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Transcript: Massachusetts Senator John Kerry on 'FOX News Sunday'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published March 19, 2007 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a partial transcript of the March 18, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Joining us now from Massachusetts, Senator John Kerry.
And, Senator, before we get to Iraq, let's talk about the dismissal of those eight U.S. attorneys. Back in 1993, Bill Clinton, as Senator Specter noted, fired 93 of the 94 U.S. attorneys, the first time that had ever been done in such a summary fashion.
I understand that President Bush is doing this in the middle of his term in office, but why is what he's doing any worse than what President Clinton did?
SENATOR JOHN KERRY, (D-MASS.): Well, I believe that history will show that George Herbert Walker Bush, president 41, also asked for the resignations.
It's pretty traditional when a new president comes into office to ask for the broad-based resignations of everybody in one place or another.
In fact, historically, presidents in a second term have asked for the resignations of their entire cabinet, and then they decide if they're going to keep people.
This is political. This is being done clearly for political purposes because somebody wasn't doing what political people wanted them to do.
You don't own the U.S. attorneys. Yes, it's a political appointment. But that doesn't mean they have to behave politically or that politics gets in the way.
WALLACE: Well, let me just follow up, if I can, for a moment on that, because one of the U.S. attorneys that President Clinton fired back in 1993 was a fellow named Jay Stevens, and there was a big furor at the time...
KERRY: I remember that, sure.
WALLACE: ... about the fact that he was weeks away from deciding whether to indict a very powerful Democrat, Dan Rostenkowski, then chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
I mean, the basic point is, as you say, these are political appointees. I'm sure you as a senator, or most home state senators, have a say in who gets appointed as the U.S. attorney in their states.
I mean, isn't it in the very nature of the game that these are going to be political appointees?
KERRY: No. The word "political" does not mean that they are to belong to the political process. It means they are appointed by the party in power. That's different.
But the standard which applies to those appointments is still supposed to be the highest legal, the highest professional standard, Chris.
Nobody wants the White House or the Congress interfering in our judicial process. That's why we have a separate branch. And the fact is that this was clear political interference.
It's always been wrong. If it happened politically under Clinton, it's wrong. Two wrongs don't make a right. The fact is that this was political and it's wrong.
And there's a cloud over this attorney general. It's not just this. It's Guantanamo, it's the Patriot Act excesses. I believe this attorney general does not have credibility within the judicial system itself as well as outside.
WALLACE: Senator, let's move on to Iraq as we enter the fifth year of this war. General David Petraeus, the head of U.S. forces there, says that his plan, the so-called troop surge, shows — and he's very cautious about it, but shows at least preliminary signs of working.
The Iraqis say the level of violence in Baghdad has dropped substantially during this first full month of the surge. Why not give the plan a chance to work?
KERRY: Chris, the plan is obviously getting its chance to work because the president has an opportunity to put it in place. That doesn't mean it's the right policy.
General Petraeus himself has said there is no military solution to this war. Now, if there is no military solution to this war, where is the political diplomatic solution?
I get really angry — I mean, I heard about those four soldiers killed today, and I say to myself, as someone who remembers going out on patrols that sort of had a huge question mark over them, "What are we doing? What are these kids doing going out there and finding an IED the hard way? What has that accomplished?"
The fundamental problem of this war is between Sunni and Shia. Our troops cannot resolve that difference.
Now, in the first month or two months or three months of this escalation, sure, I expect the militia to melt into the background. I expect them to be very cautious about choosing where to engage.
And they will do what insurgents and militias traditionally do. They'll watch where the troops go. They'll learn their movements. They'll find their weak points. And then they'll probe and attack again. This will not change the fundamental dynamics.
And that's why so many of us, 48 of us, voted to set a date to leverage the behavior of the Iraqis. We're not trying to cut and leave it. We're not trying to abandon it. That's not a precipitous withdrawal. That's a year from now. That will be the entering of the sixth year of this war.
It's time for the Iraqis to assume responsibility for Iraq. And I've heard from experts in the region, from our own diplomats, that the only way to leverage the behavior we need from the Iraqis is to be firm and tough and clear about their need to compromise.
WALLACE: Senator, as you just pointed out, the Senate voted this week and rejected a plan, in part authored by you, by a vote of 48-50 to call to begin the pullout of troops and eventually to set of goal of pulling them out in a year. When you are still...
KERRY: No, Chris, that's wrong. Can I interrupt you there? I'm going to interrupt you there.
WALLACE: Well, let me just ask the question and then you can set me straight on what I...
KERRY: Well, fine.
WALLACE: But in any case, you needed — you were 12 votes short. You weren't 3 votes short. You were 12 votes short of the 60 you would have needed to actually pass this.
When Democrats are still so short, so far away from passing something that will actually force the president's hand, limit his policy, what do you do now?
KERRY: Well, actually, Chris, we're 19 votes short because you need 67 to overcome the veto. And there would be a veto. We all understand that.
But last summer when I brought that resolution to the floor, I got 13 votes, 48-13. That is an enormous change in a very short time.
And what we've learned in the great fights of the Senate and historically in this country is you have to keep fighting. You keep trying.
The Civil Rights Act didn't pass immediately. Important pieces of legislation take time. We will change this policy over time.
But the reason I wanted to interrupt you there is because you and others in the media, and particularly on the Republican side of the aisle, continually characterize the plan we put forward as a complete withdrawal of all the troops and as a precipitous withdrawal.
It is not a complete withdrawal. It specifically allows the president the discretion to leave troops there, to complete the task of training the Iraqis, and that is fundamentally all we ought to be there for.
It allows the president to leave troops there to chase Al Qaeda and prosecute the War on Terror, and it allows him to leave troops to protect American facilities and forces.
Now, six years into the war, really, what more could you want for our troops to be doing? This has got to — this debate has to be real, not a straw man debate where you set up a phony deal which is precipitous and complete withdrawal. It's a responsible plan that allows us...
KERRY: ... to stay positioned against Iran and do what we need to protect American interests.
WALLACE: Senator, let me just say for the record, I never said it was a complete withdrawal or a precipitous...
KERRY: Yes, you did. If you go back and look at the transcript, you said all the troops out.
WALLACE: Well, but I never said a complete or precipitous — I also said that it was a goal, not an absolute deadline. But you're right. It is not a complete withdrawal.
Let me turn, if I can, finally, to 2008. You announced in January that you are not going to seek the Democratic presidential nomination, and you said you wanted to devote all of your time to Iraq and to climate change. But you're also a very...
WALLACE: ... practical politician. Did you make a clear-headed calculation, "2008 is not my time?"
KERRY: No. Listen, you're talking to somebody who ran for president when the media absolutely and totally wrote me off and dismissed me and I was 30 points behind. And I knew at that time that I could win.
At the time that I made the decision not to run, I think I was running third or fourth in the polls after some fairly broad, not very flattering publicity. I'm absolutely confident that had I entered — I know how to compete, Chris, and I know how to come from behind.
But I felt very, very strongly that just from my own point of view, everything I would be fighting for, every day of clawing and fighting, would be clouded — everything I said would be viewed in a political prism exclusively.
I believe this issue, Iraq, is just so monumental. It's so important. You talk to those families. I was with troops yesterday who are leaving, some of them going over.
One fellow volunteered after his son-in-law was blown up by an IED, and he volunteered to go so that some other family might not have to go through what they've already gone through.
There are amazing sacrifices being made, and they're so personal and so real that those of us in public life have a huge responsibility to get this right.
I think you need a profound shift in the diplomacy of the Middle East. This can be resolved. We all want success.
I'll never forget flying into Baghdad and the pilot of the C-130 turned to me, a captain, and he said, "Senator, make sure that 20 years from now this was worth it for all of us." That's what we have to do here. And that's what I'm fighting to do.
And global climate change is far more serious, far more urgent, than many people have yet embraced. We've got to get these things done.
WALLACE: Senator, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you, as always...
KERRY: Thank you.
WALLACE: ... for coming in and talking with us, and please come back, sir.
KERRY: Thank you. I'd like that. Thank you.
Chris will sit down with Green Party Presidential Nominee Dr Jill Stein, to discuss her controversial push for a presidential election recount in several states.