Next stop on John Kerry’s media blitz today was “The Situation Room” with Wolf Blitzer where Kerry told Blitzer that “The American people and the people of the world want adult leadership.” So true, so very true. We’re stuck with a boy who thinks he’s king rather than a president.
Kerry has been making the rounds since last night discussing the latest news on the Iraq War and Bush’s meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during which, Bush proclaimed that al-Maliki was “the right guy for Iraq,” and said “the two had agreed to speed the turnover of security responsibility from American to Iraqi forces.” Bush also dismissed a reported decision by the independent bipartisan Iraq Study Group to call for a gradual withdrawal of troops.
Kerry discussed Bush’s meeting with al-Maliki, the Iraq War, when he would or would not announce his ’08 intentions and the importance of “working on the important issues that we face” right now, including “Iraq, getting our troops home and doing what’s necessary to have stability in the region and, sort of, restore America’s moral authority in the world.”
The full transcript from “The Situation Room” is as follows:
U.S. SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA) IS INTERVIEWED ON CNN’S “THE SITUATION ROOM”
BLITZER: And joining us now, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts in his home state. He’s joining us from Boston.
Senator Kerry, thanks very much for coming in.
KERRY: Glad to be with you, thank you.
BLITZER: Listen to what the president said today in Amman, following his meeting with the prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki. Listen to this bottom-line assessment on his part.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know there’s a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there’s going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq. We’re going to stay in Iraq to get the job done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He says we’re going to stay in Iraq to get the job done so long as the government wants us there. Does that make sense?
KERRY: I think that the Baker report is going to move in a very different direction, and I think it’s going to change the debate in this country.
We all want to get the job done, let’s understand that. There’s a difference of opinion about how you get the job done.
Our own intelligence agencies are telling us that our presence of American troops in Iraq is creating more terrorism, creating more terrorists, delaying the willingness of the Iraqis to stand up for themselves.
So I think we’re going to have a very big debate in America. We ought to have a debate about how you best achieve our goals, the Iraqis’ goals, the goals of the Middle East, the needs of all nations for security in that region.
And I believe you have to be tougher, set a date, be clear about the transition of authority, demand more from the Iraqis, leverage a change in their behavior and get our troops out of harm’s way.
BLITZER: If the president doesn’t do what you’re recommending — you’re going to be in the majority now, the Democrats, in the Senate and in the House — what specifically can you do to force them to take these steps if he, in fact, refuses?
KERRY: Well, you know what I’d prefer to do? I’d really prefer to see all of us come together and work with the president in a cooperative way if we can to sort of have a good discussion about this. Let’s not get locked in to positions that are just so intractable that we can’t advance American interests.
BLITZER: But if he doesn’t do that, Senator, are there specific steps the Senate can do to force his hand?
KERRY: There are all kinds of things that the Senate can do. They can change the dynamics here very significantly, not the least of which, obviously, are serious accountability hearings.
Secondly, we have the ability in the Congress to pass one resolution or another or to put into law certain kinds of policies. I mean, you remember back in the days of the Contras in Central America, the Congress passed what was called the Boland Amendment and actually forbade certain activities from taking place.
So Congress has a certain power here. I think before we get into that, it would be so much better if we could sit down with the president, with Condoleezza Rice, and really talk through how we come together, both parties, take the politics out at the water’s edge, and get a policy that works for America.
Now, if you wanted to be really optimistic and see the glass half-full instead of half-empty, you could take the president’s comments and say, we’re not going to have the troops out until we have the job done, and say, “OK, that can still fit with what the Baker commission might offer, which is, we’re going to draw down some troops.”
We’re still going to get the job done. We’re going to transfer authority to the Iraqis. We’re going to provide enough stability because we get an international diplomatic effort that resolves the real differences. And indeed, the troops come out as the job is being done.
BLITZER: Do you think this…
KERRY: But the only…
BLITZER: Senator, excuse me for interrupting, but do you think this president is already, though, a lame duck?
I ask the question in the aftermath of his visit to Jordan and what many observers are now suggesting was a snub by the prime minister of Iraq. He goes all the way to Amman, Jordan. He’s supposed to have dinner with the king, King Abdullah, and the prime minister, and the prime minister doesn’t show up.
Is he a lame duck?
KERRY: I don’t think any sitting president of the United States is a lame duck when it comes to foreign policy. There’s too much power in the presidency, and the interests of our country are too great.
If the president reaches out to us in the Democratic Party and really tries to work together, he has a chance to have a legacy here that could be important for our nation and, obviously, for him personally.
I’ve offered to be helpful to Condoleezza Rice. I’ve called her. I hope we can all work together.
But we’ve got to be tougher in our approach. I believe personally — and I’ve said this publicly — that you have to set a date for the expectation of when the Iraqis will take over their responsibility. And if you don’t get tough and have those kinds of benchmarks, then they have an excuse to avoid it altogether.
BLITZER: All right.
KERRY: Six months ago — six months ago, Wolf, General Casey and Ambassador Khalilzad said they have about six months to make these decisions. They haven’t made the decisions. So what is going to make them do it?
I believe the thing that makes them do it is a clear schedule. It’s what has made them, you know, take a certain step of behavior every single way. And we have to do it now.
BLITZER: What about talking to Iran?
The president of Iran, Ahmadinejad, is a guy, he denies that the Holocaust took place. He says Israel should not exist. He’s virulently anti-American.
Should the U.S. be talking to a leader like this?
KERRY: I think that it’s good policy to always have some kind of discussion, absent being at war or something egregious that’s happened, very specifically — to be having some kind of dialogue.
You know, Jim Baker said, “Sometimes you have to talk to people you’re not friendly with.” Ronald Reagan sat down with the entity that he called the Evil Empire, and he came to an agreement with Gorbachev. Richard Nixon sent Henry Kissinger to China and opened up a dialogue.
We have to do that as a matter of trying to feel out what’s possible, as a matter of putting to test, perhaps, some opportunity diplomatically that could change dynamics.
The American people and the people of the world want adult leadership. They want statesmanship. The want statecraft. They don’t want this sort of arbitrary, isolationist, shut-the-door, ideological rigidity.
And I think it is important to talk to Syria. I think it’s important to talk to Iran.
BLITZER: All right.
KERRY: I don’t trust, necessarily, what they say to you, but there are ways to put to test what they say to you, and that’s what good diplomacy is about.
BLITZER: Still ahead, more questions for Senator John Kerry.
BLITZER: Welcome back to “The Situation Room.” I’m Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Let’s get back to my interview with Senator John Kerry. While he’s eager to talk about Iraq, the 2004 presidential nominee is playing his 2008 cards closer to his vest.
BLITZER: I want to go through a little politics while I have you, and I’ll refer to our recent CNN poll that came out not that long ago.
Among registered Democrats, their choice for a presidential nominee in 2008: Hillary Clinton is at 33 percent, and Barack Obama is at 15. John Edwards, Al Gore at 14. You’re down at 7 percent.
But look at this. In the same poll, we asked these registered Democrats their view about you. Only 7 percent say they currently would support you as a presidential nominee, 38 percent would consider supporting you, but 51 percent don’t want you as the nominee.
What do you make of these numbers?
KERRY: It’s a reaction to having lost in ’04 and a lot of things that have gone on since.
I don’t put a lot of stock in polls at this point. I really think that we have to wait and see where we are next year. And I think what the American people want us to do is do their business right now and not get caught up in it.
I don’t put a lot of stock in polls, as you know. I was 30 points behind for months upon months, and I won. And I think, you know, I’ve earned the right to say that anything right now is not particularly meaningful.
BLITZER: Newt Gingrich said in The Boston Globe, where you were on Tuesday referring to the botched joke that you made near the end of the last election campaign, “John Kerry had a bad fall. He said a dumb thing. If he would go away for six months and then find two or three things that really matter to the American people, he could be among the front-runners.”
What do you think of that advice from Newt Gingrich?
KERRY: Well, what I’m doing right now is working on the important issues that we face. I mean, the most important thing is Iraq, getting our troops home and doing what’s necessary to have stability in the region and, sort of, restore America’s moral authority in the world.
I think that’s a big deal. I’ve been working on that every moment I’ve been in the Congress. For three years, I’ve been advocating a different policy in Iraq. And I intend to continue to focus very, very clearly on that.
Teresa and I are writing a book right now on the environment. It’s a book we look forward to bringing out in a few months. I’m excited about it. We deal, obviously, with the issue of global climate change but with a lot of other issues. And we need to change the attitude of the United States Congress.
So my sense is that I’m moving forward on issues that are important, and I’m going to continue to focus on those issues.
BLITZER: When are you going to announce whether not you’re going to run for president again?
KERRY: You know, sometime in the course of the early part of the — I can’t tell you exactly when.
I think that the fact that we’ve won the Congress really changes the schedule a little bit for everybody. In my judgment, people overwhelmingly asked us to get about the people’s business in a different way quickly. And I think we have an obligation in January to begin to do that with a certain intensity that is actually measurable by the American people. And that’s the first objective.
So I think everybody probably ought to be holding their breath for a moment and really watching what we do in Congress to try to make good on the promises of a very important election year.
BLITZER: You know you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you on that. Quinnipiac University poll, among likability or popularity, you came out at the bottom. Rudy Giuliani…
KERRY: Yes, I know…
BLITZER: .. and Barack Obama came out at the top.
So you have your hands full if you want to throw your hat in that presidential ring once again.
KERRY: Well, once again, Wolf, you know, you’ve been around a long time. That’s a poll taken one week after a week of pretty intensive negative publicity about something that was a genuine mistake, that was a slip-up of one word. I really think people have made much too much out of it.
But it was important for me not to become an issue in an election that I cared about. So I stepped out of the way and let people hack away. And obviously you’re going to pay a price. I understand that.
At the same time, we won. We won the Senate, we won the House. I campaigned for over 80 candidates. Sixty of the 80 that I campaigned for won. I raised over $14 million and gave unbelievable amounts of money away to help people win. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of my contribution to the party’s victory.
And we’re going to move on from there. And that’s it. I think people need to get serious about the real issues that face the country. That’s what I was elected to do, and that’s what I’m doing.
BLITZER: Senator Kerry, thanks very much for coming in.
KERRY: Thank you.