

SEIGENTHALER: Senator John Kerry, it's good to see you. Thank you for being with us today.

KERRY: Thank you. Take care. Thanks.


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