On ABC’s ‘This Week’ today, in response to Bush’s performance before him, John Kerry called Bush’s charges a “Lie.” Kerry has not held back any punches in recent days when it comes to calling the Bush administration on what they are — an administration without a policy, an administration that “lied in the walkup to the war,” that “lied in the conduct of the war” and have “made America less safe.”
Kerry was on a roll today from his continual slap down of the Bush lies, to barely letting George Stephanopoulos get a word in edgewise, it was a stellar interview — more Man on Fire…
George Stephanopoulos Hosts ABC’s This Week with guest Senator John Kerry:
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we are back now with Senator John Kerry. Welcome back.
KERRY: Glad to be back. Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You heard the president. He said the Democrats like you who want a fixed timetable for withdrawal from Iraq are waving the white flag of surrender on the war on terror.
KERRY: That’s reprehensible. It’s a lie. The administration has lied in the walkup to the war. They’ve lied in the conduct of the war. And they have made America less safe. And the president just misled America again in that interview. I heard him talk about Al Qaida disrupting Iraq. Al Qaida is not the problem in Iraq, Mr. President.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They are there. There are Al Qaida elements in Iraq.
KERRY: There are a few Al Qaida element there. But the CIA will tell you they’re somewhere in the very little numbers. Not a consequence of what’s happening. The violence in Iraq today, George, which the president ought to understand and talk to America about, not mislead them, is between Shia and Sunni. This is a civil war.
Donald Rumsfeld said our soldiers will not be caught in civil war. George Bush said we will not tolerate North Korea have a nuclear weapon. Both are happening. And they’re just sitting there with the same old, same old.
This administration doesn’t have a policy. Their policy is stay to course. The president said again, he misled America there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You have…
KERRY: He said we won’t stay the course. He’s said we’ll stay the course again and again and again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You do have…
KERRY: You have to set a date because it’s the only way to get Iraqis to respond. And a year from now…
STEPHANOPOULOS: But that’s what I want to ask you about. That’s what I want to ask you.
KERRY: Sure. Definitely.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What if they don’t respond?
KERRY: Well, you get there, George. But the date is not a date in a vacuum. I mean, I’m not stupid. I don’t think that people are sitting here saying how do we find a greater disaster out of an already existing disaster. We need to find a way to be successful. And what the president’s doing is not successful. And the president keeps misleading America and the world about it. And therefore, he loses the credibility to be able to go in and do the diplomacy necessary.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But what’s your plan B? Let’s say you start to pull out…
KERRY: Let me tell you what plan A, because plan A can work. It’s the only way to do this. I mean, just the other day, the president committed an enormous blunder. He has a conversation with Mr. Maliki, prime minister. And he comes out and he brags to everybody publicly, what I told him was, he doesn’t have to worry, Americans are going to stay there. Well, every time you say to them Americans are going to stay there, you don’t have to worry, and you know, we’ll stay as long as it takes…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he did say in this interview that his patience won’t last forever.
KERRY: Well, I think you have to be more blunt. I think you have to say, no young American is going to die and give their life or limb for Iraqi politicians who refuse to compromise. They have to want democracy for themselves as much as we want it for them.
And if you read “State of Denial,” which the president ought to read, because it would tell him something about his own administration and what’s happening that he obviously doesn’t know, if you read “State of Denial,” Newt Gingrich sat down with Paul Wolfowitz and they discussed how dates were essential to making something happen.
KERRY: If it was essential for an election, it’s essential for the transfer of power.
Also, the date is not in a vacuum. The date is linked to a major summit, where you bring the parties together, particularly the neighbors who are Sunni, who have an interest in the 20 percent Sunni population of Iraq not being oppressed by the Shia. And you involve everybody, as General Anthony Zinni suggests in a new security…
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you’re talking about Saudi Arabia. You’re talking about Egypt, I presume.
KERRY: I’m talking about Jordan.
KERRY: I’m talking about the Gulf states.
KERRY: I’m talking about Syria and…
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s what I want to ask. What interest do they have in a stable, pro-U.S. Iraq?
KERRY: It’s not a question of pro-U.S. I think, after what’s happened there, this is not going to be a question of pro-U.S. It’s going to be pro-Iraq. It’s going to be pro-Middle East.
And what we need to recognize is that the president’s policies have really disrupted America’s ability to have the kind of impact — we’ve been set back years in the Middle East because of the president’s policy.
And you don’t have a real policy. I mean, you have Jim Baker saying, maybe we’re going to change. Then you have the vice president coming out and saying things are going remarkably well in Iraq.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He actually said, in Time magazine today, “We’re looking for victory.”
Do you think victory is possible?
KERRY: It has to be completely redefined, what it’s going to be. And then you have John McCain, of all people, saying what you got to do is put 100,000 more troops in, which is a fantasy, when you look at the fact that, in the last few days, they put more troops in, 15,000. They brought more troops from Kuwait. They concentrated the troops in Baghdad, and they have failed miserably.
Our own generals tell us the solution in Iraq is not military. If it’s not military, don’t talk, as John McCain does, about putting more troops in. Talk about how you resolve the political and diplomatic dilemma and sectarian dilemma between Shia and Sunni and the region.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They also say that pulling out those troops, the threat of pulling out those troops, right now, is going to create chaos.
KERRY: A year from now? That’s not an abandonment. Are you telling me that, a year from now, after all this administration has said about standing up and, while they stand up, we’ll stand down — that was a lie.
They said, as they stand up, we’ll stand down. Well, we’re now at about 320,000 troops trained. That’s not going to make the difference. Either they resolve the political differences within this year because they want to, or they don’t want to.
If they don’t want to, there’s nothing American troops can do. If they do resolve it, so much the better, and our troops can withdraw.
Setting a date for a year from now is not waving a flag of surrender. And I resent the president of the United States suggesting that. It is, in fact, the best way to protect our troops.
It’s the best way to solve the problem. It’s the best way to regain our moral authority in the region. It’s the best way to be successful. It’s the best way to protect America’s security.
And this administration has set America’s security back in North Korea; set it back in Iran. Iran is delighted with what’s happening in Iraq.
They’ve set us back in Iraq itself. They’ve set back the Middle East peace process. We can’t do anything in Darfur. And they’re the only nation in the world that denies global climate change. Let’s debate security, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Some are suggesting that the White House actually is thinking about a radical change in strategy, but they’re going to wait until after the elections.
KERRY: Well, there you go. That’s a really beautiful thing. While young Americans are on the line and their lives…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think that’s happening?
KERRY: I think it’s immoral to have the lives of young Americans being put on the line, waiting for an election day event or strategy. If you’ve got a better strategy, Mr. President, we deserve to have it now.
And the fact is that, for 3 1/2 years, we’ve been sitting here with a strategy that many of us have said, again and again and again, will not work. It will not work. Our own generals have said there’s no military solution. What are we doing?
We’re pursuing the same old, same old. And the president, contrary to what he said in the interview, has said again and again, we’re going to stay the course. And he keeps playing this demagogue card that somehow it’s a white flag of surrender, in the United States of America, to suggest the way to actually get the job done.
We don’t have to sit around and be bullied by a bunch of people who have misled America, lied to America and, in fact, have made America less safe. And I’m not going to stand for it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me move on to the midterm elections. You’re actually getting some heat from Democrats.
There’s a Web site that came up this week called HeyJohn.org.
KERRY: Yeah, I saw it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I want to show our viewers.
KERRY: All right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I want to ask something. They want you to give more money to Democrats.
They say, “In 2004, over 171,154 Americans donated $328,479,000 and countless hours of time to help John Kerry get elected president. Now, two years later, Democrats have a real opportunity to regain a
majority in both chambers of Congress.”
John Kerry? He’s still hanging on to more than $8 of our money, while Democratic candidates in competitive districts are short on funds.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Will you be donating more of that money to Democratic candidates?
KERRY: Let me tell you what I’ve been doing, George. First of all, those facts are incorrect. We have been — and I’m very proud of what I’ve been doing. I’ve been traveling all over the country, to some 34 states, many of which have absolutely nothing to do with the presidential political schedule.
I’ve been campaigning with candidates and for candidates. I’ve been raising money for candidates and have given money to candidates. I’ve raised and given over $11 million to candidates, $3.5 million to my Senate colleagues alone, $2.5 million, I think, to the House candidates (ph), millions of dollars to party members and others.
And it costs money to do that. We have to — we’re spending down. Unlike some folks who are out there raising money for themselves, out of cycle, I have not been doing that. I’ve been spending down, in order to be able to go out and help people. And I’m going to continue to do that. I’ll continue to raise money. I’ll continue to give money.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You also said that you’re going to be making your decision on running for president again in the next few weeks. Are you saying that the outcome of the midterms is going to determine what you do?
KERRY: I don’t think I said in the next few weeks. I said sometime after…
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you did last weekend.
KERRY: … well, after the election is what I’ve said. After the midterm election, when I hope Democrats are going to regain control. My concern — look, I think we have a tremendous chance here. But we’ve got to win some big races. Jim Webb I believe can win in Virginia. I hope he does win. He has the right view on the war in Iraq. And George Allen is suddenly running for cover, running away from his beliefs, you know, that he’s been out there, out front on. Chet Culver in Iowa has a chance to win the governorship. We have a great group of congressional candidates, Paul Hodes and Carol Shea-Porter are…
STEPHANOPOULOS: You’re doing a lot of (inaudible). Let me just ask you…
KERRY: Well, I want these people to win because they will change the direction. They will hold this line accountable. If you want to hold it accountable, if Americans are fed up, and I hope they are, and they’ve had enough, then vote for Democrats in this election. It will change.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you one final question about 2008. Your colleague, Senator Barack Obama has also said he’s thinking of running for president. You gave him his big break back in 2004.
KERRY: I’m glad I did. I think my confidence in him has been obviously ratified. I like what he’s doing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you OK with the idea of running against him?
KERRY: Whatever he wants to do. Look, this is a free country. If he thinks he’s ready to run for president and wants to run…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think he’s ready?
KERRY: … and I’ve made a decision, and I’ve made a decision to run, then we’ll go out and have a great contest. If I’m not in it, good luck to those who are. We’ll see what happens. The bottom line is…
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think he’s ready?
KERRY: I think he’s a very interesting and very powerful communicator with a great deal of skill. I wouldn’t have picked him if he didn’t. And I’m really pleased to see the way in which the country is ratifying my judgment on that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Very gracious of you. Senator Kerry, thank you very much.
IN THE BLOGOSPHERE:
ThinkProgress has video of Bush: ‘We’ve Never Been Stay The Course’
* (AP Photo/ABC News, Freddie Lee)