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ABC "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" - Transcript


Location: Massachusetts

ABC "This Week with George Stephanopoulos"

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Our next guest is Senator John Kerry. I want to show a bit of what he said at the Democratic Convention. Take a look.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): (From tape.) Senator McCain, who once railed against the smears of Karl Rove when he was the target, has morphed into candidate McCain who is using the same Rove tactics, the same Rove staff, the same old politics of fear and smear.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Your response?

SEN. GRAHAM: I don't know what the heck he's talking about. Who have we feared or smeared? We've run ads questioning whether or not Barack Obama is a celebrity or a leader. We're putting questions out there about Senator Obama. What has he actually done? He's been in the Senate since 2006. He's been gone more than he's been there. He's never reached across the aisle to do one hard thing, and when it came to Iraq, he went two and a half years without visiting the country, never sat down and talked to General Petraeus about how the surge is going, declared the surge a failure, never got engaged at all, went to Iraq because we made him go, shamed him into going, comes back and says the surge still hasn't worked and I wouldn't have changed my vote.

So what we've tried to do is expose the guy for the calculating politician that he is. And Governor Palin, whether you think she's a good choice or not, I can tell you, she's got a resume of taking on hard issues and standing up to tough people. If you can take on Ted Stevens and that crowd in Alaska, you can handle the Russians.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Graham, thanks very much.

SEN. GRAHAM: Thank you.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So let me turn now to Senator Kerry. He's joining today from Massachusetts. You heard Senator Graham there. Senator Kerry, good morning, first of all. What's your response?

SEN. KERRY: Well, he just admitted the case. He just said we've exposed him for being the calculating politician that he is. Barack Obama in his own speech said he's not going to attack John McCain's motives. But you've just heard them attack John McCain's motives: calculating. The fact is that Barack Obama has shown judgment that has been correct. Everything -- Lindsey Graham's very glib, he's very good. But let me tell you something, he just didn't tell you the truth. John McCain has been wrong about Iraq. He bought into the neoconservative theory that by military invasion of Iraq, you could transform the Middle East.

That has been proven incorrect. The Middle East is in shambles. America has lost credibility. In fact, Iran is stronger today. Hamas is stronger today. Hezbollah is stronger today. And the United States of America that the president is supposed to protect is weaker today in the region and in the world. Al Qaeda is reconstituted and is now in 60 countries, not in the four countries that it was at the time of Afghanistan when the war began. So the bottom line is that the Republicans are trying to hide the fact that they have failed on their watch to make America safer.

And now -- now, George, you have a choice where John McCain has proven that he's not a maverick, he's erratic. He's crossed the line from maverickism to erraticism -- it's unbelievable what's happened, because he himself said --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me stop you right there. Let me stop you right there, Senator Kerry. You said he's erratic. What are you talking about there? Is that referring to the choice of Governor Palin?

SEN. KERRY: I will tell you exactly. I will tell you -- absolutely.

Because what has happened is John McCain -- we've been warning against the third term of George Bush. With the choice of Governor Palin, it's now the third term of Bush-Cheney, because what he's done is he's chosen somebody who actually doesn't believe that climate change is man-made. He's chosen somebody who has zero -- zero -- experience in foreign policy.

The first threshold test of a president of a nominee in choosing a vice president is to prove to the American people that the person that you've chosen can fill in tomorrow, that they come with the requisite experience to lead the nation in foreign policy and in national security. You know, she may be -- I'm sure she's a terrific person. I'm not attacking her. I think John McCain's judgment is once again put at issue because he's chosen somebody who clearly does not meet the national security threshold, who is not ready to be president tomorrow. And there's just no way to get over that.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You heard Senator Graham though. He said that she has more experience than Senator Obama.

SEN. KERRY: Well, that's just ridiculous on its face. Barack Obama has been in the United States Senate. He has not been absent more than he's been there. She's been a governor for what, two years now? Barack Obama in the four years. But moreover, Barack Obama has traveled abroad. Look at the trip Barack Obama took. It is remarkable to me that the Republicans would try to denigrate a trip that a candidate for president takes where he attracts more attention, more support, if you will, than a sitting president of the United States of America. That's what you need in leadership for a president. You need somebody who can go to Europe and say to them, we need more help in Afghanistan.

He actually called the Europeans to account on their need to be, frankly, more front and center in the effort to deal with Afghanistan than President Bush has. I think that's leadership. And I think the United States of America is well served if we have a president who's able to do that. But coming back to this choice for a moment.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Kerry. Let me ask you another thing.

SEN. KERRY: Let me say one other thing about this choice.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you another question, because, Senator, Howard Wilson -- excuse me. Let me just ask you another question. Howard Wilson, Senator Clinton's former communications director, said that this pick might just work to draw women to the Republican ticket. Are you worried about that?

SEN. KERRY: Well, with all due respect to Howard, I have much more respect for the Clinton supporters than that sort of quick blush take -- how stupid do they think the Clinton supporters are, for heaven sakes? Do they think Clinton supporters supported Hillary only because she was a woman? For heaven's sakes, they supported Hillary because of all the things she's fought for -- because she fights for health care, which John McCain doesn't support. She fights for children and children's health care which John McCain voted against. She fights for a windfall profit tax on the oil company which John McCain opposes.

I mean, for heaven's sakes, the people who supported Hillary Clinton are not going to be seduced just because John McCain has picked a woman. They're going to look at what she supports. The fact that she doesn't even support the notion that climate change is man- made -- she's back there with the flat-earth caucus. And I don't see how those women are going to be fooled into believing -- I think it's almost insulting to the Hillary supporters that they believe they would support somebody who is against almost everything that they believe in. What John McCain has proven with this choice --


SEN. KERRY: This is very important, George. John McCain wanted to choose Tom Ridge. He wanted to choose Joe Lieberman. He wanted to choose another candidate, but you know what? Rush Limbaugh and the Right Wing vetoed it. And John McCain was forced to come back and pick a sort of Cheneyesque social conservative who's going to satisfy the base. What John McCain has proven with this choice is that John McCain is the prisoner of the Right Wing, not a maverick.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Kerry, I'm afraid that's all we have time for today. Thank you very much for your time.

SEN. KERRY: Thank you.

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