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John Kerry On CNN’s “Late Edition”: “Others Say We Don’t Have a Plan, That’s Just Not True… We Do Have a Plan”

by Pamela Leavey

The opposition to Bush’s “surge” plan is growing daily, however, the WaPo reports that “the White House is banking on the assumption that it can execute its “new way forward” in Iraq before Congress can derail it.” Good luck… now that we’re in the “best-we-can-hope-for” phase of the Iraq war, we all get that BushCo has fumbled again and now they’re working fast and furiously to recover the ball.

Without Bush making the case for it until last week, resistance hardened, and aides now harbor no hope of winning over Democrats. Instead, they aim mainly to keep Republicans from abandoning him further. Bush invited GOP leaders to Camp David this weekend and will argue his case to the nation on CBS’s “60 Minutes” tonight. Vice President Cheney and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley will also hit the airwaves today.

In response to the Republican media blitz this weekend, Democratic leaders took to the airwaves as well, to voice their opinions on the “surge.” John Kerry was on CNN’s “Late Edition” with Wolf Blitzer talking about Bush’s plan and the notion that Republican’s are putting out that there are no other plans out there. “Not true,” says Kerry, he’s got a plan and it’s a plan is one that is “accompanied by fixed timelines.” As the N.Y. Times points out today we need to start “Picking Up the Pieces.”

UPDATED: WATCH THE VIDEO HERE:

Kerry has been right on Iraq all along, Blitzer gets in it –read the transcript here:

BLITZER: President Bush, on Wednesday, admitting failures and mistakes in the war in Iraq, while also asking for bipartisan support for a new strategy.

Welcome back to “Late Edition.” Joining us now, the president’s opponent in the 2004 presidential race, Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

KERRY: Thank you.

BLITZER: Here’s what you said on June 29, 2005. That’s a while ago. “We don’t have enough troops in Iraq. There aren’t enough people on the ground.”

Now the president says he wants to send more. He wants to do what you recommended then. You’re not happy with that?

KERRY: No, I’m not at all. Listen, everybody, I think, has agreed that, in the beginning, we needed more troops. But the situation has changed so dramatically over the course of the last year, you now have sectarian violence. And troops are not going to make a difference in that.

BLITZER: So what do you do?

KERRY: This is the great mistake that this administration is making. Frankly, it’s a complete absurdity to be pursuing the notion that somehow troops are going to resolve the security issue.

I heard Senator McConnell — you hear the vice president and the president saying you can’t resolve the differences until you have security. Well, you can’t have security until you have a fundamental resolution of why there are those differences, why they’re killing each other.

Add numbers of troops, you act as a magnet to jihadists; you raise the stakes; you in fact put more targets at the disposal of the terrorists and the jihadists.

And most importantly, you play into the hands of the people who are playing us off for political advantage in the country.

What they need to know is, we’re going to leave, at some point, appropriately. Now, the Iraq Study Group suggested that was about a year. That’s what I’ve suggested. And I believe — when I hear Senator McConnell and others say we don’t have a plan, that’s just not true. We do have a plan.

BLITZER: What’s the plan?

KERRY: The plan is to set a date by which they have to assume responsibility, with the sole exception that you would have troops to complete the training, chase Al Qaida, and protect American facilities or resources.

BLITZER: We heard Senator Levin say the U.S. should start withdrawing combat forces in four to six months. Is that your plan?

KERRY: See, I don’t happen to agree — that’s not particularly my plan. But I think I understand why he’s saying that. I think we could find a unanimity, hopefully, on the Democratic side, that we ought to set some firm transfer of authority.

BLITZER: Well, what kind of deadline would you like?

KERRY: I said one year. That’s what I said last year.

BLITZER: One year from when?

KERRY: Now.

BLITZER: One year from now…

KERRY: Yes.

BLITZER: … you’d like what?

KERRY: One year from now, troops — look, the Iraq Study Group said, at the end of this year. I believe, at the end of this year or one year from today, when we pass it, you could require the Iraqis to assume the major responsibilities.

Now, if you’re telling me that we can’t transfer that within one year, I think most Americans would believe that that is the outside limit of what we ought to give them at this point.

The point is, Wolf, unless you leverage a certitude, the necessity for them to assume responsibility, they won’t assume it. And they will use American troops as a cover for their continuing power struggle between each other.

BLITZER: The president says the stakes are simply enormous right now. I want to play this little clip from what he said the other day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: People would look back at this moment in history and say, what happened to them in America?

How come they couldn’t see the threats to a future generation?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He says that there would be an enormous complicating factor for the United States if the U.S. did what you want it to do.

KERRY: Well, no. Because what the president keeps doing is what Mitch McConnell just did, which is set up a straw man, completely mislead Americans.

I heard Senator McConnell say “precipitously,” “if they withdraw precipitously.”

There isn’t an American who believes that withdrawing a year from now and still having troops there to complete the training and chase Al Qaida is precipitous. That’s not precipitous.

What the president is doing is continuing to scare Americans. Yes, there are high stakes. But let me ask you this, Wolf. If the stakes are as high as they say they are, then what does it mean to say that the commitment is not open-ended?

Either it’s open-ended and we’re going to stay there because the stakes are so high and we can’t afford to lose or we’re going to leverage them into a different form of behavior.

If you leverage them into a different form of behavior, that means you have to be clear about what they have to do and when. I say, set the date.

But more importantly, you must have an international conference to resolve these fundamental differences and get the surrounding neighbor Sunni countries involved in a resolution.

You also need to have an envoy there on a day-to-day basis who is negotiating this process. You can’t have a…

BLITZER: The president rejected the recommendation of the Iraq Study Group to enter into a dialogue with Syria and Iran.

KERRY: Well, I think the president rejected the entire study group. If you really look at what he did, he took two former Republican secretaries of state, a former Republican chief of staff, an attorney general, a former Republican member of the Senate leadership, and he basically kicked them to the curb.

BLITZER: You want to have a dialogue with Iran and Syria?

KERRY: Absolutely. You cannot resolve the issues of the Middle East; you can’t begin to deal with the future unless you are willing to have some kind of a dialogue.

Now, it doesn’t mean you agree with them. It doesn’t mean you sit there, and because they say something, you have to believe it, but you have to find out what you can put to the test. You have to work the process in order to somehow find a resolution.

Let me just say one other thing, Wolf. The administration, again, if this is not open-ended, what are they going to do? Are they going to leave? And if they are not going to leave, then they are stuck in an open-ended effort. If they are going to leave, and it’s not open-ended, as he said, then they’re willing to assume the very downside that they say is so unacceptable. They can’t have it both ways.

BLITZER: Senator John McCain, a strong supporter of a troop increase in Iraq right now, says you, the Democrats, have a responsibility to explain the consequences of a withdrawal. Listen to what he says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Do they not fear Iranian, Saudi, Turkish involvement in Iraq? A wider regional war, a haven for terrorists, a humanitarian catastrophe? Do they truly believe that we can walk away from Iraq?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you say to Senator McCain?

KERRY: I say to Senator McCain, stop distorting what we’re saying. I say to Senator McCain, talk to what we really said, which is, we all agree there are high stakes, but we are not talking about walking away.

Don’t use those words. Those are the words of fear and distortion. What we’re talking about is how you are successful. The Iranians today are delighted with our being bogged down in Iraq. The Iranians today are stronger than they were six months ago, Senator McCain. And the way you’re going to respond to the Iranians is not by putting more troops in and raising the stakes and allowing them to kill more and inflame the Arab street, attract more jihadists. Our own intelligence agency is saying today the presence of American forces is in fact creating more terrorists.

We’re fighting to get this right. We’re fighting to be successful. And the way you’re going to be successful is to get the Iraqis to stand up for Iraq. As long as they believe the American security blanket is there to cover them, they don’t have to assume that responsibility.

BLITZER: If you feel so strongly, why not use the power of the purse, as Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin is suggesting, as opposed to going ahead with a nonbinding symbolic resolution? Why not use that full power…

KERRY: Our hope is that…

BLITZER: … that you as the majority have to stop this war?

KERRY: Well, you can’t pull the rug out from under the troops that are there, obviously. And I’m not saying end this tomorrow morning. I believe you have to have a transitional process where you do complete the training, where you do raise the ability of the Iraqis to deliver.

One year after having trained 300,000 troops over the last three years ought to be enough time to do that. It ought to be enough time to do the diplomacy necessary to be able to get other countries to do some of the lifting here and be involved in the long-term stakes.

If the stakes are as serious as they say they are, Wolf, then where are the other countries? Why aren’t they also involved? What’s happening is, this administration is turning attention away from Afghanistan, even possibly taking some troops from Afghanistan, which is absurd, in order to complete the task of what they want to do in Iraq.

Look, what’s critical here is both of our top generals in the last few months have said more troops is not going to resolve Iraq. In fact, it contributes to the problem in Iraq. That’s why I think Senator Hagel, Senator Norm Coleman, Republicans are reacting as viscerally as they are here.

This administration is going it alone. Turning its back on the best advice that’s been given it. We’d be happy, we want to work in a bipartisan way to get this right. But the way to get it right is not to increase the ability of Iran to make mischief. It’s to be able to shift responsibility to the Iraqis.

I believe you have to set a date by which they know they have to assume that responsibility. And then you begin to draw down. We can always leave troops in Kuwait, in parts of the desert. Others will.

There are plenty of ways to stop Iran. This is strengthening Iran. What they’re doing is strengthening terrorism, increasing the threat to America. It’s a bad policy.

BLITZER: We’ve got to leave it right there. A quick political question. When are you going to announce whether or not you want to be president?

KERRY: You’ll hear about it.

BLITZER: Soon?

KERRY: I know you’ll know. Oh, yeah, it’s got to be relatively soon, but…

BLITZER: This month?

KERRY: I can’t tell you precisely, Wolf. But it will be soon.

BLITZER: You want to give us a hint which way you’re leaning?

KERRY: No. (LAUGHTER) Not today, no.

BLITZER: Well, we’ll be waiting and hearing. Thanks very much, Senator, for coming in.

KERRY: Thank you.

Hat tip to Violet on the JohnKerry.com blog for pointing out the N.Y. Times editorial quoted above that “outline points of action that affirm the wisdom of JK’s prior calls for action in Iraq.”

IN THE BLOGOSPHERE:

  • Bush on ‘60 Minutes’: The Only Plan
  • 5 Responses to “John Kerry On CNN’s “Late Edition”: “Others Say We Don’t Have a Plan, That’s Just Not True… We Do Have a Plan””

    1. John Kerry has had the best plan for the last 2 years, the problem is he is so feared by the right wingnuts every time he speaks they try to swift boat him. John Kerry would have Iraq turned around in about 2 weeks if he were President.

    2. Like the when I know you’ll know quote.

      About time he smacks it back to mccain. 2 faced McCain has gotten a free pass from the dems in DC and elsewhere for way to long.

      McCain is spouting fear just like his massa bush. As for holy Joe, now Reid, clinton, schumer, and all the other dems that didn’t support the dem 06 nominee in conn. are going to get exactly what they deserve utter humilation at the hands of holy joe.

      Keep smacking mccain upside the head JK. When you get the nomination in 08 you can really take the bastard down a peg or 3.

    3. Hellooo, are you listening Senator? The Commander-in-Chief wants a concrete alternative to his plan Sir. Not a suggestion, not a blueprint, not a critic, but a concrete step-by-step alternative Sir. The Commander-in-Chief is asking for Plan B.

    4. I’ll second that, greebean! What a perfect opportunity for Sen. Kerry to answer Bush’s question with the clear and complete plan he’s been giving all along, only NOW he’ll need the ideal means of delivering his message to America, so they too will all hear a REAL plan. Pamela, thanx for providing the full transcript here along with your commentary.

    5. They say we have no plan. But they are completely ignoring the fact that the bi-partisan Iraq Study Group has put out a very detailed, specific plan, one that they now choose to treat as if it does not exist! Most Dems have signed on to and agree that the ISG’s proposals are a very good start.