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John Kerry on “This Week”

by Pamela Leavey

John Kerry was on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopolous this morning, discussing a wide scope of topics including his speech at Boston’s Faneuil Hall yesterday, Iraq, the new audiotape that has surfaced from Osama bin Laden, Donald Rumsfeld, his views on changing the primary schedule and more…

(AP Photo/ABC News, Freddie Lee)

The following is the transcript of the show (note: transcript is first take, some is missing)

STEPHANOPOULOS: But can a new prime minister stop the violence in Iraq? And will a new staff shore up the president at home?

We’ll ask our headliner, Senator John Kerry, in a Sunday exclusive.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, everyone. We begin today with some breaking news, a new audiotape from Osama bin Laden. Al Jazeera is broadcasting the tape in which the Al Qaida leader says the war in Iraq and the cutoff of funds to the Palestinian government led by Hamas proves that there is a Zionist crusade against Islam. The tape has not yet been authenticated.

Here to discuss this and more is our headliner, Senator John Kerry. Welcome back to “This Week”

KERRY: Good morning. Glad to be here.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Osama bin Laden is back. What’s your reaction?

KERRY: My reaction is that it underscores the failure of this administration to capture him. This is one of the reasons that Donald Rumsfeld should resign. The design of the attack on Afghanistan, which had insufficient troops to surround Tora Bora, insufficient effort to commit American troops, was one of the great catastrophes of this entire effort in the war on terror. Osama bin Laden is loose today because we allowed him to escape at Tora Bora. It’s that simple. It was a failure of strategy, not tactics, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, a thousand tactical mistakes — strategy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: She was talking about Iraq, and I want to move to Iraq as well. Yesterday, a new prime minister, Jawad al-Maliki, was named. He now has a month under the constitution to form a new government. You’ve said that Iraq should only have until May 15th, or the United States should withdraw its troops. Will you give him the full month that’s called for under the constitution?

KERRY: Oh, absolutely. It would be absurd not to do that. What I was doing is putting pressure on and saying that you have to have a timetable. And I still believe in that timetable. And so, 30 days now is the timetable. It’s their timetable; it’s our timetable. And it should be the same strict adherence to that timetable. They only respond to pressure, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Up until late last year you were against atimetable. What caused your shift?

KERRY: Because we were fundamentally viewing the war at that time as Americans versus jihadists. But it has now transformed into the third war. First war, Iraq, with Saddam Hussein. Second war in Iraq was against the jihadists. Third war is now 98 percent Iraqis, engaged in Sunni versus Shia violence. And so the only way to resolve that, as our generals have told us, is politically. You can’t resolve it militarily. And General Casey has said himself, our large presence of troops feeds the insurgency and delays the Iraqis standing up for themselves. So get tough. Set a timetable and push them.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you give them the month right now, but you’re saying once the government is formed we have to have a plan to get all combat troops out by the end of the year. Zero combat troops?

KERRY: That should be the goal and that should be the target, and that is my target. But I have said you can have an over-the-horizon capacity in order to continue to fight Al Qaida. You don’t want to be stupid about that. And you have an over-the-horizon capacity to prevent any Iranian mischief or other kinds of mischief.

But there is no excuse three and a half years later for American troops to be driving by IEDs and getting blown up. Are you telling me they can’t drive a truck? I mean, I can tell you when an officer is going to get out of pilot school, training in Corpus Christi or Pensacola. We can tell you when you’re going to graduate from the Marine Corps recruit depot and be ready for deployment. Why can’t we be saying the same thing there?

Our — the administration has bragged that we have 242,000 people, security forces who are now standing up. Well, we were supposedly going to stand down as they stand up. The target goal is only 270,000. If we’re 30,000 short, where is the standing down? It isn’t taking place. And I think you have to keep the pressure on for the Iraqis to stand up.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And you mentioned that you think that Donald Rumsfeld should resign.

KERRY: Absolutely.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As you know, several retired generals have come out and said the same thing over the last couple of weeks, and they’ve come in for some criticism. You called that criticism yesterday in a speech in Boston “cheap and shameful.”

KERRY: Sure.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to show you what former President Gerald Ford, in a statement he released yesterday, has had to say. (NOTE: RESPONSE NOT INCLUDED IN TRANSCRIPT)

Regarding CIA analyst Mary McCarthy’s dismissal over alleged leaking of classified information…

STEPHANOPOULOS: On another — on another front, excuse me, CIA official Mary McCarthy lost her job this week for disclosing classified information according to the CIA probably about a WASHINGTON POST story which reveal revealed the existence of secret prisons in Europe. A lot of different views. Senator Pat Roberts praised action but some former CIA officers described Mary McCarthy as a sacrificial lamb acting in the finest American tradition by revealing human rights violations. What’s your view?

SEN. KERRY: Well, I read that. I don’t know whether she did it or not so it’s hard to have a view on it. Here’s my fundamental view of this, that you have somebody being fired from the CIA for allegedly telling the truth, and you have no one fired from the White House for revealing a CIA agent in order to support a lie. That underscores what’s really wrong in Washington, DC Here.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s one issue of hypocrisy but should a CIA officer be able to make decisions on his or her —

KERRY: … Of course not. Of course, not. A CIA agent has the obligation to uphold the law and clearly leaking is against the law, and nobody should leak. I don’t like leaking. But if you’re leaking to tell the truth, Americans are going to look at that, at least mitigate or think about what are the consequences that you, you know, put on that person. Obviously they’re not going to keep their job, but there are other larger issues here. You know, classification in Washington is a tool that is used to hide the truth from the American people. Daniel Patrick Moynihan was eloquent and forceful in always talking about how we needed to, you know, end this endless declassification that takes place in this city, and it has become a tool to hide the truth from Americans.

STEPHANOPOULOS: These —

SEN. KERRY: So I’m glad she told the truth but she’s going to obviously — if she did it, if she did it, suffer the consequences of breaking the law.

On Joe Klein’s new book which takes a few swipes at Kerry during the 2004 campaign and changing the New Hampshire primary schedule

STEPHANOPOULOS: And he goes on to say, “Kerry did not mention Abu Ghraib or the torture memo in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, or in three debates with the president in October. It was a stunning abandonment of the moral principles that had defined his adult life. He was without definition now.”

Is that a fair criticism?

KERRY: Well, others will judge whether it’s fair or not. The fact is that I called for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld over Abu Ghraib. I thought he ought to resign. I spoke out about how lower-level officers were being prosecuted and not higher-level officers because of what happened, and in several speeches, I spoke out against Abu Ghraib and what it meant to our armed forces and to the image of the United States and to our moral authority in the world.

Now, did I mention in my acceptance speech? No, but I’m proud that I spoke out about it, and I think I spoke out about those issues that made a difference to the ability of the United States to win the war on terror and to remain the preeminent power in the world. I think we can do a better job than we’re doing today, and I said so at the time.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You said this week you were looking hard at a race in 2008. And this morning you have an essay in the Manchester Union Leader in New Hampshire, defending Manchester’s right to have the first primary. This has gotten a lot of reaction, as you know, because a lot of Democrats believe there should be a couple of caucuses from southern or western states in between Iowa and New Hampshire.

They want more diversity in the process, and they’re saying you’re against that right now. I was talking to one senior Democratic strategist yesterday who said you’re basically saying only white people’s votes count in those early states.

KERRY: That’s so much bunk. I don’t know how to describe that comment in any other way than to say that that’s absolutely ridiculous. The converse of that is to suggest that the people in New Hampshire and Iowa are insensitive to those issues and don’t care about them.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But New Hampshire is about 95 percent white.

KERRY: But it doesn’t mean they’re insensitive to…

STEPHANOPOULOS: Iowa, 92 percent.

KERRY: … or don’t think about those issues. And it doesn’t mean that they haven’t historically, you know, made choices that have been good for the party and otherwise. Look, somebody has to be first. And I’m for certainly trying to find a way to broaden the process, but I think New Hampshire has proven itself.

If you look at the democratic process, worthy of listening to candidates, worthy of really going through the process in a remarkably effective way, I wouldn’t have been the nominee if Iowa and New Hampshire didn’t listen the way that they listened. I think they’ve earned their spurs in a sense.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re going to New Hampshire after the show today, and you said you’re looking hard at the race. What could possibly stop you from running? You sure seem to be going all out.

KERRY: What I’m going to do in New Hampshire, George, is what I’ve been doing all across the country, and I’m very, you know, very proud of the effort that the folks who support me and that my campaign committee have been making across the country, which is to support people for 2006. I’ve been to over 33 states. Most of them have nothing to do with presidential politics.

I’ve supported over 140 candidates in a very direct way. We’ve raised millions of dollars for candidates across the country. Why? Because we need to win the House and the Senate and we need to gain seats, and nothing matters in 2008 if we can’t improve what we’re doing on the ground.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And your decision-making is…

KERRY: That’s the effort. That’s what I’m doing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And finally your decision is not affected in any way by Hillary Clinton? You’re willing to challenge her?

KERRY: My decision is not affected by any other candidate’s decision. It wasn’t in 2002 when I made the decision to run, and it will not be this time.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Kerry, thanks very much.

KERRY: Great to be with you. Thanks.

(AP Photo/ABC News, Freddie Lee)

A video excerpt of the interview from ABC is available here, and a QT version of the interview is available here (right click and save).

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