| Home | About Us | Login/Register | Email News Tips |

John Kerry on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” — January 22, 2006


JANUARY 22, 2006



STEPHANOPOULOS: This week, Osama bin Laden confronts President Bush, and Karl Rove takes on the Democrats.


KARL ROVE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: Republicans have a post-9/11 view of the world; Democrats have a pre-9/11 view of the world. That doesn’t make them unpatriotic, but it does make them wrong.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Is Rove right? Will 9/11 trump ethics in ’06? And why can’t Osama be found?

We’ll ask our headliner, Senator John Kerry, plus the top members of the House Intelligence Committee, Peter Hoekstra and Jane Harman — all exclusive this Sunday.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, everyone.

We’re going to begin with that Osama tape and a guest we haven’t seen since before the 2004 elections, Senator John Kerry. Welcome back to “This Week,” Senator.

KERRY: Delighted to be back. Thanks for having me.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s start with that tape. Right after the tape was played, Vice President Cheney gave an interview on Fox News. Here’s what he had to say.


RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president said in his speech to Congress right after 9/11 that we had to do everything in our power to make certain we used all the tools available to us — intelligence, military, law enforcement.

The fact of the matter is, we have not been attacked in more than four years. That is not an accident, it’s not just dumb luck.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, Osama bin Laden has not been found, has not been captured.

But Vice President Cheney is right, isn’t he, and how much credit should President Bush get?

KERRY: No, he’s not.

He’s right that we haven’t been attacked. He is not right, and I’m glad he reminded Americans, about having said we will do everything in our power and use all the forces at our disposal.

The simple fact is that we had Osama bin Laden cornered, trapped, ready to be captured or killed in the mountains of Tora Bora.

And this administration — it is a fact — has misled Americans about the knowledge they had of whether or not he was there, number one, and, number two, did not do everything that they could have in order to capture him. I know this. Others know this.

There were SEALS there, there were special forces on the ground, there were the 1st Marines, the 101st. There were people available — the 10th Mountain Division. They could have been brought in to surround that mountainside to guarantee that he didn’t get out.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That was 2001, but it’s now 2005 and there have not been any more attacks on the homeland. Address that point.

KERRY: But, George — I will address that point — now let’s come to the heart of this.

The vice president just said that they would do anything necessary and he reminded Americans of that. And they’re trying to claim somehow that they’re stronger and better on the war on terror.

The fact is, when they had a chance to kill or capture Osama bin Laden they didn’t do it, and they didn’t do it because they ran a risk-adverse strategy, period, and that’s what happened.

Now, with respect to the rest of this effort, they diverted their attention from Afghanistan, which is now going backwards in some regards. You’re seeing more capable weapons coming in, IEDs. You’re seeing greater intensity to the kind of violence on the ground.

The south Waziristan, north Waziristan bogging down with the Pakistani troops has shown a lack of genuine leadership and cooperative effort on the part of the United States and others to be able to survive there. The Al Qaida — front page story New York Times today — is stronger in that region than it was.

So, yes, we have not been attacked here. Many people surmise that one of the reasons we haven’t been attacked here is because they are being so successful at doing what they need to do to attack us in Iraq and elsewhere.

And so that’s the focus currently of the war on terror.

And I believe if you look at what’s happened with North Korea, with their efforts, you look at what’s happened in the lack of options that we have militarily with respect to North Korea, partly because we’re overextended in Iraq, you look at the nuclear weapons of North Korea, you look at what’s happened overall in America’s leverage in the world and this administration, in fact, is not fighting the war on terror as effectively as it ought to be.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They are still going on offense, though, politically…


KERRY: Because that’s what they do politically, George, and I’m an expert at that. I understand exactly what they do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that’s what I want to get to.

An issue now is warrant-less wiretaps, the president’s program. Karl Rove was back out on Friday defending the program and being very aggressive. Here’s what he said.


ROVE: President Bush believes if Al Qaida is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they’re calling and why. (APPLAUSE)

Some important Democrats clearly disagree.


STEPHANOPOULOS: He must have had you in mind. You’ve called the program a clear violation of the law.

KERRY: We don’t disagree with him at all. It is a violation of law and we don’t disagree with him at all, and this is exactly what Karl Rove does. Let me tell you something.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But how can you think it’s a violation and not disagree?

KERRY: You know, Osama bin Laden is going to die of kidney failure before he’s killed by Karl Rove and his crowd. And all he does is divide America over this issue and exploit it. And what he’s trying to pretend is somehow Democrats don’t want to eavesdrop
appropriately to protect the country. That’s a lie.

We’re prepared to eavesdrop wherever and whenever necessary in order to make America safer. But we put a procedure in place to protect the constitutional rights of Americans. And what I believe, George, and I believe it deeply, is you can protect the United States of America without devoiding, without ignoring the Constitution of the country.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But intelligence officials, and I’ve spoken to some of them, say it’s just not practical. You can’t run this kind of a detection program through the current FISA court.

KERRY: Then come to us and tell us how you can do it so that you need some more blanket form of doing it. There is a way to protect the Constitution and not go off on your own and violate it. That’s the simple bottom line here. Americans…

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re open to changing the law?

KERRY: Of course, if you need to in order to protect — but show us how you can’t do what you need to do today. They’ve never done that. There’s nothing in the FISA law that we passed that suggests the president has this power. That’s number one.

Number two, the president never came to us and said, we’re having difficulties doing this.

Number three, there have been over 19,000 — I believe it is — 19,000 warrants issued. I think only five have been denied in the entire course of time.

The court has been set up so that it’s possible on a matter of minutes to say we need you sitting — we need you available. We have a situation developing. There’s all the method in the world to protect the Constitution of the United States and the privacy of Americans.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So if you think this is a clear violation of the law, why not move to cut off funding for the program?

KERRY: That’s premature.

I think the first thing to do is say, how do we make sure we’re protecting the security of the country? If they have a problem with this, then come to Congress.

You know, this is really typical of the way they’ve been managing this city. The culture of sort of arrogance and corruption that has been allowed to take over Washington, D.C., evidenced also by the Abramoff scandal, by what you see.

I mean, you know, Billy Tauzin helps put together a prescription drug bill, boom, he’s gone and gets a million-dollar contract with these people. We’ve got billions of dollars missing in Iraq, billions of dollars missing in Iraq. They’re not even looking for them and trying to hold them accountable.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get to Abramoff in a minute. Let me ask you a little bit more on this. You say it’s premature to cut off funding for the program. Al Gore says it may be an impeachable offense, and he’s called for a special counsel to investigate the entire matter. Do you agree with that?

KERRY: I agree that we ought to have a special counsel investigate. I agree that we ought to have an independent commission because this Congress has proven itself unwilling to do what’s necessary to perform its responsibilities. And the greatest example of that is the Intelligence Committee effort in the United States Senate, where for months and months they have been stonewalling the effort to look at the intelligence that led up to the war.

You know, I think we have to go further on the anti-corruption efforts. I think you ought to have an inspector general, if you will, with a set of standards, who is overseeing the relationship between Congress and the money that is in American politics.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, you said you know better than anyone else what this administration does with the politics of national security. Are you worried that they may be right on the politics again and that this issue really is going to work…


STEPHANOPOULOS: … for Republicans in 2006?

KERRY: I’m not worried in the least, and I welcome the debate. I want to have that debate, and I want to have that debate every single day. And perhaps we didn’t have that debate enough during the course of last year, but we should have that debate now. And we will show America the way — and I think certain things have happened.

First of all, George, a lot has happened in the last year and a half. Katrina stripped away the veneer of competence of this administration. You know, the curtain got pulled aside, and there’s not even a wizard behind it, and they found out that these people are incompetent.

In addition to that, what they’ve seen in Iraq, our troops still don’t have the armor that they ought to have.

I think it is — I can’t tell you how angry, how disgraceful it is that troops who are going over there and putting their lives on the line have to go on the Internet to try to get the armor that they need, and some of them have even been reprimanded for doing that. This is a disgrace.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about another issue you raised, Jack Abramoff. Republicans say, wait a second, Democrats are implicated in this as well. They point to the fact that, I think your 2004 campaign got about $100,000 from what they call Abramoff-affiliated lobbying groups.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you respond?

KERRY: I respond that that’s another one of their “Swift Boat” style tactics where they try to throw up the mud and stick it.

And I’m going to stick it right back at them. I’ve never met Jack Abramoff. I’ve never had a dime come to me from Jack Abramoff.

And I’m not going to stand for them suggesting that just because someone somewhere in the country gave my campaign some money because they thought we could move the country in a better direction without being held up the way Abramoff holds them up that we somehow are implicated.

This is a Republican scandal. It is a Republican scandal. They run the House of Representatives. They run the Senate. They have the
White House. They’re controlling who goes on the Judiciary.

They have not done the things necessary in order to press forward on this. And the fact is that they’ve encouraged, with their K Street
Project, going out there and asking people to be fired who are Democrats, who aren’t, sort of, on the team so to speak — the purchase of access, the unwillingness of the Congress to do the people’s work.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But that’s the Congress; that’s not the president.

KERRY: The president sets the tone.

Let me tell you something: This president hasn’t vetoed one piece of legislation in five years. What is going on?

You want to stop the Congress from doing something? You tell them, here’s the veto pen and if you put this junk in this bill, I’m sending this bill back to you until you take it out.

It’s been an absence of leadership. You call the leadership down and you say, I’m not going to stand for this. You’re going to stay in session or I’m going to call you back into session until we get the people’s business done.

The business of our nation is not being done. You’ve got Ford Motor Company, General Motors laying off tens of thousands of workers. People don’t have health care. People are losing health care.

People’s wages are going down. People are having trouble sending their kids to college. America’s behind in science, technology, in all of the things we need to do to be competitive.

I just came back from India, from Pakistan, from countries that are racing forward, investing in infrastructure, desperate to compete
in this world.

The United States is taking it for granted with the leadership that is more concerned, as Karl Rove has evidenced, with how you divide America rather than lead America.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You voted against John Roberts for the Supreme Court. Will you vote against Judge Alito?



KERRY: Because I think he will take our court backwards. I think he will shut the door of court access to the average person in America who needs it because I think he has an over extensive view of the power of the presidency, the unitary executive, because he refuses even to go as far as John Roberts in affirming settled law.

I will vote against him because I think he will take the court backwards.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you think your Democratic colleagues on the Judiciary Committee missed a beat during the hearings by emphasizing issues like his personal ethics, failure to recuse in Vanguard, his membership in the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, rather than these issues?

KERRY: George, I wasn’t here. I was on this trip and I picked up snippets from here and there. But that is certainly the criticism that I have heard.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, you’ve also come in for some criticism in the upcoming issue of GQ magazine.


It’s about to come out. They talked to a lot of Democratic strategists. And I want to show you some of it. One says, “Kerry’s very much stuck in reverse. It causes a lot of resentment.”

Joe Lockhart, who served as your press secretary, said “I don’t think there have been many people in the last year who have been sitting around saying, Now that he has this practice under his belt, boy, in 2008, he’s gonna blow the doors off.”

“My guess,” says another veteran Democratic strategist, “is that a bunch of those money guys are telling John that they’re with him — and they’re waiting for Hillary Clinton to call.”


Well, you’re laughing about it, but does that kind of chatter make it harder for you to run again in 2008?

KERRY: It doesn’t — look, first of all, that’s a decision for the future. But, secondly, you’re looking at the expert on not listening to the chatter of Washington, D.C.

Some of those people are people who have already committed to other candidates. Some of those people are people with their own point of view.

Look, I just — I’m not worried about that, George. What I’m doing is working hard, I think as hard as anybody in my party, to try to help us elect a Democratic Congress in 2006.

I’ve contributed to over 80 candidates around the country. I’ve been to over 18 states. I’m proud of the effort that we’re making to try to help recruit people, make sure we have strong candidates.

And, look, everybody else can sit around and speculate, but when I was 30 points down in Iowa and mortgaged my house and people said, you’re crazy, I said I’m going to win.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One final question…

KERRY: I’m going to listen to my heart and my gut and that’s what would serve me best.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Democrats haven’t turned to a losing nominee, I think, since Adlai Stevenson. Why should they do it next time?

KERRY: Well, maybe the Republicans know something we don’t. Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan — and I’m hearing a lot of talk about John McCain. It seems to me he ran for president and lost.

Look, I don’t know what I’m going to do, George, but I’m not going to be moved, I will tell you, by the behind-the-scenes anonymous chatter of Washington, D.C.

Jan 22, 2006 9:49 ET .EOF Transcript via John Kerry’s Senate Office. Copyright 2006 CQ Transcriptions, LLC

| Filed under: |

Comments are closed.