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MSNBC "Morning Joe" - Transcript


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MS. BRZEZINSKI: With us now, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator -- Mr. President -- John Kerry. How are you, sir, this morning?

SEN. KERRY: (Laughs.) I'm doing great, thanks, Mika. Good to be with you. Happy New Year.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: It's great to have you on. Happy New Year. Nice to have you back.

SEN. KERRY: Thank you.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: If you had to name the biggest challenge confronting Hillary Clinton in terms of getting confirmed as secretary of State, what would it be? Is it the Bill Clinton fundraising issue?

SEN. KERRY: No. I'd say it's going to bed and getting up in the morning and waiting for the vote. (Chuckles.) It's --

MS. BRZEZINSKI: Well, that sounds easy.

SEN. KERRY: It's an inevitability. She is going to be overwhelmingly confirmed.

MR. BARNICLE: Hey, Senator, let me ask you a question having to do with Bob Woodard's front-page Washington Post story today about the United States, Guantanamo, and torture.

What is your definition of torture?

SEN. KERRY: Well, torture are extraordinary means of -- of inflicting pain of one kind or another on an individual in order to try to get them to tell you something or do something that they don't otherwise want to do.

MR. BARNICLE: Do you think we have been engaged, as a country, in torture in Guantanamo?

SEN. KERRY: I don't know, recently -- I'm not up to speed precisely on it. I think in the last year, no, but in the early period I think we have engaged in torture. Whether it was there or elsewhere, we have been complicit in that.

And do I think waterboarding constitutes torture? The answer is yes.

MR. BARNICLE: On another note, Senator, yesterday in the hearings Iran was talked about at several points during the hearing.

What's your view on our relationship with Iran going forward, as opposed to with the Bush administration basically isolating Iran, not talking with Iran. What's your view on what ought to be done with regard to Iran going forward?

SEN. KERRY: We need to engage with Iran, Mike. To not engage with any country in some fashion is absurd.

I mean, Richard Nixon sent Henry Kissinger to engage with Red China, with Mao Tse Tung, and to open up relations. Ronald Reagan engaged directly and personally with Gorbachev, with the Evil Empire and went to Reykjavik and came out with an historic agreement on nuclear weapons.

You have to talk to people in this planet. You can't sit around and just tell people to do what you want them to do and expect them to do it, against all of their culture, their history, their ideology and other beliefs.

So I think we've been through a, frankly, very, very -- almost an absurd period of time -- counter-productive, negative and, frankly, self-destructive period of time for our country as a consequence of the choices made by this president.

We don't even have an ambassador in Syria. I've been to Syria twice in the last couple of years to meet with the president. I heard five or six things from the president that, had I been in the executive department, I would have thought were really valuable to follow up on, to try to put to the test.

I don't think you take anything at face value in that part of the world, but you certainly can put things to the public test. And I think we've lost unbelievable opportunities to advance our interests.

I'm not talking about what you do for other people. Diplomacy is the art of advancing your interests in the world, and we haven't done a very good job of that.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: So that brings us back to Hillary Clinton, Senator Kerry. It's important, clearly, as secretary of State that she and the president are on the same page and that when she's out on the foreign stage, she is representing him and has credibility in that.

Do you think there could be a conflict, as it pertains to her views on how to deal with Iran, how to engage with Hamas or not? Because on the campaign trail, she called him naive. They had some real conflicts.

SEN. KERRY: (Chuckles.) Sure. But this is not the first time in history that people have moved well beyond campaign rhetoric. You know, George Bush, who became vice president to Ronald Reagan, completely reversed positions and then stayed with those positions for the rest of his political life. These transformations occur.

In the case of Hillary Clinton, she's a professional. She's a very smart and capable person. She absolutely understands the task of being secretary of State.

I am confident that in their private conversations, she and the president -- the president particularly -- has reached an understanding as to what that process will be. And I really expect a very strong presence and strong relationship.

I'm confident that she is going to be perceived as speaking for the president and, indeed, has an ability because of her prior relationship with some of these leaders to be able to get off to a faster start and even to advance the leverage that does exist in that position anyway.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: Senator Kerry, thank you so much. It's great to have you back on the show. Come back again soon.

SEN. KERRY: Well, it's good to be with you. Stay warm.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: All right. Take care. Oh -- we'll try. It's cold here in New York.

SEN. KERRY: I know.

MS. BRZEZINSKI: Thank you, Senator.


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