John Kerry was on MSNBC with Rita Cosby discussing Iraq. Kerry is in the midst of media blitz today, that is quite good timing considering Bush’s latest chanting of the ‘stay the course’ mantra, in the wake of the finding of the Iraq Study Group reported by the N.Y. Times today.
Although the president was not asked directly about the panel’s recommendations, which will be made public next week but were partially leaked to reporters late Wednesday, he seemed to have the group in mind when he said: “This business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it whatsoever.”
Hmmm…. No realism, eh? John Kerry, Rita Cosby notes, was one of the final witnesses to testify before the Iraq Study. He discusses that and the latest from Bush on Iraq, with Cosby today. How refreshing is that, straight talk on Iraq — no BS.
The full transcript of the interview is as follows:
NOVEMBER 30, 2006
SPEAKERS: U.S. SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA)
RITA COSBY, MSNBC ANCHOR
COSBY: Democratic Senator John Kerry was one of the final witnesses to testify before the Iraq Study Group and he joins me now from Boston.
Senator Kerry, now that the study group’s findings have come out publicly this morning, what did you tell them when you met with them on Monday?
KERRY: Well, we’ve gotten some leaks on it today. I can’t tell you precisely what the report is going to say but I advocated that you need to move to disengage from Iraq, you need to shift the responsibility to the Iraqis, no American soldiers should be giving up their lives or limbs while Iraqi politicians are squabbling. You need to leverage them to take responsibility.
COSBY: Are you pleased, then, of course, with what they’ve come out, essentially? Because they also talked about having diplomacy with Syria and Iran and also basically beginning a withdrawal.
KERRY: Well, from what I’ve read of what they may say, yes, I am pleased that they are talking about engaging with Iran and Syria, I think it is essential to providing our interests in the region as well as helping to resolve the problems. You can’t do these things in isolation and one of the most significant missing ingredients has been real diplomacy.
I also help the commission is going to talk about putting the Middle East peace process back on the agenda front and center.
COSBY: But today President Bush insisted that U.S. troops will stay until the job is complete. Do you think the president is going to go along with the Baker Commission’s recommendations? And what if he doesn’t?
KERRY: Well, it’s interesting. That comment does not have to be inconsistent with what the Baker commission is in fact proposing. I think everybody has contemplated finishing the training and making sure that Iraq is able to stand up on its own as you withdraw so it’s possible that you could still find a common ground here.
What I’d like to do is leave the door open so that Democrats and Republicans and hopefully change the debate. We need to move this policy in a different direction. We need to fight a more effective war on terror. We need to focus on Afghanistan, we need to get to the Middle East process. We need to be dealing with North Korea, we need to be dealing with Lebanon and Syria and Iran particularly.
There is a huge agenda that is in the interests of our country to see us come together on and my hope is that when the president gets back we can all sit down and find that common ground. I hope we can.
COSBY: President Bush says that Maliki is the right guy for Iraq but we saw that Stephen Hadley memo that says he’s very concerned about him privately. Do you think the Bush administration genuinely thinks he is the right guy? Was the press conference this morning between Bush and Maliki just a dog and pony show?
KERRY: I think that the administration, if they are dealing in reality, has to have doubts about the prime minister’s willingness to do what’s necessary. He has been promising to take on the militias, he has been promising to weed out the corruption, he has been promising to deliver certain services…
COSBY: Do you think his government is on the verge of collapse?
KERRY: … he has been promising to assume certain responsibilities and it hasn’t been happening.
COSBY: Do you think his government is on the verge of collapse?
KERRY: So I think that memo expressed serious doubts. They are doubts that are certainly shared by the members of Congress. It is time for the government to prove it is either ready to govern or to get out of the way.
We have to find a resolution. I think the most critical thing, and I hope the Baker commission is going to say this, we need a kind of Dayton Accords-like summit or conference, an ongoing conference that brings the Arab League, the United Nations Permanent Five, the Iraqi divisions, the various parties in Iraq, the government and all of the neighbors to the table and we have got to get everybody invested in resolving the real stakeholder issues of Iraq.
COSBY: Let’s talk about ’08 now, because there was a list that came out, a new poll, and you came out of the least popular leader. I’m sure you weren’t happy about that. But everybody is telling you to come back, though, like in ’04.
KERRY: I have to tell you something. It came out one week after all of that hurly-burly a few weeks ago. I probably would have voted against myself, as I said yesterday.
Look, clearly you have moments where you are up and you are down in these things and I understand the sentiment that was caught up in a lot of bad understanding about something that was really quite innocent.
I think it is time to move on from a misplaced word and deal with the really serious issues that face America and polls change and life changes and we just keep on moving.
COSBY: And then a real quick — can you come back again like you did in ’04? Are you planning to run?
KERRY: Well, I haven’t made — look, what I am concerned about right now is getting Iraq right. What I am concerned about is dealing with global climate change, dealing with major issues of the economy that we face and I think the American people voted overwhelmingly in November…
COSBY: When will you make a decision?
KERRY: … to see Congress gets serious about the things that matter to them.
So all of this other stuff, all of these polls and all this who is up, who is down routine, is really boring the American people. What they want to see us do is get things done and I intend to focus very, very hard on this question of Iraq.
As a veteran, I feel very strongly that I don’t want our young men and women who are the finest soldiers we’ve ever had and who are doing an extraordinary job. I don’t want them putting their lives on line for a policy that isn’t working and that isn’t right, so I feel a certain amount of obligation to work hard and try to get it right and that’s what I’m going to do.
COSBY: Really quickly, when will you decide? Early ’07?
KERRY: I will decide sometime after the turn of the year. I can’t tell you precisely when. I think because we’re now in charge of Congress, things get pushed back a little bit but I will decide it when the moment is right.
COSBY: Senator John Kerry, thank you so much for being with us.
KERRY: Thank you.
COSBY: And good luck to you.